Why you can't find good reviews online

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Have you ever done a quick Google search before buying a product to check out how other people feel?  Doesn't it seem odd how overwhelmingly negative the comments generally are?

For example, look at this Palm Pre message board.  I have a Palm Pre and I think it's an amazing device.  I know 5 other people with the same phone and they all love it.  So why are the topics on the front page of that message board mostly about problems with the Pre?

It's because there's nothing to talk about when things are working.  Nobody says "I'm so glad my toilet worked today.  I'm going to go talk about it on a message board."  It isn't until the toilet stops working that anyone takes notice.

I'm not bringing this up because I care about product reviews.  I'm bringing it up because the same attitude hinders many peoples' abilities to adopt new technology.  When you switch from Outlook to Gmail, the first things you notice are that there are no folders, messages are grouped together in a confusing way, and you can't preview emails from the inbox.*

Why do you automatically focus on those things rather than the speed increase, the convenience of being able to access your email from any computer, or incredibly powerful search?  Because, just like with product reviews, you don't notice when things work well because that's the expected behavior.  This causes most first-impressions of software to be taken way out of context.

Whenever you try something new (software or otherwise), make sure you don't just focus on the negatives.  Conservative decisionmaking leads to boring results.  If you focus more on the positives, you may be getting something that isn't as safe and comfortable, but you'll at least have a chance of ending up with something great.

*There's no question that labels are better than folders and the conversations in Gmail are a huge step up from how traditional inboxes work.  I only mention them as "problems" because people don't generally see the value until they've used Gmail for a while.

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