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Does Software Need a Siskel and Ebert?

timothy posted about 9 months ago | from the actually-it-needs-those-critics-from-the-muppet-show dept.

Software 169

theodp writes "Over at Scripting News, Dave Winer laments the lack of serious software reviews in the NY Times. That wasn't always the case, recalls Dave. 'When they started doing software reviews in the early '80s it was with the usual Times flair,' says Winer. 'But somewhere along the line they stopped taking tech seriously. It's as if they would only review Saturday morning television shows. How could television like The Sopranos or Breaking Bad take root in the culture if there was no criticism that discussed it? Yet that's where we are today with software.' So, does software need a Siskel and Ebert (or A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis for you highfalutin NYT readers!)?"

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169 comments

Software is too plentiful (3, Interesting)

thewolfkin (2790519) | about 9 months ago | (#45290203)

Software is everywhere.. systems are too disimilar. The fact that Mac OS != Windows alone without including Linux means this task is Herculean. We do have people who review software more seriously but their in more specilized formats. If you want to do something more open and with a wider target audience like S&E then I don't see how it could work with Software

Re:Software is too plentiful (3, Informative)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about 9 months ago | (#45290443)

Dave Winer laments the lack of serious software reviews

I lament the lack of serious software.

    It's all useless, poorly written crap. More and more I find myself being forced to stay with older software because all the newest stuff is a big steaming pile of shit.

Re:Software is too plentiful (4, Funny)

contrapunctus (907549) | about 9 months ago | (#45290495)

Yeah I hate the new iWork too :)

Re:Software is too plentiful (3, Insightful)

smooth wombat (796938) | about 9 months ago | (#45290961)

It's all useless, poorly written crap

My sentiments exactly. Whether you're talking software written by multi-billion dollar companies such as Oracle or SAP, to smaller companies or homegrown software, the current state of software is abysmal.

"Throw more RAM at it!" is the usual response, as if that solves the underlying problem. Worse, you can have identical machines and get different results when installing the same piece of software.

The biggest problem is no one is held accountable for this nonsense. Unlike building a bridge where you can check to see if the designers did their job, the engineers did their job and the construction folks did their job, there is nothing similar in software. At best, you have to wait for a patch which might, maybe, possibly, fix some issues, but then again, maybe not.

Re:Software is too plentiful (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45291449)

Users are part of that problem, though. They won't switch to software that only has 80% of the features of the one they've got now, even if those 80% of the features represents 100% of what they do, so every version has to have more features, whether they're halfbaked or not.

Re:Software is too plentiful (2)

ibwolf (126465) | about 9 months ago | (#45291665)

More and more I find myself being forced to stay with older software because all the newest stuff is a big steaming pile of shit.

Unfortunately, it has also been my experience that new != improved when it comes to software these days.

We need reliable reviews (4, Insightful)

cascadingstylesheet (140919) | about 9 months ago | (#45290211)

Most reviews are shills ... companies have whole departments dedicated to getting bloggers to post sham reviews ...

Re:We need reliable reviews (1)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 9 months ago | (#45290413)

But Siskel and Ebert gave that shitty movie Shitty Movie 3 two thumbs up!

Re:We need reliable reviews (3, Insightful)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about 9 months ago | (#45290425)

Indeed. I was trying to research which phone to get this morning on my ipad. Click farms, popup ads, articles which are clearly nothing more than ads. And a few reviews by people who spend wayyyyy too much time thinking about mobile phones. "The bevel was UNACCEPTABLY bumpy, but the WORST PART was the PURELY DECORATIVE SCREWS! Negative a billion points out of five!"

I guess if your job is to talk about phones, and all the phones are pretty similar, it's very easy to develop strong opinions about trivial details. Oblig XKCD [xkcd.com]

Re:We need reliable reviews (2)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 9 months ago | (#45290909)

I go to GSM Arena usually.

Re:We need reliable reviews (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290467)

To be fair, the bloggers only post reviews that have been written for them, and sometimes only if they've also been paid. It's hard to get a blogger to actually review a piece of software themselves.

Re:We need reliable reviews (3, Informative)

Bacon Bits (926911) | about 9 months ago | (#45290471)

This is what happened with the games review sites GameStop and IGN. Nobody trusts their reviews after the long-rumored suspicions about getting paid for good reviews turned out to be true in some cases.

Today most VG reviews are video reviews like Angry Joe or Zero Punctuation. And then we see things like TotalBiscuit's unfavorable review of Gary's Incident got taken down for DMCA violations [youtu.be] even after he was sent a key code for the game to produce a review. Its a shame that an industry that has more revenue in a single title than any Hollywood release (GTA V) has such a problem.

And yet the VG review community is vastly larger than the software review community!

Re:We need reliable reviews (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290625)

"VG" = "videogame"?

That was too much to type, at least once?

