Whose Opinion Do you Trust?

Online, how do you sort the wheat from the chaff..?

“The Internet has become awash with echo chambers of the incapable, resonating to the pulse of an airbrush compressor humming disappointment from beneath a bench of broken dreams.”

The Internet, that place where if you look hard enough, you can find anything you need and more. Want to build the perfect model? Click that mouse! Need to know if that new kit is worth buying? Click that mouse! Click, click, click! We all use it, we all check it every day and chances are you’ve been swayed by the most vocal exponents in the ‘art’ of model making, whether you like it or not.

The Internet has become a place where everyone has a voice, where everyone can offer their opinions on all manner of hobby-related topics. The problem with that is that the Internet has become a place where everyone has a voice, where everyone can offer their opinions – and it doesn’t matter one iota if that person is a rank amateur, or a seasoned professional – on the the Internet, we are all the same. Apparently.

Except we are not and that’s where the problems really begin.

When I first took up model making, if I wanted to learn anything, I had to do so by reading monthly magazines or books that I could find either on a friend’s bookshelf or in the local library. That meant that the process was slow, the mistakes great and the need to experiment and trash more than I completed, an ever-present part of the hobby that I would enjoy for the next forty years. If I had a problem I had to work it out one step at a time – and this was at a time when kits fit where they touched and my idea of a high-end product, was a bottle of Liquid Poly 70 that I would spill over the desk with alarming regularity. I learned through trial and error and I never once lost sight of the pleasure I got from building models and cannot ever remember looking at a kit no matter how dreadful and thinking “I must complain to the manufacturer – that’s just terrible”. I cracked-on and learned to overcome the issues that befell each project as they arose – it’s just what we ALL did…

Learning to actually work with problem kits set me up to be able to do the same thing today. If a kit doesn’t fit together, I’ll deal with it; if the detail is not what I want, it can be added. And if there are problems with the instructions and a need to work out what the correct colours are, I’ll sort that out as well. But even if I didn’t already have that knowledge and skill, I’d learn. Why? Because that’s what you do with any activity: you learn the basics and then move on to more advanced techniques until you can build what you want, rather than build what your skill base will allow.

But of course that’s not always the case is it?

These days it’s hardly a secret that many modellers want to shake a kit box and watch as the completed model drops into their lap, perfectly constructed and painted. Gone are the days when fit issues can be dealt with without the first port of call being a forum or Facebook page to tell the world what’s wrong with X, Y or Z. The desire to be first to tell the world that a kit is a disaster is only matched by an often palpable lack of skill to do anything about it – even if they wanted to. The Internet has become awash with echo chambers of the incapable, resonating to the pulse of an airbrush compressor humming disappointment from beneath a bench of broken dreams. And heaven forbid you tell these vocal individuals that some basic skills would deal with the issues that you can see! Those comments will be shot down from the flack towers of their indignation; how dare you tell me that! I shouldn’t have to fill that seam – it should fit perfectly! You don’t know what the hell you are talking about!

You see, in years gone by you knew who to trust and who would tell the truth about a particular product because you could see what they had built, read about it and then absorbed their opinions.

It was simple.

Not so today.

Today there are so many voices it’s almost impossible to work out who is telling the truth and who is nothing more than a belligerent antagonist. When Ray Rimmell, Chris Ellis, Roger Chesnau et al, spoke, you listened. These guys had gravitas that reassured you enough to hang off their every word. Though each was a seasoned author in the magazine world, many went on to form their own publishing businesses and this carried on the good work they had started and that only added to that feeling of knowledge and understanding.

Today, none of that matters.

