Abandoning the Wisdom of Crowds on Big Ticket Items

Anyone paying attention to the web over the past five years ago is aware of the rise of crowd-sourcing and all its permutations. Whether it’s the amateur editors at Wikipedia or zillions of reviews on Amazon, it’s become commonplace to rely upon the wisdom of crowds.

I do this all the time. Before going to the cinema, I consult aggregated reviews at Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes. When booking holidays, we’ll check hotel reviews on Travelocity or Expedia. And when I want to dip my toes into what the web’s talking about, I visit popurls or Techmeme or twitt(url)y.

We Need a Lot of Stuff

As regular readers know, we’re building a house. And, as you might expect, that house is going to need a lot of stuff: fridge, stove, dishwasher, TV, stereo, washer/dryer, etc. No matter how you slice it, the cost of this stuff adds up.

So how to choose the right stove or television? We’re pretty ignorant on this front, and I don’t fancy visiting a ton of showrooms. We could rely on the wisdom of crowds, but in this case, that seems a bit insufficient. Instead, we’ve bought a subscription to Consumer Reports. My family has relied on this publication on and off for as long as I can remember. I can picture the photocopied and highlighted pages, complete with dense little graphs, that would kick around my father’s desk.

It’s $25 a year for a subscription to the Consumer Reports website, but really it’s $25 for piece of mind. I’ll still google for opinions of the stove or TV we choose, but I’ll do so with the experts’ opinions in my back pocket.

I guess, at the end of the day, I can’t place all of my trust in the crowd.


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