Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

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Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Fri Mar 14, 2014 11:41 am

The new TR subscriptions discussion brought out many opinions. For me, it begins to blur the line between reader and client. I don't like that line being blurry. So I'm putting forth the suggestion of swinging the pendulum all the way, by allowing TR readers to suggest, recommend, encourage, decide, and ultimately fund TR research efforts.

Here's how it could work:
...1..... a page listing upcoming suggestions for new articles/reviews/etc., put forth by TR staff
...2..... a reader could also add items to the list, if that reader were willing to contribute a minimum dollar amount to fund it. No "ideas". Moderated by TR staff for obvious things like ability, tools, time-lines, etc.
...3..... each item with a dollar amount, quoted by TR staff, of what it would cost to achieve
...4..... readers would contribute e-commerce payments, together, to reach the quoted amount
...5..... TR goes ahead and does the work as always, publishing it publicly as always

Call it crowdsourcing if you like, but it's much older than that. It's simply a community (of TR readers) choosing to fund a desirable research project.

In this way, readers become bonefide clients -- paying for a service that's performed directly for them at a time when that reader actually benefits from the answer.
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 2:48 pm

I'm no marketing expert, and the idea isn't a terrible one in and of itself, I just don't see this as a viable business model. You'll just never get people to reliably (individually or collectively) pay for reviews.

And people have been paying subscriptions for access to media/entertainment for decades. Subscriptions that have supplemented ad revenue, just like what's being done here. Maybe you've never subscribed to a magazine or a newspaper, cable television, and even in some (admittedly dubious) cases, ISPs (eg AOL), just to name a few of the largest examples, and maybe you'll never want to. Fine. But does it warrant being morally opposed to it?

The key thing to remember, is that while TR can be a font of useful knowledge about consumer PC related tech that can help in making purchases, etc, whether from the articles, or forum discussions, first and foremost it is a source of entertainment, or at the very least, an amusing distraction. And paying for entertainment has been a pillar of free society since its very inception.

I'm not wholeheartedly enamored with every detail of how this has been rolled out and I didn't jump to sign up immediately. But overall, at least to me, the model they've decided to go with makes enough sense to justify giving it a shot.
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 4:05 pm

holophrastic wrote:The new TR subscriptions discussion brought out many opinions. For me, it begins to blur the line between reader and client...


Are you under the age of, say, 25? The reason I ask is that prior to the WWW being packed chock-full of information, well, you had to pay for it - books, magazines, newspapers, etc. I don't see any blurred line at all.
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 4:31 pm

Yeats wrote:Are you under the age of, say, 25? The reason I ask is that prior to the WWW being packed chock-full of information, well, you had to pay for it - books, magazines, newspapers, etc. I don't see any blurred line at all.


Can we drop this line of thinking now? Age has nothing to do with holophrastic's inability to discern a independent product review from a company's advertising.
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 4:56 pm

I think the forums offer a place where all the Gerbils could get together and beg the already-overworked staff to review a specific piece of hardware, and come up with ways to get it done, if we wanted to do it that way. Seems most hardware readers are interested in is already reviewed here, though.

Most of the time, I first hear about products because TR writes reviews of them. And I'm usually like "hell yeah that's cool," or "what a piece of crap." This is entertainment, brought to my screen, with zero effort on my part. I like being surprised by articles in this way.

If TR only did reviews of requested hardware individually paid-for, we'd have to know what hardware we were interested in first, come up with a way to pay for it, and then wait for the review. And there'd be a huge accounting headache on their part related to keeping the site afloat on that model.

Sounds like a $#!^load more work to me, and it wouldn't be fun. So I kicked in a tiny amount of money so they'd feed my lazy ass high-quality reviews with no effort from myself. Got it for freakin' FREE since 2001, glad to toss a bit of moola toward it now.
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Rakhmaninov3
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:13 pm

You mean a Bounty system where people contribute to a bounty depending on how much they want a feature implemented or bug squashed.

Here is a list of Bug Bounty programs already running. (https://bugcrowd.com/list-of-bug-bounty-programs/)

Then there are voting systems where customers get a certain number of votes. Features and bugs are submitted to a tracker, and customers vote on what they would like to see. The entries with the largest vote totals gets implemented.

