When you start doing research for what you consider shady at best practices and then during that investigation you come across something that really makes you sick to your stomach it is hard not to get emotional when writing the blog post for said story.  That said that is what happened here and I do apologize upfront for the tone of this post.  


I was forwarded an email from a listener of the show that has an app.  He was contacted by a site by the name of YourAppReviewed dot com - no I am not going to put the link to said site and from here on out I will just refer to them as YAR.  This site is claiming to offer paid reviews in iTunes for your Apps.  I contacted the person running the site posing as someone interested in this service.  Well really I was not posing I was very interested in the service just not in the way they thought.  


I asked the following question:  "Can you give us a few examples of Apps in the app store you have worked with?"  


YAR's response to that question was the following:  "As I'm sure you can easily imagine, our customers are not really keen to have there name disclosed."    


Which lead me to send the following:  "Now you have me a bit concerned - is your service something that our clients should be worried about using?  In other words is this something that Apple would throw an app out of Itunes for using?"  


YAR response to that was: "As we are not posting fake reviews, it's not something which is conflicting with Apple rules. Our reviewers are real iPhone and iPod users.  We don't pay them to post fake positive reviews but to give their honest opinion Apps.  Don't worry about that."


Well first I don't think Apple would be happy with any paid review services - and second he comments that they were "honest" reviews.  This I seriously questioned in my mind.  So I started doing some research and was able to figure out who many of the reviewers are that they use and the apps they reviewed. When I started looking at the reviews it became clear they were anything but honest - IMO.  Here is a list of the Apple usernames I was able to work out that are part of YAR and doing the paid reviews.  The number of 4 or 5 star reviews for each is listed - along with a link to their reviews so you can see for yourself.  


#   Reviewers

35  ACKirkPatrick

34  RobbyRedPort

32  Violin Lady

31  amberg914

31  RRS Comm

29  HustonJudge

28  stephyboop

16  sailing r

15  Wii4Me

13  kyoku1

13  Meowzers9

13  Writer R

 9  Bartsrock

 9  Seatramp

 8  R2S Writes

 7  Musician 123

 7  RS 11

 7  Witchygreemeyez2

 5  Nice Mom

 4  relsenpeter

 2  WriteWithMe


UPDATE 1:  Additional Bogus Reviewers

5  Parker from PA



Note - There were additional reviewers that did single reviews for some of the apps below - but as they only did a single review it was tough to prove they were part of YAR so I did not include them in the list above. If they do more I will add them at a later date. 


The group above was responsible for doing well over 300 reviews in iTunes for the following apps, The number of likely paid reviews performed by the "reviewers" above is listed before the App in question.  



# Reviews

App

44

Various Prof McMurphy's Subliminal Techniques Apps

19

Super Camera 2: ALL-IN-1

18

HealthCalcs

12

iSMEStorage

10

Attack of the Titans

10

Color Me!!!

9

AmplioWords

9

sleep deeply

8

easy weight loss

8

iExit

7

Total Confidence & Success

7

Wagumo

6

abcDJ

6

easy stop smoking

6

Emoti

6

TapFolio

5

BandMate: Concert Tipster

5

Battery Status Pro

5

CarSpot

5

chinaquiz, a game to learn chinese characters

5

Crap of Defense

5

Dock Suite

5

Elemental (PToE)

5

FoodEssentials Scanner

5

Geotag Photos

5

Health Spender

5

Herbs+

5

iWeddingManager

5

Kaeru Jump

5

New Mom

5

NoteCalc

5

Sailing Log

5

TrackinU Universal

4

Disaster Readiness 2011

4

Doodle Air Hockey

4

Life Goals

4

Qwik BT

4

Relax Completely

4

ShowMe Stories

4

Tennis Bundle universal App for iPad, iPhone and iPod-Touch

4

triathlon and marathon training with ontri.com

4

Yada 6 Family

3

Bible Books

3

Dolch Sight Words Complete Edition

3

QwikClique Lite

3

Yada 6 Friends

2

Air Hockey Ultimate

2

Crash Test

2

FastCalc

2

iTinnitus Solutions


Update 2 - More Apps Likely getting Bogus Paid Reviews:

    5    HeartScan

    4    Diet OK

    2    Sound Memory Family

    2    Tic Tac Toe - iPad Edition

    


Note: Again there were other apps I am pretty sure were part of the YAR reviews - but as they were just a single review and I did not want to include them in the list above.  I am sure there are other apps and reviewers I did not come across - but the ones above I have a very high level of confidence that they are part of YAR. Sadly some of the apps above had 4 or 5 star reviews from people that clearly were not part of YAR - but those are now IMO rendered moot as you can not trust anything you read for reviews for any of the apps above - except the 1 and 2 star reviews - which many of them have.  


