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Epinions.com is a type of citizen journalism (or "consumer journalism") review site that was established in 1999. Epinions was acquired by Shopping.com (known as DealTime.com at the time of the acquisition) in 2003, which in turn was acquired by Ebay in 2005. At Epinions, visitors can read reviews about a variety of items to help them decide on a purchase or they can join for free and begin writing reviews that may earn them money and recognition, according to the site's FAQs. [1]

* 1 Reviews
* 2 Reputation culture
* 3 Room for Improvement
* 4 See also
* 5 References
* 6 External links

[edit] Reviews

To add reviews, contributors register for free and begin writing their own personal views, including personal satisfactions or dissatisfactions. The website's aim is to give future customers a preview of what they can expect should they decide to buy a certain product, use a certain company or watch certain television shows or movies. There is no maximum opinion length, but the minimum opinion length has changed several times. There are two types of reviews: Express Reviews which are 20-199 words long and Regular reviews which are 200 words or more. The company has stated that this allows shoppers to quickly research multiple viewpoints and then read detailed information as they narrow their buying choices.

Epinions members can write reviews of consumer products ranging from automobiles to thumb tacks, media (including music, books and movies), to children's toys. Epinions pioneered this format in 1999 and has since been copied by other consumer review sites in the same vein, such as ReviewCentre, Ciao.com and Dooyoo. There is also a section called the Writer's Corner where contributors may write about almost anything. To post a review, members first rate the product or service on a rating scale from 1 to 5 stars. For several years now, all opinions also come with brief Pro and Con sections, and a summary called "The Bottom Line".

In 2004[2], Epinions installed message boards for community members to discuss specific categories of product or ask general questions or express feelings of Epinions as a site. To further bring the community of writers together and to keep management "in touch" with their needs Epinions has established "Meet and Greets" where a team of the Epinions staff travel to many different regions of the US to spend time with members in an informal atmosphere.

Epinions.com originally had both an Eroyalties plan and an Income Share Plan. The Eroyalties plan paid writers per read of their opinion. The payment per read has steadily decreased and finally was discontinued.

Epinions still pays Income Share, which rewards reviewers for how much help they've given users in deciding to purchase products. Epinions even claims that you are also rewarded for helping visitors not purchase an item. It is not possible to verify either claim, as the Income Share Formula is secret.

Another income aspect, which ended in 2001 was referrals, where users were paid for getting people to sign up. Since the end of the dot-com era, payment dwindled and then plateaued to a level that is much lower than the earlier days and non-existent for many users. Certain categories, such as electronics, pay better than other categories, such as movies.

In 2003 Epinions began offering bonuses and gifts or running special Sweepstakes for their active members during the December Holiday seasons. Since January '04 Epinions also implemented a monthly Sweepstakes with prizes of eRoyalties credits (Cash that can be withdrawn from a members account) and/or gift certificates going to the month's top winners.

All members can rate opinions by others as Very Helpful (VH), Helpful (H), Somewhat Helpful (SH), Not Helpful, (NH) or Off Topic (OT). Express Opinions are rated Show (S) or Don't Show (DS).

Members can also decide to "trust" or "block" (formerly known as "distrust") each other. All the trust and block relationships interact and form a hierarchy known as the Web of Trust. This Web of Trust (WOT) combines with rating to determine in what order opinions are shown to readers. The order members see depends on their own ratings and their own trust and block choices. The order a visitor sees is determined by a default list of reviews ordered by the number and strength of user rates applied to each review. Reviews by Top Reviewers, TR, and Category Leads (see below) are given preferential placement at or near the top of each review list. The WOT formula is secret.

Some members have titles that designate certain roles, status, privileges or benefits. These roles, the titles and the way members are selected for these have changed more than once. Since 2002 the main titles are Advisor, Top Reviewer and Category Lead. The Advisors have greater rating weight in their categories and access to an additional rating, Most Helpful (MH). [3]The Top Reviewers have their reviews given an improved placement.

The most powerful title is that of Category Lead: a Category Lead enjoys all the Advisor and Top Reviewer benefits, and chooses the Advisors and Top Reviewers for a category. A Category Lead can even add new products and services to the epinions.com database for others to review.

[edit] Reputation culture

Epinions.com’s reputation system is not abuse-proof, but the company maintains a Customer Care unit should a dispute arise.[4]

Early in 2000 the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed co-founder Mike Speiser and early member Brian Koller, with Speiser claiming the system prevents advertorials from getting exposure, but Koller saying: "There is a lot of 'You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,' and mutual admiration societies. You recommend me and mine, I’ll do the same for you."[5]

Since then, the site's reputation for quality content has been praised multiple times. Epinions was compared favorably with Consumer Reports by a New England newspaper publishing group in 2007.[1]

The site was also recognized in 2007 by About.com as one of the web's 10 most valuable web sites. Calling the site "wonderful", Editor Paul Gil wrote, "This is a truly valuable resource for the smart consumer." [2]. The praise was echoed by a CBS television affiliate in California that named Epinions its "Site of the Day"[3]

[edit] Room for Improvement
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Searches and Search Result Sorting: Although Epinions has led the market in the concept of paying reviewers for their hard earned time, there is room for improvement. Searches are notoriously incomplete with multiple keyword searches based on title not yielding every hit in the system - even when a searcher is not actively involved in the Web of Trust (see above). This is not just an issue for reader, but for reviewers this can lead to a) assuming the product they wish to review is not in the system, b) reviews posted against incorrect products and c) lack of traffic to a review if it does get posted on a product that is invisible to the most inituitive search term for that product. Search queries also do not prioritize items that contain reviews first - so a hit list of 60 hits on similar products may show 45 hits with no review, before one with a review pops up on the list.

Specificity of Product: Epinions insists on adding overly specific product editions - if a reviewer posts to a slightly different edition (even if due to the lack of adequate search capabilities), other reviewers will typically scathe the fact that the posting is not to the exact product SKU. An example of this effect is laptops. A specific model of laptop may have 20-80 different manufacturer SKUs due to slight differences in hard drive size, memory size or type of optical disk shipped. There is no ability to classify a review for one of these SKUs and for a general product description as well. So if a review is posted to the wrong SKU it may be requested to be moved to the exact specific product SKU (consequently losing all current ratings for the review). Also, if a specific SKU that has been reviewed sorts low on the most obvious search terms for the product, it may appear to readers near the bottom of a list of 20-80 hits with previous hits having zero reviews. Web of Trust sorting of search output does make a lot of sense for a trust based system - however, sorting product hits with zero reviews above those with reviews is either blatant favoritism or inept algorithms.

Having New Products Added: The process for requesting a product be added to the system does not notify the requester when or whether the product is ever added, ensuring that unless they are willing to re-search for those items daily, they will not be the first to post a review (a significant advantage). This is also compounded by search algorithm inadequacies.

[edit] See also

* Reputation system
* Reputation management
* Amazon.com#Website Amazon product reviews

[edit] References

1. ^ Epinions.com - FAQs: Earnings on Epinions
2. ^ Epinions Timeline
3. ^ Epinions.com - FAQs: Recognition
4. ^ Epinions.com - Feedback:
5. ^ San Francisco Chronicle Jan 22, 2000 - EVERYONE'S A CRITIC: A Worthy Epinion Can Earn You Some Cash

[edit] External links

* Official Website

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