More scuttlebutt continues to emerge in the case of the glowing reviews for Belkin products that turned out to be written by a glowing-review mill set up by a Belkin employee. The Daily Background, which broke the story in the first place, has found evidence that the Belkin staffer who was apparently behind the scam was also publishing favorable reviews under multiple accounts. And Gizmodo has published an incendiary e-mail, supposedly from an ex-Belkin employee, that charges the company with making crummy products and then engaging in an array of sleazy practices, including posting negative reviews of competitors’ products, engaging in rigged demos at trade shows, supplying bloggers with products that sported custom, non-standard firmware, and paying off magazines to publish favorable reviews.
I have no information on whether any or all of the charges in the Gizmodo letter are true, but my instinct is to be skeptical about the notion of Belkin (or any company) paying magazines for positive coverage. When I worked at PC World, Belkin networking equipment sometimes performed well in our tests; I hope it goes without saying that we said we liked it because we did like it.
Much of the coverage I’ve seen of Belkingate, including comments here on Technologizer, has been from jaded folks who have said that lots of companies game user-review systems, and therefore user reviews simply don’t provide reliable advice. (Speaking of PC World, here’s a story it published after I left investigating the issue.) Time for a quick T-Poll–feel free to leave further thoughts in comments: