I first learned about Epinions.com back when it was merged with the Gamepro website in 2000. I had only just learned that I was a halfway decent writer, and it took me a bit of time to join because I had reservations about displaying my writing in such a public forum.
That was 11 years ago now. It has been 394 articles written for Epinions as of yesterday, four appearances in the Top Reviewer ranks, and 62 members who follow my work on their webs of trust (which would have been more if I didn't have people un-trusting me through the years). Its also been two cities, three styles of facial hair, three religions, and four political parties. Epinions got me noticed by the independent video game review website Netjak, which posted a couple of freelance articles I wrote before placing me on their staff from 2004 until its death in 2009. Afterward, I was discovered by Examiner.com and later, Lunch.com asked me to come give their site a spin.
I'm still with Epinions, though, and this would normally say wonderful things about the site. But I don't exaggerate when I tell you that there is one reason and one reason alone that I still write for them: It's the only site that sends me royalties on a somewhat consistent basis. That's right, I'm only in it for the money. Epinions has spent the last five or six years killing itself from the inside, making itself as difficult to write on as possible.
First of all, the censorship restrictions can be outrageous sometimes. You can't use the word "piss" on Epinions because it counts as a curse, and they won't post curse words. So if you use "piss" in the context of being very angry about something, you'll have to resort to some silly wording.
Fine. I'm a writer, so I can manage a few little vocabulary restrictions. What's far less tolerable is the way the search bar works. Epinions may be the only site on the web where you can type a book - complete with the author's name - or an album - complete with the artist - into the search bar and have clothing and furniture pop up. I'm not even exaggerating; type in what you're looking for and you have a shot at finding it that's probably just a bit lower than 50/50. The only way to find a lot of items on Epinions is to visit Google and type (item X) reviews Epinions into the search bar there. If Epinions still doesn't have what you're looking for after you've done that, they probably don't have it at all.
Using Google may well be the only way to find a number of items on Epinions, because so many aren't sectioned. It took me forever to find Phantasy Star IV on Epinions not because it didn't exist there, but because it wasn't listed anywhere. It was a ghost item, just sort of floating around in the database because the staff was too stupid to know it's a video game. I did manage to get a review of it up, but it was days before anybody noticed it.
The movie section there is in absolutely dire need of an overhaul. If you click on the top ten box office link, you'll be shown a group of movies which might have been in the top ten box office in about 2006. Again, not an exaggeration, and this is important because the search bar is such a mess and so many people visit Epinions to review movies.
Epinions has been plagued with some very serious bigs since about 2007, and so a lot of the reviews that I had written before then now can't even be found outside of my profile. My review of Welcome to the Monkey House, by Kurt Vonnegut, hasn't been found in the main database since 2008, and a lot of the other things I've reviewed just seem to fade in and out. This can cause problems sometimes if you're trying to post reviews or look at ratings or comments because they won't show up, either, and on a good day you'll just get an error message. Also, if you place anything on your wish list, it isn't going anywhere - not even if you want to remove it.
The selection of products you can review, while certainly wide, isn't nearly as large as it used to be. I made my name there reviewing vintage video games, but most of the games I want to review don't show up in the database anymore at all. I have trouble finding a lot of the simple little restaurants or food items I want to review these days, and what little outdoor equipment I review I can't always figure out if it's exactly what I'm looking for.
The Writer's Corner and buyer guides are pretty cool, though, even though there has to be an easier way to sift through all of the articles there.
Epinions is useful if you're looking for quick, small royalties, but it isn't even very good about that anymore. One of my compadres from Netjak, Alkaiser, claimed that he was able to live off Epinions for awhile when he was out of work in his home of Los Angeles. But those days are long gone, and you're lucky if Epinions gives you a few cents per article. True, writing a lot of articles can add up after awhile. But the system for tracking your earnings seems broken and random, and in some instances months can go by before the database begins placing royalties into your account.
Epinions will still pay you, and it's a good place to flex your literary muscles so they stay strong. But it's a miracle this site hasn't been completely supplanted yet.