Okay, I'd like to call for a vote on the prohibition of new, unnecessary acronyms. If it isn't already listed here, it's disallowed.

http://www.allacronyms.com/tag/usenet [allacronyms.com]

It's all we had, and we got along fine. Even walking to school uphill in the snow, both ways.

"SMH". ;)

Re:We need reliable reviews (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 9 months ago | (#45291037)

And I bet you complain about TV being short for television or ATM for Automated Teller Machine too?

Sure VG is lame-ass but if the mass populace is going to abbreviate it for convenience there is nothing really we can do.

Besides, we already have Urban Dictionary for all the hip new acronyms that replaced The Hacker's Dictionary.

Still bitter over "Cracker and Hacker" getting hijacked ...

--
"Get off my LAN" -- grumpy old geek on the internet

Re:We need reliable reviews (1)

unitron (5733) | about 9 months ago | (#45291241)

...Okay, I'd like to call for a vote on the prohibition of new, unnecessary acronyms...

You want a V.O.P.N.U.A.? Okay, it's no A.C.O.R.N., C.A.R.E., or Man From U.N.C.L.E, but I think we can work with it.

Re:We need reliable reviews (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | about 9 months ago | (#45290927)

I still remember when HappyPuppy was around and actually produced credible reviews.

Re:We need reliable reviews (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 9 months ago | (#45291319)

Penny-arcade does reliable reviews.

Won't work with FOSS. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290213)

The moment a critic gives a FOSS package a bad review, hundreds of "advocates" come out of the woodwork and assault the author with everything from crude obscenities to accusations of trolling and shilling.

Re:Won't work with FOSS. (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 9 months ago | (#45290261)

yeah, the Windoze and Mac Fanboiz never do that

Re:Won't work with FOSS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290351)

You mean, like the name calling you are doing now?

Re:Won't work with FOSS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290437)

how was that name calling? stupid troll is stupid

Re:Won't work with FOSS. (4, Interesting)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 9 months ago | (#45290441)

I think you're trolling, but as a FOSS advocate myself, I wish you were wrong.

It's much like the problem of racism. After an advocate sees enough incidents of racism, every decision they don't like is suspected of being racial discrimination. Similarly, the myth that "you get what you pay for" is so pervasive that FOSS is often discriminated against, and there's a lot of money aimed at keeping it that way.

FOSS advocates like myself often suspect a bias in bad reviews, partly because we've seen companies like Microsoft pay their shills to bash FOSS, and partly because even honest reviewers don't have any investment in the software they get for free. They'll often dismiss it at the slightest problem when a paid-for product would get a second chance. There's also the familiarity bias, where the latest version of a program will be rated highly because the reviewer's already familiar with older versions, but an alternative has slight differences that the reviewer doesn't understand. While the two packages may be equal to a new user, the reviewer will rate the one they're most familiar with higher. Since FOSS usually has a minority market share, this bias is often against it.

The best way to avoid the rabid hordes of FOSS advocates is to have a professional writing style. Before writing any reviews, show a history of technical knowledge and a willingness to thoroughly examine everything new. In the reviews themselves, explain where and how you got the software (disclosing any conflicts of interest), and preferably also document how much prior experience you have with that program's other versions and competitors. In short, show us that you acknowledge your own faults.

Re:Won't work with FOSS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290503)

FOSS is often discriminated against, and there's a lot of money aimed at keeping it that way.
 
Are you sure about that or is the truth more like "Buy our close sourced product."
 
Are you saying that for-profit software producer is more likely to attack a FOSS package of a product compared to another for-pay product if they have roughly the same marketshare and user base?

Re:Won't work with FOSS. (3, Informative)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 9 months ago | (#45290759)

It's more like a vendor telling their client FUD myths so the FOSS option is never considered. Then the vendor only has to compete against their closed-source competitors (if any), and this FUD usually comes from the closed-source leader.

As a personal example, I did some IT work for a small radio station. Our studio computers (to be used by hosts while recording shows) had simple requirements, boiling down to "a web browser and a text editor". A vendor representative told me outright that my plan for Linux desktops was unsuitable, because supposedly Linux can't run web browsers, only servers. He then offered to sell me Windows 7 Ultimate. That's the sort of manipulation that occurs daily, keeping the "FOSS isn't a serious option" perception in the purchasing public's mind.

Re:Won't work with FOSS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290917)

So, the AC criticizes FOSS advocates saying

hundreds of "advocates" come out of the woodwork and assault the author with everything from crude obscenities to accusations of trolling and shilling.

and how do you start off your response?

I think you're trolling, but as a FOSS advocate myself, I wish you were wrong.

thus, proving his point.
 
Then, you go on to admit he might have a point while trying to justify away his point. Finally, you suggest a way to avoid the very thing he mentions by proposing a double standard. Nice job.

Re:Won't work with FOSS. (2)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 9 months ago | (#45291329)

Your reading comprehension is failing.

