The Power of Anonymous; or Who Will Protect the Developer?

All of us who have apps on the Android Market have also experienced down-voting, spam and ugly comments. I think I just about nailed the worst case scenario. Here’s the scoop.
I have a fairly new app on the market “Credit Cards.” It’s basically a wrapper for an XML API provided, let me assure you, by a reputable company. The app is new so every comment and every vote really counts.  The last comment from user Scott in big-bold-all-capital letters accuses my app of being a “PHISHING SCAM!!!” For the app that lets user research and apply for a credit card this is a serious problem – it will definitely spook away some potential users.
Unfortunately, there’s no one to complain to. Yes, I marked the comment as spam as a last resort. It may not be spam, maybe Scott just hates credit cards.  I really have no other choice though.  Now – this action only removes the comment from my view and I really doubt that Google will ever pay attention. And I think this really, really sucks given amount of effort and creativity that goes into these apps.

So do you guys have any suggestions? Yes, I’ve posted complaints to  the Android market help forums, but I’m not very hopeful. What is your experience with Android Market comments and votes?  Can we,  as community,  influence or change anything? Or should we?

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  • This is a difficult issue. Especially as i think some people might soabotage since they are doing apps of their own. Personally i think that people downrate for the wrong reasons all the time. If something happens in an update. Send the dev an e-mail instead of downrating it. Downrating will only make the dev stod improving the app.


  • It's a tough line to run between honest open commenting and developer censored "positive-only" comments. At AndAppStore we use a combination of giving the developer the ability to reply to comments and allow users to vote up or down comments via the website which seems to work well, so hopefully Market will do something similar soon.

  • It's because of situations like this that I tend to not give comments too much credence, especially on a new application. When there aren't too many comments and ratings yet on an app I'm interested in I like to research the developer by going to their site and checking out other applications they've developed. I'll also try to find any 3rd party reviews on the app, but I understand that those may not be available for a new app.

    This case is particularly difficult because of the sensitive information involved, but I'd say a good counter is to just provide as much information on your web site as possible and eventually the good comments will head your way.

  • How about add an option to down and uprate comments like on Youtube, and any comments with rating of -3 get hidden?

  • I agree this is a huge problem!

    I've now released two apps and am working on a third. My first app was plagued with "Force Close Eris" or "Doesn't work". Now I've tested on several phones and all the emulator combinations I could. These kind of comments could not let me help the customer. I eventually got an Eris and tested. It worked fine! To this day I can't find out what the customer did in order to cause it to break. These comments destroy my rating which is now at a steady 3.5 and don't give me anything to make the product better!

    My second app MokiReply has suffered from being a paid app. It offers a better interface, more features, and a low price. Yet I have only received 11 downloads total(It has only been out for ~4 days). I now have a lite version that matches the competitors features and haven't had much of a conversion ratio.

    I'm slowly losing my faith in the google market. Some things definitely need to change in order to create a better experience not only for us developers but also for the user base.

    I think a desktop experience would allow customers to leave better/longer comments where we could get a feel as to what they would like to see in the app or what is not working specifically.

    Secondly I think the users need to realize that us developers are not trying to release apps that don't work on their phone! We honestly want our users to have a good experience and I personally would love to have a conversation with someone who is having problems with my app. What I'm tired of seeing is the constant 1 star "Not Working" comment.

    I agree that a lot of apps have issues. I only wish users would be more understanding. We are living in a world where we deal with ~3 prominent versions of Android on 4+ carriers.

    Thats my opinion take it or leave it.

  • cromag

    I'm of the opinion that there needs to be a "marker" of some kind that separates the helpful comments from the disruptive ones. Sort of like how Amazon asks you if a particular review was helpful. I think grounds for marking comments as disruptive/unhelpful would be the one-line, one-word reviews that make me want to slap the commenter.

    Whenever I review an app on market, I ALWAYS give reasons why I gave a particular rating, suggestions for improvement/ pros/cons etc… Then when someone else reads it, maybe it helps them decide whether or not to download. I absolutely HATE the insufficient comments that say things like "sucks", "crap", or even "good", or "awesome". NONE of those are helpful. I consistently run out of space while writing my "mini-review".

    I agree, change needs to be made, but I have no idea how to influence Google to be receptive to our concerns. Good luck!

  • ROM

    I have also some strange and agressives comments on my application.

    The MARKET SPAM it's also a problem, this guy: JAMES N
    is publishing on "James N" and also with name (see
    The same applications are published many times for better visiblity on the market!

    Total application from "James N, mob4" = 569!

    Do you think this is acceptable?

  • I can't help but agree with you. I released 2 apps within a couple of days of each other "Stewie Griffin Sounds" and "Peter Griffin Sounds". Not the most useful apps, but they are both good fun. They are both built on the same code, yet Peter Griffin received comments saying that it crashed peoples phones. The Stewie app hasn't received one comment of this nature. The end result is that while the Stewie app is getting over 200 downloads a day, Peter is getting more like 40. Quality is exactly the same, and I've not been able to replicate what people have said in their comments. It would seem it's just comment Spam, but from a developer's point of view, this can make or break you. The ability for users to vote on comments (like on Engadget's site) would be a perfect solution. I'd like to see those comments "Voted into oblivion"!

