Saturday, December 14, 2013

Troll Websites: The Insurance Salesmen of the IT Business

It is that time of year again, people are looking to spend their hard earned money on the latest and greatest technology.  When I need to compare products, I, as I assume most people do these days, turn to google and plug in a "product x vs product y" search.  Some of the search results yield technical reviews of the products, comparing the specific details against each other.  Others are people, reviewing products they have purchased.  You can find many "unboxing" youtube videos that provide an awesome amount of information. In the end, I make a decision for myself based on the information I have.  It isn't the "best decision" and might not even be the best for me, but it is at least an informed decision.

Unfortunately, embedded in these search results, are troll websites.  The insurance salesmen of the IT business.  They are generally easy to spot for the seasoned IT professional, but I'm sure the masses have a hard time distinguishing them.  One of the articles that prompted me to write this post is

Tell Tale Signs of a Troll Website

  • They are obsessed with "The Best"
    • I want to stress this point a little.  There is no "best" product on the market.  The market makes many different products which satisfy many different use cases.  There are tons of different people in the world who use the technology they buy for different tasks.  There is no "Best".  To quote one website in particular, you could say that the surface 2 is the "best tablet for work".  Maybe if you need office to do your job.  Maybe it is if your requirements are that you run windows and need to run windows apps.  What happens if all of your stuff is done in the cloud?  Google Docs?  There are many ways to do things, and the surface 2 has it's use cases.  If there was a single "best product" on the market, everyone would buy it.  The fact is, there isn't.  So stop advertising as such
  • The author has no credentials what so ever
    • Listen, we are talking about technology here.  I would expect the author to have some credential in this area, be it experience or otherwise. Some people have been reviewing technology for a long time, I would probably trust their advice.  Others have no credentials what so ever, and basically are just regurgitating information either google searched or paid for.  You wouldn't want me blogging about medicine or the law would you?  NO, I have little knowledge in this area and a bunch of google searches isn't going to change that.
  • They do not list the comparisons that they did
    • Many websites at least list the different products they were comparing in their review.  The website in question states.. "We thought we would help our readers out by researching each tablet on the market and determining which tablet is best, depending on the user."  Umm, each and every one?  I doubt it, but if you did, could you provide a list? 
  • They claim to "remove the geek speak".
    • Hey, I am all for this.  But misleading the people visiting your websites is just wrong.  There has to be a better way.
  • They do not cite any of their findings
    • The entire article is a big "citation please".  At the very least, the site could include some references to articles they used as research.  The best is the A7 chip.  According to the site in question, " A7 chip provides up to two times faster CPU".  Compared to what?  The A6?  An iPhone 3?  It certainly isn't 2 times faster than the galaxy note 10.1 or the asus transformer.  I was going to go through the entire article and debunk all of their "pros" for the air, but I figured that would just be a waste of time.  If you are reading THIS post, you m

Now before I continue, I want you to understand that I have no beef with this website in particular.  What my issue is is that we as a community have dropped down to this level.  It isn't just this website.  Many blogs/comments/articles basically disintegrate into a flame war of technology vs technology rather than trying to understand and embrace the differences between the products on the market.  We are all concerned with reassuring ourselves that the product we purchased is the "best" and that the others are inferior.  Lame.

I wonder what we as an industry can do about this problem.  Are there ways that we can fight back against these insurance salesmen?  Other than calling them out and generating awareness, what else can we do?

As an aside, I called out this particular website for receiving free ipad airs in exchange for their useless reviews.

Their response: 

+Shamir C, no free iPads over here. Just our honest review after extensive research. But, we'd love to know if you thought different from what our review states. For instance, we said that the iPad Air is the  'Best Tablet for Gaming' would you consider that a fair choice? or would you place another tablet in its place as the best for gaming? & why? 

Their Policy:

This article may contain links and/or phone numbers to merchants (affiliate links), and we may receive compensation if you purchase a product or service from these merchants. Our credibility is very important to us, which is why we research and write our articles before inserting any affiliate links. For more information, please read our compensation disclosure notice.

I think they go light on the enforcement of the "research" in their policy, but probably heavy on the compensation they receive from merchants.

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