Beat deceitful developers at their deceitful games by calling them out on their deceitful “awards”

Birds might not do it. Bees might not do it — nor even, educated fleas. But… retailers do it. Auto dealers do it. Package tour operators do it. And countless other professions and occupations do it. They all sign up to membership of a trade association that has at its core a “code of ethics” and provides its members with a “Seal of Best Practice” (i.e. a logo/stamp of approval, more or less).

That logo, that graphic, can appear in many a different colors, shapes, styles, and sizes. The format doesn’t matter; it doesn’t even have to be a graphic. The fact that it exists matters. As a visual shorthand, it’s there to signal a commitment to fair and honest dealing with customers everywhere – and, as such, will be found everywhere.

Or almost. Because where it won’t be found is in relation to the output of one of the world’s biggest industries: software development.

There’s no universally acknowledged “quality seal” in the software realm. One will not find a universal “stamp of approval” on a software developer’s advertisement, on a software developer’s product, or atop a software developer’s web page because there’s no global federation of software developers (and likely never will be). Instead, what there will likely be on those advertisements/products/web pages is a logo, a graphic, denoting something else - an award.

As many awards as possible, in fact, because on the basis of an earlier era’s hype about “you’ve read the book, now watch the movie,” it’s today a case of “you’ve seen the award, now get the software.”

Just how persuasive an awards-splattered web page can be was examined back in 2007 by developer Andy Brice. Having authored a distinctive new application, Brice used a submission service to upload it to various Internet software review sites, and then sat back to see what, if any, honors it might harvest. He didn’t have to wait long.

Brice’s application garnered up quite an audience. It received dozens of awards:

  • DownloadMost 5 Star Rating
  • Download Pipe 5 Star Rating
  • Allapp.com 5 Star Award
  • Download Rage! 5 Star Pick
  • DailySoft 5 Star Award
  • FreesafeSoft Editor’s Pick
  • Cool Discoveries endorsement
  • Good Software endorsement
  • LMP Software Downloads 5 Star Award
  • Soft Hypermarket 5 Star Award
  • Excellent Software 5 Diamond Award
  • Software Invertech 5 Star Award
  • Rbytes 5 Star Award
  • SharewareList 5 Star Award
  • DownloadReady 5 Star Award
  • Trialware Certified 5 Star Award
  • MacintoshFiles 5 Star Award
  • DownloadtoPC 5 Star Award
  • NewSofts 5 Star Award
  • GetFreeSoft 5 Star Award
  • GoldSafe 5 Star Award
  • Allempicks 5 Star Award
  • Allapp.com 5 Star Award
  • 5/5 DownloadsCafe

Brice’s software was a massive success, appraised and acclaimed by review sites many of which may be as familiar to computer users now as they were to Brice back then, seeing as how their icons and logos continue to feature on the web pages of many software developers worldwide.

Despite that success though, Brice didn’t get his app into every home in every land. Not because he was tired. Not because he was bored. But because his app was useless: Awardmestars consisted of nothing more than a PAD (Portable Application Description) file stating: This software does nothing at all.

(Just to make sure there could be no misunderstanding, Brice also attached to the PAD a faked screenshot of what the software displayed when in operation: This software does nothing. It doesn’t even run. It was created as an experiment to see how many shareware awards it got. )

For the first time – and that’s a pretty damning indictment of every many computing magazine and computing website out there – for the very first time, the scale of awards fraud was exposed in 2007 by a private individual using his own money to finance the site submissions and his own blog to publicise the results.

Brice’s Awardmestars should in theory have killed off every site established to rake in an income from Google AdSense by generating traffic from an “award-winning” developer’s website’s back-links. But in practice, while some sites that honored Awardmestars have since vanished, others have joined the throng.

Yet how successful they (the “review” sites) will be is another matter. Because where once a lack of scruples was characteristic of phony awards website owners, such absence of ethics today hallmarks a sadly increasing number of software developers. Unlike their predecessors, they (the developers) don’t even bother now to submit anything at all, but instead screen-capture the phony award sites’ logos and icons, and paste ‘em onto their own web pages.

Of course, more experienced computer users aren’t suckered in by worthless awards that can be linked to, or copy-and-paste icons that lead nowhere. Such users take one look at BestGoldSoftDownload Editor’s Pick and think: yeah. Right. And (usually) head off, instead, to another developer where it’s pretty obvious the awards listed are authentic and their representation on a developer’s webpage, genuine.

Except… that’s not necessarily the case. In response to the growing savviness of at least some computer users, an equally growing number of developers are indulging in award-swapping: that is, willfully displaying a favorable review, or genuine award, next to one product from their software stable when that review or award was actually given to a quite different product in the same stable.

Accidental? No. Deceitful? Yes. Ethical? Absolutely not. Software developers – of all people – do not make mistakes when it comes to engineering the pages that promote their ‘wares. They know which product has earned which award…. and which product most certainly has not.

Nor is award-swapping the only manifestation of duplicity. As the credibility of 5 Stars from TopWorldBestSoftPick has diminished, the need to capitalise on endorsements of commensurately greater credibility has become increasingly evident.

