Sunday, January 01, 2006

Wisdom of Amazon crowds?

I often find myself relying on the wisdom of crowds to guide my purchasing decision. How so? I go check out the customer reviews at Amazon. This has been a very a very good barometer for my purchase.

Analyzing my habit a little further, I realized that I don't just pick out the majority opinion. BTW, is there a way to get a summary of the customer reviews for an item? Such as,

Acme's New Super duper toaster ratings:
95% -- 4+ stars
2% -- 3 stars
2% -- other

probably could using Amazon web services. Anyway, what I seek out is the not-so-silent minority. I want to see why, while the page is filled with 5-star or 4-star reviews, there are a discordant few. I do read (some of) the majority opinions. However, you tend to get the drift after the first few. Have you noticed that the majority opinion cites similar reasons? However, the minority seem to have more variety -- or maybe its just a matter of numbers.

It is the gripes I pay close attention to: is the review just a sore rant or do the complaints seem to have merit. Are these reasons something that I feel is important to me -- or do I not care that the toaster doesn't have a mirror-like sheen?

Such an analysis has held me in good stead over the past few years of major and minor purchases. In retrospect, this seems to weight the few heavier than the many -- contrary to Surowiecki's contention.

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