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Old 06-20-2015, 02:08 PM   #1
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Active Captain Reviews - Edited or Real?

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Originally Posted by Xsbank View Post
I am also skeptical of lists and reviews. It's good for the list-maker as it is another source of revenue, but if you have paid to be included in a list you won't stand for a selection of bad reviews so by default, lists are biased.
Sorry, but that doesn't describe anything that we do at all. Every listing is completely and totally free. And if any facility expects special treatment regarding reviews because of some type of payment, they're going to be very disappointed. In fact, something similar happened only once. A marina told us that if we didn't remove a negative review from a real boater who wrote it, they wouldn't renew any sponsorship in the future. I cut them a check that afternoon for the remainder of the year and turned off their sponsorship. I wish I could say which marina it was - and the interesting thing is that they later asked to be a part of the sponsor program again (we turned them down).

The magic actually works like this...

A facility has great reviews because they provide great service. They start to realize that more and more of their business happens because of their reviews and exposure. So they want to find a way to first, make sure the review site stays around, and second, want additional exposure for their high ratings. It becomes something they're willing to pay for.

This is significantly different from the previous, common advertising model where whoever was willing to pay, got the exposure. It is much better for the boater when the exposure is based on quality of service rather than a marketing budget able to pay.
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Old 06-20-2015, 02:38 PM   #2
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So what is the criteria for removing a negative review from a real boater?
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Old 06-20-2015, 02:45 PM   #3
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Jeffrey just mentioned Amazon and that's a great example of volume of reviews. I look up products on Amazon even when purchasing locally. Now every item has some negative reviews but it's sure easy to get an overall impression.

I think at first the reviews of service providers on AC will be of limited use. They will be much like asking here in that you'll only have one or two comments. It's the accumulation over time that will make them beneficial.

I'm also sure there will be unfair negative reviews and stacked positive reviews where a facility "campaigns" with regulars to get reviews. No system can be perfect. I will say this though. The information and reviews on marinas and anchorages has been very useful to us and generally very accurate. We've learned simple things like which to ask the marina for the south side to avoid the noise from the bridge. We also filter what we read as any reader must to maximize value of reviews. If the review criticizes price, for instance, just look up or call and get the price and decide if it's ok to you. We see a lot of talk in reviews about showers and laundry facilities and don't use either at marinas so we dismiss that partially. We do pay some attention to it as we think it reflects on the quality of the marina, the upkeep, and the cleanliness. No showers wouldn't bother us. Telling us they're filthy and poorly maintained would.

When it comes to service reviews it will be the same. Not sure I like the thousand categories mentioned (ok, not a thousand), but it's like marina reviews where currently we sometimes see comments that someone is a great Cummins mechanic. If I have a different engine it may or may not apply.

I'm looking right now at a "First Choice" marina on AC. It has negative reviews. One says the docks are woobbly on the ends. I assume that's something like wobbly. One says noisy, only one shower/bathroom per gender, and the dock hands need more education (he doesn't say in what subject), another repeats the words "not the best, not the worst" over and over, another gives only one star because the diesel fuel price didn't include sales tax, another said the key system was strange and you'd have to stay there to understand what they're talking about plus the restrooms were always out of toilet paper, and another says the Wifi is useless and rates it fifth choice unless you're a Russian billionaire. It's a facility though with over 100 reviews. Clearly though they haven't been censored of negative reviews and comments.

No system is perfect, but I find the reviews on AC and other sites to be very helpful.

The boatyard with marina that we use for service is reviewed two places that I can find, AC and Google. It gets a 4.3 on Google and 4.1 on AC. There are only 5 reviews on Google and only one has any comment. It has 8 reviews on AC but very little on the shipyard, mostly marina.
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Old 06-20-2015, 03:07 PM   #4
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So what is the criteria for removing a negative review from a real boater?
There is a procedure that we follow in order to stay in compliance with Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It involves making contact with the boater to discuss what actually happened. In 98% of the cases, it's resolved. As of today, 13 reviews over the last 8 years were removed because the boater refused to make changes after their review was clearly not in compliance with the terms of use they agreed to in order to gain access to the system.

There was a very recent example discussed on the ActiveCaptain Facebook group. A boater gave a marina a highly rated review but within the review made very negative comments about a broker not affiliated with the marina - the broker was a completely separate company. Both the marina and broker objected to the review. We refused to allow the broker to "defend" themselves by writing their own review on the marina because terms of use require the review to be about the marina listed. The marina also didn't think it was useful to have the negative broker comments even though it was a highly rated review.

