a review template?

-- Last Updated: Oct-08-12 9:02 PM EST --

Perhaps if we standardized the reviewer format the results would be more useful. Here’s an example for an entry level boat that has already been reviewed by many. Focus not on the boat but the criteria. What do you think? Would this help the review process? Right now the process is wide open and so are the results but it does make for interesting reading and interpretation.

BOAT MODEL: Mad River Adventurer 16” Canoe, The boat being reviewed had a traditional stern, rather than a modified square back which is currently being made. (Include manufacturer, model name, length, type, design changes, and lay up)

BEST USAGE: tandem daytrips on winding rivers, ponds and small lakes. (Where should it go?)

STABILITY: The boat’s moderately rounded bottom and higher than average seat heights may make the boat feel tippy initially. When leaned, the boat remained stable due to its flared sides. (Initial and secondary stability)

TURNING: The boat turns well when boat lean is applied. (How difficult is it to turn?)
TRACKING: The Adventurer has grooves on bottom to assist with tracking but the use of correction strokes in the stern is consistently necessary to keep the boat headed straight. (What do you need to do to go straight?)

DURABILITY: the polyethylene is bomber. While the plastic is prone to dimpling and scratches, it is very tough. This boat is made to withstand abuse and last. (How much maintenance is required? How much abuse can it take?)

VALUE: marketed as an entry level boat, the hull design and low initial stability may make it more suitable for intermediate paddlers than true novices, who want a less tippy feeling canoe. Getting one in good or new condition for $600 or less would be an exceptional value. (WHAT'S A GOOD PRICE?)

DRAWBACKS: The boat is difficult to carry and load on a car. The handles on the ends are prone to twisting and failure. The lack of thwarts and built in seats make it difficult to portage and kneel in. The polyethylene is heavy and prone to warping when portage wheels and straps are attached, exposed to extreme heat, or stored on its bottom . The boat may feel tippy to novice boaters.

ASSETS: cup holders, seat backs, ability to turn and track, versatility, almost maintenance free, entry level canoe prices

OVERALL IMPRESSION: a durable versatile canoe that may feel tippy to some novice paddlers

REVIEWER INFO: days paddling the model reviewed: 10-15 x on winding streams, large and small lakes and class II whitewater. EXPERIENCE LEVEL: 1,000 + days paddling.

perhaps as an option
I can see having a list of suggested observations for people wanting to post reviews to refer to, but I don’t think it needs to go so far as being a formal template.

Missing information
Bio information on the reviewer (paddling skills and experience, usage, etc.). Personal statements like “I found it …” Your format is one a paddling magazine could use, not someone who is reporting on their experience.

Who cares …

– Last Updated: Oct-09-12 12:35 AM EST –

Your list of wants and desires is greatly different than mine.

Tracking ... stability ..... really?

ESTJ perhaps?

so educate me seadart…
what do you look for in a boat? I thought about a more generic term like “handling”.

I think some of that info is
already included: i.e.,

EXPERIENCE LEVEL: 1,000 + days paddling.

but I agree more information on the reviewer would be useful. For example SEX, WEIGHT and HEIGHT.

I disagree Seadart…
The original OP’s categories represent a reasonable 1st attempt at describing the performance of a hypothetical craft. (To me) They do not read at all like a list of “wants and desires”. The OP asks for suggestions on how to improve his idea.

I agree with the OP that a standardized or recommended form for reviews might make it easier to compare craft. However since the reviews would still be written by individuals with different experiences and interests, they would remain subjective. Moreover I think requiring reviewers to follow a certain ‘recipe’ in writing a report would probably reduce the number of submissions considerably. Probably this would be a bad thing, though others might disagree.

Very good idea
For more specialized boats, I’d be interested in additional feedback (e.g. ease of boofing, surfing, cartwheeling, etc.).

3 types of reviewers
There are basically three types of reviewers:

Super-enthusiastic newbies. They are just so happy to be in a kayak that everything is great. And they have no experience, have paddled only “their” boat and don’t know what is important. They rate 10 out of 10 always.

Just bought a new boat. Paid a lot of money and not willing to admit that it is anything but the perfect boat. They rate 10 out of 10 always.

The experienced paddlers who just go paddle. They don’t post reviews.

not quite, obviously
Since reviews with scores of less than 10 do exist, there must be at least one other type of reviewer. I suggest that these reviews are from people who, themselves, have read and appreciated the reviews, and, who wish to contribute to the system.

When reading reviews, you learn to read between the lines, to detect unwarranted bias. You look for preponderance of opinion from multiple reviewers. You look for the most negative reviews, to identify areas that may warrant more attention in your research…

But the presupposition is that the reviewer has the ability to judge what those things really mean. And it’s very relative – a sea kayaker moving to a shorter boat might find it very easy to turn whereas a whitewater guy moving to the same boat may find that it tracks hard. There is no way to really fix a rating system that is open to the masses…

Best I can tell, the only use of it at all is for eliminating boats with poor ratings. If it has several low ratings, there’s a high probability it’s a pig.

