Hello again, I’m back with another interview for you to get to know one another site owner.
Today I’ve got an interview with Jon "Whoopty" Martindale, owner of XSReviews.co.uk and TechSeed.co.uk. Jon recently started TechSeed and it’s a cool little site that links to and lets users know about review sites and their content by basically indexing them, but I’m sure Jon can explain it better than I can, so read on to learn more about Jon and his sites…
Q: First off, can you tell us a bit, in your own words, about XSReviews?
A: XSReviews is a hardware review website, with daily news updates and occasional articles on gaming and industry. We don’t have a specific focus on any one piece of hardware, with reviews of pretty much anything being featured at some point. Though of course, some things more than others.
Q: I see you’ve also recently launched a new site called TechSeed, can you tell us about that? How does it work? What’s its purpose?
A: Techseed is what we’ve come to call, a review networking site. While the initial concept was simply to increase exposure for review sites (especially the smaller ones) and their content, many new features have been added to it over the past few months. Any site signed up can receive email updates when certain categories or reviews are added to the site, they can have their content added automatically through RSS parsing and will soon be able to receive automated Review Roundups for them to post on their own sites as news.
Q: Do you have any big plans in the works for XSReviews or TechSeed? Or are you going to continue doing what you’re doing?
A: The review roundup feature on techseed is something being focused on at the moment, while I’m also hoping to increase the activity options for end users visiting the site, with commenting and review rating systems. XSR is being tweaked in places, but largely will stay the same for the next few months while TS gets off the ground.
I also have a couple of other little projects in the works that will come to light over the next 6 months or so.
Q: What’s an average day like for you?
A: An average day for me involves chiding myself for sleeping in again, and making the half hour trip to the XSR HQ. There I’ll get a bucket of tea and spend a bit of time posting news on XSR, and doing a review roundup. The rest of the day unfolds differently every day. Sometimes I’ll write a review, or test some new hardware I have in. Often I’ll spend some time editing reviews from one of my 3 freelance writers. Usually later in the day I’ll work on improving the back end of XSR or techseed with my American based code; time zones can be a pain in the ass.
Q: What was the first product you reviewed?
A: That would be the corepad Eyepad, though that wasn’t for XSReviews, that was when I worked for Tdub over at Pro-clockers for a few months before starting XSR.
Q: How do you feel that manufacturers have treated you through the years?
A: Most of the time, pretty well and I’ve created some excellent partnerships with some companies. Of course there’s been more than one occasion when I and a manufacturer have bumped heads when they felt their product deserved a better score, but there are enough good guys out there for this not to be too much of a problem.
This is one of the areas of reviewing that’s quite a balancing act however. As reviewer’s our first loyalty is to the reader as they come expecting an honest opinion of a product which we give, 100% of the time. The downside is that with the, more touchy manufacturers and retailers, you sometimes burn bridges when giving a bad review. We need to be true to our audience, but it’s sometimes difficult writing the review knowing you might not receive something from that source again.
Q: What do you feel makes your reviews unique?
A: Ha, not a lot. There are many review sites out there, and I don’t think we do anything particularly different from the rest of the crowd. We just try to be as informative as possible without going over anyone’s heads, and adding a bit of humor into the writing whenever possible. After all, it’s only hardware.
Q: What makes a good reviewer?
A: You need good writing skills, and an analytical mind. The knowledge of the hardware can come later as you research the product you’re checking out. Experience with different products from the same family can help as it allows you to compare what you’re testing with other items, but being able to clearly and concisely put into words why you like or dislike something, regardless of the reasons, is what makes a top reviewer.
Q: With your reviews, who is your main audience?
A: I used to say we catered to the hardcore overclocking and enthusiast audience, but I think our site’s evolved to appeal to a mixture of those with some hardware experience, and the layman just starting their foray into PC building. We try and provide plenty of results when testing a product, but attempt not to go to in-depth so we don’t alienate those that aren’t looking for testing to the n’th degree.
Q: How do you rate your products?
A: We try and consider as many aspects of a product as possible, as everyone wants something different from their purchase. We of course rate them on performance, looks, and cost, regardless of what we’re testing. However, it’s also important to look at the noise produced, the comfort if it’s a peripheral, ease of installation, the bundled accessories, overclocking ability and anything else we can think of that people might be interested in.
The products are rated from 1-10, with a out of 5 star award. We also have the value award for those products that present great bang for buck, the extreme award for those amazing products that cost the world, and our Editor’s Choice award for those products that not only match, but exceed all expectations. These are the products that you’ll usually find at a reviewers house long after the review went live.
Q: How did you come up with the rating system?
A: A simple "marks out of 10" system was always on the cards, but when it became difficult to differentiate between products that received identical high scores, we introduced the awards to add some more variety to it.
Q: How do you select products to review?
A: Often manufacturers will simply send products to us, or email in asking if we’ll take a look at their latest piece of kit. Some companies though will offer up their whole range and let us pick and choose. This is often the best system as it allows us to get a look at something we’re really interested in. That said, we can’t keep up with the product lines of every company, so when they send their latest and greatest, it saves us some effort.
Q: Out of all the products you’ve gotten for review, which is your favorite? and why, what makes it your favorite?
A: Although I love hardware, the thing I like doing the most is playing games, so when I get something that gives me the excuse to sit down and game all day with the idea that I’m "testing" a product, then I’m happy. Probably one of the most fun products I ever got to test was a gaming chair with built in vibrating motors and head-rest speakers. While the product itself wasn’t necessarily the greatest, it was a damn fun product to test, and an interesting one to write about.
I also had a lot of fun testing the PhysX cards when they first became available. Not that many sites were for the idea of a dedicated PPU, so I was lucky enough to get 2 of the cards to play with, along with many free PhysX based games to test them on.
Q: What tips can you offer readers when it comes to purchasing a product?
A: If it’s something internal like a CPU, or Graphics card, latch on to a performance number you can compare to other cards, and see how it stacks up to what you have already, and what else is on the market. If it’s a peripheral, try it yourself before you buy it as everyone wants something different.
The only other bit of advice I can give, is don’t forget the little things. Noise is something many people might not consider when picking up a graphics card, but if you buy one that’s cooler whines, or sounds like a jet engine, it’s going to really irritate you.
Q: Finally what do you think of sites like TestFreaks that aggregates and analyzes a large number of reviews?
A: I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I said I disliked them, running a site like techseed now wouldn’t I? I think they’re a handy resource for those who want a quick comparison of product reviews in one place. Of course visiting individual sites will probably give you a fuller picture and a more in-depth look at each individual product, but for quick comparison, I think they’re very handy indeed.