Per the start of the article where I was disgusted by what I discovered, that was when I came across a review by apple user - RobbyRedPort.  It was for the app -  Overcome the loss of a loved one with prof McMurphys subliminal techniques - Thats right they appear to be paying to put up a fake review for an app that "prays" on those that lost a loved one.  That to me was way over the top.  Oh and if you think I am jumping to conclusions - go an look at the apps he reviewed for the developer (ZENESSA) of that and the other Prof McMurphy apps.  Apparently RobbyRedPort - also had issues with Acne, Weight, keeping new years resolutions, finding a mate, improving his sex life with the mate he was looking for, being successful, being happy, and oh yeah he also reviewed an app for Marathoners and Triathletes because nothing says I need subliminal help with my weight like someone that is running a marathon.  Yup they all seemed like honest reviews (Heavy Sarcasm). Looking at the other "reviewers" reviews that have multiple apps you find other conflicts.  Like Amberg914 that reviewed apps for New Moms, a Wedding Planner, and how to find a man.  I guess that is possible.  After all - RSS Comm, Violin Lady and Bartsrock all reviewed the New Mom and Wedding planner apps - Maybe they should have reviewed a birth control methods app.    


It is possible some of the reviews are real and heart felt - but you know what - not a single one of them said they were paid to do the review by the App developer they did said review for - and that is what the real issue here comes down to.  These are app reviews as an end user you really can not trust.  It makes you wonder how many others are doing this as well. Granted 300+ bogus app reviews is small in relation to all the app reviews out there and thankfully Apple does have control of the App store and what goes in it so they can do something about this.  


I hope Apple reads this and takes appropriate action - especially with regards to the app that prays on those that just lost a loved one.  To me this went from a fun project to something that just made me sick to my stomach.



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Category:breaking news -- posted at: 8:18 AM
Comments[17]

  • I have also long suspected some of these reviews were from employees told to write a good review, but a service is real creepy. I sometimes feel the opposite is also happening, apps getting bad reviews from competitors. When the app gets mostly 5 star ratings, the few one star ratings seem fishy at times.

    posted by: Bilbar on 2014-04-20 23:09:36

  • If paid reviews are wrong with minor vigilance, then let me guess what else is wrong: - Featured Adds on search engines - Recommended ads on search engines/facebook - Paid Advertising is the same thing, no? How about fake testimonials? The harder the app discovery gets, the more shady solutions be out there.

    posted by: Sheraz on 2014-03-31 06:46:01

  • This is so true. I noticed this pattern in all those professor mcmurphy apps. They have over 20 apps in iTunes and they're all 5 stars? Well... Except for one... Their free app. See that's another pattern that people need to pay attention to. When an app has lots of 5 stars and lots of 1 stars, that's fishy. It means the 5 stars are fake and the 1 stars are real. The people that got duped by the fake reviews. Mcmurphy apps just can't be trusted. If that's their ethics in regards to reviews, not to mention people who've just lost loved ones, I can't imagine them being ethical in regards to privacy either. Now I regret installing their free app. I hope this backfires on them. I'll be spreading the word.

    posted by: Christian Lanctot on 2012-06-26 04:54:29

  • Amazing that AmberG914 tries to justify such a shady practice. The bottom line is that genuine reviews are useful, disingenuous reviews are not useful. Regardless of AmberG914's claim that her reviews did not sway positive or negative, the simple fact is that people value genuine reviews where the motivation for the review comes from the user's experience with the app, not from cash-for-comment. Well done to the OP for the naming and shaming.

    posted by: Jail Breaker on 2010-08-31 03:06:56

  • Rob - You seem like a decent guy, a little arrogant, but at least well intentioned in trying to put out information for consumer protection purposes. I actually appreciate that but you seem a bit harsh on AmberG (an admitted friend of mine) when it comes to judging her motivations in accepting payment to review these apps. I get that you believe a conflict of interest exists, even if the reviewer is not paid to give a positive review, but to specifically assume a review is false based on a potential conflict of interest is not fair minded in the least. I hope others in your life give you more benefit of the doubt than you have given to Amber.

