So, I recently read this piece, about purchased reviews used as a marketing channel on Amazon. I've known a couple people whose businesses were hurt by this, and I've been burned myself by these fake reviews.

When I saw the byline, I got pretty excited – The Guardian took months to issue a correction to a fatally flawed technical story before, and after all those months of pressure and dozens of domain experts demanding a retraction, they did what I think we all understand to be deeply cowardly: said they "overstated the case" and apologized for not "respond[ing] more effectively". Horseshit!

But for some reason Patrick Collison, co-founder of Stripe, an online payments platform, decided to bring this story – about fraud detection in online marketplaces – to the public via The Guardian. A surprise, given their history of extremely lazy reporting and editing. Collison's amazingly qualified, and by all reports a good person, so you can understand why I was so excited... wait a second. Patrick Collinson wrote the story. Well, you can't always get what you want.

Instead of diving into details about what Amazon should actually do about this problem, it mostly reports on one tiny slice of this while mostly missing the point (I disdain Facebook more than most, but their involvement in this story is minor-if-extant). And Amazon really does have strong incentives to fix this problem. This is a strategic threat to their livelihood, and if they don't take it seriously their entire business will collapse, and not too slowly either.

Which kind of raises the question of, why write this story at all? It's not news per se, it's been going on for years. It's interesting, but mostly to either learn how to detect fake reviews or avoid them, which this article doesn't attempt. And the ethical violation is being done by people unnamed in the article – Amazon is trying to stop it and Facebook, ya know, is existing unrelated to the story. So why write it?

Oddly, I think this is basically a user review of Amazon. I don't totally disagree. I stopped buying clothes on Amazon a while ago, and shut off my Amazon Prime subscription too. I do enjoy the Kindle Unlimited system, but that's about it (I also use another provider for Cloud stuff, a massive if under-discussed portion of Amazon's business, although fake reviews were unlikely to change that decision).

So let me add in my two cents: Amazon is great for anything that either can suck, or can't. Meaning, if it can suck and you don't care, sure. And if it's impossible to sell a substandard version, like name-brand products, then it also works. But product discovery there is terrible/dead. I would strongly avoid it.