A guide to SilentMode’s reviewing system.

When reading any review, whether on the Internet or in printed medium, it greatly helps to know about the reviewer.

SilentMode’s background

First and foremost, I’m I was an independent reviewer; I don’t have any affiliation or connections whatsoever with The LEGO Group. I’m just your ordinary person (in physicality only) who goes out and buys their LEGO sets and parts from the same places as everybody else, at roughly the same time as everybody else, and at pretty much the same prices as everybody else. No briefcases, public exchanges or codewords!

When it comes to reviewing I don’t have any formal qualifications or training: I grew up reading reviews of video games from magazines such as Sega Force, Sega Power, Mean Machines, CU Amiga Magazine and the like. I became inspired by online personalities such as the Angry Video Game Nerd and the Irate Gamer. From those sources I developed my own understanding of what makes a great review, as well as things that really get on my nerves.

Why SilentMode does did reviews

Reviewing was my way of “giving back” to the online LEGO community, and is one of the things I’ve been reasonably good at from the beginning. However there are plenty of other people who do reviews, some of which have a massive following – what made me different?

Many “reviewers” (especially on YouTube) are clones of each other, mostly because they solely do it for fame or money. What’s been missing are reviewers with their own style and perspective, who may be opinionated but – regardless of sponsorship or alignment – let the reader/viewer make up their own minds.
My role as a reviewer was to give people relevant and important information about the sets I reviewed, so that they themselves can make a decision as to whether or not to buy it. I have no interest in telling people what to think, or in being someone who has all the “right” answers.

While it definitely is important to provide accurate information (because there’s hard-earned money involved), I also think reviewing should be fun. It’s a very long and sometimes tedious process, especially when having to do everything yourself, and too much orthodoxy kills the experience for both the reviewer and reader. People read SilentMode’s reviews because they want to see SilentMode’s views, just as they’d read a specific reviewer’s reviews.

Even without my brand of humour, and occasional use of potty language, my reviews aren’t for everybody. My opinions and tastes, and certainly what I like and dislike about LEGO sets, are usually very different to what’s popular. That’s also why it was important to voice my opinions, and to have the freedom (and responsibility) to do so.

SilentMode’s reviewing criteria

My reviewing perspective was as both a collector and a MOCer: I’m more interested in individual parts and minifigures.

Usually I’ve rated sets between 1 and 10 in five categories, and unlike most reviewers I held the belief that 1s and 10s should be near unattainable (but not impossible):

How well the built models were designed, how stable the model is and how well the set made use of the chosen parts. 1 would mean a very poorly-designed, perhaps ugly model that used certain parts for the sake of it; 10 would be a functional work of art.
The building experience: how easy it was to build the set from the instructions (including whether or not the instructions make logical sense), as well as building techniques used. It depends on the situation, but 1 would represent a particularly time-consuming and frustrating build, while 10 indicates a pleasurable experience.
How useful and desirable the parts and any minifigures included in the set are, from an MOC building and collecting perspective, as well as the choices of parts and colours. 1 would represent there being nothing special to buy the set for, whereas 10 would certainly include some very desirable and useful (and good quality) parts. Though I’m not a Chinaphobe, I discriminated against poor quality and/or missing parts.
How much interaction with the model the set offers to the target audience. 1 would be something we can only look at, while 10 would be something so appealing I couldn’t put it down.
Not necessarily about how cheap it is, but how much value for money the set provides based on the official retail price. 1 would be something ridiculously overpriced; 10 would represent excellent value even before store promotions.
(I don’t go by the “price per part” ratio, because the cost of a set is not just about physical parts.)

The all-important overall score is derived from the average of the above, to one decimal point. In most circumstances 7.6 or higher would earn my Silent Approval award.

Silent Approval award

Where a set can’t be scored in one or more categories – usually in the case of third party items – I’ll either give it a “score out of thin air” (whole number out of 10) or no score. Past examples included:

Why SilentMode no longer reviews

Even though I enjoyed writing them, I eventually realised the “return on investment” (buying sets and time spent vs. pageviews and exposure) wasn’t worth continuing to do reviews in the long run. This was despite trying different reviewing styles, such as paginating longer reviews, having shorter reviews and keeping things clean.

Unfortunately, the person seems to be more important than the content – and any time there’s a popularity contest, I can’t win. Of course, it could also be that my reviews weren’t that great after all. Either way, it is what it is.

There are many other LEGO set reviewers around, including just2good and JANGBRiCKS on YouTube, and on The New Elementary weblog.