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Against textual comments

Every now and then we receive feedback from users who would like to leave textual comments for websites, again, much like the feedback in eBay. When we designed WOT, we chose to build the system around numerical testimonies instead of textual comments for a number of reasons, which I’ll talk about here.

The basic premise is that not everyone leaving comments is being sincere. Everyone has an agenda. Textual comments can be misleading, contradictory, and confusing. Which ones will you trust? The person who writes the most convincing comments might be wrong or is trying to scam you. It’s called social engineering, and textual comments provide an excellent opportunity for it.

Also, leaving textual comments is a lot more work than the couple of mouse clicks it currently takes to leave a testimony in WOT. Therefore, not so many users will bother to share their opinions. Less data makes the overall information less reliable.


But even if we collect lots of textual comments, would you read them all? I bet you wouldn’t. There could easily be thousands of comments for the more popular sites. So which ones would you read, the newest ones? Are they the most reliable? Or perhaps you should be able to rate the comments as well, much like in Slashdot or Digg?

Not only are textual comments difficult for people to process, they are even more troublesome for computers. It is nearly impossible for a computer to determine the trustworthiness of a piece of text. On the other hand, there are well-founded mathematical theories for handling numerical information. So while textual comments certainly provide more entertainment for the reader, our decision of using only numerical testimonies in WOT was obvious all things considered.

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