What Smell?

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There’s an ongoing soap opera between one website and ATI public relations over who gets to go to what and under what conditions.

I’m not going to even bother linking to the complaining, because it’s a waste of time. You read for a while, then you give up, because no one comes across too admirably.

One can nitpick as to which act or actor is worse than another, but it’s like picking out the grossest turd in the middle of a sewer. The whole system stinks; it’s not just one or a few companies/websites.

The sad reality of the review process is that it is mostly and merely a corporate marketing tool hiding behind a facade of independence.

The independence is a facade because one party is much stronger than the other. So long as the corporation can effectively shut a media outlet down by withholding product, comment by that media will be generally be compromised.

Imagine the New York Times theatre critic being banned for six months from Broadway due to a bad review. Imagine the New York Times being banned from the White House because the lead correspondent chose not to attend a particular briefing.

You don’t see such things happening simply because the New York Times is too big to be shut down that way. Indeed, if such a thing were to happen, even their competitors would scream bloody murder, simply due to “Today, them; tomorrow, me.”

The playing field is much less level here.

The Subtle Slants

It’s not that every review is doomed to be a fanboy article. Any public relations unit worth it’s weight knows that a little occasional criticism must be tolerated to allow for credibility in some circles, just as any good special interest group realizes that a politician they back will not vote for their side every single time.

No, it’s often more subtle than that. You find the corporate effect in tone, in spin, in providing a positive sound bite whether deserved or not.

And mind you, this happens even when not a single word is exchanged about the matter. When you figuratively bring an 800-pound gorilla into the room for a meeting, you don’t have to tell the other participant(s), “He can kill you.”

People self-censor; they tone down the negative and emphasize the positive. A few even seem to write in a sort of code inbetween the lines of a review to indicate to the more astute what the reviewer really thinks of the product.

It’s no wonder that many readers confine themselves to just look at the numbers (and well, that’s just a different field of manipulation).

And yes, occasionally someone may delude himself into thinking he’s a gorilla, too, and start threatening the gorilla, but that’s like getting high, climbing into the gorilla cage, and start punching. Natural selection tends to take care of such folks.

The Solution We’ll Never See

The only way you’ll get truly independent reviews will be for the corporations to cut out the samples, and let anybody who reviews the product buy the thing.

Unfortunately, the universe won’t be around long enough for us to see this happen voluntarily.

The corporations will never say yes because this will cut off their left marketing genital. They don’t want honesty; they want sales.

The reviewers will never say yes because it will put most of them out of business.

Most importantly, though, most in the audience don’t seem to particularly care. A large proportion of the sales aren’t rational to begin with; if you buy on fantasy or allegiance, what do you care about reality?

One could always set up something like a Consumer Reports, a place that buys all its equipment, but realistically, you’d have to pay for the reviews, and they’ll always show up later than the corporate sponsored blurbs.

One could legislate a better system, but really, what government is going to do that?

Ultimately, one gets the system one deserves, and so long as the audience accepts what we have today, that’s what we’ll keep getting.

You can’t clean out the stables when the inhabitants look at you funny and say, “What smell?”

Ed

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Discussion
  1. The only thing that many reviews help with is to give you more particulars about a product. More pictures and more information is useful. Aside from that they are useless and many times misleading.

    Two comments on Ed's article:

    He used the example of the NY Times being banned from the covering the White House because of a critical story as something that would not happen. Wrong, this White House has done exactly that in controlling and manipulating the press. So that's a poor example.

    He commented on Consumer Reports reviews ending up in corporate blurbs. CU explicitly prohibits there copyrighted stories from being used in that way, and any such use is a violation of the copyright law.

    Sadly, shills swindlers and spinners seem so sorrily abundant these days.

    (S***, I ran out of word starting with s.:))
    No. It is dependant on the reviewer.

    A manufacturer sponsored review could be honest, whereas a reviewer sponsored one could be biased, in hopes of future manufacture sponsoring.


