The Noisy Channel


Sell Your Integrity for $0.65

January 17th, 2009 · 7 Comments · Uncategorized

Everyone has their price, but who knew it was so low? First, we see Burger King persuading people to trade 10 Facebook friends for a Whopper (suggested retal price: $3.69). Then some are suggesting that Twitter might create a business model offer companies a sort of pay-per-click (PPC) approach to friendship where they might pay $1 for each “friend” who follows a sponsored invitation.

But apparently Belkin may have read Ben Kunz’s “Modest Blogging Proposal” and not recognized it as satire. According to The Daily Background, a Belkin employee used Amazon’s Mechanical Turk service to pay people to write positive reviews of Belkin’s products–65 cents for each review. The scandal has received wide coverage through a post by John Biggs on CrunchGear.

I can’t say I’m shocked (shocked!) to find out that there’s payola going on here. And, by way of an “I told you so,” a big part of the problem is that reviews are anonymous, and anonymity doesn’t play well with information accountability.

But I am disappointed that people’s integrity is so cheap. Even Esau was able to swing a mess of pottage, which by my best guess would go for $5 in 2009 dollars.

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gene Golovchinsky // Jan 18, 2009 at 2:27 am

    0.65 here, 0.65 there. Pretty soon, it all adds up. Anonymity is idempotent.

  • 2 Daniel Tunkelang // Jan 18, 2009 at 10:29 am

    Well, there must be some human skill needed to write the reviews, or else they’d have automated it entirely. Or perhaps paid less than $0.65 to answer the CAPTCHAs needed to post the reviews.

    Needless to say, $0.65 for a 5-star product review is a bargain for the manufacturer. It’s a lot more expensive to buy votes, and I suspect the reviews provide a much higher expected return.

    That’s why I worry about this behavior being widespread, and why I’m happy to be part of the posse shaming it.

  • 3 A Turker’s Got To Know His Limitations | The Noisy Channel // Jan 21, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    […] It’s great to see Mechanical Turk used in the service of productive research, and not just as a way to shill on the cheap. […]

  • 4 Minor Changes at The Noisy Channel | The Noisy Channel // Apr 1, 2009 at 12:03 am

    […] I am writing off my personal integrity. I encourage you to do the same, and will offer a small reward to anyone who posts positive online reviews of this […]

  • 5 Payola? There’s An App For That! | The Noisy Channel // Aug 22, 2009 at 5:53 pm

    […] a few months ago when there was a scandal about a Belkin employee paying people $0.65 per review to post 5-star reviews to […]

  • 6 Is Spontaneity Overrated? // May 24, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    […] agree that incented reviews are a bad idea. And let’s not get started on hiring interns or Turkers to write them! Rather, the question is whether a review is less meaningful because it was solicited […]

  • 7 Holley Prototype & Failed Social Media Effort // AREA203 Blog // Oct 1, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    […] than attempt to appear independent. Belkin, for example, got caught paying for positive reviews on shopping sites.  Now another company, Holley Performance, is in trouble for lying to its enthusiast audience […]

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