How To Use Reviews

I am getting my money's worth out of this picture
I am getting my money’s worth out of this picture

So, a couple of weeks ago the internets (or at least the parts of it dedicated to Windows Phone) erupted in a furor over a review.  Molly Wood, executive editor for cnet reviewed the Nokia Lumia 1020, also known as the best camera phone you can buy.  In her review Molly spent considerable time complaining about how the 1020 lacked basic social functionality like sharing your pictures to Facebook and Instagram and concluded that the iPhone is still the best camera ever.

It should be pointed out that Molly is an unabashed iPhone fangirl.  It should also be pointed out that Windows Phone was the first mobile OS that shipped with OS level Facebook integration.  Also that the Windows Phone App Store has six Instagram clients, one of which ships, pre-loaded on the Lumia 1020 and the rest of which can be found by searching on the word “Instagram.”

Molly Wood had put out a review into the wild where she claimed as fact blatant falsehoods.  It was so horribly poorly done that the video was removed from cnet’s site (though you can still find it on the interwebs if you look for it).

So, yeah, reviews.

I know that Jay has done some product demos in the past and at some point (budget and success willing) we will be doing full fledged product reviews and hopefully they will not devolve into the “everything’s kinda ok to awesome” level that so many reviews these days fall into 1.  However, regardless here’s some advice to take when reading reviews, not just from us but from anyone:

  1. There is no such thing as an unbiased review.  If a review is unbiased it means the reviewer doesn’t care or isn’t knowledgeable.  I would not trust a review from an apathetic, uneducated source, so I go into all reviews expecting bias.  If you are lucky the reviewer will cop to their bias and give you a clear view of what’s going on2
  2. Reviews are opinions.  There are people like Consumer Reports and DxO Mark who attempt to provide objective analysis instead of straight opinion, but in the end, if you’re reading someone’s words about something, you’re reading how they feel about that thing as much as you’re reading how that thing actually is.
  3. …Which is why you should read multiple reviews and probably stick to a handful of reviewers.  I generally have a couple of different movie reviewers who I pay attention to.  Generally I know what kinds of movies they like and what kinds of movies they hate.  I try to pick ones who’s opinions are similar to my own, this way I have a decent expectation of how I will feel about a certain product (similarly, I have friends who I have completely opposite tastes than, if they love a movie I know I should never, ever go near it).  It’s a bit harder to do this with products than with art.  A movie reviewer will likely see every movie released this year, a guitar reviewer will not play every guitar.  Still, you, play favorites
  4. Ignore ’em.  In the end you are you, reviews are a rough guide, not a dictate.  If at all possible you try out the thing that you are going to buy and do what you want.  It’s your money, I guarantee you that you care more about it than I do.

There you go, simple advice, but advice that far to many people overlook.  Do with it what you will, Daft Paragonians.

  1. I believe that this is in part because there are very few truly bad products out there, thanks the wonders of modern manufacturing and partly because editorial and marketing aren’t as separate as they should be.  I don’t know the ratio of column a to column b, however.
  2. In this review of the GMC Acadia Denali, former Autoblog writer, Zach Bowman, does just this and is met with a comments section full of Acadia fans calling him everything but a child of God.  This is because the internet is the place where you go to, as we say down south, show your ass.
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