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We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! #3004313 08/21/19 07:08 AM
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Anderton Offline OP
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Recently, Chris Lord-Alge and I were discussing what he saw as the shocking state of recording education, as exemplified by YouTube videos. His main point was that many of these people who were talking about how to get "pro" recorded sounds had no track record and no credits. Now, if someone discovers something cool and wants to share it, I think that's great. But don't tell me it's the only way to do something, and all the pros do it.

I started to understand what he meant when I saw a video that explained how the "pros" use four compressors in series on bass. Really?!? I've never seen that in all my years in the studio. Maybe two in series for more transparent compression, but I don't know on which planet everyone uses four compressors in series on bass. Have I been away from big studios too long, and this is now the way everyone records bass?

A bigger problem, though, is the same issue as "music glut." It's increasingly hard to know who has good info, and who doesn't. For example, there's a guy named Marcus Huyskens who does videos on Studio One. They're great, but he's a working engineer who's done a ton of recordings. The tell-tale clue that he's a pro is that he doesn't say he does "pro tips." smile

When the internet came along, there was much rejoicing about the democratizing for creators, and the leveling of the playing field. And in theory, that's good. But in practice, we now have a glut of stuff on social media. Some of it might be good, some of it might be bad. We'll just never know, because there's so effing much of it.

So here's what we need: an online magazine called "YouTube channel and Web Site reviews," staffed by all the engineers who are having a hard time finding work with the decline of the big studio (and the big budgets for projects). We could start small: NARAS members could vote on the best web sites for learning recording, the best web sites for gear reviews, that kind of thing. it would be like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval - actual engineers saying "yeah, this person is giving you actual useful, accurate information."

But that's probably a stupid an unworkable idea. Anyone have anything better? Or should we just all use four compressors on bass, because that's what pros do?

Last edited by Anderton; 08/21/19 07:09 AM.
Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004319 08/21/19 10:46 AM
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Originally Posted by Anderton

So here's what we need: an online magazine called "YouTube channel and Web Site reviews," staffed by all the engineers who are having a hard time finding work with the decline of the big studio (and the big budgets for projects). We could start small: NARAS members could vote on the best web sites for learning recording, the best web sites for gear reviews, that kind of thing. it would be like a Good Housekeeping seal of approval - actual engineers saying "yeah, this person is giving you actual useful, accurate information."

But that's probably a stupid an unworkable idea. Anyone have anything better? Or should we just all use four compressors on bass, because that's what pros do?


If more people used four compressors on bass, that means there will be more compressors (both real and virtual) sold, which will encourage the developers to design still more compressors, a different one to become the "I use it on all of my sessions" for every engineer.

Seriously, I heartily agree with you about the sorry state of education for the common folk interested in recording. Magazines that I used to write for won't let me write for them any more because my articles and reviews are too long and detailed. And it's not just on-line articles and videos either. The magazine I last wrote for regularly because they put some value on the understanding of principles and theory behind why things do what they do is now filled with small but annoying technical errors. Too many articles today, when I read them, make me say WHAAATTTT??? HUH???? NO! That's not how it works! I started up a web page where I post reviews that can be as technical and detailed as I felt the product and the potential user deserve. There's so much more to say than "It sounds really big on drums." However, now that everybody has a web site and a phone to make videos, I'm having a harder time, as an independent reviewer, getting stuff to review.

So, yeah, find the money and I'll write really good reviews and "basic information you need to understand what you're doing" articles for you.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004342 08/21/19 02:29 PM
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There's a lot of myths being perpetuated on the net. Especially in the guitar forums. I quit most of them because there is no way to explain to these people that the myths they have accepted as gospel is wrong.

I'm not shy about pointing out these things but I only have so much time and energy in one day, and I get tired of parroting. That's one of the reasons why I built my website.

I think a lot of it is intentional decoys. A lot of musicians want to keep copycats off their tail by throwing out misinformation, which is way too easy to do on the net.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004343 08/21/19 02:35 PM
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What is NARAS?

My issues with most online reviews is finding reviewers who are not sponsored in some way by the products they are reviewing.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: RABid] #3004352 08/21/19 03:09 PM
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Originally Posted by RABid
My issues with most online reviews is finding reviewers who are not sponsored in some way by the products they are reviewing.

Maybe we should start doing some here. It's not like we're lacking in experienced reviewers... idk

dB

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: RABid] #3004358 08/21/19 04:22 PM
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Originally Posted by RABid
What is NARAS?


National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, the people who do the Grammys.

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My issues with most online reviews is finding reviewers who are not sponsored in some way by the products they are reviewing.


I am SO glad you brought this up.

I started a thing called "Pro Reviews" on Harmony Central many years ago to address two issues that magazines were not addressing: the ability to post rich media and go into extreme detail, and the "bias" issue. The problem with the bias thing is that some reviewers/magazines/manufacturers have integrity, some don't.

[Brief aside: Magix recently asked me to write about the stem separation that Acid Pro does. They specifically wanted something totally honest and objective, because the reality is that the concept works spectacularly well sometimes, and horribly other times - it depends on the program material. They found it difficult to generate something internally that neither oversold or undersold what it did, but instead, described the reality in no uncertain terms so customers could go into it with eyes open. I thought that was pretty cool.]

The Pro Reviews were forum threads with a moderator who was basically the "primary reviewer." It also had a blog element because the review unfolded over time as the product got tested in more situations. These were sponsored by manufacturers because they were very time-consuming, so the moderator needed to be compensated, and there was a lot of bandwidth involved. HOWEVER, to me the beauty of the whole thing was that ANYONE could participate in the review. It was impossible to get away with saying B.S. because there were tens of thousands of people looking over your shoulder. Some shill couldn't come in and say something was great when it wasn't, and conversely, some hater couldn't come in and say something sucked unless they could back it up.

Furthermore, manufacturers were encouraged to participate and answer questions. That was huge, because the people commenting had a direct pipeline, bypassing the reviewer, to someone from the company.