Today, the up-and-coming are just as likely to tell you to belt up and mind your own business, as they are listen to your opinions – irrespective of your knowledge or time in the hobby. Ego has replaced a desire within some to learn and in so doing, given voice to those that carry weight without ability, offering noise without results. And they tend to be the ones who are followed, whose words are hung upon, whose work is admired and shared, not because of an inherent level of skill or knowledge, but because they have the loudest voices, the sharpest fingers, the quickest response to even the tiniest of problems. Every inaccuracy is highlighted; every fault disseminated; every technique pulled-apart. You listen to these voices and if you don’t, they will shout louder than you. Louder and louder and louder, forever and ever, amen…

Even as a professional with twenty years in this industry I’ve fallen prey to the voices. Accusations that I am little more than a corporate shill paid to ensure a flow of samples and advertising fly around like angry wasps on a midsummer’s day, endless tirades made by those that have little knowledge of the world in which I work, made-up ideas replacing facts in the vacuum of their own misunderstanding. Buy a kit and that’s different. You can have an opinion then, because you have no vested interest, no backers to appease, no pages to pay for, no suppliers to charm. Oh yes, that’s different

These days I’m finding myself zoning out the voices more and more. Although there are plenty of very knowledgeable guys out there who work really hard to tell modellers the truth about every facet of the hobby, there are simply too many stalking horses who let personal enmity cloud their judgement of almost everything that they examine. To some, the need for perfection overwhelms a basic understanding that such things, though pleasing in theory, are less than possible in practice. Constructional problems become disasters, a need to practice skills, an inconvenience and the offer of help and advice, an affront. But more than that, the need in some to be heard is way more important than a need to learn sometimes even the most basic ideas, so simple problems that most would deal with in minutes, are elevated to a place of importance that can last for hours. Why work on something to achieve a result, when you can talk about it instead? Well, because your hobby is building models, not talking about them and that kit you just publicly tore to shreds, is in the hands of someone else, the best available of that subject and looks great once complete.

But hey, who am I to say?!

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19 thoughts on “Whose Opinion Do you Trust?

  1. David Robbins Sr February 8, 2017 / 8:08 pm

    The people l trust for honest reviews of kits and products l can count on one hand but my top two are you, Spencer and Phil Flory. l like people who give honest reviews without bashing a company. Not every company can get things spot on but just to bash them or a builder just because of a name is not modelling to me anyways. We all like CONSTRUCTIVE criticizums (pardon the spelling) but not to do it out of hate. l have never told anyone their work is rubbish as it makes it personal.

  2. Michael Moore February 8, 2017 / 8:40 pm

    The issue of course is the interwebs. When I started getting back into this hobby around 15 years ago, the internet was a much friendlier place. The forums were more helpful. Now as you say, they’ve largely become echo boxes for those who like to hear themselves pontificate. I still read much of what’s there, but I rarely participate. It’s not worth the hate that comes back. As for who to trust, I reserve that for folks who come across consistently as helpful and knowledgeable. Those who pop up with no background and loud voices screaming that they must be right, well, those guys get relegated to the back ground noise.

    Trust has to be earned, in person, in print, in the internet. Listen for a while, and it’s not too hard to figure out.

    • David Robbins Sr February 8, 2017 / 9:45 pm

      That is why l do not post much of my work and say much other then where it will not get crucified. Even Spencer who does outstanding work gets the modelling trolls sniping at him

  3. Francis Gallemi February 8, 2017 / 9:43 pm

    Everyone wants to be heard, that’s the good and bad thing of any community. People need to take that into consideration when researching a new project and when the point of view is validated, we need to ask if it is worth the extra effort or not. In today’s community it seems some people expect the shake and bake kits to be flawless yet others will purchase anything and everything in the form of kits and AM. There was a time modellers had only one choice. Build as is or correct every little fault yourself. There was no resin or PE, only plastic. Today, we are spoiled. There are tons of documentation and AM stuff readily available. Bottom line is I build what I want, fix what I can and if the kit is “unbuildable” according to my own criteria, then I just leave it alone and move along.

  4. hangardeck February 8, 2017 / 9:48 pm

    I also do the “who is talking” thing when I ask a question. There are a finite number of people that know my subject matter more than I do, or at least as well as I.

    But, I also keep in mind that a person’s very first post can go against “current wisdom” and still be 100% correct in what it says, and be extremely helpful, even though none of us knows him. (I am still a “newbie” to many on HS,,,,,after more than a decade of being on there)

    I mean absolutely no offense by this,,,,,but a Spitfire expert’s opinion is of no help to me, nor is a Luftwaffe real life color guy, or even a P-47 fan and expert.

