I often wonder how I used to make a life decision before google. Before I could look up a review of a movie I want to see, or search for some opinions on the new Thai restaurant in my neighbourhood before deciding where to eat. I will peruse book blogs and GoodReads to help me select a book from my TBR pile, and if I can’t find useful reviews to help me decide, I’ll crowdsource opinions on twitter or Facebook.
User reviews are a valuable source of information about goods and services, and online review platforms have the potential to provide organisations and individuals with an enormous range of information at their fingertips. But, like any information, it must be read critically. One of the things we strive to teach our students is the importance of critical information literacy – that we should not just accept any information on face value, but should analyse it. We apply the CRAP test at my school – Currency, Reliability, Authority, Accuracy, and Purpose. This same kind of critical analysis should be applied to reviews on Tripadvisor, as well as the ubiquitous wikipedia article that teachers are so fond of warning students off.
There is a potential downside to user reviews though. There is unfortunately the risk that some users may decide to wield the power of their negative review, and seek to actively destroy the reputation of a business or organisation. There have been increasing numbers of claims of such behaviour in recent years, including the cafe which was the result of an unrenewed lease, with frequent negative reviews given as one of the main reasons for this (Thomson, 2014). The phrase “Social Media Blackmail” has been coined to refer to the process of using social media reviews as currency, often to the detriment of the organisation being reviewed (Neidlinger, 2013), and it is a serious issue of concern.
Despite the potential problems, I believe that user reviews are a valuable resource. Beyond that, though, they are a reflection of the kind of information landscape I am proud to inhabit. A world in which opinions and ideas matter, and people are able to express them freely, without fear of repercussions. It is for this reason I will continue to gather the opinions of others when I’m hunting for somewhere to stay on my next trip somewhere unfamiliar. But I’ll also take the negative review with as much a grain of salt as the glowing one – because ultimately, my decisions are my responsibility, and my opinion matters too!
Neidlinger, J. (2013). This Is What Social Media Blackmail Looks Like. Todaymade Blog. Retrieved from https://todaymade.com/blog/social-media-blackmail/
Thomson, P. (2014). Stromlo cafe owner lashes out at bad comments on Trip Advisor. Retrieved from http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/stromlo-cafe-owner-lashes-out-at-bad-comments-on-trip-advisor-20140801-zyyum.html