These were extraordinarily successful. They regularly had a quarter million views, and lots of participation. They reached a level of detail no magazine could ever cover, and had a system of checks and balances that made bias a non-issue because anyone saying B.S. knew they were going to get caught.

I will say it took a giant leap of faith on the part of the manufacturer to commit to spending thousands of dollars on something where they didn't know if the product would be trashed or not. So, we tended to get only products in which manufacturers had a high degree of confidence. Nonetheless, there was one Pro Review that absolutely savaged the product, and one or two that were so-so.

I'd love to see those happen on MPN again. I think they really solved "the gear review problem."

And I also think we need people to review web sites smile

Last edited by Anderton; 08/21/19 06:10 PM.
Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004359 08/21/19 04:39 PM
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We've had some conversations from time to time on the Keyboard Corner about which reviewers and online instructional videos we prefer, and don't prefer. Seems like right here might be a good place to expand those discussions beyond keyboard related topics.


Dan

Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.
Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: RABid] #3004368 08/21/19 05:13 PM
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Originally Posted by RABid
What is NARAS?


They're The Recording Academy, an organization of people who nominate and vote on the Grammy awards. They do other things, too, like conduct seminars and sponsor the MusiCares charity program for music people who need help in times of need. The Producers and Engineers Wing (a subgroup) has, among other things, generated a number of recommended practices for those of us on the technical side of the studio window.

It's a dues-paying organization, and in order to be a full (voting) member, you need a certain number of recognized production credits, but they're happy to have non-pros join as non-voting members. Back in the old vinyl and early CD days, being a NARAS member was a great deal for building up your record collection. You could buy a copy of just about any commercially released recording for a couple of bucks, so you could listen to music for the purpose of Grammy nominations and votes. They don't do that any more now that downloads are the way to go.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Dave Bryce] #3004373 08/21/19 05:47 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Bryce
Originally Posted by RABid
My issues with most online reviews is finding reviewers who are not sponsored in some way by the products they are reviewing.

Maybe we should start doing some here. It's not like we're lacking in experienced reviewers... idk

I think the new MPN would get a great deal of attention if it did this, and it seems like Craig's "Pro Reviews" might be a great way to do it. It could even cover some of the info that's out there like the crap mentioned in Craig's OP (though those don't have manufacturers and thus the money to compensate any moderator).


The great thing about music is that there's always something to learn. The frustrating thing about music is that there's always something to learn!
Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004375 08/21/19 05:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
I started a thing called "Pro Reviews" on Harmony Central many years ago to address two issues that magazines were not addressing: the ability to post rich media and go into extreme detail, and the "bias" issue. The problem with the bias thing is that some reviewers/magazines/manufacturers have integrity, some don't.

(snip)

The Pro Reviews were forum threads with a moderator who was basically the "primary reviewer." It also had a blog element because the review unfolded over time as the product got tested in more situations. These were sponsored by manufacturers because they were very time-consuming, so the moderator needed to be compensated, and there was a lot of bandwidth involved. HOWEVER, to me the beauty of the whole thing was that ANYONE could participate in the review. It was impossible to get away with saying B.S. because there were tens of thousands of people looking over your shoulder. Some shill couldn't come in and say something was great when it wasn't, and conversely, some hater couldn't come in and say something sucked unless they could back it up.

Furthermore, manufacturers were encouraged to participate and answer questions. That was huge, because the people commenting had a direct pipeline, bypassing the reviewer, to someone from the company.

(snip)

I'd love to see those happen on MPN again. I think they really solved "the gear review problem.

I think that sounds like an excellent idea. twothumbs

dB

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004380 08/21/19 06:23 PM
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FYI one fine point...the companies didn't compensate the reviewers directly. They paid HC, and it went into HC's general income. From that, salaries were paid, and part of the gig for staffers was doing pro reviews.

I think we might need a different model here because the organization is less formal (which is a good thing!). I'd propose that due to all the work involved, the reviewer gets a cut of whatever a company pays, and MPN gets a cut to keep the lights on.

And since we're talking about reviews, I want to address one other thing. When I was editing EM or working with Mitch Gallagher on EQ, I was constantly being asked "How come you seem to publish only positive reviews?" My reply was always the same: "You're a reviewer. I come to you and say 'hey, do you want to review this really cool-looking piece of gear that looks awesome, or would you rather spend several weeks of your life checking into something that's not fun and you'll never want to use again?'"

Besides, I have a very specific idea about reviews: no one should care whether I like something or not. My opinion truly doesn't matter. I feel my job with a review is to describe something so accurately that people can decide for themselves if it interests them or not.

True story: I reviewed Native Instruments' Kore. One reader said "I bet NI canceled their ads over that one, eh? Pretty negative." Another said "I went out and bought it immediately after reading your review. It's great." This is because the product was not well-suited for the first person, but ideal for the second. As to NI, they said "We're just glad someone described what it does accurately." smile

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004482 08/22/19 06:21 AM
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What about an upvote / downvote button on forum comments to help self-police discussions in the reviews? Is there a way to upvote/downvote threads, maybe that's a way to rate review discussions?

... also reviews rating systems could use of 1, 2, 3 or 4 compressors to more accurately reflect the market for pro reviews wink

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004530 08/22/19 03:38 PM
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I think people need to understand that most of these “reviews” are subjective. There is no single right or wrong way to do anything.

I always view these reviews as something to investigate to see if they have any value to me and my equipment. I’ve never tried using 4 compressors in series. Maybe it works and maybe it doesn’t. Very easy these days as you just add another plugin. I didn’t view the video you are referring to but I guess you could consider using multiple compressors to model the artifacts of some old favorite. Probably though, it’s more a case of “I paid for all these buttons so I better use them”.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: dboomer] #3004588 08/22/19 08:22 PM
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Originally Posted by dboomer
I think people need to understand that most of these “reviews” are subjective. There is no single right or wrong way to do anything.


