What’s With All The Reviews?
Posted on April 19, 2021 Posted by Athena Scalzi 42 Comments
Good question. I’m glad you asked. Just kidding, I know you didn’t ask, but my paranoid brain has made me believe that some of you are questioning why a lot of my posts are reviews or recommendations. In fact, I got so paranoid about it that I was supposed to post a review last week but didn’t because I thought, what if everyone is tired of seeing reviews, or wondering why practically everything I do is a review?
I wonder this myself, sometimes. Why do I feel like posting reviews all the time? Why do I try to turn everything I test out into a readable experience? Why do I think that anyone cares what I have to say about some random chip brand, or some small soap company?
I think I’ve figured it out, though. Like many Americans, I am a consumer. And as such, I like to know that what I’m planning to consume is worth a try! Usually, I want to know as much as I can about something before testing it out. I like to read reviews, and I appreciate people that take time to rate and review things honestly, so other people that are considering buying that product have a pretty good idea of what they’re gonna get.
There’s a lot of products that have hundreds of reviews, but there’s also tons of products that have practically no reviews whatsoever, or if they do, they’re short and vague. I feel like a lot of the products I buy are a total shot in the dark, because I buy a lot of stuff that I’ve never seen reviews for, or it just doesn’t have a lot of real, constructive reviews.
So, I want to be that person that provides reviews for weird things, things that no one else really takes the time to review! If you’re looking to buy a product, but aren’t really sure, I want to be that person that can assure you said thing is worth the money (or not)! I want to be helpful. More so, I want to be helpful in a way that I appreciate in other people. So, like I said, I appreciate when people leave reviews, therefore I try to do the same thing. I just want people to be informed! Even if it is just over snacks or stickers or something!
As long as there are creators in the world, there has to be someone to consume their products. And I love being that person! I enjoy being the person that buys a Twitter artist’s paintings, or an Etsy creator’s pins, or a small company’s lip balm. I’m fortunate enough to be in a position where I can support other people, support creators. And that makes me happy.
Life is all about sharing experiences, and I really enjoy doing that with all of you! It just so happens that a lot of my experiences are in trying things out, so that’s what I share. (I also like to share travel experiences, but there’s not much of that going on these days.) I like to do media reviews, like video games and whatnot, but product reviews are just more common for me simply because it’s a lot easier to do a review over something like chocolate rather than a game that would take me 60 hours to finish.
So, with all that being said, I hope this little bit of insight has cleared up why I do reviews so often. And I do genuinely hope you enjoy my reviews, of course, but if reviews aren’t your thing that’s totally okay, too! I just know I generally like reading them, so I tend to write them.
Anyways, I am going to try to combat my paranoia and actually post that review I was planning to last week, because at the end of the day, this website is free, and I can post whatever I want (haha see what I did there?).
Have a great day!
Also, another reason Athena does a lot of reviews is that I, as her editor, encourage her to do it — having been a professional critic myself, I think it’s useful in developing a writing voice and a sense of the validity of one’s own preferences and opinions. Plus it helps to understand why one likes what one likes (and why one doesn’t like what one doesn’t like).
I like the reviews. They’re interesting.
I enjoy the reviews! I’ve been missing the Anthropocene Reviewed podcast, and while yours don’t tend to be as philosophical as John Green reviewing “Auld Lang Syne,” they’re definitely fun to read.
I have nieces and nephews in your age range. I’m always looking for ideas for presents, so I appreciate reviews!
Your reviews offer a certain vicarious sense of unboxing– I am never going to buy the cute boxes of things because I prefer different toys for my toy budget, but it’s neat to see what cute things come in them.
(Plus one never knows when having read a review of a random product I will never buy is going to come up when I’m writing fiction. No knowledge is ever wasted when you’re a writer.)
Athena, I enjoy your reviews because you express such enthusiasm, and your comments are informative. If someone reads one of your reviews they will get a clear, unbiased preview of what they are buying. The fact that you usually review things I’ve never heard and would likely not buy pleases me because I am endlessly amazed at the things people create and sell and you always find such interesting things to talk about..
