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Author Topic: So you want to write a review...  (Read 4353 times)
zridling
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« on: September 12, 2005, 09:19:14 AM »

Why not, I did! If I can, anyone can. I joined a small, but growing list of DonationCoder.com members who jumped in with both feet and didn't regret it. I studied past reviews, picked a topic, wrote a few notes and shared them with mouser, who approved the review and off I went. I spent a week reading everything I could find on compression and reading the Help files of each program. You need not do that, but it helps me to learn new software quickly. Then I spent three weeks using the testing each program against the other, slowing sifting through shared and unique features and comparing common tasks. The whole time I kept an outline of notes and observations on each program. Sometimes I would write the developer or use their support forum to search for an answer to a specific question I had.

Then, after declaring a winner, I informed mouser again, and off I went to spend a week writing it. Mind you, it didn't take that long; I was merely taking my time. After all, the entire review wrote itself from my notes. After submission, I got help with revisions by mouser and Jibz, and hey, I tweaked the copy and voila! Best Archive Tool review happened.

It was a positive, enjoyable experience, and if you have a category of software you're passionate about or if you'd like to contribute, you have some good models by which to follow in DonationCoder.com reviews. Don't want to do a full review? Practice by sharing in the mini-reviews, (or single review) section.

So good luck, and we can't wait to read yours!
« Last Edit: September 12, 2005, 09:21:56 AM by zridling » Logged

- zaine (on Google+)
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« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2005, 11:55:49 AM »

maybe nudone can post his thoughts on his review as well.
i should say that nudone and zaine wrote massive reviews, and they don't all have to be so comprehensive - i think that's just too high a bar to reach on a regular basis.  but they do serve as examples of the ideal review.

and like zaine says, i and others would be happy to help as much as is needed; and we really do need more guest reviewers.  if you feel like you would like to do a review of a category, contact me.  although we don't pay for it, we've always been able to reward reviewers with some donated software smiley
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nudone
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« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2005, 02:35:53 PM »

i'd recommend anyone to have a go at writing a review if they have the urge. all i can really advise is that you make sure that you allow enough time for it.

it sounds like Zaine had a better idea of how to plan his time and broke the overall review process into more sensible chunks - this allowing him to tie it up at the end into a excellent coherent article.

i honestly didn't expect the review i did to take so long, i knew it would take a few days but i definitely ran out of time and energy. i'd say it's a good idea if you can allow a short breather away from it before you try and put it altogether - you'll probably see quite a few things you'll want to change. thankfully mouser came to my rescue and tidied it all up after i submitted it to him as i had pretty much become blind to what i was trying to do - my brain had certainly melted on the last day. mouser really was a lifesaver at that moment.

now, i really am not trying to discourage anyone into having a go - far from it. just be aware that these sorts of things can become bigger projects than you first thought. there are plenty of things i would love to have included in the graphics review but i soon realised that i just wasn't being realistic - not with the time i had allowed, at least. hopefully, next time i'll not make the same mistakes and have more of a preset structure to follow.

other than that, i'd definitely say go for it. like mouser says, it doesn't have to be a detailed long review - something concise that gets the main points across about a relatively straightforward category of software would be just as good to read.

try it. i'm sure there are some of you reading this right now that are just itching to have a go.
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clif_notes
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« Reply #3 on: September 12, 2005, 07:43:27 PM »

they don't all have to be so comprehensive - i think that's just too high a bar to reach on a regular basis

I agree, Zaine and Nudone have set the bar pretty high. I've never tried to review a whole class of software. I stay pretty focused on what I've been doing with the freeware reviews. It's not likely you'll see me shell out any money for software. LOL
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« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2005, 09:45:40 AM »

I've posted on this forum and over at Wilders Security trying to get some leads on good calendar programs, without much success.  I wish there was a donationcoder.com review of this type of software, and so I'm thinking about asking if I can do one...  What are the time-frames?  If I were to take on writing a comparative round-up, when would it need to be ready by?
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mouser
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« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2005, 12:23:08 PM »

the good news is that
the archive review was so comprehensive that it was an exception to our normal two part review system.
generally we like to do reviews in two parts, the first part lays out the skeleton of the review, describes the basic issues, and lists potential candidates to win the award.
then the subsequent week comes the final review.

