I agree that reader reviews should be unrestricted. However, I've found more and better reviews by searching the forums here, although it takes a lot longer. I suppose it's hopeless to try to steer folks into posting on the Reader Reviews instead of in the forum when reporting on a piece of new gear?
A few of the reader reviews that I checked when trying to make "buy" decisions weren't worth the space given them. Here's one of those (slightly summarized and with many changes to protect the guilty), but it really was no more informative than this:
"I took this [piece of gear] to XYZ State Park last weekend. The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed using the [piece of gear]. This is an awesome [piece of gear]."
Somehow I didn't find that review very helpful! Most, though, contain much more detail and information about performance in inclement conditions, which is the sort of info I believe most of us look for when making decisions.
I would be fine with official BPL reviews (the ones for members only) if they used similar criteria as past ones, such as the recent SOTMs on lightweight and frameless packs (even if the poor ULA Ohm did get left out of both articles due to differing criteria on what constitutes framed vs. frameless), the one on down jackets and the classic SOTM on single-wall tents a few years ago.
All reviews necessarily contain a subjective element, and this is to be expected. There's plenty of subjectivity in the BPGT reviews, too, even with their standardized format. I'd rather read the subjective views and then make up my own mind as to whether those opinions affect me than end up with a simple rehash of the info on the manufacturers' websites. The same is true of regional reviews. Different regions of the US have a lot more in common than some think. An example is the eastern US and the Pacific NW--both get lots of rain, just not at the same time of year.
A lot of the past SOTM reports had numerical ratings, too, such as the one on single-wall tents a few years ago. IMHO, that one was the gold standard and the reason we were so hard on the SOTM that came out this week. That one and the one on down jackets definitely affected my "buy" decisions and I wasn't sorry for either purchase.
Remember the review of the original NeoAir? Remember how we all rejected the criticisms stated in it, especially the one about noise? (Just in case you think the "negativity" about this week's SOTM is something new!) Well, that was one item I was sorry that I bought (fortunately, I had sense enough to buy it at REI so I could return it). It wasn't for the reasons stated in the review, though, but simply that I could never get comfortable on it--I could never find the "sweet spot" between my hip bone hitting the ground and the pad's being too hard--and that every time I rolled over it "bucked me off." I think one of the reviewers did mention rolling off the pad, and I should have paid more attention to that!