    If I find that I am mired in a 1/1 paint conversation with people that all “believe in the modeling faith” of post 1984 FS color rules applying to a model of a 1963 subject,,,,,,I just quietly leave that convo. (it becomes more about “paint religion” that actual paint “history” at that point.) You can apply your own example in this instance,,,,as a 1/1 USN/USMC color guy, you know that my input is of absolutely no help to you when painting an Airfix Gladiator model.

  5. Tom Probert February 8, 2017 / 9:55 pm

    Fantastic, Spencer. And you’ve really hit the nail on the head in regard to today’s ‘modelling experts.’

    As the old saying goes: a bad workman is quick to blame his tools!

    On the subject of who to trust when reading reviews etc, I don’t really ‘trust’ anyone. I don’t mean that in a nasty way, neither do I mean to disrespect any individual’s opinion, but each and every one of us approach and biuld models differently. Problems for one are mere inconveniences for another. I rarely take any notice of reviews and instead, if I like the look of a model, I’ll build it regardless of what the ‘experts’ say.

  6. Steve February 8, 2017 / 10:26 pm

    The only opinion that matters to me is my own. I’ll read the hyperbolic pronouncements about what a disaster every kit is and decide for myself if its worth buying. I don’t expect every kit to be perfect or even easy. If I can’t see a glitch without a bunch of red lines it’s usually nothing I’ll worry about. But, if it looks really wrong to my eye and a lot of work to fix I’ll skip it (Kittyhawk Banshee), there’s enough in my stash that I don’t have to worry about running out of something to build in this lifetime.

    I build models because of an interest in airplanes, not model kits. I don’t buy a kit because it’s the latest and greatest, I buy it for an interest in that airplane. For me that’s mostly Cold War jets. I’ve got a whole bunch of 48th scale Monogram, Airfix, Heller, and Esci jets in the stash because for the longest time they were the only kits of many aircraft from that time period. Usually I don’t buy kits at release either. I give it time to start seeing completed builds before I pull the trigger, especially with kits from the newer companies that have popped up over the last decade. The last new release kit I got excited enough to preorder was the Airfix Sea Vixen which I should finally have finished this weekend.

    I used to be much more active at a couple online sites and moderated on a fairly large forum for a while, but it started to become too much and I made the decision that I had better things to do with my life than deal with trolls and egos all day. I still lurk around, but usually only post to offer up info from 30 years working around real airplanes.

  7. Jon Bryon February 9, 2017 / 1:54 am

    Compared to the old days of rec.models.scale (which was hardly friendly) and pre-photo forum discussions (like Hyperscale in the 90s), I think this situation is much easier to solve today in the era of Facebook and blogs and Youtube where the finished product is so much more easily on show. I have a simple rule of thumb: if I aspire to your work, I’ll spend time listening to you; if I don’t, I won’t. What that aspiration is will vary from individual to individual depending on vision (by which I don’t mean eyesight!), skill and experience. This same rule means I buy some magazines and not others. I aspire to build models like Spencer’s, so I listen to him. Same goes for quite a few internet and magazine personalities, some of whom I suspect are the target of this post.

  8. Konrad Schreier February 9, 2017 / 5:01 am

    Unfortunately the phenomena Spencer described is not limited to modeling, but much of the world now. I used to be an active participant in several forums, but the effort needed to generate the content posted seems to increasingly outweigh the cost in time spent not modeling. I think this is not a unique reaction, based on the decline in apparent activity levels. Honestly, I would much rather enjoy the musings of an experienced and capable modeler, and that is what which brings me here. Hopefully we will continue to benefit from Spencer’s insights, and others like him – and have the wisdom to discern who the true voices are – and happily tune out the roar of the crowd.

  9. Bruce Grayson February 9, 2017 / 7:06 am

    Mike McEvoy. Does he still review kits?

    • Secret Squirrel February 9, 2017 / 8:18 am

      On his web page

  10. Norman William Long February 9, 2017 / 8:40 am

    I don’t usually comment on these blogs but like you i love the hobby and admire you and what you do so here goes,

    I reckon you are spot On Spencer !!! and well done for putting this article out there, the types you refer to that detract from the hobby and those that have put you in a bad place of recent times will never ever concede they do anything negative to our wonderful hobby , but they do don’t they !

