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The BackpackGearTest.org Bylaws
v. 0609

This document changes over time. Please check back frequently if you have questions. If your questions are not addressed in this document, please send your questions to the group or to the Moderators for answers.  If you have suggestions for changes in this document, or would like to recommend a policy change, please email the Moderators.

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OTHER DOCUMENTS

The BGT Survival Guide
How to Become a Tester in Three Easy Steps

CONTENTS

Introduction: What is BackpackGearTest? 
Chapter 1: Requirements for participation

Chapter 2: Mailing Lists
Chapter 3: Owner Review requirements
Chapter 4: Tester applications
Chapter 5: Test report requirements
Chapter 6: Minimum Report and Review Requirements
Chapter 7: Sending files to the list
Chapter 8: Editing Reports
Chapter 9: Uploading files to the site
Chapter 10: Test Monitor Requirements
Chapter 11: Including Pictures in your Reviews 
Chapter 12: Beta Testing 
Chapter 13: Miscellaneous Rules and Regulations 
Appendices


Chapter 6 : Minimum Report and Review Requirements

This chapter details the minimum biographical, field information, and product information to be included in all Reports and Reviews.  Reports and Reviews are sometimes inclusively referred to as 'Reports'.

Recommendations

  1. It is better to include too much information rather than not enough.
  2. While it is appropriate to give some general descriptions of an item's setup and use, try to avoid writing reports that are nothing but 'how to' documents or instruction manuals for the item tested.  Readers will be more interested in the item's performance than in simply reading sales literature.  Do not over-use information from the Manufacturer's website.
  3. Remember that you are writing a Test Report, not a Trip Report.  Focus on how the item performed, not on your trip.
  4. Try to come up with at least three things you really like about the gear, even if the item does not work out the way you expected.  Does it have features that you like? Conversely, try to come up with at least three things that you do not like about the gear, even if you really love it. These could be features you hate, you merely find annoying, or even just ways that you think the gear could be improved. Use your best judgment as to whether or not to include positives and negatives in your review.  Many people find this a useful thinking tool.
  5. Our readers use our reports to make purchasing decisions. Keep this in mind when writing Reports. What type of information would you want to know about the gear if you were in the market for it?
  6. Write Reports that you would want to read.
  7. In general, the first reference to the item being tested should spell out the manufacturer's name and item name. Thereafter, refer to the manufacturer's web site or other documentation to find out how they reference their own gear. For example, using 'SUPERfeet Quickfit Everyday custom footbeds' for each reference would get both tiring to write and to read. The SUPERfeet web site uses both 'Superfeet' and 'footbeds' so either would be appropriate in gear reports.
  8. Reports are free form. There are no templates or forms to fill out. Standardized reports or forms would be very boring after reading the third one on the same piece of gear. Reports can be anecdotal or strictly factual. You decide. Your reports must have the required information in them, but you decide how to present those facts.
    1. Use of the BGT Report Writer can help you write reports that meet the requirements.
  9. Reports should be well written and easily readable.
  10. Limit the use of fancy HTML features in Reports. 
    1. Fancy fonts and backgrounds can be annoying and distract from the content of the Report. 
    2. Be aware that not all fonts look the same with all character sets. 
    3. If a feature, such as bold text, aids in the legibility or understanding of the review, then use it - but keep in mind that simpler is often better.

