Marco Arment on common words in App Store reviews

Marco Arment ran an interesting experiment by finding the most common words in both 1-star and 5-star reviews. His results were very interesting but I found this statement the most interesting:

Subjectively, I usually see this in contexts in which the app doesn’t have a minor feature that the reviewer wants, or where it doesn’t perform well in a rare use-case, so the reviewer unfairly declares the app “useless”. This demonstrates a curious psychological effect of modern western culture that I’ll write about soon.

I most recently saw this behavior in the reviews of the Photogene photo editor app for iPhone. The author was being unfairly judged, and his application ratings suffered as a result, because of a change that would allow editing of metadata in the application. Users were upset that when they would bring up a photo the application would ask for their permission to use their location. Some thought this was an invasion of their privacy.

The reason for this was the use of a new Apple API to access media on the phone, AssetsLibrary, that requires location services be turned on in order for it to be used. Apple talks about this requirement in session 421 of the 2010 WWDC. Why is this a requirement? Because previously only their internal camera application allowed access to this metadata. This is why applications like Camera+ would always have metadata stripped when copying photos from the camera roll. The current Apple API that allows loading and saving of pictures (until release 4.1 that is) from the camera roll doesn’t allow the saving of metadata along with a photo. Now that they’ve provided a public API there is a potential security issue in that a third party application could see, and edit, potentially sensitive geolocation data without the users knowledge. To address this issue they require an application loading photos with metadata to ask for permission.

I defended the author in the reviews and was pretty much shot down as being stupid, not knowing what I was talking about, etc. even though I provided proof. As noted in Marco’s post the app was now useless, etc. I suspect also that these users didn’t bother to contact the author for support (at least not the majority of them) and just blasted him in the reviews section unfairly.

I’m looking forward to seeing what Marco has to say on this in his next posting. There must be some odd psychology at work. Probably the same psychology that powers most forums postings or comments on blogs and major news sites 😉

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