Let's say you have a problem or a need or a want, and you're sure there is product somewhere in the marketplace that would help. You Google, and a handful of web sites pop up that offer promising solutions. But obviously you don't believe anything you read from vendors, so you check for online reviews. Then you wonder if the favorable reviews are planted by the vendor, and the bad reviews are planted by his competitors. Can you trust reviews from anonymous strangers?

You ask your coworkers and friends if they have ever used the product that you're interested in, and no one has. What now?

Shopping is broken.

How much more stimulated would the economy be if the people who have money, and are willing to spend it, could be reliably connected with the products that they desire?

What the world really needs is some way to connect you with the people who already use the sorts of products you want, and are willing to answer an e-mail or two about the topic.

About a year ago I had surgery to fix my voice. The information on the Internet about that particular surgery was outdated and didn't address my questions. The only way I could become a consumer of that surgery was by communicating directly with people who already had it, which I did. And since then I have answered questions for dozens of people who have the same questions that I had.

Likewise, as my wife and I make a zillion decisions for the home we are building, we prefer products and solutions used by people that we have spoken to personally. The Internet is virtually useless for any of the hundreds of product decisions we have made so far.

And what about choosing a destination for a vacation? You're much more comfortable if you have spoken to someone who visited the same place.

The obvious problem with connecting past consumers with potential consumers is that while people are generally helpful by nature, no one wants a million e-mails asking how they like their new can opener. So how do you strike the right balance?

Imagine a system that works like this: When you buy a product, you agree in advance to answer up to four e-mails from future potential customers, beginning no sooner than one year from when you make your purchase. It's totally optional, but agreeing gives you access to people who already bought the product you're considering today, to help you make your own decision. It would strike you as a fair deal.

For privacy reasons, this imagined system would disguise your e-mail address. And the system would have to be administered by some third party, not the vendor selling the product, or you wouldn't trust the strangers giving you advice.

Maybe you have a better idea for fixing shopping.
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0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 15, 2009
There's a new gadget wiki, www.gdgt.com , that solves this problem in the exact opposite way to what you describe. By giving each user a public identity, other users can decide how "shillish" they are being by looking at past posts. The wiki gives the best of short-term hype and long-term experienced advice.
Jul 7, 2009
I like your scenario, better. I've researched several product reviews online, most to be negatively biased against anything said product is supposed to do. Usually I'll still buy the product, but I don't really know whether my opinion of the product is now slightly tainted due to the articles I read (the placebo effect?) or whether it's all in my head. For example, if I hadn't have read any negative reviews, and just bought the product, do you think the product would work better for me than if I read a bunch of negative reviews and then try it? .....
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 4, 2009
Look at this article in the current issue of WIRED. http://www.wired.com/techbiz/it/magazine/17-07/ff_facebookwall Facebook has lofty goals, but I do like the idea of a more personal internet experience. Anonymity shows up in truly ugly ways on the interweb.
Jul 1, 2009
Re. aardvark: From their terms of service:

"In the course of using the Service, Subscriber and other users may provide information about themselves which may be visible to certain other users. Subscriber understands that by posting information or Content on the Company Site or otherwise providing information or Content, materials or information to Company or in connection with the Service, Company is hereby granted a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, transferable right to fully utilize in any manner such Content, materials and information (including all related intellectual property rights) and to allow others to do so."

Since signing up with Aardvark gives them your facebook info, I think this grants them a perpetual, irrevocable, and transferable right to publish and/or sell pretty much anything you put on your facebook page.
Jul 1, 2009
Credit card companies could do this easily. You could opt-in at the beginning, and it would track what you've purchased with your card. Then when you are looking for somebody who has already bought that same item, the credit card company could send them an email without actually giving it to you. Responses could be a minimum of 250 charecters and the other person could report you if your response was just gibberish. You would get the right to send out 4 emails per response that you gave. You would be "credited" with the right to send out 4 question emails, and you would get 4 more each time you answered one. If you don't receive the answer within one week then it gets re-credited to you.

It would benefit the CC company since it would encourage you to buy more things, and they are in the best position to do it since they know what everybody bought, have everybody's contact information, and could easily arrange it while keeping everything private.
Jul 1, 2009
The efforts that are shown here must be appreciated.
Jennifer Luis
<a href="http://auctions.fastrealestate.net" rel="dofollow">forclosed homes</a>
Jun 30, 2009
Exactly what facebook is going to accomplish. linking friends with products.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 30, 2009
Let me add my vote for Consumers' Reports. They buy everything they test (no company freebies!), don't accept advertising, and seem to do a good job of getting customer feedback. I think I paid $20 for the year for unlimited reviews of practically anything.
I start with their list of high-scoring brands/models, then pick out the ones with features that are important to me, then check the customer review page to see how real people liked it...or didn't . So far I've been happy with everything I've purchased or recommended based on their input. High trust factor, lots of feedback, easy to use...I'd say they do a great job of exactly what you're looking for.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 30, 2009
What about Aardvark? There you can at least ask people directly: vark.com
Jun 30, 2009
I suggest you try http://www.ciao.com/