Such need was graphically demonstrated by IObit, whose Security 360 software product page was plastered with the logos of Reuters, AOL, and Forbes in what could only be construed as an attempt to signal that these institutions – and institutions they most certainly are, not just modest enterprises – were endorsing the product.

But they weren’t. None of them had at any time reviewed or reported on Security 360. After complaints, IObit removed the corporate logos (Reuters, AOL, and Forbes) from the Security 360 product page on November 3, 2009.

Where the IObit affair was concerned, it was pretty easy to see that something odd was going on: Forbes, self-evidently, never has published and never will publish software reviews. The lesson to any unscrupulous developer is therefore quite clear: if you’re going to proclaim, suggest, or even imply that your product has earned some blue-chip endorsement (i.e. an endorsement of high credibility/value), then better make sure first that the blue-chip concerned really is in the (software) endorsement business.

Generally speaking, a good blue-chip is a computer magazine. And it’s one such title that’s currently at the centre of a small though as yet unresolved mystery: PC Authority magazine, published in Australia… the country that’s also home to software house GetData whose product stable includes an app to restore accidentally deleted material, RecoverMyFiles.

According to GetData’s website, RecoverMyFiles earned a 5- Star rating in PC Authority’s July 2008 issue, at which time the magazine wrote:

“Losing files is easy, but luckily to undelete them isn’t much harder with this fantastic software. This is the best data recovery software for those who find themselves in a sticky situation. It’s so easy even first timers shouldn’t have trouble using this product.”

That’s a pretty persuasive recommendation. Yet curiously, it’s by no means unique. According to iCare Software – not a fellow Australian company, but ostensibly based in the USA, although its actual provenance is obscure – its iCare Data Recovery app was also reviewed by PC Authority, earning so high an endorsement that it was honored in the magazine’s 2009 Best Tech Awards, published in January 2010, and praised thus:

“Losing files is easy, but luckily to undelete them isn’t much harder with this fantastic software. This is the best data recovery software for those who find themselves in a sticky situation. It’s so easy even first timers shouldn’t have trouble using this product.”

Baffling. Is PC Authority using exactly the same words a year apart to review the products of two different companies? Is the reason why the same laudatory review is quoted on the websites of those two different companies because, in reality, GetData and iCare are one and the same? Is the software the same but being put out under two different names? Who knows?

More to the point: why should such questions have to be asked anyway? A computer user invited to download or purchase a software product shouldn’t have to play amateur detective with every cited review and every displayed award. Rather, it should be “this is the product; this is the award; this is the reason why you should have it.” Simple as that.

If only.

Against a background of deceit that’s as old as the Internet itself and more slick than snake oil selling ever was, it is now, more than ever, required of every computer user to posses the common sense to never to accept anything at face value. There are no internationally accepted standards of conduct. There is no international code of ethics. There is no “Seal of Best Practice” to denote the existence of a commitment to the fair and honest treatment of consumers.

And sadly, in the absence of an international award police, it seems that for every reputable and hard-working software developer and/or publisher out there, there’ll continue to be another someone somewhere else with quite the opposite agenda.

Perhaps, when it comes right down to it, every computer user should take to heart the two maxims instilled into every journalistic trainee, everywhere:

1) When in doubt, find it out;

2) Or: when in doubt, leave it out.

To be in doubt where computer software is concerned is to be insured — insured against everything from cynical exploitation to practices considerably more sinister. And to leave software out of your computer, if you can’t find out the truth or otherwise of its review or award, is the best defense you can mount not only in your own interests, but those of every honest developer as well. (The irony of the situation is some developers – who practice deceit – do have quality products; if only they would recognize the fact and rethink their marketing strategies, they could gain customers through honesty rather than lies.)

Though scammers exist in abundance, there are still countless numbers of honest, plain-dealing software developers whose products may not be suitable for your needs, but whose continued existence certainly merits your encouragement.

By shunning any software, available free or not, whose claims cannot be instantly checked and validated, you’re helping the honest folks to thrive. There may be no award for that kind of courtesy – but the long-term benefits both to you and the industry as a whole will far exceed any number of phony, glittering stars. (Of course we won’t come after you with pitchforks if you decide you need software provided by developers of deceit.)

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56 comments

  1. MikeR

    Aiseesoft

    Just a quick update to my original piece about deceitful developers and the way they manipulate awards (both fake and real) to boost sales of their products.

    This year I’ve actually noticed a decline in this particular practice. But yesterday I noticed a refinement which will also have been spotted by other dot techies: the manipulation by a software developer of the “user vote” ratings on GOTD.

    For those who didn’t witness it unfolding, the Aiseesoft DVD Ripper attracted a staggering 816 positive “thumbs up” in the first 2 hours of the 24-hour availability period. That’s the fastest achieved approval rating of any software offered on GOTD this year (and possibly, ever.)

    Fifteen hours into the availability period, the number of positive “thumbs up” had reached 1,308. This figure is more than double the next highest approval rating for any software offered by GOTD this month (630 “thumbs up” to the well-respected Easeus Partition Master Pro.)

    After 15 hours, the Aiseesoft “thumbs up” actually exceeded the total of all votes cast both for and against all software made available on 24-hour donload by GOTD this month.

