This talk was initially inspired by the tweet that appeared on the final slide. When I saw the tweet from Harlan Coben (which you can see here – https://twitter.com/harlancoben/status/531452884387659777), I was taken by the contrast between how an author might fret over one-star reviews and how the reviewer was happy to leave such a pointless review. I also thought it was hilarious. After a bit of digging I found the original review here – http://www.amazon.com/review/R4VG4AWEYVN61/ref=cm_cr_rdp_perm
This had me thinking about the nature of online reviews and that it might make for a fun Bettakultcha talk.
I have done a number of Bettakultcha talks, probably my least successful was when I attempted a mathematical proof in the allotted five minutes and over-stretched myself somewhat. It took a bit of criticism on Facebook with one guy calling it ‘baffling’ and when Ivor interviewed me for the Bettakultcha podcast he described it as ‘a bit dull’. At least it meant I had an opening slide for this talk.
If you want to check it out, here is the link to my talk on the fact that the sum of all natural numbers equals -1/12 https://youtu.be/ImZ95dnoFLs
You can check out the podcasts on the Bettakultcha SoundCloud page https://soundcloud.com/bettakultcha
It is true that everyone is a critic now and those opinions are recorded for all to see. And it amazes me how willing people are to leave reviews no matter how pointless. When I wrote the slides ‘Gone Girl’ had 37,066 reviews on amazon.com, today it has 39,913 and it will have undoubtedly have more by the time you read this – http://www.amazon.com/Gone-Girl-Gillian-Flynn/dp/0307588378/. The world doesn’t need any more reviews of Gone Girl!
When Bettakultcha went to Beacons Festival last year, one of my presentation topics was amazing products you can buy on the internet (you can find the talk here… https://youtu.be/WfW5OQk9oxw) and so when I was looking for funny reviews, I knew that the Box Canvas Print of Paul Ross (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Box-Canvas-Print-Paul-Ross/dp/B001N6W8U0/) would be a rich source.
The average review on the internet is 4.3 out of 5. It is an amazingly uncritical place. This article gives an excellent in-depth statistical analysis of Amazon reviews – http://minimaxir.com/2014/06/reviewing-reviews/
But the real joy is in hunting out the one-star reviews. They are particularly enjoyable when applied to books, albums or movies that are considered classics. For example, here’s a link to the 17 one-star reviews of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band on amazon.co.uk – http://www.amazon.co.uk/product-reviews/B0025KVLTM/ref=cm_cr_dp_hist_one?ie=UTF8&filterBy=addOneStar&showViewpoints=0
‘The lyrics are trite and the music is awful and wishy washy. Avoid this.’ to quote just one fabulous reviewer.
The internet is full of movie posters ‘improved’ by adding one-star reviews, it was difficult to choose just two for my talk. This webpage alone has loads that are excellent – http://cheezburger.com/243461
Possibly my favourite discovery of my research for the talk was the fact that The Bluebird Hotel, a hotel that has a review of TripAdvisor with the title ‘There was poo in the kettle’, was rated 21st out of 25 in Newcastle B&Bs… imagine how bad those other four must be. Some of the reviews on TripAdvisor are so hilarious that this tumblr site could keep me entertained for hours – http://tripadvisaargh.tumblr.com/
So I leave you with one plea, if you don’t like my talk – please keep it to yourself!