APPENDIX 2 - Editing
- A History of the Edit Process
- What makes a good review?
- Policy - Projecting
- The use of Brand Names such as 'Velcro'
- Comment on Member Edits - March 2003
- Notes on Editing Policy
The Edit Process used by BackpackGearTest.org has changed over time, and a brief history may help
new people understand why we do what we do.
In the beginning,
BackpackGearTest.org was a small group of testers functioning entirely on a
single Yahoo! Group. Testers edited each others reports with no
organization or guidelines. This casual proof-reading quickly became
unworkable as BackpackGearTest.org grew. In order to provide some
structure, Andrew Priest took on the dual role of List Moderator and Edit
Moderator, and from that position guided the editing process. Members
still edited reports, a team of Editors was appointed to handle Owner Reviews,
and Monitors were appointed to edit Test Reports. Any list member, at the
time, could also edit reports as time permitted. Even with this guidance
in place, editing by list members was sometimes problematic. Often more
than one member would 'edit' a report, and this caused confusion among new
people and veteran testers alike.
The process has been further formalized so that Owner Reviews are edited only
by the Edit Moderator team, and Test Reports are edited only by the appropriate
Test Monitor. This is done under the watchful eye of Andrew, who oversees
all this chaos from his position as Chief Edit Moderator. Members can
still provide input on reports, but they must wait for the appropriate Editor or
Monitor to provide the official edit first. Members are still encouraged
to comment on content and to ask questions, but for the most part should leave
the grammar, spelling, and punctuation to the Editors and Monitors.
If you would like to become an Editor, you must first serve as a Test
Monitor. To become a Test Monitor, you have to first be an approved
tester, and have completed at least two full test series. If you would
like to become a Test Monitor, and you fulfill the criteria, please contact the Moderators.
What makes a good review? For me, a successful review leaves the reader with
a complete and vivid vision of the reviewed item, as well as a sense of the
reviewer, i.e., some personality should shine through to illuminate the
factoids. If there's an editorial style for reviews to follow, it probably ought
to be a journalistic one. As to report structure, the reader should be easily
able to skim reviews for what's important to them, and not be forced to, say,
read all three thousand words of a lengthy review to find out whether a backpack
has a water bladder sleeve.
Because I are an ed-i-tor (at an engineering firm) by day, I would have to
set aside my editorial SOP and put on a very different hat (perhaps not the
usual tin foil one) to edit gear reviews. In my view, the job should be
performed with a light hand. Task 1: eliminate errors and mechanical problems.
Task 2: ensure completeness. Task 3. make *suggestions* to improve readability.
This last could be breaking up long, confusing sentences (like this one),
rearranging the content sequence, advising on expanding (or condensing) certain
report sections, etc. Unless someone specifically asked me for an intensive
review, or unless a draft review were truly unreadable, I would never presume to
hammer someone's writing into my standard technical report framework. (The
qualification process presumably winnows out those who simply cannot write.)
This would be both condescending to the author and harmful to the library of
As we've discovered, there are surprisingly few definitive English
grammatical rules, particularly as applied to structure and punctuation. (Try
telling that to an engineer.) I can probably defend almost anything just using
the references I've got at hand. But, who cares? *Generally*, less punctuation
and simpler sentence structure are preferred, but not at the cost of robbing the
prose of its flow and the writers of their personalities. There's room here for
both Carl Sagan and Joe-Bob Briggs.
3. POLICY - Projecting - David Anderson,
Projecting is not allowed, and David was kind enough to explain it for us:
Projecting into the future - This involves statements about what you expect
to happen. While not strictly prohibited, you need to be very careful about how
you word this. You must also address any future projecting in your later
reports. "This zipper is too small and likely to break" is bad.
"I have concerns about whether such a small zipper will hold up to normal
use and will be testing this" is okay as long as you follow up on it in
your later reports. But it might be better to just wait till the later report to
deal with that issue. Then you would be able to just state that "I was
surprised to find that such a small zipper appears to be up to the task" or
"Under the strain of what I consider normal use, I found the zipper to separate
unexpectedly". In other words, whenever you are future projecting, ask
yourself if there is a better way to do it, or if it is even necessary.
Projecting onto someone else - This is when you are reporting using second
(you, yours) or third person (they, them, one). It goes against our nature to
write everything in the first person (me, I, my), but that is what we must do.
Even if it is in a section of the report where is not going to reflect badly on
the results, try to rewrite it anyway, you might be surprised to find that it
will often make more sense if you change it to the first person.
Since 'hook and loop fastener' is commonly known as 'Velcro', is it
acceptable to use 'Velcro' for all 'hook and loop fastener' tape, or to use a
lower case 'velcro'?
No...velcro (lower case) isn't acceptable. Velcro is
a brand name. It should always be capitalized. Hook and loop fastener is the
type, Velcro is the brand name. If you are unsure of the particular brand
of hook and loop fastener, you can use the term, "Velcro-type
As has been stated repeatedly, list member edits do not require any action on
the part of the reporter. I suggest that the reporters that are uninterested in
such things do as I do when I run into some discussion of commas, abbreviations,
technical material discussion, etc.....just ignore it and go to the next post.
There is nothing anywhere that says a reporter has to do anything with an edit
from a list member....even a Moderator, if that Moderator isn't an Edit
Moderator. If a list member edits a report with something the reporter considers
unimportant, then all the reporter has to do is ignore it. For that matter,
there is nothing that says a reporter has to do the edits requested by an Editor
Moderator. That would, of course, result in that person not being selected again
for a test, but they certainly can go ahead and up load their report. If the
report is inaccurate, biases, or truly lame, I'll delete it, of course. I'm
beginning to believe I can cure all of this by simply not allowing edits by
anyone but an Editor. (NOTE: This is now essentially the
policy.) I still want list members to be able to ask questions and
those questions be incorporated into the report, if it seems important, by the
The main thrust of the edit policy can be found in the [Bylaws], in
Chapter 6 "Editing Reports." The current incarnation of the [Bylaws]
reflects the editing policy following the last debate/debacle that occurred
sometime back. At that point in time it came pretty close to banning member
edits because the editing was becoming over the top and outside of the spirit of
editing intended within BackpackGearTest.org (and the monitors/edit moderators, including yours
truly where being over the top as well :-) ). That is a lot of people would
often jump in with what may be considered excessive edits on a report or review,
therefore overwhelming the writer.
In the main, we have a fairly loose policy on grammatical style editing which is
focused on fixing up basic mistakes and allowing the writers style to stand,
rather than trying to impose technical writing standards. In this context, as
Chief Edit Moderator, my view is that the Test Monitors and Edit Moderators as
applicable can cover the edit quite adequately in the first instance. If they
miss some obvious typos which significantly impact on the report then by all
means the members should pipe up. However, we need to be realistic about this.
There is really no need for two or more folks to get involved in editing a
report in most instances and in particular before the official edit.
In my view, the best way that members can contribute is to pick up on points
and/or questions that can enhance the CONTENT of the report or review. This
often comes to the fore, when a member is interested in a piece of gear or has
experience with a piece of gear, and the editor or test monitor doesn't. Such
questions or comments will frequently end up in the report or review and this is
a good thing.
My experience as an Editor is that I am often focusing on the trees (editing
grammar/format/etc) that I don't get the opportunity to sit back and see the
woods (think of ways to add value to the content) and it is in respect of the
later that I feel that the members can contribute in the most positive way.
Chief Edit Moderator