Reviewers’ Manifesto

There are too many reviews out there that I don’t actually want to read. This is probably a shocking thought to many reviewers, as they are doing their hardest to provide a service for the community, but I think they often miss the mark.

I consider that in the class of writing that consists of people writing about particular experiences they’ve had for the benefit of others, there are three distinct sub-classes: reviews, comment and criticism. Each is really targeted at a different audience, for a different purpose.

Reviews are for those people who haven’t seen/read/heard the thing being reviewed yet, and would like some guidance about whether they should. Comments are for people who have seen/read/heard it, and are looking for additional information that will add to their enjoyment of it or to gain a better appreciation of it. Criticisms are for people in the industry (or the meta-industry) around producing new creative works, where the merit of the piece, skill in its execution and generally what’s good or bad about it are discussed with a view to improve the industry as a whole.

Mostly, I’m interested in reviews.

Unfortunately, if I accidentally read something that’s not a review, then not only have I wasted some time, but I may end up ruining the very experience that I was hoping to later enjoy. This happens when the writing includes detailed information about the plot or characters of, say, a film, or even its ending. This is quite valid if the writing is a comment or a criticism, but not if it’s a review.

Hence, I will strive to follow the three principles that follow as my manifesto when writing about creative works on this site:

  1. Unless otherwise clearly indicated, the writing will be a review. In other words, it is intended to better allow the reader to decide if they want to experience the creative work themselves.
  2. There will be no discussion of any plot or character development beyond the very beginning of the piece, e.g. first five minutes of the film or first chapter of a book. General discussion of the themes, or information provided through knowledge of the title or author/director will be allowed.
  3. Use of industry terms or reference to obscure works will be kept to an absolute minimum. Should be easy as I don’t know many of them myself!

In short, these principles are intended to restrict my reviewing to the intended audience. That is, people who (i) haven’t seen/heard/read the work, (ii) who are considering seeing/hearing/reading it, and (iii) are not part of the industry (or meta-industry).

I hope that this results in the sort of reviews that I would like to read myself.

4 thoughts on “Reviewers’ Manifesto”

  1. One more thing that I think is a major factor: staying objective on media reviews.

    It’s easy to do quantitative analysis or stay objective on reviews of most types of products, but when it comes to media such as movies, music, books, video games, etc. it becomes much more difficult to talk about what different types of people may or may not like about what’s being reviewed. These are all things that are usually viewed very subjectively and have to do more with an individual’s tastes than anything else.

    As an aside I’m about to check out your hreview plugin for WP… is the blockquote type styling done by default? On your site I couldn’t tell if those were quotes from elsewhere or your own reviews at first.



  2. When it comes to rating “experiences”, I can only strive to be objective about one thing: my own experience. I can’t really say how anyone else would experience it.

    So, I rely on the readers trying to assess how closely my personal experiences match their own. If in general, my ratings are in line with theirs, they will find them useful. Otherwise, at best entertainting.

    Yeah, the quote marks are probably not the best style for a review. Currently, it’s just how the blockquote tag is displayed. Few stylesheets know how to display microformats. I should tweak my site stylesheet to look a bit less like a quote from elsewhere.

  3. Right, that’s the best you can hope to do when it comes to personal tastes. I’m hoping if people do this sort of thing enough it’ll be easier to network or automatically get recommendations from groups of people that statistically like as well as dislike the same things that we do on a per media/subject basis. That would be one really useful possibilities of aggregating those types of hreviews.

    And yeah, displaying microformats nicely while keeping them valid gets to be a bit tricky especially when you’re dealing with different themes.

    There’s a good little writeup at Simplebits about styling hreviews and other microformats for use in his “corkd” wine site. I read it a while ago, but I recall that it was worth the read.

    I looked at the code for your plugin and I’ll give you some feedback after I try it out, but I know off the bat I’ll have to take some of the hardcoded html out (such as headings) and add in some classes to further style things with. Nonetheless, looks very promising and I hope you’ll continue to build on it! :)


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