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DATA DETECTIVES

The Art and Science of Sniffing Out Fake Reviews

Is that glowing tech review real or fake? Here's how one website is trying to make the world of online reviews more honest.
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There are two big problems with online product reviews: finding good, quality reviews takes time and then, even when you think you've found them, you never know if they're legit. Yelp and Amazon, for example, have been widely criticized for fake reviews posted by competitors or people hired by companies to fabricate complimentary feedback.

G2 Crowd is a software review site that tries to get around the problem of fake reviews. Its secret sauce? Among other mechanisms, G2 Crowd uses LinkedIn to authenticate users and make sure companies aren't reviewing their own product (or slamming a competitor's).

Spotting Fakes

The G2 Crowd algorithms are designed to catch, say, someone who works at Oracle trying to review an Oracle product or, conversely, a competing SAP product. On top of that, a human looks at every review before it's posted to try to catch concocted reviews that may have slipped through. And as a third weeding-out mechanism, the platform lets its crowd of users help report abuse by up-voting or down-voting other people's reviews.

"People are pretty good at sniffing out what's real and what isn't in terms of the online world," G2 Crowd CEO Godard Abel says.

Users can also see reviews written on G2 Crowd by their LinkedIn connections. You may be surprised at how many of your professional associates have taken the time to review software on G2 Crowd. A handful of my connections have done it, with dozens more registered with G2 Crowd to access its content.

Abel says, in the 15 months the website has been live, 12,000 users have contributed 14,000 reviews of business software.

It helps that the process is incentivized. By submitting reviews, users earn points that enter them into contests to win things such as Amazon gift cards and iPad Minis, with more points allocated to users who take the time to do a feature review that entails answering 65 questions. G2 Crowd also awards additional points for validating a review by uploading a screenshot that shows a person actually logged in to the software solution they're writing about.

How It Works as a Research Tool

G2 Crowd lets you filter reviews according to number of stars and whether a product is better for small, medium, or large companies. Reviews include answers to questions about what a reviewer likes and dislikes about a solution as well as what business problems it solves and which benefits a person has realized because of using it.

Within a product category, you can click on an Overview tab and get a G2 Crowd Grid, which looks quite like Gartner's Magic Quadrants, a graphical way to compare tech providers within a market. To place software solutions on the grid, G2 Crowd uses a scoring algorithm that looks at more than 30 online signals for a particular software solution, such as public and social data regarding number of employees, market share as reflected in number of ratings and reviews, Web traffic and inclusion in Google search trends, number of followers on social networks, what employees say about the brand on Glassdoor, as well as public company information such as age and revenue.

G2 Crowd also looks at products that are often compared and holds them up side by side, showing metrics for how reviewers rated each solution in terms of ease of use, setup, and administration, as well as quality of support and product direction. The platform also lays out which reviews users have rated to be most helpful, both in terms of being favorable and critical.

Forbes contributor Louis Columbus has criticized the website for not having many verified reviews of enterprise software such as SAP ERP. Abel says there are about 300 categories of business software on the market, and it will likely take a few years for the G2 Crowd community to build robust content for all of them. Columbus also notes that Abel recently invested in and became CEO of Steelbrick Inc., a Palo Alto, California-based company that has its pricing software listed on the G2 Crowd platform, which he says is a potential conflict of interest. (Abel, however, says there is none, and that his or his team members' opinions don't matter because the ratings are driven by data.)

Overall, G2 Crowd is a robust resource for learning more about which features people appreciate and dislike when it comes to business software. Abel says G2 Crowd, which earlier this month received $2.3 million in Series A funding, gets 60,000 unique visitors a month.

 

Last updated: May 20, 2014




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