I’ve been following with some trepidation the efforts (see here and here) to get 1000 reviews of Firefox on C|Net’s download.com. Why do I say trepidation rather than excitement? There are various reasons…
First of all, I don’t think that review-spamming is a legitimate method of promoting Firefox. The idea that “we don’t provide boilierplate text, and want people to give fair reviews” looks good on paper, but there is an inherent bias. People reading Asa and Blake’s blogs are unlikely to give Firefox bad reviews, no matter what.
It just strikes me that mozilla.org is encouraging astroturfing, which I tend to think is dishonest. It’s sort of like going to the Democratic National Convention and asking Kerry who Americans should vote for. No matter how much you insist that you want his honest opinion, you already know what its going to be beforehand, because of the person to whom you’ve intentionally directed the question.
I think there are various other legitimate ways to increase mindshare. Some of them we’ve been pursuing for some time, others we haven’t yet started, and others we haven’t even yet conceived. But asking people to increase mindshare this way I think is a step backwards from the kind of organisation I’d like to see mozilla.org become. So far I’ve been happy and supportive of all of mozilla.org’s marketing initiatives for Firefox. I can’t say I’m going to get behind this one, though.
Don’t get me wrong. I love Firefox, and sincerely think it’s the best browser out there. I have no plans to stop devoting time to what I think is an amazing project. I’m just a little saddened to see mozilla.org encouraging this kind of behaviour.