Agree completely, which is why it rankles me when someone who's never hit the charts say "This is how all the pros do it." All the pros I know believe in "no rules."

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004691 08/23/19 04:17 PM
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I used to post reviews on HC until they changed their terms claiming ownership of review contents. Well I was not happy with that so I ceased posting on HC. They had been acquired by Musicians Friend who prints very biased reviews in their catalogs, and I had no intention of doing their work for free.

So I changed to posting reviews on my website - they are sponsored by no one and I don't hold anything back. Granted it is limited to gear in my possession (or formerly owned). In the Andromeda page I did declare a disclaimer that I was on the beta test/sound design team, and was careful not to let any bias affect my review.

Yes any review is subjective. You also have to consider the reviewer. I find that many online reviews were posted by someone with blatantly obvious little understanding of the gear under review (same person has admitted in a forum that he sold his synth because he didn't understand it, which somehow gave him license to blast the synth on every other forum). A poor craftsman always blames their tools, and a good craftsman quickly recognizes inferior tools. I can quickly spot ads that are disguised as reviews, which I abhor. I'm an EE/systems engineer by trade with a day job (non-musical), so if I find a fault I do everything I can to resolve it. Same with my music gear, I study them pretty intensely. I'm a "prosumer" in that I buy "professional" gear but am a "consumer" in that I do not make a living in the music industry, but I am intensely involved in music as a hobby. Frankly, my day job pays for my hobby. If I can't resolve any faults then it gets included in my review. Sometimes a fault can be a feature, such as the imperfect filter tracking of old OBX synthesizers.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Dave Bryce] #3004779 08/24/19 02:51 AM
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Originally Posted by Dave Bryce
Originally Posted by RABid
My issues with most online reviews is finding reviewers who are not sponsored in some way by the products they are reviewing.

Maybe we should start doing some here. It's not like we're lacking in experienced reviewers... idk

dB

I, for one, would be happy to see that. I personally am not versed enough in any of this to review gear. But I am one of those knuckleheads that just loves reading gear reviews. I rarely buy any new gear however. Nonetheless I love reading up on it all.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: AlamoJoe] #3004803 08/24/19 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by AlamoJoe

I, for one, would be happy to see that. I personally am not versed enough in any of this to review gear. But I am one of those knuckleheads that just loves reading gear reviews. I rarely buy any new gear however. Nonetheless I love reading up on it all.



Read some of the reviews on my web site. When I write a review, I almost always explain why things work the way they do, and explain what this and that specification or characteristic means in practice. So even if it's something you don't need, you might learn something.

I don't have any sponsors and I'm not fishing for "hits" but it never hurts to be famous. wink

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004846 08/24/19 06:53 PM
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Forget the reviews, jump to this so you can understand who you're dealing with smile And be thankful the experiment didn't involve mice.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004880 08/24/19 11:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
Forget the reviews, jump to this so you can understand who you're dealing with smile And be thankful the experiment didn't involve mice.


Here's the correct link. You had an extra F in PDF. Sylvia's preferred organic filter these days is cheese, so mice might not be far behind. She loved the article.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3004993 08/25/19 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
... Besides, I have a very specific idea about reviews: no one should care whether I like something or not. My opinion truly doesn't matter. I feel my job with a review is to describe something so accurately that people can decide for themselves if it interests them or not.
...


The best review that I remember reading, ever, was years and years ago in Keyboard Magazine. A review on the Rhodes Chroma. Pages of features and useful information, no opinion that I remember. Once I read the review I knew what it could do, which was a lot more than any other synth I had ever seen, and I wanted it. There was not one in my entire state so I ordered the Chroma without ever seeing, playing or even hearing one. It was an expensive, blind purchase, and the best keyboard I ever owned. All because of an informative review.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: RABid] #3005066 08/26/19 11:33 AM
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Originally Posted by RABid
The best review that I remember reading, ever, was years and years ago in Keyboard Magazine. A review on the Rhodes Chroma. Pages of features and useful information, no opinion that I remember. Once I read the review I knew what it could do, which was a lot more than any other synth I had ever seen, and I wanted it. There was not one in my entire state so I ordered the Chroma without ever seeing, playing or even hearing one. It was an expensive, blind purchase, and the best keyboard I ever owned. All because of an informative review.


George Petersen (whose writing, editing, and grumpiness I admire) told me, when we were talking about reviews and I mentioned that I had recently written nearly a 13,000 word review of, I think, a PreSonus audio interface, that when you write more than a 2,500 word review, you're re-writing the manual. And, in fact, I've had people tell me that they have learned useful things from one of my reviews that they wouldn't have found in the manual. A lot of manuals today barely go beyond "quick start" while others are so large and detailed (and only in computer-readable form) that it's difficult to find how to do, or even if the unit can do, something you want to do.
But there's no money any more in writing detailed reviews, and, unless you're Craig Anderton, in independently writing thorough and usable manuals.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3005125 08/26/19 04:28 PM
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I know this wasn't your intention, Craig, but your original post touches on the gatekeeping that created YouTube's popularity as a font of information in the first place. People CRAVE more information about how to use their gear. And of COURSE they are misinformed and don't know where to look. Often they are looking for a magic bullet where there is none, and well-intentioned creators, who were raised on the hyperbole of clickbait, are using phrases like "what the pros do" while fully expecting people to temper that with the same skepticism they have for "this is the exact recipe for Mrs Fields cookies".

The people that have the biggest problem with this trend are industry professionals. If you are an Anderton or a Lord-Alge or a Massenburg, you have decades upon decades of experience in your brains, but seriously, when would any of you have time to put out a series of novice videos or reviews geared at rank beginners without serious compensation? To think you could severely disrespects the YouTube creators out there...what they do may seem homebrew, but it is HARD, THANKLESS work to build a foundation. There are certainly some professionals who have found a niche addressing non-pros (Tim Pierce and Rick Beato come to mind), but they have essentially dedicated a major portion of their working day to content creation and publishing.