  • pkajirian

    Reputation management in an application ecosystem comes part of the territory. On the bright side I think users are starting to learn they wont judge an app based on 1 negative rating when there are 5 possitive ratings surrounding it. My recommendation is to drive as much non-biased comments as possible and let the community do their thing.

    On that note, I think it should be every user's responsibility to flag Spammy comments in the market place – let alone leave a usefull comment for that app if it's not to much to ask.

  • 1) Google, require people to actually have installed the application on their device before being able to vote.
    2) Developers, offer a beta version of your apps "offline" prior to adding to market. That way, you have a decent following that will vouch for your app.

    • I fully accept that the app can get bad reviews. I'm even OK with "FK all the time" and "It sucks". But there are instances such as I'm describing in the post where comment is not just unfair – it's unfunded, derogatory and brings direct harm to the app. I would like to have a chance to defend my work

  • Sean Cassidy

    The market is a great resource but it's also a mess. There are so many issues that I HATE to visit the market these days. I use appbrain and Android zoom instead. As a user I frequently see people posting "doesn't work" or more commonly "SUCKS!!!" when the user obviously hasn't understood how the app is supposed to work. We can't rely on Google to fix these issues, they've done bugger all to improve the market really. Everyone, developers and users need to support an alternative to market such as slideme or Andappstore or something else.

  • Humanist

    make people have an identity & reputation before they can rate & review things. anonymous just encourages abuse.

  • Helmore

    @Jared – One of the problems over here (the Netherlands), besides the fact that the Android Marketplace application obviously needs to be improved, is that there are too few payment options. The only way you can pay for an app is with your credit card and that just doesn't work. It's not as common over here to pay with plastic as it is in the US (AFAIK and IMHO). The reason that you can only pay with a credit card is also the reason why my brother can't buy any applications for example and I'm sure there are many many more consumers here with the same problem. Another brother of mine has an iPhone and he has bought a couple of apps simply because it is very very easy to pay for them. One of the solutions to make paid apps a bigger success is to make it incredibly easy to pay for them, through carrier billing, PayPal, ClickAndBuy and whatever other means necessary, but CC alone is not enough.

    @cromag – If you want to influence Google then you can either mail the android developers directly or go through their Google Code page to sent bug reports:
    Or their Google Groups Android Discussion page over here for new ideas and things like feature requests:
    I'm not sure of effective it will be, but you can at least give it a try.

  • As a user I will rarely post a comment (bad or good) unless I feel it will bring something to the other users. I will however add a rating to the apps I like.

    We all know that the Market is spammed from both side (by developers and users)… A Desktop version or a more advanced web site for Android Market will not help. Only a human approval and moderation will help but do we really want that?

    PS: Bo, I went on this comment and mark it as spam as well… I wonder if that will help if many of us do the same? Shall we try?

    • Thanks Raphaels I really appreciate your help. I wonder if we can start some sort of site where developers can apply for striking down the comments – site like that will be very popular I bet 🙂

  • pjv

    I constantly ask myself if I could do better, i.e. make a more intuitive, stable app. However I have come to the conclusion that there is a large factor I cannot influence. I mean, if these apps would have been viral facebook apps …

    There's still so much work, so I won't say it is top priority for me to get Google to do anything about this, but I'm sure many improvements are possible (and are already known in other market/feedback systems). I wonder what comments and rating the Market app gets? Oh right, it's not on there 🙂 If a third party market would breakthrough that would be equally acceptable to me. Or if some news site, say AndroidGuys, decides to start an off-market commenting/rating site, that would be cool as well. Somebody needs to start reviewing on a broad scale anyway.

    • There are already some ressources for developer to promote their apps. Forum like or (for example) the "I am the developer of this application !" and forum discussion attached to each apps (most are empty…).
      The problem is that it is as fragmented and messy as the rest of the Android world. Even if AndroidGuys were to start something it would be used only by a small portion of developers and users unless it get lots of publicity.

  • MrChaz

    There really is nothing that can be done about it currently other than making as much noise as possible to try and force Google in updating the market sooner with the ability to reply to comments at the very least.
    A confidence score on a comment would also be nice based on number of installs and similar comments as people who like apps don't tend comment you only really the extremes.
    Some of the comments I have had have been insane 🙁

    I do love the sound of a site for developers to croud-source policing of the comments.

    • MrChaz

      *crowd-source 🙁

  • xarophti

    @ fernando: how do you comment on an app without having installed it? As far as I've seen, that's the only way to access rating & comments.

    I get really sick of useless comments as well like "get rid of the ads" from morons who still want every app for free, and idiots who install widgets not knowing how they work & posting "won't launch".

    But I'm sure each platform has its share of clueless users.

