User reviews: too many, biased, funny...

There have been a few recent blog posts about user product reviews: there are too many, they are biased, they can even be entertaining.

Yes, there are too many user reviews. And yes, they are biased.

"Bazaarvoice trend analysis has shown that product and service reviews are very positive, with an average rating of 4.3 out of 5," said Brett Hurt, CEO of Bazaarvoice, in a statement.

For example, the distribution of reviews collected for HiS resemble a "J":

There just can't be that many good products!

This was one of the motivations for starting HiS - give consumers a way to easily view the negative user experiences of all products, even the stellar ones.

details about how a product sucks

Visitors to HiS can now click on a product and get more details about how it sucks!
For example, check out the product page of the TomTom One:

As you can see, we've added the ratings history of the product over the last 12 months and a way to wade through the negative reviews using a term cloud of phrases that commonly appear.

added sort

As many have pointed out, the site needs sorting capability. It was an oversight to not have this in the prior release (ah, how I suck). Anyway, it's there now. You can sort by suckiness (least sucky first or most sucky first) or popularity (least popular first or most popular first).

HiS: GeekSugar's Website of the day

"Do you ever find yourself sifting through the good reviews to find the bad? Let me guess . . . What you are really trying to find out is whether or not something sucks, right?"

I couldn't have said it better myself. I guess that's why HiS was GeekSugar's website of the day yesterday.

GPS manufacturers - ratings over time

I've been searching for the right analogy to show ratings and number of reviews. Both variables are important - a few positive reviews shouldn't have anywhere near the impact of a large number of negative reviews.

So I did a little experiment: For some major GPS manufacturers, I plotted both the number of reviews and HowItSucks (HiS) rating for Jan - Nov 2007. The results are pretty interesting:

Click for larger version of image.

HiS in apartment therapy

HowItSucks was mentioned in apartment therapy. They even pointed to this blog!

"Link of the Morning" on Blue's News

HowItSucks named "Link of the Morning" on Blue's News!

More feedback

Some comments about the site (from
danno writes:

quickly tell you how a product sucks based on previous users' reviews

christoph2005 writes:
Collection of negative voices about lots and lots of products

ekalvi writes:
Funny idea. Aggregating only the "sucky" product reviews. Perhaps confusing, but refreshing.

MelinaCross writes:
wow...better than consumer reports!

tekniklr writes:
Collects just the negative reviews for products on Amazon, and tells you how much (and why) they suck.

archangel77 writes:
This page generates suckage graphs from the ratings at

mohammadi writes:
Seems useful whenever want to buy a new gadget/software/game ...

And my personal favorite, by adirondacks:
Uh, oh. A negative review scraper. Things could get ugly. I can't wait to see a travel version.

HiS in Consumerist

HiS was featured in The Consumerist today! Lots of good comments too (including a few people who couldn't see the mouseovers... hm, sounds like a cross-browser compatibility issue that needs to be investigated).

What kind of products get reviewed?

Before I started HiS, I figured that reviews were mostly limited to:

  • products with lots of features - consumer electronics, gadgets
  • popular products - with so many people buying, some will be compelled to review
But consider the Microplane Grater/Zester. It has 219 reviews! 213 are positive! Of course, these reviews were made over a 7+ year period, but still, the product only costs $6. I'm just pleasantly surprised with the consumer's willingness to review. It helps us all.

Most reviewed products - last 4 weeks

just for curiosity's sake, I wanted to know the most reviewed products (this includes all reviews, positive and negative):

Garmin nuvi 350 Pocket Vehicle GPS Navigator with Maps for North America
Apple Mac OS X Version 10.5 Leopard
Canon PowerShot SD1000 7.1MP Digital Elph Camera with 3x Optical Zoom (Silver)
Zune 30 GB Digital Media Player (Brown)
JBuds Hi-Fi Noise-Reducing Ear Buds (Black)
Apple 8 GB iPod Nano AAC/MP3 Player Silver (3rd Generation)
Zune 30 GB Digital Media Player (Pink)
Apple 8 GB iPod nano AAC/MP3 Player Black (3rd Generation)
Garmin StreetPilot c340 Traffic-Ready Vehicle GPS Navigator
TomTom ONE Portable GPS Vehicle Navigator
Toshiba HD-A2 HD DVD Player
Apple 80 GB iPod classic (Black)
Apple 80 GB iPod classic Silver (6th Generation)
Apple 8 GB iPod nano AAC/MP3 Player Green (3rd Generation)
Microsoft Office Home and Student 2007
Samsung LNT4671F 46" 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV

Of course, this is just for products HiS covers (which isn't all Amazon products... yet :)).

FAQ - Part I

1. What is all about?
HowItSucks (HiS) teaches you how products suck based on the experiences of other consumers.

2. Why call out bad things about products? What about the good things?
Many comparison shopping sites and product reviews will tell you what's good about a product. The point of HiS is to highlight the poor experiences other users have had with that product. If you decide to buy the product anyway, well, that's your choice. At least you know what you're getting into.

3. Where do the reviews come from?
Currently, we are getting reviews from Amazon. We plan to add other sources of reviews.

4. What is the HiS rating?
The HiS rating is a proprietary rating system that includes all reviews in our database and is based on recent product reviews (i.e. not two year old reviews that are completely outdated now).

Google Apps: Not For Your Domain

I tried signing up for a free Google Apps account for recently. Here's the message I got:

"Google Apps does not currently support this domain name"
Not being sure what that meant, I tried to register for Premier version. Same message. I searched some news groups and found a few relevant posts.

I contacted support. Here's what I got back:
Thanks for your message. Please note that we review a variety of factors for each new Google Apps signup. Based on our review process, we feel that your domain does not meet our current requirements.

For more information, please visit
When I asked for clarification about what requirement my site didn't meet, I got the following response:
Thanks for your message and for your interest in Google Apps. Please note that we cannot disclose any details of our policies. However, please know that we review a variety of factors for each new Google Apps signup. Based on our review process, we feel that your domain does not meet our current requirements.

For more information, please visit
In summary, my domain doesn't meet the current requirements, but they won't tell me which requirements.
ARGH. Anybody else having this problem?

UPDATE (11.14.2007): Just got the final answer from Google:
Because your domain name contains the word 'sucks' it cannot be accepted.

Thankfully, this hasn't prevented me from using other Google services like Blogger, Google Analytics, or Google Webmaster Tools.

woohoo! it's up and running is up and running. No doubt the version 0.01 alpha Veterans Day 2007 release (version numbers are passe, as are alpha, beta, gamma, delta...). Still a lot of testing left and features to add, but it's a start.

Stay tuned for a brief explanation of the site and more updates.