I saw the search phrase “labware complaints” led someone to my blog and felt like commenting on that, today. More to the point, I will comment on the issue of finding product complaints in our laboratory informatics industry.

Generally, the internet isn’t the place to find complaints on these products. Whether it’s the LabWare product or others, most people won’t go out in  public and publish anything useful regarding these products. Mainly, people are concerned about being sued for saying negative things about products. Even when they have something positive to say, they don’t want to encourage someone else to buy that product in the event that that purchaser’s project ends up a failure — the original person does not want to be blamed if the purchase is not a good fit.

Occasionally, you’ll find negative or positive things about products but most are worthless. The negative comments tend to be gripe-fests and the positive tend to be overly rosy pictures from people who often tend to be too new to these projects to understand the depth of them. Neither gives anyone the depth of a real view of the product.

As usual, people don’t want to put their opinions into writing, either in e-mail or in a post to the internet. As has been the case for many years, people will sometimes give their true, unvarnished and detailed opinion, verbally. Even then, they hesitate to do so. Even then, they hesitate to share this with someone they don’t trust — and they don’t trust you, the person looking for this information, because you’re a complete stranger to them.

Thus, as usual, the only way to get good information is to “know the right people,” which is hard work because it requires creating and maintaining relationships with other people in the industry and keeping up with those contacts. After all, if you meet someone briefly at t conference, exchange business cards, then call them up a year or two later and ask for their deep opinion on something, they might possibly remember you but don’t necessarily have a strong feeling of trust just based on that initial, brief meeting.

For years, people in our industry have talked about creating real product review web-sites but that’s all it’s really been is talk. It doesn’t take off because no-one wants to spend the time on it or take the risk on being taken to task (or sued) for their opinions. So, we can complain about this all we want, but meeting others in the industry remains the one tool available to all of us to get and share information. And if you don’t give it, you aren’t going to get it, so don’t be stingy with your information if you think you’ll ever need someone else’s help. People can evaluate this a lot better than you think they can.

Gloria Metrick
GeoMetrick Enterprises

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