* Prices may differ from that shown
Hello my lovelies! I'm not at all sure what I'm doing here in the How To Write A Good Lifestyle Opinion category. Here you can give us your thoughts on anything from the cheapest brand of toothpaste to the most expensive health spa in the country. You can tell us about the best hangover cure analgesia-wise and you can also tell us about life-threatening diseases and the treatments available for them. You can tell us what it is like to be disabled. It's just so varied. I don't write an awful lot in this section and I think that because it's so varied it's one of the most difficult to sum up with advice in an opinion. However, I may not write here much but I do know what I like to read, and there are also one or two important points I'd like to make I think. (Any and all feedback will be most welcome!) Because it's so large, because it's so varied, because I'm going to try to be brief, and with apologies to those of you who like flow I'm going to go through Lifestyle with some ugly subheading type thingies. Here we go then, my thoughts on what might make a good Lifestyle opinion: PRODUCT TYPE THINGS (YOU KNOW, THE ONES YOU BUY WITH MONEY, IN SHOPS) In Lifestyle you can write about any number of products: in the Beauty section lie a treasure trove of make up and skin care options for both men and women; in the Health section you can tell us about toothpaste or aspirin; in the Fashion section you can tell us about shoes or even hair grips for heavens sakes! I think the major thing you need to remember here is that you really don't need to pad out your opinion with irrelevant information, or a regurgitation of the blurb on the product label, or an extensive history of the manufacturer just for the sake of length. We don't want to read through a list of ingredients in a shampoo unless you have a comment to make on them, it's boring: by all means tell us that "aqua" isn't anyth ing clever, it's just a pretentious name for water, or draw our attention to an ingredient that's infamous for causing allergic reactions, but please don't bore us rigid by listing ingredients if you don't have anything to say about them. Longer isn't necessarily better. As far as manufacturers go you might like to tell us about anything you consider to have a bearing on whether we may choose to purchase the product or not ? involvement in child labour in the developing world for instance ? but we don't need to know every single thing they write about themselves in the puff on their website. Try to consider what information would make the reader more or less likely to make a purchase and give us that. So, for products in Lifestyle you need to tell us how much it is, whether it's more or less expensive than the average item in that product range, whether after using it you found it was a worthwhile luxury expense or a good value economy buy or not. In your opinion did the shampoo/toothpaste/lipstick do what it says on the tin, or not? SERVICES (PLACES TO GO, THINGS TO DO AND ALL THOSE SORTS OF THINGS) Gosh, here in Lifestyle there is as much of a cornucopia of services to write about as there are products. (I knew this opinion was a bad idea, but still, I'll press on. Nudge the person next to you if they're snoring, would you?) You can write about websites, or health spas, or hobbies, or pets or even about giving up smoking. Summing up how to write about all those things in two paragraphs or less? ARGH! Well, I suppose the operative word is "advice" and another important word to remember is "relevance". So, for example, if you're writing about your pet hamster we'd love to hear all about him, how cute he is, how much your little ones love him and we'd enjoy laughing at the anecdote about how he got lost but was found safe and sound to the relief of all. However, that may be relevant to hamsters but it doesn't really advise us much, does it? So we'd also like to know where we might purchase a hamster, how much he might cost, what is the best cage to keep him in, what he eats, how it's best to keep him healthy, happy and amused, and what problems we might encounter as hamster owner. Are the vets bills going to be prohibitive, for example? (Darn, silly example, but well, they might be if there's a specific hamster disease I don't know about, mightn't they?) Apply similar reasoning to things like giving up smoking and hobbies: do tell us about places we can go, things we can buy, services we can use and that you've been to, bought or used, if we intend to banish the evil weed from our lives or start that collection of porcelain. But, in the midst of all that worthy advice, don't forget to include yourself and your own experience. MEDICATIONS (WORRY OF MINE) When you are telling us about medications, especially prescription medications for serious conditions just be very, very careful, ok? There are a lot of vulnerable people out there. We do want to know what your opinion and your experiences