The first thing I do before I buy a product or join a website is do a search on its name, plus the word "sucks". My logic is that if it's really bad enough to warrant avoiding, then someone, somewhere in the immaterial ether of the intertube will have sat down at their crappy blog and written about their poor experience, and I will deduce from their writing whether the product in question is bad, or that they are just an idiot. If it's the former, I'll stay away. If it's the latter, I'll buy it, possibly to spite the idiot.
For example, suppose I wanted to buy an Amazon Kindle. I don't, because I like the way books smell too much, but shut up and listen anyway. One of the first results in a search for "kindle sucks" is a blog post of "top ten reasons the Kindle will fail". I have highlighted a few of my favorites below:
1. It's big and ugly - it's no sleek iPhone
2. I wasn't invited to the launch press and blogger meeting nor is the CN feed included in the device day 1.
4. Isn't reading about the enjoyment of reading?
5. So now I have to carry an iPod and a cell phone and a Kindle?
6. Notice the large laptop bag in the demo video? That's because this guy has to carry his laptop, his cell phone, his iPod and now his kindle.
Let's say it straight up: This blog post was so soul-crushingly devoid of any real critique whatsoever that I had to scan it a dozen times just to make absolutely sure it wasn't an April Fool's joke. #5 and #6 are the same point, and both exhibit such stupendous ignorance that it makes steam shoot out of my ears (and possibly other orifices, but doctors have indicated that this might be a gastrointestinal issue). No, you douchebag, you don't have to carry a laptop, a cell phone, an iPod, a Kindle, a GPS, a CB radio transceiver, a Palm Pilot and a freaking mock tricorder. (I just carry the tricorder). Even if it was Amazon's fault that you're becoming laden with useless gadgetry, the Kindle still takes up less space than forty god damn books, or one book, for that matter.
#4 clearly denotes this man as a smacktard, and #2 solidifies my opinion of him as a petty loser who rates his personal worth by how many brown-nosing comments his blog posts get. I included #1 simply because the whole cocaine-white minimalist iBlog aesthetic is starting to nauseate me.
So, per my scientific method described before the tangential but extremely satisfying rant, if I were in the market for a Kindle, I would go out to buy one immediately after reading this man's flaky diatribe, mostly to spite him.
The other reason I prefer negative reviews over positive reviews is to broaden my horizons. For some reason, I'm the kind of masochist who just doesn't feel right enjoying something wholeheartedly. I always have to figure out what's wrong with the things I enjoy, possibly to prepare for angsty LiveJournal posts about how alonely I am. But really, after I see a movie or listen to an album that I really enjoyed, I look for reviews about it to compare & contrast. I religiously avoid reviews before I experience something, but once I've been there, it's fair game.
I enjoy reading criticisms of things that I enjoy because I feel like I learn something by reading them. Let's face it, folks: We're bad at finding faults in things that we love, but if we can explore and accept criticism generated by people who are more neutral (or make a living off of trying to be neutral), we learn more about ourselves and the world at large. "That's true," we'll think, "The Forbidden Kingdom was great fun and didn't claim to be anything more, but Jackie Chan and Jet Li did wait too long to finally make a movie together." Or, "Death Note is better subtitled in Japanese, but maybe I'm a smelly otaku who subsists on Pocky and poorly-drawn webcomics." (Full disclosure: It IS better subtitled, you uncultured swine)!
Reading a proper critique of something that I can find no faults with is humbling, and I find a lot of value in humility. It's vital in my chosen trade of programming and a fine virtue to pursue for every day life. Remember: You may love it, but someone out there thinks it sucks, and you're both right.