    Of course there is always the possibility, however I'm gonna go with the probabilities. I'll ask you this question and you can tell me what's more likely....... a bias manufacturer sponsored review? or a bias reviewer funded review? without any knowledge of the reviewer whatsoever, I'm more likely listen to the reviewer who spent their own money.

    with that said, everyone has a bias to some extent so you have to decide for yourself who you wish to listen to. I'm not sure how much stock I'd put in a fanboy or company hater who spends their own money either and does a review.
    basically, manufacturer funded reviews = advertising....... whereas reviewer funded reviews = legit reviews. ;)


    No. It is dependant on the reviewer.

    A manufacturer sponsored review could be honest, whereas a reviewer sponsored one could be biased, in hopes of future manufacture sponsoring.
    One place I go for SFF info is SFFTECH. Their reviews don't really say anything bad as they want to stay in the good graces of the manufacturers so they can get info and test rigs. They are good so we can see the BIOS screens and look at the physical layouts and basic benchies.

    Where I get the importaint info is in the user forums. There the new owners let the truth be known when there are problems. In an effort to get things fixed and make the new user base happy, quite often the mfr will listen and come up with a BIOS fix specificly for a major problem.

    Not a perfect sytem but it sure beats me having to sort through the PR BS myself and take a crap shoot with a lot of expensive hardware on my own.
    What I think would be interesting would be to see the amount of ad revenue being generated by some of these review sites. Just a quick glance at THG shows 5 adds (along with an add for their hosting company). Then you look at Anandtech and see 10 adds on the front page alone. Of course I know each add probably doesn't generate much, but with the amount of traffic these two sites generate I'm sure it adds up pretty quickly. Let me say I don't object to this, these sites need to be paid for their bandwidth, time, etc. This does bring up my next point though.

    If you buy a new (insert processor, video card, etc) and use it for a few tests then turn around and sell it you take what 10-15% hit? (and if it OCs very well probably no hit at all) So would it be unreasonable to assume that these sites could very well buy their own products, resell said products, and then make up the difference with the add revenue their products generate? For that matter wouldn't it be even more efficient to arrange a deal with a major hardware retailer, such as Newegg, so that they receive all their products at distributor costs in exchange for a quick plug in the review (something like they do on the front page here)? In that scenario they probably wouldn't even take any hit on the product after reselling it. I do understand that reviewers need to keep some of the products they're testing in order to use them as part of reference systems, but if you're testing 7800GTXs from every major manufacturer, I doubt you would need to keep more than two for an SLI reference system. My point is that the "free stuff" isn't necessarily what drives these biased reviews. It is entirely possible for a major review site to become self sufficient and never accept a review sample from a company.

    I believe the real problem lies in sites doing reviews of preproduction products. A site that operated under the model described above (with or without the help of a retailer) would essentially be cut out from any of the pre-release reviews. To me this is a good thing. First of all it would avoid a lot of hype over "vapor ware" releases. Secondly it would avoid the "hand picking" of samples to be sent to review sites. Finally it would force manufacturers to maintain QC throughout the production cycle because they would never know which ones might end up being reviewed.

    To me it's a much better system, the problem really lies in the reader. For example say site X decided all this makes sense and retailer A agrees to back them. Site Y uses the current system. Well site X might have more honest reviews of actual samples that the end user would expect to purchase, but the community would simply go "so what Y reviewed "this product" a month ago and it's the greatest thing ever, blah, blah". It wouldn't matter that site X found that "this product" would only work if you have at least a 600w PS, only used one stick of ram, and the drivers would hose your Windows install. By then the hype would be in place and the review wouldn't matter much. Then site X's traffic would drop, add revenue would drop, and finally site X would end up begging the same manufacturers they just ripped in reviews to start sending them pre-release samples again.

