Are Software Awards of any use ?

You've probably seen those 5-star-ratings, reader's choice and similar awards for software - both commercial and shareware.

In an experiment, Andy Brice discovered that the star-ratings of many download sites have no worth at all. He purposely submitted a non-functional, fake program to more than 1,000 download sites, using the description "This program does nothing at all". Only about half of the sites rejected the software, most of them for unspecific reasons. But 16 sites awared the software five-star-ratings or similar awards. Read the full story for details.

Does that mean that software awards are useless all together? Well, there are a few sites where the software is reviewed by humans. In Andy's test, four sites rejected the software because it was useless.

Other sites are also edited by humans, such as the Open Directory Project (where InstallSite is listed as "Cool Site" in the Computers: Software: System Management: Installers: InstallShield section). I believe that such reviews and ratings created by humans are useful, although you have to keep in mind that they often reflect only one person's point of view. It's also known that user editable sites like Wikipedia have been the target of manipulation attempts.

Somewhere in between are "reader's choice" awards. I don't know how immune there are against manipulations like software manufacturers voting for their own products. But even if they are, "popular" isn't always identical to "good" or "best". On the other hand, you are more likely to find community ressources like newsgroups, forums, blogs and support sites for popular software. So a reader's choice award could be one (of several) factors in deciding which product to use for your purposes.

Published Wed, Aug 22 2007 8:44 by stefan
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