Author Topic: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?  (Read 4389 times)  

Offline Alan Petersen

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #50 on: July 11, 2018, 10:15:33 AM »
In all seriousness, if I have to chose between Amazon's current hot mess of a review system and no reviews, I'd rather have no reviews. Let books stand and fall on the strength of the blurb and the excerpt.

I'd PREFER that Amazon actually fix their review system and perhaps weight it a bit for quality over quantity. I'd rather see a system where perhaps there were fewer reviews, but the reviews listed actually we meaningful. Currently Amazon is just a review arms race with everyone desperate to gain hundreds of reviews in hopes of juicing the algorithms.
That was the part of going to a bookstore. Perusing the shelves, pick up a book with a cover that screamed: check me out. Reading the front and back blurbs. Flipping through a few pages. Making the decision to buy or not.

The spoiler thing is really out of hand with professional critics that use click-bait headlines full of spoilers. When a movie comes out that I want to see, I avoid even glancing at its review since I know it will spoil it.


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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #51 on: July 11, 2018, 10:16:08 AM »
Reviews in the aggregate are useful as filters, but little more.

For example, I'll only consider reading a book if it has 20+ reviews and a 4.0+ average. That's just to separate the wheat from the chaff. I then rely on prolific reviewers in my favorite genres to signal whether I'm likely to enjoy reading a book.

I do the same with films. I'll only consider movies that have 30+ reviews on RottenTomatoes and a 70%+ rating. Those are the filters. I'll then check out the scores given by A.A. Dowd, Todd McCarthy, and Joe Morgenstern (or Ebert prior to 2013). If they liked a movie, I'm bound to like it.

Netflix getting rid of reviews is a good move because we're unable to follow select users. But we can still follow select book reviewers. And personally, once I've zeroed in on a few whose tastes dovetail with my own, their reviews become the deciding factor for me.



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Offline MissingAlaska

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #52 on: July 11, 2018, 12:48:00 PM »
For example, I'll only consider reading a book if it has 20+ reviews and a 4.0+ average. That's just to separate the wheat from the chaff. I then rely on prolific reviewers in my favorite genres to signal whether I'm likely to enjoy reading a book.

This is emblematic of the problem. Readers looking for only books with xx number of reviews with xx rating is a strong enticement for authors to use less-than-scrupulous practices at the expense of honest authors. How many of those 20+ reviews do you know are real? I suspect a lot of wheat gets immediately thrown out with the chaff while a lot of rocks are carried to the flour mill.

I do agree that relying upon reviews from readers you know makes sense -- which is why the social networking aspect of Goodreads seems like a better alternative to me.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #53 on: July 11, 2018, 01:21:38 PM »
Stores will never ditch reviews as long as readers want them, and people rely on reviews for purchases between 57-90% of the time. (Or 57-90% of people). Depending on the study.

But all the moaning recently about Amazon removing reviews--this is why. They've gone after reviewers, from what I can tell, who are on a lot of ARC teams and so forth. People they think are incentivized to review, or who review on release day all the time, whatever. Then they don't just remove those reviews, they remove ALL the person's reviews.

I'm good with them cracking down, even though I know I've lost dozens of reviews on my books. (I've never incentivized them, but I write in contemporary romance, where there are a lot of shenanigans, from hats all the way from pale gray to black.)

Amazon's cracked down because customers have said they don't trust reviews as much (with reason). What I personally really, really hope is that they'll get rid of all the counterfeit and shady goods coming in from China. I only buy brand names now in housewares, and buy personal care products from departments stores like Macy's, and I suspect they're losing a lot of business from that. You cannot trust those reviews at ALL.

Anything like replacing written reviews with up or downvotes would be even EASIER to game than the current system. Nowadays, you can look at a review and judge its merits. It's pretty easy to tell when somebody has actually read the book. There would be no such judgment possible with thumbs up/down.