I appreciate your reviews, Athena. Some of the products you select to review may not be items that I’d buy personally, but I really appreciate and enjoy reading detailed, well-written commentary about a consumer’s experience with a product or service.
I share your frustration with vague or lazy reviews, which seem to be the majority of what I find when I look at comments on a product I am considering. When I review an item or a service, I generally wind up writing between 300 and 800 words, including details about both pros and cons, specifics about the experience, and if the other party in the transaction was especially helpful or went above and beyond, I call that out specifically.
Essentially, I write the review that I’d want to read, which is exactly I see you doing here. And I hope you will continue sharing your comments on this site!
I enjoy them. I’m very unlikely to ever buy any of the items you have reviewed (I’m plus 50 years on you), but they are well written and share a sense of fun that I really admire.
I seem to recall you are a fan of Halloween; are you aware of lovepainandstitches.com? Amazing bags, very nicely made. New originals drop every couple of weeks, and they now have a regular line.
I love the reviews. I don’t tend to buy box subscriptions, but I have bought things that people I trust have reviewed from their boxes.
I especially loved the Japanese treats box you reviewed and I’m hoping if you get another one, you’ll share thoughts about it.
If you are genuinely reviewing things you use, and it has nothing to do with marketing/kickbacks/etc, that’s great. Even if someone sends you a sample to review, that’s fine too as long as you disclose in the review that they sent you a sample. I think people are just suspicious these days that “reviews” are too often paid promotion disguised as honest reviews.
Athena, go with your editor, I like his take on things.
I guess the most appropriate counter for paranoia is to do a perception check, as you are doing here. Good for you.
Sometimes, when I being insecure, I remember what General Patton told his fresh wartime officers: Never take counsel of your fears.
My own style, at your age, for doing campus newspaper reviews was—but never mind, we all find our own way, so my way is irrelevant to you. I like your pieces.
I personally have fun reading some of the reviews for items I might find tangentially interesting would never personally purchase or use. It’s a fun window into an alternate thread of life.
I’m here for it.
I rarely comment on “Whatever”, but I truly enjoy the posts.
I often make a note of your reviews and pass them on to people in my life :)
I also have been enchanted with your ‘real life’ cooking experiences.
Thank you for taking the time!
I love your review posts!
I like the reviews too. You have a talent for it. If reviewing is something you genuinely enjoy doing, consider spending a bit of time reviewing products on Amazon that you tend to use in your daily life. Do enough good reviews on there and you may eventually be invited into their not-very-secret club (called “Amazon Vine”) where members are offered the opportunity to have stuff shipped to them for free on the condition that they write an honest review. Some of the stuff actually ends up being rather valuable. It’s a nice gravy train to be on, as long as you enjoy putting in the work of forming an opinion and sharing it with others.
Thank you for all the reviews!
I like the reviews! Sometimes it’s just fun to see someone else’s haul and get their take on it. I’m especially impressed when you get to the final bits about how much everything we just read about cost. I feel like you’re taking one for the team. :)
A Review: Athena Scalzi’s Reviews (Whatever)
Athena Scalzi will write reviews; not a lot, but regularly. She reviews all kinds of odds and ends that she is either interested in, or is curious about.
Her reviews are GREAT for many reasons.
First, they are interesting. Even if you’re not prone to buy the product you will learn much about them to share with inquisitive friends. I never knew collecting stickers was a hobby until I read her reviews of them. Pins were a hobby, but my view of the options was much expanded from her reviews.
Secondly, they give you ideas for shopping. Now I look for chocolate milk substitutes to try, when I never would have before if not for her outstanding reviews.
Thirdly, they are well written and gives the reader a chance to see video games or programs that might have flown right by our radar. I’ve actually loved some of the music reviews and decided to buy some of her suggested artists.
Fourthly, she might involve her family in the review process, getting their takes on various snacks or something. It’s like getting three reviews in one!