My point is that while there is a lot of misinformation out there, I don't think you need to worry too much, especially if you are talking about recording and production techniques. If you were discussion homeopathy or auto repair or even music pedagogy, I think you'd have a stronger point and complete support from me. If someone saw a guy they consider a professional use 4 compressors and then shares that with a bedroom producer, what's the harm? That in three months, there will be 3 compressors on Reverb and a disillusioned bedroom engineer?

I think you are absolutely right about the volume of information, good and bad, being overwhelming on the best of days. People need to develop their own critical thinking skills instead of having yet another "source of truth" telling them what is and isn't a legit YouTube video for advice.

Again, if this sounds aggressive or negative, I absolutely did not intend for that to be. I just don't think you need to worry about it. Cream rises to the top.

Last edited by zeronyne; 08/26/19 04:30 PM.

"For instance" is not proof.
Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Mike Rivers] #3005130 08/26/19 04:45 PM
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Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
A lot of manuals today barely go beyond "quick start" while others are so large and detailed (and only in computer-readable form) that it's difficult to find how to do, or even if the unit can do, something you want to do.


I have to say I'm a big fan of PDF manuals because of search and hyperlinks. There are advantages to printed manuals, like being able to leaf through topics and not having to sit at a computer. But these days, if I need for example a screenshot of Cubase doing something and I don't know how to do it, with the PDF manual I can usually have the issue deciphered fairly quickly.

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But there's no money any more in writing detailed reviews


Well there's still Sound on Sound, but a lot of their reviews are staff-generated. But think of all the other places to write detailed reviews! Like...uh...hmmm...well...okay, your blog, and the upcoming craiganderton.org site.

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...and, unless you're Craig Anderton, in independently writing thorough and usable manuals.


I've written one manual in the past six or seven years...it's pretty much something I don't do any more, companies can't afford the money and I can't afford the time. The one I did was for the Panoptigon, mostly because the people involved were cool and it was an "out there" product.

The problem isn't just that companies don't want to pay for writing something longer than War and Peace that will be outdated with the next rev, the other problem is that people don't read them. I can't tell you how many times I've been on forums where someone will post a question and wait a day or two to get an answer, where either doing a search on the manual or on Google would have solved their issue in under 5 minutes.

I do a Friday Tip every week for PreSonus. They're pretty basic, step-by-step things that aren't very long, yet many people who post comments wish I would do videos instead. Now, I'm certainly not opposed to videos, I just feel some knowledge transfers occur better in text and some in video. But some people want ONLY videos. I can't think of any way you could do a long-form manual for a program like, say, Digital Performer as a video.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3005136 08/26/19 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by zeronyne
I know this wasn't your intention, Craig, but your original post touches on the gatekeeping that created YouTube's popularity as a font of information in the first place. People CRAVE more information about how to use their gear. And of COURSE they are misinformed and don't know where to look. Often they are looking for a magic bullet where there is none, and well-intentioned creators, who were raised on the hyperbole of clickbait, are using phrases like "what the pros do" while fully expecting people to temper that with the same skepticism they have for "this is the exact recipe for Mrs Fields cookies".


But the problem goes deeper than that. If you teach someone HOW a compressor works, then they'll be able to apply it in any situation. If you just give 5 tips, they'll (maybe) know what to do for the specific situation that relates to those 5 tips. You're spot-on that people want magic bullets, and while tips can most certainly be useful, there's no substitute for learning how a piece of gear works and I don't see much of that.

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The people that have the biggest problem with this trend are industry professionals. If you are an Anderton or a Lord-Alge or a Massenburg, you have decades upon decades of experience in your brains, but seriously, when would any of you have time to put out a series of novice videos or reviews geared at rank beginners without serious compensation?


Chris does seminars and lectures, so do I and so does Alan Parsons. I can't speak for the others, but I do them for enough to cover expenses (and that means staying at an Air B&B, not a 4-star hotel). I think it's important to pass along knowledge, I OWE it to people, because of I got where I am thanks to other people being generous enough to share their knowledge.

I spent a year writing 8 books in the series "Musician's Guide to Home Recording" for Hal Leonard. After getting my last royalty statement, I realized I would have come out way ahead if I'd spent the same amount of time working at McDonald's in a minimum wage position. BUT then I would have just devoted myself to serving people bad food instead of trying to help them realize their artistic dreams.

I know it is "HARD, THANKLESS work to build a foundation" - I've been doing it for 50 years! I've been working on a new project, craiganderton.org, which will go live on September 1 or thereabouts. It's a totally free site with updated articles from my archives, new material, and videos. Eventually I'll be putting lessons up there, many of which are indeed intended for rank beginners. How will I monetize it? Beats me. Hopefully people will go to my commercial craiganderton.com site and buy some of my products, but at the moment that only contributes one or two hundred dollars a month.

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My point is that while there is a lot of misinformation out there, I don't think you need to worry too much, especially if you are talking about recording and production techniques. If you were discussion homeopathy or auto repair or even music pedagogy, I think you'd have a stronger point and complete support from me. If someone saw a guy they consider a professional use 4 compressors and then shares that with a bedroom producer, what's the harm?


Short-term, there's no harm. But long-term, a whole generation of people is being brought up to think there are magic bullets that substitute for learning your gear. Perhaps I have a somewhat different perspective. I've been doing workshops since 1975. They used to be highly interactive, with people asking questions, sharing experiences, and wanting to learn. Attendance was often in the hundreds. Over the years, that excitement has dissipated. Now, many people come into workshops with a "just tell me the few magic bullets I need" attitude. Many of them don't want to have to think, learn, or discover, they just want shortcuts. They've become intellectually lazy, but what's much worse is they've lost the sense of wonder and experimentation that fuels great art.

So many people are blown away with my tips for the PreSonus blog - "How did you ever come up with that?" The answer is I ask the question "what if" more than I ask the question "how do you..." I truly believe someone running audio through a compressor will learn more in 15 minutes of asking "what if I..." and listening to the results, than from 15 minutes of a YouTube video on "5 pro compressor tips."

