Bad Apples: app developers are hacking your brain to boost ...

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Bad Apples: app developers are hacking your brain to boost ratings

Apple clamps down on those gaming the system for five stars, but there are always loopholes

Patrick McGee

Rating an iPhone app takes just a second, maybe two. “Enjoying Skype?” a prompt will ask, and you click on a star rating from one to five. Millions of people respond to these requests, giving little thought to their fleeting whim.

Behind the scenes, though, an entire industry has spent countless hours and lines of code to craft this moment. The prompt, seemingly random, can be orchestrated to hit your glowing screen only at times when you are most likely to leave a five-star review.

Gaming apps will solicit a rating just after you reach a high score. Banking apps will ask when they know it’s payday. Gambling apps will prompt users after they are dealt the perfect blackjack hand. A sporting app will give the nudge only when a user’s team is winning...

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