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ViewScore reads reviews so you don't have to

ViewScore reads reviews so you don't have to

I like to think that CNET's reviews are authoritative, but even I read more than the CNET review before I buy a gadget or a new computer. There are a lot of good reviews sources out there, and if I'm going to spend my own money, you can bet that I'm going to read everything I can find.

ViewScore aims to make that process a bit easier. The service "reads" the reviews from several sources, including CNET, and presents a table of the reviews' bottom lines, in the form of 0-to-100 scores for each review. The clever part is this: For the sites that don't award numerical ratings, the system parses the text and figures out what the numerical rating for the review should be.

Also, if you're trying to decide among products, there's a nice product selector that helps you narrow down what you're looking for by price and feature set; for each product that fits your criteria, it'll show you the average score from all the reviews sources it's tracking. The site has several gadget categories so far, and more categories may be added in the near future.

Shoppers should note that while ViewScore is a specialized search engine, it is far from comprehensive. It does not track every blog that covers products, just the largest and most serious reviews sites. That's a benefit, although I would like to at least see which blogs are covering products I care about. Also, ViewScore neither reports what consumer reviews sites are saying about a product, nor covers user reviews on the sites that it does track.

ViewScore presents a very limited--but potentially very useful--view of product reviews. I don't think a single number is ever enough to base a purchase decision on, but numerical ratings do help you compare products to each other. By normalizing scores, ViewScore helps you compare the reviews to each other, too.

(If you want a ViewScore for media, see Metacritic.)