Testhut: What I am doing in Latvia

Testhut: What I am doing in Latvia

My friend Sarah asked me if I am still teaching here in Riga, and this reminded me that I had a dead blog post here that I started a year ago and never finished writing. So here it goes: a brief explanation of what I do here.

Testhut

I am not a strong subscriber to any religion. I think that I am somewhat spiritual, but not really practicing. I grew up absolutely Lutheran and have a strong background in the standard Protestant midwestern American upbringing. With that said, I feel like there is a subtle hand of fate guiding me a bit here and there.

At the end of 2019, I was in a pretty dark place. I realized that my therapy and back treatments were no longer effective, and it was time for spinal fusion surgery. This meant that I would be unable to work for 2 months or so, and I would need to do a lot of work to get back to being somewhat normal. It was at this time that I realized I wouldn’t be able to keep up my teaching duties. I had been teaching English at a high school, Gymnasium 2 (Rīgas Valsts 2. ģimnāzijā); at a university, RTU (Riga Technical University); and at an English language school, Lingua Franca. Each of these different work environments brought different challenges and rewards, and I thoroughly enjoyed each one. I met interesting colleagues and had wonderful students, but I just couldn’t keep traveling across the city and climbing stairs and all of that. This was a few months before Covid started, so online teaching was not a reality or even a concept for me.

In the interim, I found an ad for an English-language writer at a company called Adaptive Media. The position sounded intriguing and right up my alley. They wanted someone skilled as an English writer, a good editor, and someone who loves to scrutinize and explore products and devices. In the interview, I went in-depth about how I have always loved to take electronics apart to see how they work, and how I always loved scouring automobile ads and reviews looking for the best cars. I gave them a writing sample, and had a promising interview with the founders. I told them about my back, and we negotiated that I could start working in March after my two-month recovery. It was perfect timing.

The plan was to focus on testing products and then writing reviews for products in various niches. We were modeling ourselves after other highly trustworthy sites like Wirecutter and Consumer Reports. The idea is that Europe has no real central player for giving good advice on buying products. Some countries have really good review websites, like Germany, while others have none.

So we started TestHut, and you can browse the website and take a look at some of the writing I have done there.

Electric Toothbrushes

I quickly learned about affiliate marketing, SEO concepts, and we began researching. The first niche was electric toothbrushes, so I became an expert in understanding the market. It was really amazing how many electric toothbrushes are available. I scoured review sites to see which ones were considered the best by reviewers, consumers, and experts.

Then we ordered ten brushes to test, and, after hiring another tester/writer, we began writing reviews.

I wrote a lot. I took a lot of pictures. I did home testing and tried out all the different toothbrushes—this included plaque tests which showed how terribly unclean my teeth are! It was a really fun job that was a bit quirky but always interesting.

It took way longer than expected. It ended up taking months to test all the brushes and then write all the articles. Then we had to publish them.

Frying Pans

After toothbrushes, we tested frying pans, and I became an expert in all the different kinds of frying pans. I loved to cook, so this niche was incredibly enjoyable. After researching, we ordered ten metal pans and ten nonstick pans to test.

We made crepes for people at the office as well as steaks, burgers, and lots of other foods. We put the various pans through torture tests to see if they could survive overheating, scratching and burnt sugar and rice.

Again, it took months of home testing and lab testing to research and understand frying pans. Then I wrote dozens of articles focusing on our tests.

Air Fryers

The last niche we completed was air fryers. This was a new and interesting technology for me. At first I thought that these things were going to be useless—the typical kitchen appliance that you use one time and then forget about. But I was so wrong!

After testing ten air fryers, I learned that these are incredibly versatile and useful machines, if you get a good one. I took one home to test, and now I use it almost every day.

Robot Vacuums

Now we are testing robot vacuums. I haven’t started writing reviews yet, but this is also a super interesting niche that came with a lot of variety and surprises. Again, these are much more useful little critters than I expected, and I wouldn’t mind having one myself.

SEO Writing

My other work involves writing articles not based on testing but just research. These are SEO articles that still give product reviews, but they are not as long or as in-depth as the TestHut articles. This has been the bulk of my work for the past few months, and I have reviewed so many different products from child car seats to coffee grinders to every kind of food processor known to man.

Most of these articles are translated and published in Sweden among other countries throughout Europe.

Adaptive Media

I work with mostly Latvians who all speak English (it is our official company language). We have two offices, one in Riga and one in Valmiera, although, since the pandemic started, I have mostly worked at home other than when we do product testing. I really love my work and my colleagues, and it has been such an adventure to do something beyond teaching after putting 20+ years into that profession.

Final Thoughts

I will say that I do miss the constant interaction that teaching provided. I miss hearing young people talk and having a constant stream of new students each year. Teachers’ brains are definitely different, and mine is still adjusting to not having that constant hum in the background of so many things to do that you don’t even know where to start.

I do not miss spending hours marking papers. I have a few teacher friends here, and every time they complain about having to grade stacks of essays, I thank whatever force brought me to where I am today.

Side note:

I also do English editing for various publications and academic writers here, and we still have our app Fantasy Brackets out there in the ether. I love having lots of different things going all at once.

More photos of product testing

You must have something to say...

%d bloggers like this: