Who Is Loyd Eskildson, and Why Does He Game the Amazon.com Review System?

There’s a Top 100 Amazon.com reviewer named Loyd Eskildson — that’s what he calls himself anyway — who is not only prolific but, um, hyper-current as well. What do I mean by this? Well, it seems that any time you see a review by Eskildson, it is near the very top of a given book’s page of reviews — even though the review is often months old. Eskildson has apparently found a way to game the Amazon review system, re-dating his reviews so they always get prominent placement. I noticed this only because the same two-star review of Freakonomics kept magically appearing near the top of the reviews page. Eskildson’s preferences and predilections (including a fondness for exclamation points!) are pretty clear from a glance at his reviews, but his re-dating motives are, to me at least, less clear. It is also unclear if Amazon.com is aware of such trickery; I am guessing it does not, since it is otherwise pretty vigilant in policing non-compliant reviews. What is clear is that Eskildson would seem to owe me and Levitt a few bucks, since this paper by Judith Chevalier and Dina Mayzlin argues that negative customer reviews are pretty effective in dampening online book sales.

De Gustibus Non Est Disputandum

Natal e o seu Bem-Estar

Acompanhei a discussão sobre perdas de bem-estar com os presentes de Natal hA alguns anos. Mas o Liberal Order achou evidências de que o artigo de Waldfogel possui suporte nas evidências empíricas. Claro, na época, alguns me achavam (e Waldfogel)...


For those of us who don't speak Portugese (from www.freetranslation.com):

Christmas and his Welfare

I accompanied the argument about losses of welfare with the presents of Christmas there are some years. But the Liberal Order found evidences of that the article of Waldfogel I possessed to bear in the empirical evidences. Clear, in the epoch, some found me (and Waldfogel) ...

Tim Lambert

Other funny business in the Amazon reviews of Freakonomics: John Lott used his Amazon account to post a one-star review of Freakonomics, signing his name to the review. What he forgot was that he had used the same account to post an unsigned five-star review of his own book. Details are here.


In the form that allows you to post reviews, Amazon includes a hidden time value, named time. If they use that to determine the date and time of the review, it would allow you to build your own form that submitted to Amazon's server, but changing the value of the time field to whatever date you'd like your review to have.

Amazon's usually much better than that, it's pretty surprising that the problem exists.


I met an author who had a work published by HBS Press. He mentioned to me that there are professional reviewers who are paid by the publishers to post reviews on Amazon.

I suspect that this a pro.


Well there are a few things to say about this. First Amazon has a system of placing reviews of top ranked reviewers at the top of the review pile. So I doubt Loyd Eskildson is "gaming" the system.

It is just a further exampe of how you and Levitt are real sloppy thinkers, who just get part way into stories and analysis (for details see:http://www.menrohm.com/2005/05/inside-mind-of-steven-d-levitt.html )

Also, you write:

"What is clear is that Eskildson would seem to owe me and Levitt a few bucks, since this paper by Judith Chevalier and Dina Mayzlin argues that negative customer reviews are pretty effective in dampening online book sales."

Does this mean you owe money to realtors, teachers, sumo wrestlers and others you have said negative things about in your book?

David McCune

He's not the only one. Another is Glenn Whelan. He is another whose entries have the annoying property of staying first in the queue. It's clear to anyone who has posted a review that most people don't go past the first page of reviews. If you want recommendations, you need to be first. I fiddled around with the above-named person's entries, and they tended to refresh if they received an "unhelpful" comment. The guy has hundreds of reviews, so I don't see how he could be supervising all of his entries. I suspect an automated approach.

I guess the question, from a Freakonomics point of view, is what incentives are at work? Why should someone care enough to game the system?


You could have clicked through the link and seen yourself that Eskildson's review of Freakonomics is dated 11/27/2005 - i.e., today! He is most definitely gaming the system. Which makes your comment about sloppy thinking pretty embarrassing, wouldn't you agree?



You sound like a typical Freak groupie. You are actually even more confused than Dubner. First Eskildson's review is dated 11/25/2005, not as you say 11/27/2005. It seems to be a recent review and posted sequentially.

Dubner doesn't even make this mistake. He says: "it seems that any time you see a review by Eskildson, it is near the very top of a given book's page of reviews—even though the review is often months old."

Dubner is

A. Talking about the fact that Eskildson reviews on all books he reviews are near the top. Dubner doesn't get it but this is because Eskildson is a Top 100 Book reviewer.

B. Dubner notes that they are at the top even when "the review is often months old" !!

Which I would say kinda proves that Eskildion isn't changing dates to get his reviews to the top.

Dubner and you, because you are obviously drinking the same kool aid, are just hyper-ventlating in typical Freakdom half-logic.


Stephen J. Dubner

GreatObserver (7:43 p.m.) misses the point exactly. Perhaps I didn't explain it in simple enough language for him. The Eskildson review is a) an old one, regularly re-dated; and b) I know this because I've seen the same review float to the top again and again. GreatObserver's earlier guess that Top 100 reviewers get cycled into the front page as a matter of course is a nice one but doesn't seem true. First of all, given Amazon's spirit of transparency, it's highly unlikely that its Top 100 review system would automatically re-date every Top 100 reviewer's review just to keep them current. Second, if GreatObserver's great observation were true, wouldn't every front page of every book on Amazon feature a Top 100 review? (Hint: they don't.) That said, I do get a kick out of a commenter who makes fun of another commenter for making a simple mistake (11/25 vs. 11/27) and then proceeds to misspell the name of the guy in question (Eskildson/Eskildion). People who live in glass houses and all that ...



