Sites like TripAdvisor.com are absolutely invaluable for getting a window into a hotel property. Reading what past travelers have had to say can be very useful. The piece observes, though, that reviews are posted anonymously. I haven’t found that to be a problem so much as the other observation in the article, that individual’s standards vary greatly.
The best thing to do in reading internet reviews is to read through several of them and look for consistent themes and patterns. Those are most likely to provide a window of truth about a property. And then it’s important to read between the lines: one resort where I stayed last year had several negative reviews, all commenting on how expensive food was. The food was pricey, but no more so than you find at other high end resorts. The people writing the reviews had different expectations than I do. Their negative ratings really didn’t reflect on my likely enjoyment.
Still, frequent comments like dirty, front desk takes a long time to answer requests, there’s always a long line to check in, are very telling. Look for consistent fact patterns rather than average ratings.
I’m personally hoping that Flyertalk’s Reviews section grows substantially, because I trust the opinion of the median Flyertalk member far more than the general internet writer.