    After 24 hours, at the close of download availability, the Aiseesoft DVD Ripper had amassed 2,382 “thumbs up” votes, seemingly the highest — by far — approval rating of any software ever offered in GOTD’s life time.

    An obscure software developer very probably owned by another company — and thus a false-flag enterprise anyway — Aiseesoft and its owners take good care to keep its contact details, geographic location, and ownership provenance a secret.

    Aiseesoft’s website is also tagged with a WoT alert — though as with many aspects of WoT, the tagging isn’t necessarily accurate because the rating is based less on website experience as on Aiseesoft’s horrendous reputation for forum spamming, including the posting of product endorsements from wholly fictitious users.

    Although GOTD’s “thumbs up” ratings system has been flawed from the outset — it’s supposed to be a “user vote”, but GOTD makes no requirement of anyone to prove they’re a “user” before registering their vote — yesterday’s cynical thumb-bombing of the system is certainly one for the record books.

    As to my vote, and in view of the utter contempt shown by the developer for the public at large, I’m happy to nominate Aiseesoftas the winner of Most Disreputable Software Publisher 2010.

  2. MikeR

    @Fred Harding:

    Great post Fred — and my sincere apologies for this belated reply: I’ve been away on, er, holiday (I know, I know, quite deplorable.)  I’m off to look at the BST Media site so thanks for the link: sounds good!
    @ Matt:  excellent tip, Matt. The kind of guidance you’ve provided is, like Fred’s, invaluable.

    @ Ashraf: a review well up to your usual high standard today (the watermark app)  highlighting the kind of conduct that’s down to a (sadly) increasingly usual low standard.

    When are developers going to awaken to the fact that if they sell their products like snake-oil, then snake-oil is what consumers will conclude those products are — and, as a result, stay clear?

  3. Matt

    Great topic!

    It seems there are multiple issues:
    1. Sites that GIVE meaningless 5 star awards to every submission
    2. Authors / distributors that claim false awards
    3. Shill supporting comments at legitimate sites
    4. Awards that mean less than many think they do – eg. Softpedia’s 100% clean means only that – it passed malware testing.

    How many sites can you trust?
    One of my first ports of call is http://www.snapfiles.com – not the greatest of lists, but I like the positive split of freeware and shareware (other than the odd advert/promo, but the bills have to be paid somehow), if you want to search freeware only, you GET freeware only, and there’s usually something to fill most needs, and it’s generally good.

  4. Fred Harding

    Hi folks
    I believe I have found a genuine reviewer of software.  They say:
    BST Media recently launched the software reviews site http://www.BSTdownload.com. This website includes a collection of reviews for free, trial and shareware software available to download directly from the site.
     
    The software selected for reviewing are from categories that users needs most often and are updated regulary. The software reviews available on this site have lots of high quality screenshots so that the users can quickly create an idea about it.
     
    I looked at a review they did on my Tekline Universal Media Player and clearly they have checked it out. What they  said can be found at

     
    http://bstdownload.com/reviews/tekline-universal-media-player-1/
     
    I believe this is a sincere attempt to provide a genuine review of software.  They also show a screenshot of playing a video, which is not one of my screenshots so they must have really reviewed it. For example:  They gave the following
    Tekline Universal Media Player 1.0.2 editor’s ratings

    Resources score: 25/35
    Ease of use score: 18/20
    Look and feel score: 7/10
    Functionality score: 25/35

    This shows that they have tested the software which resulted in me getting 4 stars.  Their comments were interesting too.
    This site and reviews looks genuine to me.  What do you think Mike/Ashraf/anyone?

  5. MikeR

    @Joji:  As your opening question is one of the most endearing ever sent in my direction, I’m inclined to hop a flight over to your part of the world and insist that your faculty award you top marks in every subject. Whether or not you take any of ‘em anyway.
    That I’m, er, not a teenager, nor in the slightest way gifted where technology (or foresight) are concerned may perhaps be deduced from the fact that I was once invited to join a small business in a leafy part of California not far from a seat of higher learning.

    I even went so far as to look at living out there, because house prices were cheap and one home in particular had great appeal.  But I decided against it. 

    At that time, of course, Stanford University was already well known. 

    However, Silicon Valley was still five years’ into the future. 

    As was  the 5,000% increase in the value of the house I decided against buying.

  6. Dim

    Excellent article! I do not know English, but even without the translation is clear that fraudsters worldwide has become very much. I am glad that I understand people like you, Ashraf, is becoming more!
    Thankful and for the detailed program reviews. These surveys are trained to order and care.
    (Translated from Russian into English performed by Google Translations)

  7. Joji

    @Ashraf: Eh? What is thy binding sir? “Swept away by his own website”?
     
    Sorry… I don’t understand. Oh, and starting from next week, I’m going to start writing my own article on “How to make your laptop live longer” little by little when I have time. :) I’ll also draw a picture of a funny cartoon! I’m a good artist. :D  Keep your eyes peeled in your inbox Ashraf… my techie friends taught me how to keep my laptop in good shape, I’m inspired and I want my article to be posted… if you approve it of course… :P
     
    ~Joji~

  8. Joji

    @MikeR: Just curious, are you an adult or a teen? I’m a teen… currently in high school. XD
     
    But the odd thing is that highschool seems slightly easier and more fun that elementary school. O_O Especially French… surprisingly  I love French. The projects are fun and so does learning it! :D

    I used to not like French at all when I was still in elementary school, it wasn’t fun at all. :(
     
    ~Joji~

  9. MikeR

    @Joji:  Way to go, Joji — and lots of luck with the upcoming challenges (even it means you’re going to have to cut back on time spent on your favorite sites.) Raymond and AskVG are favorites of mine too. dot tech still manages to intrigue me the most, largely because I still can’t figure out how Ashraf does without sleep for, er, months at a time. . .

