Transcript of podcast below.
I get the feeling that YouTube may probably contain a review of almost any product available on the planet. I could, for example, watch reviews featuring someone unboxing a wet toaster, showing off a new pair of jeans or even eating army rations of the world. In each case the reviewer is taking a finished product and passing their judgement about it to their audience. I’ve got the feeling that I could probably spend longer watching reviews of a product that I would actually using the object of the review itself, such is the selection of alternative viewpoints.
But what if the product wasn’t finished? Would you trust a review of a car despite the fact that it had no engine in it? Would you trust the review of a pair of jeans if the pair on display only had one leg? I think we’d exercise a healthy dose of scepticism. We’d want to see the finished product.
Being sceptical about an unfinished physical object is fair enough but what about the digital world? How do we know that anything’s finished, particularly when software companies continue to push out updates for established, and new, software at an ever increasing rate?
Take computer games as a good example. Game developers now release “early access” games, inviting enthusiastic early adopters to pay for an unfinished game. Now there are individuals who don’t think reviewing unfinished products is legitimate but that neatly illustrates the divide between physical and digital objects.
Most people would think it quite odd if someone were to publish a review of a toaster that didn’t actually toast anything because it wasn’t a complete product. On the other hand if we jump into the digital domain it’s pretty evident that reviews of unfinished digital products are commonplace. Human curiosity is such that people want to know as much as possible about digital products, even if they’re not quite finished yet.
Of course multiple changing reviews of digital products can lead to search engines serving up an out of date review, for an earlier version of the digital product that we’re interested in. This adds to the challenge of working out whether review is worth considering, or not.
The changing nature of reviews reflects our change in expectations for digital products. In the physical world I don’t expect my jeans to suddenly sprout a pair of pockets, where none had existed before, but that’s exactly what I expect of my digital products. I expect new features, fixes to known bugs (or problems) and with it a fresh review of that product, produced by the endless army of amateur and professional reviewers on the Internet.
Welcome to the digital age where it’s perfectly reasonable to review a car without an engine or a pair of trousers with only one leg.