Sunday, February 26, 2012

Taking Stock After Year One

I have been writing this blog for exactly one year.  In that time I have reviewed fifty products, or about a product a week.  Lots of different folks have sent me stuff to review from big, well know companies like Leatherman to small boutique craftspeople like Inkleaf Leather. I have made over 200 posts.  And I have given away quite a bit of stuff--an Inkleaf Leather moleskine cover, a Leatherman Sidekick, an Iain Sinclair Card Sharp II, and a custom Mini Grip.  In all, the total amount has come to well over $200 in stuff.  That is not a lot, but remember, I don't have ad revenue that goes directly to me nor do I have a sponsor of any sort.

ASIDE

I have been approached by a few people to review their products.  They are not makers, they are sellers.  Thus far I have been hesitant because I don't want to be seen as endorsing things for sale.  I don't want to have a relationship where I am just shilling things for a website.  But, I have done research on a few of these folks and some have turned out to be really stand up folks.  So, what do you think?  I would, of course, not keep anything for myself, but would it impact my credibility if I were reviewing things sent to me by a reseller?  Keep in mind this would greatly increase the number of things I can review as right now I am limited to my own budget and the Adsense revenue.  Post in the comments.  Your opinion really does matter.

END ASIDE

This has been money or products generated solely because of the website.  The more readers, the more stuff I can give away.  In the year since I started the blog more well over a quarter million people have stopped by and read my hopefully witty banter and your always perceptive comments.

I hope that this is just the beginning.  When I started this blog I had one practical goal in mind: I wanted Sal from Spyderco to send me something to review.  It has not happened yet, but I think eventually it will.  As the daily readership increases, eventually, hopefully, I will get a Spyderco blade to review (and then give it away to a reader).  The less practical goal was to create a library of reviews of lots of different products.  I wanted something that I would like to read (if I hadn't written it).  Now, with the aforementioned 50 reviews in hand, I think I about there, but I have no plans on stopping.

The next big giveaway is still in the works.  I am trying to figure out a fair way to do it, but there are always concerns that one person will just swamp my email and make it impossible for others to enter.  I would love to give the McGizmo away towards the end of the year and the Adsense revenue seems to be holding up.

In addition to giveaways, I have three new things I'd like to implement going forward.

First, I'd also like to do a few video reviews if I could.  I have to get over the fact that they are more difficult for me to do than writing a review (I need a block of about 20 minutes to do it and with a little guy around that is hard to find).

I also want to do updates to the reviews I have already done, checking in a year later to see if the score stays the same or changes.  Generally, I see two things impacting a score change: improvements in technology or ergonomics and long term usage performance.  For example, the Sebenza has gotten better with time.  I have played around with the pivot quite a bit and I like the action on the blade opening much better now than before.  I also cut off the lanyard and it makes the knife smaller in the pocket and cleaner in appearance.  It will obviously keep its score of 20/20.

Finally, I would like to create a database of small gear makers.  I have hinted at it here and there, but the idea would be to create a single listing of all different kinds of small, US based gear designers and producers broken down into the following categories:

Lights
Knives
Multitools
One Piece Multitools
Pens
Packs and Bags
Apparel

If you have any suggestions for a mention, here are the parameters:

1.  The gear maker needs to be a small set up.  Leatherman is too big.  HDS Flashlights are probably about as big a company as I would want to list.

2.  The gear maker needs to produce things ENTIRELY or as much as practically possible in the US.

3.  You need to have bought something from the gear maker so you can judge its quality and their service.

Send me an email or post in the comments section if you have any ideas.  Custom makers are entirely okay.

Finally, I still have a coated aircraft cable keychain to give away.  I have tried two different people, so go post on that thread and I will choose another person.

Thanks for reading.  Getting my thoughts out has been very therapeutic.  I hope it has been as fun to read as it has been to write.    

PS: I have just bought the first product I was sent for review.  I reviewed the Tom Bihn Cadet a few weeks ago, sent it back, and thought about it.  It is a great bag.  I just bought one.  It was a huge hassle to do it this way and shipping wasn't cheap, but I think this is only way to maintain an appearance of objectivity.   

13 comments:

  1. Hey, I've turned into a pretty avid reader after being introduced to your blog, and it's what got me into EDC and thinking more about my daily gear (I now own a Leatherman PS4 and 4 Sevens QMini AA thanks to you!).

    You seem to be good at cutting through the marketing and the bullshit, and that's what makes this blog so valuable. I don't think being sent items for review will compromise that or your integrity, since you're not making a profit off the site in the first place.

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  2. I think you absolutely SHOULD have companies send you things and review them -- but with a very strict policy of only reviewing things you like, things you personally would use. If it's a good product, it's good press for them and good content for you and your readers. If you get the product and try it and decide it's not worth reviewing, send it back, done. I think this is a very standard relationship for people who have large audiences and who review lots of things on Youtube.