  10. Joji

    @MikeR: What… agent? What do I do as an agent… Sir R? LoL.

    Ugh… I gotta get ready for upcoming tests, school is getting kinda tough now that “death month” have come again!
    No wait… there are 2 death months. They are April and May… I heard those are the killer months where the teachers give you tons of projects and tests to do! D:

    Gotta work hard! X(

    ~Joji~

  11. Joji

    @MikeR: I share my stuff with 3 websites. They are dot.Tech, AskVG, and Raymond.cc.

    Raymond is… currently extremely busy like Ashraf was.

    Vishal Gupta (aka VG) is a guy who writes articles based on different Microsoft OS, security updates for browsers and Windows, and also has his own giveaways. :) The cool part is that VG is an employee from Microsoft! Before dot.Tech i was a fan of VG, and I still am I fan of him. I can’t wait to get Win 7! He shared many things on how to tweak and customize Win 7! :D

    Then here comes dot.Tech. I have only recently known his site through… Google? I’m not sure, but I like dot.Tech because it has a variety of different things topics. Very reliable. :D

    So pretty much, whenever I find something interesting, I share my stuff to both sites (Ashraf and VG) ’cause they both are my big techie fans! XD

    ~Joji~

  12. MikeR

    @ Ashraf, #36:  well done — you’re correct, the kind of conventional search undertaken on that site for an award it has itself handed out doesn’t yield a thing; Googling, however, does.
    My apologies, therefore, to LeKuSoft and Topsofts in respect of the 5 Star Award issued by the latter to the former on the basis of a review that states, in part:

    With this application you gonna watch high quality DVD movie. . . The clean and clean interface make sure that both beginners and verterans could control it within minutes.

    Why dot.tech can’t produce review material of this standard escapes me.

    @ Joji # 37:  You keep on like this, you can be my agent. Thanks for the thought but the more different voices there are on here, the better.  dot tech has a knack of publishing some of the most reasoned, and reasonable, tech related  posts around  — including your own. I’m sure many contributors could write at greater length on an appropriate topic dear to their heart and appropriate to Ashraf’s objectives for dot tech.

    @ Fred, #38:   You’re right, Fred. This is a better place than most to attempt to do something, or try something, or. . . Well. Whatever can be devised as a way of loosening the grip of the untrustworthy on the marketplace, and strengthening the bond between honest developer and honest customer.  [PS: As to Ashraf’s reply to you, I should perhaps clarify that I’ve merely offered to make the coffee, if he’ll do everything else. Seems fair enough.]

    @ Ashraf #39: was it one lump or two — or are you off sugar altogether?

  13. Fred Harding

    Is there a list of reliable sites that can be trusted to provide true and accurate testimony to a software product’s worth?
    Softpedia appears to be one, Softsea perhaps another and Tucows from what I have read here.  Am I right?
    Here is a great opportunity to list those that can be trusted.  It could be the beginning of a quality control list that users (and software developers) can have confidence in.  And it would be found here at dottech.org.  Now wouldn’t that be something!   Come on Mike/Asraf write an article part two to this one,  headed perhaps “Awards you can trust and why!”
    From small acorns big oaks grow.
     

  14. Joji

    @Ashraf: I think MikeR should be one of the authors on this site since he’s so pro on writing mini-reviews don’t you think Ashraf? He’s quite active on the site and quite proffesional. Me? Not much, I’ma semi-pro… errr below pro let’s just say. :)
    To make it simple… above average. :D

    ~Joji~

  15. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @MikeR: I actually looked at those awards. You are mostly right except for the fact that the Topsofts award does exist – but trying to find it via the Topsofts website is impossible. Rather, Google it. :)

  16. MikeR

    Today’s GOTD offering of the LeKuSoft DVD Ripper was of interest to me so I thought I’d take a quick peek to see how good it is before downloading it.

    The developer ‘s website cites awards from Brothersoft (Editor’s Pick); Topsofts (Editor’s Pick); Download Planet 5 Stars; Tuccows: 5 Cows. There is seemingly an additional endorsement from ChiliDownload. The integrity of the product – no adware / spyware / viruses –  is vouchsafed by Softpedia. 
     
    1. BrotherSoft Editor’s Pick
     
    The “Editor’s Pick” accompanies a review by a Brothersoft Editor. The BS Editor (the website’s phrase, not mine: ‘BS’ in this context seems a mite ill-chosen) is exhaustive and objective and  can surely have nothing to do with any promotional blurb the developer may have provided.

    It can only be a a coincidence that this same BS Editor’s review is reproduced word-for-word, though disgracefully uncredited, at the top of the GOTD page, where GOTD traditionally allows software developers to explain themselves what their products are all about.  

