Looking at the ratings on Amazon products can help consumers make more informed decisions about what they add to their shopping carts. But shopping smart isn't always as easy as selecting items with a four- or five-star rating: Factors like the length, quality, and number of reviews also make a difference. And with so many fraudulent third-party sellers working through the site, it's not always clear which reviews are trustworthy. For people who feel lost every time they browse Amazon, Lifehacker recently shared its tips for spotting fake reviews.
This may sound obvious, but to get a feel for what you're purchasing, it helps to actually read the reviews. If every review gives the same bland praise for the product without mentioning anything negative, think twice before heading to the checkout page. Some retailers pay people to leave fraudulent five-star reviews on their products in order to boost their ratings and game Amazon's algorithm. Reviews that are no longer than a few words are another sign of such scams.
Looking for "verified purchases" badges on reviews can help you weed out the fakes, but it's no guarantee that a review's authentic: Fake customers sometimes receive the products they've been paid to rate. The best way to determine if the review you're reading is real is to look for personal details and imperfections in the story. Sometimes a three- or four-star review is a better indication of what you're getting than a too-good-to-be-true five-star review.
If all this seems overwhelming, you can also use artificial intelligence to help parse Amazon reviews. The website Fakespot can analyze all the reviews on a particular Amazon listing in just a few seconds, looking for those factors typically associated with deception, like similar wording. It then tells you how many of the available reviews are likely to be authentic.
And if you're really committed to making the best purchase you can, you can always take your research off Amazon. A product that has a similar ratings on a less popular retail site to what it has on Amazon has likely been reviewed honestly. And if you suspect fraud, you can let Amazon know by clicking "report abuse" next to the review.
Netflix has become the world’s intravenous line for filmed entertainment. And like any media empire, it has a few stories of its own to tell. Take a look at some lesser-known, non-buffering facts about the streaming giant.
1. Early Netflix subscribers got a lot of Chinese pornography.
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In 1998, Netflix was still in the business of selling as well as renting DVDs. To try and offer consumers something new, co-founder Marc Randolph decided to offer footage of President Bill Clinton’s Grand Jury testimony about his involvement with Monica Lewinsky. But according to the book Netflixed, the duplicating house had a mix-up: out of the 1000 customers who ordered Clinton's interview, a few hundred received discs full of hardcore Chinese pornography.
2. Netflix was originally called Kibble.
Choosing a name for the company was a drawn-out process. Directpix.com, Replay.com, and other names were considered; so was Luna.com, which was the name of Randolph’s dog. When the company was being incorporated, he named it Kibble.com until they could decide on something permanent.
3. Netflix executives used to make house calls.
From the beginning, Netflix has been preoccupied with seeing how users interact with its software in order to select titles. In the late 1990s, subscribers near the company’s location in Los Gatos, California were reached via telephone and asked a series of questions. Then staffers would ask if they could stop by to watch them use the site. Surprisingly, most agreed. Netflix brought them coffee, a small investment for gaining valuable information about their usage.
4. Netflix got Dennis Quaid to sing.
For a 2006-2007 publicity tour, Netflix decided to screen films in thematically-correct locations: For example, Field of Dreams was shown in the “real” Iowa cornfield-slash-baseball diamond featured in the movie. But the company also wanted actors to make appearances. Their approach: offer to let those with bands perform for the crowds. Kevin Costner, Bruce Willis, Dennis Quaid, and Kevin Bacon all agreed to the barter deal. Quaid and his band, The Sharks, played in New Orleans before a screening of his film The Big Easy.
5. Netflix has made a science out of spoilers.
Because so much of Netflix’s high-profile content can be “binged” in a single weekend, the company commissioned cultural anthropologist Grant McCracken to examine how spoilers affect a person’s viewing habits. McCracken identified classifications of spoiler-prone people by whether they ruin a plot twist intentionally or hold it over others. (Some people are “Coded Spoilers,” too self-aware to let anything slip. These people are your friends.) His verdict? Some people enjoy the power they get from having knowledge of spoilers. But if a show is good enough, knowing about key scenes won't dissuade viewers from watching.