He alleges that advocates accuse reviewers of trolling. I don't address that allegation at all. Rather, I think his entire post was itself written in a trolling manner, but did raise a valid concern. Yes, FOSS advocates are often accusatory, because often there is journalistic misconduct involved. My proposed solution is the same standard as applies to any professional writing: Conflicts and biases should be addressed, and the writer should have expertise in the field before trying to claim authority on the subject. That goes for paid-for software reviews, FOSS reviews, sports commentary, and any other writing where an opinion is expressed.

Re:Won't work with FOSS. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290571)

It's difficult to review an FOSS project because you probably don't use the project. It's jut source code.

You use an implementation, which is based on the FOSS's project's work. You can use and review Redhat Enterprise Linux, but you can't really rate the linux kernel project as whole based on your experience with just that implementation.

Or you could make generalizations and trolls and evoke some fictional boogeyman lynch mob like you just did.

No (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290215)

No. Siskel and Ebert rocked don't get me wrong, but we have a thing now called the Internet and google which can pretty well give you any info you want on most software out there. Anything in a newspaper or magazine is going to be influenced by $$$ anyway while the Internet is typically pretty damn raw

Re:No (2)

MightyYar (622222) | about 9 months ago | (#45290567)

You are right, though companies are learning how to game online reviews. I think you had to be in a certain age demographic to appreciate Siskel and Ebert. I grew up in the 80s, and they always seemed fuddy-duddy... my humor was sophomoric and theirs was not, so they panned every comedy that I ever loved as a kid. This makes sense, since they were a lot older than me :)

Here they are panning "Ferris Bueller's Day Off". [siskelandebert.org] I mean, damn. At least Roger defends it a bit, though by giving a backhanded slap at slapstick comedy... hey! I like slapstick!

Re:No (1)

BitZtream (692029) | about 9 months ago | (#45290737)

Ferris Buellers day off was a shitty movie, you just didn't know any better then. Had you not been drooling over Sloan you would have recognized it.

Re:No (1)

MightyYar (622222) | about 9 months ago | (#45291173)

Wasn't that sort of the whole point of my post? To a pre-teen "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was not only a great movie, but one that could be watched over and over again. To an adult, it might have sucked. To a pre-teen, the review by S&E seems hopelessly out of touch. To an adult, it is spot-on. So someone who was in their 20s or 30s in 1986 might think that S&E nailed it, but anyone in their adolescence thinks they are humorless old farts who wouldn't appreciate a great movie if it bounced off of a trampoline into their back yard.

Re:No (1)

Qzukk (229616) | about 9 months ago | (#45291477)

they are humorless old farts who wouldn't appreciate a great movie if it bounced off of a trampoline into their back yard.

Speaking of trampolines, it looks like Siskel hated The Big Lebowski, too.

We already have reviewers (1)

stewsters (1406737) | about 9 months ago | (#45290219)

There are literally hundreds of review sites. Some of them are even name recognizable. Gamespot, Metacritic, IGN, etc.
Before you say that they are limited to a certain category, when was the last time Siskel and Ebert reviewed an Anime that wasn't produced by Studio Ghibli?

Review sites are really advetisers. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290311)

Yeah but most of those "Review" sites are not really neutral - I don't trust them.

CNET is pretty good with the Editor's and User's ratings.

Other than that, I think most review sites are just advertising in disguise.

Re:We already have reviewers (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#45290561)

Steam boy, Tokyo godfathers are the first two that jump into my head.
I'm sorry the didn't interview your pet cartoons.

Re:We already have reviewers (1)

Blakey Rat (99501) | about 9 months ago | (#45291589)

They did review animes other than Studio Ghibli. I specifically remember their review of the anime Metropolis [rogerebert.com] . (Not to be confused with the 1920s sci-fi film of the same name.)

Your confusion is simply this: They reviewed (most) films that had a theatrical release in Chicago. That was the original purpose of the show. The reason they didn't review your favorite anime movies is because your favorite anime movies didn't have a theatrical release in Chicago. That's all. There's no conspiracy.

Ebert already rated software (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290259)

He declared games to be even more creatively bankrupt than movies, [rogerebert.com] and came up with the Boulder Pledge. [patriot.net] ("Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the result of an unsolicited e-mail message. Nor will I forward chainletters, petitions, mass mailings, or virus warnings to large numbers of others. This is my contribution to the survival of the online community.")

The really funny thing to me is that computer games are pretty much the only sector of software with something even approaching a regular review/rating system, and they have long acknowledged that their "Roger Ebert" is either not writing reviews or hasn't been born yet. For other software you have to rely on advertisements disguised as reviews in PCMag et al.

Re:Ebert already rated software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290377)

I dislike having to give points to ACs, but this is an exceptional post. If you signed in.....

Re:Ebert already rated software (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290677)

I post anonymous to improve the quality of anonymous commentary everywhere.