The other difference is that Netflix isn't going to have gamed reviews. There is no single person responsible for each movie--no equivalent to a book's author--who's going to go in and incentivize reviews. It's not a small-time-enough operation.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2018, 01:23:17 PM by Usedtoposthere »

Offline Christopher Bunn

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #54 on: July 11, 2018, 01:44:04 PM »
There were probably multiple reasons why Netflix decided to dispense with their review system, but one the more public reasons was customer reaction to a big Netflix comedy special starring Amy Schumer. Apparently there's a sizable demographic that despises her for whatever reason. When her show came out, enough of these people started piling on with negative reviews that it generated considerable angst in the Netflix upper echelon. Shortly thereafter, they switched to the down-vote/up-vote system.

If Amazon did decide to dispense with reviews, I suppose it would merely create a need for someone to start a site devoted to Amazon reviews. I realize there are a myriad sites like that in existence, most of them focused on a niche, but a move like that on Amazon's part would create even more pressure for a single, gargantuan review site to emerge. Despite review gaming and stuffing, there's a great deal to learn from other people exercising their opinions. I would find it difficult to trust in a seller's marketing language alone in determining whether or not to purchase; a seller's chief and only allegiance is to selling his product, whereas a buyer/reviewer is slightly more dispassionate.

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Offline EllieDee

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #55 on: July 11, 2018, 01:57:46 PM »
Like several people upthread said, I actually prefer reviews that have certain spoilers so I can brace myself or walk away from the book as needed.  Like if a main character is going to die, or if there's animal cruelty or sexual abuse.  Maybe a compromise is having spoiler reviews on a separate tab, so people can decide if they want to click or not?

I also don't find star ratings all that helpful.  They're gamed by ARC groups or hater hit squads or both.  Largely useless.

I guess if Amazon had to get rid of something, booting the stars and keeping the text reviews might be an interesting approach... but I'm sure this isn't a popular opinion.

Offline AnnaB

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #56 on: July 11, 2018, 03:35:34 PM »
I like having the reviews.

For the most part I don't read the genres/authors where street teams heaping mountains of vapid, meaningless praise on Week One are a common practice, so it's as good an indicator as any that the book probably isn't for me.

And for some genres I may need a bit of spoiling to know whether the book is likely to be for me or not. As an example I love some forms of horror but not others.

Offline danpadavona

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #57 on: July 11, 2018, 04:48:35 PM »
I prefer the Netflix model to Amazon's. The more I read Internet reviews, whether it be Yelp, Google, Amazon, or wherever, I realize most of the reviews are either misleading or completely wrong. Too many reviewers take the "best book of all-time" or "worst book ever written" path. If it's not a 5-star, it's a 1-star. Or the best restaurant in the state, or the worst eatery known to man, unfit for animals. Very little middle ground.

For God's sake, JK Rowling and Stephen King have hundreds of 1-star reviews between them.

Thumbs up versus Thumbs down is better, in my opinion, but I wouldn't stop there. I'd like to see fuzzy logic of some sort to determine whether a book is a good match for the reader, going beyond what Amazon already does with their own system. It should include more than just thumbs up and thumbs down, which isn't robust enough to steer would-be readers.


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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #58 on: July 11, 2018, 06:05:58 PM »
At the expense of losing nice reviews, I wish Zon would abolish them entirely for books.

What I wonder about most are negative reviews. If a reader didn't like a book, why did they wait until the end to decide? Why didn't they put it down after ten pages if they didn't like it? Who reads a book to the end when they hate it? Maybe they don't read through and leave a bad review because thirty pages in, someone was unkind to a parrot, or expressed a political view they found displeasing. Quitting a book before finishing it should forfeit the right to leave a review.

In the end, one should only finish a book that pleases or enriches them. To do otherwise is mad (life is short, etc.).




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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #59 on: July 11, 2018, 06:15:25 PM »
Netflix doesn't need reviews because customers aren't choosing among various products to purchase. They already paid their monthly sub and they can watch anything they want, free of charge. They can even watch 2 minutes of a movie and decide it's not for them and switch to something else.

Sites selling something, like books, use reviews so customers can decide whether to front the money for the product or not. The idea is that a buyer wants to be informed.

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Offline thegreenheron

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #60 on: July 11, 2018, 08:07:56 PM »
At the expense of losing nice reviews, I wish Zon would abolish them entirely for books.