You said "People need to develop their own critical thinking skills instead of having yet another 'source of truth' telling them what is and isn't a legit YouTube video for advice." Yes, but the problem I'm seeing is that by and large, people aren't developing their own critical thinking skills. At least if they could be pointed toward sources that really do explain how things work - for example, there's a great video about what made John Bonham such a great drummer - they would hopefully be inspired, and then pursue things on their own.

Quote
Cream rises to the top.


I hope so...but when there's one ounce of cream in four billion gallons of milk, it becomes increasingly hard for people to find it...especially when the YouTube algorithm keeps throwing more milk at them smile

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3005149 08/26/19 06:02 PM
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All points well taken. And I'm all for positive publicity and guides for good content. But reviews are a harder sell for me, so maybe it's just a matter of semantics. I agree that learning how to use a compressor (and how a compressor works) is better than following a patch sheet, but there is nothing in the current meta that systematically encourages that. Closed systems, wizards, macro knobs, auto-installers...they all try to prevent you from (to combine two cliches) looking behind the curtain to see how the sausage is made.

The creamy content is what we need, but maybe the milky content is what we deserve.


"For instance" is not proof.
Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: zeronyne] #3005181 08/26/19 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by zeronyne
I agree that learning how to use a compressor (and how a compressor works) is better than following a patch sheet, but there is nothing in the current meta that systematically encourages that. Closed systems, wizards, macro knobs, auto-installers...they all try to prevent you from (to combine two cliches) looking behind the curtain to see how the sausage is made.

The creamy content is what we need, but maybe the milky content is what we deserve.


Well, as the old Chinese saying goes, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime - but screw that! Let's buy a fish sandwich at a fast food restaurant, then I won't need to learn how to cook or how to fish. Yeah, that's the ticket!"

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3005204 08/26/19 11:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
A lot of manuals today barely go beyond "quick start" while others are so large and detailed (and only in computer-readable form) that it's difficult to find how to do, or even if the unit can do, something you want to do.


I have to say I'm a big fan of PDF manuals because of search and hyperlinks. There are advantages to printed manuals, like being able to leaf through topics and not having to sit at a computer. But these days, if I need for example a screenshot of Cubase doing something and I don't know how to do it, with the PDF manual I can usually have the issue deciphered fairly quickly.


As a user, I like to have it both ways, particularly if it's a fairly large manual. I can take the printed copy to the living room couch and study it, and I can have the PDF on the computer that's usually connected with the product, so I can search for what I'm trying to find. Trouble with that is that if I don't guess the term correctly, I don't find what I was hoping for. And some things have their own terms that the developer (or marketing department) created - sometimes to make their product appear unique, and, sometimes, I fear, that they don't know the common term. That's where a manual with lots of pictures gets a workout. Sometimes ya gotta learn the vocabulary.

Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
But there's no money any more in writing detailed reviews


Quote
Well there's still Sound on Sound, but a lot of their reviews are staff-generated. But think of all the other places to write detailed reviews! Like...uh...hmmm...well...okay, your blog, and the upcoming craiganderton.org site.


Sound on Sound is about the only magazine left in our field that does detailed reviews. I miss (and still have a shelf full of) Studio Sound, RE/P, and dB magazines. When I was writing a monthly column for Recording, when it got close to deadline time and I hadn't thought of what to write for the month, I'd often just take a few issues of those magazines off the shelf, browse through them, and I'd have a topic. I haven't counted words, but recently it seems that Recording is about half written (interviews and reviews) by one person. And too many reviews today leave me with mental comments like "Why didn't he explain what the Veeblewocker does rather than just saying 'great for hi-hats'?" or How much THD does it have? 'Low" isn't a number," and "#$%!@*&! That's not how it works at all."

Quote

I've written one manual in the past six or seven years...it's pretty much something I don't do any more, companies can't afford the money and I can't afford the time. . . .
The problem isn't just that companies don't want to pay for writing something longer than War and Peace that will be outdated with the next rev, the other problem is that people don't read them. I can't tell you how many times I've been on forums where someone will post a question and wait a day or two to get an answer, where either doing a search on the manual or on Google would have solved their issue in under 5 minutes.


You'd find the time if the money was there, but manufacturers have been saying for years that the users don't read the manual so why bother to provide one. Many times on a forum, when someone has a problem, I'll look at a manual on line and send them a link to it with the page or paragraph number, and that will solve their problem. If I had a dollar for every time I did that, I'd retire. Oh, wait a minute, I'm already retired.


Quote
I do a Friday Tip every week for PreSonus. They're pretty basic, step-by-step things that aren't very long, yet many people who post comments wish I would do videos instead. Now, I'm certainly not opposed to videos, I just feel some knowledge transfers occur better in text and some in video. But some people want ONLY videos. I can't think of any way you could do a long-form manual for a program like, say, Digital Performer as a video.


Videos are great when they're showing something that visualizes well. When I couldn't find the parking brake drum adjustment on my Toyota, I went on line, found a video that showed where it was hidden and how to get to it. It could have been written in a couple of pages of illustrated text, but the video hit the spot for that one. But I just don't get these 5 minute videos telling you how to make your drums explode that are mostly DAW screen captures. Unless I play the video on the studio computer, mostly I can't hear any changes that the instructor says he's making.

Quote
But the problem goes deeper than that. If you teach someone HOW a compressor works, then they'll be able to apply it in any situation. If you just give 5 tips, they'll (maybe) know what to do for the specific situation that relates to those 5 tips. You're spot-on that people want magic bullets, and while tips can most certainly be useful, there's no substitute for learning how a piece of gear works and I don't see much of that.


I don't know how many mental light bulbs went on when I wrote an article about compressors. Seems that nobody understood that a compressor makes things quieter, and that they don't get to sound louder until you add the make-up gain. Seems like the way most people were using compressors were to drive the input into clipping (which usually does sound louder) and then turning down the output level so as not to clip the A/D converter or recorder.

