Amazon “cracking down” on reviewers… but not really

five stars

From the Sunday New York Times:

After several well-publicized cases involving writers buying or manipulating their reviews, Amazon is cracking down. Writers say thousands of reviews have been deleted from the shopping site in recent months.

Amazon has not said how many reviews it has killed, nor has it offered any public explanation. So its sweeping but hazy purge has generated an uproar about what it means to review in an era when everyone is an author and everyone is a reviewer.

The world of reviewing is certainly open to abuse and violations of ethics. (Not long ago I read a story about a British mystery writer who, under a fake name, wrote torching reviews of his competitor’s works, praising instead his own.)

So I understand the desire to regulate here. But what’s odd to me is this quote from an Amazon spokesman:

We do not require people to have experienced the product in order to review.

It would be difficult to prove “experience” of the product one way or the other, but I certainly don’t put any stock in reviews that say, “I haven’t read this yet, but….”

As one commenter on this article noted, what I often find most helpful in shopping on Amazon–whether for books or other products–is the negative reviews.

That doesn’t mean that 5-star reviews, however, are not all to be trusted. There’s a bit of self-selection that goes on here. To wit, I tend to only request review copies of books that I think will be worth my time, so my ratings are most often four and five stars. But honesty comes first, so three stars and lower is not out of the question, and has happened before. And I am not always right that I book I want to review ends up being as good as I might have thought.

It’s a no-brainer to me that someone ought “to have experienced the product” before reviewing it. But what are some other principles of reviewing that should constitute a good ethic for product reviews?

Biblical Studies Carnival: please send me links

carnival

I am hosting the next Biblical Studies Carnival. (See here for the last one, by Bob MacDonald.)

The carnival is basically a long list of links, and anthology of analyses, a précis of posts, etc., etc., on all things biblical and theological in the blogosphere.

If you know of good links I should include (anything that has been or will be posted in December), please let me know.

And, since I have you here, don’t forget about the book giveaway going on now of Devotions on the Greek New Testament.

State of the Blog Address: Why I (continue to) blog

blogging wordle

Sure, I picked a strange time to start this blog: just weeks before the birth of our third daughter. But I had good reason(s) to, as I enumerated here. Looking back on that blogging minifesto (you heard that word here first), not much of my reasoning for blogging has changed:

  • It’s a creative outlet for me, a chance to turn all the input I receive in life into output that hopefully helps others
  • I am able to receive gratis review copies of books from various publishers
  • I use it as a way of rehearsing and reaffirming important interests and aspects of my identity
  • Blogging has allowed me to try my hand at writing

Two other benefits have come my way since starting Words on the Word.

First, when I began in June, I really had no intention of reviewing Bible software, and had only ever used BibleWorks 7 and 8. But since beginning the blog, I’ve been able to write in-depth reviews of BibleWorks 9, Accordance 10, and Logos 4 and 5. I’ve also compared the three (with more comparison in the offing).

Second, I’ve just completed my first week through Greek Isaiah in a Year. What began as a quick post to tell my readers I wanted to read Isaiah in Greek in a year quickly turned into a reading group on Facebook with 160 (!) members and active discussion. It’s been a lot of fun. The democratizing effect of social media has grouped together professors, students, long-time Septuagintalists, pastors, and others who just want to read Greek together.

I blog for the love of the game. This blog is not monetized at all, as the business gurus say, save for my participation in the Amazon affiliates program, described here. (Side note: a link for aiding the work of WotW via contribution of books and Bible software resources is here.)

wotw logoThe blog has very much been its own reward. I’ve interacted with lots of folks I never would have otherwise, disciplined myself to start (and finish!) books I might not have otherwise, practiced my writing, and generally had fun.

But perhaps the greatest contribution this blog has made–or so some people tell me–is in its introduction to the world of my 5-year-old son’s writing. I never intended to co-blog, but my son has proved more than adequate to the task.

I’ve had to slow the pace of my blogging a bit in recent weeks as schedule demands have increased. But the state of the blog is strong, and so may it remain.

Biblical Studies Carnival (November)

carnival

Bob MacDonald hosts this month’s Biblical Studies Carnival here. What, you thought blogs were so 2008? Well, they were. But they’re pretty 2012, too. Bob compiles a long list of blog posts in the field of Biblical Studies from the month of November.

I’m hosting the carnival next month, so if you know of good links I should include (anything that will be posted in December), please feel free to let me know.

Guest post: Robbie Pruitt on A.W. Tozer

Magnificent Monograph Monday this week features a guest blogger, Robbie Pruitt. I have guest posted on his blog (My Two Mites) before, and today he posts here. It’s a review of Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer. Robbie is a gifted youth minister, teacher, poet, reader, writer, and friend.

Nothing is more important than a right understanding of God, or “thinking rightly about God.”  In Knowledge of the HolyA.W. Tozer states, “The Church has surrendered her once lofty concept of God and has substituted for it one so low, so ignoble, as to be utterly unworthy of thinking, worshipping men.”  Tozer is addressing idol worship that many fall into by thinking wrongly about God.

It is into this reality that Tozer speaks in Knowledge of the Holy, which is an excellent study of the attributes of God. (See pdf of book here.)  Tozer describes in detail the importance of thinking rightly about God, going so far as asserting, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  When it comes to our thinking about God, everything is at stake.  We must think deeply and accurately about God if we are to know Him and worship Him rightly and truthfully.