so as far as deadlines - the real deadline is just that part 2 follow part 1 by one week.
other than that, if someone feels like they would be willing to do a guest review, there is no predefined deadline - though because we know how hard these things are it would probably be good idea to commit to some date and stick with it - otherwise its too tempting to keep putting it off and say "just one more week.." over and over.

the main qualifications or writing a review is seriousness and willingness to do a thorough job, similar to our previous reviews.

i am available to help a lot on any review, and the two-part process also lets people on the forum contribute ideas after part 1 is posted.  reviewer also of course has to be open minded about the potential winner and not have ties to any of the software companies under consideration.  some guest reviewes need more help+collaboration than others, but that's totally ok, i'm happy to help to whatever extent is desired.

a review of calendar/pim apps (or however you wanted to isolate it) is something people have been asking for so i can tell you it would be appreciated..

mouser@donationcoder.com
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zridling
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« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2005, 12:41:32 PM »

As for scope, I'd recommend narrower over wider, i.e., do either a calendar app review or a [true] PIM review, but not both. You can always follow up with the other category and link the two later: "If you primarily need calendaring functionality, see these; however, if you need broader PIM functions, check out those."

My own scope was the most downloaded (popular) archive apps from various download sites. But that's arbitrary. I could have just as easily chosen half that many.

You have to include limits to the review within your planning and outline. Otherwise, you'll always think of something else to add, and soon find yourself overwhelmed. Early on, I was overfocused on compression data, and that was quickly leading me astray and in too deep. So m_s, go for it.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2005, 12:43:18 PM by zridling » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: September 13, 2005, 12:55:23 PM »

One suggestions for Mouser is to create a shell outline for future reviews.  Maybe a document that outlines a Comprehensive review and a two-part review.

This would give potential reviewers a hand in outlining the review and know the scope of work, and you a uniform review process for this website.

When a review is being posted as being developed maybe a poll should go up that lets users vote on applications to review and submit new applications to the list.  This way the reviewer gets some help in locating the most popular applications to review - this can be difficult to know what is the top applications of any category and you wouldn't want a review to miss the best.  I'm sure alot of people on this site would assist in locating the top-ten list of any application.

I guess the easier you make it for a reviewer the more reviews you can get.  Also, once outlines are done you never have to worry about them and they become a living document that will get better with age (you could have a members only section forum where members can review the review and suggest how to make it better and these changes could affect the outline documents)

Just my .02
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zridling
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« Reply #8 on: September 13, 2005, 01:51:57 PM »

Good point, and I did that, as have others, by posting a topic like this one long before the review was posted to get a conversation started and some feedback from others.
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« Reply #9 on: September 13, 2005, 01:59:31 PM »

Is this the place for me to ask what Calendar progs people currently use?  Or will you start a new thread, Mouser?
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Veign
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« Reply #10 on: September 13, 2005, 02:02:27 PM »

Good point, and I did that, as have others, by posting a topic like this one long before the review was posted to get a conversation started and some feedback from others.

Exactly...
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mouser
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« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2005, 08:38:38 AM »

i do have a template outline to help new reviews get started, but i could use some updating.
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m_s
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« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2005, 08:48:47 AM »

Do you have time to give it a look soon?  Or just send it along to me via pm, and I'll see what I can make of it.  (I have no experience at all writing on software, though I got my first computer for my 10th birthday and I'm now 36, so I have played around a bit with them.  But I have published hundreds of reviews of poetry books, and maybe that counts for something!)
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mouser
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« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2005, 09:51:09 AM »

here's the review template, for anyone who is interested:

http://www.donationcoder....derCom_ReviewTemplate.zip

some of the practices of writing any review will surely carry over.  the reall tricky part about our reviews is the fact that we try to identify a "best" tool in an entire class - this is really the source of the difficulty in our reviews and can make it a bit nerve wracking.

if the two part thing is taken advantage of, it can help alot, because it gives a week for people to suggest programs that might have been missed. and as zaine and veign have said, its super helpful to have a running discussion on the tools way ahead of time on the review.

if you decide to do a review of calendar tools we should just pick a date and then we can start a new thread in the ASRT (advance software reconnaisaince team) section where people can make suggestions, etc.
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