Re:Ebert already rated software (4, Insightful)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | about 9 months ago | (#45290385)

Ebert argues that unlike movies, video games can never really be considered works of art. Whether or not he is right is beside the point; I say he comes off as being rather conceited, since he reviews works of entertainment, not art, even though an entertaining movie could in time be considered a work of art as well. Perhaps he is not interested in video games, but in that case why not just say so instead of implying that games are not worth the time of a serious reviewer.

Re:Ebert already rated software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290563)

As of April 4, 2013 [wikipedia.org] , Ebert no longer argues anything.

Re:Ebert already rated software (2)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#45290637)

Because he has actual point he argues, and they are good one.
I'm not saying right or wrong, only that they are worth thinking about.
It's not like he said "Bah, video games aren't art ..cause."

really I think there is a false comparison going on.

Re:Ebert already rated software (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290555)

I can't even be bothered to watch movies anymore (and I'm in my 50s). You have to sit there for 1.5 hrs and passively take in somebody else's story. Computer games are much more immersive, you have to interact and make decisions, and often you can even control the flow of the story... I've never fallen asleep playing a computer game.

You can watch a movie 10 times and it will always be the same. You can play a well-crafted game 50 times and it will always be different. In my opinion it takes a lot more skill to create a good computer game because you have to take into account all the different ways people will interact with it. Making a static movie is a walk in the park, in comparison.

On the flip-side, movies are better suited to a social situation, but even then it's much more fun and rewarding to play a board game or grab some musical instruments and jam. But those options don't produce much income for the Corporations so they're not considered American-friendly.

Re:Ebert already rated software (2)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 9 months ago | (#45290905)

Everytime I watch something like 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Rules of the Game or Rear Window, I get something I have never gotten from playing a video game.

I get that a lot of movies are just brainless entertainment, which is fine, sometimes I enjoy numbing my brain on something like Aquateen Hunger Force: The Movie, but a few days ago I rewatched Kurosawa's Ran and stood in awe of one of the greatest auteurs the world has ever seen.

Re:Ebert already rated software (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 9 months ago | (#45291113)

Movies are passive entertainment.

Games are active entertainment.

They are different but equal forms of fun.

Film at 11.

Re:Ebert already rated software (1)

dugancent (2616577) | about 9 months ago | (#45291607)

I did that for a while, the I gave up video games too. Now I don't watch movies, tv or play video games. Started reading and woodworking. Feels pretty good.

Re:Ebert already rated software (2)

John.Banister (1291556) | about 9 months ago | (#45290691)

I think there's a reason for this. Games, like movies, have a lot of different offerings in the same basic "I want to spend time being entertained" category of human endeavor. With most software, you don't even care about the reviews unless you are first interested in the task that the software enables. Once you are, then a visit to the search engine quickly puts you in touch with some valuable opinions, and it's ok that they're fragmented all over the place, because search generally works, once you're interested in acquiring software to enable some particular task.

From the wocka, wocka dept. (4, Funny)

no_such_user (196771) | about 9 months ago | (#45290273)

Perhaps Statler and Waldorf...

Re:From the wocka, wocka dept. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45291413)

Yes, Muppets would be better than a dead guy and a has been.

TCC (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290305)

I was thinking more along the lines of "The Computer Chronicles"... if you are old enough to remember that every Saturday.

Software is reviewed (2)

ZombieBraintrust (1685608) | about 9 months ago | (#45290321)

All kinds of places review Games and Apps.
If your a professional there are long articles written about each upgrade for your tool suite.
There are lots of long articles about each change to Facebook, Yahoo, and Google.
So what is left? I don't use that much software outside of work and play. Tax software?

Re:Software is reviewed (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290703)

Exactly. I've never had a problem getting reviews on software. The OP needs to learn to use google or bing I'm guessing.

Hell, MOVIES need a Siskel and Ebert! (2)

TWiTfan (2887093) | about 9 months ago | (#45290323)

Are there even any TV movie critics left now? It sucks because I have to root around online to learn about quality indies now. It used to be I just had to watch Siskel and Ebert once a week.

Just check developer backgrounds (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290349)

NYT game reviews: do the developers support Democrat candidates and agenda? Minimum 4 stars! Are they morally bankrupt conservatives or radical libertarians? This game is crap!

never let it be said that NY Times doesn't check into the background for its stories

Re:Just check developer backgrounds (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290401)

I find it interesting that you describe conservatives as "morally bankrupt", yet most conservatives are more likely to have very strong moral views, especially social conservatives....

Or as they say, your bias is showing.

Re:Just check developer backgrounds (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290919)

I find it interesting that you describe conservatives as "morally bankrupt", yet most conservatives are more likely to have very strong moral views, especially social conservatives....

Or as they say, your bias is showing.

Liberals consider themselves to be pushing a highly moral agenda and all of their opponents to be immoral and even evil. That is what provides the psychological framework that allows liberals to pursue their goals "by any means necessary". Haven't you ever wondered how liberals can rationalize their use of personal smears, distortions, flagrant double-standards and blatant lies to advance their causes?

