Member Feedback: What makes you trust a review?

8:20 a.m. on September 11, 2018 (EDT)
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Hi Folks,

I'm curious to hear our community members' thoughts on the following:

  • What makes you trust a review?

  • What makes you value a review?

We want to hear your thoughts on the info and opinions you find most useful when considering new gear or other products. And, on the flip side, what turns you off from a review or reviewer.

This does not need to be about gear reviews specifically, but any reviews and product information you would consult before making a purchase decision.

Please share your thoughts below.

Thanks!

Alicia

11:31 a.m. on September 11, 2018 (EDT)
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Frankly, I take them with a grain of salt, since I usually don't know the qualifications or possible biases of the reviewer.  Those that provide detailed examination of the product, based on sustained use, are more credible.  The short one-liners are basically worthless

6:39 p.m. on September 11, 2018 (EDT)
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I personally take two things into account when critically reading a review:

1. Is the review thorough, well thought out, and does it display a significant familiarity with the item being reviewed?

2. Does the reviewer have a history of unbiased reviews, and do any of their previous reviews reflect my own experience with a different product or item?

Sometimes #2 isn't available, in the case of a newer reviewer, and so #1 will rate more highly. In the case of a strong #2, I can let #1 slide a bit more. There's some give and take there. 

11:00 a.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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Thanks to hikermor and Jayson for sharing their thoughts and feedback so far!

5:57 p.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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What makes a good review .

Living a couple of hours from a major shopping city and where I live .

I am a gatherer not a hunter which means I know what I want and go get it.

So Reviews are important .

The thing I look for in good & useful reviews are .

-How long has the reviewer had the product and number of uses - I have seen so many reviews by people who have just bought the product and feel they have a responsibility  to review it. 

-How is the product used ? A tent used by someone from Toronto can be vastly different for someone from Jasper.

- What was it bought for or it's purpose. -There is no perfect tool for all jobs. so I can relate to what I wanted it for.

-How could the product be improved or short comings.

-The reviewer expectations of the product- That is why I almost never give a product 5 stars.

-How they came about the product in the first place-I recently read a review about a TNF product written by a TNF sales person  

 

7:20 p.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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What makes a good review?

So very much goes into making a good review.  Sometimes years and years of use from product.  I watch some people pump out reviews like they were testing different kinds of yogurt at there local grocery store and I'm kinda appalled sometimes.

So, what makes a good review in my eyes?

Know your product.  So when someone buys a used TNF VE25, for example, and they give a review on it................do they realize that there has been 7+/- revisions of the VE-25 over a 30 year period?  So someone who does not know this can buy the very first VE-25 NIB of off Ebay and not know that its a 30+ year old tent that has little relevance with todays VE-25. 

So, I'm a 59 year old retired crippled guy that has way different needs than I did when I was 29 or 39.  Since I'm retired I depend on others buying new gear and letting the company work out the bugs before I even think of buying that piece of gear, and that is where the reviews come in for me.  I depend on others buying gear 2,3,4,5+ times so I only have to buy it once.

Next I depend on the advertising industry to convince people to buy new gear yearly so that when they finally get the bugs worked out people are still convinced they need to continue to spend money on newer and better stuff.

So, what do I expect in a quality review..............

 

1. I expect a description of the product with all the manufactures specifications and pictures that can be found.  It is the description of the item after all. If you have tags in your sleeping bag, tent with any numbers on them at all please tale pict's and post them in your review.  Remember people might be using this information in decades to come.

2. I expect as many pictures of the item as possible in all it's uses and configurations as possible. ie. manufactures...........personal...........or even picts pulled of the web.  Sleeping bags are easy, tents less easy and tarps have a lot of uses. 

3. I expect a bio of the users experiences and knowledge in relation to the item that they are reviewing. Such as..............This is the first stove I've ever use vs This is the 9th stove I've had in 40 years of backpacking.

4. I expect full descriptions in regards to anything that is special about your item.  Is it wider/longer/overstuffed than the original.  Up graded poles, tent stakes, heavy duty rain fly, etc.