This is sort of akin to writing a review for a restaurant and complaining that the service received at the nearby department store was bad. It was made even worse in that we have a review system for boat brokers now that included the broker in question. A negative review could have been written there instead. We made this very clear.

After 3 direct communications, the boater refused to remove the broker comments from the marina review. So the review had to be deleted by force. We hate doing it. It doesn't happen often but this was a clear violation of our terms of use. Reviews need to be fair to the boater and the businesses effected.
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Old 06-20-2015, 03:32 PM   #5
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We need all the tools we can get to provide us information. No one source is gospel. I have found Active Captain to be extremely useful and look forward to the additional areas of review and comment. Similarly, I love Amazon reviews, Google reviews, Yelp reviews, Trip Advisor reviews. I don't subscribe to any services that require payment, such as Angie's List, so can't comment on the reviews as I don't know how freely people can put negative reviews. When I look at BBB, I'm a bit distrustful of the ratings of members but I do look at the number of complaints very carefully. If you have 300 complaints in the past three years, I don't care if BBB says they were all resolved and closed. Also, none of our businesses are BBB members nor do any provide them with any information. Our only comment to their solicitations is "No Comment." If Active Captain required payment to be listed on it, I'd think far less of it.

Someone mentioned Waggoner's. I like their guide, I like Waterway Guide, I like Cruisers Net, I like Marinas.com. I like the Bahamas Guides. But none of those are complete.
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Old 06-20-2015, 04:40 PM   #6
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I don't know, we just finished 330 miles, Somerset Mass to around Albany, marina hopping every night, and we simply didn't find the Active Captain reviews very accurate or helpful. For example, sure, Kingston was a cute little town and we enjoyed it, but despite the reviews the city marina bathrooms and (one) shower were really, really nasty, and I'm not counting the drunk guy relieving himself on a tree next to the dock gate and then passing out, that's not the marina's fault. Yes, one review said the nearest supermarket is half an hour away by city bus - but a key piece of missing info is that cabs in Kingston are on a flat fee system of $5 within city limits which makes the distance to the stores no big deal. For another marina I added a phrase to a service entry simply about the physical location of a bathroom - the phrase was almost immediately deleted, I suspect because the marina is a big sponsor of AC.

I know, lot of AC info is only as good as the contributors so AC itself can't be faulted, and I understand that people can have subjective standards for what makes a bathroom "nasty" for example, but I simply don't believe that the submitted content is almost never edited. On our trip we would consult AC, then Marina Life, then the Maptec Embassy Guide, and hope for an accurate consensus.
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Old 06-20-2015, 05:01 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by kthoennes View Post
For another marina I added a phrase to a service entry simply about the physical location of a bathroom - the phrase was almost immediately deleted, I suspect because the marina is a big sponsor of AC.

.
If I recall you did not put that phrase in a review though, just in the services section. I think that's why it was deleted as, although it was entered as a fact, you were using it in a review manner. Whether it should have been deleted or not, I don't know. I would have hoped if you had a problem with it you would have addressed that problem privately asking for an explanation. Then you wouldn't have to speculate as to the reason for it's removal. What was his explanation if you asked?

I've disagreed with Jeffrey before and communicated those disagreements in private. AC is certainly not perfect. If it doesn't work for you, I understand. I don't just take the ratings, but read the detail, and I totally disregard some reviews. Any review is really only for the brief time one observed it too. You observed dirty showers and someone else observed clean. I hope you reviewed to note that. I read a review that said one of our favorite dockmasters was very unfriendly. I don't know if it was a bad day for the dockmaster, the reviewer or both. But still valid if they felt that way.

However, I've read enough bad reviews of sponsors on AC to state unequivocally they do not remove bad reviews simply because they are sponsors. I've also read glowing reviews of non-sponsors telling how much better they were than a nearby sponsor. Their reason for removing your comment, I can't know, but based on their record in other cases, I don't think it was because of a sponsor.
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Old 06-20-2015, 05:27 PM   #8
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Quote:
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For another marina I added a phrase to a service entry simply about the physical location of a bathroom - the phrase was almost immediately deleted, I suspect because the marina is a big sponsor of AC.
Bull. There are no "big sponsors" of AC although we have a pretty substantial relationship with Defender, Garmin, Furuno, and 45 other developers/manufacturers.

Karen would have been the one to change anything added to the details section of the marina you brought up. Details are factual pieces of information. If you had added something that would be characterized as an opinion, it would have been removed. For example, if you changed the Heads field to "Yes - but there are too far away," your addition would have been removed. Karen normally emails the boater to tell them when this happens and request that they add the opinion info to a review (or to edit their existing review). If she was too busy, which has happened this season, she would have skipped that step. We average more than 2,000 items like this every day now.