are ? you may aid understanding in a much more accessible way than any medical professional does but always be aware that you may, however unwittingly, influence a vulnerable person in a way that isn't suitable for them. So if your opinion is strong, then I think it's doubly important you strive for balance. Tell us how you feel but do play devil's advocate and give us the other side of the argument too, ok? MY EXPERIENCE And here we are then. I think perhaps this is the most important point I want to make. "My Experience" sections are possibly the some of the most "sticky" on the entire site. They get lots of reads, they help us know one another better and they strengthen the dooyoo community. To me, Jill, many of the opinions written here ha ve been more than Very Useful, they've been Extraordinarily Useful. I think that they add to my knowledge not only of individuals but to my awareness and understanding of all sorts of different things. I like the sharing of experiences, I think we're all enriched by it in so many ways. And I can't possibly advise you on the best way to do that. Only you have your experience before you decide to share it and only you can decide how you'd like to tell the story. Rest assured though, that however you tell it, I will appreciate it and learn something from it. To dooyoo, however, My Experience opinions are only Very Useful in that they strengthen and encourage the community spirit in a bank of members who supply their content. Dooyoo is a consumer platform; its mission is to deliver accessible, quality information from the ordinary person on "Products and Services" not to publish creative writing or personal stories, however heart-rending or however uplifting or however interesting or amusing they might be. It is for that, consumerist, reason that crowns have been withdrawn from Speakers Corner, and for that, consumerist, reason the policy on crown eligibility has changed in any category that does not review a product or a service. Let me paste you the official blurb from the community pages where it's rather buried, you may not have seen it: "dooyoo is primarily about providing consumer information on products and services. To encourage such reviews we reward exceptional ones with 'crowns'. While we are aware that there are many non-product items on dooyoo, due to their non-consumerist nature we have decided that they should not be eligible for crowns. Speakers Corner reviews are ineligible for crowns for just such this reason. With special consideration for 'My Experience' items, this decision has been made due to the personal nature of some opinions. It was felt that by crowning some opinion s and not others we were giving the impression that one person's experience was more valid than another's. If you are writing in non-product categories you may want to consider including an appropriate and relevant consumer aspect to make it eligible for consideration for a crown award. Dooyoo will continue to crown what we feel are the best consumer opinions on dooyoo and would like to stress that this is not a cost cutting exercise. We'd love to crown more opinion than we do so keep writing them and keep clicking that 'nominate' button." A bit abstruse, I know, but let's be fair. Dooyoo aren't saying that your My Experience opinion will never be able to get a crown. They are saying that if it doesn't include your opinion and advice on related products or services it won't get a crown. Think of it as rather like the sections on jobs in Campus "My Experience and Advice" where people can tell their employment stories but also offer advice about how to go about getting a job in a particular area. Thus if you tell your story of depression (picking possibly the most difficult of subjects purposely, sorry!) you might like to talk about the different options available ? medication, counseling, therapy ? tell us which you've tried, how readily available help was from various services, whether NHS or private or via the internet or support groups, you might like to tell us which you found the most helpful and why. You might like to include contact details. You might of course decide to forego all hope of a crown (hard as it for all us dooyoo members if we're truly frank with ourselves) and just to tell your story. And to be honest, if you were writing just for me, just for Jill, that's what I'd prefer you to do. I like the personal stories just as they are, personal, and to me they are as useful as useful can be. But it's entirely up to you what you write and how you decide to w rite it. I just wanted to make this point about crowns as crowns are one of the things that cause the most upset and unhappiness around here as far as I can see. Now you know the score you can make your own choice. That's all I wanted to say really. You write in My Experience whenever and however you want to and if and when you do then you'll have my thanks for sharing your story with me. ENDY BIT (CAN'T