When my preference is the opposite of popular opinion

Somehow I was reading about gear shifters, and I came across a post on a blog called “Street Level”. In his post, the author writes that he had the opportunity to drive a car with Jaguar’s J-Gate shifter.

He loved it:

…after spending a few days driving the car I realized that it was hands-down the best automatic transmission shifter I have ever used. I liked it so much that I re-read one of the Jaguar reviews in a magazine I had handy to make sure I had read it correctly. Sure enough, this shifter which has been the bane of seemingly every magazine editor that had ever used one was my number-one favorite.

I honestly do not know what all of the complaints were about, as I have never had the shift pattern of an automatic transmission much affect my driving experience, but what really surprises me is how much I prefer Jaguar’s approach where the popular opinion seems to be the opposite.

Indeed, elsewhere on the web, the J-Gate shifter was widely criticized. Nick Nguyen wrote:

Jaguar’s J-Gate for their automatic transmissions was created as a means for manual gear selection on automatics, and it was a disaster.

Eventually, Jaguar discontinued the J-Gate, and they were praised for that move.

This reminds me of all the times that I’ve read– and believed– negative reviews about anything on the web. Before buying a new product or service, I like to read other people’s reviews. I like to feel like I’m making a fully informed decision, and that I know what to expect.

However, these reviews typically represent popular opinion. Very frequently, my own opinion is radically different.

The most common example that comes to mind is Yelp. There are more high-quality restaurant reviews on Yelp than anywhere else, and it’s a very popular resource for people who are trying to decide which restaurant to patronize. Sometimes, I agree with the reviews; but at least half the time, I totally disagree. On numerous occasions, I’ve gone to a restaurant highly-rated on Yelp, only to find that it is remarkably formal and rather expensive, despite having only one or two dollar-signs ($) on Yelp. It may have a very high, near-five-star rating, yet– in my opinion– mediocre food, with small portions, too much sauce, fancy dishes, too much seasoning, and so on.

In other words, my tastes are just radically different from popular opinion.

I wonder if this is a common problem. Does popular opinion represent 70% of the population? 50%? Or maybe even less?

We should remember not to believe what we read. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure… and vice-versa.

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