Or, perhaps, the OP was referring to the way lefty-loyal media heavily publicizes and mocks conservatives who have moral failings?

Re:Just check developer backgrounds (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45291071)

Just placing myself in the head of a putative NY Times software reviewer who wants to fit in and keep his or her job. The statements were made presuming the likely POV of said person working for said publication, which has a long history of bias.

Byte (5, Informative)

Austrian Anarchy (3010653) | about 9 months ago | (#45290381)

In the 1980s I did not go to the NYT for software reviews, I went to Byte and other serious magazines for that information.

Re:Byte (1)

geekoid (135745) | about 9 months ago | (#45290655)

Where you making software decision for a large company that will cost millions?

That's why you didn't read NYT.
I do not need a software reviewer becauseI know the places I can get them. People who make the large decisions are business person. We need reviews of Enterprise software for those people.

Re:Byte (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45291419)

Where what now?

--
90% of geekoid's posts explained [urbandictionary.com]

Depends on the kind of software (2)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 9 months ago | (#45290397)

If you're talking about games or entertainment (iTunes, etc.) then a duo like Siskel and Ebert would be very helpful. When it comes to operating systems and productivity applications, I would prefer an approach more like Consumer Reports.

Re:Depends on the kind of software (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290435)

If you're talking about games or entertainment (iTunes, etc.) then a duo like Siskel and Ebert would be very helpful. When it comes to operating systems and productivity applications, I would prefer an approach more like Consumer Reports.

This = Yes.

Yes yes. yes yes yes yes yes.

Maybe if we get a popular review team on these piece of shit games that are being released, perhaps devs and companies will think twice before releasing beta versions as retail.

Re:Depends on the kind of software (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 9 months ago | (#45290491)

I find Yahtzee's Zero Punctuation series to be particularly useful reviews. It helps that his tastes are similar to my own, though.

Re:Depends on the kind of software (1)

damnbunni (1215350) | about 9 months ago | (#45290575)

ZP reviews are very entertaining. They're not terribly useful as reviews, unless you happen to have tastes very similar to Yahtzee's. He's not reviewing games so much as he is picking them apart for an amusing clip.

He loathes several entire genres of game, and no game in those genres is ever going to get a 'good' review from him. He freely admits this himself on the occasions when he DOES review them, but a lot of his fans miss that his reviews are incredibly personal-taste biased.

Re:Depends on the kind of software (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 9 months ago | (#45290449)

We already have a games and entertainment review board. It's called the RIAA and MPAA and Nintendo.

Re:Depends on the kind of software (1)

mrhippo3 (2747859) | about 9 months ago | (#45290869)

I have spent my entire career dealing with "engineering software." So, yes it really does depend on what the intent of the review is. Consider for a moment, CAD software. Does the product perform as specified? It is "easy to use?" Well, first you must define, "Ease of use?" Does the software allow you quickly establish elaborate models that most users will never begin to understand (Think Design of Experiments, Optimization software, Finite Element Analysis, Electromagnetic Simulation, Computational Fluid Dynamics,etc.) and yes, this topic gets messy really fast. And this ignores the reality of converting the "Geometry" into a product through machining, assembly, material selection, and on, and on and on.
Or perhaps we should explore another software black hole, "web." Tools a professional would swear by an amateur would swear at. And what about content management? Can you imagine even beginning to explain why you need content management (to your grandparents)?
Even "entertainment" software gets messy. I have iTunes that has uploaded the bulk of my music to Google Play. Where I love the random feature of iTunes and how it actually tries to thread songs to a theme, Google Play has a lousy random algorithm. How do you simply quantify "bad" to an innumerate audience?
It is tough to be all things to all people for all topics.

Mac Word 6.0 by David Pogue (5, Interesting)

methano (519830) | about 9 months ago | (#45290417)

I knew that the future of reliable reviews at the NYT was over when David Pogue gave MS Word 6.0 for the Mac a good review. It's almost universally seen as one of the worst software upgrades in history.

I emailed him and told him I was disappointed.

Re:Mac Word 6.0 by David Pogue (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 9 months ago | (#45290739)

What do you expect from a guy who lies about which operating system a CEO was using on his laptop?

When Apple bought NeXT, Pogue claimed in one of his editorials on the last page of MacWorld magazine that Steve Jobs was using a ThinkPad running Windows 95, when it actually had OPENSTEP 4.2 on it --- the Mac faithful never could accept that the first couple of MacWorld Expos were just re-cyclings of NeXTworld Expos.

review are moot... upgrade cycles (2)

recharged95 (782975) | about 9 months ago | (#45290433)

With upgrade cycles within months, why review something that gets added features within a year.

In the old days, you made an investment with s/w products, cause the refactor/version cycles were in years. Now it's in months--for cloud apps, maybe weeks.

