Is the PS5 actually a sausage?

The PS5 is pretty great, as are sausages. But it turns out it’s good SEO when sites attempt to wring out absurdly long articles from questions that can be answered using a single word, and so it’s time for Revert to Saved to get in on this gig. For those of you wondering whether the PS5 actually is a sausage, we will answer your question right here. Eventually.

The PS5 is, of course, a games console. You can play games on it. You might like games, or you might not. We’re going to spend a little time here now linking to some games, because the editor said “write 500 words on this”, and he’s threatened everyone with only covering Mario Kart Tour forever if we don’t comply. So, anyway, God of War, Driveclub, and Red Dead Redemption 2 are all PS4 games that will probably get sequels on the PS5.

The new question – which we made up while drunk – is our attempt to get loads of people to click here for no good reason, despite the fact we could (as we’ve already outlined) have answered said query in just three characters or less. We could even have done that in really big letters. But we’re not allowed, because reasons.

And sausages are sticks of meat, in case you were wondering. Some people eat them. Some people don’t like them. If you were reviewing sausages as a game, you might give them 7/10 and say “you’ll like them if you like this sort of thing”, to try and keep the publisher of sausages happy. (Do sausages have publishers? Hey, there’s an idea for another article. This is fucking gold.)

OK, now we need a big heading, to get back the attention of readers who may have drifted off at this point.

Is the PS5 actually a sausage?

The PS5 is not actually a sausage.

Now the question has been answered, but WordPress reckons we’re still 200 words short. Shit. So we still need to bang on for another 200 words or so. At this point, embedding a video would be a good idea, to keep people’s interest.

OK, so that’s not a PS5 as a sausage, but it’s pretty close, combining the innards of a toy parrot and a large sausage. (Thanks to Paul Granjon for the above classic.)

Unfortunately, meat-based consoles are mostly a thing of the past, or perhaps we just dreamt them up after watching Videodrome one too many times. But since there’s no PS5 sausage, you’ll just have to wait until Sony makes one, or make one yourself, shortly before getting carted away to a room with padded walls.

Oh, man: 439 words. This is tiring stuff. Aha! Let’s just end on a generic bit about how we here at Revert to Saved thoroughly review every meat-based console we recommend, using industry standard prods and fork stabs to evaluate said gadgets. We’ll always tell you what we discover, even if you don’t want us to. So tell us what you think by emailing the editor. And leave us out of it, because our work here is done, and we now need to shower off the dirt.

A previous version of this article was based on the PS4. It’s now based on the PS5, because someone noted this would be better for traffic.

November 5, 2019. Read more in: Humour, Writing

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Testing times: too much online ‘critique’ now skips past a writer having first-hand experience

I write a lot of app and game reviews and round-ups. My work covers iOS, tvOS, watchOS, Android and the Mac, and my various app store accounts have many hundreds of apps lurking within. When I write about a product for a ‘best of’ list, it’s because I’ve tried something that I want to recommend to people — a fairly simple concept that was for a long while the cornerstone of reviews-based journalism.

Today, something really hit home that’s been nagging at me for a long time. I was browsing my RSS feeds and chanced across a recommendation for a watchOS app that sounded really amazing. It was extremely simple, but had a use-case that would benefit a large range of people. The website reviewing it in a round-up was glowing.

I installed the app. On the iPhone, it worked well, but on Apple Watch, it was essentially broken. It didn’t do what it was supposed to do, was fundamentally flawed in terms of concept and execution, and even continued wittering away in the background to the point I had to force-close the app.

My question was how much — if at all — the app was tested before someone penned the write-up I read. And this is far from an isolated case. I now so often see apps and especially games recommended despite being objectively mediocre. But in also receiving the press releases for said products, I unlike the vast majority of readers see a flow from marketing agency to readers’ eyes.

When I mentioned this on Twitter earlier, I had a couple of quick replies. One person noted that the difference between someone rewriting a press release and providing an opinion based on testing is the difference between a bad and good writer. But the current market for journalism makes things complicated. As someone else remarked, there’s diminishing incentive to put the work in any more, and so people don’t.

