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    • One thing that the internet has given everyone (for better or worse) is a platform to have their voices heard. Average people who otherwise wouldn't be heard are now able to share their thoughts and opinions with people from all over the world, again, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. But with so much negativity already in our mindspace these past few weeks, let's focus on the positives, shall we?

      Online reviews are a great way of learning about the quality of any product, be it a movie, a smartphone, a restaurant, a book, household appliances, anything really. But I'm not talking about professional reviews, I'm talking about reviews written by you and me. Reviews written by average users who aren't paid to review products.

      There's plenty of platforms for users like us to write our own reviews, and this is what I'd like to discuss with everyone today. Do you often write reviews for products you purchase? If so, where? What platforms do you use to write your reviews?

      I write reviews quite frequently across a variety of platforms. Google Maps is probably my most active review platform. Whenever I visit a new restaurant, cafe, tourist destination, etc., I almost always write reviews. I find myself referring to Google Maps reviews a lot too before visiting a new destination, and I want to contribute to the platform as well. I try to be as informative as I can when writing reviews, touching on parking, payment options, pricing, seating availability, posting photos, and whatever else I can think of. Looking forward to contributing again once the pandemic dies down.

      The newest platform I use for reviews is Goodreads. As I only started reading on a regular basis last year, I needed something to help me choose which books to read. Goodreads became a reliable platform for me to read reviews and see ratings for books I considered buying, and I also write my own reviews there once I'm done with a book.

      I enjoy watching movies a lot too, but I don't write reviews on any movie-focused websites. I do rate movies on IMDb, but for written reviews I write them right here on Cake. I've written quite a few actually, with 1917 and Knives Out being two of my more recent contributions. Movies aren't the only form of entertainment I review on Cake. TV series get some attention from me as well, like Stranger Things when the third season was released on Netflix and the final season of Game of Thrones (which sucked).

      Then there's my micro-reviews that I write on Twitter whenever I purchase or try a new tech product. As I use a new tech product I tweet out my thoughts and opinions as I'm using it. Once I'm done, I consolidate my thoughts and write out a full review here on Cake, sometimes converting it into a half-review half-opinion kind of article. I've done this for wireless earphones, smartwatches, and music streaming.

      What about you? How often and where do you write reviews on the internet?

    • Not anymore.

      As far as Google Maps is concerned, I think we have a similar story based on our shared G+ experience. I was there when the public, geotagged photos I had previously uploaded to Google became a part of what was called "Google Maps Views", and I was on board with that idea.

      Then they came up with the initial "Local Guides" idea, which was based on Google+ and meant that there was a central community for all people considering themselves to be Local Guides, and an opportunity for people to create their own, local "LG communities" with good support from Google. I managed one such community, and even got a T-Shirt one year (then a crappy set of stickers the next year, and finally a note stating they would no longer support local LG communities shortly thereafter... :D).

      They replaced their G+ community with a separate forum that was just confusing and had horrible load times right from the start - and I guess still has. Their support for highly active "guides" became less and less valuable over time, and their new way of incentivizing any addition to Google Maps just meant that photos, reviews and ratings just became less meaningful, not more. Even today, I'm still seeing absolutely inappropriate one-line reviews by "Level 7 Local Guides" where it is clear that the user didn't visit the location they reviewed even once, but just left a review to increase their "LG level".

      I eventually left the "Local Guides Connect" platform, deleted all my reviews and most of my public images from Google Maps, and stopped considering myself to be a "Local Guide". I'm still getting a congratulatory mail from Google every once in a while, stating that "places I added to Maps have been seen 250,000 times", and that my remaining images have "over 8 million views", but none of that really matters anymore.

      That aside (and sorry for ranting, but I needed to get this off my chest), I never was much of a "reviewer" in the first place, more a photographer and content editor. I feel that "fair" reviews get less visibility than high praise or 1-star shitstorms, and they come with the additional risk of repercussions when writing them using my real name (vs. others who hide behind pseudonyms on their Google accounts that only live as long as their current phone does). There's not much to gain for me by writing public reviews, so why bother?

    • Nope...

      I do not offer my opinion on products or services in a large-public forum. Frankly, I no longer trust most proffered opinions. Reviewers flame a product/service for no reason at all. Vendors pay people to rate favorable reviews. Where's the truth?

      I'm sure there are honest reviews, but, frankly it is often difficult and certainly not worth my time to attempt to sort the factual content from the less then truthful.

      And most important, your personal criteria for rating a product/service may be totally different than mine. Not that this is necessarily bad, again, just not worth my time/effort figuring it out.

      I do rely on product/service advice from those I know and/or trust. Even so, I still have closets/work shop full of product that didn't work out for me. Not that their advice was bad, just that the product didn't meet my personal expectations or simply didn't work out.

    • There's not much to gain for me by writing public reviews, so why bother?

      This is an understandable point of view. We never get anything in return for writing reviews, so why should we spend time and effort? For me, it's very much personal satisfaction. I don't know if it's the academician in me, but I love sharing information with people. That's why my Google Maps reviews are always quite long, though not as long as the reviews I write on Cake. If I have information on a location on Google Maps that I haven't seen written in other reviews, then I add it to mine to fill the knowledge gap. I guess that can be explained by my academician side. Wanting to fill knowledge gaps however I can.

    • And most important, your personal criteria for rating a product/service may be totally different than mine. Not that this is necessarily bad, again, just not worth my time/effort figuring it out.

      This is why I value community reviews more than professional reviews. When it comes to smartphones for example, something I follow very closely, professional reviews by tech journalists are often marred by their unrealistically high expectations since they can literally use any smartphone they want. Every smartphone is placed under the microscope and even the smallest flaw turns them away because they have the luxury of choosing from a plethora of other options. But average consumers have more realistic expectations which often average out the more people share their opinions. One guy may rate one particular aspect of a product highly, one may not. But in a community, you tend to see a patterns and can figure out for yourself how highly a product may be rated.

      Social media reactions to movies is a great example of this. I literally watched 1917 because of how highly people praised it on social media. And I'm not talking about movie critics, just regular folk. Everyone was talking about how amazing the cinematography was, and as that was something that intrigued me, I watched it.

      It might take some effort to come to a consensus from community reviews, but if it's something you're really interested in, it won't be that much of a hassle I don't think.

    • I appreciate well thought out reviews that cover how well all the features performed. Also, when they mention any quirks to a product that isn’t adequately covered in the instructions. There’s definitely fake reviews out there, but I’ve generally found online reviews to be helpful, although I have been burned once or twice. Video reviews are probably the most helpful.

      Overall, online reviews are better than the alternative of no reviews and buying blind.