5. If your doing a review on the product how hard is it to look up other reviews and tell us why you were able to make this item work when others could not, or I suppose the other way around............why you could not make it work when others could.

6. Any of the other things that I've forgotten and are not listed above as I'm obviously not a gear review specialist.

So, the last two tents I bought within the past month was a Golight Hex 3, fly, nest, floor for $160 and a Golight Shangri-La  3 for $225, fly, nest, floor.  The Hex retailed for $700+ and the Shangri-La 3 retailed for $800.  I depend on others, so very many reviews, to give me their honest opinion so that I only have to pay %30 of retail and no tax for all my gear.  I do this with everything in my life.

As I said being that I'm 59 and crippled and cannot crawl into low profile tents, I now have different needs than years gone-by.  I now depend on others and their reviews so that I can buy my lightly used gear that fits my needs with out making mistakes and plowing thru gear like other seem either happy to do or destined to do.

9:52 p.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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I look for reviews that come after a lot of use from someone with experience. So the "legitimacy" of the reviewer is something I look at. Like with anything we read it's on us to consider the source. I like specs and knowing both the pro's and con's as well as the conditions something was used in.

But for me, I know I'm way more apt to write a review of a piece of gear I like as opposed to one I don't. The couple of times I've started to rip in to something because it under-performed I just stop because it ends up sounding like whining over "first world" issues. So I could be wrong but it seems that most user-reviews are going to be slanted a bit more to the positive. I try to keep that in mind.

11:25 p.m. on September 12, 2018 (EDT)
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T.J. said:

I look for reviews that come after a lot of use from someone with experience. So the "legitimacy" of the reviewer is something I look at. Like with anything we read it's on us to consider the source. I like specs and knowing both the pro's and con's as well as the conditions something was used in.

But for me, I know I'm way more apt to write a review of a piece of gear I like as opposed to one I don't. The couple of times I've started to rip in to something because it under-performed I just stop because it ends up sounding like whining over "first world" issues. So I could be wrong but it seems that most user-reviews are going to be slanted a bit more to the positive. I try to keep that in mind.

I have noticed that there do not seem to be very many, if any, reviewed items as of late that do not have at least a 3.5 rating with almost all being at least a 4+ rating.  Maybe your onto something about reviewers being more prone to put forth reviews that are more positive than negative.

3:27 a.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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These are some things I consider:

  1. Does the review offer a balanced view? Nothing is either perfect or totally worthless. I expect to see a bit of both, not all good or all bad. Without balance I would ignore the review.
  2. Similarly, does the review express extreme views, positive or negative? If it does it is probably not reliable.
  3. Are the review claims backed up by evidence? If the bit of gear failed show us a photo of it and explain the circumstances. I ignore reviews that make claims but don't back them up.
  4. Similarly, if there is supporting evidence, are the claims made consistent with it or do they just make bit leaps?
  5. With gear reviews, it is especially important that the reviewer has used the gear for a reasonable time. I ignore ones that start "I just bought this and it's great." It might well not be great in a year's time. (Actually this is true of lots of reviews, not just outdoor gear. I had a phone I bought based on good reviews when it came out, then found it experienced a mysterious fault which the maker refused to fix.)
  6. I don't just read one review. I read a few and look for patterns.

Really, it is much the same as deciding whether to trust anything you read. Be sceptical.

3:28 a.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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The analysis of a review is quite a complicated task... First, I shall determine, if this is a real review or simply a paid ad text disguised as a review. Stock photos, copy-paste from manufacturer website, hosting on a web shop site, you know.

Second, I look for a reviewer's bias:

  1. If the manufacturer gave the equipment for free, allowed to keep it and especially if it has arranged an intro trip to a beautiful tropical island, then reviewer will be less likely to upset the manufacturer in his findings. Especially if there's a huge company standing behind the reviewer.
  2. Some people who spent their hard-earned cash for equipment also have a tendency to see only a good part of their choice.
  3. Contrary, if a user became upset by a product (like spotting the factory defect), sometimes he tends to notice only the worst of it, skipping the good.

