Today at the office, we had a discussion about the distribution of grades on review websites.
You see, common knowledge is that the distribution of reviews take the shape of the letter U. That means: many people give negative reviews, many people give positive reviews, and less people give reviews in between. That's the distribution you usually see when you go to places like the App Store. Lots of 1:s and 5:s. Some people love your app, some people hate it. You've probably seen the pattern yourself.
However, I felt this agreed-upon knowledge would be false when it comes to social recommendation sites, such as Tripbirds. Somehow, I just felt people on a social recommendation sites would behave differently.
To get some data to support my case I made a quick analysis of all the reviews from my Swedish restaurant review site, Restaurangkartan. 13.000 reviews on a scale of one to five stars. And then - a very interesting pattern emerged.
The dark red line is people who just gave one review. That's the people who stop by the site once, write a review, and then never return. For these people, there was a clear U-shape distribution.
Then I looked at people who gave more than one review. That's when things got interesting. Quickly, a very super-clear pattern emerged. There's a straight correlation between the number of reviews someone's written and the distribution of those reviews.
As a matter of fact for people who write many reviews, the distribution is inverted. The shape looks not like a U, but rather like an A.
The more reviews people write, the less likely those reviews are to be either 1:s or 5:s.
So what's the conclusion? Well, it's about trust. On my restaurant site, when someone has written more than 10 reviews... that's when I start trusting them. If someone has written fewer, chances are that they are not really trustworthy. The worst example is when you will find restaurant owners reviewing their own places, and writing bad reviews for their competitors. That's actually quite common. But there are also many other reasons why you can't really trust people with few reviews.
The real power of social recommendations is trust. You might not always agree with your friends but at least you can trust their intentions. This is actually the reason I wanted to leave the "web 2.0" and "crowdsourcing" mentality behind, and focus on social. It's much more powerful. That's why I'm so excited about Tripbirds.
And let's hope the U-shape distribution was just a historical parenthesis on the web. :)