    posted by: Justice on 2010-08-19 22:17:39

  • I lied -- one more strike against my ethics! I had to look one more time just to see if you responded to my last comment and you did. I really need to stay away from this place! Anyway, it seems you've been right all along -- I obviously don't get the point of your original post. I thought that the point was you were utterly disgusted by the practice of writers being paid to write reviews for apps in the iTunes store without disclosing they were being paid, and that your biggest issue was with a reviewer who you felt "prayed" on unsuspecting readers by reviewing a grief app. Your subpoint was that the reviews were also dishonest in that some of the reviewers (myself for example) reviewed apps that you felt were somehow incompatible with each other due to content. I guess that's not what you meant, though, because no matter how many times I make it clear that that's exactly what I got from your post, you insist with lots of CAPS that I don't get it. You obviously don't get mine either, though, except for the part about my belief I did nothing ethically wrong. One thing, though -- I never asked you to take down that list, and I wouldn't want you to. Why would I? As for "keeping this subject alive," and your promise of follow up posts -- have a blast. I wrote the first time to give my take on the part of the story I could attest to and to stand up for the parts about me personally that you got wrong. You're obviously not actually interested in hearing any of that, so now I really am done. I guess I had hoped that though we will never agree, that maybe we could at least communicate like real people instead of pointing fingers and trying to get off good "zingers." And yes, I did post our emails on my blog, since they were all the exact same thing that was posted here. Again, good luck with your stuff.

    posted by: Amber Goddard on 2010-08-19 17:52:57

  • Why apologize for something you obviously aren't sorry for and follow it up by saying the issue for which you just apologized meant nothing? Please stop saying I don't get your point, or grasp your point, or whatever it is I'm not doing to your point. Just because I don't agree with your point doesn't mean I'm too stupid to get it. Your point is quite clear. Also, your Disney analogy isn't really valid. That wasn't how the reviews worked -- I was never paid by individual developers. I know you're going to have a problem with that too, which is fine -- don't go thinking I'm asking you to change your mind or apologize, because you obviously feel very passionately. But here's the thing -- as I've stated repeatedly, I saw no need to disclose my pay because the pay was never a factor in my opinion. Also, the pay came from one individual company, not individual developers. I never claimed that not knowing FTC rules was an excuse -- I simply stated that I had no knowledge of said rules. In the same way, I'm not saying that being paid by a single client company instead of individual developers is an excuse. I'm simply stating the facts. My problem is that you seem insistent that I fall down in shame for doing something I didn't feel was unethical. After my initial comment and email, in which I apologized for not seeing your email address and keeping the correspondence between us (meaning you could have easily chosen not to post the comment and carried on a discussion with me in private), you chose and still choose to bash me publicly (and yes, despite your claims to the contrary, you did indeed call me out individually and unfairly in your first post). So you think my reviews were unethical -- fine. I don't, and if I did, I wouldn't have done them. You said in one of your responses that you'e not a bad or mean guy, which I was actually prone to believe. I felt like you were a guy who strongly believed in something, and that's always very cool. I've never attacked your character, your birth control methods, or anything else about you personally. Instead of just talking to me, though, you just keep up with the hostility and insults. I'm the only person from your "List of Intended Shame" to have contacted you and explained my side of your story, but because I don't say exactly what you want me to say and show the proper contrition, I "don't grasp" your point, I'm a liar who makes up false identities, and I'm unethical. So I'm done. On the subject of your original post, we're not going to agree, and it seems that as long as I try to respond to you, you will continue to attack my character and act like I'm some sort of idiot for not agreeing with you. I've wasted more time than I should caring about this, and so, I'm done. I won't be back to read if you respond, because you seem unwilling to deal with me on a person to person level that doesn't degrade into a personal attack or empty apology. Good luck with your podcast. Regardless of what you think of me, it's admirable that you care so much for what you believe to be fair and right.

    posted by: Amberg914 on 2010-08-19 03:11:59

  • I am not Amber! Again you should do a little research before you post things calling someone a shyster or a liar. Have you ever read a movie review in a newspaper? Do those reviewers get paid to watch and then review the movies? Do they get paid to write articles on said movies? Do they list in every review that they are being paid by a newspaper or other company? No they do not. It would seem then that by your logic, they too are shysters and should be disregarded and shamed. Now, Maybe the website should have listed that these were paid testers, but it is not the fault of the people who did the work and tested the product if the company failed to disclose that fact up front. It seems to me that you just enjoy picking on people who are simply trying to make a living. And for that, Shame on you!

