So, after much delay, and many technical difficulties, BlackBerry have finally launched their BBM app on Android.
Whenever I launch an app on Android, I'm immediately inundated with emails from companies promising me thousands of 5* reviews for only a few hundred dollars. I've never taken up their offer - it's unethical, probably illegal, and usually very obvious when a company has purchased their reviews.
As noted by journalist Matt Baxter-Reynolds, something fishy is going on with BBM's reviews:
Hundreds of nearly identical reviews. Is it a meme? A bizarre coincidence? Something more nefarious?
If we dig through the reviews on Google Play, we find occasional gems like this:
It reminds me of the scandal in China earlier this year where celebrities were told to copy and paste derogatory messages about Apple on social networks.
So, what's going on? It strikes me that there are three possibilities.
- BlackBerry have paid or encouraged people to leave positive reviews.
- One of BlackBerry's many partners have done the same, but without the approval of BlackBerry.
- One of the fake BBM apps has tried to get good reviews for itself, but has mistakenly gotten good reviews for the official app.
I seriously doubt BlackBerry would pay for reviews - my theory is that it's the third option. A spammer has messed up the link in their mailout and have given an artificial boost to the official app.
According to BlackBerry spokesperson Victoria Berry (I so hope that's her real name!)
“We have recently been made aware of a number of potentially fake five-star reviews of BBM for Android on Google Play,”
“We do not approve of or condone such activities and are committed to working with Google to resolve this.”
One of Google's many ideas to combat review fraud was to tie reviews to Google+ profiles. It should be possible to pick out anyone who left one of these fake reviews and remove their rankings from the Play store for all apps.
I can't help but wonder if there is a better way than stars and reviews for measuring an app's worth? Could Google report on how many people have kept the app installed, or how often it's used, or how long it is used for, whether people share the app? All of these, of course, could be gamed - but it would be much harder for a spammer to convince someone to actually regularly use an app.
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