Quote
. . . a whole generation of people is being brought up to think there are magic bullets that substitute for learning your gear. Perhaps I have a somewhat different perspective. I've been doing workshops since 1975. They used to be highly interactive, with people asking questions, sharing experiences, and wanting to learn. Attendance was often in the hundreds. Over the years, that excitement has dissipated. Now, many people come into workshops with a "just tell me the few magic bullets I need" attitude. Many of them don't want to have to think, learn, or discover, they just want shortcuts. They've become intellectually lazy, but what's much worse is they've lost the sense of wonder and experimentation that fuels great art.


It's the on-line generation. Everything is at your fingertips, you just have to ask for it. Your (Craig) writing inspired me because you wrote with the right amount of detail that let me understand what a circuit or a device was doing, and I could decide for myself what it was good for. But this is going back 40 or more years. So many of today's potential readers weren't even born yet. We're old enough to be a little crotchety. wink

Quote
Well, as the old Chinese saying goes, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime - but screw that! Let's buy a fish sandwich at a fast food restaurant, then I won't need to learn how to cook or how to fish. Yeah, that's the ticket!"


I've always been a "teach a man to fish" kind of person, but nowadays, they don't seem to realize that first you need to attach a string to a pole and catch some bait.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3005241 08/27/19 04:10 AM
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So many of today's potential readers weren't even born yet. We're old enough to be a little crotchety.


You and I are products of the days when there was decent public education. Most of the teachers were check-cashers, but some of them loved what they did, and were truly inspiring. Of all the schooling I did, it was Ted Stratton's public speaking class that did the most for me.

It's not a question of being old and crotchety as much as knowing what could be possible. Earlier in this thread I mentioned that I do workshops for expenses. Is it because I'm stupid? Well, maybe smile But the reward of seeing people get excited about the possibilities inherent in making music today is the best compensation possible. I can always figure out how to make enough to cover groceries.

We are living in a golden age of making music. It's sad that some people don't realize this...I want to open their eyes. I want them to become so inspired that they make music that I can't wait to hear.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3005255 08/27/19 07:18 AM
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Could it be that the technological revolution that has created a golden age of music production is also creating an unfocused, quick-fix mindset?

The same technology that is enabling can also be distracting: I could learn soft synth A in depth or I could try soft synth B to,see if it gives me the result I want. What does that notification say? Interesting... Okay, now where was I? Oh yeah, soft synth C. How do I search through these 14,000 patches to find the one I want? Okay, that's awesome. Wait, who's texting me now?

Best,

Geoff


Enthusiasm powers the world.

Craig Anderton's Archiving Article
Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3005261 08/27/19 10:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Anderton

It's not a question of being old and crotchety as much as knowing what could be possible. Earlier in this thread I mentioned that I do workshops for expenses. Is it because I'm stupid? Well, maybe smile But the reward of seeing people get excited about the possibilities inherent in making music today is the best compensation possible. I can always figure out how to make enough to cover groceries.


I'd do workshops for expenses, and I do, but they're not at NAMM or AES shows and about wires and sparks, they're at music camps and playing tunes, and I have to run the PA for concerts. wink I've tried doing workshops there on sound and recording, but nobody shows up - they want to learn how to play banjo like Tommy Jarrell or mandolin like Bill Monroe. I cover the groceries with my retirement pension, but it costs me about $1000 to do a NAMM show and even if I could get a spot in the AES program there, I don't think they pay anything for speakers, in fact the first year, you had to pay to present, which is why so many of the sessions there are presented by the manufacturers. I don't think that's a bad thing, after all, who knows better about how to use their gear, but nobody teaches fundamentals.

Quote
We are living in a golden age of making music. It's sad that some people don't realize this...I want to open their eyes. I want them to become so inspired that they make music that I can't wait to hear.


I'm not sure that what I have to say will make music that I can't wait to hear, but if I find music that I really like to hear, I can probably show whoever is making it some ways to work more efficiently, discover some new things, and be more creative.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3005334 08/27/19 05:52 PM
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Too many musicians today want instant gratification and don't know the machinery behind the front panel. The internet has some good fundamental primers on that stuff, it's rare to find the young 'un that is willing to put in the work. Plugins can spoil them quick. I'm an educated electronic injuneer, give me a block diagram and I'll know the box pretty quick.

I agree that SoS is the only publication that prints detailed reviews that aren't an expansion of the brochure or aren't a sales pitch.

I don't make $$$ with my reviews, but the feedback I get from emails and forums is that people find them very informative. I'm not going to hold their hand, but I'm pretty good at technical writing targeted at laymen.

What I don't like is when sellers lift my reviews to use as a sales pitch for their auctions or classifieds. So I started "seeding" the text so you can't drop it right in without editing it. Some sellers were too dumb to notice that and their stuff never sells... wonder why...

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: The Real MC] #3005345 08/27/19 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by The Real MC
What I don't like is when sellers lift my reviews to use as a sales pitch for their auctions or classifieds. So I started "seeding" the text so you can't drop it right in without editing it. Some sellers were too dumb to notice that and their stuff never sells... wonder why...


Can you elaborate on this? I'm not sure I understand...

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3005354 08/27/19 07:06 PM
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Originally Posted by Anderton
Originally Posted by The Real MC
What I don't like is when sellers lift my reviews to use as a sales pitch for their auctions or classifieds. So I started "seeding" the text so you can't drop it right in without editing it. Some sellers were too dumb to notice that and their stuff never sells... wonder why...


Can you elaborate on this? I'm not sure I understand...


