Tactical Information Systems
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You Can't Have Online Trust Without Online Identity

I ran across a fascinating article recently that did an analysis of movie reviews from some of the major review aggregators like Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes, and compared them to Fandango. The short version of the article is that Fandango essentially never gives a movie a review of less than 3 stars, while the other two sites have reviews that span the spectrum.

From the article:

Of the 437 films [on Fandango] with at least one review, 98 percent had a 3-star rating or higher and 75 percent had a 4-star rating or higher.

This is very apparent in this distribution:

As we have said before, online reviews are generally worthless. Without a strong online identity, you can't trust them - anonymous people can say and do anything. But when you look at this distribution, it is clear what is going on. Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic make money by being reputable sources of reviews. They have no incentive to inflate reviews. Fandango sells movie tickets. They have tons of incentive not to discourage you from seeing a movie.

For online reviews to be worth anything, you have to know the identity of the reviewer, and you have to understand their incentives. That's not a whole lot to ask for, but it is actually quite rare in practice.