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Building A Trustworthy Database of Reviews?

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Several people have contacted me recently, bemoaning the lack of a centralized product review database.  So let’s open a dialog: what do you want?  What do you think?

What Is Available Now?

There are a number of sources for gathering information on a specific wet shaving product.  Sharpologist periodically runs product reviews, other blogs (such as Greg’s Shaving Soap Reviews for example) specialize in reviews, some of the wet shaving forums have either a sub-forum or a wiki/database of product reviews (unfortunately the largest forum review database has apparently been “broken” for some time), and sites like ShaveMaven (currently in early beta) are trying to centralize the user “shave den” concept.
So the data is there, just not in one place.
Is the problem then efficiently searching for a consensus opinion on a particular product?  Or is it more like finding an authoritative opinion?

One Source Or A Search Engine?

If that’s the case, there are a couple different ways that the problem might be addessed.  First is a search engine.

A basic search engine query like “Merkur 34C review” will pull up many reviews if you are looking for a consensus.  Some search engines (like Google) can even display the ratings of particular sites (Amazon, for example) and can be further be refined by a date range if you are looking for recent reviews.

A possible variant of the basic search engine query would be some kind of custom search.  Sharpologist just debuted its “New Discussions” feature that includes a custom search engine that concentrates just on wet shaving blogs and forums as search sources.  Using that might provide a more “authoritative” view of a product.

Reviews available at a single source might be convenient but the challenges are not trivial.  The “back end” database would have to be very robust to handle the long-term growth of products and reviews.  Biased (or “astroturf“) reviews would have to be filtered somehow.  And the site’s internal searching function would have to be very carefully set up.

Or is there some kind of “hybrid” solution?

Your Opinion Of Reviews?

I don’t see an obvious solution to the problem…or even if it’s really a problem.  What do you think?  Is there a demand for one giant database of product opinion?  Or do we just need a better way of looking at all the different sources?
What is your take on this?  Leave a comment below!


Shave tutor and co-founder of sharpologist. I have been advocating old-school shaving for over 20 years and have been featured in major media outlets including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and Lifehacker. Also check out my content on Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!View Author posts

13 thoughts on “Building A Trustworthy Database of Reviews?”

  1. Another thing to consider is Location/Country vs prices. I have read many reviews on shave soaps/ creams etc. Including reviews from Sharpologist I tried to buy a few that appeared to be good but had never heard of. Not able to find them in my country but readily available in some others.
    Then comes the delivery charges. Sometimes the cost of actually getting the product costs several times the price of the actual item.
    This obviously adds to the problem of trusted reviewers, are they all based in one or 2 countries or more global? Would they get products to test that delivery charges etc would make them impractical for the “typical” user?

  2. Short answer-
    I’d like a review system that is put together by people that have the experience to comment on a range of products, like Mantic59 and trusted colleagues.
    Long Answer-
    As far as reviews go I’d like to share my experience.
    From a standing start, knowing nothing about soaps, creams, razors, blades and brushes etc I spent a long time looking for informative intelligent advice online. I found lots of useful information here but still struggled to make a purchasing decision. In some respects I wanted someone that I could trust to say “these brushes are great, get any one of these!”
    Now that I’ve been shaving for a couple of months, I’m pleased with my brush choice but I think that with my limited experience, I’d be a terrible person to trust with any kind of review of this product because I have nothing to compare it with.
    I’d be more than happy to give hints and tips to new DE novices about how to shave but my product knowledge is incredibly limited.
    If I was reviewing wine, for example, I’ve drunk enough of it to at least confidently appraise it knowing that I’m offering my opinion and that tastes vary. But I’m no expert.
    I’d like a review system that I can trust, and I think that it gets done on here already by Mark. First, what product, followed by price, maybe choose three bands, low, medium and high. And that’s pretty much all I’d need. However one person can only review a small number of products which is where your trusted reviewers need to form part of the team.
    Allow search by specific product if you can, but for my needs when I started I’d have wanted what I describe above.
    E.g. I bought the Muhle R89 DE razor, the only reason for this was that I got the Muhle brush and wanted a razor to match because the choice of razors that was available at the online shop was varied and extensive, a bit too much choice if you will. I spent a lot more time choosing my brush.
    Again, any company that wants to can send me DE razors to review, but I’ve only got one to compare it against. I get an incredibly close shave from my Muhle but who’s to say that the open comb version wouldn’t suit me better, is the Feather DE razor amazing, it might be but I hate their blades in my Muhle?
    It was only after I’d bought it that I saw reviews about Edwin Jagger and their links with Muhle, and it seems, quite accidentally, that I had made a safe choice.
    I guess what I am saying in my long winded way is that when I was a complete novice I just want some informative product knowledge.
    A couple of months down the line I think, and still being a newbie I’d say pretty much the same thing, I’m considering a straight razor and it’s happening all over again! I need a strop, I need paste, I need stuff that I’ve never heard of, but there is so much rubbish out there I just want to reach for my laptop and see what Sharpologist has to say (apologies if he’s already said it, ‘going straight’ is a relatively new obsession for me.)
    I’m not sure if that helps with the discussion?

