Writing a review site generates a lot of email. Most of the email is really fascinating stuff, things that illuminate parts of my brain and compel me to work harder and write better. Then there is the flotsam that I catch as peruse the inbox. Here are some of the funnier and/or more common ones.
The Marketing Email
”Hi! My name is Sophie. I am a Digital Media Guru for PolySphere, a brand curation collaborative. I am reaching out to you so that we could form a partnership that would bring deserved attention to Product X.”
I have received this email about two hundred times. Each time I do my due diligence and follow the rabbit down the rabbit hole. Invariably, because I am a man, the person on the other side is a woman. This is, in the end, about a sale. Also invariably, Sophie is a 24 year old Communications major from UC-Something. Sophie has a Facebook page full of images of her surfing, leaning up against wood paneled SUVs from the late 70s with surf boards on top, and laughing with her blonde hair blowing in the wind while she throws her head back in delight. Most pictures feature her in a bikini top with cutoff jean shorts on. Sophie is at the very least quite attractive. She also has a Linked In page that lists PolySphere and has an indecipherable description of her job—“We at PolySphere are a collective of insight seekers that enjoy helping brand builders curate and produce heritage around their mental vision of the world and their brand’s role in it.” What? After some deciphering and general skepticism I realize that Sophie is in marketing. I also realize that Sophie's Facebook page is designed to be found. Eventually it dawns on me—Sophie, if she is even a real person, was hired by some hipster brand to get me to review one of their products or, even more likely, to give them a quote that they can use on their product page without me ever having seen their product.
Sophie does not get an email response.
The Pakistani Steel Email
”Hello, my name is Assir. I have started a company that brings high quality Damascus knives to market at a very fair price. Would you like a review sample?”
Again I do some due diligence. Assir is a real person. Assir’s company is real, but their Damascus is to actual Damascus what a McDonald’s Crispy Tender is to a real piece of chicken (note how McDonald’s cleverly omits the putative main ingredient in the name of its new food product?). I click on the link in the email and see about a thousand different knives all of borrowed origin all with crappy Damascus blades.
Assir does not get an email response.
The Angry Fanboy Email
”It is so clear from your insipid writing that you are suckling from the teet of [INSERT ENEMY COMPANY HERE]. I don’t know why [ENEMY COMPANY] gives you so much free shit. Perhaps it is because you publish whatever their marketing company writes. Also, you know shit about steels, optics, LED emitters, fountain pen nibs, and watch movements. God you are a moron for giving [INSERT NEW PRODUCT FROM FAVORITE COMPANY] a low score (it received a 19/20). I hope you die and your body winds up even more bloated than it already is in a storm drain catch basin where it is found by your now fatherless son.”
Well, not much to do here, but I do respond to pretty much every email (see above for exceptions). I always offer to: 1) publish their review of favorite product; or 2) do a re-review. Thus far no fanboy has ever taken me up on the offers. I am still mystified by people that have allegiances to companies that they do not own or are not their employer, but I am also mystified by people that feel the need to bash other people’s genuinely held religious beliefs or feel an affinity to a political party. All three of these things seem like futile intellectual efforts to me.
The Kickstarter Email
Flashbang: ”I own Flashbang Studios. We are a group of ex-Special Forces guys that all have MIT engineering degrees. We are launching a flashlight on Kickstarter. It will output 7,000 lumens from a single AAA battery. Our goal is $1,000,000 in 30 days. Each light will cost a Kickstarter special of $400, $200 off retail. We launched our Kickstarter three days ago and we’d love some exposure. Can you plug us?”
ME: “Sorry I don’t plug stuff. If you like I will rearrange my review schedule, which has been meticulously planned out four months in advance to accommodate a review of your product. Absent hands-on time or a genuine independent interest, I am not going to just plug stuff. Also, BTW, how are you getting any kind of runtime out an LED pushed to 7,000 lumens on a single AAA? What emitter are you using?”
Flashbang: “Sorry dude, we don’t have any working prototypes yet. We'll let you know what emitter we use once we find one that can meet our desire specs.”
Some research shows that Flashbang does not include anyone that was, is, or ever will be in Special Forces. There are people that on the team that lived near MIT in college, but no one actually has a degree from there (though someone did frequent Anna’s Tacqueria). Additionally, the Kickstarter had zero buys and the specs seem like they were dreamed up by someone that believes electrical engineering works like writing science fiction—if you can reduce it to paper it must be true. The KS never funds and the lights never get made. Fortunately, the only two backers were two parents of a Flashbang Team. They were already used to being disappointed by their progeny.
The Shill Site Editor Email
Oh wait, I never get these emails, they just take quotes, article ideas, top picks, or other information from the site and use it without attribution.
Look, I am not that hard to please here. If you want something from the site, a picture, a quote, a score, take it. Just give me a link back in attribution. This is the Information Age and information yearns to be free. Free, not misappropriated.
The WFT Email
”We are launch ing a new producT! You readers will likely love it. You should link TO US. Everyone needs a robot dog. Introducing YIP! Your new man’s best friend robot”
I am not shitting you, I got a request for a link back to a robot dog product launch. I did some research and it was 100% legit. That research also led me to the fascinating and tremendously weird world Aibo, Sony’s high-end robot dog. There were Aibo releases from 1999 until 2006, each a bit different and now, with the end to Sony's Astro, other companies are “rushing” in to fill the "niche." I cannot believe there are people that buy robot dogs. Especially ones that cost $1,699. This is a weird crossover between massive tech nerds and lonely people that need dogs as companions because they have alienated all of their human acquaintances. Why can’t these folks be like normal dog owners and get something that protects the house, slobbers on their kids, and craps in the front yard? In case you were wondering (which I am sure you were not) Aibo was elected (?) into the Carnegie Mellon Robot Hall of Fame. The red carpet was hot that year--R2D2 made the ceremony. BTW, do robot dogs shit out used batteries?