Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My bad experiences with Mouthshut

1. Mouthshut in a nutshell.

I am penning down some of my bad experiences as an user with mouthshut.com . As some of you may already know, mouthshut.com is a consumer feedback website where a customer can post personal feedback on a particular product. It has a decently sized user community built around it. A fantastic concept as it empowers other would be consumers to make informed decisions regarding their purchase. Well the ground reality is quite different. At Mouthshut the show is run by an unscrouplous manupulator flanked by a team of unquestioning sycophants who abuse the review system to hoodwink the general public for monetary gain. Mouthshut does not want to respect the intelligence or opinions of it's users. This seems especially true for newly launched goods/services. It seems that manufacturer/provider pays Mouthshut for keeping negative or critical reviews about its products/services under check. This also includes censoring the review and at times deleting the entire profile of the Mouthshut user, reviews comments et al..without notice. What hurts the most is the utter contempt with which it treats the very users who generate traffic and thereby business for itself !

2. Unethical Manupulation.. aka cheating the consumer ! ?

There was this TATA Indicom Broadband customer who was having problems with the service provided to him. Mouthshut deleted his review 7 times and then deleted his Mouthshut user profile itself when he insisted on his right to post his review !
Check out these links:
Mouthshut deleting genuine reviews !
Complaint against mouthshut on Indian broadband forum !

It is obvious that Mouthshut is doing this shameless manupulation for money.

3. My 2 cents.

I was a regular visitor on Mouthshut. My Mouthshut ID was francis_ouseph. I needed some feedback on buying a bike and I have to admit that some of the Mouthshut members were quite helpful. But most of the reviews were not helpful. People were just venting their anger and frustration in their reviews. Then there were some star writers (Mouthshut assigns star status to some writers) Many of these stars enjoyed the patronage of the Mouthshut CEO Mr. Faisal Farooqui. He has got a profile on Orkut. I found some of the star reviews hardly useful and their comments rather vitriolic. Many of the reviews especially the technical ones were clearly below standards. If you don't believe me read some reviews under say Operating Systems. The best examples of the worst reviews are automobiles (especially bikes), electronic goods and software. Just compare these reviews to the reviews on product specific sites e.g. teambhp on automobiles, and you will know what I mean.

4. Mr. CEO wants to become famous.

Since Mouthshut as a concept was quite good, I decided to offer my two cents to Mouthshut. Mouthshut has a concept of Trust List where a member can add other members he trusts to his trust list. The CEO started appearing in my trust list be default without any action or authorization on my part. When I checked with Faisal he lied to me saying he was appearing in my trust list because he trusted me. Chicken poop ! Some other members claimed that appearing in each member's Trust List helped the CEO to send a personal message to each new joinee. More chicken poop ! Sending internal mails to new members can be easily automated on the server. You don't need the CEO to do that. If Faisal wants to become famous, he should try some other means. Ironically Faisal doesn't appear in everybody's trust list by default anymore.

5. Give em points for penning junk.

My second concern was the concept of MS Points. You got points for writing reviews or comments and rating them. People wrote reviews and comments and rated them compulsively just for the sake of getting more points. The higher your reviews are rated, the more points you get. You would find many instances of two reviewers rating each others' reviews very highly; clearly a case of you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours in return. A nice way to increase the traffic on Mouthshut at the expense of quality. I wrote my honest review of Mouthshut.com and posted it on their site. It was a very polite review without any hint of abuse or provocation. I didn't call the CEO a liar that he was, now I realize that I should have ! Suddenly many Mouthshut users were rating the review very useful, supporting my views and adding me to their trust list.

6. Banana republic takes over.

My joy was short-lived. After an hour I found out that my review on Mouthshut.com was deleted. I posted it again but with the same result. After an hour I was unable to log in; they had disabled my profile. The very next day they deleted my profile without informing me. My id was up for grabs. I sent them several mails to Mouthshut support, all unanswered. Mouthshut whose motto to assist the consumer with genuine feedback couldn't take honest feedback on itself ! Web communities are democratic in nature and censorship is applied only as a last resort to rein in abusive rogue elements. But Mouthshut's actions defeat the very purpose for which it was created. Mouthshut lacks a proper privacy model, in fact they seem to have none. Even emails sent via Mouthshut messaging (M2M) have to pass the censor board aka CEO and staff ! You send a M2M mail today and it reaches the intended receiver the next day only after the whole staff has gone through it ! Again they may decide to delete it if it doesn't suit their interests. This explains why other Mouthshut users are unaware of the abuse undergone by any particular member; the only communication option is M2M which is of course highly censored. They are behaving like the Chinese government on the web, partly out of ego and partly for monetary reasons.

