Tuesday, October 20, 2009

How Cute is Your Baby?

The Row.

Added a few more boats to Canoelover's Row in the warehouse this morning. Time to keep the winter boats around and shuffle everything else off to hibernate.

So yes, I own a fair number (okay, obscene number) of canoes and kayaks. Then again, a plumber has a dozen pipe wrenches, a conductor more than one baton. My guess is that most elite runners have more than one pair of shoes and running shorts, more than one pair of socks. It's my business, it's my life.

Methinks my Canoelover doth protest too much.

Yeah, well, I'm just sayin'.

Obviously, the boats that live in my row are excellent boats. Not a stinker in the bunch of them. Just ask me, I'll tell you. The problem is that I may be somewhat biased. After all, I chose them.

I really don't have much ego invested in having "good boats." I just like what I like, but after a few decades paddling I think I'm pretty good at evaluating which hulls are well-designed (most of them, honestly) and which ones were cranked out by someone who knew that canoes and kayaks need two pointy ends.

Which brings me to the topic of on-line reviews.

Let me just say I hate them. Not because the people who review the boats are not qualified to do so...some of them are, most are not because they lack a frame of reference. I'd venture a guess that I've paddled between 200 and 300 different hulls in my lifetime. A person who has only driven a 1984 Chevrolet Chevette is hardly qualified to talk about how well their car compares to other cars. For the record, we had a red 1984 Chevette. We called it the Shove It. Worst car I've ever owned, ever ever ever. The good news: it cost $5K new. Without A/C.

Canoelover's Internet Maxim Number 4 states that if you provide a forum for people to provide feedback, they will, and CIM #4a states that the more frequent the feedback, the less the person leaving the feedback actually knows about anything, period.

Internet bulletin boards tend to attract people who want to be important, or worse, want to be helpful. I recently sold a boat of a friend to a friend, acting as intermediary as Friend A was out of the country for a year and Friend B wanted a boat for her granddaughter. Friend B was stoked to get a sweet little solo canoe for her grandkids (they all paddle).

She made the tactical error of telling everyone on a canoe bulletin board that she had purchased this boat for her granddaughter. Immediately a fellow board member (let's call him Troll A) jumped on her, telling her that her boat was inappropriate for his granddaughter and would possibly endanger her life. She responded that she had purchased this little canoe via yours truly and she trusted my judgement.

His response: "I stand by my statement."


Turns out I was right, Troll A was wrong, and Friend B's granddaughter is loving her little boat. Troll A didn't apologize, really. He just made some reference to the fact that sometimes people are lucky that things work out.

The problem is that Trolls B through Z(10)23 will all have opinions, and most all of them will be based on limited experience. How are you as a reader to know who's credible and who is a pompous ass? Credentials don't work because anyone can claim to be a canoe designer. There's no degree for canoe or kayak design. The best designers I know probably didn't go to college.

With so much ego invested in their choices of boats, they tend to be very, very biased toward what they own. Worse yet, a pair of them will engage in a sort of asinus asinum fricat sort of behavior that drives me insane (when I allow myself to be attached to that sort of thing, which is less and less common as I stay off these boards).

These are the people who usually give a Coleman Ram-X canoe 9/10 in a review. Because they have one, and these reviews are like asking a person "Please rate the attractiveness of your baby." You can't say 10/10 because people will think you're unbiased or have never seen another baby so there's no point of reference.

If you challenge them, remember you're saying "Dude, your baby is double-bag ugly." You have to expect them to justify how the fiberglass canoe their scout troop built in 1974 is the best canoe ever. The best answer is (and please practice saying this with me):

"Of course it is, you're spot on as usual."

For the record, a Coleman canoe floats. There ends its virtues.

Note this phenomenon is by no means limited to paddlesports. Substitute climbing harness, backpack, digital camera, camp stove or PDA and you'll find the same dogmatic chumps. Please shun them like the life-sucking vampires they are. They will draw you in. Just repeat the mantra listed above. It's like throwing salt on a slug.

Respectfully submitted,


1 comment:

Silbs said...

Wow, you are psychic, and I thank you for posting all that just for me. A: I am prepared to join with you in creating a support group for those of us with many a hull in our garages + a mate who doesn't get the beauty of our collections. B: All I find are the Trolls when I look for reviews of the boat I expect to take delivery on next week. Cheers.