This weekend, I went through all the reviews I have written on this website, and updated them. This took quite a lot of time, but I thought it was important for me to do so.
Recently, I wrote about honesty in martial arts, and I think the principle holds for most of life as well. Being honest is a much better strategy than being dishonest or trying to hide things.
A few months ago, Dario Magnani wrote a thoughtful piece about reviews in HEMA, and how to make better, more honest and transparent reviews that would be more useful to practitioners.
I have been thinking about the various HEMA reviews for equipment, books, swords, and suchlike that I have written and published on this website over the last couple of years. All of the reviews have been written quite honestly, from my perspective, but perhaps there hasn’t been as much transparency as there could have been.
Therefore, to every review, I have added a “motivation and transparency” section to describe what motivated the review and whether I purchased the item myself or was given it for review purposes. Most of my reviews are of equipment or books that I have bought myself, with my own money; however, a few reviews have been of items given to me specifically for review purposes, for which I paid nothing.
My philosophy with reviews is that honesty is definitely the best policy. If someone has done a good job with creating something, then I think it is helpful to write a good review of that thing, and to help put business in the direction of the creator. If we all help each other in the community, then we all stand to benefit.
However, if I’m not impressed with something, I typically don’t write a horribly negative review. I will usually give feedback to the creator and tell them what wasn’t good and needs improving, and will also offer suggestions for how I think the improvements could be made. In the rare cases I do write a negative review, it is because there is a major problem that I believe needs to be confronted, and not just quietly.
Overall, my reviewing efforts are those of constructive criticism and helpful feedback, combined with public praising of things that I think are genuinely good and worthwhile, and private feedback on things that are not quite good enough and that should be improved.
I realised from this process of updating my reviews that there are a number of items that I do happily recommend to people, for which I have not yet written anything on this site. I will endeavour to remedy this over the next couple of months.
Finally, I am delighted to note that at the last few events I have attended, people have come up to me and said in person that they have appreciated the reviews I have written on this site, and that my thoughts have helped them choose equipment for themselves when torn between a couple of different options. This makes me happy! I’m glad that my reviews have been helpful to people, and I hope that further reviews will continue to be useful. I don’t write just for the sake of writing; I do try to write useful and thought-provoking pieces that are beneficial to the community. It is always nice to hear that I have been successful!
Keith Farrell teaches HEMA professionally, often at international events (why not hire me to teach at your event?), and has an interest in coaching instructors to become better teachers. I teach regularly at Liverpool HEMA, and help behind the scenes with running HEMA in Glasgow at the Vanguard Centre.