Product Reviews in Genii

Discuss general aspects of Genii.
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Mark Paulson
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Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Mark Paulson » January 24th, 2008, 11:06 am

On page 10 of the February 2008 Genii, Richard asked what he should do about reviewing all the DVDs they receive.

The question is, should they devote more space to the positive reviews that point us toward good items, or should they include negative reviews that warn us to stay away from crap?

Personally, I like both. If I wanted to buy a product that looks great but hasn't been reviewed, I would assume that they just haven't had time to review it. I may or may not buy it. On the other hand, I've avoided spending good money on a few products because the reviews were less than stellar.

Sure, there are still hundreds of products that I won't know about because they didn't have time to get to them, but if there are some best sellers that really suck, I'd like to know about them.

My vote is to keep reviewing worthwhile products and include at least a few that are major duds. I find the reviews, both positive and negative, to be helpful.

What say the rest of you?

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 24th, 2008, 11:46 am

What I really don't want to do is waste space on crap. So, the easy thing is to simply list the name of the item and a one sentence review: "Mongolian Coins by Baboo Jenkins: Avoid this junk."
Does anyone get anything from that? When you print an opinion, it's usually necessary to back it up in some way, but much of the junk that's coming out isn't worth the space required to back it up.
Thus, my quandry.
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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » January 24th, 2008, 11:56 am

Originally posted by Richard Kaufman:
"Mongolian Coins by Baboo Jenkins: Avoid this junk."
"For a full review, visit the Genii Forum."

-Jim

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Ian Richards » January 24th, 2008, 12:09 pm

Greetings,

It is my perception that in the last three or four years the number of negative reviews of magic products in magic magazines has increased. I think that this is a good thing as it more accurately reflects the "quality" of what is available for purchase.

I think that it is very important to include at least some justification as to why an item might be inferior, perhaps a paragraph rather than only a sentence.

Now that the forum is only for readers of Genii, it might be possible to include these reviews on the forum rather than in the magazine. (I realize that non-readers are able to browse the forum.) This might also save the reviewers a lot of wasted time and effort in reviewing products that should not be brought to the market.

Ian

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby castawaydave » January 24th, 2008, 12:21 pm

I also like both kinds of reviews: good and bad--as long as they are honest & well-reasoned. They are often the 1st things I read each issue.

I appreciate Richard's points, particularly wasting space on junk, and the need to back up the opinions expressed.
Further, I can also imagine not wanting to crush some poor dudes with lengthy, scathing reviews...

How about a sidebar or a box (a la the Top 10 sellers box) with quick, capsule reviews--say, 5 or 10 titles beyond the main ones in the review article proper.
Give them a graphic symbol: smiley face/frowny face; thumbs up/thumbs down; and one or two sentences succinctly backing up the opinion.

Other possible graphic treatments: a rabbit in a hat applauding wildly for a great product, looking mildly interested for an average product, or an empty hat indicating the rabbit hated the item and has fled entirely...
Better yet, a GENII giving a thumbs up or down...OR grinning from ear to ear vs. weeping in disappointment...


:D or :( or :p

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby PickaCard » January 24th, 2008, 12:31 pm

Richard,

The reviews are the first thing I turn to.

I love discovering hidden gems and finding out if I should avoid some trick I have been eyeing.

One solution to your space quandary could be to spend less time describing the effects, packaging, background of negative reviews. Why not just give the name of the product, a one line summary of the product, a one paragraph reason why this is not recommended. At least I will have an idea of why an expert reviewer does not like something that I was going to spent hard cash on.

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Joe M. Turner » January 24th, 2008, 12:43 pm

As Richard knows and all of you are discussing, there is simply more DVD material released than there is available space to write meaningfully about everything. Factors such as impact, value and risk inevitably come into play.

I don't presume to do Richard's job. He is the ultimate editor, of course, and if he says "We really need a review of THIS" then it automatically goes to the top. But outside of those directions, I have to decide which of the huge piles of DVDs to watch and write about first, knowing there's a limited amount of space to work with.

