Basic guidelines/checklist/2 cents for forum contributors/reviewers

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03/12/2010 by The Sorcerer


Not that I am an expert or something, but simply putting the message across with whatever limited experience I had so that everyone will be well-informed and one step ahead especially after this incident:

Between you and the PR

# When you get review samples first make sure whom you’re getting it from- the inhouse PR, the assigned PR from the 3rd party agency or Dealer (IMO, unless you don’t know them well enough, try and avoid).

# If you have direct contact with the company, good. If you received a sample through a 3rd party PR agency or through a dealer, make sure that you have direct connections with the relevant personnel (Either PR or marketing) in the company itself. 3rd part PR’s job is to get large amounts of PR (at times resorting to spamming), you are dedicated to enlighten the community by reviewing the stuff and making proper conclusions. It’s the in-house marketing/pr’s job (one of many) to get feedback of the product so that they can forward it on behalf of you.

# As per my experience, managers are usually good people do be candid (well…not exactly) and directly. It is your job to make the most of it and present the message across that it sounds like a feedback rather than the onslaught/bashing session. Some of them say “keep it out of record”- respect it.

# Keep the relevant personnel in the company in loop no matter how silly it might be. Remember, it’s a media sample and therefore it’s your responsibility for its good condition or else you might end up being blacklisted for unnecessary bloopers.

# 3rd party agencies/dealers have a bad habit to take the credit of your hard work, telling to the client that he was the one who got a writer. They also have this “feeling” that they are doing you a favour. Remember one thing- they are doing their job whereas you are doing yours. There’s no favour game being played at all, even if they give you access to something exclusive.

# Under no circumstances you should be under the impression that the company is doing a favour on you. That being said, make sure that you write reviews properly and honestly with less amount of “marketing” lingo- you are not a salesman. At the same time, don’t be arrogant or carry an ego across the forums/meets just because you are getting review samples or take this opportunity to senselessly bash the manufacturers. Criticism is welcomed, but there’s a way to present it. Remember, you’re a community contributor. Be humble and honest humanly possible.

# Check all the contents ASAP (even if you have to make the company’s delivery boy to wait) once you get the package. The so-called “professional” media houses that we have in our country have a habit of not repacking it properly with some missing stuff. Chances are if the PR personnel rechecks the stuff unfortunately after your work is done, they will pin it on you.

# Check the physical condition of the hardware- scratches, bumps, damaged screws, dents, etc. Shoot an email to the person responsible and ask if he could arrange another sample or should you go ahead with it. “Should I highlight the damages on the review”- if you ask me, you should. But also write at the same time that usually 1-2 media sample is circulated amongst all media houses so possibility exists that one of them has done it.

# Be clear in how much time you will take to complete the review (max). Also ask if the product is under NDA and be clear about the conditions under NDA, just in case they manage to give you something “exclusive”.

# Don’t lie or do sweet-talks to cover your tracks. Managers do a lot of stuff and they have far more experience than you and therefore they know lies when they see one. Be a man and say that this is what has happened and leave it at that.

# Keep all the details/communication relevant to the product via email- sent and received. Insist them to send an email in such scenarios. Remember, if someone tries the finger pointing game, this is what is going to make sure that you are not blacklisted for something that you have not done. Speaking from experience- it works.

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Workstation Ethics

# Use the right tool for the right job- Screwdrivers!!! Don’t just go about using something not meant for it just because it can fit. Some brilliant reviewer who reviewed a 890FXA-UD7 before me damaged the screw head on the waterblock and the thread so I had to cut a plastic spatula in such a way that I could use it to remove the relevant component.

# Use the right equipments for the right job. If you don’t have the decent enough resources like proper power supply, camera, etc. don’t go and review something which will end up being a crappy work later.

# We’ve all started with limited resources to test and review anything we get. No shame in that. Rather you should take pride in admitting (that doesn’t mean you can use obsolete products with it) that in public even if some trolls try to run you over. If you are going to invest your own money just to test few hardwares, that is your personal call. I will say- don’t regret it later.

# Clean hands, clean tools, clean cloth and most important: clean workstation. Keep a dedicated workstation and make sure it’s clean as humanly possible. Some people have a dusty places, so take note. I am not saying that you should wear pink/blue latex/kinky gloves, but many have sweaty palms.

# Have proper storage space. Most of us do it at home? Some has ample space, some don’t, some live with their family/families with kids/adults running around and some don’t. In any case, proper storage space.

# Basic stationary- enough said.

# Follow a standard/proper testing methodology that are most well-known (famous is over-rated as a friend once said) review sites like how guys at anandtech, hardware secrets, etc. follow. I know, most of our existing Indian media doesn’t do it but we do it for the community and therefore we believe that our readers are competent enough. (trust me, most of those chaps think that people will not read their review if they do like this).

# Clean the product properly with the right stuff before and after reviewing. Many times whenever I end up getting a review sample its covered with dust and some sticky goo.