    • BTW. I always add default activity to the widget which pops up the dialog which explains how to install the actual widget. Otherwise you are pretty much doomed

      • xarophti

        That sounds like a good idea. It is amazing how many people really don't bother to learn the most rudimentary details of how their devices work. Not to mention folks who install apps that are out there as "test app, don't install this" or apps they have no earthly use for, install them then low rate as "Lame" and "useless".

  • Bad comments – clueless, uninformative, malicious – are a fact of life. Books, movies, games and so on have lived or died on the same kind of uncontrollable word of mouth and rumor mills since long before the net.

    And bad comments are unavoidable. If the user has a glitch, due to some completely different app, just when they try yours then they'll blame you, and may even become vocal about it. That's only natural. There is little you can do about it – and, really, little you should be able to do about it. We can't and shouldn't censor comments because the user hasn't the technical knowledge to correctly interpret the causes of a bug. We're dealing with people, and even the most cerebral, level-headed indivudals can have the occasional brainfart or bad day or misunderstanding and end up blaming your app.

    But all is not lost. People are by and large not stupid (no, really, we aren't, the occasional meltdown notwidstanding). When people see an app with a dozen 4 and 5 star-ratings, and two or three 1's, they're going to interpret that correctly: probably very good, but a few people might have had bad luck with it, or may be spamming the maker. Don't sweat a few bad comments. People understand.

    Paid apps are another thing. I'm not addressing anyone here – I don't know what app any commenter here has developed – but a lot of paid apps in the market are really rather wildly out of whack. Paying is a hassle, and even with a low absolute price (a hundred yen is the price of a bottle of tea) people still don't want to feel like they're being cheated. That means a paid app has to bring something that you wouldn't be able to get otherwise, or that you could, but would be enough trouble that your app really saves a bunch of time or effort.

    Most paid apps do neither, right now. Why get a paid or ad-supported Flobborator app, when there's a dozen completely free flobborator's in the market already, doing the same thing? Why get a paid app that does a service you can already do freely through the web? I do see quite a lot of developers that haven't really internalized that they really need to offer something _substantially_ better in order to get people to buy (nicer icons or some minor extra function doesn't normally cut it).

    "BTW. I always add default activity to the widget which pops up the dialog which explains how to install the actual widget. Otherwise you are pretty much doomed"

    Excellent point, and I keep wondering why more people don't do that. Could add a user manual, link to your webpage and ads for your other apps as well.

    "1) Google, require people to actually have installed the application on their device before being able to vote. "

    AFAIK, that's already the case. You can only grade or comment on installed apps.

    "I get really sick of useless comments as well like "get rid of the ads" from morons who still want every app for free,"

    Well, it's a relevant comment. Ads are intrusive and do degrade the user experience (if they didn't, they'd not work as ads after all). If a user finds them bothersome then that's certainly a valid comment, and something a developer has to take into account when choosing that revenue stream.

    • To your point of "two or three 1's". Based on my own experience (and I should know better, shouldn't I) I almost never look at apps below 4 stars. And also how often do you navigate from default 3 comment screen into one that lists all comments?
      In general, just based on my own 4 current apps, system of natural selection works rather well. You may jump to 5 star app but then you see that there's only 1 rating so you start scratching your head. What kills me are these outrageous, directly malicious comments like the one I describe in the article. I want to defend my good name, I want to be able to ether complain or answer the allegations. Current system does not provide ether. Even downvoting bad comment isn't helping since you have to overcome the fact that you have derogatory comment scaring away your potential customers. Who will struck down bad comment if nobody tries your app?

      • Umm, be careful what you wish for. As a developer you can already comment on your own app (on the store and in other listings), and too often you see devels shooting themselves in the foot.

        For every developer who has the people skills and the PR awareness to turn a bad or malicious comment into something positive, you'll have dozens that start a forum shouting match and end up repelling far more users than the original comment would ever have.

    • xarophti

      Janne, Let me clarify something about my "ads" comment. I'm NOT a developer. I'm making that comment as a USER who is smart enough to know that for the platform to grow, the developers have to have a way to make money. If nobody wants to pay for apps, you gotta do it with ads. (In fact, I bought a Pro version of an app, found it so necessary and useful that I donated extra money through his website due to his insanely low price.) I'm will to pay for quality.

  • I want to use this comment to thank these of you guys (especially @Scott who left last comment for Credit Card app on the AM) for lending a hand to your fellow Androider. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  • chucky egg

    I'm rapidly getting fed up with the Market, but from a consumer point of view.

    Too many "junk" apps and variations on the same theme (Zeitmann's alarm clocks for example) make it hard to find interesting apps. I want to filter out specific developers.

    Ads are a real pain. I don't download apps with Ads in them. I'd rather pay a few dollars and get an ad-free version – I'll ignore the app if there is no ad-free version.

    As for feedback, it's a poorly thought through system. They need to scrap it or improve it. But I never buy an app based on other people's feedback – I try the different apps that might meet my needs (calendar widgets for example, tried half a dozen).

  • I'm a little late finding this article, but I loved it.

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  • Its really a nightmare when i think about Google Customer Support. They never replied to my mails 🙁 Here is another scenario i am reading and feeling really bad about it. 🙁

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