Where do you draw the line? If we say that you can't accept money for reviews, must we also say you can't accept anything of value for reviews? That is, is it wrong for me to accept a license to a piece of software in order to review it? I'm assuming this is OK (and I've done so myself), but how is the income I derive from free software different?
Of course, I have always disclosed any such arrangement. Is it simply the transparency that's important?
If you are reviewing 20 applications in the same category, and 15 of them are shareware, and you receive 7 reviewers licenses, when it is all over and done with, how many of those 20 applications are you going to keep installed? Is the free reviewers license going to alter your opinion of the software and influence what you will say about it before you even take a look at it? Will that free reviewers license determine which you keep installed, if any? Would you represent crapware as the greatest thing since sliced bread just because you got a free reviewers license?
When I was researching screensaver software, I didn't receive any reviewers licenses. I tried many...uninstalled all when it was over...even the freeware ones.
What I ended up keeping was the one I had installed before my research began...the one I paid for a long time ago. Why? Because it is still my favorite. (mouser & I had differing opinions on which was the best...different requirements to base our opinions on)
If I had received a free reviewers license for all of them, it still would have ended up the same way. I still would have liked that same application best...and still would have uninstalled the rest. And the crappy ones would have still been crappy and I wouldn't have been afraid to say so.
I think where the line is drawn is where the intention
Are they giving you the free license in exchange for good words about their product? (This is being paid)
Or are they giving you the license to enable you to give them a fair chance, to enable you to evaluate whether or not the extra features you get when you pay for their product are actually worth the price? (This is not being paid)
What about when a company doesn't know beforehand that you will be doing a review of their product, you like it and say good things about it, and when it's all over they surprise you with a free license as a 'thank you' for giving them some publicity?
You didn't say what you said in exchange for a free license...didn't say it hoping for one either. In this case I would think it would be OK to accept it. (this has happened to me only once, really surprised me, and I did add a mention of it to the thread
I made about the application, which wasn't intended to be a review. I was just excited about it and wanted to share my find with the whole world.)
The bottom line is, YOU
know what you are doing and why. Don't try to be sneaky and think you can fool us. Don't even think about it. You will lose all credibility and respect if it is found out that your intentions were less than pure.
Reviews should be done like a game of 'open poker', where all cards in play are on the table, face up, for everyone to see...there is nothing hidden, you can't bluff.
It shouldn't be done like a game of Bullshit
, where everyone has to guess if you are telling the truth or not.