Musings on Contemporary Waffle
I went on the Internet to see what others were saying about a camera that I was interested in buying.
Well, maybe yes, and maybe no. But I definitely had an instant blog topic!
On-Line User Reviews!
This wasn’t the first time that I resorted to user reviews to get an indication on the good and bad points of something I wanted to buy. But it reminded me that these reviews always seem to fall into one of three categories, whether on Amazon.com or elsewhere.
Well, then. Let’s have some fun and look at each type of review in some detail, shall we?
REVIEW TYPE #1 — COMPLETELY CLUELESS
I’m sorry to say that by far the most prevalent class of review is the Clueless Review.
More often than not, the reviewer expresses a rush of emotion that comes from spending money on something shiny and new that they’ve maybe never bought before. We’ve all read the “I just bought it and love it” reviews. Here’s how these usually go:
That one got 5 stars. Was it helpful? Not really.
Special version of clueless reviews: A dying off-shoot of the genre of clueless reviews can be found in a video version. It’s called the “Opening The Package” review, usually found on YouTube, where a person spends 10 minutes filming himself taking the product out of its box and displaying the contents to the viewer. If I were a comedy writer on Saturday Night Live, I’d write a skit about a high school kid who has 3 minutes to review a nuclear power plant and doesn’t have a clue what anything does (“I guess these are the fuel rods …”). That’s how these usually go.
REVIEW TYPE #2 — COMPLETELY BESIDE THE POINT
This type of review is the next most prevalent type and is the one that includes the folks who have screws loose; the ranters about trivialities, those easily offended by the slightest imperfections in packaging or delays in delivery time and perceived customer service inadequacies.
And these reviews are where the fibbers can be found who proclaim that the product was already broken when they got it. Sure.
Here are some common and often hilarious variations:
a) “The Item Was Not As Described”: Otherwise known as “the review that proclaims the product to be Crap”. Think of these as the road-rage equivalents of on-line reviewing.
b) “Customer Service Issues”: Otherwise known as the “It-Came-That-Way” review.
TRANSLATION: You yelled at the customer service person, who then put you on “hold roulette” so someone else would have to deal with you instead.
TRANSLATION: You probably broke the camera, when it fell out of the box, after you opened it upside-down. Your lame explanation that the camera was already cracked when you pulled it out of its plastic wrapper didn’t convince the poor girl at the other end of the line who’s heard from 7 other people in the past hour who opened the box upside-down.
TRANSLATION: The feeling is mutual: that manufacturer probably doesn’t want your business anymore, either.
c) “I Got It For My Wife/Sister/Daughter”. He has no idea if the product is any good, but wants you to know what a nice person he is:
Now, if that fellow had a camera of his own, he could make a video of her taking it out of the box just before it fell on the hardwood floor and post it on YouTube!
REVIEW TYPE #3 — THEY ACTUALLY KNOW WHAT THEY’RE TALKING ABOUT (But Not About Everything)
And, finally, the useful reviews.
They’re there, somewhere, but you have to look hard.
The useful reviews are almost never comprehensive enough on their own, and it takes a bunch of them to make a composite for you to make a good buying decision. But a bunch of these insights might be enough to click on the BUY button:
a) “Too-critical but still useful, 1-out-of-5-stars” review:
… except that the camera being reviewed is a mid-range camera and a range-finder just doesn’t fit on cameras of that size, and so you’ll just have to rely on the LCD.
Lesson learned: don’t expect a certain high-end feature on any camera in your price range.
b) “The One Thing No One Has Mentioned” review, that miraculously contains a key decision-making insight that everyone else missed:
Lesson learned: You want the camera mainly for time-lapse photography. Now that’s a useful review, no?
c) And, finally, the very rare “Beyond the call of duty” review, the one you want to print out and frame.
This review will be by an experienced user who will run the camera through all of its major functions and report on all useful PROS and CONS and with sections of detailed explanations of each major feature, methodically evaluating the product for its usability, performance, and value-for-money.
These angels don’t work for a magazine and they don’t write reviews for a living. They just know this particular product really well. They are the same folks who write whole Wikipedia articles.
Lesson learned: Alas, these last folks are the rarest of the rare. But they’re there and can usually be found in the 3-4-star reviews. They’re the ones who renew your faith in the freedom of the Internet (see: there is something about freedom in this post, after all), the kindness of strangers, and the sanctity of capitalism.
Bingo! That’s a BUY!