Software reviews need Lowtax and Shmorky (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290509)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CpoGIV_XMD8

Meh (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290517)

If it turns out anything like movie reviews. Every software will be named 'software of the year!' "must have!"

The entire review thing has turned to shit really. Marketers got to everyone with the greed.

It's a commodity now... (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 9 months ago | (#45290527)

When you had to spend a couple hundred dollars to buy a software package, the reviews were useful.

.
Now the software package has become the app, and is priced very cheaply.

The resulting high-volume, low-cost business model produces an audience for the app that gives ad hoc reviews via social media and other word of mouth communications.

Re:It's a commodity now... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290791)

Not to mention that free trials (downloaded through the now-ubiquitous high-speed internet) let you review most software yourself. All you need to know is "does the free trial contain malware and is it easy to uninstall?" Why rely on the comments of somebody else who may not have the same tastes. Just try it for yourself and if it works on your hardware setup and matches your requirements pay for a license, uninstall otherwise.

Too little too late (1)

WillAdams (45638) | about 9 months ago | (#45290533)

OpenStep has morphed into Mac OS X
FutureWave SmartSketch became Flash
Altsys Virtuoso became FreeHand and has since been buried by Adobe

I desperately need a replacement for the latter, and it looks like the only way I'll get a decent vector drawing program in the future is to virtualize OpenStep and run Altsys Virtuoso in that.

never gonna happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290573)

Reviewing software is not even remotely similar to reviewing movies. A review can watch a movie (multiple times, even) and write a review that covers the breadth of the experience within a nominal work week. Would anyone trust a review of any serious software from a novice with 40 hours of experience with same? I'm sure that commentary on icon design and font selection would be insightful, but that's about it.

Clone with fatal mutations (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about 9 months ago | (#45290579)

Software, games anyway, turned into pointless, stupid, doomed clones of past things that sold.

We are currently laboring under a continuos stream of MOBA clones and "Action MMOs", which abandon depth in exchange for console-style button mashing.

They roll out, and off a cliff, rocketting into the ground like Wile E. Coyote, and their investors lose millions, and wonder why.

Re:Clone with fatal mutations (1)

captjc (453680) | about 9 months ago | (#45291299)

So have movies, TV, and music. What's your point?

Re:Clone with fatal mutations (1)

phantomfive (622387) | about 9 months ago | (#45291543)

Oh please, it is almost a golden age of gaming right now. If you don't like the massive thing like GTA V, or the more sneaky shooter like Payday 2, you can still go back to the classics like Counterstrike.

If you want to avoid shooters altogether, you can play games that are rather unusual like the Stanley Principle. If you like RTSes, Starcraft 2 is really great with HOTS. If you liked Myst-style games, there is a new game coming from the same company called Obduction. Get on Steam sometime, there are a bunch of indy options that are experimenting with different games. Look at the list of kickstarter games [wikipedia.org] . It's like the 80s all over again, but better quality. Recently I played a game where I conducted an orchestra. That was kind of crazy.

No we don't. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290599)

Software reviews in a newspaper? Even online, it's not going to reach people.

The era of the professional critic is over. His monopoly on his soapbox passed. The problem of sorting shills from genuine isn't new nor exclusive in the digital era.

Video games can never be art. (1)

Dan East (318230) | about 9 months ago | (#45290601)

It's kind of ironic Ebert was mentioned when it comes to software reviews. What Siskel and Ebert did for decades was give their opinion on works of art created in the film medium. Of course they would take into consideration the technical achievements of the film (cinematography, timing, etc), but even if a film was implemented perfectly, they would still give it a bad review if it wasn't entertaining or worthy artistically as a whole. Obviously the whole thing is quite subjective.

Ebert famously stated that "Video games can never be art [rogerebert.com] ", and although many disagree with him on that, he does make a point why a "Siskel and Ebert" kind of reviewing doesn't really work when it comes to software. By what criteria is software to be evaluated? Certainly the artistic side (and do utilities and the like even have an artistic side, especially if they're using the platform's standard widgets and GUI elements?) can't be a major factor, unless we're talking about games. Obviously then that depends on what you even mean by "software". Are you talking about applications? Apps designed to streamline access to a web-based service (Facebook, Twitter, etc)? Games?

For example, when evaluating the official Facebook app, do you simply compare how well it works and many features it contains compared to the web version, or do you also get into issues about Facebook more generically (like privacy, etc). Do you get into details like how many user interactions are required to accomplish certain tasks, start up times, and other technical aspects that can be objectively and directly measured?

Another problem is just pure volume. How many applications are produced in a year compared to films? So how do you decide what applications to go to the trouble of reviewing? Stick to the top 100 lists by popularity? Obviously that method would suck in a number of ways. It is easily in the realm of human possibility to watch all feature-length movies that will be shown at the average movie theater, but when it comes to apps, it's simply impossible to even try them all.