7. Some old pals.

There were many Mouthshut users that I knew Anand Renake, Jithin Sarath, Anzaan, Xerses Pasha, Kaarkey (Karthikeyan), Grimm Reaper and many others. They would still be wondering about my sudden disappearance. I still remember the tiff with Kaarkey (in words) after which we became good friends

8. Early con-job.

Faisal started by conning his amla-mater early in his life. He studied at the prestigious St. Stanislaus school in Bandra, Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay). He and his gang of ex-students took the domain stanislaus on behalf of the school to help maintain a website for them. The school management gave the funds; but instead of registering the domain with the school, Faisal and co. cleverly registered the domain under their name; the school being unaware of the nitty-gritty and legal implications of internet domain name registration. Later, when the school had become equipped enough to manage it's own website and content, Faisal and co. have refused to return the domain's control, since they are using the site to put their own web ads (and pocket the revenue) against the school's wishes. Moreover, today this site has a banner on the website linked to Mouthshut.On the bottom of some pages on this site, it says "design courtesy Mouthshut" (I won't be surprised if Mouthshut removes these after reading my blog ! ) The school was then forced to register a new domain stanislausbandra. The school also maintains a alumni website stanislites. No wonder Faisal never mentions Stanislaus !

9. Poor copycats.

Faisal seems to be unable to generate fresh ideas on his own; but he is pretty good at plagiarising. He copied the concept of mouthshut from epinions and dooyoo, a site largely popular in US and western Europe. The look and feel of Mouthshut was copy-pasted from epinion down to the page layout, color scheme and font metrics; it was changed only recently. He borrowed the "Circle of friends" concept from dooyoo repackaged it to "Trusted circle" at Mouthshut. After that dekhona was his rather pathetic attempt at copying youtube. Just recently Mouthshut has launched the "employees' review of their employers", again a rather dated concept copied from the likes of vault, wetfeet and many others. Along with the concept, he must also copy and implement the ethical/best practices from these web-sites.

10. CEO in trouble ?

Of late the number web ads on Mouthshut has reduced, I see just one ad on their homepage now. Mouthshut has lost the trust of it's clients after it was caught red-handed while commiting click-fraud from within it's office. Poor Faisal is still trying to contact Google India.. Faisal Farooqui pushes his luck at google ! Nobody told him that it is tough to get in there. Well Mr. Farooqui, Eric Schmidt (the present Google CEO) doesn't gate-crash himself into our "friends list" on Orkut. We are not punished for using Google apps the way they is supposed to be used, and our privacy and freedom is always respected and guaranteed. Web is much more democratic than Faisal likes to believe. He is lying about not needing/rejecting VC funding, in fact he is desperate for funds. Instead of worrying about the wrongs with Google in India, he should clean up the filth in his own backyard. Faisal poses as an NRI !(The list of foreign cities of residence on his profile are ever on the rise),but the simple truth is that he and his whole family are very much settled in Mumbai. Of late I see from his updated profile that he has developed an interest in farming among other things, well that way he can at least feed himself when his website goes bust. Or he fall back on his family owned business of running some bakery, since he is an expert at cooking up stuff.

11. Others who were ill-treated

One of the many ex-members (because their profiles were zapped without their knowledge or consent) had started an online petition some time back. Mouthshut is running a scam abroad whereby they promise to pay for reviews but never does. Mouthshut is resorting to spam to seduce new users. You fall prey to the spam, register with Mouthshut and write reviews in the hope of earning some cash. You never receive anything. But if you complain about not receiving your pay, your login gets disabled but your reviews remain with Mouthshut. Check this link.. Mouthshut scam abroad !. Check out this one too.. Mouthshut cheats user abroad !. No wonder we see so many people from abroad posting their reviews and then going on an unexplained hibernation. Obviously they cannot log in and delete their reviews whereas Mouthshut gets their quality reviews for free.
One more link Online petition against Mouthshut where you can register your protest.

12. Mouthshut counter attacks ! .. Updated 7-Jan-2009

Mouthshut has started it's counter attack on me by using it's proxies to slander my name. It is using my least recently visited blogs to do this, in the hope that I may miss out on their dirty lies. Some of these blogs are not even publishing my replies to these false accusations. One female (Mouthshut Id KAAJAL) has claimed to have received lewd messages from me. Kaajal's lie !. She also goes on to lie shamelessly that I have been banned from Mouthshut for such "activities". I have never heard of this female while on MouthShut. Infact I had never interacted with any female on Mouthshut, leave alone sending them any message ! Also mouthshut censors all lewd or inappropriate or politically incorrect or even remotely inconvenient messages. The sender or the intended receiver gets no warning or intimation whatsoever. I wonder how this lady actually managed to get a lewd message at all ! He (If it is Faisal himself masquerading as KAAJAL) or she is such an ape-brained liar. It is so disgusting to know that Faisal employs a team of whores to back him up !

Update: 8-jan-2009: The blog owner has removed the libellous comments. How I wish that he retained all the comments (including mine); Mouthshut's lie would have been exposed more thoroughly !