Barry Ritholtz (one of my favorite bloggers) reporting about a study of the effects nasty comments have on reader perception:
Uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant’s interpretation of the news story itself. In the civil group, those who initially did or did not support the technology — whom we identified with preliminary survey questions — continued to feel the same way after reading the comments.
Those exposed to rude comments, however, ended up with a much more polarized understanding of the risks connected with the technology.
Simply including an ad hominem attack in a reader comment was enough to make study participants think the downside of the reported technology was greater than they’d previously thought.
He’s talking about blog comments, but one can imagine similar results would be found studying nasty comments and reviews in the App Store. Or even non-nasty, but irrelevant comments. I often see products given poor reviews for reasons like the following:
* The reviewer thinks the product is too expensive. (You shouldn’t rate a product based on whether you can afford it; that’s completely subjective. That’s like giving a Porsche one-star, because you’d prefer it cost $10,000)
* The product doesn’t have a feature the reviewer thinks would make it better. (You should rate a product on what it advertises itself to do; not on what you wish it did.)
* The reviewer had a bad experience through some mis-use of the product. (You can’t blame the product, if you tried to use it for something for which it wasn’t intended.)