Your weekend homework: review the apps you love, fight the jerky types

You can't blame developers for prompting "Rate this app" nags, but you don't have to encourage it, either.

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In the land of the one-star victims.

Image via author.

Very few people who have a five-star experience with an app gives that app a five-star rating. Many, many people who have a one-star experience with an app head straight to the store to register their complaints. It's the law of reviews, and your homework this weekend, or across lunch breaks in the coming week, is to fight that law.

You might arrive at the Google Play or iTunes reviews for your app and discover that, despite my nay-saying, many people have give the app a four or five-star review. This is often because either:

  • The app has garnered its downloads through word-of-mouth, and has slowly built up a dedicated base of appreciative fans, or:
  • The app has built-in mechanisms that ask, remind, beg, cajole, interrupt, or sometimes nearly ransom its users into writing reviews.

If somebody installs an app, free or paid, and finds that it's really useful from day to day, they tell a friend about it, at best. Most times, they'll be glad they found it, and they'll use it to work, have fun, or share photos of donuts. They are glad they found an app maker who found a problem and solved it, often with an eye for design and a knack for simplicity.

If somebody installs an app and finds that it doesn't work, or lacks one feature they need, they tell everybody about it. They tweet, they post to Facebook, and they review. They sense their civic duty is to warn others that the app that takes cartoon-like filtered camera shots doesn't work on the front-facing camera on their HTC tablet, and must therefore be avoided at all costs. They are angry, and perhaps rightfully so, but seldom is wisdom transcribed during moments of indignant outrage. As evidence, I point you to about half of Reddit's funkier sub-Reddits, one-quarter of Hacker News comments, and about one-third of the emails you wrote to your exes during college.

Why does this matter? It means that developers you appreciate sometimes miss out on dog-feeding, roof-repairing revenue because a visitor spots an angry review, or because their average is dragged down. More than that, though, it matters because we all are then faced with regular pop-ups and textual hints and email pitches and social media reminders to "Rate us on iTunes!" I learned recently that, in some software suites meant to help monitor app performance and reception, a pop-up reminder to Rate This App is literally a single switch. You can't blame developers for prompting this kind of behavior, but you don't have to encourage it.

So this weekend, set an example. Set aside 15 minutes. Look at your phone or tablet, and think about your favorite apps—the apps you've shown off to people, or which you re-install on every new device. Head to their respective app store of origin, and write something about what they do for you, and what problem they solve. Do us all a favor and help get rid of "Like this app? Rate it always forever with your true heart!" Fight the forgetfulness of happy app users.

Read more of Kevin Purdy's Mobilize! blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @kevinpurdy. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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