When I browse the auction or classified websites, I see my review text copied & pasted in the item description. So by "seeding" the text, I mixed positive with negative attributes in the same paragraphs. If the seller wasn't paying attention and just copied/pasted the text to their description without editing it, the negative attributes would scare away buyers.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3005363 08/27/19 07:22 PM
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This just kills me. So many "experts" out there. I love hearing ideas from anyone, because even crazy "wrong" stuff could be transformed into a cool new method by people with actual knowledge. But it's soul crushing how much crap is out there masquerading as viable data. I'd love for someone to rate all the web info and point users to credible info and warn them against crap content. Would the community embrace such a thing? My optimistic self would hope so. My pessimistic self would say, "People are soooo used to devouring informational feces from beautiful charismatic "experts" who sometimes offer entertaining looks at tech apps that those peeps would rather enjoy the circus tricks than absorb the knowledge." Sigh. [But super awesome suggestion, Craig!]

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3006134 09/02/19 04:18 PM
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A GREAT IDEA.


Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

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Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: GuardiansGuitar] #3006142 09/02/19 05:38 PM
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Originally Posted by GuardiansGuitar
This just kills me. So many "experts" out there. I love hearing ideas from anyone, because even crazy "wrong" stuff could be transformed into a cool new method by people with actual knowledge. But it's soul crushing how much crap is out there masquerading as viable data.

Without a doubt.


Quote
I'd love for someone to rate all the web info and point users to credible info and warn them against crap content. Would the community embrace such a thing? My optimistic self would hope so. My pessimistic self would say, "People are soooo used to devouring informational feces from beautiful charismatic "experts" who sometimes offer entertaining looks at tech apps that those peeps would rather enjoy the circus tricks than absorb the knowledge." Sigh. [But super awesome suggestion, Craig!]

Originally Posted by Caevan O'Shite

A GREAT IDEA.
2thu yeahthat

Now that we have control over the direction of MPN, seems like there's a decent amount of opportunity to explore/pursue some of the things being discussed here. cool smile

dB

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Dave Bryce] #3006175 09/02/19 09:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Bryce
Originally Posted by Caevan O'Shite

A GREAT IDEA.
2thu yeahthat

Now that we have control over the direction of MPN, seems like there's a decent amount of opportunity to explore/pursue some of the things being discussed here. cool smile

dB


Please see Winston Psmith's "SFX 101"-thread on the GPF; I think it aughtta be a "Stickie" at the top...


Ask yourself- What Would Ren and Stimpy Do?

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Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3006185 09/02/19 10:07 PM
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I also think it's a great idea... as one of your early supporters when I was "the manufacturer" I think that living/breathing dialog within a review is a wonderful thing.

On writing reviews, I have been constantly challenged when doing assignments by the small word count afforded by print (and I totally understand why), but it meant that I would end up having to edit out almost all of the context, reaction and anecdotal experience, and even humor just to try to cover relaying some of the basic information about the product. And yet that info was easily found within the specs and body copy of the manufacturer's materials, if one were so motivated. I almost felt that it was better to create a "in use" application series rather than a traditional review...

And what manuals have always been missing were the "how to do" and "why it does" aspects of explaining features. But that's because it take enough space, and time (which equals cost) of just explaining in a basic fashion the "what it is" of a parameter. People always used to love Mackie manuals for their educational and humorous aspects. And I have certainly read some manuals that actually taught you things along the way. But those are rare...

Jerry


Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: jerrythek] #3006194 09/02/19 10:54 PM
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Originally Posted by jerrythek
I also think it's a great idea... as one of your early supporters when I was "the manufacturer" I think that living/breathing dialog within a review is a wonderful thing.

On writing reviews, I have been constantly challenged when doing assignments by the small word count afforded by print (and I totally understand why), but it meant that I would end up having to edit out almost all of the context, reaction and anecdotal experience, and even humor just to try to cover relaying some of the basic information about the product. And yet that info was easily found within the specs and body copy of the manufacturer's materials, if one were so motivated. I almost felt that it was better to create a "in use" application series rather than a traditional review...


Frankly, part of why I started Pro Reviews was as a bit of a middle finger to the magazines. I felt they were clueless about the coming electronic takeover of publishing, and not making contingency plans on what to do when that happened, or how to gain a foothold in that space that would prevent competition. But like record companies, they were slow to move and even slower to anticipate. Many of the people working in executive positions were just check-cashers; the passion came from the people like Fortner, but they weren't given the keys to drive the car...just the key to the gas cap so they could pump gas.

It reminds of when, even prior to Napster, I was telling any record company that would listen physical media was dead, music was going to be streamed into homes, people would find what they wanted from highly evolved search engines, and it would be monetized like a celestial jukebox (well I was wrong about the last part, I anticipated micro-payments instead of subscriptions). They all thought I was a total idiot. So did the magazine higher-ups. (Notable exceptions: Paul Gallo and Marty Porter.)

Obviously the Pro Reviews were a massive success by any metric, but it was not a genius idea...any more than throwing apples into a pie and putting ice cream on top is a "genius" idea ("Hmm, apples taste good, pies taste good, ice cream tastes good - I bet if you combined them, they'd taste even better!").

I believe the single biggest problem is the consumer's insistence on the lowest price possible. The irony is that instead of paying $40 extra for a deep product to get an awesome manual, they pay $40 for a third-party book (that may or may not be any good) on how to use what they just bought. smile

Musicplayer.com could provide a real service by offering in-depth reviews. I'm taking somewhat of a different tack on craiganderton.org, because I want to specialize in reviews of software products that have demo versions. Then the review can concentrate solely on, as you stated so well, "context, reaction, and anecdotal experience" because the person could investigate the software for themselves. The purpose of the review would be more about letting readers know if they even wanted to investigate the software in the first place, and if so, the important parts to check out while evaluating the demo.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: jerrythek] #3006202 09/02/19 11:38 PM
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Originally Posted by jerrythek

On writing reviews, I have been constantly challenged when doing assignments by the small word count afforded by print (and I totally understand why), but it meant that I would end up having to edit out almost all of the context, reaction and anecdotal experience, and even humor just to try to cover relaying some of the basic information about the product. And yet that info was easily found within the specs and body copy of the manufacturer's materials, if one were so motivated. I almost felt that it was better to create a "in use" application series rather than a traditional review...


