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Dear PA commenters: let's talk about bias

Posted: , posted by Michael H.

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Dear PA commenters: let's talk about bias
We here at PhoneArena have a job that we love, and one that we attempt to do as well as we can. We try our best to present you all with news, reviews, and analysis in an honest, thought-provoking, and (if possible) entertaining way. Of course, our job can be made less enjoyable by the endless bickering and flame wars in our comment threads. We've tried before to explain the concept of "opinion" and how that simple idea makes flame wars a silly endeavor, but that was a losing battle from day one. 

Still, it seems about time we directly address our comment community, because many of you seem to have a skewed idea of the word "bias", and while we can't say that we don't each have our own opinions, we do try our best to not be biased, and to be fair. However, someone who drops into the comment thread to call us biased is of no help, which is why we want to take this time. We rely on our comment community to keep us honest, and more importantly, to make us better at our jobs, which means we need constructive criticism, and not insults

What is bias?

We may not be able to ever stop the flame wars, but it is our hope that we can at least get some helpful feedback from those of you who take the time to be part of our comment community. And, a big issue that we're having these days, and one that we think can be fixed, is that some of you will call out bias either without explaining yourself, or at inappropriate times. That's why we want to have this talk. 

First of all, if we are being unfair in our treatment of a topic, company, or product, we definitely want to hear that feedback. But, there are many times that we get accused of bias, when more often than not the bias is coming from the commenter. It is our job to relay the day's news in regards to mobile technology, and this means running stories that you may not like, and you may not agree with. But, that is not necessarily an indicator of bias. If we run a lot of stories about Apple in September, it's probably because the new iOS devices tend to be announced at that time of year, it's not bias. 

There is a big difference between being critical, and being biased. It is our job to be critical of the companies that we cover, and not to make excuses for them. The key is whether or not we are being fair. We criticized Apple for iOS Maps when it was released, because the app wasn't up to the standards set by the company. But, we also thought it reasonable to believe that the app will improve, and assuming improvement does not excuse the errors that were already made. Similarly, we have criticized Google for its failure to provide a reliable Play Store experience when purchasing a Nexus 4 (twice), because Google has the most server power in the world, and should have expected that everyone and their mother would want a top-notch $300 unlocked smartphone. 

In both cases, we think we were fair. Apple put out a bad maps app, and Google upset many customers with problems in the Play Store. There is no arguing either point. Similarly, we are often accused of bias against Windows Phone and BlackBerry, despite giving generally positive reviews of each platform. We don't control the fact that both platforms are currently dwarfed in market share by Android and iOS, and so reporting on the struggles of each platform is fact, not bias. We don't want to see a market where Android and iOS dominate forever. We want to see competition, and choice, because that makes our job more interesting.  

What we ask of you

The trouble is that there are some people who tend to be reactionary, and comment immediately, and without consideration. If we write about something Apple did well (because Apple does some things well), we are accused of loving Apple, and even worse, we will be accused of hating Google. We need you all to keep in mind that the world is not a binary system. It is perfectly possible to admire Apple and Google in equal measure, just as it is possible to criticize each, and to both praise and criticize something a company does without it being a reflection on said company as a whole. Writing a positive story about one does not necessarily show bias towards the other, and neither does a critical story.

This is one reason why we are asking that you explain your reasons when you call us biased. If it does turn out that we have shown bias, we want to know, so we can try to be better. We can't claim that we don't have our own opinions and preferences, but we will promise to be fair, and give different perspectives from our own. Because being unbiased doesn't mean being free of opinions, it means being fair with those who have opposing viewpoints. However, you may be surprised to find that the bias lies in your own reading, and not with what we've written.

We want to provide the best work we can, and we want the best community as well. We're working hard to provide you all with content. We just ask that those of you who are more engaged to help us out, because we really appreciate the value and discussion that you all bring to our site, and the dedication that you have to being a part of our community.

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