Speaking for myself, the criteria that tend to make products bubble up in my stack of DVDs are:

- Market impact
Major releases from large and medium-sized publishers create headlines and expectations; people want to know if the things they have read about actually live up to the ads. You can't really choose to leave your readers wondering what you thought about the blockbuster releases of the year, even if you'd like to.

- Rip off danger threat level orange or above
If something is getting a lot of notice but is, in my opinion, a waste of time or money... it will get bumped up in my stack.

- Risk of something good flying under everyone's radar
If I see something lesser known but truly excellent in some way, it moves up the stack.

If a DVD stinks but doesn't seem to be gaining traction in the market, I figure the overall risk is pretty limited. The disc may get reviewed, but it isn't going to be as much of a priority to me as those in the categories above.

One last thing -- if a DVD is bad and it has limited promotion and no hope of gaining traction in the marketplace, BUT it's:
- the perfect illustration of a point I want to make
- the ultimate example of a trend I think needs to be noted
- so bad that it deserves to be seen by as many people as possible
... then I'll put it to the top of the stack.


That's pretty much my approach, in case you were wondering.

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Dustin Stinett » January 24th, 2008, 1:15 pm

Originally posted by Ian Richards:
it might be possible to include these reviews on the forum rather than in the magazine. This might also save the reviewers a lot of wasted time and effort in reviewing products that should not be brought to the market.
But I still have to write the review, and I have, in fact, posted a couple reviews that could not fit into the magazine here on the Forum (and there are at least two coming in March). I will continue to do that as needed. But the fact is that Joe Turner and I get more discs than you can imagine. We know when the box arrives that there is no way we can possibly review all of them in any substantive manner in the magazine, so we have to go through our selection process. (Joe clearly has one, I am not conscious of mine.)

Joe emailed me last night to talk about this and I was almost at a complete loss for something to say. The only thought I had last night was for us to have our usual group of reviews followed by a list of the others with a simple rating system of some kind (one through five diamonds or some such thing, per Daves thoughts above). But then someone is going to want to know why we only gave their disc one diamond, so we are back at square one because I believe that a bad review requires more space than a good one. One must justify a bad review more than a good one.

As for leaving out technical details, we actually get hammered by more readers when we leave these things out! It seems to be of the utmost of importance to a lot of people. This is why I test each disc on all of my players: A low end el-cheapo player; a higher end player, and my PC. If they work, I say so (Ive yet to have one that didnt that I can recall).

I have another thought that came to me as I was writing the above, so I am just thinking out loud here (and obviously this is Richards call).

One of the issues Joe and I have is time. As he mentions, there are often more discs than we have time to watch and write reviews for let alone have space for in the magazine. Perhaps there are a couple of peoplevolunteerswho would like to become the Genii Forums overflow DVD reviewers. Each month, Joe and I would send what we couldnt get to to these folks who would then watch them and post their reviews here. (The remuneration for these folks would be the DVDs themselves; you can keep or sell them as you please.)

The upside is that all the DVDs sent to Genii get reviewed; either in the magazine or online. Additionally, the online reviewers would get an on the job lesson in writing reviews (thus being groomed to replace me in the magazine when Richard finally tires of mewhich after this could be soon).

Dustin

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Gord » January 24th, 2008, 1:26 pm

Personally, I believe the negative reviews are just as important as good reviews. If all we read are good reviews then that gives the illusion that everything is fine and dandy in the magic biz.
Plus, for some reason, the negative reviews are more fun. I don't know why, but they are. Especially if Jamy Ian Swiss is the reviewer.

Gord

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Joe M. Turner » January 24th, 2008, 1:26 pm

I have to confess -- I'd hate to lose my copies of some of the really bad ones even if I didn't get to review them in the magazine. Some of them are really treasures for the future!

