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Online reviews: Added Value and Web Pollution!

Today, exactly nine year ago, our DCViews website went live for the first time. Digital camera evolution has leaped forward since, and my Kodak Digital Science DC50, the first digital zoom camera below $1000, is a far cry from today's digital compact cameras. From July 2000 onwards, we have been browsing an impressive number of camera reviews on the Web and guided you to more than 6000 reviews through our review links. The quantity of camera reviews and review sites is growing steadily. Sadly, we cannot say the same for the review quality...
We occasionally get the question why we have not included a particular review in our links. The answer to that question is that either - or both - of the following shortcomings apply:

• The review itself is sub-standard and does - in our opinion - not provide any added value to our visitors. For that reason we will only link to reviews in a language that we understand ourselves.

• The review website does not adhere to the Web-etiquette, does not give credit were credit is due, and/or publishes articles for Search Engines rather than for Humans.


Review Quality

On our DCViews website you will find a number of requirements that we consider a quality camera review should meet in order to add value for our visitors. Admittedly, we may have been more forgiving in cases where no online reviews were available yet, or more stringent in cases where many reviews were already available online.

Previews: This is the most misused term in digital camera reviews. In many cases the preview is just a copy of the text in the press release or of the accompanying information, or at best a rewording of the press information without the typical bombastic and superfluous terms. A true hands-on preview giving initial comments on early experiences with the camera is becoming the exception.

Click here to view a full size image of the original pageAnnoyances: Many reviews are nowadays hidden in a landslide of ads, and it takes you some time to discover a minimal section of actual review text on each page. The most annoying thing though, is the use of pop-up ads that cannot be suppressed and were you cannot find the exit button, because it is not present or cleverly placed out of your sight.

Hyperlinks: Text in a review can be highlighted so that when clicked, the browser automatically displays another page with relevant information to further explain or provide background information on the selected word or sentence. This is becoming a misused feature to provide you with unwanted ads or other irrelevant information.

Web-pollution: In our camera review quests, we have come across camera reviews that do not add any value at all and only contribute to web-pollution and the information explosion. Although the term "value add" is contentious, to assume that someone may be looking for the information in the example on the right is really stretching the imagination. Regrettably, even reputed sites like i3a provide links to such reviews in their daily news round-up.


Website Quality

Although the boundaries of what you should and should-not-do on the web are eroding, we still believe that you should give credit were credit is due, and not use the creative work (text and/or images) of others only for your own advantage. With the ever accelerating rate of stuffing the internet with (non)information, techniques to increase Search Engine page ranking have become vital. Many websites however, exploit the techniques to the extreme, thereby forcing us to spent our valuable time on irrelevant information when visiting these websites.

Click here to view a full size image of the original pageWeb-etiquette: Some camera sites offer links to camera reviews from their colleagues without the appropriate credits. This usually happens in two equally objectable manners. One method is by copying the most essential parts of the review in their own summary and thus reducing the need to visit the website, rather than inviting their users to visit the original website. Another method is by providing links that do not add any value for the original creator. Click here to view a full size image of the original pageValue added links are considered to have both the original website's name and the subject included in the hyperlink text. In many cases only the name of the website is included in the hyperlink and the subject-text is used to link to - and thus favor - pages on their own website.

Writing for search engines: We have already given you some examples of Search Engine misuse, but there are several websites that really go all the way. A particular page property favored by Search Engines is the use of important keywords in section headers and the use of repetitive keywords in the body text. The sample page on the right illustrates this phenomenon. Another example of the excessive use of camera names and the word "review" is shown in the example on the left, where you can even select camera reviews for the same camera in a different color. It's re-assuring to see that at least the rating for these cameras is the same.


Epilogue

In our DCViews website we have gone a great length to provide a maximum of information in as little overhead as feasible. With our navigation system all information is only a few mouse clicks away, and all our data is presented in separate views with concise abstracts. To achieve this we have designed our website using "frames", a technique that allows for partial loading data in a "view", thus eliminating the need to reload a page each time you click an item. Furthermore, we make extensive use of direct hyperlinks to get you to relevant pages on the Internet, when we feel that adding text does not add value.

The drawback of our approach is that most Search Engines will value our pages optimized for humans less than pages optimized for Search Engines. Overtime our approach might prove not economical any longer. Next year we will celebrate our tenth anniversary and maybe, rather than changing our principles, it might be a good time to bring a close to our website…
July 28, 2009
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