I usually don't spend too much time at this blog. There is just too much sloppy thinking and innuendo. But, hey, it's Thanksgiving weekend and I have had much too much turkey, which usually puts me in a mean mood. So here is some more dumping on Dubner. He says, "There's a Top 100 Amazon.com reviewer named Loyd Eskildson—that's what he calls himself anyway..."

This is more typical Dubner-Levitt sloppy work and inuendo. He is implying there isn't a Loyd Eskildson. Well if you go to Amazon's profile of Eskildson, it identifies Eskildion as a real name, which means he must have a credit card with that name. Further it identifies him as a resident of Arizona. Well I went to SearchBug on the net and did a little search. There is a Loyd Eskildson in Arizona. He is 63 years old. His wife is named Denise.

So Freak groupies keep on drinking the kool aid, because Dubner and Levitt are two of the most sloppy authors on the planet. Follow them to the sea, I say. Follow them off the cliff.


Stephen J. Dubner

Dear GreatObserver,

For goodness' sake, you should at least spell "Eskildson" the same way twice. And I guess it's sort of clever of you to resort to attacking a minor rhetorical fillip in my entry ("that's what he calls himself anyway") as opposed to acknowledging that you are simply wrong on every substantial point. And the superlative of "sloppy" is, um, "sloppiest." Finally, the readers of this blog are not "groupies." I've known groupies in my day and these, sir, are no groupies. Alas. That would require a level of commitment that even "Freakonomics" hasn't yet inspired.



Please forgive me for misspelling Eskildson's name, as I explained above I have had a lot of turkey this weekend.

As for your statement: "..wouldn't every front page of every book on Amazon feature a Top 100 review."

It may be a case that you haven't looked at many other book reviews at Amazon other than your own, since I recall a number of occasions when Top Reviewers have had their reviews highlighted and in the top three for so for some time.

Indeed, I just randomly looked at a couple of books where it appears that Top Reviewers seem to stay at the top.
I am still not sure about this re-dating thing. Why would a 63 year old man, who reviews nearly 100 books, with all kinds of dates, decide to break into Amazon's system to re-date his review of your book?

Is that your contention?

And I note that you chose to focus on my misspelling of Eskildion's name, rather than focusing on the question I asked:

you write:

'What is clear is that Eskildson would seem to owe me and Levitt a few bucks, since this paper by Judith Chevalier and Dina Mayzlin argues that negative customer reviews are pretty effective in dampening online book sales.'

I then ask, "Does this mean you owe money to realtors, teachers, sumo wrestlers and others you have said negative things about in your book?"

In fact, maybe you should send me a check for your commenting negatively about my earlier post...it really hurt my feelings.

What kind of commenter comments on a typo but ignores the meat of the post?



"I've known groupies in my day..."

I'm sure you have :)


Amazon's system is more complex than simply pushing Top 100 reviews to the top of the list, and more complex than just using dates. I am sure that both of these can and do play a role in the automated decision making part of the system. Mr. Eskildson's ability to keep his reviews near the top of the queue indicates that he understands how the review system works.

One of the things I noted is that he tends to "mix up" the number of stars he gives books in a way that does not always correspond to the review he rights. For example, he gives "The World is Flat" four stars but pretty much rips it to shreds in his review. On the other hand, he gives "Do As I Say (Not As I Do) : Profiles in Liberal Hypocrisy" four stars and pretty much gushes over it. While I don't know exactly how Amazon's system operates, it seems clear that reviewers who rate everything "high" or everything "low" won't get top reviewer status.

I am not saying that his reviews aren't interesting, or that they are biased or ill-informed. I only read a half dozen of them. In my opinion several were well done and several were poorly done. Just that he definitely seems to understand the system well enough to keep his reviews near the top. Whether you characterize this as "gaming" the system or not is another matter.



This is not new. There are many ways to game the system. I saw a reviewer that would post multiple reviews on books related to a book that they had wrote (or were selling). Each review would have a subtle: This book was good, but not as good as . It's pretty easy to see the list of reviewed books, and get an idea of their motives. This happens a lot with political books, where people who oppose the book politically will give it very few stars. I did a search on Amazon for Michelle Malkin's latest, and found... LoydEskildson! With a one-star review... naturally ;-)

David McCune

I did a brief experiment with the other review-system-gamer, Glenn Whelen. I selected 4 of his reviews from the past 2 months and gave them "unhelpful" feedback. The three for which the "unhelpful" feedback was the first ever feedback were all re-posted (now with no user feedback) within about 4 hours. The one that had a prior "helpful" user feedback was not reposted (because that would reduce the reviewers total number of "helpful" votes).

This is pretty clearly gaming the system. It happened so fast that I must conclude that either Glenn Whelen is obsessively checking his user feedback or he has an automated program for doing so.

Also, I think The Great Observer is guilty of confusing cause and effect. Many top reviewers are top reviewers because they write reviews that are good enough to be highlighted, rather than the case of the reviews being highlighted because they were written by top reviewer.

Finally, I can see why Amazon would want to have a useful reviewer system, but I can't see why a rational adult (and Glenn Whelen seems rational from the reviews he writes) would put in the time and effort required to slowly crawl his way up the Amazon review system. What is his incentive? Is it just the natural tendency of people to want to "win the game"? It sure seems like a lot of work.


David McCune

Oops, the guy's last name is "Whelan".


Mr Eskildson was luke-warm about my book too - apparently I wasn't harsh enough about immigrants. I'll keep an eye on the review to see where it ends up.


David McCune posted: ---What is his incentive? Is it just the natural tendency of people to want to “win the game”? It sure seems like a lot of work.---

I think that some of the reviewers probably just like the notoriety of being "at the top" of the review lists, so more people see their work. This really isn't different than a columnist wanting more people to read his or her column. (Nice post, by the way. I am intrigued now to see if any of the other top reviewers have a system to avoid unhelpful feedback.)