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Harriet Klausner Loses No. 1 Reviewer Status at Amazon

Was it only two years ago that Harriet Klausner was featured in Time Magazine, the Year of You? Because time moves swiftly in the interwebz. A concerted effort was made to devalue Klausner’s reviews and she is now fallen from No. 1 to No. 442.

Via Ed Rants. Thanks to Bookseller Chick for the link.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

30 Comments

  1. Crystal-Rain Love
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 15:49:35

    I recall hearing a lot about her. People think she doesn’t write all those reviews and some say the reviews posted don’t match the books at all. Who knows? I just know I don’t see nearly as many reviews from her as I used to.

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  2. t
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 16:05:58

    Harriet isnt the only one who fell. Deborah MacGillivary is down to 131. It appears they’ve adjusted their system. Is it possible all of our complaints were heard on some level?

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  3. Tell Me No Lies
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 16:06:31

    Harriet isn’t the only one who fell. Deborah MacGillivary is now ranked 131. It appears they’ve adjusted their system. Is it possible all of our complaints were heard on some level?

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  4. theo
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 16:09:18

    After reading so many of Miss Klausner’s reviews, some rather intelligent and some resembling something a monkey would type, I’ve come to the conclusion that Miss Klausner is actually an entire review board hired by Amazon. Then those reviews are all published under Miss Klausner’s name.

    That’s my deduction and I’m sticking to it. :-P

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  5. Ann Somerville
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 16:14:19

    That she and DAM retain any ranking at all, is still an indictment of Amazon’s system. Crooked reviewers and authors should be expunged from the system, if it is to have any credibility.

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  6. Michelle
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 16:18:08

    I’m intrigued by Theo’s theory. Has anyone ever met Harriet Klausner? I suppose there had to be a person if Time profiled her.

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  7. theo
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 16:31:08

    I have to say, I have no idea if that really is the case or not, but I’ve thought that for quite a long time now. Interestingly enough, that Time article did not carry a picture of her. Hmmm…

    And yes, I know one can’t believe everything they read on Wiki, but I found this all rather interesting…

    Make of it what you will. But I thing my theory is as plausible as any other :D

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  8. theo
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 16:32:30

    GRRRRRRR! And since I can’t edit my post, I’ll try this again…

    Harriet Klausner

  9. katiebabs
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 18:00:56

    Holy Crap!! This is big news, at least for me.
    Thanks for the info Jane :D

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  10. DS
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 18:17:57

    I just checked my ranking. I actually went up 12 levels. They explain

    * Review helpfulness plays a larger part in determining rank. Writing thousands of reviews that customers don’t find helpful won’t move a reviewer up in the standings.
    * The more recently a review is written, the greater its impact on rank. This way, as new customers share their experiences with Amazon’s ever-widening selection of products, they’ll have a chance to be recognized as top reviewers.
    * We’ve changed the way we measure review quality to ensure that every customer’s vote counts. Stuffing the ballot box won’t affect rank. In fact, such votes won’t even be counted.

    I think number 1 refers to HK.

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  11. DS
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 18:42:12

    Sorry to post twice in a row, but if click on the reveiwer level number you get to see how many “fan” voters– someone has– it’s to the right. DAM has 562. The person one step below her has 46.

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  12. Kathleen MacIver
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 21:22:34

    Yeah!!!!

    I don’t know and don’t care if she’s a person or a board… all I know is that I’m tired of writing a review of one of my favorite books, getting plenty of “This is helpful” reviews… and then her review (which doesn’t even reflect the book) gets top billing by Amazon, even though it has fewer votes, and even though Amazon CLAIMS that the review with the most votes get top billing!

    Not that I really care if I’m top…. but to be topped by an unhelpful one that doesn’t reflect the book? THAT’S what ticked me off.

    But wow! This made me check mine. My ranking improved by 300%! (Of course, going from 30,000 to 12,000 isn’t saying much. LOL!

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  13. David
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 21:43:04

    Harriet’s #1 ranking will not fall without a bunch of widely distributed schadenfreude. The transparent manipulation of the ranking system was pretty annoying. I know, it makes me petty to care about this, but I now have written over 17400 fewer reviews, but trail her by less than 200 places in the new rankings.

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  14. Jill Myles
    Oct 24, 2008 @ 22:10:27

    I did reviews way back when (haven’t for a few years now I think) and my ranking dropped from 4700 or so to 21,000. Lol. I think age of the reviews has a lot to do with it now.

