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Reviews in HEMA


Hi pals! Happy new year from tomorrow on!


So, after earlier today I pointed out that a recently issued review of a very hot product was quite poorly done, quite many people hit me on messenger to ask me what “a good review” would be in my opinion.


So I figured out I could just write it up here rather than somewhere else, for anyone's casual interest along with that of actual reviewers.

Before doing so I've also been browsing the internet a bit looking for gear reviews from different people, and comparing the viewers of each to its characteristics.

PLEASE NOTE: I haven't just written that more views = better reviewer. It is just a parameter.


In case anyone is missing on this, I have “some” experience on HEMA gear, having been more or less openly involved in various design phases or improvement phases of quite a few products many of you use regularly, while also running my own HEMA gear brand. But I ain't here to make publicity, I was just pointing out that I've been thoroughly reviewing gear and proposing (and usually getting implemented) improvements for years now on multiple items from several brands. So, not to sound cocky, but I know what I'm talking about.

Please note I am not here for calling out anyone, and I will do my best to not do so. Please understand I have nothing personal against anyone. Really.


WHAT ARE YOUR REASONS TO MAKE A REVIEW?

You know, it may sound weird to say this, but to make a review, you must have a reason to do so.

You're not waking up tomorrow and deciding to review your jacket, usually. If that's the case, really, someone else will have already done, and with likely more reasoning behind it.


So, why do people make reviews?


I find that there's three major reasons for that, each of which does not necessarily exclude the other ones:


  1. The majority of the reviews come from the reviewer’s intention to push the gear they find good and thus help a) the public in choosing their gear and b) the producer in selling more pieces of good gear. This point has a side effect, where said reviewers may (I say MAY) sometimes end up bashing against pieces of gear they don't like/find bad in attempt to push the same equilibrium as above in the same direction from another side. That's to be avoided if possible, which does not mean you have to say everything is fantastic, but making a review with the explicit intention to bash on a product is something to be done only if such product really deserves a mediatic massacre and is NOT undergoing one. Remember you are putting at stakes someone's earnings and possibly their life and family when you do so, trying to make them sell less rather than helping others sell more. Take that into account.

  2. The majority of consistent reviewers, those having a YT channel or blog/website, also make reviews for they have to. To keep the channel/blog/whatever active! This does not mean they do it ONLY for that reason, and it may not even be their main reason for reviewing, but it really is a thing that someone with a gear-reviews youtube channel has to do reviews to keep it active.

  3. Another major cause for people to make reviews is them having been between the first ones to have purchased/received a new piece of gear. This likely is a contributing factor mostly for “casual” reviewers, and the majority of these reviews are on Facebook or other social media.


Each of the above points is a GREAT reason to make a review (wanting to help, wanting to stay tuned in with your public, wanting to showcase new stuff), but each point's nature leads to the risk of completely messing up with what you are going to do, and even making your review become toxic rather than helpful. So if you are thinking of doing a review and identify in one or more of the above points (very likely), please WATCH OUT from these mistakes:


  1. Type 1 reviewers can sometimes end up making very personally biased reviews of gear pieces, influenced by their own way of fencing, their body shape, their pain tolerance or even their own sympathy. If you find yourself doing a review which includes Type1 motivation (even as secondary motivation), you may want to first check other reviews of the same pieces of gear, and also ask the opinion to other people you know who possess the same gear, in order to have a wider look at the bigger picture and spot possible misunderstandings of yours or personal biases you fell into. That will help you to make a review that is actually useful for everyone. Also, remember that the review will affect the people watching it into buying or not the gear you are reviewing, but may also help the producer making the gear better. A good practice may be contacting the producer in order to express them your criticism, positive or negative that it may be, and see what they have to tell you about that. Last but not least, reviews must be a tool for the public to make their evaluations. If you make a review just saying a product feels bad or good to you, without making a thorough explanation of why, along with its pros and cons, your review will be useless at best, and counterproductive at worst, since what is ok for you may not be so for someone else and vice versa.

  2. Type 2 reviewers may sometimes feel the need to review a piece of gear even though they aren't yet sure about what to say in its regards or haven't thoroughly tested it. That sometimes leads to superficial reviews, or the publishing of quite useless “first impression” videos where some form of pre-judgement on a piece of gear is issued despite basically never having tried it up. Such reviews, especially if made by highly followed/trusted reviewers, are very harmful. In fact they may end up “tricking” someone into confirming their bias on a product and buying it without sufficient information, just to get told a couple weeks later that it was not as good as expected. And that sucks.

  3. Type 3 reviewers are the heroes of the day, meaning they come up being the first people getting some new piece of gear and they decide to make a review of it. That's absolutely great, do it! Just remember that trying to rush a review to be between the very first to make one, or to provide information to others as soon as possible, may sometimes end up in incomplete/superficial/biased reviews that then (like in point 2) may end up tricking someone in buying a piece of gear they won't like, especially since in this case there likely isn't many other reviews to go checking, due to the early nature of such reviews. So, do it, but please take just a little extra time to be sure about your impressions and ideas on the product.

REVIEW METHODOLOGIES

So, there's several ways to make a “review”. These range from a videogallery of images with captions or audio, to the very standard of the reviewer with the person live-speaking in front of a camera while showing the gear they are reviewing, to sparring videos mixed to any of the above, to some actually weird stuff we will get into later.

These are all fine methods per se, but some of them have better communicative/expositive capabilities, while other ones are maybe easier to set up, but at the risk of being less clear.



The most widespread reviewing method between consistent reviewers is what I call stand-up reviewing. I dunno if someone else has given it an official name and I don't care.

I name it after stand-up comedy, meaning the reviewer is there in front of the public (camera), usually standing up even though some do it while seated or even crouched. You can think of Matt Easton, Dave Rawlings, HEMA Reviews... they all basically do this: speak about the product they have in hand or are wearing, explaining its pros, cons, how it was to deal with the producer, etc...