Requirements

  1. Name of item being tested or reviewed, and the report date, must appear prominently at the top of the page.
    1. It is helpful to include a one sentence description either as a sub-title or very close to the top.
      1. EXAMPLE: The Kiskill Outdoor Mithril Pack is an innovative, custom-built ultralight backpack.
  2. Minimum information to include in the Report or Review body in this order:
    1. Personal Biographical Information - The following list represents the minimum information required for all Reports and Reviews.  It may be necessary to add additional information, such as measurement information (torso, inseam, etc.), when writing Reports for other types of gear such as backpacks or pants.  The information you include, or fail to include, reflects on your judgment when being considered for gear tests.  
      1. Full Name
      2. Age
      3. Gender
      4. Height
      5. Weight
      6. Email address.
        1. Does not need to be clickable.
      7. City (or region), state, country (if outside the US).
        1. Abbreviations should not be used.  Spell out the full names of cities, regions, states, and countries.
      8. Backpacking Background
        1. Short, comprehensive description of your backpacking experience (how long, where, etc.), and a note on your style (ultralight vs. lightweight vs. heavyweight, tent vs. tarp)
          1. This means your backpacking background should be no longer than one paragraph with one or two sentences on experience and one or two sentences on style. In your experience section please briefly convey an idea of how long you have been backpacking, maybe some comment on specific backpacking experience and in what general areas. In the second part of your paragraph, you should comment on your backpacking style, i.e., provide an idea of your sleeping system - (tent vs. hammock. vs. tarp, etc) and your weight carried, (lightweight, ultralight, heavy).
        2. This applies to your Backpacking Background which is found in your Personal Biographical Information section of the Review or Report. If you feel it is appropriate to give more detail, as it will be germane to your Review or Report, then this should be done in the "Field Information" section of your Review or Report.
        3. You may include a link to a longer biography, or a link to your home page, or both.
    2. Product Information - The following list represents the minimum information required for all Reports and Reviews.  It may be necessary to add additional information, such as measurement or other information (dimensions, batteries used, etc.), when applicable. The information you include, or fail to include, reflects on your judgment when being considered for gear tests.  
      1. Manufacturer
      2. Year of manufacture
      3. Clickable URL to manufacturer's home page.
        1. Do NOT use the product page, only the home page.
      4. Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP).
        1. If you cannot readily find the MSRP, then state 'MSRP not available'.
        2. Do not include purchase or sale prices.
      5. Listed weight and measurements. (If any.)
      6. Weight and measurements as weighed and measured by you.  (If applicable.)
        1. If you do not have a scale, every Post Office has one that you can use.
      7. A photograph of the item.
        1. This may be either your own photograph, or one taken from the manufacturer's website.
        2. If you take the image from the manufacturer's website, be sure to credit the manufacturer.
    3. Field Information
      1. For information about Field Information, please see the relevant chapters and sections.
        1. Owner Reviews
        2. Initial Reports
        3. Field Reports
        4. Long Term Reports
      2. The body of the Report may include any additional factual information you are able to provide about the item being tested. You may also include your opinions about a piece of gear. If you had expectations from company advertising or word of mouth, you should report that and whether or not the item lives up to expectations and why or why not.
      3. If you have an improvement to the product to propose, or a problem with the product that needs solving, give details as to what and why.
    4. Experiences with the manufacturer
      1. If you had contact with the manufacturer, please describe that contact; whether it was a positive or negative experience.  If you have no contact with the manufacturer, then skip this section.
        1. We are interested both in companies that stand behind their gear and those that do not.
        2. If you had problems with the manufacturer, tell us briefly about the experience. Tell us when you contacted them, who you spoke with, and what was said by both parties.  If they refused to back their product, we want to know.
        3. If a manufacturer went that extra mile for you, tell us about it. 
        4. You will be asked by manufacturers and other testers to back up your claims, so be ready to do so.  Better yet, include it in your report.
  3. Including information in both Imperial and Metric units is required, when applicable.
    1. BackpackGearTest.org provides a handy Converter
    2. The converter provides standard abbreviations and rules.  You are responsible for following the standards.
  4. Grammatical Standards
    1. Use a spell checker and proof your reports for correctly spelled, but incorrectly used words.
    2. Use proper paragraph structure and white spacing to make your reports easy to read.
    3. Proofread your reports for any other problems such as grammatical errors, incomplete phrases, and missing information. 
    4. If possible, have someone else proofread it too.
    5. Remember that your Reports and Reviews are a required part of your application to test gear.  They demonstrate your writing ability, which is one of the most important qualifications for gear testing applicants. 
    6. For further information about Grammatical Standards, see Chapter 8: Editing and Editing Guidelines.
  5. At least one photograph of the item is encouraged for Owner Reviews, and required for Initial Reports.
    1. Additional photographs may be included in your Reports. 
    2. For more information about including photographs, please see Chapter 11.
  6. Reports and Reviews are not required to be positive.
    1. Reports and Reviews of poorly performing or designed gear are just as important as Reports and Reviews of outstanding gear. 
    2. All statements you make, whether positive or negative must be supported with details. To balance your Reports and Reviews, consider both the positives and the negatives of the item in question.
  7. Report only on your experiences.  Do not project future performance based on supposition.
    1. Example: If a seam has split, and others have fraying threads, then you can reasonably report that other seams might split in the future.  If, however, no seams have split, then you should not surmise in your report that they are likely too; just report that the some threads have frayed.
  8. Review the gear, not the retailer.
    1. This mostly applies to Owner Reviews.
    2. Except in cases where the retailer is the manufacturer, or the retailer plays a major role in the acquisition of the item such as when a footbed needs custom fitting, the item should be reviewed, not your experience with the retailer.
  9. Things that you should not include in your Report:
    1. Purchase price or sale price.  (MSRP is required, if available.)
    2. Specific retailer information, unless that retailer is also the manufacturer.
    3. Material from other sources, unless that material is critical to the report and fully attributed to the source.
    4. Product comparisons.
      1. BackpackGearTest.org is not a 'shoot out' forum.  
      2. The only exceptions to this rule are comparisons of the same item from one product year to the next, or brief comparisons of like items from the same manufacturer. 
        1. If a manufacturer releases an new model or version, and you own the old model or version, you can briefly explain the changes and/or new features of the item, and how you like the change.
        2. If an item is part of a product line, you may explain where the item stands within that product line, and what the features or differences are between the items in the product line.
          1. EXAMPLE: Some GPS manufacturers release different versions of the same model and call them Model 100, Model 200, Model 300, etc.  If you are testing model 200, you could explain what features it includes beyond the Model 100, and what features it does not have that the Model 300 does.  You should, in no case, make any value judgment on features your model does not have.
    5. Grading or rating systems.
      1. BackpackGearTest.org does not give 'stars' or 'recommendation points' of any kind.  You may state that you recommend an item, or don't recommend an item, but such a statement is purely at your discretion.
      2. If you would or would not purchase the item, explain why in the report.
    6. Any external link to a retail site, unless approved by the Moderators.
    7. Any abbreviated link, redirected link, or abbreviated link service such as TinyURL.
    8. Trademark and Copyright symbols are not required or encouraged.
  10. External links should be kept to a minimum.
    1. External links determined to be unwanted by the Moderators must be removed.
  11. Common courtesy is required at all times.
    1. Reviews with inappropriate content will be deleted and the author of such a review may be banned from the group.
    2. Inappropriate content is anything not germane to the review process, including vulgarity, political or religious statements, etc.
    3. BackpackGearTest.org is a 'family' site, and reports should be appropriate for all ages.

