Afraid To Be Honest

MG Siegler:

This is the problem I have with most technology reviews these days. Everyone seems so afraid to say how they really feel about the device. And more often than not, that’s exactly what readers want.

The truth is it’s tricky being honest with my feelings about the products I review. The worry is if my thoughts about the device is negative and I write about it the company won’t like me and eventually I won’t get to review much from thereon.

Companies behind the products want reviewers to say nice things, like highly recommended, five stars, editor’s choice, etc. Nice reviews sell products; negative reviews don’t. And at the end of the day these companies are in the business of selling products and making profits.

So that’s why I refrain from being brutally honest about my negative feelings about a product. But maybe I shouldn’t be too afraid about being honest:

Finally, Google had one request of me for the Galaxy Nexus review: that I be honest. And I was. Immediately after I posted, I heard through the grapevine that they appreciated my honesty and actually agreed with many of my points.

If something’s not quite right or is downright crappy, the companies need to hear it to make the next version of their products better. Good companies will value honest reviews. And readers deserve the truth. If I’m any good at being honest my reviews will take a small part in the readers’ purchase decision. And that’s important.

Update: Ben Brooks:

The problem is endemic of the industry as a whole. You can say all you want about my opinions — whether I am right or wrong — what you can’t say is that I don’t have one. I will take you disagreeing with me all day long over being a bland yes man.

This is a rather long winded way of saying exactly what MG Siegler said above: take a stance.

Brooks thinks Pepsi is better than Coke. Now that is what I call an opinion.

Update 2: via John Gruber. Jay Rosen:

If in doing the serious work of journalism—digging, reporting, verification, mastering a beat—you develop a view, expressing that view does not diminish your authority.

Sometimes the first thing you need is your own view, and a healthy dose of curiosity of whether or not your own view is right or wrong.

Update 3: Marco Arment:

This is one reason why so many big publishers are so opinionless and seem to like everything. Saying you don’t like something, or that any choice is clearly the best for most people, will cause enough people to stop listening that the precious metrics that pay the bills might decrease.

You lose your balls when money becomes king.