If you’re a developer who is willing to go to the dark side to improve your app’s reviews, there may still be certain practices available to you despite efforts to clean up unethical behavior associated with app reviewing.
Stealth marketing – which tries to hype products via blogs, social media and word of mouth by paying apparently “ordinary” people to promote them – led to the Federal Trade Commission implementing new rules that require anybody reviewing products online to disclose any financial connection with the apps’ sellers. In fact, such disingenuous reviews are now not only seen as unethical but are also forbidden by Apple and likely to see an app expelled from the App Store.
Although it may seem a bit too risky for potential reviewers to engage in such behaviour nowadays, a recent investigation suggests that there may still be a way to acquire more positive reviews and not raise the ire of Apple. The story really dates back to Apple’s decision to introduce a rate-on-delete dialog in 2008, which led to ratings becoming negatively skewed and a lot of dismay among developers. It wasn’t long before Apple ditched the system.
Fast forward to November 2011 and Appsfire’s announcement that they had found a great, legal way for developers to improve app ratings in the App Store. With its Appbooster tool, if a user taps a green “thumbs up” icon, they are invited to leave an App Store review; but if a user tap the red thumbs down icon, there is no invitation to leave a review. Even if users realize that no review has been submitted, it’s unlikely they will be motivated enough to navigate through the App Store to write one.
Many observers have been left frustrated that Apple condone such behaviour, but Appfire maintains that they are simply allowing developers respond to users before a bad review – often for the wrong reasons – is posted. Nevertheless, it seems that though this may be a gray area ethically, it is somewhat manipulative behaviour. One thing that both sides in the argument can agree on, however, is that the review system in the App Store is far from perfect.
For more on this topic, check out Manipulating App Store Reviews with Dark Patterns
Image by Rob Boudon