Third, I look at the hints of previous experience with such kind of product, and direct comparisons within the review. If someone has never used a tent before, it's very unlikely that he will write a good review, even after 50 nights in this tent.

Fourth, I take note of actual time spent with reviewed product and usage scope. It's very nice to have a long-term review disclosing the experience after a year or two. In the meantime, during these years the product could have been changed, and such a review would be not fully relevant for current buyers.

Contrary, even a short-term experience may be very useful if it's backed by detailed photos, a view from unusual side and real-world comparison to other similar products. Often the first experience is true one, and after using the product for a long time one becomes used to it and less likely to mention the drawbacks in design.

3:59 a.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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Well I guess a lot of the ways I trust anything. Does the claims of the review ring true with what I know...and with what others have said? The reviewer's reputation can matter a lot...particularly with a small sample of reviews...or when I know the reviewer personally and respect them. In the absence of a personal relationship hundreds of similar reviews are probably more convincing than one or two well-argued reviews...but calling out orthodoxy is of great value.

A good review should describe the item...should tell me how the item compares to similar items...should detail areas of strength and weakness. I want to know what someone did with the item...and where he or she did it...but it needn't by overly specific. Photographs are good for illustration and a little flavor...but I like a heavy ratio of words to my pictures...and too often I find photographs hide depth of appraisal and skew the review towards a visual register. A picture can be worth a thousand words...but Beethoven was friendlier on the ears than the eyes.

4:00 a.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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A good review is brief, succinct without bias based on keen observation of the product in question. The good, bad and the downright ugly truth is something to cherish. 

The Foregoing said, time in use and personal satisfaction in the product in question and multiple comments and updates are so very valuable in confirming a choice to purchase yourself. 

Brief one liners are no use whatsoever and also the company generated responses on some platforms are not worth a darn thing in this writers opinion. Some manufacturers continually get it wrong and try to fool consumers with super descriptions that beggar belief in their biased claims so a disclaimer and or purchase price and place from the individual gives hope that the review is reasonably accurate.

8:28 a.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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apeman said:

I have noticed that there do not seem to be very many, if any, reviewed items as of late that do not have at least a 3.5 rating with almost all being at least a 4+ rating.  Maybe your onto something about reviewers being more prone to put forth reviews that are more positive than negative.

Yes, research shows that in general people are much more likely to write reviews of products they feel are overly positive or negative (5-star or 1-star). After all, those products incite a stronger opinion, hence more of an urge to write a review. However, some suggest that reading a bunch of middle ground reviews can be more helpful for a potential customer.

Thanks again to everyone who has taken time to share thoughts so far.

11:34 a.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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Alicia said:

apeman said:

I have noticed that there do not seem to be very many, if any, reviewed items as of late that do not have at least a 3.5 rating with almost all being at least a 4+ rating.  Maybe your onto something about reviewers being more prone to put forth reviews that are more positive than negative.

Yes, research shows that in general people are much more likely to write reviews of products they feel are overly positive or negative (5-star or 1-star). After all, those products incite a stronger opinion, hence more of an urge to write a review. However, some suggest that reading a bunch of middle ground reviews can be more helpful for a potential customer.

Thanks again to everyone who has taken time to share thoughts so far.

That makes sense.  I would also guess of the top of my head that people at least pick the best product available per their spending power rather than going for the very cheapest item on the shelf and that if one does go for the very cheapest product they are not the kind of people that are as likey to care or take the time to write a review.

2:53 p.m. on September 13, 2018 (EDT)
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I tend to like the reviews that get right to the meat and potatoes.  I want to know the product application, where it was used and how.  The reviewers experience level is important to me.  I tend to disregard reviews that are too high (all 5 stars) and those that are excessively low, unless you can back it up with hard facts.

Some reviewers write every review as if they're going for the "reviewer of the month" prize on every review.  Perhaps I'm too lazy to read it all, but I don't want to read Gone With the Wind on a review.  I also don't consider the short one liners as valid reviews.  Somewhere in the middle as far as length are the ones I tend to like, so long as the review is objective and is getting right to the facts (and is not a sales rep for the brand).  I want to hear from ordinary guys and gals who can support their opinion on a piece of gear with an example or fact.