    It is an indictment of the internet this type of behaviour and one largely driven by ego , i reckon for every one of these baboons there are many hundreds if not thousands of people who read their rubbish and just simply ignore it and even though they do not post their views they are out there, this was illustrated to me recently when a very well known modeller who has his own site that i follow in U.K made a somewhat controversial comment of an aspect of painting models and was absolutely flamed, hung drawn and quartered from face-book to twitter !!!, all that was missing was a lynch mob with pitchforks !!!!! BUT a great many people came out of the woodwork and defended him and gave him much needed heart and confidence to continue as he had been doing before it all went pear shaped,

    Spencer i may be wrong but it appears you are a very passionate modeller and have a very deep affection for the hobby it is what makes you good at what you do, but like the other modeller i spoke of it also makes you a target,

    Mate don’t let the cretins get you down, you seem to be really starting to find your own way now, just ignore them,

    You have a lot of support out here in cyber land , keep the faith !

    Cheers mate

    Norm in Oz

  11. Tony BOURKE February 9, 2017 / 9:22 am

    Spencer

    One of the best things i have read for many years .

    Mahugass respect to you

  12. Ron Petrosky February 9, 2017 / 3:49 pm

    So true Spencer. Great points. I have not been posting on Hyperscale much lately for this very reason. While I love Brett’s site, especially the main what’s new section, I have given to judiciously reading what I want and not reading the “red line” and “fatal flaw” posts which I personally find absurd. I find sites like “Modeling News”, and your blog, where very talented people actually do a build review, offer techniques that are helpful, and are informative and inspiring without having to buy a magazine to get the full story.

  13. Tom Potter February 9, 2017 / 5:47 pm

    Spencer, this rings so true in all things on the Internet. What a pity there is no way of easily sorting the wheat from the chaff. I’ve noticed that photographs of models posted look a lot better than they actually are. I know because I’ve posted some of mine!

  14. Dr Malcolm McKay February 10, 2017 / 9:13 am

    I fully agree Spencer, while there needs to be some reasonable comment on new kits the idiotic brouhaha over the Airfix P40 went far beyond what was needed to correct some quite minor problems. The main protagonist ignored both simple advice and the free offer of a correct set. It turned into some spurious whinge about “democratic” rights to comment using data derived from laying parts on drawings of uncertain quality and reproduction and photos not allowing for parallax error by people so technologically ill-informed as to be unaware of the nature of design drawings and GA s and their place in the design process.

  15. John Harris February 14, 2017 / 11:16 am

    I have to agree with your comments Spencer, though I think the ‘armchair experts’ existed before the internet, it’s just they didn’t have such a large audience. It’s one reason I gave on attending club meetings, there was invariable some loud mouth pontificating on kit or models, never constructively of course. The internet has given these people a bigger soapbox.

  16. Nicholas Perry February 21, 2017 / 9:50 am

    A very interesting post Spencer, it’s always interesting to read something from another’s point of view. I think you have a valid point in that there is a body of opinion that believes reviews are sometimes biased. This is, in my case, down to the fact that I brought several models based on magazine reviews that really were unbuildable. Or at least would take more work to correct than starting from scratch.

    Unlike many I have become more discerning in my old age and disregard many posts and take a lot more notice when others comment. I was recently lambasted on one forum for using the published 3-view of a kit to comment about it’s shape, knowing that these views are generated from the CAD work I waited until said kit was released, brought it and Lo! the Trumpeter Westland Whirlwind has issues. There is a guy on BritModeller who feels the same way and has started to improve the kit on-line. I believe this is good. It must be said that certain magazines did feature build articles and mentioned nothing. While this is OK for an uniformed buyer I have seen the effects when a newbie puts his creation on display at a show and finds out that it is not a good representation of it’s subject. There are those (you are NOT one) who forget that part of the job is to inform their customers.

    The Internet isn’t perfect but then all publishers and article writers aren’t either.

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