THINK OF A SENSIBLE HEADING FOR IT, SORRY!) Of course all the usual, boring dos and don'ts apply when you're writing in Lifestyle as much as they do anywhere. Try to write offline if you can, in Word or even in Outlook Express, somewhere you can run a quick spell check before you post your opinion. Don't use textspeak. Make things easier on the eyes of us older ones by splitting your stuff up into paragraphs. Nicely spelt, paragraphed opinions DO help get your information across better, that's not snotty advice, that's real advice. The easier something is to read then the easier it is for the reader to take in the information you're offering them. And anyway, if you don't care about making it easy on the reader then you don't deserve a good rating because you're a rude person, so there. So do all those boring [snotty] things, if only to help my aging, myopic eyes. Remember that length doesn't matter, but information does. Don't pad, but don't stop short. Be relevant to the category, don't abuse dooyoo by simply paraphrasing manufacturer's websites. Give us your experience of products and services so that you help us to make a decision about buying or using them, that's all it's about really. Tell us what happened to you when you bought a product, or used a service and you won't go far wrong. Remember the golden dooyoo word, "advice": if the bulk of your opinion is your advice then you're surely on the right track. And if you're writing in My E xperience make your own choice about which way you want to go with regard to crowns. Good grief, but that one was hard to write. I hope I wasn't discouraging. I hope I was at least of some use. I think I'll head back to children's books now, it's much easier!
Having been recently made the Community Guide for the Lifestyle category, I have been thinking long and hard about what constitutes a good lifestyle opinion. One of the parts of my job is to recommend opinions for crown nominations. Other duties I have include reading every new opinion in the category, rating them fairly and leaving constructive criticism about how they could be improved. So here are a few tips and guidelines to head you in the right direction in the quest for Very Usefuls and those elusive crowns… THE CATEGORY The Lifestyle category itself covers a very wide range of things. The main headings are Fashion, Health, Beauty and Leisure. Under these headings, there are other sub-headings followed by various categories within those. To give you a rough idea, here are the main topics covered in this category :- Fashion > Clothing Stores Footwear > Accessories Lingerie (Steady, boys!) Fashion and Beauty books. Health > Fitness Complementary health Diets and Slimming > Children’s’ health problems Diseases and disorders First aid Giving up smoking Spas Personal care and hygiene Treatments and therapies for diseases and disorders Complementary / natural health Electronic health and beauty products Fitness Pharmacy Surgery Hangover (Post Fetal-Alcohol Syndrome) Eye care Foot care Health books Toothcare Products to aid disability Vitamins, minerals and supplements. Beauty > Skincare Make-up Hair care > Men’s grooming Beauty treatments Electronic health and beauty products Spas Bath and Shower Body art Fake tan / sun products Hand and nail care Perfume Antiperspirants / deodorants Depilatories / hair removal for women Fashion and beauty books Lip balms. Leisu re > Pets Hobbies Magazines > Hobbies and collecting Lifestyle websites Lifestyle forum (Topics include ‘Natural Beauty Products – Should we use them?’ and ‘The NHS and the Disabled’) Mail order catalogues Lifestyle magazines Pets. So I’m sure there’s something for everyone in there somewhere! RATING When I became a Community Guide, I received an email detailing the correct way to rate. We are supposed to reserve a Very Useful (VU) for a crown-worthy opinion or one that is almost to that standard. It is expected that we rate most opinions in our category as Useful (U) or Somewhat Useful (SU). The Not Useful (NU) ratings are only for opinions that should not be on the site – ones full of swearing or abusive language or terms, irrelevant to the subject matter and so on. ARE YOU VERY USEFUL? So, how do you write an opinion that is sure to receive a VU or maybe even a crown? Well, here are a few tips… 1) Write well. Use the correct spellings and punctuation. (It’s a good idea to write in Word and use the spellchecker.) Leave a space between paragraphs to make it easier to read. Although some of this may sound petty, it can make all the difference between a U and a VU. If I can’t read it or understand it, how can I be expected to give it a VU? 2) Include all the relevant product information. This does depend on exactly what you’re writing about (see next section) but could include where you bought it from, why you bought it, how much it cost, what it did, how it did it, how it compares to similar products you have used, how good it was and whether you’d buy it again. 