I do think that there is some validity to the issue, as others mentioned, of reviewing gear that we like. I do value people's reviews though because I want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly. If someone's complaining about minor issues on a mid range to lower end piece of gear I tend to disregard that.  

4:55 a.m. on September 14, 2018 (EDT)
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Trust
Knowing the reviewer has enough experience to evaluate the subject item from a context relative to similar items.  Maybe the reviewer has only owned two stoves, but if they have camped a lot with many people with different stoves, they get to understand first hand the world of stoves and the pluses and minuses of each design.  Does the reviewer understand the details that distinguish quality from the rest - craftsmanship issues like gussets in stress areas, the consistency of the stitching, being able to identify if the design is up to the demands of its duty rating, types of fabric/materials used, were the fabric edges treated to preclude fraying, etc. 

Value
Understanding the context the item was used.  Perhaps I am looking for a summer stove and care less if it could boil water in five seconds in zero degree weather; likewise if I am looking for a 4 season stove, I'd like to know if it is glove friendly or not.  Was the shelter actually subjected to extended periods in bad weather and wind, or was it merely tested under a backyard sprinkler for ten minutes and saw actual use only in fair weather?

I do not mind long winded reviews, but these could be made more accessible if an executive summary prefaced the body of the review.  In fact a introductory summary is a good element for any review.

I am skeptical of meal reviews!  I find most boxed and bagged meal products have a lot to be desired, but many of them can be made quite edible by a motivated, skilled cook.  Unfortunately most folks do not bother packing a spice kit that specifically addresses what is on the menu for a particular trip, if they even pack one at all.  Likewise we all have our peculiarities, when it comes to what we put in our bellies.  Many love beef stroganoff, but I have never liked any brand of this dish, nor care for mac and cheese, from scratch or otherwise.  And don't get me started on ramen...

Ed   

11:50 a.m. on September 17, 2018 (EDT)
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Thanks to everyone who has taken time to share the thoughts above.

It's very helpful and appreciated!

11:10 a.m. on September 18, 2018 (EDT)
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Forty people that all agree that it does what it is supposed to do. 

Several really skilled people using a piece of equipment hard and being happy with the results. 

11:59 a.m. on September 20, 2018 (EDT)
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What makes me trust a review

I tend to trust longer, more detailed reviews as opposed to quick short ones.

I tend to distrust:

  1. Reviews that sound like they have as much to do with publicising the reviewer's own website as with reviewing a product. (There are some such reviews here, unfortunately.)
  2. Reviews written to publicise defects in a product - as if the reviewer is getting back at the manufacturer. I don't mean to say I disbelieve such reviews (especially if they include photos of the defects). But I would look for additional reviews to see whether the reviewer's experience was common or just an unlucky one-off. 
  3. Reviews of freebies. Here the reviewer's track record becomes particularly important in enabling me to judge whether he or she is remaining neutral.

What makes me value a review

  1. Detail. If I'm interested in the product I'd be happy to read a detailed review and I'd feel grateful to the reviewer for supplying it.
  2. Photos. Product descriptions sometimes leave you wondering about certain features - for example, where is the security pocket on a shirt. Photos of such details are invaluable.
  3. Context. As others have said, people use products in different ways, and how the reviewer used the product might be different from how I intend to use it. This does not make a review useless. It's up to me to read the review intelligently and to extract from it the information that is relevant to me. So I'd like to know how the reviewer used the product.

The best reviews are the ones that allow you to make up your own mind about a product, and this is the information that enables me to do so. I don't pay much attention to the star rating. If I have this information I don't need it, and a star rating without this information to back it up is not much use anyway.

12:23 p.m. on September 20, 2018 (EDT)
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That is a really good post Charles and not just because I agree with you :) Very well stated reasoning laid out there.