    Strangely enough, the BS Editor’s review also appears word for word on dozens of other review sites that must, like Brothersoft, have independently and impartially reviewed LeKuSoft DVD Ripper before providing product endorsement..
     
    2. Topsofts Editor’s Pick
     
    Topsoft’s Editor seems never to have heard of the product he has picked. A search for “LeKuSoft DVD Ripper” on topsofts produces. . . nothing.

     
    3. Download Planet*
     
    Bizarrely for a software developer, LeKuSoft seems to have problems with numbers. It can’t read them. Download Planet reports that it has awarded the software three stars. LeKuSoft says Download Planet has given it five.

    Confusion is compounded thanks to the way Download Planet’s review appears word for word on a website dedicated to  DVD Best Tools. . . 
    Except where that particular website is concerned, it’s reviewing an app called Earth BluRay Ripper. . . complete with product pack shot.

    (Note: it’s possible a pack shot of the Carol BluRay Ripper – identically reviewed to LekuSoft BluRay Ripper and Earth Bluray Ripper  – also appears on the websites hosting Carol’s product. But I don’t know for certain, because my Avast AV’s threat monitoring blocked access the instant I tried to go anywhere near those sites. Sorry, “Carol”.)

     

    4. Tucows
     
    Although LekuSoft hot links the dubious Brothersoft review/award, the seemingly non-existent Topsofts review / award, and the 5 star Download Planet award that’s actually 3 stars and uncannily consistent with the text of a developer hand-out, LeKuSoft seems quite unable to provide a link to one of the Internet’s most respected sites: Tucows.

    Even though Tucows has awarded LeKuSoft DVD Ripper 5 Cows.
     
    But perhaps the cattle have all gone home. Tucows has no record of any award. A Tucows search for “LeKuSoft” returns: “There are currently no matching search results under Windows.”
     
    5. Chili Downloads
     
    Chili Downloads helpfully reports that LeKuSoft DVD Ripper has been reviewed 0 times by users. In the absence of such reviews, Chili wishes to be told if the program is safe (well, is it?) and / or  any good (well, is it?) So far, no-one has bothered to reply. However, regardless of its own unanswered queries, Chili has “awarded” some kind of “100% Clean Certificate, perhaps because it’s had a look at Softpedia, which has indeed given LeKuSoft a clean bill of health.

    As for Chili’s award: the website seems unsure of whether it’s in the software honors business or market gardening of the more exotic kind. So as to cover both eventualities, Chili gives LeKuSoft DVD Ripper 4 stars out of a possible five. But four chilis out of a possible four chilis.

    Well, there’s clear and expert guidance for you.
     
     *  Download Planet: Readers of the original piece may like to note that website’s ingenuous, though sadly not ingenious, invitation:
     
     If you find the information on TheDownloadPlanet.com useful and would like to help other people out, or would just like to thank us for providing you with information, the best thing to do is to post a link back to TheDownloadPlanet.com. Just copy and paste the entire html code from the textbox below into your html document (web page):
     
    Gosh. Must do that right away, then.

     

    PS: I don’t hold GOTD responsible for this latest example of the way honesty, clarity and transparency informs software marketing and all the dozens, if not hundreds, of Internet websites which “review” them. GOTD can’t vet everything: that’s the user’s job.

  17. MikeR

    @ Fred: thanks. Yours is an example to be followed by the entire industry. That, as yet, it won’t be is not your fault, or your responsibility, but ours. We, the consumer.

    As everyone knows, change for the worst always gains traction when its momentum is left unimpeded. Which is what’s happened where a significant section of the software industry is concerned.

    Change for the better will gain traction if its momentum is sustained, with — just to quote a couple of the most recent posts — Adrian’s remark about Softpedia and Download.com, and JoJi’s quick ferreting around in one developer’s marketing methods serving as examples of  how that can be done.
    Fred’s action is one of those which though seemingly small and isolated, is  in the same category as Andy Brice’s three years ago: two software developers not afraid to say ‘enough’s enough’, and in so doing providing exactly the kind of momentum that change for the better requires.

    Thank you again, Fred.  

  18. Fred Harding

    Hi folks
    I have removed my 5 star awards from my websites even one or two which I believe were genuine.  I have however left those icons of those who have actually tested my software for viruses  (I had feedback from them) – but they are not awards but test icons.
    What Mike and others here have said here software developers should take note, as I have.  I take great pride in my work and I value my integrity and professionalism and I do not need to use “bogus” 5 star awards to establish my credentials and it is difficult for unsuspecting visitors to determine which is real and which is not.
    My BCS award speaks for itself as it is a professional award and is recognized in the IT industry (although not known by the general public, as Mike rightly says, which is a shame).
    So thanks to all for the feedback and I hope that by taking such a stand other software publishers will do the same, but I doubt it.
    One last thought.  Some sites show stars based upon user feedback.  This may be the best and only way to shout about one’s software.  It is user feedback not vendor feedback!  What do you think?
    Fred Harding
    Tekline Publishing
    PS: If you visit my website http://www.teklinepublishing.co.uk again, makes sure you refresh your web browser as the awards may still be in you browser cache and will still show.
     