# Keep a separate container for putting in screws, springs, rubber grommets, push-pins, washers, rubber/plastic brace/whatever. It might be silly for many (especially those who take pride by saying they have assembled few systems for their friends) and some will think that they are responsible enough to take care of it, but it makes sense to do this way. Someone said that I treat the hardware like my wife- so I assume that’s a good thing(right?).

# No shame in asking for a 2nd opinion from a fellow reviewer. We all do it. Some media folks ask H/W users/enthusiasts for advices too.

# Keep a backup of the data- photos, screenshots and the content.

# Read the manual. Silly? Yes- but there are times you find suprising facts.

# Read the QVM on the product’s page. Same reason as above.

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Community contributor’s ethics– Touchy topic and it differs between people to people.

# You are reviewing for the community. But still, try and reduce technical “jargons”, short forms, etc. wherever possible. Even guests/newbies read your review. No flowery language/sarcasm please.

# If you are writing to impress the manufacturers and tempt them to give you exclusive stuff to you OR worse, doing this to get free hardware (don’t be surprised, couple of people do it)- don’t. Again, you’re not a salesman nor you’re a marketing personnel. Have some self respect.

# If there are some issues/results with the hardware or noticing something “odd”, take the screenshot and shoot a mail to the one of the company guys. Once they give you a reply, quote those words on the article. I am not saying that you should necessarily believe it or make the conclusion on based on what they said, but say in your reviews that this is what they had to say- simple.

# Be responsible and interact with people who comment. If there are doubts raised by the readers, forward to the people responsible to answer it and try to get a reply back.

# Some people who comment do end up correcting you and give you an idea. No shame in using that. Just make sure you put a personal thanks that this person has corrected you. People will love to read your reviews for that. Again- benefits of being humble.

# No (how should I say it accurately) Ass kissing. Some PR folks will try to pressure you to tempt making badges like “best performer”, “Writer’s choice”/stars, moon, sun, etc.- unless you have review similar product from most of the competitors- don’t. Just put a decent conclusion to give people an idea. People do read the entire review. If you’re doing it and unless the forum/website is yours or you have the permission, don’t include the forum/website’s name. 2 reasons- you are doing it, not the owners & just in case if you are writing the review in their favour (I believe such blokes are called “spin doctors”?), you are damaging their name for your and their selfish reasons.

# Conclusion- tough thing to sum it all up, but try to mention the key points as much as you can.

# Layout- credits to stalker (aka the douchebag as Gannu once said it :P) and dark star with other folks whom I can’t recollect. Decent enough, if not great, layout presentation. If you don’t think its decent, well- catch DS and stalky.

# Spell and grammar check: I still make mistakes but the more I write, the less I do. Still, spell and grammar checks is important.

# If there is a feedback that you wish to give to the relevant person in the company who can forward it to the relevant person they know, do it. But make sure its done right and not childish, be realistic.

# No plagiarism at ALL. Whether its screenshots, pictures or whatever. You have a cam and the product in front of you? Be a man and do it.

# There are times that company folks call you for certain meetings. It’s good to attend WHETHER or not you can get anything done or put your message across. But also make sure that the person who is calling is not under the impression that she/he is doing “favours” for you- and vice versa.

# There are some things that companies don’t allow you to publish. This is your decision. In my case if its something that reflects the performance of the product, I will stop reviewing it and tell them to take it back.

# There are times that they give “free” hardware to you. Again- make sure that they are not under the impression that they are doing favours before accepting it. They are giving it to you because whenever you use it as a test setup with other products, their product name is there. There’s nothing wrong with it, if you get stuff to test other stuff properly its good. But make sure they are not in the wrong mindset. If they think otherwise, return it back. As it is it’s a media/review sample.

# Don’t sell them, even if they give it to you. You are not supposed to sell it and I think they could also ask it back (maybe to give something in its place). If you don’t have any use for it, its a good sign if you ask them that if they will take it back or should you get rid of it.

# If you’re one of those chaps who written the review and saying in the conclusion “Now I am putting this brilliant product for sale and its all yours for Rs. XX”? Prepare yourself for a can of whoopass pwnag3 by other members.

# In good faith, I at times make a habit of thanking the manufacturer and the readers. Some question why I do that, but like some folks, I don’t thank the “middle men”.

# Keeps mutual respect with your fellow writers- even if they are from other forums. Love thy neighbours (atleast it should look as if you are).

# If they do something that potentially fabricates the facts and you happen to know it that they will do this on the online community, first get facts cleared from them. Mostly, they will try not to make a proper reply. If such is the case, carefully think about the consequences if you do or do not. Remember, you’re doing it out of your free time and for the good of the community. If you don’t do the right thing, then who will?

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BTW, if anyone has anything to add further, please do so. You will get a cake in exchange :D. Besides its also being put up in few Indian forums.

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