Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Negative Comments and Expressing an Opinion

Because the site is now over a year old and because the reviews stay up forever, every once in a while I will get a series of comments from a new reader.  The email pattern is clear: he or she is working through the old reviews as I get four comments in quick succession on older posts.  It is fun to see this happen because it means that someone else is reading and giving feedback.  Feedback is important because it helps shape what I write about.  I like doing this, but I like doing it more when it engages you.

Now comments are always a dangerous proposition.  Read the comments on most newspaper articles on the web and you will find a handful of loonies almost every time.  And the negative feedback effect is always at work--people that are satisfied are much more likely say nothing than people who aren't.  Toss in a heaping helping of fanboys and the comments can be downright nasty.  But not here.  Most of my readers, if not all, are pretty reasonable.  So when negative comments come in, I read and process them carefully.

Two were very instructive.  A new reader was winding his or her way through the archives and stumbled on the review of the Spyderco Tenacious and the review of the Benchmade Sequel.  Both were relatively negative, especially when compared to the feedback these two blades have received on the Internet.  His or her basic comment was: "what were you thinking?"   What I was thinking, hopefully, is clear from the review, but WHY I thought that is important, both to me as a reviewer and to you as a reader.  The why reveals my preferences and hopefully the more you know about my preferences the most useful my reviews will be to you.

The basic reason why the two knives got less than stellar reviews is simple--both are uninspiring.  The Sequel is surprisingly bland for a $90-$100 blade and the Tenacious is bland for a blade of any price.  The reality is, at those two price points you can do much, much better.  The Caly 3 CF, a classy 3 inch knife, is simply superior to the Sequel in almost every way (I like the lock on the Sequel better) and it is basically the same price.  The Tenacious is bested by a ton of knives, especially the Kershaw Skyline, which is, again, essentially the same price.  I like it SO much better.

I also would probably never recommend either of these knives because for a little more you get a whole lot better knife.  My preference is to save up and buy that one knife I really wanted instead of spending $30 here and there on something similar to but not exactly what I wanted.  It is a preference built up from years of incorrect spending habits.  Save and buy once.  It will be a huge cost savings in the end, even if the thing you save up for is a lot of money.

In the case of the Sequel and the Tenacious this is especially true.  Want a classy knife?  Save up for a Mnandi or an Al Mar and call it a day.  What a good user folder?  Save up a little more than the Tenacious and buy a Delica or a Mini Grip.  The cost is greater, but the difference in quality and purchase satisfaction is proportionally greater still.

I try to explain my opinions, but I also do not shy away from having them.  By stating them clearly I can give you a signal as to how you should use my review.  If you are budget-only person, you can take my reviews with a grain of salt.  I think I put more of premium of premium materials than, say, Nutnfancy.  As a budget-only person, the Tenacious is a good choice (though the similarly priced Skyline is a vastly better one).  When I was younger I loved reading EGM, a video game magazine.  They would review games and eventually I figured out which of the reviewers shared my taste.  So when that reviewer (it was John Davison, a legend in the video game press, BTW) would give a game a good score I knew I would like it too.  He explained his opinions, but he also expressed them clearly.  Hopefully I am doing the same thing.

So keep the feedback coming.  It helps me help you.  


  1. Tony, well written piece, as usual. It is so frustrating to read reviewers who do not take a stance based on their unique and specific point of view. Your influence on my choices has shifted greatly as I read more and more of your opinions. I would actually admit you influenced me more at first than now because I have learned how to think about tools and figured out what I like. This is a more important goal for the mature reader and I would bet most of your readers are like me in that regard. Thanks for the continuous education about stuff I love!

  2. Ontario RAT-1 >>> Tenacious, even if you're a budget person. Such a squared away knife for less than $35! I once idly ran through your 20 point rating system for the RAT-1 and it's like a 17 or 18 point knife.

    In other news, cool to hear that you've got an Al Mar! I am real curious what you'll make of the AUS-8 blade. I have a Falcon Ultralight & adore everything about it EXCEPT the blade steel edge retention, which really annoys me.

    I am not even hostile to AUS-8 on bigger and thicker knives, as my RAT-1 fanboy status attests. But it is bugging me on the Al Mar. If the Ultralights had even VG-10 steel, they would be all time EDC greats. As is I think they are very appealing niche knives for occasional dressy use.

  3. I remember now, the RAT-1 ended up with 17/20 points in my mind's eye.

    It lost 1 point each for Carry (it's a bit heavy, but with a great 4-way clip), Steel (imo AUS-8 is a 1 for big blades and a 0 for small blades) and Deployment (usable but slick thumb studs).

  4. Definitely agree with this point of view. I, as well as many I'm sure, have learned the hard way that you do not always 'save money' by buying the cheapest acceptable option.

    As a side note, I am personally in LOVE with my Spyderco Paramilitary 2, and was glad to see a review of it here a few weeks back.

  5. So many people act as though they have married a product instead of merely having bought it! Not that I don't love my little Swiss Army Knives that are on every keychain. I have realized that cutting is not the main thing I need to do, so I am planning to pocket carry a Micra for a month. But I'm not going to put a ring on it in the symbolic sense. My Buck Vantage Pro and my Dragonfly 2 are nice, but I don't carry them too often. The SAK does it for me. I may, however, shack up with a Rambler instead of a Classic sometime. I like the reviews here because I can see which aspects of a particular tool are likely to work best for me. Batoning? Probably not in this lifetime. One-handed opening? Nice on a larger knife. Ease of carry? The Dealbreaker! I want to see the 2 new Kershaws reviewed. I'll most likely get one , but I can't see it replacing my SAK. $500 knives? No, I'll keep saving for a unicorn. I'm more likely to want one. For those who want them, I'm sure they're fine. I just keep a spare Skyline in the box in case I lose mine. Again, I like the breakdown aspect of your reviews. Don't stop.

  6. You sent me a give away knife, the Boker Exskelibur 2, (thanks again!) You did not rate it paticularly favorably, at 9 out of 20, but I find that your low ratings identify issues the knife may not be trying to solve. The useless pocket clip was, as you described, not useful. I solved that by removing it. The cheap wood scales, while a bit soft, are unscathed after months of daily carry, unlike plastic, anodized, or polished stuff exposed to the same rigors. The opening tang, removed from the production version, makes it a two-handed folder, but I generally find myself with enough hands to perform that task. Mindful of you concerns about the overlap of the Ti lock liner, I don't test that joint unecessarily. The steel, while not the latest thing, is certainly up to most tasks, and the edge is easy to touch up without any drama. The knife is the sort of thing to use when I would prefer not to frighten the sheep, or when someone offers a serrated blade for a steak that deserves better treatment. Anyway, while I don't disagree with your review, I expect that most people would find that compromises made for production are not necessarily a bad thing., particularly if they keep costs down. The advantage of a mostly objective rating system like yours is that it provides information for my expectations. As others have said, keep providing the information!

  7. All good reviewers position their judgements within the construct of cost and other available choices. You do that especially well. I would only offer a simple suggestion to allow bonus points when an item goes beyond all expectations in a category. You could simply add a bonus category to your rubric or permit no more than 2 bonus points for any particular item. I suggest this so designers are rewarded for innovation that works. A solid scorer shouldnt be penalized by a lack of innovation either. Just a thought...