February 7, 2018

A Verified Reader Indicator for Comments Left on Social Media

BloggingMany online retailers, including Amazon.com, provide a handy way for visitors to evaluate the product reviews they encounter: an indication of whether the review was written by someone who actually bought the product. Amazon labels such reviews with "Verified Purchase" (you'll find this label between the date of the review and the beginning of the reviewer's comments). If you are not familiar with this concept, you can see some examples for the latest product for which I was reading reviews.

To be marked as a "Verified Purchase," the person writing the review would have needed to buy the product through Amazon. If I bought it elsewhere, I could still write a review on Amazon. My review would just not be labeled as "Verified Purchase" at Amazon in that case (though it might receive a similar label where I bought it if I submitted a review there too). Although this system is not perfect, I find it helpful because it lets me weigh reviews based on some evidence of who bought the item in question. Some people, believe it or not, seem to write reviews on these sites for products they do not own or have never used. I've seen several who admit as much, and I've been suspicious of others who don't.

Since it has become so common for people to comment on blog posts through social media without first reading the blog post, I found myself wishing a similar system could be set up in that context. How cool would it be for bloggers to have a simple indicator of whether the person leaving the comment bothered to read the post he or she is commenting on? How something like this could be implemented is way beyond me and might not be possible since it would require data sharing between various social media platforms and something like Google Analytics (which collects data on visits and the amount of time visitors spend on each page).

I suspect it would be far easier to implement in the context of on-blog comments; however, commenting without reading is rarely a problem here. It is almost always clear that those of you who leave comments on the Atheist Revolution blog have read the post on which you are commenting. The same can not always be said for those doing so on social media. That is where it would be more valuable.

Suppose for a moment that some comments left on Atheist Revolution's Facebook page were marked with "Verified Reader" or something similar. What would I do with that information? I'd be far more likely to pay attention to the comment, take it seriously, and respond to it. It isn't that I'd ignore those that were not marked this way, but I probably wouldn't pay them as much attention. After all, they haven't bothered to read the post on which they are commenting. I suspect that such an indicator would serve a similar function for other social media visitors.

Admittedly, this is far from high on the wish list of things I'd like to see on social media platforms. I mention it because the idea popped into my head recently as I was reading product reviews on Amazon and noticing that it was helpful in that context.