A popular piece of wisdom is that “if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all”. Yet, is that really a wise thing to do?

The problem with this is that a reviewer becomes less useful. Lets call the review policy mentioned above the Silent Dissent Policy, or SDP.

The problem with SDP is that it becomes impossible to tell whether unmentioned books, ebooks, etc. actually anything go unmentioned because they are bad or because the reviewer never saw them in the first place.

SDP works in favor of anyone who markets/hypes their products. Suppose the ebook mafia institutes a campaign of crosshyping a launch. Also suppose that the launched product is not really that good. Now the problem is that while reviewers know that the product is not that good, they’re not calling attention to the fact, and this silence is drowned out by the marketing campaign. Thus many people end up with less than great products.

SDP also works against anyone who do not market/hype their books to the same degree. Here the problem is that the reviewer, being human, does not see the book and review it in the first place. Other people, who do see the book, then searches for reviews and finding none potentially assumes that the book is bad rather than simply not-reviewed. This further supports the hypers.

This SDP has far reaching consequences which goes beyond just book reviews. I blame the SDP for a lot of bad things in society. It is widespread SDP which allow the rotten apples in society to get away with what they do as long as they appear to be popular. This popularity and the difficulty of challenging popularity is also the reason for the SDP-“wisdom”. A really dangerous issue is when “rot” overshoots because there is no negative feedback. In such a case, the situation gets worse and worse until nearly everyone has reached an as-yet-unvoiced break point. Once someone then says what has previously gone unsaid, it triggers an avalanche. This, then, creates a problem in the opposite direction. Now, even the good [books] are perceived as bad. Trust is completely destroyed.

So, reviewers, please do everyone a favor and review the bad apples as well. Honestly, when I go to check out a book on amazon, I read the few 2 and 3 star reviews, which are usually well thought out. I learn far more from those about what the book is about.

Daily Yakezie Carnival: The High Cost of Frugality or, Why is this so Expensive NOW? @ Sustainable Life Blog, How to Use Skype to Save Hundreds on Your Phone Bill @ Saving Money Today, & What Are We Saving For? @ Budgeting in the Fun Stuff

Originally posted 2010-05-31 13:07:53.