Data mining for opinions in the social Web will be quite easier if “opinionists” are quantitative about their opinions, the opinions are gathered on a single site and named entities are resolved. Several Web sites aim to solve these issues. A lot of companies that sell products or facilitate the selling already let users rank the individual products or services, (e.g., Amazon, pricerunner.dk), but other Web sites focus exclusively on opinions: Epinions.com comes to my mind. In Denmark I know of three sites: Trustpilot, VaVirk and Spred Rygtet
As of 2010 Spred Rygtet (Spread the Rumor) seems smallish, but interesting in its scope: It has the subtitle “Recommendations and warning about everything from A to Z.” and users have rated, e.g., books, movies, persons and companies with a grade between minus three and plus three. I got to the site when I heard about a TV-program to be aired on national television. The program exposed Jakob Storgaard and his schemes of fraud. On Spred Rygtet 10 accounts rates Jacob Storgaard with the lowest grade. Spred Rygtet seems to have operated since 2007 by someone called Andreas. His blog has not been updated since February 2008 and Spred Rygtet has messy layout, but at least the site is mentioned on the Danish Wikipedia.
Trustpilot is run by Peter Holten M??hlmann since 2007 and had at one point 10 employees. It is customer driven rating site and the company has gained some venture capital. Opinions that do not relate to an actual trade on the Internet are removed from Trustpilot, e.g., comments on the so-called OrangoGate where a company “stole” a domain name (orango.dk) from a private person were removed from Trustpilot, according to M??hlman because “the ratings had nothing to do with the service of the company”. From a business ethics/corporate social responsibility point of view M??hlman must be wrong. The company that stole the domain name surely has come out with a bad reputation. In 2008 Trustpilot itself had ethical problems: Sending out spam emails, parasiting on a recognized Internet trust mark and violating the Nordic ombudsman’s stands on Internet trade. Among its references Trustpilot counts getmore.dk. getmore.dk has been under investigation for fraud with sales tax. On its release in 2007 a commenter noted Trustpilot’s lack of checking on the identity of the people that rate, and in 2009 the rating of getmore.dk was suspicious leading a competitor from Proshop to suggest manipulated ratings. I hope that Trustpilot learn from their mistakes. In their line of business ethics is surely an issue they need to focus on.
VaVirk (vurderinger af virksomheder: evaluation of companies) is letting users rate companies. It is run by the company N??rdIt headed by Ralf Willers. One blogger found that a n??rdit Twitter account engaged in Twitter spamming. N??rdit itself is rated on a page on VaVirk without any indication that N??rdIt owns VaVirk on that page. They too needs to work a bit on the ethics. VaVirk seems less international oriented than Trustpilot. However, it is broader in scope with not just evaluation of companies with Internet-based trade but also of, e.g., Medical Doctors and Hair dressers.
It will be interesting to follow these sites, and how they deal with the problem of rate spamming.
And by the way: I cannot find the API on any of the sites. Third parties cannot easily extract information from these sites. Maybe someone should tell them about Web 2.0?
(This post was also posted on Responsible Blogging)
(Typos correction 16. March 2010)