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August 22nd, 2004

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05:25 pm - Check your sources
I see a lot more arguments by people who quote non-authoritative sources to support their opinions. I'm not talking about politics, belive it or not, but products.

The internet is a wonderful place to get lots and lots of information, and about half of it is bad. The most annoying aspect of this that I've encountered lately is people using websites to justify decisions about purchases they've already made. Listen, I don't care how shitty it is, but if you buy a Widget, and then you go to widget-fanboiz.com, YOU ARE GOING TO GET A POSITIVE REVIEW EVEN IF THE WIDGET NEVER WORKS. These people don't want to buy something and decide they bought a piece of crap. They want to have gotten something great, and that post-purchase (coital?) glow has not yet worn off.
You can find a justification for anything on the Internet.

I'm not saying the Internet is a bad medium for research. It can be excellent. But you have to check your sources. Get as many different reviews of things from as many sources as possible, and guage the quality of the opinion being expressed.

Let me give you an example. A friend wanted to purchase an all around Motorcycle. Mostly commuting and cruising. Some distance riding. He showed me a review of some bike, where the editors took it to a racetrack, and it scored superb points. I tried to explain that review was 99% worthless, as the reiviewer had no real experience with the bike (1 hour), and the experience they did have was almost completely inapplicable to the usage he intended to put the product to.

Then again, you may see a long term review of the same product, and they may give it a fair grade. I found a review in a brit bike mag of the same motorcycle, where the editors don't take the bike for an hour, but they ride it every damn day for months at a time. The review gave good points for performance and general functionality, but bad for comfort and looks. I showed this review to my friend, and he became disappointed that the bike didn't get rave reviews. I tried to explain that this was a superb review, because the only areas that were lacking didn't matter to him. I got a blank stare. Comfort and Style are subjective. While it is important to put them into a review, one needs to form their own opinion of the subjective elements of a review.

My friend tried to convince me I was wrong the next day, by saying that movies and books are reviewed, and many people consider those reviews worthwile. I then explained to him that proves my original point. These reviews aren't valuable in and of themselves. They have value because we tend to judge the reviewer first, and build up a level of trust. The secondary value is to guage group consensus. Like the amazon.com reviews that average out what people thought of a book. While I don't use that to entirely form an opinion, it is helpful to know of 100 of 100 people thought a book was 5 stars, or 0 stars. Chance are, the 5 star book isn't bad, and the 0 star book really is.

OK, rant over. You can go back to buying your Ford Pinto's and showing me justifications from PintoLovers.com.

(2 comments | Speak your mind)


Date:August 22nd, 2004 06:08 pm (UTC)
I've visited epinions.com before for some stuff and while it's not the greatest site that I think it first intended to be (unless it's changed since my last visits there) it does sometimes give a person a starting point. For my car I went to soooo many places and got different reviews... that was good. He might want to check out auto.yahoo.com as well.
[User Picture]
Date:August 22nd, 2004 08:58 pm (UTC)
The pinto is THE BEST CAR EVAR!1!!!

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