So, this reviewer highly recommends Athena’s reviews! Out of 5 Stars I give her 7 Nebulas and a Hugo. Instead of a thumbs up, I give her a beloved Billiken (just because it’s a new word I learned this week, but look what it means!). In fact, I suggest you read her reviews instead of this one!
It never occurred to me to wonder! I figured you liked writing reviews, and after all – this is your blog! You get to write whatever you want.
I do not always read the reviews, but I appreciate that you do them. As with The Big Idea, and the stacks of ARCs posts, they read as a hand up to makers of all kinds, which is definitely using the power of Whatever for good.
I enjoy your reviews too, even though many of the things reviewed have no other interest for an old curmudgeon like me.
But what’s with all the exclamation points?!!!!!
I like the reviews! I do usually get a kick out of unboxing-related stuff, and particularly enjoy your food posts. I have severe dietary restrictions that mean I basically cannot explore food at all (it’s rare that anything new comes along that’s going to work), so the next-best thing is doing it vicariously.
If you have a passion for reviewing, keep writing reviews :)
I enjoy reading them, casually, as they satisfy my “review” requirement of both having an opinion and supporting that opinion with additional information. If that seems like too low a bar, then allow me to say that, having read a lot of material written by people pursuing STEM PhDs, that bar is not always cleared :-|
There’s whole industry out there based on reviews. Fashion comes to mind, and does personal vehicles (all the car mags), hobby products (bicycles, running shoes and clothes, ski/climbing/camping equipment, music (that’s how Rolling Stone began, after all), travel (which trips to take? Where to visit?), books, Consumer Reports. A huge amount of what passes for politics is nothing more than a review of what either your tribe or the other one is doing/wants to do. The sports pages are pretty much nothing more than reviews of how individuals and teams did or are expected to perform. So no reason to apologize or feel a bit awkward reviewing products a part of this blog.
I will say, that as a late 60-something guy, I do skip over most of your reviews. Not because there’s anything wrong with them, but they’re for products I’ll never purchase. It’s the same way I skip over the reviews of ski equipment, this year’s bicycles, infant care items, and last night’s baseball games. There are products and services I’ll never buy and am not the market for. But I’m not you, or necessarily representative of the readers here. So you keep on doing you.
I like the reviews! Keep them going.
Hey, your reviews led me to Brin’s and the superb banana jam! Also their chile pepper one which is amazing on biscuits. So I say – let the reviews fly!
They are fun to read and very reliable since you include your parents’ reactions which are often different from yours. I especially like the food ones for that reason.
Count me another fan for your reviews! And, I especially like the food ones, because I like to eat! In fact, the Honey Pops are now my faves, vanilla and ginger. Thanks!
I like the reviews – in fact, I ordered that banana jam from Brin’s (and several others) based on your review, and my family really enjoyed trying them all. I particularly like that you’re looking at smaller businesses that I’d never have discovered on my own.
If you’re interested in a reciprocal food recommendation, look up Porto’s Bakery – we ordered a bunch of their bake at home boxes and have been really pleased! We’ve done a couple “appetizers only” dinner nights. Based on the things you seem to like, the cheese rolls would probably be a hit.
I enjoy the reviews too, even though they are mostly for things I wouldn’t buy for myself (subscription boxes). I did buy some jam after your Brin’s review. A well-written review can be a thing of beauty!
I’d like to request that if you encounter a product or a site that is a total dud or scam, that you also use your soapbox to talk about that as well. I ran into a scam site a couple of weeks ago, and am still fighting to get my money back.
I like your reviews. Also, I agree with your father’s comment. If you like writing them, it’s a good way to hone your craft…
I enjoy your reviews, but the one I especially liked was the one you did about time travel in movies. There is one thing you so far have avoided reviewing that I’m really interested in knowing your opinion about, and that’s books.
What books/what kinds of books do you read and enjoy? Do you have favorite authors? Would writing a book review be too much like a school assignment? Or is this a topic that’s too fraught, given A. writing books is your dad’s job, and B. cheerleading books is a big part of this blog in general (a la The Big Idea).
