James Hoffmann: Room For Dissent? - Page 8

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#71: Post by happycat »

exidrion wrote:Could you not say this about movie reviewers, food reviewers, pretty much anything with subjective variation? The point is that it's a basis for credibility.
This is a common view, but basing credibility on source is a logical fallacy.

A good opinion is an argument supported by evidence and explanation, particularly if terms are defined, assumptions are identified, and personal values are laid out to clarify bias (rather than pretend it doesn't exist). Defining values and establishing bias acknowledges and dilineates which part of a subjective constructivist multiverse the opinion maker is arguing within.

Credibility itself should be a function of an argument supported by evidence and explanation. That means I would say I trust X because of the relevant evidence and logical explanation he uses to support his arguments. When he fails to do so, critical thinking demands that I no longer trust but instead inquire.

It would be nice to see this applied to reviews, opinions and argument to ensure "constructive discussion."

In the professional world, opinions that are not well founded in evidence are negligent and lead to lawsuits.
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#72: Post by rmongiovi »

exidrion wrote:Could you not say this about movie reviewers, food reviewers, pretty much anything with subjective variation? The point is that it's a basis for credibility.
I'm not entirely certain what you mean by "credibility." So he's an experienced barista. If he said, "I've used a bunch of equipment to make coffee and here's what I like and why" that would be potentially valuable information provided the "why" he described matched the things I care about. Still not, in my opinion, worth arguing about, but potentially valuable. But if he just says, "I made coffee a bunch of different ways and I think this way tastes best" that's a lot less valuable. But again, not worth arguing about. If what he says sounds interesting to me I might investigate it myself, but I'm certainly not going to like it just because he says he likes it. Everybody likes things that other people don't like. It's worth a shrug, not an argument.

And you're right. It's exactly like movie reviewers and food reviewers. You've never liked a movie that a reviewer didn't, or vice versa? Did you think that made them right and you wrong?

If all the world's greatest chefs said, "Kale is the greatest food ever discovered" I'd still hate kale. Why should I argue with them? Could I really convince them to dislike kale? Should I want to convince them? It's like arguing about cilantro. If you like it eat it and if you don't then don't. Problem solved.


#73: Post by jdrobison » replying to rmongiovi »

I agree that it's not worth arguing about. However, he's not just some random dude. Is he? I mean... He's proven himself on the world stage to be better at coffee (making it, tasting it) than the vast majority of people in the world. He's had experience with more equipment and methods than just about anyone else out there. And he's probably tasted more coffee, good and bad, than a large handful of us combined. That's quite credible. Does that make him always right? Of course not. But it does mean that if he says, "I think this method/equipment is the best result", there's a good chance he may be onto something.

But I still don't think that's the reason people don't argue with him the way they do with others. And that's what Michael was asking - he wasn't asking whether we like him or agree with him or trust his opinion. The question was, "Why doesn't JH receive the same criticism as SR, et al?" For me, it comes down to how JH delivers his message. He appears very likeable, and people want to be liked by likeable people. And he's rarely ever, if at all, putting himself out there as the end-all authority on any topic. His mannerisms, tone, word choices, etc don't entice people to pick a fight with him.

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#74: Post by walr00s »

Always a good sign for your side of the argument when you make a reasonable comparison to other well-established and relatively successful paradigms, like movie and food reviewers, and in response the people who take the other side start talking about what common English words mean. Sure, I guess if nothing means anything, James Hoffmann's background in coffee means nothing. Agreed.

I don't think (and this thread has only served to convince me further) that people who dismiss James as a random social media persona have really thought about what they're saying or why they don't like him. There are some valid reasons to not like him, but his qualifications aren't one of them. If you're saying James doesn't have credibility to talk about coffee or coffee equipment, who does? More rhetorical than anything. I don't really care what absurd hoops you jump through to come up with a reason Tim Wendelboe (a random example off the top of my head and not meant to offend anyone, Tim obviously ALSO has credibility) is somehow MORE qualified than James and that means James' opinions can be safely dismissed.

James covers mostly pretty basic, pretty well-established, and pretty scientifically proven points. He doesn't give extreme opinions. That type of thing isn't for everyone. I'd recommend him to anyone in the market for coffee equipment, though his reviews almost never give you a clear-cut "buy-this and not-this". To me, that's a good sign, because successful products often exist in overlapping market segments for a reason. I've been falling asleep listening to him read the World Atlas of Coffee (I learned about the Audible release from a Youtube video linked after Michael's video, so thanks Michael!) the past week or so. Welcome to yuppie middle-age I guess.


