Just like how the road to you-know-where was paved, the concept of online user reviews was conceived with the best of intentions.
User-generated web reviews were intended to give consumers a leg up on that appliance, that restaurant, that blockbuster opening Friday at the theater -- honest opinions on whether to spend your money or to keep it in your wallet.
The problem is telling the difference between an honest review and one written either by a product rep pumping up his product or by a former employee smearing someone's or something's good name.
Professors and graduate students at Cornell University created ReviewSkeptic.com (www.reviewskeptic.com), a beta site that allows users to paste online reviews and determine whether the writers are really George Washington or Pinocchio.
The site's researchers offered great advice to consumer resource Bottom Line Personal magazine about how people can call the bluffs of online user reviews:
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