     
     

  19. Joji

    Odin Software is a VERY good example.
     
    a) fake 5 star awards (duhh)
    b) fake “live support”
    c) fake testimonials
    d) horrible grammar (really horrible, no kidding)
    e) contact me on messenger? WTF!
     
    Result: Don’t trust at all.
     
    ~Joji~

  20. Joji

    @MikeR: Ya I had a site mainly on a kid’s online game called “Club Penguin”. I quit for 2 reasons.
    a) CrossFire is my type now, not a big fan of CP; ruined my Disney and instead of preserving the Canadian pride, they messed it up… screw you CP!

    b) Like dot.Tech, other sites are pwnage ’cause they have their own domains and they know how to use Photoshop and CSS… not me, I’m newb at those. :(

    ~Joji~

  21. MikeR

    To everyone here: many thanks for the feedback — and all the points raised: a community as fair and thoughtful as this, there surely ought to be some way of harnessing its collective strengths, its collective ideas, for the greater good. . ?

    Anyway. I wanted to leave this comment section to everyone else rather than me appearing to seek a monopoly on dot.tech’s precious web space and dot.techies’ equally precious time. But at risk of doing both (!) a response / clarification is particularly owed to Fred Harding. So, with apologies in advance. . .

    Fred:

    I won’t reprise your post in detail but if you’ll let me just pick up on one phrase, that can then be the handle for what follows:

    Mike does have some valid points but the awards thing is all about marketing and he evidently was not looking at this with this in mind.

    Actually, I did have that in mind. That’s because I was in the persuasion business. So my perspective is conditioned by my background. Which means I inevitably had marketing – i.e., the publicity, promotion and selling of a product (in this instance, computer software) — when penning my piece.

    But the marketing aspect didn’t predominate there. Because half that narrative didn’t relate to it. Rather, the piece dealt with deceit on the one hand. And fraud on the other. To recap:

    The Deceit
    A software review website is established with the appearance of being the consumer’s best friend. But it ain’t. Its actual purpose is as explained in my piece. Consumers visiting the website believe they’re accessing a valuable source of informed and objective guidance. But they’re not. They’ve just been conned.

    The Fraud
    A software developer uploads her / his / the company’s latest app to various software review sites. Included with that upload is a description of the app. What it does. How it works. Who it’s intended for. And how great it is. The developer doesn’t write that text with a view to deceiving the consumer. The developer writes that text with a view to impressing the review site. And why not? How the heck else is some publicity, some recognition, to be gained if the developer doesn’t try to embrace a source that’ll likely provide that publicity, that recognition?

    No con there. But then, but then. . .

    The developer learns that the website has reviewed the app. Is featuring the app. And has just awarded the app a 5 Star Editor’s Best Pick. And so the developer hastens in triumph to the website and sees the review and sees the award and realises, right there and right then. . .

    That it isn’t any kind of review at all. That it isn’t any kind of award at all. Because it isn’t any kind of software review site at all.

    It’s a con.

    At which point, the developer has a choice to make:

    (1) Hey, Software Review Website Person: I’m not playing along with this kind of crap. Either review my work honestly and report on it honestly. Or don’t review it and don’t report on it. Thanks.

    Or the developer can say:

    (2) Hey, everyone! (friends, family, the cat) Guess what? You know that software review site I submitted to? Well, it’s turned out to be a con. It doesn’t actually review anything. There aren’t any product testers. There aren’t any review writers. But. . . But. . . Get this, folks: it’s just given me a 5 Star Editor’s Best Pick Award! And it’s also published, word-for-word, everything I sent to it when trying to persuade it to look at my stuff. . . only it’s printed it in such a way to make it look as if the website itself is saying it! Yay! Does marketing get any cheaper or greater than this?

    To which, of course, the answer is: no. It doesn’t.

    But then, cheapening the consumer doesn’t get any greater, either.

    In the hunt for free publicity and free promotion – for free marketing – the developer has decided to go along with the deceit. And in so conspiring, has turned a deceit into a fraud.

    Now. Am I sympathetic to the software developer – and especially, the little guy, the honest guy, the one who’s up against the $billion ranks of the giant corporations on the one hand and the massed hordes of the scamware sleazebags on the other?

    Of course I am. But that sympathy cannot extend to condoning complicity in a con trick. In taking a deceit, and turning it into a fraud. Because the instant I condone such behavior . . . I’ve become complicit myself.

    Worse: I’ve just demolished yet more of my defenses against those who don’t see a potential customer as a person but as just another sucker to be manipulated. Another mark to be exploited.

    Fact is though, I’m a consumer. And proud of it. I exercise a freedom of choice that is my freedom – and it’s not a freedom to be subverted by the fraudulence of others. (At which point it’s probably worth saying, I’m also an elector. But I’m not as proud in that particular regard: I long since allowed my freedom of choice to founder on the institutionalised deceit of politicians’ promises.)

    So, there you have it, Fred. I was thinking about marketing when I wrote that article: the use of awards and reviews by software developers who know they’re phony but go along with the con anyway; the cut ‘n paste use by developers of phony awards that weren’t even given. Because, well: it’s great marketing, folks.

    In the scale of things, does it matter? Making a fuss about something as trivial as a phony review site? A counterfeit endorsement? A fake award?