Mythbusters proved you can indeed polish a turd, but is it something you really want to do?


Paddler is the wild card

– Last Updated: Oct-09-12 5:13 PM EST –

I can get into a bunch of boats that anyone newer would call tippy, even considering rated for my size in terms of volume, and wonder what the heck anyone is complaining about. That is because I expect a boat to be wobbly on flat water but find itself a solid secondary resting point. For new paddlers, they generally don't know where that point is let alone trust it. They tend to relate an active hull on flat water to an unnerving issue were the water to get lumpy, not understanding yet that it is these conditions that the boat is likely settle down.

Ease of turning is another tough one. And by the way, the term should be edging more than leaning. But a boat may turn snappily when it goes to an edge that a more experienced paddler will normally take, but sit there like a big old raft if it is not taken over that far by a newer and more unsure paddler.

I can see organizing the aspects of boat behavior to make reviews easier to read. But I doubt that there will ever be a way to balance the responses of two very different groups of paddlers. One is the unknowing enthusiasm of newer paddlers for boats that they love of day one but may find boring as heck just three months later when they start figuring out how to use them. The other is longer term paddlers who are looking for very specific performance attributes that newer paddlers would find disagreeable at least, maybe daunting.

The above is why I haven't tried posting any reviews... my profile says what we have and if someone wants to ask us about any of those boats, they can email us.

A very good reason for…
… any review ‘template’ to also include a part where the reviewer lists their skill level… ‘beginner’, ‘intermediate’, ‘advanced’, or perhaps ‘years paddling’ instead.

I’m sure some reviewers will mis-rate/misrepresent themselves, but anything’s better than having no info on that at all (which is what most reviews are currently like).

Side-note comment
Nearly every time the topic of reviews comes up, at least one person will say that many of the 10/10 ratings are by people who spent a bunch of money on a boat and need to justify it by proclaiming it to be terrific, or are somehow trying to avoid facing the fact that it isn’t. Well, I don’t buy that notion at all. I think it’s almost always the result of a high level of enthusiasm combined with a low level of experience. Most of us have been in that situation at some point, even if we don’t write boat reviews. Could anyone REALLY feel make themselves feel better about a buying a mediocre boat simply by telling the world that the thing they bought is wonderful? Come off it. The whole reason they want to tell the world is because of their enthusiasm, not their feelings of inadequacy or guilt.

simple skill level names mean nothing
But if I saw someone say they’ve been paddling in some area with say 15kt winds and 4 foot wind waves and some other boats tended to do XXXX but this boat tended to do YYYY when say taking a broach wave hit then I’d have something to work with. One has to be someone specific about both what conditions they are used to, what they hoped for vs got and ideally how that compared to some other boats (which maybe the read has tried).

Who determines validity of skill set?
I don’t think that people intentionally misstate their skill set. I do think that many people don’t really realize their limitations or the limitations of the skill set that they possess.

Someone who has many hours on the water but has it in lakes or on flat conditions may not be the person to judge how worthy a boat is for someone that is looking for a boat that has certain characteristics.

I’ve reviewed many incidents where the paddler in question is considered to be experienced and an ‘intermediate’ paddler. Upon examination, it’s easily determined that they didn’t have the skills to cope with the rough conditions or other scenario’s that led to them being rescued and written about in the paper, magazine etc.

Where this comes into play in reviews, I don’t lend much credibility to a reviewer who is new, just bought a boat or won’t use it in similar conditions that I would, to say nothing of similar physical characteristics.

Similarly, I generally chuck reviews that give the lowest score…unless there are a lot of them.

so do conditions, as stated by many ppl
Can you imagine the tall tales?

“I was in 15 foot waves, with 50 knot winds!!!”

And then you woke up. =]

but still way better than “intermediate”. We all know that after just one week we are intermediate and maybe never advanced (cuz then you gotta prove it) :wink:

Even that is complex
I’m an expert at Class II, Intermediate with Class III and total Nivice at Class IV. I am a novice in sea kayaks, but fairly adept at paddling rec boats and SOTs on lakes and slow moving water.

Even so, I’ve only paddled a couple of whitewater boats, so I can tell you some things, but I can’t compare them to others very well – even with my expert hat on. But, I can tell you many of the weaknesses of certain boats in certain conditions. When the guy with a keel on his rec boat jumps into the squirrelly outwash from a Class II+ rapid, I can often predict the outcome – he will flip upstream as he gets into the current…

So, am I qualified to rate boats? I can’t even answer that…


Yeah - the problem with skill levels
They mean very little unless everyone agrees to rate themselves against a common set of actual skills. Pick the ACA or the BCU sea kayaking, or canoe, or whitewater skill sets - just as long as it is consistent. But many flat water paddlers spend years managing to evade any of this stuff. So they are intermediate based on butt time, not in terms of handling difficult situations on the water…

This comes up in discussion of skill level in paddler profiles too. There is just no good way to get by this one with the necessary common understanding on a board like this.