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » January 24th, 2008, 1:34 pm

Originally posted by Dustin Stinett:
We know when the box arrives that there is no way we can possibly review all of them in any substantive manner in the magazine, so we have to go through our selection process.
This is the real problem here -- in addition to space issues in the magazine (which could easily be solved by making use of the Forum), there's the issue of time. I think that the only real way to fix the problem is, as you mentioned, to throw more people at it. (Assuming you actually want to get all the DVDs reviewed...if not, then I think the selection process you and Joe are using is working just fine.)

The other option is to get Richard to pay you enough that you can make reviewing magic DVDs a full time job. (Ha!)

-Jim

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby JordanB » January 24th, 2008, 1:51 pm

The reviews are one of my favorite things. I think that the online reviews would be great as someone had mentioned, but there is the problem of still having to write a review.

Rather than write a lengthy rewiew, perhaps a 4-5 line maximum. That would give a reviewer a chance to give a summary as well as point out one or two likes or dislikes. I also like the idea of a "5 star system" as Dustin mentioned.

At any rate, the reviews have been great and keep up the good work.

FWIW,

Jordan Burgess

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 24th, 2008, 1:53 pm

People have always been free to post their comments about products (any person and any product) here on the Forum. People will unfairly bash the crap out of some things and unreasonably praise others. That's sort of what the internet is about--and then other people react to that. Our job is to try and keep all of that within civil bounds.
If anyone wants to write reviews of products and post them here, feel free! If you're out of bounds, we'll tell you. :)
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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Dustin Stinett » January 24th, 2008, 1:56 pm

Originally posted by Joe M. Turner:
I have to confess -- I'd hate to lose my copies of some of the really bad ones even if I didn't get to review them in the magazine. Some of them are really treasures for the future!
Then perhaps you post those reviews here.

Dustin

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Pete McCabe » January 24th, 2008, 2:06 pm

I tend to go with Joe's analysis, except I would prioritize them differently.

1) Anything that's really good. That's what we're hoping to hear about.

2) Anything that's really popular. That's what we want to hear about.

3) Anything that's a bad ripoff. That's what we need to hear about.


As for products that are not worth the time: on Slashdot.org (a tech geek forum), there are recurring stories about new solutions to email spam. Someone created a giant form letter to describe the most common recurring flaws in the system, so now every time there's a new story about a spam "solution," someone posts the form letter with the appropriate boxes filled in.

I'll try to find a copy of it and modify it for Magic products. There aren't that many different flaws that magic products display, and it's a great timesaver.

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Brandon Hall » January 24th, 2008, 2:32 pm

I generally turn to the reviews first as well. It would be great to have a section on these forums to post our own reviews, much like they have at the green place...
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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Joe M. Turner » January 24th, 2008, 3:07 pm

Originally posted by Dustin Stinett:
Then perhaps you post those reviews here.
Dustin
Good idea. I'll be glad to start putting some comments about the rest of the pile on here and see how that goes.

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Dustin Stinett » January 24th, 2008, 3:16 pm

I think Pete might be onto something here for brief reviews. Perhaps a standard A F grading system based on a fixed set of criteria such as:

Originality of Content
Content Advances Classic Plots
Practicality of Content
Performance Ability
Teaching Ability
Crediting
Camera Work
Sound
Value
Skill Level (this would need different grading, such as Beginner, Intermediate, Expert)

If you could imagine a grid with the criteria across the top and titles going down the side, its conceivable to get a good number of DVDs on a quarter of a page or less.

Then, if someone really wants an explanation for a particular grade, the reader can ask in the Light From the Lamp Forum.

Dustin

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Ian Kendall » January 24th, 2008, 3:39 pm

Dustin - that system reminds me a lot of Jim Krenz's reviews in the old days; I remember feeling very unsatisfied with them.

I think reviews of bad products are important, but only if backed up. I got a rantastic email from Harry Lorayne for saying publicly that I didn't like one of his books. In the mail he said that he never said a bad word about anyone in Apocalypse, and unless you are going to heap unqualified praise on someone you are messing with their livelihood. I think this is a dangerous precident.

The thing about small reviews is that you will end up replicating Hemidemisemiquavers.

