Friday, October 21, 2011

On Reviewing, Part 1

I was struck by some thoughts on my own reviewing techniques tonight, and I just wanted to get some things down on paper and maybe get a discussion going, so feel free to chime in if you are so inclined.

If you don't know me, I review a fair amount of stuff over at Geeks of Doom, and when I review said stuff, I grade on a straight # out of five scale. By this I mean I don't use any half points, and my basic meaning of my score goes like this:

1 out of 5: Avoid at all costs. This product has no redeeming value. This is a very rare score and is reserved for truly awful material.
2 out of 5: Avoid. Not recommended. There may be some redeeming value, but only to people of a very specific taste that certainly isn't mine. You may like it, but I really didn't. Fairly common score, but I don't particularly like giving it out. I'd much rather spend my time talking about things I actually want others to check out.
3 out of 5: Decent, but with some problems. This is probably my most used score. 3 means that there are things I didn't like about the given item I am reviewing, but that there are people out there who may not find the same problems. When reviewing a comic, this may mean that I liked the writing but didn't like the art, or vice versa. Or it could just be that the item as a whole was basically mediocre. There's nothing specifically wrong with it, it just wasn't a slam dunk.
4 out of 5: Very good. There are very few things wrong with the item, it just missed that little bit that is needed for it to be spectacular. This is also a fairly common score. a 4 means that I wholeheartedly recommend whatever it is I am reviewing. There may be a few problems, possibly glaring problems, but there is enough good to counteract those problems. I had a good time with this and think 90% my audience will have a good time as well.
5 out of 5: The best of the best of the best, sir. This is a prime example of whatever medium the item is in. If it is a comic, this means the writing and the art work together in perfect harmony. If you don't like this, then I don't know whats wrong with you. I don't give a 5 out very often, because I reserve 5's for the very best. If you get a 5 from me, you deserve it.

Now, I spell these out for you, because I want everyone to know where I am coming from when I review something. I don't give out scores on a lark. I put a lot of thought into each score that I hand out. And I often find myself agonizing over the difference between giving something a 3 or a 4. That seems to be the biggest problem I have. Sometimes things are very close to being a 4, but there are just too many problems for me to award it that score. Most of the other ones are pretty clear cut. If something is really bad, it's REALLY bad, and if it's good, it's REALLY good.

Now you may be saying, "Well, if you have so much problem, just use half points." And to you I say, fie on your half points, I work on a straight 5 out of 5 system! It's just a personal choice that I have made, and I would love to sit down with other reviewers and discuss what they are most comfortable with. I feel like if you are going to use half points, you may as just use a # out of 10 system.

I also wonder what the people reading my reviews find most helpful, or if they even pay that much attention to the score. Has my score ever convinced someone to buy something they haven't, or am I just looking to get that score written on the back or hopefully front of a comic. (Which is not to say I don't want my score used to help sell a book. Believe me, I LIVE to see Geeks of Doom with pull quotes on books. It's like food for me.) Do you, the humble reader prefer half points? Do you like a score to be out of 10? Do you maybe prefer letter grade scores? Do letter grade scores translate well? These are questions I would love to know, just so I could better serve my reading public.

Because, in the end, that is who I am writing for. Sure, I first and foremost write for myself, because I enjoy writing, and as it turns out my preferred form of writing is reviews. Some people were put on the Earth to tell stories, I was put on the Earth to nitpick those stories. Maybe I saw History of the World Part 1 too early in life and somehow connected with the caveman who pissed on the first artists cave painting. I don't know. This is just who I am.

Anyway, I've got a review to finish, and these things ain't going to review themselves.

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