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  15. loonigrrl
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 03:56:48

    Interesting! Rankings don’t usually mean that much to me, but I’ll admit to being glad that Harriet has dropped down from the #1 spot. I’ve never considered her reviews particularly helpful.

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  16. Elle
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 10:52:54

    I agree. Very interesting! My reviewer rank on Amazon also went down (not that I care anymore.) I haven’t written a review there for..ummm…a really long time. But it is interesting to see that I actually have “fan voters” there–29 of them! Who knew?? (But I love you guys, my devoted fans, whoever you are….)

    My theory on Harriet K. is that she *is* a real person, but she reads only the back flap and first chapter of a book, and possibly skims the rest. Also, she gets a lot of ARCs and thus is able to get her reviews in *early* (which, if anyone really cares about Amazon reviewer rankings, is *key* if you want to get the coveted “Spotlight Review” location–if it is still called that–particularly on a popular book. Otherwise your review is likely to get lost in the sauce, no matter how eloquent and insightful it may be.)

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  17. ilona andrews
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 11:01:12

    My problem with Harriet is that

    a) her reviews are full of inaccuracies

    b) often contain spoilers.

    It’s really irritating to glance at a one paragraph review and see a “by the way, here is how the book ends!”

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  18. azteclady
    Oct 25, 2008 @ 13:07:13

    I have the same problems as Ilona, plus this one: Harriet always loves the books she reads. All of them. No matter what about, no matter writing style, period, topic, nothing. She loves them all.

    How is that helpful to anyone?

    It isn’t.

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  19. (Jān)
    Oct 26, 2008 @ 06:45:56

    Harriet has talked about her only posting positive reviews in the past. She doesn’t finish books she doesn’t like and thus doesn’t review them. So she doesn’t only “like books”. She just only reviews those she completes.

    I’m not a fan of her reviews for any number of reasons, especially the spoilers, but isn’t an effort to bring her reviewer status down to be held in as much contempt as what DAM does?

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  20. DS
    Oct 26, 2008 @ 09:13:17

    What Amazon did was discount the outliers. If one person repeatedly voted positive for a reviewer then their votes were discounted. Same on the negative side. No one knows how many votes will have a person declared a “fan” of the reviewer or trigger the negative fan status (votes don’t count). Any campaigning votes against HK from the same person or group of persons would not count any more. Likewise anyone who repeated voted positive on her reviews was not counted– used to be 10 votes was the limit. Her approval rate with this adjustment dropped to something like 69% so apparently a lot of casual voters did not think her reviews helpful.

    Aside from people like DAM (DAM went from about 25,000 positive votes to 12,000 on her 1354 reviews- she lost less than a thousand negative votes) who ran their own group of repeat voters, there are supposedly groups one could join, post a link to your reviews and everyone would go vote for the review. One high flier lost over 100,000 positive reviews.

    Oh, and HK will continue to keep her #1 badge by her name– Amazon’s term for the little icons– unless she drops in the “classic” ratings– but if a user clicks on the “top reviewers” link the new ranking will show.

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  21. azteclady
    Oct 26, 2008 @ 09:32:42

    Jan, I agree–if someone were manipulating the system with the goal of bringing HK down. My understanding is that it was amazon changing it’s ranking system that did it, not a concerted effort by any one group or person.

    On the positive reviews, I understand not finishing books you don’t like, but how come all the books she does review get either 5 or 4 stars, no matter how wildly different the writing and execution? It would seem, then, that she either loves or loathes what she reads–and that is useless to other readers in and of itself.

    Plus her reviews contain no substance. Most often it’s the regrgitated blurb plus spoilers plus “and it’s great” (or variation thereof)

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  22. cecilia
    Oct 26, 2008 @ 20:46:34

    So I had to check my ranking, of course, and I would like to say that Harriet Klausner’s fall is nothing. I went from a rank in the 400 000s to lower than 4.5 millionth!!! Oh, the humanity!

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  23. Stephie Smith
    Oct 27, 2008 @ 05:03:33

    I’ve always enjoyed Harriet’s reviews, including the spoilers, since I almost always read the ending of a book first. Nothing infuriates me more than reading a book only to get to the end and find that the plot is tied up in a ridiculous way–especially if the big conflict is suddenly over for no good reason.

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  24. karmelrio
    Oct 27, 2008 @ 14:41:45

    IMO, Harriet’s reviews are pretty much a regurgitation of the plot – and not much more than one can already read on the back cover. Less than worthless.

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  25. Jenns
    Oct 27, 2008 @ 15:29:48

    I’m in the Hate the Spoilers camp – I go out of my way not to read any review she writes. I’m so happy to see other reviewers are finally getting a shot and that maybe it won’t be so easy to monopolize the rankings through sheer output.

