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Subject: When does a reviewer become a shill? rss

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Richard Poole
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When a person's review either fails to mention painfully obvious flaws, or if they are just unrelenting positive across several reviews. Unless you can actually prove they've received undisclosed compensation though, they should just be left up.

Just take it like a regular person, tell anyone who'll listen you think their review is way, way off, and the community will generally regard them as full of nonsense if you're not in a tiny minority. Unpaid, unbiased reviews should generally win out, because any game company that's big enough to have a purposeful shill campaign will be big enough that anyone who posts something nice about it will be immediately suspected of shilling.
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stuartfinlay wrote:
I have a particular person in mind but I'm guessing there's a rule, perhaps unwritten, that says I can't name them.
So what does it take to convince you that someone is a shill, paid or not, and what should BGG do with said reviewer(s) and their reviews?
Should they be left with their comments as evidence of bad actors to dissuade others in future or deleted to keep the site 'clean'?


Come on, who is it? I'm so used to people bagging on video reviewers - this is a welcome change.
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Escapade wrote:
When a person's review either fails to mention painfully obvious flaws, or if they are just unrelenting positive across several reviews. Unless you can actually prove they've received undisclosed compensation though, they should just be left up.


I agree. BGGers learn to discern for themselves the shill from the honest review.

A sure shill tip-off for me is when a 'reviewer' posts a review of a game that hasn't hit the market yet -- usually from a little known publisher or Kickstarter -- and the game sounds to good to be true. Also beware advertisements disguised as Geeklists.

I just disregard them.

Escapade wrote:
Just take it like a regular person, tell anyone who'll listen you think their review is way, way off, and the community will generally regard them as full of nonsense if you're not in a tiny minority.


Agreed. I think the BGG system for rating/ranking games works rather well, and BGGers are generally good at sorting out the shills.

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I think the thread title would be better as something like "I want to accuse someone of being a shill and propose having their content deleted but I'm not actually going to so what is even the point of this thread".
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Quote:
So what does it take to convince you that someone is a shill, paid or not, and what should BGG do with said reviewer(s) and their reviews?


Huh?

Anyway, leaving aside the question of what exactly an unpaid shill is, BGG should only do something about a shill if there is concrete evidence of it. Suspicions are not sufficient.

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Come on, who is it? I'm so used to people bagging on video reviewers - this is a welcome change.


Probably he means the review he commented on here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/16298152#16298152

Fair enough, it does look suspicious.



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Richard Poole
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An unpaid shill is a rabid fanboy who believes so totally in his chosen game being better than some other rival game that he will lie, cheat, and steal in order to make the game seem far better than it is. Someone who massively overstates the game's strengths and makes no mention or completely denies any weakness.

They're basically just really, really terrible reviewers.
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Some peoples optimism bias can be seen as a cheerleader or shill in always positive reviews. Over time their own words will be what does them in as facts become clear with the passage of time. I try to research games by reading or viewing multiple reviews from different reviewers preferably from different countries.
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Escapade wrote:
An unpaid shill is a rabid fanboy who believes so totally in his chosen game being better than some other rival game that he will lie, cheat, and steal in order to make the game seem far better than it is. Someone who massively overstates the game's strengths and makes no mention or completely denies any weakness.

They're basically just really, really terrible reviewers.


Let me suggest that's merely a rabid fanboy. Shill implies some kind of pre-arranged agreement between the product-maker and the shiller of the product and usually involves some kind of compensation. It's important because with a fanboy, you just call them on it and let readers decide. A proven shill on the other hand ought to be modded with extreme prejudice.
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Escapade wrote:
An unpaid shill is a rabid fanboy who believes so totally in his chosen game being better than some other rival game that he will lie, cheat, and steal in order to make the game seem far better than it is. Someone who massively overstates the game's strengths and makes no mention or completely denies any weakness.

They're basically just really, really terrible reviewers.


I think the term in that case is, as you said "terrible reviewer" rather than "shill". As you also said, "fanboy" is appropriate, too.