Take care, Ian

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Dustin Stinett » January 24th, 2008, 4:08 pm

Fair enough Ian. Goodness knows I hate to leave anybody unsatisfied :D

So that leaves us with posting the overflow here. And to be clear, I am talking about a couple of people whose job it is to do these extra reviews.

Brandon, you are always welcome to post a review of a magic product or show here. True, we dont have a specific home for such reviews, but I dont think we need one. The General forum is sufficient. Just title the post accordingly.

Dustin

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby The Magic Apple » January 24th, 2008, 6:01 pm

as a magic shop, I love reading about the CRAP that is out there (and believe me...there is TONS!) One of the worst companies to EVER put anything out is "whois" magic. (check out [url=http://www.[censored].com]www.[censored].com[/url]

I have had MANY A WORD with the "creators" on these products and it is an embarassment to magic. I understand that Genii got a bunch of discs from this company and a reviewer said it wasn't WORTH THE PAPER it's printed on to review! it is bad...bad. bad

Of course a good review but ANY of the Genii reviewers is great and the product WILL end up in the magic Apple!
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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Brad Henderson » January 24th, 2008, 6:50 pm

The key to a successful review is context. The reader needs to understand the context of the review in order for them to extract value. A huge part of that context is the reviewer's taste and biases. With multiple reviewers it takes time for the audience to learn these qualities. Sometimes as reviewers we need to state those tastes and biases.

Also, sometimes there are "issues" with an offering apart from the trick/book/DVD itself. These are important to many people in our community, and to review a product without addressing these issues is unfair to all concerned.

And then, there is the issue of space and entertainment. Our reviews need to hold the interest of the reader, and convey completely within an allotted word count. While the latter condition might seem to favor the "2.5 star" type review, to do so without providing context results in something meaningless - a non-review. Unless we know who the person who is reviewing the item is, what they value, and the issues and factors supporting the reviewer's opinion, we do not have a review.

Brad

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Steve Bryant » January 24th, 2008, 8:29 pm

I'd love to see the pendulum swing the other way. There is not only a glut of stuff on the market but also a glut of review text covering it. I am as guilty as anyone of contributing to this situation, of reviewers taking themselves too seriously and of laboring under the misapprehension that we are getting paid by the word. (It's worse than that: we are paid by more magic crap showing up in the mail!) I am not dissing anyone's work here, as most of it is very well thought out, well written, and dead on. It's just starting to strike me that enough is enough. RK's recent paragraph posted here was ALL the incentive I needed to send off $200 for the Cervon Notebooks, and just in the nick of time.

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Richard Kaufman » January 24th, 2008, 9:08 pm

It's a matter of balance. I think Brad is right in pretty much everything he said, which is why we don't have capsule or single-line reviews in Genii--because they're not reviews, just opinions with little validity to back them up.

As Ebenezer Scrooge says when faced with the ghost of Jacob Marley, "You might be a bit of undigested beef" ... and so it is with a three-word opinion--something that might be expelled by the writer while in a foul mood.

When you actually start to write about something, your brain kicks in as you have to justify what you're saying (rather than just writing a bad review because that bowl of soup you ate at lunch is repeating).
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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Dustin Stinett » January 24th, 2008, 9:17 pm

If I may be so bold:

You've created a situation where no answer will satisfy you

:D

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Larry Horowitz » January 24th, 2008, 9:49 pm

Many magazines in other fields put out a yearly review of products issue. This is in addition to the monthly reviews.

Would this be of interest and possible?

I personally am not a member of the "buy the trick of the month" club. So the current number of reviews suits me fine.

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Roger M. » January 24th, 2008, 10:10 pm

I'd like to see additional reviews here on the forum.

Now that it's a smaller crowd, there would be a good signal to noise ratio, and the reviews would likely be accurate enough to base purchasing decisions on.

