Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Patenting the self-fulfilling prophecy

Boy, what will those geniuses over at Apple think of next?

Apple patent endangers unbiased product reviews
But since positive product reviews engender positive product sales, a reviewer's prediction wouldn't take place in a vacuum: more positive reviews would produce more sales, making that review's positive prediction more accurate, and making that advertiser happier and triggering more incentives.
There are so many aspects of fail to this patent application, I don't even know where to start.  First, there are already plenty of prior-art examples for rating and review systems out there.  Just look at eBay, Amazon and Barnes and Noble, to name a few. Granted, this adds a new aspect to the scheme.  It's more of a "predict how well it will sell" instead of a true review.  But, is this truly new or novel?  Isn't the stock market itself already a predictive betting system that takes into account new product offerings?

Second, this introduces huge moral hazards and disincentives.  The reviewers, naturally, want to see the product do as they have predicted.  If they give it glowing ratings, they want it to sell well.  If they think it stinks, they want it to fail miserably in the market place.  Apple has said they will try and improve honesty by weighting the results, if you will.  Betting that the latest iGadget is going to sell like hotcakes won't be worth as much as betting the house on the fact that some garage band from Topeka is going to rocket to the top of the charts.  But, who sets the weightings?  Isn't that already pre-determining what the answer "should be"?

Third, and finally, just imagine what the FCC is going to say about a system like this.  They are already trying to crack down on bloggers who do product reviews because, gasp, they might be getting PAID!!!!  An institutionalized system that will essentially try and influence how a product does in the marketplace?  Yeah, that's what I thought.

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