Unless the person is somehow connected to the game in question (financial interest, personal friend of the creator, promised some kind of reward for drumming up interest, etc.) I don't think "shill" would be the right term. Or maybe the meaning of "shill" is drifting to become more figurative and less literal over time (which happens with a lot of words, to be sure).

For me, I wouldn't call someone a shill unless they actually do have some financial or personal interest in the product they're promoting.
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Escapade wrote:
Someone who massively overstates the game's strengths and makes no mention or completely denies any weakness.

Strengths and weaknesses are ofter quite group-dependent. Some things are neither, thus not worth a mention for them. Two different groups can have quite an opposing views of a game, and neither of them are wrong.

(Denial is where things get grey fast, but saying something did not affect their group does not make a shill.)
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ChaosAndAlchemy wrote:
Unless the person is somehow connected to the game in question (financial interest, personal friend of the creator, promised some kind of reward for drumming up interest, etc.) I don't think "shill" would be the right term. Or maybe the meaning of "shill" is drifting to become more figurative and less literal over time (which happens with a lot of words, to be sure).

For me, I wouldn't call someone a shill unless they actually do have some financial or personal interest in the product they're promoting.


That's also my interpretation of the term shill. I think there are more 'unpaid' shills than 'paid.' The obvious ones tend to have several characteristics:

1 - The reviewer had no other reviews.
2 - The review is so over the top in hyperbolic praise as to be absurd.
3 - The game is a Kickstarter or small/unknown publisher effort and hasn't hit the market yet.

Also, the first several users to post ratings on its BGG page give it a "10."

As BGG users, we need only be aware of these, and point them out when we see them.
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I should add that full disclosure covers a multitude of sins. That is, if you state somewhere in your review that the company gave you an advance copy of the game, a T-shirt, threatened to tell the police where you hid the bodies, or any other incentive to plug the game, then praise away. Of course you would do well to put together an air-tight rationale for your praise that survives the fact that the publisher dumped swag on you.
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I find discussions like this pretty unhelpful. We can all gripe about what we suspect is going and and throw labels around. Shill is definitely a misused word.

If we want to improve the community then I suggest we go out and add good content to the site. We can do our own reviews, session reports, blogs and podcasts.
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Richard Poole
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From ye olde pedia of the wikis: "Shill can also be used pejoratively to describe a critic who appears either all-too-eager to heap glowing praise upon mediocre offerings, or who acts as an apologist for glaring flaws. In this sense, such a critic would be an indirect shill for the industry at large, because said critic's income is tied to the prosperity of the industry."

It's subjective who's praising mediocre offerings, and what constitutes a glaring flaw, but I think it's fine to use the word to describe anyone whose reviews don't mesh with reality, paid, unpaid, connected or unconnected.

Let's say I buy the world's only copy of a game at a pawn shop, and enjoy it immensely. If I then tell everyone how great it is, am I a shill because I own 100% of the copies of the game in existence, and am pumping its resale value? If I write the creator of the game, he replies and we become personal friends, does that make me a shill? What if do that after my glowing review instead of before? What if it's a terrible game but I want everyone to think I've got a cool game so I can act like some elite boardgamer? What if I'm the only person in the world who legitimately enjoys the game, and I'm trying to build a good reputation for it so I can at least play it with other people a few times before they find out it's garbage?

The whole degree of connection required is too murky for me. I'd say a shill is someone who a) publishes a review that is so positive as to appear motivated by the reviewer's personal interests or b) publishes a review that's actually motivated by the reviewer's personal interests.

To clarify on denial: I'm not saying that if someone plays through a whole game without discovering that one card is unplayable, or one rule doesn't parse correctly, or maybe they don't mind 100% completely deterministic combat, but everyone else does, that's not what makes you a shill for denying obvious faults. I'm saying if there are missing pieces, or the game promises pewter minis that turn out to be wooden blocks painted silver.

