If Vince Vaughn came across Rob Pegoraro’s letter announcing his departure as technology reviewer for the Washington Post, he’d likely respond by saying “Let’s go make some bad technology buying decisions.”
My first thought after reading that Rob was leaving the Post after 17 years was…frankly shock he’d been at the Post for 17 years. Given Rob’s youthful appearance I have to assume what, he joined the Post right after junior prom? I did not know Rob personally all that well because, to be perfectly honest, I heard he fielded a steady diet of SunRocket customer gripes about the service (take a number on that one buddy) and I was beset with frequent nightmares that his vitriol might be directed at a certain PR guy who, as powerful as he may be, could not keep an IP network from going down. I also have frequent nightmares about being on the Metro yellow line with no idea how to get back home but I digress.
I’m not one to overstate or understate the importance of a singular event but suffice to say Rob’s departure – and the reasons for the departure outlined in his letter – paint a unfavorable picture of where technology and gadget reviews are heading. Where they appear to be heading is away from objective, unfailingly blunt analysis of consumer technology products and services to biased, self-serving and crowdsourced reviews that will likely lead to a great deal of uninformed consumer buying decisions of poor products (I’m looking at you Microsoft Kin).
This trend is not the fault of The Washington Post of course. Instead, it is a product I believe of well chronicled manipulation of search engine rankings by content farms such as Associated Content and eHow that empower anyone with web access to post their opinions about products – or get prodded by companies to hock their products – and manipulate search engine rankings so that consumers looking for objective analysis instead get anything but.
Let me be clear, customer product reviews are important. The problem is that honest, informed reviews are not the ones that most people end up reading. Want to buy an iPhone app? Sure, check the customer reviews at the Apple iTunes store and you will see hundreds of glowing reviews. How many of those are actually legitimate? Who knows, as multiple reports have surfaced of both app developers and their PR firms manipulating the reviews for their benefit.
The telltale sign of a good tech reviewer is one that strikes a little bit of fear into a PR person or company seeking to have a product reviewed. They fear that, god forbid, Rob might actually tell readers what works and doesn’t work, rather than regurgitating a marketing slick or being satisfied by a superficial review. I was never afraid, that’s absurd. But a friend of mine was very afraid, kind of pathetic actually.
I’m not sure how Rob’s departure will impact my life but on an unrelated note I just bought a Fusion Garage JooJoo Tablet on eBay for $900.