Starting work at dpreview.com is an odd affair. Not only does writing for the web entail many more people reading your work (and scrutinising and criticising it), it also means learning to write for a very different audience: an International one...
Every job I’ve ever done has, at some time or another, involved me having to Anglicise the work of US-based contributors. Disappointingly there’s more to it than simply performing a search-and-replace between the endings –ize and –ise. Idioms and colloquialisms such as mileage (fuel economy) need to be identified, and the distinction between practice and practise re-introduced.
However, at dpreview, our house style is to use US English despite us being UK-based. And this is something we’re sometime criticised for. We could have used the UK spelling ‘Cheque,’ in our recent news story but not only was it a story that affected only US readers (there seemed little point suggesting they refrain from cashing what would, to them, be elaborate spelling errors); it is also house style. And, as even an out-of-practise sub knows – house style is the law.
It’s been quite a struggle not just to overcome years of reacting to US-usage at a near-subconscious level, but to then have to use it. Fortunately I’m not longer as fastidious as I was when I had to sub-edit on a daily basis. (Which is good in many respects, as it allows me to read books and newspapers without my blood pressure rising dangerously). I still get irrationally upset by US-style headlines that insert a comma in the place of short words: “Headlines irritate on basis of style, legibility” but, on the whole, I’ve been able to re-integrate into normal society.
However, in addition to having to write consistently in US English for the site, while still using British English well enough to avoid disapproving email corrections from our mothers, we also all have to be as able to switch from speaking Olympus to comprehending Canonish to thinking in Nikonese.
|Most menu systems aren't, literally speaking, 'intuitive'...||...they can be easier or harder to learn but none of them is inherently obvious.|
It was only when it was 'knowledgeably' explained on the forums that my review was worthless because I’m “a Canon user,” that I stopped to think about the cameras I owned before coming to work here. It was only then that I realised that I’ve never owned two cameras from the same manufacturer. This hasn’t been through any dissatisfaction about the previously owned product (like many other people, I’m very good at convincing myself that I’ve bought the best possible product, based on a rational and informed decision), but because each camera has been different enough from the one before that there’s no logical benefit or carry-over to be gained from staying with one brand. Consequently, I arrived at this job with a general fondness for, and interest in, cameras, rather than brands.
And even if that weren’t the case, to be able to do this job you have to very quickly learn your way around all the manufacturers’ interfaces. There are also members of the team who have been using and reviewing cameras for over 10 years and have a fair idea of how those interfaces have developed. Having used and reviewed a fair number of cameras from all the major brands, I’m confident I can find the noise reduction settings on any contemporary camera nearly as fast as a long-term owner of that brand. My point is simply this – any user interface can be learned, given enough time and patience. Then again, so can Ancient Greek and Cobol – and I have no need nor desire to learn either.
Even the worst interface is usable, once you’re familiar with it, we just don’t believe that this investment of time and effort should be necessary. So, on the occasions we’re critical of a particular user interface, it’s not because we’re unfamiliar with it – it’s because we’re also familiar with better solutions to the same problem. There are also internal discussion during every review to ensure that our conclusions aren't based on one person's predilections or brand familiarities. If you don't believe us, get someone unfamiliar with any interface, take them into a shop and cheque.