When I wrote last month about the problem of fake reviews on Yelp, etc., I hadn’t heard of Fiverr.com. But Amazon certainly has: According to Marketwatch.com, they’ve sued more than 1,000 people who had “worked” for Fiverr for writing bogus reviews on Amazon’s site.
Some background: Fiverr.com offers services for hire, with the bait of things available for $5 (and up, of course). You can get logo designs, video editing, voiceovers — all sorts of services. It just shows what people with Internet access and some spare time (and perhaps a lot of desperation) are willing to do for very little money.
As always, when you compete in that kind of marketplace, the race to the bottom is swift and merciless. But this is the kind of thing that drives real graphic designers nuts as they try to survive sites offering full logo service for $59, with a choice of 10 designs.
I can also report that the fake review business is alive and well. In addition to the aforementioned poor souls who did the counterfeit reviews for $5, Amazon has sued four sites that specialized in this type of deal. Some were perhaps a tad too obvious, with names like buyamazonreviews.com, but at least they charged from $19 to $22.
Amazon even bought some fake reviews as part of its investigative process. That’s not going to be very helpful for the writers, I’m betting, in court.
Besides being very skeptical of five-star or one-star reviews, what can you do? Check for the overuse of adjectives and look at various competing sites. Also, looking for people tagged as “verified purchaser” is a good idea.
But here’s another idea: For the price of the lawyers needed to sue 1,000 people, I bet Amazon could hire a ton of folks to review the reviews before they got posted. And maybe even hire some people on Fiverr.
So one of the neatest free monthly meetings in our area is known as the Tech Breakfast, which is usually the second Wednesday of the month at Loyola University Maryland’s Columbia campus. It features four presenters who show off their latest innovations in software or other tech items, with “death by PowerPoint” prohibited — the presenters bring up their web sites or phone apps and demo them live. They’ve shown drones doing aerial surveying, sites that do wardrobe recommendations based on vision technology and mobile virtual reality. That’s where I learned about Google Cardboard.
Virtual reality is way cool, but it usually involves large headsets tethered to a computer, stereo headphones, etc., none of which comes cheap. But the vast majority of what you need already exists in a very small portable device: your cellphone. Enter Cardboard and “augmented reality.”
Especially with the quality of displays in newer phones and bigger screens that are capable of displaying two side-by-side images that the brain converts to 3-D, all you really need is a holder with some cheap plastic lenses and ear buds.
Google “cardboard” and you’ll find fold-up holders that secure your cell phone and hold it the right distance from your eyes for about $19. Free apps are available from Apple and Android to display images and games in a good-enough type of 3-D reality. It’s very cool and the price is right.
Of course, if you want to make your own 3-D videos, it’s going to cost you. Google Jump is a rig that holds 16 GoPro cameras in a circular array. It looks a bit like a flying saucer, mounts on a tripod, and is used to collect the raw footage needed. It’s then fed into software that converts it to 3-D. Early pricing is around $15,000 (yikes).
It’s strictly for the serious professional, but you can bet that other innovators will come up with alternate lower-cost rigs soon.
Ad Blocking: Mainstream
Apple has apparently added automatic ad blocking to IOS9, bringing something that more advanced users have always promoted into the mainstream.
In our constant fight against banner ads, pop-ups and those stupid ads on the right side of Facebook, ad blockers were our friends. The best I’ve found for the PC is AdBlock Plus, which is free, and you can easily add to any browser. Get it at https://adblockplus.org.
Advertisers are not happy, and web sites that rely on ads to stay free are definitely upset. But the annoyance factor means they’ve brought it on themselves. So advertisers will probably start doing more pay-per-click feeds — thus making them more vulnerable to robotic sites that act like interested customers and drive up costs.
My heart (doesn’t) bleed for them.
Cliff Feldwick is owner of Riverside Computing and offers PC troubleshooting, data retrieval and network setups for small businesses — when not wondering if virtual reality is as close as he can get. He can be reached at 410-880-0171 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Older columns are available at http://feldwick.com.