The few or the many?

Since the internet is basically a connection machine fostering interactions and access to many ideas and people,¬†are the opinions of the few paid professional reviewers better than the consensus of the many who’re unpaid and ordinary?

Not too long ago, we looked for opinions in papers, magazines and on TV from professional reviewers.

The other day, I read an essay about whether or not professional reviewers are relevant anymore because there’re so many opinions on the internet.

Do you go see a movie ¬†based on a professional reviewer’s opinion or will you give more attention to opinions of people you see as peers?

One problem with the opinion of the many is that the process can be corrupted and, if you find out, your confidence shaken. People want to help out friends and they usually want to go with what the other friends are doing.

Here’s one example of the system being gamed by a restaurant that was open for less than a year. By requesting and getting positive reviews, it rose to highest rated restaurant in Mexico on TripAdvisor.

The restaurant has since then been sold and the name changed. It was a good restaurant, but not the number one restaurant in Mexico. But someone visiting our town would have gotten an inaccurate opinion from the many because it had been compromised.

I guess it’s not unlike what many businesses do on the web to better their chances of getting a good search result on Google. It’s a cat and mouse game in which Google tries to stay ahead of the people trying to manipulate whatever parameter they think Google uses.

If the professional reviewer or opinion giver isn’t careful, their experience can be manipulated too. If a restaurant critic lets on that she’ll be dining at a certain restaurant, she’ll likely have a carefully orchestrated experience, probably different from the one she’d have from passing through as a regular customer.

It’s probably worthwhile using the opinions of both the few and the many, along with a little bit of common sense.