When things really suck, experienced magicians will generally all see and then say that they suck......that's good information to have.
The only problem I could see is that neophyte writers (myself included) often have a difficult time explaining why something sucks, or why something is good without getting into tipping methods or alluding too strongly to mechanics.

But overall, there can never be to many reviews of products IMO.

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby castawaydave » January 24th, 2008, 11:10 pm

I suppose it goes without saying that all no-good, bitter/sarcastic m.f.'s needn't bother applying for the "volunteer overflow dvd reviewing post", right?

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby castawaydave » January 24th, 2008, 11:32 pm

Needless to say, in this case "m.f." means "mystical fellow".

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Dustin Stinett » January 24th, 2008, 11:40 pm

So, dave, why did you say it? :)

Blair,

Like magic, the best way to practice the craft of writing is to do it!

I started reviewing things on the old "MagicTalk" site and learned a lot from my mistakes. Then I started here and learned more. Now, writing for the magazine, not a month goes by that I don't learn something new from Richard and a few other confidants and critics. And, just like magic, you never stop learning this craft. If you love it, you become a student for life.

Dustin

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby castawaydave » January 25th, 2008, 12:53 am

Up past your bed time aren't you, old man?

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Matthew Field » January 25th, 2008, 3:16 am

This is a big problem for me. I agree mostly with what Brad and Joe said. I review what I think will be of most interest to my readership. In my case, this is a reader base of mostly experienced amateurs and professionals (members of The Magic Circle), so I mostly ignore street magic, Ellusionist-type stuff, and one trick DVDs.

But every once in a while I get surprised. At the bottom of a pile of DVDs ready for the trash bin (not really) I found "The Incredible Dancing Paper Napkin by Scott Francis and David Allen. Self-produced and released, wuith an amateurish-looking cover, I stuck it in the computer prepared to watch five minutes and bin it -- but lo and behold, it was really good!

So you've got to try and be alert, but the crap ratio is rising, and rising fast. The 'Glut' (to use Racherbaumer's word) has become an onslaught!

One Star, Two Star reviews are meaningless. (Jim Krenz used to give positive points for the design of the box!) Reviews by people who have little experience (most Internet reviews) are useless. Reviewers have other things to do with their lives that just sit in front of a screen watching crap.

Richard is correct -- there is a problem! I guess judgment on the reviewers part is the best we can expect.

Matt Field

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Dustin Stinett » January 25th, 2008, 7:07 am

Originally posted by Matthew Field:
One Star, Two Star reviews are meaningless.
Im not sure that meaningless is the correct word to be using. Are they as good as a full review? Absolutely not. But if David Regal instituted such a rating system on a few tricks (that otherwise would not be reviewed at all), I believe those ratings would carry the weight of his notoriety and experienceand not to forget trustthat has been well established. His tastes in magic can be discerned from his writing allowing the reader to at least grasp whether or not a product is worth looking into.

I suspect that the critics of a rating system think Im talking about just having a rating system and thats just not the case. Im talking about in addition to the full reviews. Right nowon averageI get about six reviews in per month while I receive ten to twelve discs (or more). Those added discs arent getting any attention whatsoever. Something has got to be better than nothing.

Originally posted by Matthew Field:
Reviews by people who have little experience (most Internet reviews) are useless.
I also dont believe that to be the case. Reviewers need to start somewhere and I cant think of a better place than sites like this. I know of at least one person who was noticed as a result of the Internet and is now writing for Genii on a regular basis (and is apparently doing an okay job, though he had some pretty big shoes to fill).

Originally posted by Matthew Field:
Richard is correctthere is a problem!
And I think we can find a solution.

Dustin

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Bill Mullins » January 25th, 2008, 7:32 am

Originally posted by Blair M.:
The only problem I could see is that neophyte writers (myself included) often have a difficult time explaining why something sucks, or why something is good without getting into tipping methods or alluding too strongly to mechanics.
Writing is a skill which, like many others, only gets better with practice. And if you want to be able to write better product reviews, here is a golden opportunity -- a forum in which interested readers would provide feedback to your reviews, telling you where they are useful (and not).

