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July 25, 2015 / Leslie

Likers, Haters, and Manipulators at the Bottom of the Web – A Book Review

ReadingTheCommentsReading the Comments
by Joseph M Reagle

Genre: Non-Fiction
Publisher: MIT Press | April 2015
Format: Hardcover | 225 pages
Rating: 4 of 5

From the Publisher

Online comment can be informative or misleading, entertaining or maddening. Haters and manipulators often seem to monopolize the conversation. Some comments are off-topic, or even topic-less. In this book, Joseph Reagle urges us to read the comments. Conversations “on the bottom half of the Internet,” he argues, can tell us much about human nature and social behavior.


My Thoughts

More than just about comments, this book explores online discussion in many different forms. From the beginning of the internet and the early days of flame wars on usenet, to today’s many, many ways to express our opinions – blog comments, product reviews, Facebook posts, tweets, etc – commentary on the web affects us every time we log on.

Because I’m an avid reviewer, not only of books but also products, I was quite interested in what the author had to say about us. He researched various sites such as Amazon, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List (does pay for membership system make it more reliable?), and Yelp to name a few, and discusses his findings in several chapters. He also touched on Goodreads, the book review site, and talked about the authors vs reviewers war a few years ago–I’m sure many of the book bloggers remember that.

I can’t say I was shocked to find out there are fake reviews, but I was surprised at the lengths people will go to to buy five-star reviews and manipulate the ratings. There is an entire industry set up around it. And there is good reason why. Research has found that people do read reviews and act on them, and the earlier reviews with more likes tend to have more weight.

The book is written in a text-book format (as I would expect from MIT Press, so no surprises there). Despite the style, I found it very interesting, informative, and able to hold my attention. I mention this because many books today aimed at a more general audience provide graphs, illustrations, sidebars, and fun facts and figures to keep the reader’s attention from wandering. The author does sprinkle a few of his favorite cartoons, many from, among the text in each chapter. But mostly this is a more scholarly book, although still very readable and occasionally even humorous.

At about 200 pages long, the book packs in a lot of well-researched and annotated information. It is sure to appeal to those who like detail, facts and figures, but still contains a lot of good information for general reader.

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher.
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Leave a Comment
  1. Vicki / Jul 25 2015 1:36 pm

    This sounds interesting. I bet both my son and I would like it.


  2. Kay / Jul 25 2015 3:43 pm

    I’m sure not everyone reads as many comments as I do. LOL

    Love the cartoon. I bet I’d enjoy this book too. And I did know that or suspected a lot of what is related – fake comments, buying comments, etc., etc.


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