    Well. . . Yes. I think it does. Because I think it’s one of those frontiers of consumerism where the fortress walls can indeed be built to keep out the mendacious and the malicious. Hence my regret that, to date, nothing has.

    There’s no “label” – for want of a better word: icon, graphic, symbol, what-have-you — on a software box, in a software ad, or a software developer’s website that instantly assures me that yes, the producer of this product has values consistent with me and mine. So yes: this producer’s software (free or paid-for) can be welcomed into my computer, my home and my life.

    Sadly, the BCA Award to which you refer isn’t that ‘label’. It’s not well-known to a general consumer audience and as like as not, never will be – a shame, because it’s not easily earned; the fact that you did says everything about the calibre of your work.

    (Something else also speaks to your integrity: that you didn’t come on here to promote yourself or your products. If it hadn’t been for Bruce’s post, I wouldn’t have known, nor, I’m guessing, would many others here, either. A big thanks to Bruce then: he shone a light where it was well deserved. Even if you’d evidently have preferred to keep on waving that big ol’ bushel of yours.)

    I hope the above clarifies things. Nothing in that text relates to you, Fred, nor is intended as a reflection on your work, ethics or integrity.

    Instead, it’s a reflection of how I feel. As an ordinary guy. As an ordinary consumer. I’m fed up of being the target of fools, phishers, frauds and phonies. And because I’m fed up — and also because I don’t think I’m alone — I’m thinking now’s the time to start hitting back.

    Quite how to do that is beginning to emerge from the thoughtful posts of dot.techies here.

    Which is why I’m wondering if this particular cyber space community, small though it is, might just be the place to start. And why – hello, Ashraf: hope you’re ready for this – I’m just about to write him privately about exactly that.

    For now though, sincere thanks to Fred. And the same thanks to everyone else here for their time. . . and their forbearance!

    Mike
     

  22. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    @AL Bundy: Are they? You sure about that? I know for sure IObit and DVDFast are the same, and I know SogSoft is a WinX reseller. I was told DVDFast is also a WinX reseller. (Take note that being a “reseller” does not mean they are the same two companies.)

    That said, assuming they all are the same company – and mind you I don’t think they all are the same company – it is common business practice to sell you products under multiple brand names because it helps maximize profits. As a consumer I don’t like it, but as a business most everyone does it (the most notorious example are automakers – often a luxury brand will be pretty much the same car as the non-luxury brand but the luxury brand will cost a lot more). That is not to say I am defending the business practice; I am just saying it isn’t one or two companies.

    In my personal book, selling your own products under a different brand name is not illegal, and it is not bad enough to be unethical; rather I see it as being distasteful – if companies do that they should be transparent about it.

  23. AL Bundy

    @Ashraf: Did you know that http://www.Iobit.com, http://www.Dvdfast.net, http://www.winxdvd.com, http://www.sogsoft.com, and http://www.evonsoft.com  are all the same company? They are all Iobit. Reminds you of a bad criminal with multiple alias. Three of the sites basically offer the same DVD Backup Software. I wonder why the need to copy their own software? Evonsoft does not have a working email and if you email them, it bounces back like a bad check. Also on Evonsoft.com is a program called Crap Cleaner. Does that name sound familar? Do you think they came up with that name on their own or perhaps borrowed it from someone else? Iobit has a history of posting false reviews and logos of companies without concent on their website. I would be highly suspicious of anything coming from Iobit.

  24. Peccadilloes

    a great enhancement of your fine efforts would have been greater with a link to a site which monitors such frauds so we could review such frauds and let it inform our future choices. I fell for IOBIT 360, not sure from you or gizmo or themeslves! I felt Forbes was odd but living in australia was not sufficiently informed of forbes mission.
    there are only honest and dishonest ways of doing business. it is better not to deal with necessary evils as ultimately, the bargain with the devil will taint us.

  25. JH

    Whenever I see anything with more than a couple of awards (from sites, eg Cnet, that I recognise) I leave the page. I feel the same way about the ‘cast iron money back guarantees’ that you usually find further down the page.

  26. jivadas

    “But because his app was useless: Awardmestars consisted of nothing more than a PAD (Portable Application Description) file stating: This software does nothing at all.”

    So what’s the problem?

    “Brice also attached to the PAD a faked screenshot of what the software displayed when in operation: This software does nothing. It doesn’t even run. It was created as an experiment to see how many shareware awards it got.”

    In other words, the software worked precisely according to its specifications! It deserves every star it got.

    But seriously, only a challenged person takes any account of such logos. That’s why we have wonderfolk like Ashraf around: people we can trust.

    xØx
    jd

  27. Jyo

    @Dave from Seattle: I like that wall of shame idea!! Might piss off those developers though… This award deception topic(and article) is epic! I usually don’t pay much attention to these so-called awards, but now I know how big of a role they can play in deceiving people and increasing company profits.

  28. Ron

    Mike,
    I agree with you completely, no caveats to add. The mendacity of some developers and far too many awards sites is a problem that grows worse and worse, imo. It’s been many years since award icons made any difference in my interest in a software; privacy statements and EULAs are enough of a deal-killer to walk away from a program, if need be.

