I've been reviewing technology for a long time as a columnist, analyst, and speaker. Like many, I've been accused of bias. By everyone. From all sides.
Bias absolutely exists. It's always clear to me when a reviewer has a personal preference for Android over iOS or Windows over Mac, for example. You can spot the inconsistencies pretty easily. When Product A is praised for a feature that's ignored when Product B is reviewed, or when Product B is dinged for a flaw but Product A conveniently gets away with a similar flaw. Sometimes it's even less subtle than that: Product B just gets trashed. (Forget Product C or D, by the way, those often don't even rise to the level of debate in the modern tech landscape.)
The democratization of tech reviews is one of the things that has led them to feel more personal and, by the same token, more biased. It's not just a few major papers reviewing these devices any more. It's everyone with a website, YouTube account, or social media following.
Ecosystems are the other. If you bought into Product A, you've probably had to adapt to not only it, but to the ecosystem from Company A that goes with it. It's not just about that one piece of technology, but how it fits into all the other pieces in your life. That makes reviewing Product B inherently harder because it doesn't fit. And it shows in the review.
I've worked pretty hard to reduce whatever bias I might have. My guide has been Jeffrey Steingarten, the noted food critic.
When Jeffrey Steingarten left his career as a lawyer to become the food critic at Vogue, he "suffered from a set of strong and arbitrary likes and dislikes regarding food". He wrote:
"I feared that I was no better than an art critic who becomes nauseated by the color yellow, or suffers from red-green color blindness."
So what did Mr. Steingarten do to overcome his personal bias? He became an omnivore and learned to eat his way through his food phobias.
That's not dissimilar to a tech reviewer who dislikes Apple and is nauseated by Microsoft. Just like Mr. Steingarten had to learn how to eat new foods and appreciate new flavors, we have to learn to use new products and appreciate different approaches — even if they're different than what we're personally familiar with and enjoy.
That way, even if we all still have our personal biases, our reviews are less likely to be compromised by them.
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