Reviews of Reviews of Things That Shouldn't Be Reviewed

An introduction to If I Could Give It No Stars I Would

My favorite sculptor is a woman named Tara Donovan. She makes stuff like this.

Huge sculptures, usually so large that they must be constructed on site, made of masses of small, ordinary objects.

I’m not going to try to write too much about the effect this produces, since the effect is a physical, visual experience, not verbal, linear-symbolic experience.

But toothpicks are different massed together in a big cube than they are individually, or in a little box.

A collection of things is different than the thing.

A lot of my favorite art is like this. A lot of photographic art, especially, is like this. The camera facilitates mass image collection, and so it lends itself to projects that create weight from sheer mass.

The internet facilitates the collection, and generation, of huge masses of material. Especially the ad-supported part of the internet. The internet in 2021 is largely composed of systems that use computers to incentivize mass creation of words and images, so that those words and images can be displayed to masses of individuals, so that other words and images can be displayed alongside those images.

Let’s set aside the social feeds for a moment and just talk about search.

A search bar works like this: I want to look at some words. I type words that I think will give me those words into a text field. A computer takes those words, compares them to a bunch of other words that it has, makes a guess as to which of those words are the ones I want, and shows them to me.

If it guesses right, I’m slightly more likely to use that text field in the future when I need to look at some words but don’t know exactly where they are. That effect is very slight, but it’s measurable at large scales, so the computer has an effective incentive system.

The computer is more likely to guess right the more words that it has.

So the computer puts a little text box on anything that it knows I might be searching for, and says, “Hello, anyone who has some words about this thing can put them here. We will give you Internet Points.”

Which is how it came to be that the Safeway closest to my house has 1360 reviews.

Did you know you can follow people on Google Maps?

had a mental breakdown and bought 7 heads of cabbage near closing time. absolutely worth it and I only got 3 odd looks in the store. peace love and happiness 🐴


You can upvote reviews, too.

they have cold soup but cant warm it up. How so?


But mostly, these reviews are here because the Google Maps app asks for them.

And a lot of people are really not prepared for that.

I think some of the workers need "sensitivity training" or the like--tried to explain to one just why I mistook an ice-cream to be $1.25 because of the price tag in front of it, he counter argued that a customer must have "moved" the ice-cream around, even though there were several rows of it all the way to the back of the shelf (that's a lot of "moving around", like ten cups or more for a customer), why didn't the guy just agree it was mis-"stocked"??? Why can't people act like real humans? Maybe if they did I'd feel more human...



We’re going to stack up some reviews of unlikely places. A Safeway (and its deli counter). The White House Christmas tree. A UPS store.

We’ll explore the funniest reviews. The weirdest reviews. The common themes that emerge.

What can Google Maps teach us about humanity?

What’s wrong with us that we’re even asking that question?

This “season” will start at the beginning of November, will run until about the end of the year, and will come out weekly, so you’re going to about a dozen “episodes.” There will also be a few other bonus “interludes,” about other strange internet phenomena.

But mostly. Google Maps reviews.

Horrifically understaffed. Wish I could give fewer than 1 star.