Thursday, March 25, 2010

You can run, but you can't hide. The wiki witch of the west will find you.

To live is to be rated. How many hits on Google? How many visitors to one's blog. How many friends on Facebook? How many stars on Amazon? Did you get a chili pepper for "hotness" on

Two pieces in a recent Sunday NYT caught my attention. In one, a woman fretted to the social advice columnist about her brother, who had not thanked her husband for having asked everyone in his e-mail address book to vote for the brother in an online photo contest. She showed not the slightest awareness that "stuffing the ballot box" might itself be ethically dubious. In another article, the author opined that the reviews on are unreliable -- "read them like a novel" -- mainly because professors inflate their own ratings with fake reviews. No doubt, some profs ask everyone in their address book to submit five-star raves. With chili peppers.

I know for a fact that some authors ask friends to submit enthusiastic reviews to Amazon, and even submit five-star appraisals of their own, under a phony name, of course. It seems to be an acknowledged fact that hotels submit their own raves to hotel rating sites. I've heard there are services that can be hired to make up authentic-sounding favorable reviews for you.

Then there are sites like HotOrNot and seamier cousins, which I don't know much about, where you can submit your photographic or video self (or be submitted) to the appraisal of the masses, inviting an ego boost or abject humiliation.

In the wiki world, everyone can express an opinion on everything. I retired from teaching before RateMyProfessors got up to steam, but my books get evaluated on Amazon. I stopped reading the reviews long ago. There was a time when all you had to worry about was what rating Saint Peter had in his book when you reached the Pearly Gates. In the wiki world, that's the least of your worries.