Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Mission Statement

I listen to the great, enlightening, and fun podcast on pens called the Pen Addict.  The podcast is hosted by one of the best podcasters in the business, Myke Hurley, and the cohost is Brad Dowdy.  Dowdy was kind enough to come on my podcast twice, once to discuss pens, and once to discuss getting your grail knife.  In a recent episode they had on another online acquaintance of mine and great writer for Everyday Carry, Ed Jelley.  They talked about burnout.  I have been very fortunate and not had a bout of burnout yet.  With the podcast, schedules are tough, especially when my 1 year old decided to go on a sleep strike, but if I could I'd record every week.  I haven't missed a week of posts here ever.  Suffice to say, I have no burnout issues.  But they brought up the idea of a mission statement for a blog and I thought it would be a good think to lay out.  In part, this helps me organize my thoughts, but also I think it might help new and old readers understand where I am coming from, which could, in turn, make the review scores more helpful.

So, without further ado, the Tom Wolfe, stream of consciousness style Everyday Commentary Mission Statement.

The mission of this blog is fourfold:

1. To start a conversation via useful, thoughtful, and consistent information about everyday carry gear in as comprehensive a scope as possible;  

2. To explore what I have called the "enthusiast mindset" and good design; 

3. To ruthlessly and gleefully destroy any form of hype--including but not limited to brand loyalty, bandwagonning with trends, and marketing bullshit; and

4. Bring to light great undiscovered or overlooked stuff at any price range.

As a side effect of these four things, we, as a community, have given an enormous amount back to charity.  In life in general and in my online life, I think it is important to tie all endeavors back to a pro-social goal if possible.  Here, on this blog, I am fortunately to get and buy review samples, and so twice a year I run giveaways with the review samples as prizes.  In the past six years, I have given away more than $8,000 in gear and we have raised close to $6,000 for the Wounded Warrior Project and my state Drug Court program.  I feel like doing this insulates the blog from worries I have about it being nothing more than a worship of material things.  

The mission statement warrants a bit more explanation.  

Thorough Reviews

When I started this blog there was very little in the way of systematic reviews of gear.  There were a lot of folks on YouTube, and a few that wrote, that reviewed gear, but not much of it was in a format that applied the same standards from item to item.  Dan of BladeReviews was and is the absolute pinnacle of the form and so, using his general ideas as a template, and harkening back to my beloved EGM from my childhood, I developed scoring systems for each piece of gear.  I still have a few in the bank, one of which will be revealed some time in July.  These scoring systems allow me to evaluate products the same way, looking at the same attributes over time.  This, hopefully, gives you an idea of how products compare to each other.  When doing research on what to buy, people don't just want to know if something works, they want to know if it works better than something else, and the score allows you to do that in a quick and easy way.  But the text is also important as it fills in the gaps where the score alone might leave you guessing. 

So the scoring system is the first part of this.  But the second and more important part is the comments section.  The dialog in the comments section is the very heart of the site.  If someone just read my review they would be missing something 60% of the value of said review.  Reader comments and reactions are exceptionally informative as they widen the experience pool, giving you a real and meaningful sample size of feedback.  Furthermore, I have been lucky in that the comments section, instead of devolving in the usual internet wastewater, has risen to be something great, thanks to very knowledgeable readers.     

As a quick side note, I work very hard to get comments up as a fast as possible, but spammers have slowed this process.  With the advent of these spammers the comments section has become the single most time consuming aspect of the website.  For whatever reason the site does exceedingly well in SEO terms and Google consistently ranks this site's reviews as the #1 hit or, in the worst case scenario, never less than the #10 hit.  That, however, causes spammers to attack the site daily and I do my best to manage them. 

Finally, choosing what to review is also important to the blog.  I want to review everything.  Yes, everything.  I want to review classics and new stuff, expensive stuff and cheap stuff, mainstream items and boutique pieces.  I want you to be able to go to the Review page and find anything you want to read about there.  It's not quite there yet, but its getting there.  I also want a wide range of stuff, from custom knives to cheapo stuff.  I don't want to miss anything. 

Enthusiast Mindset

With the rise of the Internet and huge reservoirs of information like CPF or Instagram, people's nerdy tendencies have morphed into a very efficient and very comprehensive way of processing information.  A person new to knives quickly arrives at the Sebenza.


Twenty years ago, it may have taken years for a person to realize just how good that knife is and how important a place it has in the market.  Now, a few Google searches and you are there.  But the enthusiast mindset is not just about gear, I have found it very useful in all kinds of research.  The method of sifting through piles of data has made me a better lawyer.  I can say that with ease.  Those of us with this bug know how it is useful.  We don't both going to subpar restaurants or waste time looking at information sources that aren't reliable, whether it is about buying a car or finding that lanyard bead you need.  

