The wealth of information at our fingertips has blossomed into a smorgasbord of online web review sites, magazines, and newsgroups. The numbers of sources of information has grown from a few hundred to millions. Unfortunately, along with the boom, it's become increasingly difficult to sift through the clutter of so many sources and the added noise that comes with all the traffic.
The best example of such is the internet newsgroups which is a community of internet users that communicate ideas in a free and global manner. While an awesome channel to exchange messages and ideas, it remains largely unstructured due to its primary function as an exchange as opposed to a repository of information; messages remain largely uncategorized and are eventually erased to free space for new messages. Though this has changed somewhat with the advent of Google Groups (formerly DejaNews), it still takes quite a bit of sifting to find what you want (if you find it at all). Compounding the problem is the noise created by many users who post meaningless messages, trollers who post extremely biased statements hoping for people to "bite", and spammers, hoping to lure people to buy their products.
Thus, this site was born to focus on the seemingly simple question: "Which one do people think is better?". It's not here to debate the morals of men. It's not here to sell your comic collection. And it's definitely not here to post pictures of humping vegetables.
Ever disagree with a movie critic? Most of you have probably read professional reviews, whether it be in magazines, newspapers, or on the television. While these reviews have definite merit, they don't necessarily reflect the needs of the common person. Many products in the past have been touted as "superior" by the experts, yet have floundered in consumer acceptance. People are simply too varied for a single product to be generalized as either good or bad for everyone.
Ok, so the experts may have spent the last 20 years in their respective fields, but what if I'm just starting out? This is also one of the hardest segments for professional reviewers to address because it's very hard to unlearn what you've learned and thus truly be able to write a review from a newbie point of view. The expert might point out the how to tune system XYZ's spiffy new feature, when, as a newbie, all I might want to do is get the darn thing working with minimal hassle.
Professional reviews are also, by definition, paid for. Who pays the bills? In many cases, the advertisers pay the bulk of them. Though most reviewers might not initially pay heed to this, it's often difficult to ignore threats from the #1 advertiser to pull advertising when a reviewer disses their flagship product. Keep the lights on? Or soften the review?
Have you ever bought a product only to find it broken? Quality control is another issue professional reviews fail to address because of their small sampling size. At times, publications even make open requests (especially for products that are hard to come by or are especially expensive), thus giving companies the chance to pick out the best samples or even fine tune the samples!
All in all, professional reviews are still good sources of information and often times the most objective source of information because the experience the reviewers carry allows them to make many comparisons. However, to make an informed choice, always get a 2nd (or 3rd, 4th, or 5th...) opinion! This is why we vote!
Things are organized in a hierarchical structure, much like Yahoo or any other Internet directory. Categories and sub-categories lead to sections. Sections contain entries. Entries contain votes/reviews/ratings.
If you know specifically what you are looking for, a find command exists at the top level and allows you to search for specific section names (e.g., Amps) as well as entries (e.g., Carver-705x).
A search command also exists at the top of each section list. This search has an advanced option which allows you to search for specific product characteristics like price (within affordability), weight (within lift ability), or, to use the Amps example, watts per channel (no wussy stuff).
Like many things in life, there's a short way and a long way. The short way works, but the long way works better -- if you have the time.
The short, quick way is to view the average (avg) rating column in the section lists. This column represents average ratings on a scale of 0-10, 10 being the highest. Next to this column is the weight (wt) that the average holds. The higher the weight, the more meaningful the average rating is. In addition, some sections contain a Standard Deviation (SDev) column. Standard Deviation is useful in determining how much the opinions of different voters vary. Ideally, the standard deviation is low meaning that most voters all voted the same way. If the standard deviation is high, it means that people disagree; possibly because the product/company is either controversial or is inconsistent in quality.
The long way is to actually look at the votes and read the comments voters have left. Each vote will have an overall rating, a weight, and a comment. The rating reflects the user's overall assessment, the weight reflects how meaningful the vote probably is (more on this down below), and the comment explains the rating. In all cases, the comment is far more important than the actual rating as it will often describe the context the vote was made in (What, Where, When, How) and also the specific reasons for the rating (Too small, too expensive, etc.). Most sections also support vote breakdowns (Value, Performance, etc.) which allow you see, at a glance, which areas a product is weaker or stronger in.
Unfortunately, even we get noise in our neck of the woods. To help users filter it out, we have a weighting system which allows good votes to stand out, and bad votes to be cast aside.
The coolest aspect of the weighting system is that it's all dependant on you. It's up to you and other users like you to provide hints about which votes you find valuable and which votes you don't. As a registered user, you can rate votes and help boost the weight of good votes while keeping bad votes at bay. In addition, rating votes gives you future reference about which users' votes you prefer.
So you've gone through the votes and picked out the best item that fits your needs. Now you can return the favor and tell the other users about your own experiences! By writing good reviews for others to read, users will, in turn, rate your votes and, if favorable, will reward you with a high user level. Read more about how to write a good vote in the How to write a good vote page.
When a vote is cast, it starts at a base level ("unreliable" for anonymous users), and ascends in weight by receiving favorable ratings. To provide a shortcut for good votes, votes made by higher level users are given a higher rating with which to start out. Thus, votes made by registered users can start out at the "trustworthy" or even "notable" levels depending on the user level, and continue rising as the vote receives favorable ratings.
Of course, you must Register in order for us to keep track of your votes. To prevent system abuse, only registered users can rate other votes and only registered users can ascend in user level.
Votes come from a wide array of people of different writing ability and it is often easy to omit the details which lead to an overall rating. Messages allow users to ask questions about particular votes and to also discuss products in a general forum.
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