Block session... the power of blocking users on epinions

Jun 24, 2001

The Bottom Line Learn more about one of the more powerful tools on epinions, its benefits and its weaknesses.

The epinions community... it has grown quite significantly over the past few months. Many of you have noticed the number of reviews that fly through the just in section at epinions of varying quality. Often these days will you see a slew of Somewhat Helpful and Not Helpful reviews made both by newbies and long standing members of the site.

Poor reviews can hurt epinions both in reputation and to a degree financially (I don't believe this is in member payouts as it is in gaining advertising money secondary to poor quality reviews).

Well, what many member know little about and rarely use is the block feature at epinions... Hey, I'll admit it, I don't utilize the block feature either. You can tell by looking at my profile page... but, now that I have an understanding about the block feature, I plan to use it more.

What is the block feature?

You notice that on the side there is a choice to Trust a user or Block a user when you read their review. Blocking a user does not mean you'll never see a review from that user. It means that you are considering a member a candidate whose epinions will not be displayed to the nonmember community reading epinions.

What?!? We have the power to do that?

Technically... yes we do! Realize that the act of blocking a user is dependent on a number of factors. It isn't just dependent on how many people have added a member to their block list! Other factors include the standing of the blocked member, the standing of the members blocking, the number of people in the blocked person's WOT, and likely a few other factors. I think a single advisor or member with a large WOT could block a newbie with 0-2 members trusting him (I have no concrete proof of this however). However, an advisor or highly trusted member (lets take for example ptiemann who is an advisor in multiple catagories and has the largest WOT on epinions) could not block a member from the community who has a decent sized WOT and a average review rating of Helpful to Very Helpful (This I was able to experiment with my account on some friends and on my brother). If a large number of members with an average overall review rating of NH or SH block a member with VH reviews and a 50 member WOT, it seems that the "blocked" member can still be viewed by the nonmember community. So it seems that the system is not without checks and balances.

Members can still view any community blocked member reviews if they have chosen that option on their user profile pages. So hopefully, members can review members that they have added to their block lists.

So, how is blocking member helpful to the community?

Well, the most obvious way is that chronically poor/abusive writers (who gain a WOT following that gives him an overall H or VH rating) can be blocked from being viewed from the nonmember community. However, a substancial number of member would have to add this member to their block lists. This means that their chances to gain income share decrease greatly and that their total hits on reviews will be at almost a standstill. If a member is successfully blocked from being viewed by the nonmember community at epinions, it is extremely devastating to the blocked member. In many cases, the blocked member will abandon the account since it is difficult to recover from being blocked... due mostly to the fact that the blocked member does NOT know who and how many have added him to their block list. In this way, nonmembers will not be subjected to poor review writers. It also gives members some responsibility in choosing what kinds of reviews are shown to both nonmembers and members who choose not to view community blocked members.

More subtle effects of the block include increasing the exposure of more consistent member with better overall review ratings and an overall better reputation of epinions through the reviews read by the nonmember community.

Getting around the block!

As I said, it is difficult to advance yourself in epinions if your account has been blocked by the community. You would have to gain members in your WOT to try to break the block or find out who has blocked you (which can be near impossible since there is no way that I know of for a blocked member to track this information down!). Another method include creating a new account, but the downside with this is that you have to build this account from scratch just like a newbie. This in itself can be extremely frustrating!

Of course, the best way to avoid being blocked is not to get blocked... which means you should be writing decent to exceptional reviews and becareful with making inane or unnecessary comments (inflammatory remarks and comments) without good reason.

Abuse on the Block!

As I stated before, members with overall NH and SH reviews will have little impact on blocking other members from the nonmember community. However, members with any decent amount of clout will be the ones that can cause problems if they either indiscriminately block or block for their own personal reasons. Newbies epinion lives can be crushed by an advisor or decently well trusted member adding the newbie to their block list. Competition can be decreased by unscrupulous members who have decent WOT. Large numbers of members with low profile can push some members off into the blocked community list. It can be difficult to abuse the power of blocking members, but it is definitely possible to do so!

Final Thoughts

Blocking members is a potentially powerful tool that can improve epinions significantly as well as gives power to the member community at large. At the same time, if the block privledges are sucessfully used to block good members, you have dealt them a significant blow that they may possibly recover from. Take care with the hidden power of the block feature... you could change an epinioner's life and future here.

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About the Author ID:
Member: Rich Go
Location: Somewhere in the NorthEast
Reviews written: 399
Trusted by: 495 members
About Me: Losing Sleep and Lacking Time... sigh...