That in itself is of course a big generalisation, but I’ve spent the past few years watching publications close, including two of my absolute favourites I ever got to work on: Tap! and Adam Banks’s superbly revamped MacUser. Elsewhere, belts are tightened every year, resulting in print magazine page counts falling, and rates everywhere being squeezed, leading to lower pay per item or fewer commissions for writers. But simultaneously, readers are usually unwilling to pay. Magazine circulation figures almost never rise, and ad-blockers have cut one of the remaining sources of funding for many publications.

Some magazines and sites are, naturally, still fighting the good fight, and affordable subscriptions and patron-based models offer some hope for the future; but even when asked for direct support from a publication they love, it seems a great many readers will hope someone else will plug the financial hole, and anyway there’s plenty of other stuff to read online, for free.

A couple of years back, I wrote for Stuff that we should pay for the things we love, or we’ll be left with garbage. I still believe that. But, worse, it now increasingly appears what will be left is a slew of content driven primarily by marketing rather than a writer’s experiences with it, and how will readers know any different if this is all that remains?

April 21, 2016. Read more in: Opinions, Writing

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The transient nature of modern tech writing

My first professional writing commission was for Cre@te Online, a magazine for web designers. I’d for months been feeding pithy quotes to an editor, but got made redundant from the web bit of a marketing department during a boom-and-bust cycle.

The editor sweetly immediately offered me the back page (which was typically a fun op-ed), before presumably coming to his senses and hastily asking: “You can write, can’t you?” Fortunately, I’d been penning a monthly column for a now-defunct Mac website, and so had at least a little proof I wasn’t going to file something incomprehensible, in all-caps. And in crayon.

When the issue with my column arrived, I was thrilled to see my words in print, and this kickstarted a big change in my life that has lasted to the present day. Now, the vast majority of my income comes from smashing words into shape. But the difference today is the shape is rather more malleable.

Once, I made a point of owning a copy of everything I wrote. It felt important to me to have in my hands the words I’d created. But eventually stacks of magazines built to the point there was a good chance someone would one day remark: “Yes, it’s all very sad. They found him under a pile of Internet Advisors and MacUsers.”

I switched to only keeping covers and the pages I’d written, but sooner or later even gave that up. The reasons were twofold. First, magazines were getting too expensive and I was writing for a wider range. I had no hope of getting hold of everything, and publishers became increasingly reluctant to send contributors free copies of magazines. Secondly, I more often ended up writing for the internet.

I estimate that over half of my current writing is online-first. Many pieces are written, edited, and rewritten. They become ‘word Lego’ building blocks editors use for other features. Website copy is recycled for magazines, and magazine work finds itself online. It’s sometimes hard to know what you wrote; there’s little record of changes and no sense of permanence.

In a sense, I quite like this modern fluid nature of words. That something written for a time (such as a review, or round-up of products) can be updated is like an injection of new life — a temporary reprieve before the inevitable obsolescence that eventually comes to the vast majority of writing, tech-oriented or otherwise. But a part of me does miss that set-in-stone quality of finely crafted words, and the knowledge that they would remain in that configuration forever.

March 9, 2016. Read more in: Opinions, Writing

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Maclash: the unfortunate modern tendency of tech reporting to spew bile rather than inform readers

Regular readers of Revert to Saved — and indeed my other writing — will be well aware I can be opinionated. But something I aim to do — even here — is ensure snark and rants are underpinned by facts and reason. Of late, it appears tech reporting has vanished down a rabbit-hole of link-bait madness.

On watching Apple’s latest event, where it unveiled the new MacBook, more details about Apple Watch, and my personal favourite new Apple thing, ResearchKit, I knew people would fire up their gripe cannons. I just wasn’t entirely prepared for how far they’d go.