    posted by: enna on 2010-08-18 02:44:20

  • First off, I am not two people. I am a girl with a blog that has about 12 readers on a good day, and one of them, my friend, read said blog, on which I posted about this situation. Again, there you go making assumptions. Second, I do get the point of your post, I simply don't agree with it. I'm the first to admit I know nothing about FCC regulations, and for that, I completely apologize. I should have fully researched the FCC before accepting a job -- and as sarcastic as that may look in type, I mean it. My point, however, has nothing to do with the FCC, and neither did your original post. Yes, I get what you're saying, but I stand by the fact that while I was paid to write my opinion on a product, my opinion was not swayed by that payment, as it was not based on whether the review was positive or negative. Also, again, I never reviewed an app that I did not try and/or use. I can't speak for anyone else, but that was my experience, and my ethics are just fine. So yeah, I "admit" I was a reviewer, because there's nothing to "admit." Finally, I actually had a hard time trying to decide if I wanted to respond or not, because FCC aside, we're not going to agree on this, and I've always felt that round and round is kinda pointless when it comes to disagreement, because you're never going to think I'm not some app-reviewing shrifter bent on the destruction of the integrity of the App Store, and I'm never going to believe I am. I did want to clear up again, though, that I, Amberg914, am not Enna, nor do I have a split personality, nor do I feel the need to write a comment on someone's blog and follow it up all by myself with another comment just to give myself a kudo boost. And no, I didn't pay her to write it, so she still has all her morals, ethics, and integrity. Amber Goddard amberg914@mac.com Read My Blog! http://mochagirl9.wordpress.com/

    posted by: AmberG914 on 2010-08-17 15:02:53

  • i know one of the people who did some of these reviews and that person gave their honest opinion on each app. Before you cry "cheat" you should do a little more homework. they were not paid to give a positive review, just their opinions. also who are you to say that they didn't have input from their friends or families on each of these apps as well as formulating their own opinions. Until you walk in their shoes, don't judge! And how dare you accuse them of fraud without talking to the reviewers themselves. I say you are a fraud or at the very least, lazy and unreliable in your research!!!

    posted by: enna on 2010-08-17 03:53:29

  • Hello, As one of the so-called "unethical" reviewers, let me start by saying that if you had such a vast ability to do your "research," maybe you should've done a little research and contacted us directly instead of posting our names on a list and making assumptions. I will say this for nyself, as I have no knowledge of anything that went on with any other reviewer. I was paid the same amount for writing good or bad reviews, as well as given the app to review (a standard practice for most reviews of any kind, be they for films, books, or apps). At no time was I ever encouraged to skew my review towards being positive or negative -- I was paid to write, not to fluff an app's ratings. Most of my reviews were positive -- I can only think of a few of the apps I was asked to review that I dodn't like, and for those, I turned in low reviews. Also, on a personal note, your little mention of my reviews for apps on "New Moms, a Wedding Planner, and how to find a man" -- yes, that is possible. If you read the actual reviews, I say that sometimes I work as a Wedding Planner, I used the New Mom app, and the how to find a man app is a fun confidence booster. I used all three apps, evaluated them, and wrote reviews. Again, I can only speak to my experience, but at no time were my reviews "unethical" or shady or even questionable, and I dont appreciate your implicatins about me or my character. I'm sure you and all your champions of integrity will find some way to continue your one-sided crusade, but unless you want to speak to me personally and not stick me on a list and make vague assumptions and rude innuendos, please keep my screenname out of your little expose.

    posted by: AmberG914 on 2010-08-17 00:23:31

  • I just went to their URL and, apparently, the website no longer exists - the domain name appears to be for sale.

    posted by: Matthew B. Howell on 2010-08-01 14:10:48

  • Some thing just smell of this. Just found an app Truck Stops (pro I think), at the same time as a price increase, the latest version has 10 five star ratings, all generic saying nothing about the app. checked all reviewers and some reviewed the same other apps and none of them were industry related. So obvious. is it just to get the stars and no one reads for real reviews?

    posted by: Adam on 2010-06-22 15:22:48

  • This reminds me of paid links in search engine marketing. The glitch in this is that if it became widespread and an app was punished, someone could just buy reviews for a competitor to hurt them. The innocent can be damaged because just as someone would pay for a plus, they would pay to hurt a competitor. So a one way punishment (like just not weighing a paid link in rankings in Google) would have to happen.

    posted by: Adam on 2010-05-22 14:54:37

  • Thanks Rob, I read reviews quite often and did not realize that you could buy good reviews, I have started to inspect the reviews much more carefully. Good work and I hope Apple is listening. Buyer beware!

    posted by: Andrea on 2010-05-16 23:17:50

  • Nice job unveiling this unethical business. To say the reviews are not tainted, is a crock, as the company is clearly drumming up business based on positive reviews, from customers who paid for reviews that were positive.

    posted by: mark baard on 2010-05-01 12:53:46

  • Thanks for the research that you put into this - many of us don't even think about it twice and blindly just assume that they are legit. Thanks Again !!

    posted by: Stacey on 2010-04-30 13:29:24

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