Thursday, August 02, 2007

12 Things I didn't know about Epinions


1. The reviewers get paid for their reviews! It isn't much, but depending on a top secret formula that Epinions doesn't reveal, you might be able to earn as much as a couple of dollars a month from a good review.

2. Number one isn't always true. If you write a review and it is rated as "Somewhat Helpful," or "Not Helpful," you won't get paid anything for that review. Only reviews rated "Helpful" or "Very Helpful" are eligible for the Income Sharing program.

3. Not everyone on Epinions is equal. Let's say you write a review on a widget. The next day a swarm of people read, and rate your review and 6 of them rate it as "Helpful" but 4 of them rate it as "Somewhat Helpful." If the 4 that rated it "Somewhat Helpful" are Advisors or Leads then you will probably end up with a rating of "Somewhat Helpful" - even though the majority of users found your review "Helpful." This would result in your review being shown to the public, but you wouldn't qualify for Income Sharing as a result.

4. Epinions reviews are ranked according to "helpfulness." When you view a listing of reviews on a product, the reviews will be shown ranked - from the review that was rated the most helpful (lots of "Very Helpful" ratings) down to the least helpful reviews. This means that often times the first review you see when researching a product is 3, 4 or even 5 years old. But according to Epinions, it is the most helpful so it is presented first.

5. Your Epinions review is NOT at the top of the page. It LOOKS like it is, but this is a trick by the Epinions programming gurus that makes you feel like your review is more visible than it actually is - the only person who sees your review at the top is you. (Unless you've miraculously written the most helpful review.)

6. Some people may not see your review at all. If your review is rated Not Helpful, it is not shown to casual visitors of Epinions. Only registered users will see a "Not Helpful" review.

7. Even if your review is rated as "Somewhat Helpful," it may not be seen by others. This is because the reviews are shown in order of helpfulness. If there are a large number of reviews on the particular product that you have received a "Somewhat Helpful" rating, then your review will be at the bottom of the page (for everyone else except you - remember it is at the top of the page for you!) and many people will never scroll far enough down to see your review.

8. You can make Epinions show you the reviews in a different order - and you should sometimes. When you click on the "View Reviews" button you will see your review (if you have written one for that product) and then the reviews that are rated as most helpful at the top, with the least helpful reviews at the bottom. But at the top of the review listing page, you can click on Sort by: "Review Date" and Epinions will change the order of the reviews to show you the MOST RECENT reviews first. You SHOULD do this in many cases. A review from 2001 of Expedia.com might not be an accurate representation of how the service operates now. Or something might have changed with a product or company that would make the more recent reviews more relevant.

9. Epinions has message boards where you can learn more about the process. Look at the bottom of the main page in the small print underneath the ads. Click on Message Boards. Dig around in Epinions General and you'll probably learn a lot fast. Also, there is a an unnoficial FAQ that is located here: http://epifaq.pbwiki.com/

10. The search function in Epinions is very nearly useless - but there is a way around it. (As of this writing anyway.) I would frequently go to Epinions to try and learn more about a product only to be dismayed that it was not reviewed. I tried to learn about a cell phone, and even trying different Epinions searches by typing the name of the phone, the model number and a half-dozen other variations - Epinions could not find it. But it was there - the search engine just didn't work. So how do you get around it? Use Google. Like this - search for "site:epinions.com product name" (Don't include the quotes and insert the name of the product you are looking for where it says product name.) Google knows how to search, Epinions does not.

11. You can secretly be blocked from the community and you might never know. It is called "Community Blocking." Members who are community blocked are not visible to epinions nonmembers. There is a "trick" you can use to find out if you are community blocked called the "Pricetool Trick." To use the "Pricetool Trick," go to your profile page, and in the URL replace 'epinions' with 'pricetool' and hit enter. If you are community blocked, your public profile will not display and instead a message stating you are community blocked will appear.

If this happens, you have to guess why you have been blocked. It may be something simple - like you have a large number of Not Helpful reviews. Or it may be more subtle. If you have been on the Epinions message boards, you may have offended a powerful "advisor" or "lead." Offend too many people on the message boards, and your reviews may be blocked from the public eye - EVEN IF you have good reviews.

12. Epinions is a community - not just a product review site. If you casually use Epinions to rate products and services that you have used, or to research products and services you are thinking of using, you are a small fish in a much bigger pond. Your ratings likely don' t matter as much as the powerful leads and advisors, and your reviews are often shuffled to the bottom of the pack. To really get the most out of Epinions, you have to participate in the community, otherwise you are just scratching the surface.

Ultimately you have a lot of choices when it comes time to purchase a product and Epinions can be a valuable tool when evaluating whether a product is right for you. But you should also be looking at the reviews on sites like Amazon.com, Target.com and Wal-mart.com or any other review site. Most online sites now have their own review comments for the products they sell. Be sure to use them. They are current and they are written by people who have most likely just purchased the product. Consider all of these reviews before making a purchase and you are likely to be armed with a much better idea of what you are buying and whether you are buying the best product for your needs.

Good luck and happy shopping!

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