To Review or not to Review, that is the Question
I often have to remind myself that indeed “there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9). Postmoderns call it a déjà vu. The entry I wrote back in 2008 on Just How Much Influence do Bloggers Have? could just as well be my post for today. Nothing much has changed. We’re in a loop of sorts.
I’ve mentioned before that I never anticipated I would be writing Bible software reviews. Yes, I know I haven’t done so lately. It is true that I am too busy with other things, but there is a more fundamental reason: for the most part, and with rare exceptions, it is not fun anymore. History repeats itself. If you write a positive review, people might think you’ve been bribed one way or another. On the other hand, if you raise criticisms, then surely you must have some axe to grind. Reviewers will always be accused of having some vested interests, no matter what. No wonder reviewers are so difficult to find! You can very easily become a VIP or a persona non-grata in no time!
What actually prompted me to revisit this whole thing was the article Five Reasons Not to Buy Logos. Admittedly, I would never use a controversial title like that, but the review itself is balanced and well-written. One may partially agree or disagree, but he certainly makes some valid points. However, I can’t help feeling some sort of empathy with this unnamed missionary. Opening certain boxes can be unpleasant. You never know if it will end up being Pandora’s.
So, what should we do? I know that generalizations are unfair, but still, it appears that some companies are more interested in hype and ads than they are in reviews. A review is neither an ad nor a rehash of the info provided by the corresponding Public Relations department. You want publicity? Pay for it. You want a second opinion from a fallible but even-handed blogger? Get your product reviewed. Incidentally, I find a bit disturbing some of the current uses of social networks too. Personally, I refuse to blog, retweet or comment on every single sale, offer or product available. It’s nothing personal. It’s the way I see things. For me this is not a business, it’s a service. I reserve the right to mention or not mention whatever I want. You are free to read or not what I say, and so am I to review only what I really enjoy and find useful.
Let me make this clear: I will never, ever, again directly request to review any product. I don’t care how good you think your app is. If I don’t find it personally interesting, challenging and useful, I won’t bother with it. So don’t ask me how many readers I have, or how many monthly visits, or how influential the site and blog are (influence is a highly overrated notion anyway). Simply ask yourself if you really want to know my opinion (or somebody else’s) on the perceived value of your program. You don’t? Fair enough. You do? Le me decide if I’m interested in reviewing it. Why? Because I’m worth it
Having said that, the question still remains: is it really worth the effort to take on the task of reviewing Bible software? More often than not I would answer in the negative. As of late, only occasionally do I find any joy in doing it. It is clear to me that Bible software has become too much “the business of Bible software” and has lost the essence and impetus of the pioneers in the field. Sad but true.