Rants for Reason: Towers of Babble

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The Readers Don’t Get Paid By the Page

I wade through a lot of reviews. Not read, wade. Do you feel the same way?

I don’t know about you, but when I read a review; my intent is to find out what the reviewer has found out about it.

I’m not complaining about long reviews so long as they’re actually informing me about the product. What I already know, others don’t, so I don’t mind skipping to what I need.

What I’m complaining about are reviews that are long because they’re stuffed with irrelevancies.

If I wanted a sales pitch, I’d go to the company’s website and get a professional one. If I wanted a heavy dose of the reviewer’s personality or attitude, I’d
ask for it.

So I offer the following suggestions to product reviewers.

Singing for Your Supper?

Too many reviewers spend an inordinate amount of time describing what they are reviewing in near-apocalyptic terms. I’ve seen preachers less enthusiastic about Jesus.

Why??

When I see something like that, I start skimming and skipping, and generally ignoring whatever opinion you might have.

If you act like a sales arm of the company, you’ll be taken as seriously as one. People come to you to get away from that, not get more.

What makes me laugh are those reviews that actually are fairly critical of the product, but obscure it in pages of hype. Are we playing Treasure Hunt and looking for the secret message?

If the product is perfect on pages one, two and the end, and not so perfect inbetween, which part do we believe? If any?

It really doesn’t matter why people do it. When you forfeit independent judgment and jump into hyper-space, it doesn’t matter to the reader whether you did it for cold cash or just because you naturally suck up. The end product is still largely-to-completely useless to the audience.

If This Is The Ultimate Product, Why Do They Make New Ones?

If everything is spectacular, nothing is spectacular. If something really good comes along, how can you possibly indicate it’s better than the others? You’ve run out of adjectives.

Superlatives are like seasonings. Used lightly, they make an impression. Shovel them in and you kill the meal.

If every dish you serve is coated with an inch of cayenne pepper, a lot of customers don’t want to go searching for their meal on the plate and then finding it practically inedible. For those few who stay, your “meal” will have less and less effect as time goes on.

Let’s face it, many of these products are built around the same elements, and there are greater similariites than differences between them.

From my experience, you’re more likely to find a few such products to be much worse than its cousins than much better. You usually get a dog, most in the middle, and one or two a bit better.

While there are occasionally make-or-break differences for a particular audience (a multiplier adjustment on a KT133 for overclockers, for example); they are relatively rare. More often, a difference will appeal to some, and not to others.

Of course, people will select based on the differences that are important to them, but it’s silly to extravagantly praise
some feature of a certain product when all the others have it, too. Or pretend that a product’s that’s 5% better is revolutionary.

It Doesn’t Have To Be Tremendous, Just Better

You (and even the company that makes the product) would be much better off if you cut the superfluous and dubious babble about untold wonders, and saved your superlatives for those features that really are better than the competition’s, and the grand finale.

The company will still get its hype blurb for their webpage. You will have fulfilled any actual or perceived obligations, and if you’re still not terribly credible, at least you’ve saved everybody some time.

The Product Is The Star, Not You

If I click on a review, I want to know about the product. Not you. Now if you can be witty and entertaining talking about the product, great. But you are not the product, and we didn’t come to read a review about you.

It seems that a good chunk of reviewers are either morning DJ or geek gangsta wannabes. I suppose that’s entertaining in small doses, but when half the review consists of irrelevant personal tangents, you’ve forgotten why you’re there. Worse, you’ve forgotten why I’m there.

The Time Tax

If I’m reading a review, I don’t want to know about your psychological woes. I don’t want to know about your current level of sexual arousal. I don’t want to hear how wonderful you are. If I ever want to know, I’ll ask.

Nor do I want to hear your endless Howard Stern or white boy being homeboy imitations. If I wanted that, I’d go get the real thing.

Actually, it’s not what’s being said that bothers me, but how much of it.

I clicked in the first place to find out something about a product. Believe it or not, you’re there to tell me. Anything that doesn’t relate to that is a tax on my time, and I don’t like to pay high taxes.

I don’t expect to go tax-free; you don’t have to be the Borg. But when I have to spend a lot of time and effort sifting the nuggets I want out of the irrelevant muck I don’t; I’m going to find a place that puts my informational needs over your psychological ones.

Again, it’s like seasoning. Use a little, and it makes the dish better. Dump a ton on my plate, and it becomes very unappetizing.

Control Yourself!

It seems to be a tenet of modern times that self-expression is all-important. No, it isn’t. There are times and places for it, and times and places not for it. To express intense desire for your beloved is wonderful, but not during your corporate Powerpoint presentation.

You want to express yourself, write an editorial. Have an entertainment column; I don’t care. But don’t hold a captive, unwilling audience just trying to find something out about a product hostage to self-indulgent babble.

Here’s a sanitized example of what I’m talking about. Doesn’t matter who it is or where it came from, there’s plenty of company out there. If you went to CompUSA, and you asked a store employee about a product, and the employee said:

And if you want ______, and you don’t [consider this] … And I find out about it… Well, I’m afraid I’m going to have to stop by your [house] and snap my foot off in your ass . . . I’ll probably punch your mom in the stomach while I’m there, too. Who knows. Just depends on how much you piss me off.

How long do you think that employee would last?

OK, some of you would be amused by it, but many wouldn’t. And even if you were, if you had to get in and out of the store in five minutes, would you want to hear fifteen minutes of this?

If you agree and you want to write me, fine, but the people you really should write to are the hostage-takers. Tell them that you’re not amused, and you want to be freed.

Email Ed


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