According to Tozer, when we think about God, we are using the language and the concepts that our finite minds can grapple with.  Our understanding of God is limited, as God is infinite and we are finite.  We are also unaware of the fullness of God as there are attributes we have not had revealed to us yet, and which we do not currently have the capacity to comprehend.  Tozer says, “We learn by using what we already know as a bridge, over which we pass to the unknown. It is not possible for the mind to crash suddenly past the familiar into the totally unfamiliar.”

While Tozer is acutely aware of the magnitude of his subject, God, he is not deterred from writing a most excellent reflection on the attributes of God that we can understand and contemplate.  An attribute, simply stated by Tozer, is “whatever may be correctly ascribed to God.”  While there is ample evidence to conclude that what we do not know about God is vast, there is so much about God’s character and nature that we can accurately know.  To begin with, we can know His attributes, and we can ascribe these attributes to Him with confidence.

In thinking about the enormity of God, Tozer is quick to warn against idolatry and thinking wrongly about God.  He says, “To think of creature and Creator as alike in essential being is to rob God of most of His attributes and reduce Him to the status of a creature.”  We must not think of God in “human” terms, though we are using human brains and creation and are reasoning, to contemplate the essence of God.  In thinking of God we must proceed cautiously, reverently and prayerfully, in faith and in love, as we rest in God’s divine revelation to us.

If we are not cautious, the dangers are clear.  We can think of something less than God and find ourselves in idolatry, worshipping something less than God.  Tozer says, “If we insist upon trying to imagine Him, we end with an idol, made not with hands but with thoughts; and an idol of the mind is as offensive to God as an idol of the hand.”  The other danger in thinking about God is attempting to manipulate, control, or manage God, which essentially places us above God as “god.”  Tozer describes this phenomenon this way: “Left to ourselves we tend immediately to reduce God to manageable terms.  We want to get Him where we can use Him, or at least know where He is when we need Him.”

We must look to God with great anticipation and appreciation of God’s revelation to us.  It is adequate.  God has revealed Himself to us and God is knowable.  God, in His great love and mercy, has revealed Himself to us in His son Jesus and we can know Him in faith and in love.  Tozer asserts, “In Christ and by Christ, God effects complete self-disclosure, although He shows Himself not to reason but to faith and love. Faith is an organ of knowledge, and love an organ of experience.”   We can know God and we can experience God.  This revelation of God is a great mercy to us and is a gift to us in Jesus Christ, through His Holy Spirit, which leads us into all truth.

As Tozer says so eloquently, “For while the name of God is secret and His essential nature incomprehensible, He in condescending love has by revelation declared certain things to be true of Himself.”  These truths of God are, indeed, His attributes, and we can know them and study them.  Knowledge of the Holy is a great tool for this study as we seek to come to know the eternal, magnificent, and indescribable God that we seek to worship rightly.

An attribute study is a great way to come to know God more deeply and is a great way to explore the richness of the Scriptures in a more non-linear approach.  Knowledge of the Holy covers some essential thoughts and attributes of God, as well as doctrines, that every Christian should think about.  As Tozer rightly points out, “The study of the attributes of God, far from being dull and heavy, may for the enlightened Christian be a sweet and absorbing spiritual exercise. To the soul that is athirst for God, nothing could be more delightful.”  As we seek God and seek to have our thirsts for Him quenched, this book, in addition to Scripture, prayer, and community, is a great place to start.

A thorough reading of Knowledge of the Holy highlights so many truths about God.  We are plunged into the depths of God’s character and nature and are left in a state of awe and worship in the presence of an awesome God.  While we will spend a lifetime and an eternity seeking to know God completely and to worship Him rightly, we can know God and worship Him now.  To quote Tozer one last time, “To our questions God has provided answers; not all the answers, certainly, but enough to satisfy our intellects and ravish our hearts. These answers He has provided in nature, in the Scriptures, and in the person of His Son.”  How marvelous it is to wonder at His greatness and to think rightly about our God!

How people used Google to get to Words on the Word

One of the great things about WordPress, my blog host, is that it keeps statistics for its users. This includes a running tally of what search terms led to how many pages views on my blog. So, for example, I can find out that yesterday two page views resulted from a search engine search on “reaction about the story of jesus according to luke” (it led here).

The top three sets of search terms that have led people to Words on the Word are “colorado shooting” (goes here and here), “septuagint” (here), and “honest toddler” (any of these).

Some other search terms of note that have led folks to my blog:

  • “egalitarian pleasuring party” (see here for explanation)
  • “abrams guide to grammar” (I have not as of yet written one)
  • “first sermon and what not to say” (I could just feel the nerves of this searcher… but I trust they found this)
  • “how i am to speed of reading?” (with all due respect, hopefully this person is the same who searched for “abrams guide to grammar”)

No exceedingly bizarre search terms have led folks to WotW. Although “colonize Doug Wilson” (goes here?) might be the strangest so far.

It was all sex and the Septuagint

Here are my top five most-visited posts for the month of July. It was all sex and the Septuagint (and BibleWorks!). Much more is coming this month on BibleWorks, as I will be reviewing BibleWorks 9.

1. Sex as colonization?

2. Why you need the Septuagint (now featuring two new updates about Jesus and the Septuagint)

3. BibleWorks in the pew? (Not quite, but the next best thing)

4. BibleWorks and the Septuagint

5. Sex as colonization? A reply to my comment, and my reply back

If you haven’t already, you can vote here for what you want to keep seeing at Words on the Word.