Have you ever considered how well reviewers really get to know the devices in their hands? It's definitely something you should think about, because it should affect how much weight you give to review.
There's a post over on The Chronicle that I almost missed last week. It covered one professor's experience with running a small iPad pilot program one semester. His article doesn't appear to have any connection to reviews, but one point stood out in my mind.
The pilot included about a dozen grad students in the journalism program at the University of Kansas. They were loaned iPads that had been bought by KU just for the pilot seminar. All were in their 20s, and all were digital natives.The loaner iPads were loaded with about 50 apps, and students could add or remove any app they wished.
The opinions expressed by the students were mixed, but there's one in particular that is worth noting. Students didn't get invested in a device because they didn't own it.
As the semester progressed, some students used their iPads less and less, ignoring them for a week or two at a time. One explanation for that is that students had no sense of ownership in their tablets. They knew they had to return them at the end of the semester. The Duke students that Davidson wrote about were able to keep the iPod Touches they received. Other universities have done the same with the iPad. That provided an incentive to learn the technology and find apps that would serve them in the long term.
My students said they saw little or no return on investing large amounts of time to personalize the iPad’s settings, organize the many apps, transfer their address books or even learn new apps that might make the iPad more functional. Why become attached to something they had to give back? students said.
I want you to consider how that might affect blogs and review units.When a blog is given a device, they won't have the same interest in it as if they went out and bought it. Loaners simply cannot get the same level of investment, and the students have shown us that.
I buy most everything I have reviewed, and now I can see that it was a good idea. When I put my money into a device, I'm investing in it. Since I want to get the most out of my funds, I am moved to learn more about the device. I try to use it as I would any of my gadgets, and that helps me get closer to a real user experience.
On related note, I think that most any review done after less than a week of intense use might not have the depth it should. Consider this: when one of the major tech blogs posts review within days of getting a gadget, how well do they really get to know the device?
But let's take this one step further. The reviews that I feel are the most reliable are the reports that are made after owning a device for a month or more. These are often anecdotal, and lot come from average owners. But they can contain a critical point that is only noticed by an experienced user. These are the people who should be listened to, not the major tech blogs.
Now, I know that I've just discredited some of my own reviews, but I can live with that. The important thing here is that gadget buyers get the chance to make an informed decision. (Plus I have reviews that no one else has, so I'm relatively safe.) And I don't know that I've ever read a meta-discussion of how to read reviews, so I thought this was useful.