There’s a perverse relationship between the software developer and the
soapbox jerk software reviewer that needs little explanation. Developer wants publicity, thus he seeds his software amongst reviewers/bloggers/journalists and waits for the links to roll in. Developer gets free marketing, reviewer gets free software, audience gets free advice, everybody wins.
Except when they don’t.
I’m usually loathe to review software I’ve received for free because it seems to me to be, well… dirty. Unethical. They’ve solicited the review and are, in effect, paying for it. It’s cash for comment. Giving a thumbs–up might be construed as “being in one’s pocket”, and a thumbs–down could be interpreted as “being an asshole”, so it’s best to avoid the trap altogether and come out “the guy that nobody can be upset with”… even if the asshole comment is closer to the truth. When you’re discussing Apple’s latest iApp or Microsoft’s latest update to Office X, it’s easy to be critical —corporations have thick skins— but when you’re dealing with small or independent developers it’s really quite different. There’s no way you can say “CampbellCan 5.0, by Randy Warhol, is a hunk of shit… no offense to Randy” without coming off as a total jerk.
But some days I am a jerk. I get incredibly antsy about every little detail, about how things should be done, and how they’re not. I like to question peoples’ sanity, their motives, their logic, and their ability. I foam at the mouth over interface nuances; and believe all–too–strongly that an application with a great interface and a lackluster feature set is inherently superior to the reverse. Most of all, I get incredibly pissed off when an application has abysmal keyboard support. I’m a full–time laptop user now —I hate trackpads and refuse to carry a mouse with me on the road— so if your application doesn’t play nice from the keyboard you aren’t just disadvantaging people with motor disabilities, you’re bugging the hell out of me.
More often that not I’ll suggest alternative methods to the parts of an app that annoy me the most, and I’m yet to decide whether this falls under the banner of “constructive criticism” or “I can do this better than you” preachiness. Probably the latter, though my intentions are to the former.
In the end it all boils down to the simple fact that I’m a spoiled Mac brat with UI opinions out the wazoo. One day when the shoe is on the other foot, we’ll see how I handle things. Until then, take my crap with a grain of salt.