When it comes to software found in app stores, it seems to me that the simple 5 star reviews by users is working pretty well. Apps quickly accumulate 1 star reviews if they are greedy (very little free content, or it costs a fortune to unlock things individually when it they should just sell the app outright, etc), buggy (people will quickly butcher an app if it is unstable), are just simply crap. Of course the 5 star reviews can be manipulated by shills, but that can't erase the 1 star reviews. That's why it is very helpful when app stores show individual counts (how many 5 star reviews, 4 star, etc). If you see a lot of 1 star reviews and the app still has a 4+ on average, then that is a warning flag and a quick perusal of individual reviews will reveal what's going on.

Re:Video games can never be art. (1)

rolfwind (528248) | about 9 months ago | (#45290851)

Everything manmade is art. I would say cars are a finer art than most paintings in a wall of a museum, since it touches and inspires more people.

But since art is everything (enough people claim), calling something art conversely isn't elevating it, which is what most people want, a pompous label validating either the work or themselves for liking it.

Ebert would have been better off saying that Video Games Can Never Be Cinematic. That's a more defendable position. They have cinematic elements (film-like sequences) but the freedom of the player and increasingly multiple players pretty much ensures more chaos than the order demanded by the art.

Re:Video games can never be art. (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | about 9 months ago | (#45291357)

When a game includes real-life art such as famous paintings, music, or architecture, Ebert would of of argued that meta-art is not art which is retarded. He was a fracking idiot WRT games for completely failing to understand:

Art is independent of the medium.

(Something he never grokked) because he was too old to understand an entirely new medium. His closed-mindedness is exactly how film was ostracized by the plays at the time before "plays" (and playwrights) morphed into "screenplays" (and screenwriter).

Some of the best *works* of art in the *cinematography* category are:

* Baraka
* Casablanca
* Dances with Wolves / Avatar
* Lawrence of Arabia
* Matrix

Some of the best *works* of art in the *gaming* category are namely:

* Braid
* Diablo 2 / Path of Exile
* Ico
* Limbo
* Journey / Flower
* Left for Dead
* Mario Bros
* Minecraft
* Portal 2
* Team Fortress 2
* Ultima (4 and 7)
* Uncharted series

Maybe if he had actually worked on a game he might understand the new craft instead of ignorant armchair theorycrafting.

wrong analogy... (1)

mjm1231 (751545) | about 9 months ago | (#45290603)

Software is not like movies, it is like cars. Stick with the well established analogies, people.

Seriously, software needs to be reviewed the way cars are... both for performance and functionality, and for aesthetics.

Re:wrong analogy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290875)

I always said the same of porn. Give me the whorespower right up front so I can make a decision, dammit!

It works with games (1)

Kagato (116051) | about 9 months ago | (#45290633)

You look at games and and they more or less have it figured out. While a company may have shills with good SEO skills they have a much harder time defeating review site like Metacritic that calculate a weighted group think. The problem is money. There's money in game reviews. There's money in large enterprise software analysis. It's pretty sparse when it comes to productivity and utility software.

there already are (2)

magarity (164372) | about 9 months ago | (#45290651)

I thought the Penny Arcade guys were the Siskel and Ebert of software reviews.

Re:there already are (2)

mjm1231 (751545) | about 9 months ago | (#45290925)

I'll head there right now to check out their reviews of Office 2013 and some medical billing software packages I am considering... can't wait to see what they have to say!

You can't do real software reviews (3, Interesting)

onyxruby (118189) | about 9 months ago | (#45290679)

It's absolutely impossible to do real software reviews of many software products without risking getting sued. This is due to the industry using NDA's for software that prohibit unapproved reviews. NDA's are why on release day you will all of a sudden see a plethora of reviews on release day. Reviews off of sites like Amazon are largely worthless due to the sheer number of shills and the most popular reviewers getting large quantities of merchandise for free.

One merely needs to look at what happens with video games to know why. If you work for a video game magazine and give a scathing negative review you won't get selected to review the next product from that publisher. After a while you end up being unemployable as video game reviews have to be ready for release day. It doesn't take long to realize you have to carefully write about a game without pissing off the publishers. The net result is that pretty much every game review web site effectively becomes a shill for the publishers as they can't afford to miss out on day zero releases.

Take your favorite site and select all their reviews and put them on a bell curve. Most (average) software should fall somewhere in the middle of their scale. In practice you will find many sites will give average reviews of a 7 or 8 on a 10 point scale. An honest site will fit the bell curve, a dishonest site will quickly be exposed by the bell curve distribution being shifted towards better scores. These problems are why some sites make claims about refusing to sign NDA's, they are showing that they have more integrity to give honest reviews.

This can even extend through to things like operating systems where many beta or rtm releases have excluded the right to review the product without approval in exchange for getting an early release. One simply needs to review the history of Operating System releases to see the effect of reviewers that are afraid to piss up companies. Look back at Windows Me, Vista, Mac OS's before 10 and so on and you can find a plethora of initial approving reviews (ZD Net in particular comes to mind).

