The power-law and how to bank on it

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The power-law and how to bank on it

Post  Matt Dolph on Mon Apr 20, 2009 12:38 am

This article discusses Amazon.com's clever use of the power law to greatly increase sales on their site. First off the article discusses how Amazon credits about 1 in 5 purchases to good reviews. Originally in Amazons young days they allowed for reviews to be posted and then chronologically the 10 newest would be seen on the page for the product. This changed as their traffic greatly increased. Having only 10 reviews many of which began to loose substance as time passed Amazon introduced the "did you find this review helpful?" question. Using this they are able to allow for reviews that many people agree with which is generally a positive review, since no one likes to be wrong, or a review that doesn't cause to much controversy between users, since a mix of yes's and no's moves a review down. This system allows the top 3 reviews or so to gain enormous amounts of yes this review was helpful votes while keeping the less attractive reviews out of site from the customer. in the article they talk specifically that these reviews follow the power law

"Using the pattern we see frequently in web use, we can predict that the number of reviews that will get any votes follows a power-law distribution. This means that only a few will get a substantial number of votes (helped by the fact they'll be promoted to the top). A handful will get a small number of helpfulness votes, but most reviews won't get any."

But this brings forth the question of whether these reviews are actually the most helpful or if Amazon has found a way to manipulate users tenancies to only look at the first few results, just like google, to sell the consumer their products.

link: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-magic-behind-amazons-27-billion-dollar-question-2009-3

Matt Dolph

Posts : 31
Join date : 2009-04-01

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