What should the scope & purpose of the Photo.SE Blog be? raises the possibility of doing photography equipment reviews for the site blog. We're hoping we could do this in a way similar to the gaming-SE promotion — using Stack Exchange's money in order to grow content on the site. Not only we would get the blog reviews, but we'd also increase expertise in newly-released and specialist equipment, helping with QA.

The idea would be to get hands-on reviews from a variety of expert users. Rather than a technical-measurements review a la DPreview, or a gee-wiz-lookit-that thing as seen on Cnet or Engadget, we'd concentrate on using the thing for real. I'm envisioning something similar to Mike Johnston's review of the Ricoh GXR — Day 1, Day 2 — with a few polished along-the-way posts like those, plus a "roundtable" wrap-up.

Specifically, we'd choose an item, and then three or four appropriate community members to review it, and each person would spend a week with it. They'd be responsible for maybe two blog posts during the week they have the item, and then would participate in the final chat. That chat session would then be written up by a review coordinator as a roundtable-discussion final blog post.

Additionally, we could ask that participants ask and answer some number of questions related to the review item, as in the gaming-SE community promotion. This could be Jeopardy-style, or an exchange between participants, or of course best of all answering questions from other (perhaps new!) users.

I'm thinking we'd do this either monthly or every other month. If it's successful and we have enough participants, we could have several running at a time.

For some more high-ticket items, the equipment could be rented — perhaps each person would rent the thing individually, with reimbursement from SE. For things like The Newest Hot Digicam, SE could just buy it outright and reviewers would pass it around. (At the end, it could go to one of the reviewers as perk, or it could become the subject of a giveaway contest, or it could go back to SE HQ and put in a big pile of loot.) For smaller accessories, multiple copies could be purchased.

I'm expecting we'd mostly cover cameras, but lenses, lighting, and smaller accessories would fit too. Usually, it'd be be focused on mainstream new releases, because that's where the audience is, but we should cover special-purpose things too (because other places don't!).


  1. Is this — particularly, the using Stack Exchange's money part — a realistic possibility?
  2. Is there enough interest?
  3. Is the format I've suggested workable? Are there other/better suggestions?
  4. And, how do we make it happen?
  • Though perhaps premature, I'd like to add another discussion point: how do we pick who gets to do the trials & reviews? I'm betting there will be more willing participants than there are available funds. Jul 4, 2011 at 5:07
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    @Craig - Personally, I was avoiding bring this up till we find out what's even an option as far as reviewing goes. There's going to be quite a bit of interest here, so I think it needs to be spelled what (if anything) a reviewer will be responsible for and what they'll be reviewing being we start discussing the 'who's.
    – rfusca
    Jul 4, 2011 at 6:25
  • Another consideration would be how to select the exact equipment, maybe a vote? Jul 5, 2011 at 10:16

3 Answers 3


I'm not sure this community's promotion funding should be used to generate product reviews for a blog. It's not what we do. It's not part of our mission to "make the Internet a better place…"

I can appreciate the gist of what you are trying to do here, but I feel like this is reversing the means-to-an-end of the blog for this site. There wouldn't really be anything inherently "better" about our blog posts than any other review site, and that's part of our mission… to make this stuff better.

I always felt that, what makes these Stack Exchange blogs unique in the larger blogging community is their tie-in to Stack Exchange. I always felt like the content should always somehow tie back into the community and their activities. That's not really where most of these blog posts are going, but that's okay.

I am a big supporter of the folks who put long hours into the blogs. I can appreciate the desire to bring in a bigger readership, and I understand that there is a cause-effect relationship here. But using the site's promotion money to create yet-other-blog-post product review I feel loses sight of why we are all here — Using Stack Exchange to "make the Internet a better place …"

The idea of purchasing "review" equipment is to give users hands-on experience to ask questions in the context of Q&A. If blog posts were written about those experiences — a side effect of the Q&A activity — I could get behind it. But the whole "we'll buy products to review for blog posts" is going in the entirely wrong direction from the core purpose of Stack Exchange.

I'm not saying "no" — that's not really my place — I'm saying it's a poor precedent to set for this site. We need to stay focused on the real goal here.

It's not just to get more audience; It's to get more audience through generating better content.

  • Thanks for the feedback, Robert. Do you have suggestions for how we could do this in a way that's more "in the context of QA"?
    – mattdm
    Jul 5, 2011 at 17:33
  • @mattdm: I think the Gaming promotions set up a nice framework for tying in "review products" to Q&A activities. Look to and learn from their efforts. Jul 5, 2011 at 17:48
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    Er, is it "we ask that you ask and answer (z) posts about the game here on gaming.se"? Because we can certainly add that in. Forgive me if I'm being dense, but is there somewhere specific I should look to beyond, say, this meta post?
    – mattdm
    Jul 5, 2011 at 18:09
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    I think one of the things @mattdm pointed out in this post and I asked about in our other topic on the general blog stuff, is that we can generate better content through some of the reviews. Right now, many of the reviews are highly technical but focus little on real world usage (like dpreview) or highly trivial targeting a much broader audience. There's a void for relevant, usuable, real working information on photography reviews that include good content. You make a lot of points I agree with, but there is a blog review out there with better content waiting to be written.
    – rfusca
    Jul 5, 2011 at 18:25
  • And thats not to say we can't also feed relevant questions / answers into the Q/A portion.
    – rfusca
    Jul 5, 2011 at 18:27

Theoretically, the site will become prestigious enough that in time, it may just get sent review copies (along with associated press embargoes); Until then, it may be a good use of company funds (even if they become loot for other SE sites - you could imagine the tag line -- "win this [compact camera] that the guys over at https://photo.stackexchange.com/ said was going to revolutionise photography.")

I feel that there would be sufficient interest, both on a readership side and on the authoring side. On the authoring side, and if SE Inc. do purchase the review equipment, I would expect them to have a vetting/auditioning process of their own.

There would be good scope to review other things; maybe regional printing firms for handling gliceé printing. The reviews would sit well amongst articles that could sum up a visit to some of the big trade shows as well.

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    I tend to agree, the growth of the site and its information will tend to make the manufacturers notice. I'd love to do some gear reviews myself, but we'll see how that plays out.
    – Joanne C
    Jul 4, 2011 at 15:25
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    of course it would be fantastic if this community gained that sort of recognition, but we needn't wait for that to happen before embarking on this experiment using SE, Inc funding. Jul 5, 2011 at 9:52
  • @Jeff — awesome. What next?
    – mattdm
    Jul 5, 2011 at 15:43

I'm interested to be a part of the review writing team :)

  • Good to hear. :) I figure we'll get to that part once the basics are in place.
    – mattdm
    Jul 4, 2011 at 13:48
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    When we do get to that point, I imagine we'll have some basic reputation/time-on-the site minimums. We'll have to work that all out. But high site participation is definitely going to be a good thing — so ask, answer, and edit away. :)
    – mattdm
    Jul 4, 2011 at 15:58
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    Also, I notice that you are in Dhaka. That raises some logistical concerns I hadn't really considered. It'd be excellent to have the reviews be international in nature.
    – mattdm
    Jul 4, 2011 at 16:00
  • I visit this site every few hours when I'm at office, and also I believe a lot of technical knowledge I have gathered so far are from photo.se :) will try to be more of a contributor. thanks. Is that a problem that I'm in Dhaka? Jul 5, 2011 at 4:00
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    Nothing wrong with Dhaka — I just hadn't thought much about international shipping — or international legal agreements.
    – mattdm
    Jul 5, 2011 at 4:08
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    I can rent local copies here (the ones available) for a couple of days and work with it. Jul 5, 2011 at 4:24

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