MG Siegler has it exactly wrong in his latest attempt to explain his wacky review of the new Galaxy Nexus phone. Siegler's iOS goggles make it difficult for him to write a real review. He's ended up more with a list of debating points for iPhone lovers to cite. Worst of all, the piece was dripping with condescension, hubris and confirmation bias. After getting called out by The Verge's Joshua Topolsky, Siegler went off again:
"I don’t know about you, but when I read my favorite technology writers, I want an opinion. Is the iPhone 4S the best smartphone, or is it the Galaxy Nexus? I need to buy one, I can’t buy both. Topolsky never gives us that. Instead, he pussyfoots around it. One is great at some things, the other is great at others. Barf.
Fucking pick one. I bet that even now he won’t.
This is the problem I have with most technology reviews these days. Everyone seems so afraid to say how they really feel about the device. And more often than not, that’s exactly what readers want."
But Siegler's got it exactly backwards. The least useful gadget reviews declare a product as the best or the worst. Does he seriously think there's one best phone that everyone should own? Insane.
Topolsky had it exactly correct when he said the world is full of shades of grey. I need this camera because I take a lot of pictures in low light but you want a big zoom lens. I prefer a car with simple radio controls but you want satellite radio, video screens in back for the kids and a Bluetooth iPod connection. I have a big budget for a fancy stove but you almost never cook at home so you're going to scrimp.
The very best reviews help you understand a product's strong point and weak points, answering the question: who would get the most out of this phone/car/movie/bathing suit and who would find it lacking? And it's quite difficult to do well.
Think about people's opinions of New York City. It's the greatest city on earth to some and a dirty hell hole to others. Both sides use facts to make their case -- both sides are "true." How can that be? It all depends on your individual perspective, your needs and wants and tastes and tolerances.
I lived in New York for a decade, spent six years in Washington DC and then the past 10 years up here in Boston. One thing I learned was that if you tried to be a New Yorker in DC, you'd be pretty unhappy. And Washingtonian's don't thrive in Boston. By which I mean, each city has completely different strengths and weaknesses, attitudes and atmospheres. I liked DC a whole lot better when I stopped trying to find late night diners and started using the parks more. Boston favors smaller, private gatherings against DC's sprawling spectacles and black tie dinners.
One of the most boring aspects of gadget writing by people like Siegler and DaringFireball's John Gruber ¹ is that they're just like the people who hate New York City. It's so dirty, it's so noisy, there's so much crime. And every time you run into them, they want to talk your ear off with another anecdote about the litter or the muggings or whatever. But it's not black and white. New York is the perfect place to live for some people, the worst for others and something in between for everyone else.
So please, Darth Siegler, stop hitting me over the head with your condescending, know-it-all, b.s., Sith-laden crap.
¹Gruber amended this post after the controvsey erupted. Instead of just reiterating Seigler's black & white sentiments ("You either see it or you don't"), he later added: "If you don’t, that’s cool, enjoy your Nexus. But I think the reason Apple Stores are so crowded, and getting so big, is that there are an awful lot of people who do see it."