App Store Comments Are Crappy, But Let’s Not Get All Draconian


Charles Teague


September 23, 2008

Everyone who has spent some time on the App Store realizes that there are a large number of pointless or even harmful comments. Whether the post simply says ‘first’, disses an application that the commenter has never used, or complains about an issue that was fixed in an updated version of the app, the comment system on the App Store isn’t adequate. It’s a rough situation since the App Store doesn’t allow trialing of apps. Comments, the application description, and the application screenshots are the only real way for an end user to assess an application, so filling 1/3 of the assessment with garbage really hurts.

Some see this as a place where Apple should exert more control, perhaps even filtering the comments. What grand irony that the same people that complain when Apple filter apps call for Apple to filter comments! Here’s a couple of suggestions that would go a long ways to improving the commenting, but don’t require Apple to be a gatekeeper.

  1. Allow users to rate comments. Comments that are pointless and crappy will simply be voted down (a la Slashdot, Digg, Reddit, reviews, and a million other examples). Use filtering to only display the low rated comments if the viewer requests it.

Edit: Hey- they already allow this, and it looks to be working pretty well. Some of the apps I looked at had pretty reasonable reviews with very little noise, just from this filter alone. Nice.

  1. Allow a single developer post to appear at or near the top of the comments. This developer post can be updated when the developer publishes a new version of their product. They can use it to explain what issues (that appear in the comments) they have addressed in the current release. A lot of developers are doing this in the application description, and it’s annoying to see a bunch of text responding to comments where there should just be text describing the application.

  2. Filter on whether the commenter has ‘bought’ the app. Since iTunes knows what Apps the user has, why not just add a simple icon to comments from folks who have actually downloaded the app, and default a filter to only show comments by people who have downloaded the app. This adds friction to the pointless commenters and will help improve the quality of comments that display.

Whatever happens, how about we trend away from gatekeepers in the App Store?