Watch your step...

There was a short but interesting video that The Consumerist posted on Friday that really got me thinking about user-generated reviews.  (Don’t even get me started on “journalistic” reviews;that’s a rant for another time…)

The man in the clip skews reviews on TripAdvisor by posting great ones for himself and terrible ones for the competition.  Leaving the legality/morality issue aside; what are the implications for the traveler?  Can you trust that the person telling you they had a wonderful time at that hotel in Waikiki isn’t really the proprietor of a fleabag motel two miles from the beach instead of two blocks?

And what about video game reviews?  It’s pretty common for us to react either very well or very poorly to a game, and to judge it by only one set of standards.  This leads to lots of reviews saying either “THIS GAME SUX!!!” or “THIS GAME CURED MY CANCER!!!”

When I first started traveling extensively my reaction to all of the questionable reviews was the same that I took toward games — if it looks like something I’ll like; I’ll do it/buy it — it doesn’t matter what anyone else says.  Truth be told, I still somewhat hold that attitude, but the best advice as always lies somewhere in the middle between believing everything and believing nothing.

So whether you’re traveling or buying a new 360 game; look at the reviews.  First aggregate the numbers — if everyone says it’s a 2 out of 10; they may be on to something.  Then look for why numbers are what they are.  This means throwing out the highest and lowest and looking at the ones in between.  Someone rating a hotel 3 or 4 out of 5 will probably have some realistic caveats for you to consider.

Finally, remember what it is that YOU really want.  If the reviews indicate gorgeous graphics but aggravating gameplay (I’m looking at you, Oblivion), but all you care about is the style…then don’t let anyone stand in your way!  Just remember that just because someone wrote it doesn’t make it automatically true.  :-)

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