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Ian Kendall » January 25th, 2008, 10:47 am

Matt's comments echo a trend in magic; that style is more important than substance. It's true that a lot of self produced stuff is drek (and heck, I should know) but it would be folly to paint everything with the same brush. Many of the 'names' in magic today started their publishing output with home produced material.

But Ian, what about quality control? The big companies can vet their artists.

A good point, and one that cannot be ignored, however it's not cast in stone, and it does not account for the good side of the cottage industry. And it's not failsafe - everyone owns well produced rubbish.

Also, a sweeping disregard for internet reviews can be dangerous as well. Again, there is a certain Absolonic tendency for some reviewers, but on the whole an internet review is very similar to asking a friend about something they bought. It may not be gospel, but it is an opinion that may or may not be taken on board. (Having said that, there may be a certain bias; for those of us in the Cottage Industry the interweb is a good way to get word of mouth out about a product in the absence of an advertising budget...)

Take care, Ian

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby The Magic Apple » January 25th, 2008, 7:54 pm

Out of 100 "new" items that hit the market...10 of them are decent ideas and only 3 of them are great. ANd that TRULY is the truth.

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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Matthew Field » January 26th, 2008, 5:45 am

Originally posted by Ian Kendall:
Matt's comments echo a trend in magic; that style is more important than substance.
My comkments echo a trend that style is more important than substance? I don't know how you reached that conclusion, Ian. I completyely disagree with your premise.

Also, a sweeping disregard for internet reviews can be dangerous as well. Again, there is a certain Absolonic tendency for some reviewers, but on the whole an internet review is very similar to asking a friend about something they bought. It may not be gospel, but it is an opinion that may or may not be taken on board.
The problem with Internet reviews, to clarify what I was trying to say, is that one does not know the experience of the person evaluating the product. So, Ian, if you ask your friend what they think of a new card video, and they haven't read 'Royal Road' or seen many other card videos, you'd take what they said with a grain of salt. With Internet reviewers, one often does not know who the reviewer is and what his background and knowledge have.

For the record, I started doing reviews (of Monday Night Magic) on the internet, specifically on The Electronic Grymoire. But my readers on the Grymoire knew who I was and what my background was. And when I moved over to video reviewer for Genii, I made sure to introduce myself by telling readers those facts abiout myself so they could better gauge how to evaluate the reviews for themselves.

Matt Field

Ian Kendall
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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby Ian Kendall » January 26th, 2008, 7:39 am

Matt, it was this bit that led me to that assumption:

"Self-produced and released, wuith an amateurish-looking cover, I stuck it in the computer prepared to watch five minutes and bin it "

The whole aspect of internet anonymity has been hashed over and over, and I agree with you - it's hard to give credibility to an unknown source. However, often if a review is well written it signifies that the writer has at least thought about the piece, which is a good start. It's not rocket science to separate the wheat from the chaff.

Take care, Ian

CJJANIS
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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby CJJANIS » January 26th, 2008, 10:23 am

Part of the problem is anybody can make a DVD these days, and many do and have no business doing it. But having said that, I will say I watched a DVD the other day at a shop with some other people and we all agreed that this DVD was one that should of never seen the light of day, really bad! But much to my horror I see it on the hot selling list??? One has to wonder, sometimes sh*t sells.

John LeBlanc
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Re: Product Reviews in Genii

Postby John LeBlanc » January 26th, 2008, 11:05 am

Originally posted by CJJANIS:
Part of the problem is anybody can make a DVD these days, and many do and have no business doing it. But having said that, I will say I watched a DVD the other day at a shop with some other people and we all agreed that this DVD was one that should of never seen the light of day, really bad! But much to my horror I see it on the hot selling list??? One has to wonder, sometimes sh*t sells.
Like my grandfather used to say, "one man's [censored] is another man's fertilizer."

To my mind the definition of a DVD that should never have seen the light of day is either one that will, ultimately, sell excruciatingly badly, or one of Yoko Ono singing.

John


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