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If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

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Every now and again, I come across an article bemoaning Internet review styles. Essentially, so the claim goes, reviews on the web, whether they be written or starred, are entirely too kind. Most of what's called a review is, in fact, a pick or recommendation. I don't disagree with that, but I also don't think it's a bad thing either.

It has always been a guiding philosophy of this blog that what I post–the quotes, the reviews, the videos–are worth people's time. Now, I realize I'm making a certain assumption about my audience here, namely that what I find interesting they will find interesting. But isn't that one of the governing principles out here in the wilderness? The vast majority of us who take the time to write reviews aren't paid to do so, and are driven by a desire to spread the word about something we love. The books I review for Blogcritics and the Bowline are ones that I've enjoyed reading or, at the very least, ones I've found interesting. I'm not about to waste my free time reading something which bores or angers me, and I'm certainly not going to write about it either. There are entirely too many cool books out there for me to be giving the time of day to incompetence.

Just because many Internet reviews are positive ones, that doesn't make it a happy-go-lucky, we-love-everything kind of place. From a certain point of view, this is natural selection at work. The good, the worthy get the attention they deserve, while the weak and the lame are ignored. It may be true that there's no such thing as bad press, but no press at all is a death sentence amidst the Internet's cacophony of information. I, for one, get a little nervous when something I'm looking at on Amazon has zero stars and zero reviews.

This isn't a fool-proof theory, of course. There's plenty of stuff out there that people love which I find totally inexplicable and genuinely deserve a good hiding. As more people make their voices heard, however, I don't expect the balance of review styles to return to tradition. If anything, more people will spend more time talking about what they love. And while this may mean that readers have to do a little more sifting to find reliable information, at least we're talking about an overabundance of excitement, rather than the alternative. Apathy, it seems to me, would make for a very dull web indeed.

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About Chris Bancells