Hands-on Reviews: Frequently Asked Questions
Many sites on the Web offer reviews of arms and armour products. We like to think we have something special to offer. We have published 250 reviews with many more in the works. We're proud of what we've created and hope our readers appreciate the effort.
From time to time, questions come up about our reviews and how we do them. Here's a question and answer session that may shed some light on what we do, why we do it, and how it gets from concept to final product:
Who are your reviewers?
Our reviewers are volunteers from among the thousands of readers of this site. We look for reviewers that are experienced with handling weapons and have a good knowledge of products and where they fit in today's marketplace.
Are your reviewers compensated?
While we sincerely appreciate the hours our reviewers have volunteered, we can't compensate them. There simply is no budget for any financial compensation (or for anything else for that matter). On top of that, giving the reviewers money or free swords can lead to conflicts of interest. Part of the strength of any review comes from its impartiality. Bias, perceived or real, torpedoes our efforts.
Where do you get your review items?
The vast majority are from the collection of the reviewer. A small number have been loaned by the maker, with the knowledge that loaning us an item gets them no special treatment. A few have been loaned to our reviewers by other members of the site. We do not accept free swords from makers, as it would compromise the integrity of our reviews. There is no budget to purchase items for review.
Wouldn't it make sense to get into the business of selling swords in order to raise money for more reviews and other site expenses?
Financially, yes. From a journalistic and ethical standpoint, absolutely not. The perceived objectivity of our reviews would go out the window if we were financially tangled up in the sword market. People would wonder if the products we sold got good reviews simply to help sales or would wonder if competitors' items got poor reviews to boost the clout of our wares. That's a road we will never travel, as the site's reputation is something we guard.
Why does it sometimes seem like reviews are focused on certain makers, price points, and/or cultures?
We can only publish what we have access to through our volunteers. Since our experienced reviewers are also experienced collectors, many of their own collections tend toward higher-end items. We'd love to have a wider variety and are eagerly awaiting people to volunteer to review items in all price brackets and items from all eras and locations. If our reviews focus on certain price points or eras, it's unplanned and simply caused by a lack of volunteered reviews that would expand our knowledgebase.
What is more important to you: historical accuracy, handling, fit and finish, value/price or something else?
We believe in well-balanced reviews that cover all areas. Since everyone who reads them has slightly different tastes and goals, it's important to cover as much ground as possible. Since the price point usually affects expectations for all the other areas, we don't find it helpful to focus too much on any one area, but look at the interplay of all the factors and how they affect the end product.
So you approach all reviews the same way?
Not at all. There are many things that factor into what makes a good (or bad) product and/or value. Approaching every item the same way ignores those things and applies arbitrary criteria to every piece. Our reviews take into account price point, intended usage, purpose of the item, its likely target audience, and other factors. We try to evaluate each item in light of those factors.
Why do your reviews often include much more than simply a brief description of the item itself?
We strive to make our reviews be more than just a simple consumer guide; we want them to offer value to a greater audience than just potential buyers. We try to include detailed background information on the item being discussed and clearly ground them into a greater context of history, martial arts usage, art and culture, or even the modern day collector marketplace. Every review has a story to tell and we believe that much more can be learned through discussing them in this way.
Are any of your reviewers employed by manufacturers in any way?
Our reviewers don't receive financial compensation or any other special consideration from manufacturers or vendors. We know some of the manufacturers through our purchases and research, but we believe that we have to remain independent in order to avoid conflicts of interest. We're happy to offer our opinions to manufacturers and anyone else who will listen, and we hope manufacturers care about our reviews, but their only influence over our work is in what they produce. In the interest of objectivity we sometimes have to report negative observations about products and manufacturers we admire. That's painful but valuable to other consumers. It would be hard to do if we had financial stakes in the success of the products we review.
I don't see many negative reviews here. Why is that?
Because our reviewers are well-informed consumers. They're reviewing items they researched and bought themselves, and they're not buying things with lots of obvious negatives. That's why most negative observations concern things not readily apparent from catalog photos--construction stability, balance, etc. Since many reviewers have handled examples before purchasing (at exhibits, seminars, etc.) that further reduces the incidence of "buyer's remorse" among the ranks of our reviewers. Usually, even negative observations and reviews are presented in the context of price.
Why are all your reviews formatted the same way?
We've spent a great deal of time making our reviews as consistent as possible in format, content, and photography. By having a consistent format, readers know where to find pertinent information. We collect the same statistics for every piece, allowing easy comparison between items. We've even created a template that helps our reviewers fill in all the information we need, simplifying the authoring process. Our reviews also benefit from a multi-step editing process that ensures the review won't be full of grammatical and spelling errors or full of hyperbole and spin.
What happens between when a review is submitted and when it's published?
Every review is thoroughly edited for grammar and spelling. We also make sure it fits our standard format and the voice of the site without losing the uniqueness of the author. Each review receives at least two rounds of edits before it is made into its final produced Web page. After the photos are sized, cropped, retouched for detail and lighting, and placed on the page, the review goes through peer review, where the entire myArmoury.com team does a final round of editing and checking. When that is complete, the review goes into our publication queue. This thorough process results in reviews we're very proud of in terms of content and presentation.
Are you looking for new authors and review submissions?
Yes, absolutely! We're always looking for new authors of hands-on reviews. The very nature of our site relies heavily on the participation of the community surrounding it. Please visit our Contribution Center for complete details on how you can add to our publishing efforts.
We hope this short list of questions and answers has shed some light on the goals we have for our reviews. We're quite proud of the hundreds of reviews we've put out and look forward to continuing to bring you informative, unbiased reviews of all today's reproduction market has to offer.