What I wonder about most are negative reviews. If a reader didn't like a book, why did they wait until the end to decide? Why didn't they put it down after ten pages if they didn't like it? Who reads a book to the end when they hate it? Maybe they don't read through and leave a bad review because thirty pages in, someone was unkind to a parrot, or expressed a political view they found displeasing. Quitting a book before finishing it should forfeit the right to leave a review.

In the end, one should only finish a book that pleases or enriches them. To do otherwise is mad (life is short, etc.).

Why shouldn't the customer have a right to point out they didn't like something to such an extent they didn't finish it? If someone books a hotel and leaves an hour after checking in because they find bed bugs, I'd like to read about that on Tripadvisor even though they didn't complete their stay.
 
I find it valuable to know that other readers quit the book and why. Often the articulated reason doesn't matter to me in which case I discount the review. But sometimes it does. Like I know I wouldn't enjoy a book where one of the main characters is mean to parrots because I like birds.

I always look at the overall trend of reviews in anything I purchase or research be it a car, a hotel, or a book. If most people are happy, then I feel confident buying. But if multiple people are complaining their car's transmission failed at 30K miles, or that the hotel's wi-fi doesn't work and the rooms are dirty, or that a book's plot falls apart at the 50% point, then I take notice. It's the trend and content which matters to me, not the occasional bad review.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #61 on: July 11, 2018, 10:13:15 PM »
Why shouldn't the customer have a right to point out they didn't like something to such an extent they didn't finish it? If someone books a hotel and leaves an hour after checking in because they find bed bugs, I'd like to read about that on Tripadvisor even though they didn't complete their stay.


A hotel room, car or electronic device... are not the same as a book, song or movie. Artistic endeavors are very subjective. You can say with proof that a hotel had bugs when you stayed, was noisy, or is far from the city center. However, you cannot say with any conviction that "Earthsea" is a bad book, or that "XYZ" is a great read. It was that for you only. Just as you cannot say Justin Bieber's songs are totally rad and great! and that another band's songs are bad. A review such as "Metallica is over-rated and stinks" doesn't stop anyone from buying it, or a review that says "Metallica is rad!" might make anyone run to grab it. This is all subjective.

The thumbs up/thumbs down idea sounds interesting. Reviews are just a time waste for subjective artistic properties - in MY opinion :) . (And too often the artists/writers waste too much time worrying about them.)

What's next? Reviews of kboards threads, emails, or times of day? I like this thread, and 3pm. I love 3pm (third coffee).

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Offline D-C

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #62 on: July 12, 2018, 02:03:04 AM »
In all seriousness, if I have to chose between Amazon's current hot mess of a review system and no reviews, I'd rather have no reviews. Let books stand and fall on the strength of the blurb and the excerpt.

I agree with this.

A book, unless the pages are falling out or the Kindle font is garbled etc, is such a subjective experience, making reviews pretty worthless. "This books sucks because the heroine is a $%^%&" One star. Well, that's an opinion, which is great, but does it deserve a one star? They bought the book, they read it, it delivered a story which is exactly what a book is supposed to do. No, it doesn't deserve a one star. (This is just a hypothetical example, btw). "I got it free. I usually read military sci-fi and this was fluffy romance." One star. "OMG I LOVE EVERYTHING" Five stars. Equally unhelpful. Plus the abuse of the review system is rampant. 

Amazon will never get rid of reviews. Their entire shopping ecosystem hinges on reviews. But for books, like art, reviews aren't necessary.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #63 on: July 12, 2018, 04:20:58 AM »
In all seriousness, if I have to chose between Amazon's current hot mess of a review system and no reviews, I'd rather have no reviews. Let books stand and fall on the strength of the blurb and the excerpt.

I'd PREFER that Amazon actually fix their review system and perhaps weight it a bit for quality over quantity. I'd rather see a system where perhaps there were fewer reviews, but the reviews listed actually we meaningful. Currently Amazon is just a review arms race with everyone desperate to gain hundreds of reviews in hopes of juicing the algorithms.

What she said.

Offline Bill Hiatt

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #64 on: July 12, 2018, 09:50:34 AM »
Reviews will never go away, but I'm increasingly in the camp of those who think they are inappropriate for creative products.

