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Developers can now respond to reviews in Google Play: Is this a good thing?

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Last week, Google rolled out a big update for developers in the Play Store: certain developers can now respond to individual user reviews.  Right now, only developers with the “Top Developer” badge will be able to make use of this new feature, but Google says it hopes to roll this out to other developers soon.

However, this got me thinking: is this really a good thing, or could this be a recipe for disaster?

Think about it: as most tech enthusiasts quickly come to find out, almost all tech sites, forums, and blogs are places where lots of trolls like to hang out. The Google Play Store is no different, with lots of trashing, bad-mouthing, and generally unfair reviews left by people who don’t even take the time to figure out what the purpose of an app is. So I can see value in developers being able to defend themselves now, but doesn’t this have the potential to turn into a shouting match between mean-spirited trolls and defensive developers? Now that developers can busy themselves by responding to potentially hundreds of negative comments, couldn’t this take away from the time that the developer otherwise would have spent making improvements to existing apps, or even releasing brand new apps?

As an editor for Pocketables, I find it really hard to bite my tongue when I see trolls bad-mouthing other readers, or even other editors on this site. So I can’t even imagine what an app developer must feel after spending countless hours working on an app, only to read uncouth comments left by people who have no idea what they are talking about.

In other words, I don’t want developers to worry about responding to mean people; I want them to spend their time developing great apps. Let other people – smarter people – respond to those trolls. It happens in the Play Store, and it usually happens on tech sites like Pocketables (if you wait long enough): other people step up and defend those who are being attacked.

I guess that, ultimately, this is a good thing, as long as developers don’t allow themselves to get too caught up with this. At the very least, they can thank those who take the time to say something nice. But what do you think?

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John F

John was the editor-in-chief at Pocketables. His articles generally focus on all things Google, including Chrome and Android, although his love of new gadgets and technology doesn't stop there. His current arsenal includes the Nexus 6 by Motorola, the 2013 Nexus 7 by ASUS, the Nexus 9 by HTC, the LG G Watch, and the Chromebook Pixel, among others.

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7 thoughts on “Developers can now respond to reviews in Google Play: Is this a good thing?

  • Avatar of Paul E King

    I think when you have an application with 10 5-star reviews called “blinky blink for the HTC EVO 3D ONLY” and someone comes along and rates it a 1-star because it force closed on a Samsung Galaxy Tab, there’s a need for a public response.

    That or a shaming of the developer for not locking down the app to only the 3D…

    However, I do not think much good will come of this… they did this on Yelp! and created a situation where business owners have to be diplomatic as hell to not appear to be bashing the customers. There’s a long-running fight on one of the reviews I now keep reading that probably has scared away any customers ever…

    Then again, sometimes it’s also useful to know that the person or business is insane… so.. there is that.

    Reply
  • Avatar of MAX POWERS

    I agree this could turn into a shouting match but honestly you can tell when someone is a troll. The developer has the option to respond.

    Reply
  • Avatar of graham722

    I think it is definitely a good thing. The shouting match pitfall is there for the developer to fall into, but it is pretty obvious. If that bothers them, they are probably already get all worked up over the trolls on xda anyway.

    More importantly, the developer can strategically reply to relevant comments. I read app reviews, and I am honest when I leave my own. I would like to see developer responses to legitimate and considerate criticism and/or questions. The Android market is still kind of the wild west, and that would help demonstrate responsive devs.

    Reply
  • It will turn into your average 4chan thread.

    Reply
  • I believe this could definitely get out of control for some like @Paul said. I think the real problem is that people don’t review the apps worth a dam. It’s a review or an explanation of your experience. But again as Paul suggest, too many people use the review Page as a whining fest for their own personal problems. If more people would be made aware that just because you can go to the Google Play store, DOES NOT mean all the apps contained will PLAY nice with your phone. Case in point. My og Evo4g. I purchased Gameloft modern Warfare 3. I was excited about the hardware of my new Evo LTE.. The game is currently not compatible. So I spent a few $ (on sale) for the game. I would like it to work on my new phone but that doesn’t mean it has too. I hit the button on the bottom (of every app Page in the store) and sent a direct, polite and best to my knowledge Informative email about MY particular occurance. They responded and asked for proof of payment. I’m waiting to hear back. Point is. If review Page was for just that and individuals knew their phone may not work with everything. Then the developers would probably be more inclined to chime in and even give a quick tip. You’ve also stated its for top developers so hopefully those individuals are savy enough anyhow.- Already apparently doing great work.
    Thanks for the info as always

    Reply
  • Avatar of Steve Gaudreau

    Agreed, if the devs spend time defending their work they can’t fix their app. I don’t trash anyone’s work I just simply uninstall it. Like that solar charger app you duped us all with on April fools day. You so crazy!!! Lol

    Reply
  • While this has the potential to turn into a shouting match as you said, it will also allow us to see how a developer handles themselves. If the developer gets way off base then maybe I won’t want to support them or their software.

    Also, and more importantly, it will allow the developers to answer comments about the software itself.

    I can’t tell you how many times I see people give 1 star ratings and it is usually because they are just too lazy to read the documentation or they simply do not understand something.

    If they complain that it does not work on such and such device maybe the developer could address the problem or tell them how something is supposed to work directly.

    Most users don’t bother to contact the developers or even go to their forums.

    Reply

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