Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Software Review Sites

Are there any websites around that do a lot of commercial software reviews besides CNet, PC Mag, or whatever the ZDNet-flavor-of-the-week may be?

The reviews posted by these "mass media" players seem to be awfully biased (and I suspect sometimes maybe even bribe-influenced) because I notice that the user opinions posted often differ hugely from the reviewer's opinions.

Anyway, I have not had much luck finding any such sites that seem to show an attitude that is more neutral or spot-on with the average user's experience.  Is it that such sites don't exist because there's no way to make money without exchanging positive reviews for advertising dollars?  Or am I just not putting the right phrases into Google?

Tim Lara
Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Look for passion, combined with a lot of time on someone's hands.  I love osnews.com when they review stuff.

Also there's forums like here, usenet, etc.  Mainly you have to target the audience.

I tend to warez/demo stuff, then buy.  I don't have time to go to a store and be angry I bought garbage.  Hopefully more people will follow Fogcreek's lead and offer videos.  The problem is especially great with laptops, with few trustworthy reviews, so I have a harder time switching from brands that win my loyalty.

Greg Neumann
Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Start by doing searches on Google Groups.  Then, if you don't find your answer, post a question on Usenet.  Be sure to follow proper etiquette.

That's what I always do.

.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002

I wouldn't go near usenet. It's been useless for quite awhile other than for nostalgia (e.g., TBL message on WWW). The reviews you see on CNET sites are predominantly "From the developer" so your conspiracy theory makes little sense. Since CNET only reviews more frequently downloaded products, it makes sense that the reviews are generally up-beat. I find the CNET reviews to be fair and useful but I'm much less cynical. Since practically every piece of software nowadays can be tried out, the reviews aren't crucial anyway. I have no affiliation with CNET.

pb
Tuesday, August 20, 2002

Usenet is the most useful thing on the net!

At least since google indexed back to the early 80s.

Matthew Lock
Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Precisely. Old usenet posts are interesting but there's nothing useful about it now, especially for what the Tim is looking for.

pb
Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Where on usenet can you find good reviews on software?

Atari
Wednesday, August 21, 2002

pb: >>The reviews you see on CNET sites are predominantly "From the developer" so your conspiracy theory makes little sense.<<

It is not really the downloadable, try-it-before-you-buy-it, high-end-shareware-not-called-shareware type of software reviews that I have a problem with (even though sites such as download.com charge fees to review such products and more fees to ensure that anyone will actually *see* the review).  I am talking more about the shrinkwrap-only or pay first, download later type of software that generally comes from huge corporations, things like Symantec products.  Look at some of the Norton Antivirus reviews (written by Cnet Editors) that lambast all competing products, give Norton an 8 or 9 out of 10 score, then have user opinions to the tune of 39% positive, 61% negative!

I don't know that I feel strongly enough about the issue to go so far as to call it a conspiracy theory (maybe I should have stayed away from the word "bribe" ;).  I guess my main beef is really just that as a person with limited time and $$ (like most) I am disappointed that I can't seem to find any sources of product recommendations that I can trust without having to wonder how a given product can be an "editor's choice" but then have a slew of user complaints against it.  My over-analytical side begins to ask questions:

-are these complaints being posted by the product's competitor?
-or are they all just the type of people who are cheap and never like anything?
-or are these legitimate gripes?
-or are these people idiots that probably can't use a toaster?
-or...blah blah blah...

And it seems that the same (if not worse) is true when it comes to hardware reviews, since new peripherals, etc come out so fast that by the time something is reviewed or a roundup type article is done, there are a bunch of legitimate choices available that are not considered!  Or the tester hated a device because he got an early "beta" version with a buggy firmware that has since been fixed and works great.  And with hardware, there is no try-it-before-you-buy-it option.

I realize, of course, that I'm an idealist and nothing will ever be cut-and-dry like it is in my fantasy world, but I just hate having to waste so much time wondering who is telling the truth!

I guess maybe my question should have been "How do people cut through the hype and decide what to buy?"

Tim Lara
Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Amazon's decent, too.

pb
Wednesday, August 21, 2002

If something like Norton Antivirus is working for you, you probably wouldn't bother to comment about it on the Web.

If it deleted your hard drive, you probably can't wait to trash it as soon as possible.

User reviews on the Web in general seem negative to me, probably because of the above reason.

Luke Duff
Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Unfortunately user reviews on CNET are not reliable.

The first two ratings are usually positive and placed not long after the software release date. These two are important because they will stay on the first page. Nonetheless to say those ratings probably made by the publishers. (Search for "redv" and check out the ratings of their two programs)

Also, many of the positive "user-ratings" are fishy (such as: "I bought the multi-license and installed on my daughter's computer", "This little program is worth 10 times the cost" , "....<br> A MUST FOR THE AVID SURFER......<br> <img src="surprise.gif" width="34" height="37" alt="" border="0" align=""><br>" etc.)

(Those html tags were part of a rating(!) which again raises suspicion. Those of you who are familiar with CNET know the ratings should be typed in a text box)

B. D.
Friday, August 23, 2002

WRT to hardware reviews, I like http://anandtech.com. They always back up their reviews with lots of test results, and generally seem pretty even-handed.

Lachlan Cannon
Friday, August 23, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home