If I know a reviewer's taste are similar to mine, I can gain something from that review. Unless that reviewer is someone I know personally, or the review is atypically long and detailed, I'm unlikely to know enough to be sure.

If you look at any book that has a significant number of reviews, they typically cover the spectrum. The same book produces radically different responses, and reviewers are often not clear on what led to their conclusion. I've also seen many instances in which reviewers disagree on the same feature. For instance, one of my own books has reviewers praising the teenage dialog as very realistic and reviewers condemning it as unrealistic. Same book, same dialog--different assessments. Someone who didn't read the book would have no way of knowing which assessment was accurate.

Aside from the necessarily subjective nature of judgments on literature, there is also the problem of reviewers who misstate the facts about the book. For example, I have one book in which two reviewers, both positive, cite graphic sex scenes--in a YA novel that doesn't have any real sex scenes, graphic or otherwise. There is one scene in which one of the characters fantasizes, but the description is so metaphoric the scene could be visually portrayed in a Disney movie. In an earlier post, I mentioned some examples I've seen of the same kind of think in movie reviews, where the reviewer references something that doesn't actually happen. As the saying goes, "You're entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts." The problem is that someone who hasn't read the book has no way of knowing the facts are misstated.

Another issue that goes along with the subjectivity issue is that people don't have one, consistent way of applying the star ratings. Given the way the human brain operates, that's inevitable, but creating averages (or some algorithm-driven composite) of those star numbers suggests that all reviewers are in fact using the same scale. I  have five-star reviews that sound like four-stars and vice versa. My most recent review was a very complimentary three-star. Earlier, I think someone was talking about one-stars that sounded mostly favorable. And, of the course, there are those occasions when people think one star is the highest rating...

None of this is intended as criticism of the reviewers. We each have a point of view that is not identical to that of any other person on earth. It's not surprising that five people can read the same book and produce five different assessments. The problem comes in when other consumers treat those assessments (or a composite of them) as gospel.

Sure, you can spend a lot of time analyzing the reviews and try to pick out the ones that seem to come from people whose point of view might be similar, and obviously some folks in this thread do a good job with that. I doubt, however, that the average consumer puts as much thought into that part of the process as some authors do. I know plenty of star counters whose only interaction with the reviews is to look at the average.

Come to think of it, perhaps just dumping the star ratings would be a good approach. People who like to spend time gleaning info from the reviews could still do it--but without the pseudo-objective averaging together of ratings that weren't originally based on the same criteria.

 


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Offline SunbirdBooks

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #65 on: July 12, 2018, 09:59:40 AM »
I cut back on Netflix watching in a big way when they axed the star review system. It became harder to find things I actually liked. Getting rid of reviews will only exacerbate that problem. I might actually cancel the service before the end of the year.

Offline Edward M. Grant

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #66 on: July 12, 2018, 12:13:01 PM »
I cut back on Netflix watching in a big way when they axed the star review system. It became harder to find things I actually liked.

The Netflix recommendations work pretty well for me. Presumably because they're based on what people like me watch, and not on how much companies pay to push their show up the rankings.

Offline Alan Petersen

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #67 on: July 12, 2018, 12:36:02 PM »
The Netflix recommendations work pretty well for me. Presumably because they're based on what people like me watch, and not on how much companies pay to push their show up the rankings.
Right. It's not like Netflix is letting you drift aimlessly. They know what you like, what you watch and sort that dashboard in a way to keep you paying that monthly subscription. Just like Amazon knows what we like to read, which books we click on, etc.


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Offline Thoralene

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #68 on: July 12, 2018, 12:51:19 PM »
In all seriousness, if I have to chose between Amazon's current hot mess of a review system and no reviews, I'd rather have no reviews. Let books stand and fall on the strength of the blurb and the excerpt.

I'd PREFER that Amazon actually fix their review system and perhaps weight it a bit for quality over quantity. I'd rather see a system where perhaps there were fewer reviews, but the reviews listed actually we meaningful. Currently Amazon is just a review arms race with everyone desperate to gain hundreds of reviews in hopes of juicing the algorithms.