6. Netflix staffers think you decide on a movie in two minutes.
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Netflix spends more than $150 million on improving their recommendation system every year, trying to arrange selections based on what they think you might like. That kind of personalized menu is necessary: The company estimates that users spend only two minutes browsing for a title before choosing one or opting for another diversion entirely.
7. Netflix staffers also think you might be kind of a liar.
You can stop trying to impress Netflix with the streaming version of keeping Ulysses on your coffee table. In a 2013 WIRED interview, Carlos Gomez-Uribe—the company's vice president of product innovation from 2010 to 2016—noted that viewers often report viewing documentaries or esoteric foreign movies. “But in practice,” he said, “that doesn’t happen very much.”
8. the first "netflix original" was an abstract test footage short.
In order to test frame rates and how their streaming service handles different kinds of content, Netflix produced 11 minutes of test footage in 2011 that can be viewed by typing “example show” in their search engine. Cut together (as seen above), the shorts become a very strange, very abstract art film, with an unidentified man juggling and reciting Shakespeare. (But not, sadly, juggling while reciting Shakespeare.)
9. Netflix binge-watching might correlate with depression.
A 2015 study by the University of Texas found that respondents who claimed to binge Netflix shows were more likely to suffer from depression, lack of self-control, or loneliness. The good news? The sample group was small—only 316 people—and the university’s definition of “binge-watching” was as low as two episodes. Amateurs.
10. There’s a secret Netflix menu.
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No, not that kind of secret menu. Pressing Shift + Alt + a left mouse click brings up a troubleshooting menu that allows you to adjust the bit rate of a stream so it doesn’t buffer. (On a Mac, it's Shift + Option + click.) The picture quality won’t be as good, but it’s better than a pixelated Demogorgon.
11. There was once a glitch in the Netflix matrix.
In 2014, Netflix’s content descriptions became odd amalgamations of two different titles to create one completely nonsensical listing. The summaries were quickly fixed, but not before someone took several screen shots of the mishaps.
12. You'll soon be able to stream Netflix in a Tesla.
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In July 2019, Tesla founder Elon Musk informed Tesla owners they would soon be able to stream both Netflix and YouTube in their cars, an attractive option for anyone looking to keep passengers occupied. But there's a catch: The services only work when the cars are parked. The feature will be available in newer-model cars at a date to be determined.
In a turn of events that, at this point, probably shocks no one, Microsoft has confessed that human contractors have been listening in on some people's private conversations via Skype and Cortana.
Vice first broke the news on the privacy breach earlier this month, after a contractor passed along documents, screenshots, and actual audio files of some conversations. “The fact that I can even share some of this with you shows how lax things are in terms of protecting user data,” the contractor, whose name was withheld (for obvious reasons), told Motherboard. Unlike Apple’s recent Siri snafu, these conversations didn’t include potential criminal activity, but they did catch intimate exchanges about weight loss, love, and relationship problems.
“We realized, based on questions raised recently, that we could do a better job of clarifying that humans sometimes review this content,” a Microsoft representative told Vice. Before, the Skype website had mentioned that your content could be analyzed in order to improve the technology, but it never explicitly stated that humans would be listening to it.
Microsoft only records Skype conversations that use its translation features, in order to “help the translation and speech technology learn and grow,” according to the Skype FAQ section. If you’re not using translation features, your sweet nothings are reportedly as private as you want them to be. The updated FAQ section also now states that “Microsoft employees and vendors” may be transcribing the translated audio, and the procedures are “designed to protect users’ privacy, including taking steps to de-identify data, requiring non-disclosure agreements with vendors and their employees,” and more.
But Cortana’s data gathering isn’t limited to translation. According to its support page, Microsoft can collect your voice data literally any time you “use your voice to say something to Cortana or invoke skills.” If that worries you, we recommend spending some time adjusting the settings on your Microsoft Privacy Dashboard.