Saturday, 6 August 2011

should you take product reviews or advice on the web seriously?

You hear of a new product, service or deal... what do you do?  what millions of us do every day of course... type that into Google and see what comes up. Lists upon lists of mentions of what you're looking for.  We build an instant impression of what to expect.  Things don't look good if negative reviews fill the first page, and we abandon the search.  We move onto page two if the reviews look good.  We may be tempted to ask on forums or within our friends list on facebook.  We believe what our friends say, maybe because they've purchased the product themselves or because we think they have superior knowledge about a subject matter.

If you think about this carefully though....
is this advice really objective,
is there a vested interest in the subject matter?
is the person offering an advice or review really knowledgeable, and more importantly,
has the product or service been tested in different applications?

In the photography world there are too many people who buy kit blindly, not sure of the specs  and the applications of the product, it's strengths or limitations.  They believe money buys the best and will often buy kit because it looks nice or because this or that photographer uses them.  They often have now idea that their scant technical prowess means they will using 25 percent of what the kit can do when pushed hard.

You may know that motorsport is a big passion and continued interest of mine.  I have hillclimbed, sprinted, drag-raced and street raced (not in the UK roads though!!!).  I have spent a good number of years in garages, doing elementary engine cleaning, maintenance and other odd jobs whilst family members would be prepping the more complex mechanical, tuning and performance bits of the car.  In the search for performance and elusive top positions i have scoured the web for information, joined forums (that's where my twitter/facebook handle se7enmad comes from) and emailed and phoned  specialists with highly technical queries.

I did that at the time from my native Malta.  We sort of had an inferiority complex back there, where we believed that because we were limited in scope and availability of products, that asking people in other countries, would open us to a wealth of knowledge that we never had.  And indeed that was true!  When you contact a real specialist with enormous mileage in terms of experience that is what you get.  Precious advice worth a pot of gold.  However not everyone is a specialist, there are lots of people who have created an alter ego who is special and knowledgeable, and the web they spin is a trap for newbies and those who don't have a lot of insight into the real world....

I first became aware of this a good number of years back, when I was looking in to buying some performance tyres for my Caterham Seven.  I would have bought slicks if I wasn't using the car on the road, but I wanted to take my son out for spins in the car, and not just enjoy the car on my own.  I put a posting up onto a forum I was a member on and people kept recommending Avon ACB10's to me.  I bit the bullet and bought a set of four locally, at tremendous cost (due to the tax/import licences back home).  I kept the tyres on for a couple of years, regretfully because they were just d*** awful for my application and because I could not find anybody to resell them on to there.  They are fantastic tyres in their own right but they failed for me because:

1.  I did not have the power in the car to make the compound work as it should
2. the tread pattern did not suit the rubbish tarmac we had back home
3.  the compound was too hard, I had to do long burnouts before getting any meaningful heat in the tyres and I could not use 'tyre grip' otherwise my tyre life would have gone out of the window

This was a classic example of good product/ bad advice/ application which cost me lots of ££ or in that case Lm!  

This week I had the opportunity to shop for a new set of tyres (again!).  Looking at a set of new rears for my Renaultsport Megane Cup I came across what people dismiss for a budget tyre.  I purchased a pair of 225/40 x18 Pace tyres which come in a interestingly grippy compound and put them to the test yesterday coming back home with a smile I haven't had for a while.  If I took into consideration the bad reviews on the web I would have steered clear from these but the people who posted the reviews:

1. used the tyres on the driven wheels ie put the power on the tyres
2.  have less of a balanced car than I have
3. may have less perception than I have, of the point where a tyre (indeed any tyre) loses it's grip  
4.  may have higher reaction times and less of the skill needed to maintain traction

Of course I do need to add some photographic evidence to this unusually wordy blog post of mine, so here is a photo of the new rear tyre in situ after the rain this morning :)


I will not delve into specific examples in the photography world... there are too many to list, and this applies to any product or service that you are looking to see advice on....

Remember there is a lot of free advice on the web.  You may not be sure of the experience of the person who is giving you that advice.  Even though they may be well meaning they might not understand your application or work in the same conditions as you would be in.  You may also face the dilemma of being given contradicting advice by different individuals who are actually good at their jobs.  

My advice is to always list the pros and cons of everything.  Be clear what you want to achieve, and look for alternatives of how to get there.  Spending lots of money does not always take you a step further! 

Comments please & Have a great weekend!  x

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