Editorial

Steve Evans (Flinders University)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Article publication date: 16 February 2015

Citation

Evans, S. (2015), "Editorial", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. 28 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/AAAJ-01-2015-1928

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Editorial

Article Type: Editorial From: Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Volume 28, Issue 2

A matter of opinion

Imagine that you have one of those magical opportunities to do something radical and turn your mind away from work, perhaps to read a book or watch a new movie. You remember that thing they call “relaxation”? How do you decide on your entertainment? Do you rely on word of mouth, the experiences of friends, or the feedback of other readers and viewers like you? Do you head for the supposedly more informed evaluations of reviewers whose opinions are regularly published on line and in newspapers of magazines?

Assuming you aren’t choosing something purely at random and therefore simply chancing your luck, it’s likely that you do look for what others have to say. I’m not referring here to those one-word snippets of blurb in advertisements or on the back covers of books, such as “spellbinding”, “magnificent”, “classic”, and “masterpiece”, by the way, but to something more substantial and, hopefully, backed up with some detail.

A few years ago it was claimed that a software glitch had embarrassingly revealed that the authors of some glowing reader reports of books on Amazon’s site were submitted by the authors, some of them apparently quite well-known figures. More recently, the Huffington Post (2012) named authors who had continued the practice, known as “sock-puppeting”.

At least what it did was to remind us how susceptible to manipulation that system was, and how gullible we were considered to be. A partial antidote to that situation is the kind of fake customer review in which people subvert the whole notion of reviewing a service or product on Amazon’s site by posting comic appraisals (Popova, n.d.). Fortunately, Amazon itself has picked up on Popova’s idea and reported it as good fun (Amazon, n.d.).

In 2011, there was particular interest in whether reviews of tourist accommodation and restaurants were being rorted. An industry has sprung up in which some people offer to write good reviews for reward and business proprietors offer to pay for them (Streitfeld, 2011). That’s a coincidence of wants that markets like. You only have to unite both parties.

But would it work? A team of researchers at Cornell University devised a test to see whether readers could distinguish a fake review that praised an establishment from a real one that did the same (Ott et al., 2011). Essentially, the readers couldn’t tell them apart, although some commentators argue that there are some distinguishing features to look out for (just do a web search on “spotting fake reviews”).

There is one site, among others, that targets the normally respected online service TripAdvisor. Called Tripadvisor-warning (2014), it claims that TripAdvisor posted fake bad reviews that were only withdrawn upon payment of a bribe, a pretty fierce statement to make. On the other hand, the argument is consistent with the accuser’s main activity, which seems to be the business of selling good reviews in order, supposedly, to balance any bad ones. Then there is Real-tripadvisor (2014), which criticises TripAdvisor’s alleged destruction of the goodwill of businesses when it permits critical reviews, and then offers to post fake good reviews for a fee. This site comes with arguments about the right to free speech, which apparently means one can lie with impunity. But what about telling the truth with impunity?

UK couple Tony and Jan Jenkinson booked into the Broadway Hotel in Blackpool and were less than impressed with their experience. The Jenkinsons wrote a critical review, describing the place as a “filthy, dirty, rotten, stinking hovel”, and posted it on TripAdvisor. They had failed to notice that by signing in they gave the hotel the right to charge up to £100 for any bad review they might post. The hotel had the couple’s credit card details and charged them £100 (BBC News, 2014). News services loved the story but the Trading Standards organisation did not: the Jenkinsons got their money back and the hotel’s policy was scrapped (The Guardian, 2014).

We started this whole train of thought with the idea of imagining the choice of a couple of hours of entertainment being determined by others’ opinions, at least in part. Wherever there is some valuable traffic, be it in goods or information, there will be someone looking to take advantage of it. Who can you believe?

Thankfully, when you have a community of thinkers whose knowledge and reputations transparently rest on evaluations of scholarly work, you shouldn’t encounter the kind of problems outlined above (all hail the AAAJ!). Then again, we know of publications that are just repositories for papers that have not been reviewed to the same standards. We cannot claim that anything is ultimately as proof against the merchants of misinformation as we might like, but we can hold firm in the meantime. As for me, I’m going to relax with a book that has not won prizes and has had no golden praise heaped upon it in the press […] yet. My wife wrote it, and it has just been released. From my past reading, however, I expect that good reviews will be in order.

In this issue, Lelys Maddocks looks at the contribution that the accountant makes to modern society, through his poem “Te Salutamus!”. Putting aside the issue of gender represented here, would you say that this could be you?

Your own creative contributions can be submitted via ScholarOne, and your e-mail correspondence is always welcome, of course, at: mailto:steve.evans@flinders.edu.au

Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal (AAAJ) welcomes submissions of both research papers and creative writing. Creative writing in the form of poetry and short prose pieces is edited for the Literature and Insights Section only and does not undergo the refereeing procedures required for all research papers published in the main body of AAAJ. Author guidelines for contributions to this section of the journal can be found at:www.emeraldinsight.com/products/journals/author_guidelines.htm?id=aaaj

Acknowledgements

Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal (AAAJ) welcomes submissions of both research papers and creative writing. Creative writing in the form of poetry and short prose pieces is edited for the Literature and Insights Section only and does not undergo the refereeing procedures required for all research papers published in the main body of AAAJ. Author guidelines for contributions to this section of the journal can be found at:www.emeraldinsight.com/products/journals/author_guidelines.htm?id=aaaj

Steve Evans, Literary Editor

References

Amazon (n.d.), “Funniest reviews”, Amazon, available at: www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?docId=1001250201 (accessed 30 November 2014).

BBC News (2014), “Trip Advisor couple ‘fined’ £100 by hotel for bad review”, 18 November, available at: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-30100973 (accessed 26 November 2014).

Huffington Post (2012), “RJ Ellory, author, caught writing fake Amazon reviews for books”, 4 September, available at: www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/04/rj-ellory-fake-amazon-reviews-caught_n_1854713.html (accessed 26 November 2014).

Ott, M., Choi, Y., Cardie, C. and Hancock, J.T. (2011), “Finding deceptive opinion spam by any stretch of the imagination”, Proceedings of the 49th Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics, Portland, OR, June 19-24, pp. 309-319, available at: http://aclweb.org/anthology/P/P11/P11-1032.pdf (accessed 28 November 2014).

Popova, M. (2013), “Modern masterpieces of comedic genius: the art of the humorous amazon review”, Brain Pickings, available at: www.brainpickings.org/2013/07/08/humorous-amazon-reviews/ (accessed 30 November 2014).

Real-tripadvisor (2014), “Trip advisor reviews”, Real-tripadvisor, available at: http://real-tripadvisor-reviews.com/ (accessed 26 November 2014).

Streitfeld, D. (2011), “In a race to out-rave, 5-star web reviews go for $5”, The New York Times, 19 August, available at: www.nytimes.com/2011/08/20/technology/finding-fake-reviews-online.html?_r=0 (accessed 28 November 2014).

The Guardian (2014), “TripAdvisor bad review hotel to refund £100 ‘fine’ to customers”, available at: www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/nov/19/tripadvisor-bad-review-hotel-refund-100-fine-customers-blackpool (accessed 26 November 2014).

Tripadvisor-warning (2014) “Pay for reviews”, Tripadvisor-warning, available at: http://tripadvisor-warning.com/pay-for-reviews (accessed 26 November 2014).

Further reading

Tripadvisor, available at: www.tripadvisor.com.au/ (accessed 26 November 2014).