Are you sure you're not me? (OK, I think I know which Jerry you are) Recording and Pro Audio Review won't let me write for them any more because I want to use up too much of their precious word budget. Pro Audio Review always had an "In Use" section of their reviews - it was part of their Guideline for Reviewers - and for many things, that took up most of the 2000 words allotted for most reviews. There's no need to repeat the manufacturers' specs in a review other than to summarize the basic characteristics - how many inputs and outputs on what kind of connectors and what it does. I like to confirm operating levels, or measure and state them when they're not given by the manufacturer, and interpret some of the goofy ways in which manufacturers present their specs. I also like to explain what it means to have 60 dB of gain on the mic preamps when you really don't know if that's true since, in a device like a computer audio interface, you never see the preamp output unless there's an analog insert link - and that's something that needs explaining because most of today's users don't know what that is. I also like to explain something about why a particular specification or measurement is important, like looking at spectrum display to see what harmonics and how much AC hum contributes to a THD measurement.

I do that for reviews that I post on my own web site because I don't have a word limit. Some people like it and thank me for teaching them something even if it turns out that the product isn't what they want. Others tell me they don't want to read all the jibber-jabber, just tell them how it sounds on drums.

But something that really bothers me about the "Write what the manufacturer wrote" kind of review is that often the reviewer either doesn't understand what he's writing, or tries to re-write the manufacturer's material and does it wrong. This is where you get things like "Output level: 16dB" or "very low distortion."

Quote
And what manuals have always been missing were the "how to do" and "why it does" aspects of explaining features. But that's because it take enough space, and time (which equals cost) of just explaining in a basic fashion the "what it is" of a parameter. People always used to love Mackie manuals for their educational and humorous aspects. And I have certainly read some manuals that actually tuaght you things along the way. But those are rare...


Sometimes parts of my reviews read like the manual, but it's not in the manual.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Caevan O'Shite] #3006216 09/03/19 01:05 AM
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Originally Posted by Caevan O'Shite
]Please see Winston Psmith's "SFX 101"-thread on the GPF; I think it aughtta be a "Stickie" at the top...

Done. thu

dB

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Anderton] #3006256 09/03/19 10:26 AM
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Mike Rivers Offline
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Joined: Feb 2005
Posts: 138
Originally Posted by Anderton


Frankly, part of why I started Pro Reviews was as a bit of a middle finger to the magazines. I felt they were clueless about the coming electronic takeover of publishing, and not making contingency plans on what to do when that happened, or how to gain a foothold in that space that would prevent competition. But like record companies, they were slow to move and even slower to anticipate.


One of my first "big" reviews was for Mix, the Focusrite Saffire 26 I think. At the time, the concept of an interface that had that many inputs and outputs in assorted formats, and built-in sonic processing, was quite new and I wanted to take a deep dive into it rather than write the 1500 word review they wanted. I wrote the review that I wanted to write, then condensed it to the "executive summary" and encouraged Mix to put the whole review on their web site as supplemental material. They were really reluctant to do that, and I can't remember now whether they did or not. Tape Op extends many of their articles on their web site, but those are the interviews, not reviews.

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I believe the single biggest problem is the consumer's insistence on the lowest price possible. The irony is that instead of paying $40 extra for a deep product to get an awesome manual, they pay $40 for a third-party book (that may or may not be any good) on how to use what they just bought. smile


That worked for a while, but with software changing so fast, book publishers are reluctant to even publish "how to use" e-Books because individual software audio products don't stay "in print" nearly as long as a book can. I'm still getting a couple of orders a month for my Mackie HDR book because people are buying them third or fourth hand, and there's a small but steady stream of new users without support from the manufacturer with the exception, bless their hearts, of keeping software and manuals on their support web site. But how many first-time users are there for Studio One version 3?

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I want to specialize in reviews of software products that have demo versions. Then the review can concentrate solely on, as you stated so well, "context, reaction, and anecdotal experience" because the person could investigate the software for themselves. The purpose of the review would be more about letting readers know if they even wanted to investigate the software in the first place, and if so, the important parts to check out while evaluating the demo.


That's an excellent concept, particularly if you walk the reader through a couple of exercises to get a handle on the program's user interface concepts, some "try this" things that produce obvious results, and "now let's tweak it" to get them started on what might get them hooked on the program - or not. Too bad we can't do that as well with hardware reviews.

Re: We Need a New Kind of Reviewer!! [Re: Mike Rivers] #3006355 09/03/19 08:53 PM
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Anderton Offline OP
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Originally Posted by Mike Rivers
That worked for a while, but with software changing so fast, book publishers are reluctant to even publish "how to use" e-Books because individual software audio products don't stay "in print" nearly as long as a book can...


...which has opened up a great opportunity for me. I've done two self-published eBooks on topics related to Studio One. So far, there haven't been changes in the program that would require an update. But when there are, I'll swap out screenshots, add text, fix whatever is broken in the layout, re-run the table of contents, and send it off to Presonus. From there on, that will be the version people download...no returns, no obsolete books sitting in a warehouse.

The same thing happened with my self-published eBook on Sonar tips. When Cakewalk was shuttered, and Sonar became Cakewalk by BandLab, I took out the parts that weren't relevant to BandLab, added changes that happened since the purchase, and had a new book.

The problem with publishers is they truly believe they are in the business of selling print books or eBooks. They are totally wrong. They are in the business of selling information. The people who've bought my Presonus books love them. They don't care at all the books are done in LibreOffice and published as a PDF. It would take a conventional publisher weeks or even months to do an update that takes me a few hours, because their layout has to be "just so" or they have to have cute little icons that spell out tips. THE CUSTOMER DOESN'T CARE.

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But how many first-time users are there for Studio One version 3?


None, which is to my point...you take your Studio One V3 book, update it with the features in Studio One 4, and voila - new eBook. smile

Last edited by Anderton; 09/03/19 10:16 PM.
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