    The point is the reviewers aren't the problem, we're the problem.
    I'm scared to ask this (because I might go look), but where is the soap opera Ed talks about?


    umm, i think i saw something funny on _______ *

    *now what sort of minds desire to know?

    anyways, hes right, its bad, its not getting better, and naming names does nothing, except maybe draw him into the nonsense, and thats why were not gonna say it outright; hes got enough to be grumpy about allready.

    what does that mean?

    its much worse than you think, its gonna get even worse, and its pointless to worry about it, because nothing is going to change anytime soon.

    why should you care?

    any brand name you see on the internet is likely followed by a carefully controlled sales pitch , weather you want it or not.

    disguise words such as "review" and "objective" and "fair" even "independant" are now to be understood as the opposite of their conventional values.

    "but.... but... this is terrible! how could this ever happen? its not fair! we might be lead astray by clever PR/marketing departments - and buy bogus stuff!"

    yup. thats the point. ...get a helmut.

    "we should be protected against this sort of thing by the govern-..."

    i think the lesson of recent events should not be lost -

    who's gonna protect you again?

    *ahem* thats enough of that.....

    the point is, that this is capatilisim in action.

    things will only be *fair* and warm and fuzzy

    when *fair, warm and fuzzy* = profitable-

    no matter who is charged with protecting the integrity of the system.

    malware is not fair - but it is profitable, so it exists, however in a slightly different way.
    I actually do that when I have an in-forum review but I have to admit... it gets pricey *really* quick. People often wonder why I go thru so much hardware. Its simply because I couldnt afford to do such reviews without selling the merch quickly there after


    People who've read your reviews know they are very much based in reality and people who buy retail are likely to have the same experiences you do. I wish I could read most reviews with the same kind of confidence.

    on a side note...... when I purchase new products I generally do a review on it, especially if the info for such product is limited. It would be great if everyone got into the act of doing such things. I really put a bit of stock into forum reviews..... especially from my mates here. ;)
    i think this is an interesting read regarding the ethics of some reviewers

    review

    http://www.hardwareanalysis.com/content/article/1813.1/

    http://www.beyond3d.com/forum/showthread.php?t=23662

    just shameful :eh?:
    I never buy solely based on some review sites recomendation. I also read a lot of user forum reviews. The user reviews will show all the problems and gottachs the site reviews leave out.
    The state in which reviews are done for the most part is quite poor.

    There are 3 camps I see of reviewers.

    1) Reviewers who dont know what they are doing. They dont have the technical know how to do a good review of a product, and their results blow. Dont assume that a well _written_ review cannot be technically done poorly, sometimes a very well written review masks the BS results. Also included in this to some extent is reviewers how dont have the proper equipment to do a decent job.

    2) Reviewers who may know how to do a good review and have the means to do so, but dont always do so. These are the people that manipulate data, testing, and use well crafted persausive arguments, to enhance the review. They keep the good reviews going, so the review samples keep flowing.

    3) Reviewers who know what they are talking about, have the right equipment and use it properly, and are honest. These are good reviewers. Unfourtunately they are rare.


    as is honesty these days
    The state in which reviews are done for the most part is quite poor.

    There are 3 camps I see of reviewers.

    1) Reviewers who dont know what they are doing. They dont have the technical know how to do a good review of a product, and their results blow. Dont assume that a well _written_ review cannot be technically done poorly, sometimes a very well written review masks the BS results. Also included in this to some extent is reviewers how dont have the proper equipment to do a decent job.

    2) Reviewers who may know how to do a good review and have the means to do so, but dont always do so. These are the people that manipulate data, testing, and use well crafted persausive arguments, to enhance the review. They keep the good reviews going, so the review samples keep flowing.

    3) Reviewers who know what they are talking about, have the right equipment and use it properly, and are honest. These are good reviewers. Unfourtunately they are rare.
    nice article. is that written by the famous Talking Ed? lol j/k

    how many bad reviews do you see on computer components? yet every other posts is help my this or that is messed up. there are quite a few products that are less than they claim to be.
    I actually do that when I have an in-forum review but I have to admit... it gets pricey *really* quick. People often wonder why I go thru so much hardware. Its simply because I couldnt afford to do such reviews without selling the merch quickly there after