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Monday 4th November 2013

Warming Up #3998

I know that it's no real surprise that people are trying to monetize social media in various ways. Facebook is quite upfront with the fact that you can pay for sponsored ads that appear in the timelines of friends or friends of friends, depending how much you're willing to pay and we've probably all heard of businesses that offer to give you 10,000 more followers on Twitter, so it appears that you are more popular than you are (I think to make you look more of a going concern than to help you overcome inferiority complexes). And I have often wondered to what extent you can trust reviews on Amazon and Tripadvisor. What I like about both of those sites is that they allow negative reviews so that as a consumer you can make up your own mind, plus many of the negative reviews are very funny because they come from people who have either misunderstood a service or are cleraly just terrifically angry about anything. But if a business pays 100 people to go to a site and give it a positive review then that skews this service considerably. And if people know that is happening then it's self-defeating because, of course, then you can't trust anything and you're back to square one. I hope this doesn't happen on those particular sites and think they are on the look out for abuse of the service, but it must be hard to stop, certainly on a small scale.

Because I once tried to put a Richard Herring app up on iTunes and Android (it was too complicated for me and the app wasn't really all that good so I gave up pretty quickly) I occasionally get emails about development tools or whatever (I don't understand any of it), but today got one that is pretty upfront with the fact that there are businesses out there offering 5 star reviews and likes in return for cold, hard cash.

Here it is:

"Dear Android developer,
Please let us introduce our new promotional services that will make your app look more appealing and eventually lead to more downloads.
1. Positive ratings
- Adding 100 5-star ratings and 10 positive comments to your Google Play page
Price: $135
- Adding 1.000 ratings with 100 comments
Price: $950
2. iOS ratings
- Adding 100 5-star ratings to your iOS app
Price: $220
- Adding 1.000 5-star ratings to your iOS app
Price: $1.900
3. Facebook likes
- Adding 25.000 Facebook likes to your Facebook page
Price: $250
- Adding 100.000 Facebook likes
Price: $750
4. Google +1’s
- Adding 1.000 Google +1’s to your Google Play page or any other page
Price: $100
- Adding 20.000 +1’s
Price: $1.200
5. YouTube views & likes
- Adding 25.000 views and 1.000 Likes to your YouTube video
Price: $150
- Adding 100.000 views and 4.000 Likes
Price: $500
If you are interested in any of the above mentioned services, please don’t hesitate to reply to this email. Payment made safely after promotion is completed via PayPal.

Now this might just be spam or phishing and it might be a con, but there are certainly people offering such services for real. And it just seems self-defeating. Because in the short term it might impress people or bring in some revenue from sponsors, but ultimately when people all know that it's easy enough to add 100,000 views to a Youtube video or 100 5 star reviews to an iTunes app, then they won't trust any of the reviews or counts any more and the dishonest boost will be meaningless. The people creating this market are actually doing something that will destroy the need for their business. I suppose as long as they are making money in the short term they don't care and maybe they think that people are too stupid to realise what's going on, and maybe they're right. But it seems a shame to skew a system that is at least fair up to an extent and where we can use our own judgement to sort out the genuine criticism from the furious and insane invective.

I am a man of honour and I want all my reviews to come from people who have enjoyed my work, or are infuriated by it and hate me. I don't mind the bad reviews too much (as long as there are some good ones) as angering someone enough to make them want to let the world know about it is some kind of reaction, but I want my good reviews to be genuine, even if that means I don't sell as many books or DVDs or whatever.

But I wondered if I could use the service another way. Would this company be prepared to do the same thing, but in reverse. Could I pay to have negative comments and one star reviews to say, I don't know, off the top of my head, Stewart Lee's work. Actually that's not a very good example as he gets plenty of those on his own and likes getting them. Could I destroy the fragile ego of one of my business rivals, maybe Peacock and Gamble or Patrick Marber or just some random person or business by getting these duplicitous liars to leave bad feedback and someone else. I mean the business is fundamentally dishonest, but would that be crossing a line for them?

I emailed them back, "Hi Ilia
Thanks for this offer. It looks interesting.
I was wondering though, would it be possible for me to use this service to add 1 star reviews and negative comments to the apps of rival companies. I would be interested if so.
Would the rates be the same? Please let me know asap
RH Android Developer"

Let's see what they have to say.

The Headmaster's Son is now up on Netflix for those of you who have this service. I am hoping that I might persuade the service to take more of my DVDs and ultimately possibly even put up the videos of RHLSTP and Meaning of Life, so do recommend the show to your friends so Netflix get the false impression that I am popular (hold on is this exactly the same service that Ilia is offering, except I am not paying you?).  If you don't have Netflix or want to own the show (there's lots of cool extras that you can only get on DVD) then you can buy it here.

And if Ian Netflix is reading this then do get in touch about the video podcasts.

I think you might still just be able to catch Christ on a Bike on Netflix too, though it's just about to be taken off.

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