Finally, all that said, I'll keep overusing (or you'll keep underusing) the word "shill", but it doesn't make any difference to me. A bad review is a bad review, whether it's bad because it's paid for, or because an excitable 6 year old wrote it, or because he's the illustrator's brother. The question is what to do about bad reviews, and the answer is let them be smothered by good reviews.
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Escapade wrote:
The question is what to do about bad reviews, and the answer is let them be smothered by good reviews.


Amen.
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If your main goal in writing a review is to help your readers be better informed, you're not a shill. If your main goal is to get them to buy or play the game, you're a shill.
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There is real danger when we ascribe labels and motivation to others.
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When they have A. A financial tie to the product in question and B. Are no longer telling their real opinion.

Anything else isn't a shill. Period. And since you can rarely prove the second part, due to being incapable of knowing whether they believe what they are saying or not, accusations of being a shill are pretty meaningless (though if someone has the first connection, it does look suspicious if they have nothing to say but praise.)

Now, bad reviews are a thing, but there is no reason to really accuse shill unless you can actually prove it (which involves being mind police).
 
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Touchfuzzy wrote:
A. A financial tie to the product in question


Does free games count as a financial tie?
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Scottgun wrote:
Quote:
So what does it take to convince you that someone is a shill, paid or not, and what should BGG do with said reviewer(s) and their reviews?


Huh?

Anyway, leaving aside the question of what exactly an unpaid shill is, BGG should only do something about a shill if there is concrete evidence of it. Suspicions are not sufficient.

Quote:
Come on, who is it? I'm so used to people bagging on video reviewers - this is a welcome change.


Probably he means the review he commented on here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/16298152#16298152

Fair enough, it does look suspicious.





And this? http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1197156/gaming-bits-fall...

Edit, in fact every review is 9 or 10 out of 10! Maybe he just likes games!
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I think it would be really easy to come off looking like a shill reviewing board games.

I think for a lot of users the games they know well enough, and are excited enough to put the time and effort into reviewing are going to be games they really like.

I would also like to point out that there is a strong culture on the Geek to only review games in genres that one is predisposed to like. If a person who tends toward train games reviews a party game poorly or if someone known for enjoying abstract games reviews a thematic game poorly they are often criticized for this. Even the most prolific reviewers on the Geek have been criticized for reviewing games outside of the box the person criticizing them has them placed.
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stuartfinlay wrote:
Should they be left with their comments as evidence of bad actors to dissuade others in future


Yes

stuartfinlay wrote:
or deleted to keep the site 'clean'?


No
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Norbert666 wrote:
And this? http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/1197156/gaming-bits-fall...

Edit, in fact every review is 9 or 10 out of 10! Maybe he just likes games!


The final sentence kind of gives it away.

For more information about this and other great games, please check out Golden Egg Games at their site.
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Escapade wrote:
if they are just unrelenting positive across several reviews


I don't know about unrelentingly positive, but of the 70 or so reviews that I did for OgreCave.Com, all were positive. If I didn't like a game I would not waste my time writing up a review. I would tell the publisher why I didn't like it, and then give the game to a game club or a local retail store (as a demo copy). I think Monte Cook used to do only positive reviews too. Bruno Faidutti had his ideal game library.

I think there's a huge difference between saying that you like something when you don't versus only reviewing things that you like. I still letter graded everything, so there was a range of grades on everything from art to gameplay. Generally, if I liked a game overall at the B level or better, then I would review it even if it had some low scores in art or saleability. I reviewed one or two games that I didn't like that I thought would have a positive audience (saying that this was a game for kids, but not for gamer geeks, for example).

All I'm saying is that you shouldn't assume that a string of positive reviews is the sign of a shill. It could be a sign of parameters for review or inclusion on a list (like the Ideal Game Library).

Lee
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Richard Poole
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I dunno. It's as useful to know what games not to get as it is which games to get. I don't think negative reviews are a waste of time. Not when I'm browsing reviews, anyway.

But no, just being generally positive isn't a mark of a shill. It's when every game you review is touted game of the year, instant classic, best ever, and so on. That's what I meant by unrelenting(ly) positive. If you give a game a good review, but also point out its flaws or what might turn certain people off about it...that's just a review.
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