First came a piece in the Guardian, where Hannah Jane Parkinson helpfully suggested that “only a tool would buy the Apple Watch”. The feature’s clearly open-minded approach defined, she went on to offer a load of ridiculous interpretation, spin and FUD about Apple’s new product that reminded me of the kind of garbage you’d read on a mindless Apple blog, rather than a supposedly respectable publication like The Guardian.

Next, TechCrunch’s Matt Burns referred to Apple’s new MacBook as the company’s “latest betrayal”, because Apple has had the audacity to do what it’s done only loads of times before and omit what it considers soon-to-be-obsolete technology. If anything, the piece injects even more stupid sauce into the mix than The Guardian’s. Gems included arguing the new MacBook has “more in common with a tablet than most laptops”, and the ridiculous suggestion the Intel chipset inside the machine “likely doesn’t provide enough oomph to play computer games, but it should render GIFs just fine”. Ooh, you BURN, Burns! Plus that will come as a shock to all the professionals I know doing highly complex work on older and far less powerful Mac notebooks.

As the internet and tech coverage evolves, it feels like we’re witnessing a shift from survival of the fittest to survival of the inane. Pieces more often resemble personal soapboxes, omitting facts to fit agendas, and punching intelligence until it’s bloodied and broken. This does readers a disservice, and should be left for personal blogs.

March 11, 2015. Read more in: Apple, Technology, Writing

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On paying writers for their work

Stuart Dredge has written about the recent online row about paying journalists. The short of the story is Nate Thayer was asked to repurpose an article for The Atlantic for no money, and countless toys were rapidly thrown out of countless prams by countless writers, bloggers and people who just really like throwing toys out of prams.

Dredge is calmer than most, and argues against the commonplace default position these days that people should always be paid for writing.

My wife and I have a site called Apps Playground, about children’s apps, which is profitable (to the tune of £20-£30 of App Store affiliate fees a month, once hosting costs are deducted) as long as you don’t factor in the time we spend writing it. So we’re writing for free, but it’s our own thing.

If someone – say a big technology site like TechCrunch or Mashable – asked me to write the kind of stuff I do for The Guardian for them for free, would I? Obviously no. If they asked me to do a guest piece for free in my role as Apps Playground co-founder, with a link to the site? Obviously yes. Different hats.

On the surface, this looks similar to the regular ‘write for us in return for exposure’ offer every seasoned writer I know gets from publications on a fairly regular basis. As Dredge notes, writing for free is about the trade-off—whether or not you will potentially see more overall long-term value/income in return for giving away some of your time.

That said, this is looking at things from an individual’s viewpoint rather than a wider context. When publications—especially online—trend towards unsustainable rates (or in many cases, no rates), everyone’s individual one-off potentially leads to a situation where no-one gets paid. As someone who’s almost entirely a professional writer these days, that scares the shit out of me. Having been doing this gig for well over a decade now, with (so far) precisely no editors hunting me down and repeatedly punching me in the face while yelling about inaccurate use of interrobangs, I like to think I’m doing a pretty good job of things. But even so, it’s hard to see how it’s possible in the long term to compete against free, if that’s the way things go.

Dredge notes:

Perhaps, too, there are simply too many journalists, and new digital economics mean we’ll have to work harder and scrap smarter to stay in the game. There’s an interesting parallel with musicians here, I think, which is probably a separate article in itself.

He may well be right. Perhaps the entire creative sector is moving towards an end point where the vast majority of those within it—even those who’d previously had long and healthy careers—simply won’t be able to survive. Writing, music, and other creative endeavours could become little more than hobbyist pastimes, filling an hour in an evening before the creator goes to bed, ready for another day doing a ‘proper’ job, whatever that might be. That doesn’t so much horrify me as make me incredibly sad. If we cannot find a place and see value in creative tasks, I think we’ll be poorer for it and publications/other outlets will increasingly become unfocussed; however, perhaps with more people having a voice, diversity will flourish, great new creators will break through, and people will start once again thinking about paying directly to read, watch or hear more work from them, rather than waiting until they’ve a spare evening to craft something new.

Update: Gary Marshall adds his thoughts.

March 7, 2013. Read more in: Opinions, Writing


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