Common Mistakes

There are some mistakes that are very common in reports.  By checking for these common mistakes, you will save both yourself and the Editors some time.  Here is a quick checklist that you can review to help you look for them.  (Thanks to Jim Hatch and Rick Allnut.)

  1. Make sure that your report is consistent with the requirements found in these Bylaws.
  2. Check to see that you've used standard unit abbreviations for measurements.
    1. You can find them at the bottom of the convert utility here: http://www.backpackgeartest.org/convert.html although you may need to scroll down to see it. The table is titled "Table of Unit Equivalencies".
  3. Be consistent in your use of the comma separator in measurements. We don't require them for 4 digit numbers but we do want you to be consistent. So if you use them (e.g. 2,000) then use them everywhere in the review. For 5 digit (or more) numbers, always use the thousands separator.
  4. Include metric & imperial measurements, weights, or distances.
    1. It doesn't matter which one you use as the primary one, but the other needs to follow each measurement/weight/distance.
    2. You can find a handy conversion utility at: http://www.backpackgeartest.org/convert.html 
    3. Keep the precision realistic --- yes, 72 F is 22.22 C but 22 C is close enough since most of us don't use digital thermometers to check the temperature outside (or micrometers to measure things).
  5. Include the date of the review just below the title.
  6. Write the report in the first person (me, mine, I). BackpackGearTest.org and its readers care about you & what you did & what you feel and think.
    1. This is counter to how most of us were taught to write (remember the teachers stressing 3rd person point of view?) but that's what our readers want. You've used the gear; now they want to know about it from your point of view.
    2. Avoid the use of "you", "yours", "you'll", "you're" or any other derivative.
      1. It is very hard (although not impossible) to project your experiences, thoughts and concerns if you don't use these words.
      2. Projection is bad because you really can't know what someone else is going to think/feel/experience.
  7. The word it's, is the contraction of "it is" and is not the possessive form (which is "its"). When you re-read your review, replace every it's with "it is" in your head and see if it still makes sense. If not, change it to the correct form.
  8. Make sure you've used the item for its intended purpose.
    1. Don't just report on your use of a winter bag in summer or a backpack for day trips.
    2. Those experiences can add to a review but you should have experience using the product as it was designed & marketed.
    3. More than one experience should be included.
  9. Report on what you know.
    1. Be prepared to back up every claim you make (whether "it's waterproof" or "it leaks") from your experience.
    2. Saying "I was worried it might leak so I tested it by filling it with water and found water pouring out of all the seams" is much more appropriate than "I think it's going to leak if it ever gets wet."
  10. Proofread more than once! You'll be amazed what a second read through will show you.
  11. Please run a spell checker before posting your review. If not a spell checker, then a paper dictionary or even http://www.dictionary.com are resources that will be helpful.
  12. Trademarks or brand names should be spelled as the manufacturer spells them so it's Therm-a-Rest and not Therm-a-rest. The same is true of Coolmax, Mylar, Polartec, etc.
Chapter 5: Test report requirements

BACK TO CONTENTS

Chapter 7: Sending files to the list



Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to BackpackGearTest.org. Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

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