Policy on Product Reviews and Plugs

For some reason, I have been getting 3 or 4 requests per day to review some productivity product, service, or website. The requests are almost all extremely polite, professional, and the products almost always interesting. But with so many requests coming it, I figured it was time that I put up a post that I could point people to about my policy on product reviews and plugs. If you are not interested in this, you can stop reading now. If I’ve directed you here, please continue.

For the vast majority of the requests I get to review or plug a product, the answer, I’m afraid, is no. Why?

1. Time. I have a very limited supply of time, and like everyone, that supply dwindles with each passing day. After family, and the day job, my main priority, as far as time goes, is my writing. My writing almost always eats up the remaining time I’d have to do things like reviews products. I won’t review or plug something I haven’t had the time to investigate thoroughly, and I rarely have the time do that these days.

2. I am not a product reviewer. Let’s face it, my job is not reviewing products. I am a software developer by day, and writer and blogger by night. Strictly speaking, product reviewer is not in my job description.

For over a year, I had a book review column at InterGalactic Medicine Show, where I’d review a book per month on average. That was a paid writing gig, but I have it up because it was eating into my writing time too much. Bottom line: while I do write the occasional odd review, I don’t particularly enjoy that work, and would prefer to spend my time writing other things.

3. But you do occasionally review products. On occasion, I’ll review something here on the blog that I find interesting. Usually, it is something that I have been using myself long enough (and happily enough) that I think a review is worthwhile. These reviews are almost always written without a request. That is, no one is asking to write them. I’m writing them because I found something useful on my own. I can count on one hand the number of times over the last few years when I have reviewed something that someone asked me to reviews.

4. Ah, but what about Evernote, aren’t you their paperless ambassador? Yes, I am. But if you go back through the history (all of which is documented here on the blog), I was writing about how I used Evernote on my own before Evernote approached me and asked me to join their ambassador program. I should also point out that being an Evernote ambassador is not paid gig. They give me complementary Evernote Business account and that is something I would be perfectly willing to pay for myself.

5. So then what does it take for you to review and/or plug a product? Most products I have reviewed have been things I have found on my own. They are things in which I see a clear and obvious benefit over my current way of doing things. Let me emphasize that the benefit is clear and obvious to me. In almost every case, the product simplifies or automates something I was doing manually before. Some examples:

  • My FitBit made it painless to track my activity.
  • My Automatic Link made it painless and effortless to track my driving and mileage.
  • My Fujitsu ScanSnap s1300i made it effortless to scan documents to Evernote
  • Gina Trapani’s todo.txt made is easy for me to manage my to-do list in the way that I want to work.
  • RescueTime made it painless for me to track where and how I spend my time on the computer.
  • CrashPlan made it painless and effortless to ensure my data is backed up.

Consider that it takes time to test out a product, time to switch to a product, and more time to integrate a new product or service into your system. Only those that make these painless and simple, and have a clear and obvious benefit over what I am currently doing are potential candidates for a review.

Published by Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.