You do realize this would be tyranny of the majority, and it would be easy to game the system since muppets with access to the largest bank accounts would control the content. If they're going to do that, they might as well sell out to the manufacturers and give up any semblance of independence. This would probably make the life of the TR staff easier, but it wouldn't help the community.

Any editorial leeway Scott and the crew have would vaporize. People get anxious now when the latest video card hasn't been reviewed the day after it's paper launch. It would be worse if people laid down money for the review.

Have you seen the content free junk that ends up on the front page of Reddit, and Digg before that, HuffPo, and Gawker sites? That stuff gets there because the majority of people like it. There is something to be said for content curated by a knowledgeable individual. It's the difference between a productive garden and a bunch of weeds.

There probably is room for a voting program, but it can't be the sole thing TR runs off of.
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:23 pm

The only reason this place has lasted for its 15 years is its editorial integrity. Scott has posted many times over the years about Mfg X who is unhappy about a review and, unless Mfg X can find a methodological problem, Mfg X can go suck an egg.

So much of the Web is hype, BS, and PR posing as news (or worse, reviews). The line has to be drawn somewhere and those of us who want the straight poop need to defend the line from time to time.
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:30 pm

slowriot wrote:
Yeats wrote:Are you under the age of, say, 25? The reason I ask is that prior to the WWW being packed chock-full of information, well, you had to pay for it - books, magazines, newspapers, etc. I don't see any blurred line at all.


Can we drop this line of thinking now? Age has nothing to do with holophrastic's inability to discern a independent product review from a company's advertising.


How 'bout we drop the line of thinking that questions holophrastic's ability to "discern a independent product review from a company's advertising" instead? I'm not looking to imply an insult to him/her, but it seems like you are.
Last edited by Yeats on Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:32 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:30 pm

Yeats wrote:
holophrastic wrote:The new TR subscriptions discussion brought out many opinions. For me, it begins to blur the line between reader and client...


Are you under the age of, say, 25? The reason I ask is that prior to the WWW being packed chock-full of information, well, you had to pay for it - books, magazines, newspapers, etc. I don't see any blurred line at all.


There are these things called libraries which predate the WWW, as the kids call it (Not that I'm older then you... probably), by quite a margin, and they are free. Well, tax supported free. The Egyptians even had a world class one at Alexandria for a little bit.

The mistake is assuming reader and client are different categories of people. They aren't.

Newspapers and magazines exist to sell people things. They are a delivery system for advertisements. Getting people to pay for ad delivery by sprinkling some articles they would like around them was a genius stroke.

"On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other." -
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:36 pm

Flatland_Spider wrote:There are these things called libraries which predate the WWW, as the kids call it (Not that I'm older then you... probably), by quite a margin, and they are free. Well, tax supported free. The Egyptians even had a world class one at Alexandria for a little bit.


I had considered mentioning libraries, but then the tax bugaboo bit, lol.

The mistake is assuming reader and client are different categories of people. They aren't.

Newspapers and magazines exist to sell people things. They are a delivery system for advertisements. Getting people to pay for ad delivery by sprinkling some articles they would like around them was a genius stroke.

"On the one hand information wants to be expensive, because it's so valuable. The right information in the right place just changes your life. On the other hand, information wants to be free, because the cost of getting it out is getting lower and lower all the time. So you have these two fighting against each other." -


A couple decades ago, though, newspapers were relatively light on ad space... ads were mostly relegated to specific sections of the paper. Things are different now, though.
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:03 pm

Crowdfunding projects is an interesting idea, but I guess it will be challenging to implement. For example, take reviews of products under NDA which go live at product launch. Examples:

1. For example, take launch of a new CPU or GPU.

The way it works now: CPU/GPU vendor contacts TR and sends them a review sample *before* release and asks them to sign an NDA to not release product review before set date. TR tests and releases review at a set date.

