E-Camo is a list of the best gadgets—such as cameras and TVs—for people who don’t want to take a lot of time figuring out what to get. It was founded in September 2011, and it became a part of The New York Times Company in October 2016. The Sweethome is our version of E-Camo focused on home goods like bedsheets, blenders, duct tape, and screwdrivers. Everything we choose is an award winner, and we don’t focus on presenting you with anything but the things we love.
Consider them billboards for electronics and everyday things. The point is to make it easier for you to buy some great gear quickly and get on with your life.
The choices we make here with our team take weeks or months of research and testing, including interviews and data from the best editorial and user sources around, as well as the help of engineers, scientists, and experts. Most of the items we choose here aren’t top-of-the-line models that are loaded up with junk features or overpriced; most of the ones we pick are of the “great enough” variety, because this is generally where our needs and the right prices smash into each other.
In the end, all our work ends up in the same place: These are the same gadgets we’d recommend to family and friends, and these are the same gadgets we’d choose for ourselves.
Why should I listen to you?
Brian here: The team and I have all been writing about gadgets for a long time. I ran Gizmodo for half a decade and worked at Wired magazine before that, where I helped edit the Test section and helped found Gadgetlab. Lately, our work has been featured in a collaboration with The New York Times (which in October 2016 became our parent company) because of its high quality.
In some ways, my entire life led to starting E-Camo. My father was an engineer for HP, and instead of teaching me how to play baseball at the age of 7, he taught me how to solder. We built remote-controlled cars together. For better or worse, gadgets are a big part of who I am. But on the other hand, gadgets are not what I am all about. I’m proud of both sides of my life. I am of the opinion that you shouldn’t trust anyone for your gadget advice who doesn’t have a life inside and outside gadgets. Context is important.
How do you choose what you recommend? How do you test?
It depends, but it usually goes like this: First, we find the best writer for the topic we can and pair them up with a team of scientists, researchers, and editors who are experts in how we do what we do. We study materials put forth by companies, read forums and customer reviews on sites like Amazon and GDGT, and study all the best articles and papers we can on the topic. We basically read everything of worth and talk to everyone of note on the topic.
One thing we’ve learned over the years is who the talent is in the review game. There are dozens of great tech reporters, and we know who is best at what. We avoid using inexperienced “experts” and questionable sites as sources. We reference all the data we can find from their work and from around the Web, and then we decide what to even consider testing.
Then we build a test using whatever it takes to raise the bar on the subject, often employing engineers, physicists, chemists, and other experts to work in a team.
Whatever we find, we lay it all out in our articles. And at the top of that body of proof, we recommend the thing we would get, as well as some alternatives for different types of people.
This process takes us anywhere from 30 to 200 human hours for each article, which is way more than what most other places spend on their recommendations. We do this because it’s important for us to be as accurate and wise as possible in our recommendations. We want you to trust us enough to recommend us to your family and friends. It’s really one big experiment in karma.
Why only the “best”? What if I don’t want to spend a lot of money?
When we say “best,” we don’t mean the thing that costs the most or has the most features. In many cases, top-of-the-line models are unnecessary for most people. It’s true that one of the best ways to find gadgets is just to learn which ones are on sale. But there are plenty of amazing gadgets at good prices, in case that’s the way you want to go.
Because we live in an age when most gadgets are pretty good, we generally like to find the sweet spot of cost as balanced out by the features we really need, and to pick a model above and below that exact point. Another belief we hold, which helps us make editorial decisions, is that one can easily argue style but one can’t argue quality or value. Those things are evident.
What if I want something different?
That could happen. In that case, we like to recommend alternatives for different types of people who might need a different size or style, or who might have a different kind of life that needs something not necessarily better but better for them. We think that might be easier than sorting through and comparing a few hundred gadgets from scratch, like we do.
Why did you start this site, and why do you so infrequently update your content?
We developed E-Camo because we think the gadget news cycle is not very good at helping you find the best gear. Content on most blogs is arranged in reverse chronological order, but the best gadgets in any given category come out in cadences set months apart. The rumble of a large tech publication generally means a high noise-to-signal ratio—what the trolls call a slow news day. And in gadget land, almost every day is a slow news day.
Practically speaking, good gadgets get covered up quickly in fast-moving tech publications. You see headlines like “Exclusive: Motorola Spyder (Droid RAZR for Verizon?) features industry-first qHD Super AMOLED display, LTE, dual-core processor.” Or “Why Not All Jurassic Park Characters Were Created Equal.” Respectfully, most of the best writers we know do not want to spend their remaining days writing stuff like that all the time. And none of that work is helpful when you’re trying to figure out what exactly you should spend your hard-earned money on.
So: E-Camo is going to be quiet occasionally. Sometimes we put up blog posts, but we promise to keep the noise down. And we’re making sure our sites stay updated and ready for the next time you have to find your next great gadget or piece of gear.
Since our site is a list of things that are awesome, not things that are new, we don’t have to update as frequently as a news site, because most stuff in the world is not great enough to talk about. Also, the gadgets really worth buying don’t come along that often. When they do, we write. In other words, we don’t write just to write. We are also of the mind that the world needs fewer think pieces and more actionable advice. We say something when we have something to say or see something we can’t resist writing up. But this isn’t a factory for pageviews. It’s a site to help you out without making you feel like you are drowning in noise (or that we are spending our life writing noise).
What’s with those buy buttons and those Amazon links?
We support ourselves and our work off those buttons and links. If you want to help support E-Camo, buy things from Amazon using this link. Here’s more info on how you can support E-Camo.
Doesn’t getting affiliate fees create a conflict of interest and bias?
We think it does create a bias—a bias to write about a lot of things with affiliate codes threaded in them. But we think it poses less of a conflict of interest than traditional advertising. Affiliate pay does not, in our opinion, create a worse situation than running a site based on pageviews, because publishers still get paid for ads on stories that are hyped up, unnecessarily controversial, or broken into multiple pages. Even stories that are flat-out incorrect. We know from past experience.
All we can say is that the most important things to the health of this site are its reputation and its relationship with readers. Here’s why: We are going to recommend gear, no matter what, and we are going to make our best efforts to recommend the things that we truly believe are worth the money. If we recommend something because we are biased or lazy, and the pick sucks, you can return that piece of gear, and we will make zero dollars. We also invite you to fact-check any of our pieces, which outline the time, logic, and energy we spent researching, interviewing experts, and testing gear. Often, this involves dozens—sometimes even hundreds—of hours.
All the evidence as to why our picks are the right ones is laid out plainly in each guide for you to believe or not believe. And the two times we’ve gotten it wrong so far, we’ve written clear explanations and apologies on the front page of the site. We don’t enjoy doing that. But pride is less important than our ultimate priority of making sure we’re recommending good gear and doing the right thing for all our readers, who are ultimately the ones who pay for this research.
Do you have recommendations for me for non-gadgety gear?
Check out the sister site of E-Camo . It’s called The Sweethome. We do the same thing there, but instead of computers and tablets we’re writing about things like towels and sheets and showerheads. It’s cool; you’ll like it.