from the Battlefield-Earth-was-a-modern-masterpiece dept
Review manipulation in the crowdsourced data era is of course nothing new. Amazon just filed a new lawsuit against more than 1,000 people who were selling reviews for as little as $5 a pop. Elsewhere, companies with a vested interest in making their streaming video catalog as attractive as possible will magically skew aggregated review data higher. Head over to any number of services like Walmart’s Vudu and you’ll notice that it’s almost impossible for a crap film to drop below three stars, not matter how foul of an unholy abomination it is.
Comcast-owned Fandango appears to be no exception. As a company that sells movie tickets, Fandango obviously has a vested interest in not portraying the products it sells as absolute crap. Indeed, an analysis of Fandango data conducted by Five-Thirty-Eight (prompted by somebody noticing the new Fantastic Four movie was rated far higher than such a dumpster fire deserved) found that the company’s website ensured it was impossible for most movies to ever see less than a three-star rating:
“When I pulled the data for 510 films on Fandango.com that had tickets on sale this year, something looked off right away: Of the 437 films with at least one review, 98 percent had a 3-star rating or higher and 75 percent had a 4-star rating or higher. It seemed nearly impossible for a movie to fail by Fandango?s standards. When I focused on movies that had 308 or more user reviews, none of the 209 films had below a 3-star rating. Seventy-eight percent had a rating of 4 stars or higher.”
They dumped all the data to GitHub for perusal, and offered up a handy graphic highlighting the disparity between Fandango and other movie reviewing websites:
“However, after further back and forth, the company described the rounding disparity ? by which, for example, 4.1 is rounded to 4.5 ? as a bug in the system rather than a general practice. ?There appears to be a software glitch on our site with the rounding logic of our five star rating system, as it rounds up to the next highest half star instead of the nearest half star,? the company said in an emailed statement. Fandango told us that it plans to fix the rounding algorithm on its website ?as soon as possible.”
That hasn’t happened yet, though surely a company owned by Comcast will get around to it soon? Of course, tastes are subjective, so there’s never going to be a perfect review system; I often find 95% or higher movies on Rotten Tomatoes that I think are abysmal, lowest-common-denominator aardvark vomit. Still, if you actually want to have users return to your website, it seems like it might be a good idea to have something vaguely resembling trust and integrity at the heart of your review analysis and aggregation system. Granted, if Fandango inherits any of its parent company DNA, caring much about that sort of thing likely isn’t high up on the action item list.