It's some kind of social networking website entirely devoted to product reviews. I think it started first here in europe and was later localized for the u.s. . It works for me.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 29, 2009
If only just for a moment, I would love to enjoy the serenity of Phantom's world.
Jun 29, 2009
You have lots of decent ideas. You ought to deploy some of them.. Or work for google. Or hire a geek to do the grunt work.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 29, 2009
The "Naughty Word Filter" on this blog is the worst I've ever seen.

"Q - u - a - n - t - i - t - i - e - s" is not a naughty word.

Please tell me you bought the blog software based on a Google search and not on the advice friends or family.

Jun 29, 2009
I know the answer: government. Government has done such a great job in doing things like telling us how much water can go in our toilets, what kind of light bulbs we must use and what kind of fireplaces we can and can't have and when you can use it, then why not let them tell us what we should or shouldn't buy?

It's a simple and elegant solution: the few hundred geniuses in our federal government can start telling us that any retailer of any product must not sell it until it has at least two thousand happy customers. "Happy" being based on a governmentally-developed objective scale that requires an investment of two point two million dollars to prove the efficacy of the product/service. Of course, all that money would go to the government, who would spend it in the best way possible: making sure that the unions won't have to pay taxes on their health care like every non-union person in America will (see the Kennedy health care bill if you're wondering what this is about).

After all, Scott, it isn't fair to make you responsible for your own decisions. That would be horrible. You deserve to have some kind of governmental edict to prevent you from making any bad decisions. After all, the government knows best what things should be in your house, not you. You are basically a complete idiot who can't weigh the issues and make decisions.

Now, some cynics would say that the people who make the most campaign contributions would somehow get the best government ratings, but hey, that's easy to fix. Just make the government take money from the taxpayers to pay you back if the choices the government tells you to make turn out to be wrong. See? Everyone wins. Except the poor "rich" guy who has to, in all "fairness," pay for your poor decisions backed by the government's fiat.

Hey, Scott, why don't you man up and figure out a way to take responsibility for your own decisions? You act like everyone who is offering you a product and service is really trying to screw you and cheat you, and only some outside force can protect you from . . . yourself. Is that the way you really look at things? If so, try being a slave. That's where you appear to be heading.

But that's OK, as long as government tells you it's OK to be a slave, right? You, and the rest of the sheeple are too stupid to make your own decisions, or learn from your mistakes, or take action against the people who sell you a bill of goods, right? So let's just let government make all our decisions for us. Gee, what a great idea. Worked great in the USSR, didn't it?
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 29, 2009
That's a great idea except for one minor problem:

Our economy is based entirely on the masses buying large !$%*!$%*!$ of worthless crap over and over again.
Jun 29, 2009
I'm a fan of comsumer reports. It's unbiased. The draw back is that they may not have evaluated the product your looking for.
Jun 29, 2009
Wanted to buy a car top cargo carrier for light but bulky camping equipment. Went on the Internet and found a well known brand at a good price with free shipping from a famous and reputable vendor. Reading the reviews of the product from different sources was educational. They ranged from well intentioned, informative, objective personal experience to mean spirited, unfair picky rantings to outright stupid. The product turned out fine and those that bashed it were incompetent idiots who cluttered up the cyber world with their filth. A good sign is the honest folks almost always give their real names. The idiots are anonymous cowards spewing their graffiti garbage on a keyboard and running away.
Jun 29, 2009
A different type of incentive program could utilize the "Was this review helpful?" option some sites already use. Perhaps it could be set up that a reviewer who receives, say, 10 helpful hits on 5 reviews gets a 5 or 10% discount. Or something on that order.

While some individuals would no doubt create a few accounts trying to bump up their chances, I doubt many would open 10 or 20. Some, perhaps, but of course the site would have the option of reviewing the reviews to see if they were actually helpful or not, to try and weed out cheaters.

Dwigt is right, people love to give their opinion (I mean, that's what makes this forum so active), the trick is in making the assembled opinions useful in some way to the next person to come along. Indicating that they were perceived as helpful, or using a thumb up/down system does that.
Jun 29, 2009
Angie's List does something like this. They take extra effort to try and make sure vendors don't post their own reviews. They mainly have services like auto repair, contractors, and doctor's, though. http://www.angieslist.com/AngiesList/Visitor/HowItWorks.aspx
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jun 29, 2009
To those who don't think that a website can last when it requires people to volunteer their time to provide information:


Don't underestimate people's desire to tell the world their opinions.
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