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  26. Peter Durward Harris
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 05:35:38

    Amazon were probably forced to act because of the increasingly blatant cheating by some reviewers. I don’t think HK’s so-called reviews were the decisive factor, but once Amazon decided to do something radical, they were going to deal with her too. As far as I can tell, they wanted to address these major problems

    1) Voting circles. I know that somebody (not me) sent Amazon evidence (earlier this year) that one reviewer was circulating e-mails telling people about his reviews, asking for votes and offering votes in return. Given that it takes a few months for a change of this nature to be designed, coded, tested and installed, I think that evidence may have been the trigger for these changes, although the “Dear Author” thread debating possible changes to Amazon’s software may also have played some part, along with any number of other complaints received from elsewhere. The new system makes it hard for voting circles to be effective, insofar as they have any effect at all.

    2) Quantity for the sake of it. HK was the obvious example, but Amazon must have realized that quantity for its own sake wasn’t good for business. Hopefully, the new system does more to encourage quality rather than quantity. That said, prolific reviewers appear to still be rewarded to some extent even in the new system.

    3) Inactive reviewers. The old system accumulated ranking points in perpetuity, something I’ve complained about for years. This means that people who quit or die at a high rank will retain a high rank for years afterwards, dropping only slowly down the rankings. This issue could have been addressed by tweaking the old algorithm to ignore very old votes, but that wouldn’t have solved the other two problems.

    —————-

    In creating their new system, Amazon have taken steps to make it difficult for statisticians to work out how the new system works. You used to be able to click on your ranking (or anybody else’s) and see that part of the ranking table. Statisticians used the bottom end of the table to work out the old system with a fair degree of accuracy. In the new system, only the top 10,000 ranks are clickable. It will therefore be difficult to reverse-engineer the new system, but maybe not impossible. We’ll see.

    It is worth noting that, for now, the old and new ranking systems co-exist. I think that, apart from anything else, it’s a recipe for confusion. I expect that Amazon will eventually drop the old system but they haven’t said they’ll do that.

    As for myself, I’ve gone up a little under the new system, but when it gets rolled out to Amazon’s other websites, I expect to be hit hard. In my own country, I expect (based on the general pattern of what’s happened in America) to drop out of the top 100. Even if I don’t go that low, it’s a foregone conclusion that my ranking will drop. I don’t mind because I always thought the old system was garbage.

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  27. Peter Durward Harris
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 05:41:39

    Harriet is now down to 445.

    The big question is – will she continue? This may depend on whether publishers continue feeding her with books. Only time will tell. I guess that reviews will continue to appear for a while because of already agreed commitments, so it may be a while before we know the answer.

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  28. EssieLou
    Oct 29, 2008 @ 10:39:25

    Well this is a nice bit of kharmic balance. I’ve read too many HK reviews that either sound exactly the same and have glaring errors (like one where she got the hero’s name mixed up with the villians) to give her any respect. I’m with others who say she’s a committee of 15 whose names spell Harriet Klausner (Henry, Abigail, Regina, Roya etc….)

    Besides, reviews are extremely subjective….some love books for the prose and the literary style, others hate first person, others want PC all the way, some want a good story and will excuse everything else if that’s solid.

    In the end, it’s good to know Amazon is at least trying to make things more fair. For me, the best reviews are still those that I get from like minded friends and readers. One woman’s trash is often another’s treasure.

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  29. Maria Lang
    Nov 01, 2008 @ 09:00:37

    Ilona, the core problem with Harriet is that she reviews many more books than anyone could read. So she reviews them without reading! Everything else follows from this, for example, not reading the books, she makes errors (she doesn’t know what they’re about! of course, you can quickly page through but that’s not enough), or about spoilers, this is because it’s easy to pick out a scene here and there and post its description so as to make it appear like you read the book, yet it doesn’t take much time. All these flaws result from the main issue: she doesn’t read them. Since she rates every single book positively, it’s clear what her goal is – to persuade you to buy it. Does she work for a publisher? I wouldn’t be surprised if she was.

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  30. lAWRENCE ZEILINGER
    Apr 29, 2009 @ 00:07:40

    COIN TOSS. I’VE READ EVERYTHING ON THIS AND WONDER WHY THERE IS NO BOOK. I WAS SKEPTICAL BUT AFTER READING IT ALL I THINK HK IS REAL. THE OTHER CRITICISMS ARE VALID. FRANKLIN W. DIXON, ANYONE?

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