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  3. First of all, congratulations on your one year mark! Your blog is one of very few I follow. Your reviews are very concise and to the point, and I agree or at least sympathize with many of your opinions. I think you should let sellers send you gear for review as long as you would buy from them (i.e. they are trustworthy), and your views remain unbiased. I also agree with jpwain above that if an item is not worth reviewing, send it back (Or throw it out, shipping is getting ridiculous), but also say on here that you did not find much to like about it (and tell the dealer beforehand so that they won't just send you any random thing). That should keep your reviews as good as they have been.

    About the video reviews, I personally skip videos 95% of the time, I find reading the text more enjoyable (and, no offense but some people's voices do not translate well on video). That is your choice however, and I'm sure if you do end up doing video reviews that I will still follow this blog. I am however, liking your ideas of a refresher on the reviews and a gear maker database, to get the word out of makers like Elzetta and Atwood, plus the plethora of custom knife makers out there.

    My final point is about the Haiku Giveaway. Amazing in both generosity and prize. I also love how you are doing the giveaway and look forward to reading the submissions as well as submitting my own. I am much looking forward to the final rules.

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  4. I will just throw this out there. I _strongly prefer_ the text/picture based reviews. You said you'd only do video reviews occasionally, and I hope that remains true. Video reviews _tie me to the computer for the length of the review_. There is no way to skim a video.

    I don't see the problem reviewing for sellers over makers. Honestly it seems like it'd be _easier_ to be objective when you are accepting a product from a seller. Maybe I mistake that, idk.

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  5. Yes, please review items sent to you by resellers. You have established your credibility.

    There is no need to return items to the maker or reseller if you decide to purchase the item you have reviewed. Just send them a check or call in your cc number.

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  6. I agree with the sentiment that seems to be the trend in these comments: Please accept gear for review from sellers. We've come to trust your judgment and opinions. If you continue to purchase and/or give away the products then I see no conflict of interest nor any reason to suspect that your methods or opinions would be swayed.

    Thanks for the great blog. I read every post.

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  7. Tony,

    I agree - you should accept items sent by resellers, as long as there isn't any overt attempt on their part to "buy" a good review, as it were. Looking down the road, if a reseller continues to send you merchandise after a less-than-stellar review of one of their items, that reseller definitely represents a stand-up operation.

    I would also echo @Jay Dub, above, and state that I prefer your text/photo/link reviews over their video counterparts.

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  8. I think you should review items submitted by resellers. Your reviews are objective as I've seen...after all, you're in a subjective business. You're smart enough to know where the line is; that's one of the main reasons I follow your blog and recommend it. If the reseller wants to gift the product, keep it. Or eBay it and drop back into the kitty for the blog. so what if you're rewarded for your work.

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  9. Your passion, honesty, integrity and openness are what attracted me to your blog. And the fact that you express yourself well makes the blog a pleasure to read. Maintain all of those attributes and you can review items from any source. Keep up the good work.

    I'm in line with the previous comments regarding video versus text/photo/link reviews. I much prefer the current format.

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  10. What Mission Guy said. It's clear you put a lot of work into the site so thanks for all the effort - great articles and information. Thanks, Simon.

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  11. I didn't not think I would be the only one who thinks you should NOT accept items from resellers, but I guess I am, and here's why.

    I think it is easy for you to remain objective and impartial if you receive items from resellers, but I think it is impossible for them to do the same. When you review an item, you use it and beat on it as you should. This means that when you return the item, the seller will no longer be able to sell that item as new. So for them, its the same as if they gave it to you outright. For items that you review negatively, where is the plus side for them? There is none. Maybe your positive reviews will outweigh the negative. Maybe just having their business mentioned by you is enough. But maybe not.

    So now you are in the middle of this game the seller is playing; trying to get enough positive press on your site to make it worthwhile to send you stuff. It's not a question of integrity on your part. I have no doubt that you will do the right things to remain unbiased. But do you really want to be part of this marketing game?

    This also ups the stakes for you to publish more often. It could take what I assume is a part-time hobby to a bigger commitment. Do you have the time for that?

    What makes you site so great for me is that it's a guy talking about the stuff he owns and uses. It's simple but with enormous insight. I would just want that to continue. No matter what rules you put in place with the sellers, the fact is that they provided the goods, they own that, and in turn own some piece of this site.

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  12. The sellers are looking for a good review. Provide one, be objective and then offer some of the products as a give away to your loyal readers. I also believe that you should retain some of the gear for long term review as part of your everyday use. Lets see some videos of the gear in use. I love your blog. Please keep up the great reviews.

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  13. Happy Birthday EDC!

    Your Lumapower Incendio review got me hooked to the site. I love the Incendio and using it whenever I can.

    Thanks for the excellent reviews and looking forward to many more over the years!

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