Similarly, with good design.  Handling thousands of pieces of gear and reviewing more than 300 hundred, has taught me in an experiential way what good design is, to a limited degree, and I like exploring that with each new knife or light I get.  

Hype Busting


Groupthink is the enemy of rational thought.  The idea that something is correct simply based on the number of people that believe it is, absent election results, a classic form of cognitive distortion.  It infects every aspect of our lives, but it is especially pernicious (not in terms of its impact, but in terms of how widespread it is) in the gear world.  The notion that production knives are lesser blades compared to customs is one example.  The obsession over lumens is another.  But the worst form of this cognitive distortion comes in the form of brand loyalty.  I do not and have never understood the idea of being a fanboy.  It is a bill of goods sold to us by marketing people.  Screw them.  If Topo Designs wants to put out an array of twee shit and pretend like it is real, well design, capable gear, that's fine.  Just don't expect me to go along with that notion because you have models with beards in your ad copy or a faux authentic quirk feel on your webpage.  

An offshoot of this group think is the Shill Site.  Shill Sites are my #1 enemy.  They are the archnemisis of this site.  As aside, in life I have always found it helpful to have an archnemisis, whether it was a snooty a-hole in my philosophy classes in undergrad or another lawyer who treats me like I am a five year old simply because he passed the bar when my parents were in diapers.  I have turned away opportunities and left others because they strayed too close to the line of "say nice things about this thing you have never seen, touched or used".  Like most people that have been in the gear game for a while, I can judge something based on specs, sure, but to write line after line after line about a product that is pretty underwhelming spec-wise just because it is new or because they paid me is something I can't do.  I like the editorial independence I have here and my two other writing gigs (AllOutdoor and Gear Junkie).  Neither AllOutdoor or Gear Junkie have ever asked me to tone down harsh, hype-busting text.  NEVER.  In other places I have written for or have been asked to write for I was asked to change my opinion, always to make it less harsh, by the way, and when that happened I told them one thing: I quit.  I don't do this as a living.  I don't do this for the money or the gear.  I do this because it is fun to interact with you the reader.  So when someone asks me to do something that is violative of that fundamental principle the reaction is the same--I quit.  I am a big quitter in that way.    

Is your knife a Hinderer design?  Better be good, because I don't care who's name is attached.  Is your backpack super minimalist because that's what sells?  I don't care.  Is your light designed by the single greatest flashlight designer and electrical engineer in the history of flashlights?  So what.  If you want hype, go elsewhere.  I could monetize this site in a bunch of ways that would force me to buy into the hype more than I do.  And to that I say--I quit.  Whoops, not that sassy automated response.  Or actual, because I never started, NO WAY.  

Gem Finder

Muyshondt's lights are the best in the world.


I have no doubt about this having handled and reviewed lights of all prices.  No question.  But I am just as excited to review the soon to be released $39 Klarus Mi7 as I am to review the Aeon.  Finding great stuff, either from a small batch maker, or a budget production company, that you might have overlooked is one of the most fun things about reviewing gear.  I love it.  So if I have to dig through the crusty forgotten parts of the Internet to find that gem awaiting some attention, I'll do it.  

In the end, I write this site for you the reader.  I like interacting with all of you via email, social media, or the comments section.  I like going on this journey with folks.  I like being a surrogate for experience.  I understand that I have been given a great opportunity through this website to see and use a metric ton of gear, and I know that lots of folks don't have that same opportunity.  So my goal is to not be an expert, but to be a surrogate.  To tell you in as much detail as possible why I like something or don't like something and to tell you why I think you might agree.  

Keep reading.  And thanks.


  1. 100% behind you on the hype busting. That said, perhaps turning an eye to the hype surrounding that most overhyped of materials used in gear, titanium, would be most welcome.

    1. As much as titanium is hyped, I can't understand the fascination with carbon fiber. Carbon fiber is MANMADE (and thus not scarce) and it offers little to no weight savings over G10.

    2. Personally I like the look, which is why I don't mind Spyderco's G10 laminate.

    3. I'm with you there, though I generally accept it as an aesthetic choice. From a price/performance and pure functionality standpoint I stand by FRN as a great material.

    4. What would you say is the "alternative" to titanium? When a metallic material is required (such as for a framelock), it is better than stainless steel in most regards - weight, corrosion, "tactile" quality. Whether it (and framelocks) are overused is another discussion, but I don't think you can call titanium overhyped as a material.

    5. Personally, I really like the look of CF, and it functions like a slightly lighter G-10 - sure, it usually isn't worth the premium it commands, but it is a little better by some metrics. It's like the difference between S35VN and M390 - sure, the advantages are relatively small, as either one is more than adequate, but people are willing to pay more to have the very top-tier of performance.

