Want to make an Amazon reviewer happy?
(and no, this is not a thinly veiled request for votes...)
If you've read my blog for any amount of time, you know I have, on occasion, posted a book review or two (thousand) here. In addition to posting it here on my blog, I also cross-post it on Amazon under that particular item's sales page. Associated with that Amazon reviewing process comes a Reviewer Ranking, some mysterious witches brew calculation composed of eye of newt and toe of frog. This number ranks you somewhere between 1 and 2000000+ in the entire population of people who have submitted reviews. The exact formula is not revealed by Amazon, so as to attempt to prevent gaming of the system. Even so, gaming abounds, and it's a popular pastime among reviewer to figure out how the system works, who's cheating, and who's for real.
As of this writing, I'm currently sitting at #64. Others who you might know from blogs and Twitter also play around with Amazon reviews, such as Esther Schindler (currently at #495) and Gregg Eldred (currently at #46186) to name but a few that I know of. One of the primary ways that these ranking points accumulate is through the Helpful/Not Helpful buttons at the bottom of the person's review on Amazon:
In this example, Gregg reviewed the book The Downhill Lie: A Hacker's Return to a Ruinous Sport by Carl Hiaasen. If you had read the review on his blog, you would have seen a link that would take you to the Amazon page for this book. On his review at the bottom, you'll see a line labeled "Was this review helpful to you?" followed by a Yes and a No button. When you click on either of these, the results show up at the top of the review as "X of Y people found the following review helpful". It's the accumulation of Helpful (or Yes) votes that cause a reviewer to climb in the rankings. Likewise, a certain combination of more Not Helpful (or No) votes can cause a decrease in ranking. Theory has it that many more elements come into play in addition to this, but it's the prime driver.
So... If you see a review on a blog or a tweet from someone like Gregg or Esther that you really liked, feel free to click on the Yes button. I guess "No" is an option also, but it's often hard to tell exactly *why* someone thought the review wasn't helpful. Did they honestly think the review was not helpful? Did they not like the book? Did they not agree with the review's opinion of the book? Do they not agree with the review's religious or political leanings? Do they get a kick out of giving a negative vote to *any* review the person does? Unfortunately, all these reasons (and more) come into play with the voting.
Why do we do this? Why do we give Amazon something of value (our opinion) for free? Are our lives defined by our ranking on Amazon? For normal people (and yes, I *do* consider myself normal in *this* particular context), it's a fun hobby. We like to write, we like to share, the feedback is great, and it's an amusing way to keep score. There *is* obsession out there (just look at the #1 "reviewer" and tell me that's normal/a single person/not a fraud), and it's sorta sad and pathetic. But for those of us for whom writing is a significant part of our personal and professional lives, there's no better way to get practice in the art of putting (virtual) pen to (virtual) paper.
So next time you see Esther or Gregg post or tweet a review of something on Amazon, take the extra second or two to thank them with a Yes vote if you appreciate their work. It doesn't cost a thing, it only takes a second or two, and it's a nice way to say thanks.