    Even download sites can lose their objectivity, in my experience. There was a time when Cnet and SnapFiles were my primary sources, but these days I find the vetting process followed by Softpedia to be sufficient. http://www.softpedia.us/

    Keep up the good fight, my friend; you serve the community well.

    @Fred Harding: I can apppreciate your sentiments and understand the need for marketing your software. It seems apparent you are doing a service for users who find a need for your work. Unfortunately, the “bad guys” use exactly the same marketing techniques for less honorable reasons. Sans an effective control for this practice (which I feel might compromise the autonomy of the Internet), I see no real solution to prevent their behavior.

  29. Fred Harding

    Hi Bruce

    Thanks for your balanced comment. I can see no difference between someone have an advertisment on their site advocating some software even though it may be rubbish and the site does not
    itself endorse it.. but gets paid for the priviledge than what Mike comments on. Likewise, many sites have google ads and and the site gets paid per click. One can describe this deceitful but it is marketing and it is part of daily life.

    Mike does have some valid points but the awards thing is all about marketing and he evidently was not looking at this with this mind. I might add that the sites that he listed were not those that added awards to my software.

    As for not putting my website on the comment, I thought that by filling in the website on the comment box it would be added but it was not. I was not hiding anything in fact, I want to encourage people to visit my site and download my software so commenting as I have on this site is all part of marketing. Sorry folks but one has got to earn a living somehow. I wonder how many people visited the site by virtue of it being mentioned.

    So is you would like to download some great FREE software why not visit my site at http://www.teklinepublishing.co.uk and if you wish to see my software awarded by BCS I have placed some information related to it at http://www.teklinepublishing.co.uk/bcs.htm if anybody is interested. It was a great occasion and the award I received was made at the Hilton Hotel in London. The BCS site is http://www.bcs.org

    Best wishes to all

    Fred Harding
    Tekline Publishing

  30. MerryMarjie

    Thank you for this well-researched, well-written article! As a matter of course I give little regard to all of the “seals of approval” for software, but I admit to having given consideration at times when seeing acclamations from certain worthy computer sites. Even experienced users can be dazzled by glowing reviews from top-notch web services.

    Kudos, MikeR!

  31. Bruce Fraser

    Re: Fred Harding’s comment.

    Fred makes very valid points. I was curious why he deliberately omitted all reference to the identity of his own software; just gave veiled references to its accolades.

    So, after a little bit of digging, here it is: http://www.teklinepublishing.co.uk/. Looks like good stuff. He has nothing to hide.

    By the way, the reason the link bcs.org doesn’t work is that he added too many “http” at the start.

  32. phoenix_rising

    Great read, Mike! Very informative! My personal favourite in terms of misleading/false advertising is the perennial oldie of using selective quotes. Such as “… THE GREATEST” (when the full sentence actually reads: “This is the greatest pile of crap I have ever encountered.” Or: “THANK YOU SO MUCH …” (“for completely stuffing up my computer.”)

    Of course, this is not confined to software promotion. It’s used in movie and book promotions, you name it. I guess the message is never to take things at face value.

  33. Fred Harding

    Hi

    As a software developer I agree to some extent as to what you said, however not everyone should be tarnished with the same brush. Yes, I do have awards on my website supplied by vendors who publish my software on their websites. Most are useless of course I admit but that is not the point as I shall explain in a moment.

    Some of the aforementioned vendors actually test the software before giving an award and some don’t give awards. I know this because when I first uploaded a pad file with my software, they reported back that it had a virus… actually a benign false virus that hits Delphi programs only, but nonetheless it was detected.

    It was reassuring to find that my software was actually looked at and even the person named who tested it was provided. I was able to sort out the problem quickly, and having been retested it returned clean.

    Now back to the real point of awards. One must not forget that in a market that has hundreds and hundreds of freeware programs (mine is freeware) that to get people to look at it requires ways of marketing. The awards do help in this regard. First they catch the eye and if you are savvy that they may not be worth anything, it does not mean that they will simply move away as you suggest. Many will actually view what is written about the software by the software developer and especially if their are screen shots and tutorials available.

    Secondly, back links help to increase ones visibility on Google and other websites so that as in the case of my software it is on the first page, which it might not have not been had not those links be there. The awards help to do this.

    I do not believe that I am deceitful and all I am doing is using whatever marketing methods I can do to get my software to the public. The software is free so nobody is being ripped off. What I do is no different from the advertisment banners found on this or other sites. It is called MARKETING!

    Incidently, I am a award winning programmer and one of my software products reached the Oscar like finals of the BCS Awards – and THIS IS A UNIVERSALLY ACKNOWLEDGED “QUALITY SEAL” in the software realm. So your statement that there is no such “quality seal” is incorrect. I suggest you take a look at the BCS awards at http://http://www.bcs.org before you make such a blanket comment. The software even got a mention in the Financial Times.

    Kind Regards

  34. Victor Healey

    Mike, I appreciate you calling this to my attention. Internet web pages can be a minefield of misinformation and as you point out, outright lies meant to deceive the gullible. I wonder how many GOTD files full into this category?

  35. Ashraf
    Mr. Boss

    You, my friend, are an artist armed with a pen. I consider myself to have fairly good reading skills and even I had to look up the meaning of some words you used XD.

    That said, terrific article!!!