3) Tell us your personal experiences. We want to know what YOU thought to it, not what it seemed like it would be from an advert. How did your skin react to the suntan lotion? How did the bra fit? Were you happy wi th the way the diet worked? We want to know how you got on with the product. 4) Make it interesting! In the past few days, I have read some brilliant opinions on such diverse subjects as moist toilet tissues to dog treats. The subject matter may sound dull, but you would be surprised what wonderful opinions can be written about them. Use your imagination, choose your words well, describe, explain. If you can write in a way which is witty or emotive or just extremely creative, even better – but you don’t need gimmicks. If it’s a classy opinion, you’ll be able to tell. It’s that X-FACTOR they were looking for in Pop Idol. SOME EXAMPLES Take, for example, opinions written on a clothes shop (Fashion), a lipstick (Beauty), a contraceptive pill (Health) and a hobby of collecting memorabilia (Leisure). This could be a kind of first draft or notes for each opinion, just to use as your bare bones. 1) A clothes shop – Where is it? (Local or national? Easy to find?) What does it sell? Accessories like hats and jewellery or just clothes? What kind of clothes – casual, smart, young and trendy, etc.? Are the items aimed at a particular age or size? (If I’m a size 20 and aged forty, I probably won’t venture into New Look On the other hand, if I’m sixteen and a size 8, I won’t care how good Evans is.) Are the clothes expensive? Give some examples of prices as what may sound a lot for a student may be comparatively nothing if you’re a pop star married to a footballer! Do they have sales goods? All year round or just seasonally? Are they discounted by a lot or just 5% off? Is the shop on more than one floor? Are there lifts, ramps or stairs? What are the changing rooms like? Are they individual cubicles or a communal room? Are the staff helpful and friendly? Do they have a returns policy? A store card? 2) A lipstick – Where did you buy it from and why? How much does it cost? What colours are available? Does this lipstick have anything special – long-lasting, moisturising properties, matt or gloss, etc.? Does it smell or taste of anything? How long does it last or does it need frequent re-applying? Does it come off on your cups or your boyfriend’s mouth? Does it suit him? (That may be another opinion altogether!) Is it better or worse than other lipsticks you have tried? Do the company test on animals? Would you recommend it? 3) A contraceptive pill - How long have you been using this? Are there any contra-indications (reasons it might not be suitable for someone to take)? Are there any side effects? (You can get this information from the accompanying leaflet, but we also want to know of YOUR experience, how it has affected YOU.) Can you stay on this indefinitely? How effective is it? How large is the pill itself? Does it have to be taken every day or only for three weeks a month? Does it make your periods irregular or lighter or heavier? Can you use it to regulate your periods, if necessary? (Some pills you can keep taking, instead of having your week off for your period – if you are going on holiday, for example.) How easy would it be to get the pill out of your system, if you decided to start trying for a baby? What happens if you miss a pill? Do you have to take a pill at the same time every day? How much leeway have you got? 4) A hobby of collecting memorabilia - What do you collect? How did you get interested in this hobby and when? How much of it have you got? Where do you store it? Is it on display? Is it an expensive hobby? How do you find new items for your collection? Is it a popular hobby? Are there any clubs or societies (online or not) for enthusiasts of this hobby? Do you belong to any? How much is your collection worth? Does it increase in value over time? Is it only of a sentimental value to you? Do you have a favourite item in your collection? Finally, a list of practical tips for anyone interested in starting a similar collection would be a good idea. AND FINALLY… I hope that has given you a few ideas anyway. The Lifestyle category on Dooyoo covers so many areas and holds so much excellent information, which is why it is my favourite category. (Books and Magazines comes second!) I love reading opinions in this section, especially if they really stand out as something particularly good. I’m looking for accurate information, details, something that is well written and makes me want to read on. I’m also looking for that little individual style that makes my face light up and makes me go ‘Ah! This one’s good!’ and hit the ‘nominate this opinion for a crown’ button. If you now think I’ve come across as being smug or a know-it-all (which wasn’t my intention!), I’m sorry. Why don’t you write a Lifestyle opinion, just to make me work that little bit harder? ;-)