      If you're thinking about CF being overhyped as an inlay material i.e. the ZT0999, consider that inlays are largely non-functional anyways - if people like the aesthetic appeal of carbon fiber, that's a good choice for an inlay.

    6. Ameer, the weight difference is negligible unless you're making a knife entirely out of the stuff, in which case you're already giving up functionality to make a somewhat bizarre aesthetic decision, the corrosion resistance advantage is negligible except in VERY specific circumstances and any supposed tactile advantage is subjective at best, a placebo at worst. There are some exceptionally minor practical advantages to titanium, none of which are really justified by the commensurate price increase.

    7. Insipid, that seems to be more a failing of the full metal handle/framelock design that's become so prevalent, rather than titanium as a material itself. Titanium is 55-57% as dense as steel, so if you have a large knife with a full metal handle, there is going to be a significant weight advantage - things like corrosion resistance and anodizing are just a bonus. Now, if you're talking about something like a nested liner, where the metal in question accounts for a very small portion of a knife's total weight, I'll agree with you there, it's pretty much titanium for the sake of titanium (I actually prefer SS liners in that scenario, since I'm less likely to have lockup issues down the road.)

      Titanium itself isn't overrated, it's a good choice with noticeable advantages for the designs it's commonly used in; you can, however, say that those particular designs are overrated.

    8. Insipid,

      Calling the weight difference and corrosion resistance both negligible kind of misses the point, doesn't it? If your dismiss every reason a material is better for a particular application, turn yeah, I guess you can say it's not worth it.

      I'm also fairly certain titanium fatigues better than steel, also making it better for a framelock. I think I have experienced this with my steel and titanium framelock knives - my swindle's lock is wearing much faster than my techno's. In fact, the swindle's geometry is changing fast enough that I probably wouldn't buy another steel framelock (also I don't really love framelocks in general).

  2. One distinction, perhaps subtle, that must be mentioned is between hype and reputation. When a reputable designer of knives, flashlights, etc. is set to release a new product I am often interested in it before even seeing it. This is not because I am a fanboy, but because I have reached my own conclusions about that designer and thus buy into his or her reputation. Hype is a detriment to reputation and gear in general when it blinds us, the consumers to the reality of certain products. In short, reputation is based on experience even if not yours directly while hype is empty and devoid of any meaningful experience until snowballing into an undeserved psuedo-reputation.

  3. This post made me finally decide to get a commenting account. Thanks for the truly well done reviews, I check this site many times a week and has helped me avoid several bad products, and turned me on to some real gems! Keep up the great reviews and the podcast, gear geeks live always gets turned on the instant a new one is available, it takes precedent over most everything else I subscribe to.

    1. Totally agree on ggl. When a new episode posts, all other podcasts get put on hold (and I'm a pretty heavy podcast listener)

  4. I hadn't really consciously thought about the point regarding the enthusiast mindset. I have definitely become a lot more selective over the last couple of years as I've gotten into EDC and gear, and I can say for sure that is has improved my life, and that of my family. I think it's a fun coincidence that today I am carrying my Dragonfly 2 ZDP-189. When I started forming some sort of interest in this stuff, your site was one of the first places I ended up, and after reading your statements about your scoring system and how you do reviews, I was convinced that this site was worth reading. And so I bought that Dragonfly sight unseen based on your review, and I've been hooked ever since.
    You have biases and preferences, and you explain those both in your scoring system guides and in individual reviews, which gives the reader a clear understanding of how to "grade your grade", so to speak, on an individual's own preference curve. Also, it's clear you don't do anything to compromise the integrity of the content here, and that means a lot these days.
    Thank you for what you do here, and how you do it. I know it takes time, and I know I'm not the only one who appreciates that time very much. My wife will tell you that I get super excited when I see a Youtube notification that there's a new overview up, or when I see a new podcast. I know you don't want to go this way, but if it ever came down to it, I know I'm not the only one who'd be willing to contribute to the site financially.
    As for the spammers, is there some way of creating a whitelist of people that are non-bot commenters? It seems like it would be easier to screen individuals one time after their initial comment(after implementation) instead of every time they comment. It shouldn't lock anyone out because if they're not on the list they just get screened by you like now, but your workload would go down, probably by a significant amount.

  5. Great stuff, T. This is why your review site is the best on the internet.

  6. You do a great job with the site, Tony. I am always looking forward to your latest post. Great to see some of the thought behind the reviews / articles.


  7. I check the site frequently and often get excited when its been a few days since your last post as it usually means ones around the corner. Also like your video overviews too. Big fan.

  8. A breath of fresh air in a world of hype. Avid consumer of your post and beginning to miss the gear geeks podcast but understand your former explanation. Your thoughts are welcomed here across the pond in the UK. Keep it up Tony, it's appreciated.