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Shaun's Meandering Thoughts: Everyone's a Critic and So Can You


Articles about everything in between...

Shaun's Meandering Thoughts: Everyone's a Critic and So Can You

Shaun Cordingley

I get that there is a lot of value in the internet review system--on the {PODCAST} we have talked before about the value of critics, and what both Dave and I look for when we are trying to decide whether something is for us or not (generally we discussed this as it pertains to movies and tv series).  For those of you who listened to Episode 83 already totally remember, is that both of us essentially determined that we greatly prefer when we know someone and they tell us what they thought about a something, be it a movie, or a product, rather than someone random. The problem is, however, there are often things that you are going to interact with that none of your friends have, or it is something that you do not have a 'go to' reviewer for.

Well, over the course of the past week, I was definitely reminded about the perils of internet, which is essentially peer, reviews, on a variety of things, from restaurants, to movies, to a velvet bag.



Let's start somewhere a little easier--I was looking to order some dinner, so I was going through a list of restaurants in my area, complete with reviews from people who had previously ordered from there. I had narrowed my choices (aka what I felt like jamming into my face after a long day) to a couple of places that I had not tried before, so I clicked over to the reviews.

Now see, there is the first thing that you absolutely have to do: you need to remember to actually click on the reviews, and not just rely on a number, or say a 5-star system, because those lie.

I clicked in to the restaurant that I eventually ordered my dinner from (which was, coincidentally, delicious) and saw that they had 4+-stars (out of the possible 5). I went through the reviews, and found the negative review, as is my custom, as I like to see what the problems are, rather than the 5-star "it was delicious" reviews...and in the interests of not calling someone out directly, I will paraphrase her 1-star review from February:

"The food was cold when it got to me and my hamburger was too big"

read that again

Someone, in winter...and keep in mind that where I live, winter means cold:

See that smoke from the top of that building to the right? That's  steam --COLD

See that smoke from the top of that building to the right? That's steam--COLD

Someone in winter got cold food--not sure how far she lives from the restaurant, but considering the restaurant does not deliver food themselves, but rather uses a delivery service (which is, you know, the site I was on...for said service), has absolutely nothing to do with the restaurant and everything to do with the courier,  but that, OK, sure it is a little annoying...but my hamburger was too big might be the absolute DUMBEST reason I have ever seen someone leave a 1-star review on a restaurant.

Dumbest, if I remove IMDB user reviews from the equation.

I challenge you, as soon as you are finished here, to go to IMDB and click on any movie at random and try to find a reasonable user review on the first few pages. Seriously, what a wasteland of misery and uneducated ranting IMDB user reviews have become. The idea works in principle: you have regular people review a movie for you, and you get a sense what the "general public" (and I pray that that term is not accurate in this case) thinks versus the paid critics...all the ingredients are there for a very useful resource...

IMDB user reviews in a nutshell


Useless. IMDB user reviews are now essentially useless. If I take the fact that I understand how to write reviews out of the equation (because you really have to remove that sensible part of your brain), and you accept the fact that clearly our education system is clearly failing a large number of people, you get down to the unfortunate fact of pretty much all user reviews: no one understands how a scale works.

To be rational about it is completely gone: you get the hardest of the hardcore fans who pump 10/10s out as fast as they can to inflate the entirely meaningless score, you get the people who leave 1-star reviews but start with "I actually think this is more like a 5, but I had to bring the score down" and immediately invalidate anything they say afterward, or you get the people who, somehow, feel that something like Interstellar or Mad Max: Fury Road is "the worst movie I have ever seen" and then ramble at you about things that often have very little to do with the film (or in some cases, are just flat out wrong). 

While it does warm my heart to think that there are people out there who have seen 10 movies, so it is possible that Interstellar is the worst thing they have ever seen (because all they have ever seen is like, The Godfather, North by Northwest and Some Like it Hot), but what is more likely, is that they have no f******* clue what they are talking about.

No, what they are doing, is they are hyperbolically talking about something they actually have no background in, no knowledge base, no actual ideas about, but in order to make themselves feel important are shitting on the film (or product, or whatever), in some misguided attempt to sound smart to strangers. They fail, obviously, but in the process, drown out some really thoughtful, talented people with reviews that could actually help people make decisions. We can pretend that most of the best people who write about and review movies are working for websites or newspapers as critics, but that is very, very much untrue...the problem is, the good ones who are still unknown are drowning in garbage

Must. Speak. Reasonably. About.  Jurassic World.

Must. Speak. Reasonably. About. Jurassic World.

There has to be something to this, yes? A reason this has become so prevalent...If it was just a couple of people, OK, but this is what the crux of my point is: it is everywhere. Twitter, message boards, user reviews, almost everyone has downgraded criticism in to straight 'black or white', eliminating all of the middle ground between "it's the greatest thing ever" and "this is literally the worst". What good does this actually do? I mean sure, most of the people doing it are just trying to make themselves feel relevant in an increasingly turbulent landscape, and many are not willing to put any thought into...anything beyond their immediate reaction, and thus lower the value of conversation...

Those people, however, are stupid, and are trying to cover it up by making other people feel bad (and sounding SMRT online).

And I feel fine saying that, because there is no way any of them made it this far in this article.

What can we do about this? Absolutely nothing.

The best chance we have, or really anyone has, if they are interested in good reviews, good criticism, or just being a reasonable person online, is be supportive--send those good messages, leave positive reviews, but take a few minutes, and leave something that you actually put some brain into, rather than just a quick gut-check and then moving on to the next movie, next moment, next scandal. Actual thoughts have value; 'worst thing ever' is useless.

I'm not saying there is no value in negative reviews, if something was not good, review it, but tell us why. Make a point, that might apply to someone who isn't you. Oh, and seriously, if your hamburger is too big and a little cold when it's -20, that's not a 1-star restaurant.

Unless your hamburger was too big because it had an old, gross hat in it.

That's a 1-star for sure.

-S (@Shauncord) -- here's my twitter so you can tell me how this was the worst article you've ever read