It should be noted too that the facility you stayed at in Kingston had a 3.6 average rating with 37 reviews. That's usually a pretty good sign that there are some problems with staying there.

Even more curious - if you know first hand about the taxi system, how come that wasn't added? I mean, it's sort of underhanded to point out how you use a resource, show how it's deficient, and then don't do your part to add to it. Am I missing something there? Where do you think all of this information comes from (that's free to you)?

Quote:
Originally Posted by kthoennes View Post
but I simply don't believe that the submitted content is almost never edited.
Reviews attributed to a particular captain are never edited. If they require editing and the captain refuses to do it, the review is deleted. You're welcome to believe otherwise but that's exactly how it happens.

Detail information for the markers is factual. It's not attributed to any individual. Facts can be verified. If you change the phone number for a marina, we're going to validate it and and possibly delete/edit it if it turns out to be wrong. Should we do anything else than that?

And again, if someone were to add something to the "Discounts" field like, "they should offer more fuel discounts" - that would be removed because it's not factual; it's opinion and only appropriate in a review.
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Old 06-20-2015, 05:47 PM   #9
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The phrase I added to the service section was: "bathroom is in the basement of a house up the hill from marina." I suppose that can imply something negative, but it's not a review or an opinion, it's simply a piece of factual information. Now I don't mean to get hung up on a few words on a review site, or take up TF'S members browsing time picking nits. And I and lots of others leave short phrases in the service boxes and they're often very helpful, and my other info on other marinas was not deleted. This just sticks in my mind because AC keeps insisting they almost never tinker with submissions, and if they do they communicate with the submitter. That's just not true in my experience and so it makes me doubt all of AC's information because I don't know what else they sanitized for sponsors. It's the same reason I don't use Yelp, because they feed you the reviews they think are "useful" and bury others (well, make them a step harder to find). Like some other posters have said, let me see everything and I'll weigh them as I see fit. Yelp weighs them for me but I don't need Yelp substituting their judgment for mine, and I can't trust AC if they sanitize the information submitted.

(P.S. I haven't submitted an AC review of the marina with the Bates Motel bathroom and I probably won't for a few reasons, even though we had a really bad experience there. I'm one guy who was there one day, so that's a pretty slim basis for a review. Second, they were very nice and it's family run, so I'm not inclined to slam a family. Third, lots of other reviewers rave about that marina on AC, so okay, maybe we caught them on a bad day.)
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Old 06-20-2015, 05:55 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by kthoennes View Post
I don't know, we just finished 330 miles, Somerset Mass to around Albany, marina hopping every night, and we simply didn't find the Active Captain reviews very accurate or helpful. For example, sure, Kingston was a cute little town and we enjoyed it, but despite the reviews the city marina bathrooms and (one) shower were really, really nasty, and I'm not counting the drunk guy relieving himself on a tree next to the dock gate and then passing out, that's not the marina's fault. Yes, one review said the nearest supermarket is half an hour away by city bus - but a key piece of missing info is that cabs in Kingston are on a flat fee system of $5 within city limits which makes the distance to the stores no big deal. For another marina I added a phrase to a service entry simply about the physical location of a bathroom - the phrase was almost immediately deleted, I suspect because the marina is a big sponsor of AC.

I know, lot of AC info is only as good as the contributors so AC itself can't be faulted, and I understand that people can have subjective standards for what makes a bathroom "nasty" for example, but I simply don't believe that the submitted content is almost never edited. On our trip we would consult AC, then Marina Life, then the Maptec Embassy Guide, and hope for an accurate consensus.

Hmmmm...

Where you contacted 3 times and still refused to comply with your terms of service?

Suppose this would be counted as one of the 13 forced deletions...

1 down, 12 to go
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Old 06-20-2015, 06:11 PM   #11
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Hmmmm...

Where you contacted 3 times and still refused to comply with your terms of service?

Suppose this would be counted as one of the 13 forced deletions...

1 down, 12 to go
Never contacted at all. I really don't mean to make a federal case out of one little piece of bathroom data though, I only bring it up because we're talking about review sites and their reliability.
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Old 06-20-2015, 07:29 PM   #12
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I'm splitting this AC discussion from this thread on finding honest marine repair to retain this thread's integrity.
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Old 06-20-2015, 07:30 PM   #13
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This just sticks in my mind because AC keeps insisting they almost never tinker with submissions, and if they do they communicate with the submitter. That's just not true in my experience and so it makes me doubt all of AC's information because I don't know what else they sanitized for sponsors.
This is now multiple times you've mentioned how we treat sponsors differently even with others giving example where we don't. I'm personally insulted it.