Proposed: Obviously you can't mention them publicly before NDA expires. This will mean that TR will propose projects once the CPu/GPU is released publicly and then start work on the review at an even later date. I am also not sure if CPU/GPU companies will be interested in sending the review samples so late, so in many cases each article will also require investment in terms of $$$s to buy the component. This will significantly raise the price of the review. At the same time, review will be late and not sure a lot of people will be interested in reading a review 15 days after everyone else has already published. Sure, TR has been late at a few reviews, and many loyal readers would rather wait for their review, but will *enough* paying readers be interested in such a thing?

Or even worse, think about launches for which companies fly the reporters to a different city to brief them on the product. This is again all under NDA. If TR editors do not undertake the project until the product is launched and they get funded by readers, they miss these briefings and miss their chance to ask good questions to the product folks.

2. News: Will a lot of people be willing to pay for just news?

3. I am not totally sure I will always be interested in a review at the time it is proposed. Sometimes I am buying, say, a new hard disk and I go to TR and find info. Whereas if they ask me for money to fund a HDD review right now, I might just not feel too interested. Basically, I don't know upfront which of the proposed projects/reviews i am actually interested in or might want to refer to in the future.

Overall, I feel that I would rather just pay a subscription fee and let the editors decide on the content they want to work on. I am not opposed to crowdfunding projects, but not sure if it is practical. If I want a product reviewed, I would rather make my voice heard through forums, comments or email etc. OTOH, perhaps they can add a tipping system for articles. Whether or not I am a subscriber, if i like an article, perhaps I should be able to leave a tip on it. This can be a direct feedback for them about which areas they want to expand on in the future. Tips change the equation by changing rewards from apriori to postpriori (fancy words, not sure if use correct :P).
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:12 pm

Yeats wrote:A couple decades ago, though, newspapers were relatively light on ad space... ads were mostly relegated to specific sections of the paper. Things are different now, though.


I grew up in a newspaper family (2nd generation), and it was always the ads that paid the bills for the papers. Newspapers are all about circulation numbers that can be touted in sales pitches.

The ideal of reporters and newspapers being champions of the people and a pillar of truth is a myth. I'm sure there are some that would like to think that, but it's not real. It might have been true back in the 1700s, but the news industry has been on the Gillette model for a while.
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sat Mar 15, 2014 7:49 pm

In a vacuum this might be an OK idea, but people are people and you'll end up with tons of flaming and whining when some gerbils don't get their way BECAUSE THEY PAID THEIR MONEY AND THAT ENTITLES THEM TO EVERYTHING.

The subscriber model that lets Damage &c continue what they've been doing with minimal interference would be better, IMO.
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sun Mar 16, 2014 1:26 am

bthylafh wrote:In a vacuum this might be an OK idea, but people are people and you'll end up with tons of flaming and whining when some gerbils don't get their way BECAUSE THEY PAID THEIR MONEY AND THAT ENTITLES THEM TO EVERYTHING...


I don't think "pay what you want" will make people start thinking this.

Okay, maybe those good-for-nothing Gold members might. :roll: :lol:
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sun Mar 16, 2014 11:22 am

BIF wrote:
bthylafh wrote:In a vacuum this might be an OK idea, but people are people and you'll end up with tons of flaming and whining when some gerbils don't get their way BECAUSE THEY PAID THEIR MONEY AND THAT ENTITLES THEM TO EVERYTHING...


I don't think "pay what you want" will make people start thinking this.


You don't think someone might throw a tantrum if they put money in for Scott to review $THING and then Scott doesn't review exactly the features that the gerbil wanted, or in exactly the right way? Have you ever worked with the general public?
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Re: Treating Readers as Clients or Crowd-Sourcing Research

Postposted on Sun Mar 16, 2014 12:57 pm

Yeats wrote:How 'bout we drop the line of thinking that questions holophrastic's ability to "discern a independent product review from a company's advertising" instead? I'm not looking to imply an insult to him/her, but it seems like you are.


You clearly didn't read his posts under the TR subscription announcement. You disparaged an entire generation (or two) with your comment. That's somehow less rude than pointing out holophrastic's clear issue? Seriously. Go read his posts under the TR subscription announcement and you'll quickly realize this is a lost cause.

As well. Scott already mentioned the possibility of funding specific projects via crowd-funding. Nothing here is new or unknown at the top levels of TR staff.
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