4:56 p.m. on September 20, 2018 (EDT)
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Thanks LoneStranger :) 

12:00 p.m. on September 21, 2018 (EDT)
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Great points, Charles, and everyone who's taken time to share such helpful feedback.

4:44 p.m. on September 24, 2018 (EDT)
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What makes you trust a review?

1) The reviewer has to be knowledgeable and use that expertise to objectively look at the product, service or place. Which is hard considering many experts are biased. For example, a mountain guide looks at winter gloves a completely different way than I do as a recreational user. Even though the guide is an expert, their personal preferences might get in the way of an objective review. A good reviewer looks at something both from the perspective of a novice and expert. 

2) The reviewer has tested the product for its intended use and in the intended settings. Not just standing in the shower to test a rugged $500 3-layer shell. But going out in gale force winds, wading in neck deep powder and slogging around in the rain with a backpack on. On the flip side, don't test a lightweight windproof shell in the same manner and knock it for not holding up. 

3) A good reviewer won't repeat marketing jargon but describes the true benefits (or faults) of a product. Not just listing a feature set but explaining how the product is used and how the features benefit the end user. A good review illustrates the details of a product that could be overlooked, showing what makes a product stand out (for better or worse). 

What makes you value a review?

A valuable review helps me make a good purchase decision. It summarizes up all the unique selling propositions of a product and compares them to what's currently available in that category. Is the product a good buy? Does it represent a good value for the money, especially in the context of how the product was designed? Is it the lightest stove, but most expensive? Is it cheap but heavy and well built? Is it a total waste of money? A valuable review answers those questions honestly, without scathing criticism or undue praise.

1:02 p.m. on September 28, 2018 (EDT)
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We've had a lot of great feedback from community members to these questions. Thank you to everyone for taking the time to consider them and answer so thoughtfully.

We'll be considering all of this info and how it informs site development and review and product info and structure..

One thing that was repeatedly mentioned was knowing how a product reviewed was used and for how long. It seems to me it comes down to getting reviewers to share more of the following info.

  • 1A) Familiarity with this product
    How long have you owned this product? How much have you used it? Number of trips? Miles?
  • 1B) Familiarity with product type
    What's your experience with other models of this type of gear? Is this your first, one of many?
  • 2) Conditions
    Where and how have you used this product? In what conditions, terrain, and weather? When? For what activities?

So in the short term we will probably add something like the fields above to the review form. The tricky part is keeping the review submission super simple so there aren't barriers to doing it, while trying to draw out specific details.

Thanks again to everyone who has taken the time to comment above.

Alicia

8:49 p.m. on October 1, 2018 (EDT)
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@Alicia, just wondering if you'd ever consider changing the review template to be a combination of required info and optional info? The required could be product name, length of use, conditions or use, etc. and the option could essentially be what the current open field is today. 

8:00 a.m. on October 2, 2018 (EDT)
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KiwiKlimber said:

@Alicia, just wondering if you'd ever consider changing the review template to be a combination of required info and optional info? The required could be product name, length of use, conditions or use, etc. and the option could essentially be what the current open field is today. 

Yes, that is something we've thought about a bit.

The issue is that if you have too many required sections (which can be practically any) people abandon the process and don't complete any review. Personally, if I had one required field from the ideas above it would be as simple as "Yes, I have used this product outdoors."

Coming at it from a slightly different direction, I'm thinking about ways to encourage people to provide additional info/images/etc and have a more complete, valuable review.

5:28 p.m. on October 3, 2018 (EDT)
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Also, people who have limited experience with a product should not be discouraged from reviewing it.

Sometimes you buy a piece of gear knowing that months might pass before you can put it to any serious use. But in the meantime you can still say useful things in a review: does the product work as it's meant to, does it fit true to size etc. And, unless there are other reviews, better a partial review than no review at all, especially in an age of ever-shortening product cycles when the item might well be out of production by the time you can do a more exhaustive review. You can always update your review later on.

So while it would be useful for reviewers to say how long they have had a product, I would still encourage them to write a review if they have not had it for long.

October 16, 2018
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