#75: Post by rmongiovi »

I don't believe I ever said I didn't like James Hoffman. I don't care about him enough to even mildly dislike him. He's useful when he lets me know things exist that I had not been aware of.

It seems to me you're confusing opinion with objective fact. I haven't watched a whole lot of Hoffman's videos because the ones I've seen offer only his opinion and while his opinion may be entertaining at the end of the day it's still only his opinion. I watched his video on immersion brewing. I happen to believe in immersion brewing for my own reasons. So I happen to agree with him. Do I like immersion more because of his video? Nope. If he had said "immersion sucks" would I have stopped? Nope. Lots of people have told me that pourover is superior. Have they all changed their minds now that "the Hoff" has come out for immersion? Doesn't matter to me. I like immersion for my own reasons which apply to me perfectly because I thought them up.

Compare what James does with the youtube channel "Project Farm". This guy doesn't rely on statements of opinion and his fame on the world stage to lend them credence. He performs tests. He shows you how he performed the test and he shows you the measured results of comparing multiple products. I can look at his methods and his results and draw my own conclusions based on my own priorities. That's really much more valuable than a James Hoffman video.

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#76: Post by CarefreeBuzzBuzz »

I missed this thread until I saw a Quotable Quote on it.

Hoffman, Schomer, Rao, Perger Wendelboe - Room for Ethics?

Do any of these folks actually disclose their relationships with the companies that they are discussing and reviewing. I know Wendelboe made a big deal of his transparency report and that seems true, but don't know what else he does. Anyone have views on the others.

How does this relate to dissent? Well opens up an entire different view of the original report if you know what bias there is?
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#77: Post by baldheadracing »

Except for Schomer - I don't know about Schomer - the examples that you listed are pretty much, "We declared it once or twice or a few times; we're not going to declare it every time."

My guess is the disconnect is expecting journalism ethics from consultants ... and they all (again, I don't know about Schomer) have consulting practices.

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#78: Post by walr00s » replying to baldheadracing »

Egh, I should just let this go, but seeing Hoffmann grouped with Rao here makes me bite. As far as I know, Hoffmann discloses his affiliation with any products being reviewed immediately preceding the review. He does this in every video, and if he isn't affiliated in any way he will state that he bought the product with the support of his patreon. If he uses a product (like Mylk) that he is affiliated with but it is not being reviewed, he will disclose that too. If that's not an accurate summary, I'd like to know so that I can be less naive.

I've been consuming quite a bit of Wendelboe content lately to better understand coffee roasting, and I'd say you've probably mis-characterized him as well. The only videos I've seen where he promotes any product are quite obviously paid advertisements that include one or more employees from the production company (like his Ikawa videos).

Perhaps I'm being naive, but it seems to me that the specialty coffee community has a bit more etiquette when it comes to stuff like this than most industries.

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#79: Post by Jeff »

Since this is on James Hoffmann, I agree that he takes reasonable steps to identify when he has financial interest in the product being promoted.

There have been other threads discussing if coffee professionals are properly disclosing their financial interests in relation to what a reasonable viewer would perceive as endorsement, such as What is Rao's relationship to Decent Espresso? There are links in that thread to some of the applicable FTC (US) regulations and guidelines.

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#80: Post by baldheadracing »

walr00s wrote:... it seems to me that the specialty coffee community has a bit more etiquette when it comes to stuff like this than most industries.
It's more subtle. In every video where he uses the Eagle or it is in the background, does he declare his affiliation? What about the Mignon that has been appearing in videos? He may not be reviewing the products in every video that those products appear in, but he is implicitly endorsing the use of those products. (I'm not saying that he is doing anything wrong or unethical.)

Regardless, in my unpopular opinion, it isn't a matter of etiquette or ethics, but of people's expectations. I expect bias from a consultant, even if there is no disclaimer, as it is considered ethical (in most cases) for consultants to offer confidentiality to their clients. You, or any other third party, will never have a list of all the companies that these people have ever had a relationship with. Sometimes - just sometimes - the absence of a disclaimer tells you something.

I guess that I just have a different perspective having spent a third of my career consulting.