The power of app reviews

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iol scitehc july 24 phone app REUTERS The app will make it easier for people to plan their trips, the mayoral committee member for transport, Brett Herron, said.

London - Downloading apps, fiddling with them and filing or deleting them is something of a hobby of mine, and as hobbies go it’s pretty harmless.

Deciding which one to try next is often influenced by the five-star ratings bestowed by its users, but it struck me this week that it’s a flawed system.

I recently downloaded an app called Air Display, which connects to your Mac via wi-fi and extends your desktop on to your iPad screen. The three stars indicated that it might not be worth the money, but on closer examination this was an average of a number of five-star and one-star reviews, with barely anything in between. The app can’t be both great and abysmal.

In this case, the bad reviews were along the lines of “this is stupid”, while the good ones were more considered. And therein lies the fault; people who make incorrect assumptions about the app, or are having trouble getting the hang of it, can drag down its rating with complaints, reflecting badly on what might be a decent piece of software.

It’s tough for developers. People with gripes will be quick to post bad reviews, but it’s hard to persuade satisfied customers to post positive ones; if something’s working we’d rather just get on with using it.

Google, having trialled a new system in the Chrome store, is due to introduce a separate bug report section for Android apps which should siphon off many unhelpful “reviews”. Will Apple follow?

What about when you want to be out of the loop? Social media brings people together, and despite concerns surrounding privacy it has to be considered a force for good. But severing social media ties can be difficult.

These days, relationship breakdowns are inevitably followed by acts of unfollowing, unfriending and blocking on social-media sites – not necessarily out of spite, but in order to avoid unhelpful reminders of times past.

But Facebook tickers can still bring you information from outside your immediate social circle about who is doing what and with whom, and you can never legislate against people contacting you and saying “Oh! Did you hear about so-and-so?” when so-and-so is the last person you want to hear about.

Sadly, unexpected reminders of people we’re no longer in touch with are an unfortunate consequence of using social media, especially Facebook.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing ever more inventive ways of tapping into the processing power of smartphones: attachments that transform them into blood pressure monitors, TV remotes, pianos and much else. But now we have the Deeper FishFinder, an accessory for Android and iPhone that takes the hassle – and fun – out of angling by telling you where the fish are. Its makers are raising the $49 000 (R400 000) they need to produce the first thousand. – The Independent

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