Is it bad that I just assumed all Gen Z people (and millennials too) are influencers?
Most of the blogs that I read have at some point reviewed Stitch Fix and at least one of the meal box delivery companies if nothing else. I guess I’m used to seeing them, even though the heyday of sponsored blog reviews seems to have passed?
You should write whatever you want to write. If that’s reviews – great!
Honestly, even though many of your reviews are for things I’m not interested in for their own sake, the review itself is usually a good read. And if I really am not in the mood to read a review, I just don’t read it, at no cost to me of you.
Me or you. Dang tiny phone keyboard.
Do your parents know your house is about to be full of Things? 8-)
I really like your reviews! They are informative, specific and really give a sense of the thing you’re reviewing, be it video games, subscription boxes, other food products, beauty products, or tv shows. I appreciate you take the review process seriously. (Not all reviewers do, or they have an attitude of “I’m too cool to be taking this product seriously.” Not helpful.)
And your writing is compelling enough that even if you’re reviewing something I don’t think I would consume, I read your review anyway.
As someone who doesn’t really appreciate the reviews – sorry, just not my bag – and as someone who suffers from the type of paranoia you espouse in the opening paragraph: it ain’t a thing. Like at all.
If I don’t want to read something, there is the scroll wheel and the close button. Not going to think any less of the person who posted them etc. Not everything is meant for me.
Keep ’em up though, you enjoy seem to enjoy ’em and scanning the comments you aren’t alone.
ps. hope this didn’t reinforce any bad internal feelings you may have. Not my intent, was more to say even those who may not be your audience don’t think poorly of the posts.
I am pro Athena’s reviews.
They are well written and not just “hey I like this thing” but have reasons. These reviews I feel give me a good idea of what is being reviewed, and broaden my world into things I might not appreciate or notice otherwise.
I like be introduced to small soap companies, and I like seeing reviews by a reviewer who I feel like I have some idea where they are coming from based on their other reviews and other writing.
So many of the reviews in this world are devoid of personality and connection that you can’t really review the reviewer. Not in a judgmental way, just in a placement of viewpoint within a world of words without people behind them.
These aren’t that, nor are Jon’s. That is what makes this site better than trying to look at odd reviews elsewhere.
Please keep ’em coming!
Always happy to read your reviews. Your enthusiasm is infectious and your reasoning is sound. And as your dad said, it’s a good way to hone your craft.
I like the reviews, though I like other posts too. (My favourites were actually the WandaVision reviews.) I think it makes sense to feel more comfortable with reviews as a format. I do a very different kind of writing (academic research) and the hardest part is finding the certainty that the thing I am saying is something that someone else actually cares about hearing, and hearing from me. In academic writing I usually fall back on the research: if I know I’m the only one who has done a certain experiment, well, by writing about it I can save someone else the effort even if I consider the results unimpressive. A review basically has research baked in: you are guaranteed to know something I don’t, because only you are tasting the honey pop, so you have something to tell me. But any experience you have is by definition one I can only know about through you telling me, and the nice thing about a blog instead of a journal article is that they’re all fair game! I’d like to hear stories about other kinds of things you’ve tried or learning experiences you’ve had. I look forward to seeing what you decide to write about next!
I don’t read all the reviews, but I don’t read all the other posts here either. If you enjoy writing reviews and making recommendations, then you should certainly keep doing so. I’ve never questioned it or wondered about it in the slightest. Why have one’s own sandbox if not to make one’s preferred sandcastles? (I have my own blog for precisely this purpose!) Anyone who doesn’t feel like reading ’em can just skip over.
I find the reviews I do read entertaining, but I also feel, especially under pandemic financial pressure, a sort of bemused mixture of “she spends as much on a snack box as my two-week grocery budget?” and “well, rich people gonna rich”, but that just demonstrates that I’m not part of the intended market for most of these products, any more than for your dad’s many-necked guitar.