What makes a good review online?

On: October 30, 2011
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About Andrian Georgiev
Bulgarian. Worked 4 years as a business technology reporter at Capital Weekly /capital.bg/. Graduated from Sofia University in Public Relations in 2010. Interested in product development for the web. Favourites: Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Boardwalk Empire and The Sopranos.


“Being Heard in Review Communities: Communication Tactics and Review Prominence” is an article published in the Journal of Computer Mediated Communication in April 2011. Its author is Jahna Otterbacher from the Illinois Institute of Technology.

The paper examines how communication tactics used in reviews correlate to their prominence in the community. It focuses on Yelp, Amazon and IMDb.

These communities were chosen because they share several traits in common: they allow participants to post textual reviews, employ the list display format and use peer feedback to determine display order.

Some observations:

Participants are more likely to be satisfied and to share their expertise when they feel that others can gauge who they are. That’s why an increasing number of websites implement Facebook Comments.

Yelp has a friendlier community than IMDb and Amazon.

Prominent reviews (first page) are longest at Yelp, IMDb and Amazon, while last-page (not prominent) reviews are shortest.

At Amazon the most prominently displayed reviews tend to be posted earlier on. The opposite is true at Yelp.

The most prominent reviews are less negative as compared to last-page reviews.

The last-page reviews might be interesting to some users who want to learn the minority opinion.

The writers of prominent reviews are more prolific, as compared to those who author the least prominent reviews. On the other hand, at Yelp the authors of the less prominent (middle-page) reviews are the most prolific.

Authors of front-page reviews have more interaction with others, as compared to authors of last-page reviews. At Yelp, the authors of reviews displayed on the middle pages have the most interaction.

At Amazon and IMDb, authors of prominent reviews are more likely to provide self-descriptions as compared to authors of less and least prominent reviews. At Yelp all reviewers provided a self-desription.

The most commonly used strategy of authors in their writing was Ethos (appeal based on the reputation of the reviewer). However, the most prominent reviews tend to invoke Logos (appeal based on reason) more often.

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