I agree with all of this.
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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #69 on: July 12, 2018, 03:04:09 PM »
I always check reviews when I'm buying a book from an author I haven't read before. Mostly I'm looking for my dealbreakers--is the book rapey or full of abuse, etc--but I also check for common themes in the reviews. Lately several reviews on a book noted the heroine was  too-stupid-to-live, but I was really attracted by the cover and blurb and bought it anyway. Sure enough, the heroine was TSTL and I will not be reading any further in that series. (As in, she suspected someone was a murderer, and went alone to their house to return blackmail material she'd inadvertently collected, material that she believed they had already killed someone over. :o) I should have listened to the reviews!

If Amazon removed reviews, I would have to check Goodreads before reading new-to-me authors, so I would probably buy more books by authors I already know I like and avoid the hassle. I think removing reviews would probably be bad for discovery, actually.

Offline ellenoc

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #70 on: July 12, 2018, 03:34:47 PM »
A sample can tell me if the writing at the beginning is decent, but it can't tell me if the book as a whole contains elements that I don't want to read.

This. I can't tell you how many times I took a chance on a book based on the quality of writing and premise in the sample only to have it fall apart later on. The effect it had on me was to stop me buying books from new-to-me authors. So... I'll try a new author through KU or the library, but won't buy. Yes, I can return, but there's a limit how many returns of anything you can make before drawing Amazon's ire.

What I rely on most heavily is the blurb. If it's poorly written, I figure the book will be too. And if it's one of those that goes through the plot point by point, I figure why read the book, I already know the story.

I do rely on reviews even when it's KU or the library and sometimes for favorite authors who can occasionally go somewhere I don't want to follow. For instance, I skipped a Nevada Barr book based on reviews. Yes, some reviews also do the point-by-point retelling of the plot, but it's easy to identify those at a glance and skip over them. Whether it's fair or not, how heavily I rely on reviews does depend on how many there are. Only a few, and I tend to worry they're all friends and relatives, or in the case of non-books, employees, paid for, etc. But once the total gets to a certain point, I figure there has to be input from ordinary consumers. Generally I don't read that many reviews but go by averages.

I wouldn't want Amazon to ditch reviews, but if it did, I'd be looking for that kind of information elsewhere for non-books. Probably my attitude toward trying new authors couldn't be any more restrictive than it is.

Offline danpadavona

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #71 on: July 12, 2018, 04:45:16 PM »
What I wonder about most are negative reviews. If a reader didn't like a book, why did they wait until the end to decide? Why didn't they put it down after ten pages if they didn't like it? Who reads a book to the end when they hate it?

That's nothing. I had one reviewer read all four books of my series just so he could 2-star the final novel and explain what a chore it was to make it through all four books. I mean, why would anyone read books 2-4 if they hated book 1? On a lighter note, I'm totally happy that I made him miserable for months.  :D


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Offline TimothyEllis

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #72 on: July 12, 2018, 04:56:27 PM »
If you look at any book that has a significant number of reviews, they typically cover the spectrum. The same book produces radically different responses, and reviewers are often not clear on what led to their conclusion. I've also seen many instances in which reviewers disagree on the same feature. 

One of my books has reviews which state : Too many commas, Not enough commas, and, Commas all in the wrong places.

Same book. 3 different reviewers.


Exactly how much help are these? I find it almost normal for reviews across time to totally disagree with each other on exact same points.

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #73 on: July 12, 2018, 05:30:05 PM »
I constantly see gushing five star reviews for books that are so full of typos and bad grammar that I can't finish the first paragraph of the Look Inside without my eyes bleeding, and one stars for things that have absolutely nothing to do with the book itself, like payment or technical issues with their Kindles. The $50/year rule has cut way down on the number of organic reviews without making any impact on the paid reviews. I think the system is so broken that they ought to eliminate book reviews on Amazon completely. If they feel like they just have to have some kind of rating/review on books, then import the ones from Goodreads because the ones on Amazon are practically worthless.

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Offline Rick Partlow

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Re: Netflix Ditches Reviews. Should booksellers follow?
« Reply #74 on: July 12, 2018, 05:37:18 PM »
I think getting rid of reviews is an extraordinarily bad idea.