  3. Michael Goldweber

    I think that movie reviews are a good model to consider. I do not seek consensus when considering a movie to pay for/watch. I have learned, over time, which movie reviewers (in my case NY Times) have taste and sensibilities similar to mine. I then read those reviews and make a decision.
    This approach would advise that one gather a small cadre of different reviewers (e.g. sensitive skin, young skin, african american, etc). Users of the site would then, after some experimentation learn which reviewers “voice/experiences” most closely matches their own.
    When considering a new product, simply see what “your” reviewer(s) have to say…

  4. Shaving reviews tend to be a fickle beast. If you go by user reviews, there are no bad products. Look up practically any shave soap or razor on Amazon, and it will likely have 4.5 stars. The problem is what works great most of the time may be terrible for you.
    Personally I prefer to find a few reviewers that I trust to know good from bad, so that when I try the product I have some expectation that at least it won’t be inferior, or badly made. Then if it doesn’t work for me, I can move on, but I didn’t waste my money on something badly produced.

  5. Easiest (relative value) might be a search engine limited to the popular users groups thus eliminating the fluff and BS. TobaccoReview, Beer Advocate have saved their long history of reviews in a very ordered fashion. The reader can find, through some experience, which reviewers/websites resonate with them. Coming to consensus regarding guidelines, no less standards, for the meaning of descriptors is an exercise without end, better to leave it to the reader in my opinion. The various sites with history of reviews offers the reader an education in what to consider and what might work for them after some personal use with goods.
    Having a specialized search potentially can bring up a single item reviewed by enthusiasts is a great start for me.

  6. I think places like or the beer advocate site are a tremendous resource and something similar for shave product would be a lifesaver

  7. There needs to be clearly defined terminology and more precise definitions. For example, I personally don’t like the word “mild” when talking about razors. I prefer to think about it in terms of comfortable vs. uncomfortable. Same with “aggressive.” I think efficient vs. not efficient is a better way to express a razor’s cutting performance.

  8. I think reddit is a really great resource, even if it’s a little intimidating to get started. The trouble I have found with reviews is two-fold. First, and I’m sure you know this, different products work for different folks. So, I think a good review can give a sense of the product, but it really has to be experienced. Although, product reviews are a great way to start a discussion which can then become a resource for shoppers. Also, reviewers can bring awareness to quality control issues, poor/great customer service, etc. Second, I think one of the biggest draws to wet shaving for a lot of people is the experimentation and collection of goods for a shaving cabinet. Sure, finances and space are a constraint, but reviews are only part of the shaving process. I actually bought my bowl of Arko because I wanted to see if it smelled as bad as some reviews said. Of course I love it!

      1. I have not smelled the stick, but I believe they are the same product just in different forms. The bowl is just a loose puck in the plastic tub with a clean, soapy smell. Some say there’s a lemon fragrance, but I never picked that up.

  9. I think the first hurdle in such an undertaking would be having an agreed up set of standards. With all of the different factors that go into lathering (bowl, face, brush type, water chemistry… and so on) one person will achieve a thick fluffy lather and someone else will consider it to be a slick and runny lather. I really think establishing this type of agreed upon set of standards is next to impossible.
    As TourettesTuna says above, I think a better bet is finding an authorities figure who you trust and using that as a good source of information.

  10. For me consensus is more like a first order test of a product. An overall positive response to a product is a good indicator, but if there is more than 10% zero or one star performance (rough estimate of failure) I look at that as needing a more in depth study.
    Since most companies don’t have that kind of process control in place, I will frequently just look for reviews of people that I can trust (i.e. consumer reports, subject specific blogs, and known experts). When I am trying to choose a shaving product, I don’t bother with reviews from retailers because they don’t generally list their credentials as to why I should trust their opinion. I usually try to find reviews from people like Mantic, Smythe, Marco, Freedberg, Leisureguy, and Nick Shaves. I don’t really have an exhaustive list of sources, but opinions of such experts will always trump those of people who could be having trouble just deciding which end of the brush to use.

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