The problem gets even worse with actual commercial software. Read your fine print from Oracle or any other commercial product and you will almost certainly find the license prohibits benchmarking and other similar activities that could be used for a review - especially for trial versions. In addition to license issues the cost for commercial software makes it unfeasible to purchase.

Trying to review enterprise class software becomes even more unfeasible as you can't simply install it. In order to properly set it up you need a consultant who knows the product fairly well and that is cost prohibitive for a company that isn't even going to use it. Since enterprise software tends to include language in the EULA that prohibits unapproved reviews no consultant, who naturally depends on having a good relationship with the publisher, is going to help you if you might say critical things about it.

So how do you get a real review of a product that your considering investing a lot of money in? Go to a conference or users group for the software, find an admin who's been using it and take them out to a nice dinner for an off the record review of how the product actually works.

Software "previews" are way longer than a movie... (4, Insightful)

Alomex (148003) | about 9 months ago | (#45290711)

Part of the problem is that a critic can sit down for two hours watch a movie and write a meaningful review. This is not possible when it comes to software.

Let me use a real life example: I was an early proponent of Java since my first few interactions with it in 1994 were positive. Only when I was is deep in the bowels of the beast did I start to see the problems: flawed parameter passing model, the "everything has to be an object" religion (which ironically is violated by built in data types), the "you must write a preamble bigger than COBOL's to have a well designed piece of code", the horrible graphics library that if first shipped with, etc.

After that I realized that maybe moving to Java is not such a good idea after all. I think the popularity of C#/Haskell/Scala/C++11/Python are a result of this realization.

Hell yes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290735)

I really miss PC Mag. It was great in its time.

What? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#45290741)

This seems like a bizarre lament: We have plenty of software reviews, for various flavors of software, mostly located on the parts of the internet where people who care would find them(since 'Medal of Warfare 3: Gorepocalypse Now' and 'Oracle Enterprise Resource Dominance Solution 11' are somewhat less similar than a bad summer action movie and an occupational safety training video, they aren't reviewed by the same people or in the same places). Who is the audience for the 'NYT Software Review'? What are their perceived interests? What do they not know that they should? Why do they need to get their reviews from a dead tree rather than the internet?

Also, what 'category' would they be shooting for? Movie reviews (implicitly or explicitly) exist largely in the context of assuming that movies are some combination of entertainment and art/culture(exactly what the mix is depends on how highbrow the review is supposed to be). Software, though, does just about everything. What aspects of it is the NYT supposed to care about?

Re:What? (1)

Tim Bishop (3416919) | about 9 months ago | (#45290879)

Yup. Why reinvent the wheel? Dozens of sites (if not hundreds) do reviews already. Why would I trust the NYT for tech stuff exactly? Plus it would all be behind a paywall anyway. Not gonna pay to read reviews of anything.

Re:What? (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 9 months ago | (#45291473)

The NYT does do some tech stuff (mostly softpedal consumer electronics reviews with no real depth); and I suppose they could expand that to a "Cool App of the week, a week after you've already heard about it" or synergize by having a little circle jerk for the website of some 'entrepreneur' that is being written up in the business section; but the notion that 'We should have reviews for software, like we do for movies!' seems either trivial to the point of worthlessness (pick up a random trashy computer-oriented magazine, now condense it down to less than a newspaper page, how much will fit?) or to be a serious misunderstanding of the breadth of 'software' (not all stuff shot to tape is a 'movie' in the sense that a reviewer would care about; but with 'software', probably 90+ percent of the world's code is invisible almost to the point of being incomprehensible, and uninteresting, to the layman, or even the specialist in a specific part of it.)

MST3K Instead (4, Funny)

khr (708262) | about 9 months ago | (#45290767)

Instead of Siskel & Ebert maybe we need more of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 for software...

Closest we've got (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290853)

Mike Krahoulik and Jerry Holkins [wikipedia.org] , better known as Gabe and Tycho [penny-arcade.com] .

The NYT? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45290949)

I didn't realize the NYT was still being published. Long gone are the days when the NYT drove the news cycle. When has anyone ever gone to the NYT for serious tech info anyway?

No (2)

jbmartin6 (1232050) | about 9 months ago | (#45290953)

Software needs an Edward Deming [wikipedia.org]

So what you're saying is... (1)

holophrastic (221104) | about 9 months ago | (#45291015)

NYT readers couldn't care less about actual software advice. They just want their latest tv series fix. Interesting.

Newspaper? (1)

MyDirtIsRed (2882529) | about 9 months ago | (#45291021)

And how many people are scouring the Grey Lady for their technology information? How many people are opening up the print-version of the Grey Lady these days? What business sense would that make for the Grey Lady? The answer to all of those questions is near-zero.

I look forward to the new book (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45291119)

"Your Software Sucks!"

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