You clearly haven't understood what I've written here about details versus reviews, don't choose to, or just want to be argumentative. I'm done explaining it.
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Old 06-20-2015, 07:32 PM   #14
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I'm splitting this AC discussion from this thread on finding honest marine repair to retain this thread's integrity.
You're welcome to do that but I'm not going to take part in it.
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Old 06-20-2015, 08:07 PM   #15
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Pretty snarky, I'd say, for someone who is providing a "service." What is really being discussed here is whether or not a review site can be trusted and so far little has been said to persuade me from my opinion.

Seems like an issue with your product that needs to be addressed. I'd say you're not getting it. Or you can't write any better on a website than we can on a review site.

Try and figure out why we are skeptical and fix it. Make the problem go away and you will live happily ever after.
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Old 06-20-2015, 08:49 PM   #16
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Pretty snarky, I'd say, for someone who is providing a "service." What is really being discussed here is whether or not a review site can be trusted and so far little has been said to persuade me from my opinion.

Seems like an issue with your product that needs to be addressed. I'd say you're not getting it. Or you can't write any better on a website than we can on a review site.

Try and figure out why we are skeptical and fix it. Make the problem go away and you will live happily ever after.
Yes, Jeffrey can get snarky but the questions been asked and answered, asked and answered, asked and answered, and his integrity and ethics have been questioned so I'd probably be the same.

Let's talk facts. The one making the accusation in this thread didn't post a review. They did have a service comment removed and should have been contacted, but say they were not. They are welcome to post the same comment and others they have in the review section. The service section is different than the review section.

13 reviews have been deleted in 8 years.

The criteria for deletion of a review is failure to abide by the site rules. Reviews are not edited by the site, but reviewers are allowed to edit non-conforming reviews. I think we would all certainly agree the example given by Jeffrey was reasonable, an attack on a broker not involved with the marina.

Very clearly, AC does allow negative reviews, including against their sponsors. It's easy to go there and see them. Jeffrey says he's lost sponsors over refusing to remove negative reviews and I believe him. I don't personally know him or have any direct interest but it sounds very logical.

I honestly don't know anything further Jeffrey can do to answer more clearly. He's addressed the issue. He can't make accusations go away. He's invited the offended party to post a review of the marina in question and the person has refused. He had an employee make a decision to delete something posted in services per her job. It wasn't a review. Whether her judgement was right or wrong, he can't review every action she takes. Had he received a complaint there or in private, he probably could have looked at it and responded.

I'm not always a fan of the way he expresses himself on this forum, but I'm a fan of his site and do think he runs it very professionally and ethically. Nothing expressed today changes that opinion.
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Old 06-21-2015, 06:49 AM   #17
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Just my 2 cents: We traveled the entire ICW from Key West to Norfolk and then up the Chessie to Annapolis last summer. 5 months on the water. I had several guide books to refer to including AC. Typically I would research anchorages and marina's 3 days out. This took quite a bit of time, but I always went to AC first. I found the opinions on AC generally accurate but the more reviews the better idea you get about an anchorage or marina.
If I only had one reference it would be AC.
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Old 06-21-2015, 08:26 AM   #18
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Agree. I have used the AC reviews and found them to be at least as reliable as recommendations made by friends or acquaintances; one benefit AC provides is exposure to a larger pool of folks with opinions. But opinions is what they are and anyone expecting on-line reviews to mirror their version of reality is going to be disappointed. Personally, I think the service AC provides the boating community is hard to overstate. Accusations that sponsors are treated differently are clueless, unfair and reflect the jaded opinion of folks whose reviews I would ignore.
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Old 06-21-2015, 08:30 AM   #19
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Not sure how others use AC...but compared to cruising before AC and now after.....WOW.

Wouldn't be without it.

Like all the tools in my kit.....just needs to be used correctly.

This winter trip I hope to be a better contributer over just consumer.
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Old 06-21-2015, 09:27 AM   #20
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Imagine if AC was like every other app or website and they ran advertisements on the page. The application is clean, fast, oh yeah and FREE. I find it funny that AC is being accused of favoring sponsors. In this case the marina in question is not a sponsor, but there is one just up river from the City Marina. If the acquisitions were true AC wouldn't have any issue with negative input on that marina.
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