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OPINION: Review Units Hurt the Audio Community - Page 3  

post #31 of 149
Thread Starter 

Surprise! I am going to post. This probably makes me look weak. Go ahead and attack me with giant emoticons if you think it does. But the discussion that we having RIGHT NOW in this thread is the discussion I was told would lead to this thread being locked or deleted, and that is part of the reason I gave up. Since the thread hasn't been locked or deleted yet, I will respond.

 

For all the insinuations that I am some kind of socialist or communist, I am neither. I think capitalism is wonderful. I love people being rewarded based on the merit of their work and not for lobbying the right people or giving out the right bribes. The latter is crony capitalism, and I hate it. The proposal I made - the proposal that I was forbidden to talk about on this forum - is what I think is a logical market based mechanism for letting reviewers do their work while removing perverse incentives for reviewers and manufacturers to concentrate on PR.

 

Whether you think individual reviewers can control their biases or not (I think studies have shown that this is doubtful), I think you can agree that if there is an overall incentive to create more positive reviews, this exposes manufacturers to less scrutiny about their products. A less critical and accountable environment allows for large manufacturers to manipulate the market by providing review units to selected opinion leaders. It also allows them to introduce products that are increasingly expensive because reviewers benefit from a mutual relationship where both parties gain visibility for talking about products that would otherwise be unaffordable. It means that the stronger companies are the ones that have better PR and not better products, it is crony capitalism, and I hate it.

 

Crowdsourcing is not a perfect solution, but I think it is a BETTER solution because consumers have more of a desire than manufacturers to see negative reviews, and crowdsourcing makes the reviewer responsive to consumers and not manufacturers.

 

An aggregated pool of money is fine, but again that is open to all kinds of infighting and corruption. I don't have all the solutions. As I stated in my original post, I wanted to move the community towards thinking about crowdfunding as a possible solution, and I wanted to start a thread TALKING about alternative models. My original post was not a pitch or a money grab. I stated in my post and I will state again, I think there are many reviewers who I think do a better job than I do and who I think deserve the direct support of the community. And we don't know what will work unless we begin a community discussion about it.

 

I am upset about the moderation of my comments because I am trying to propose a progressive solution, and I was moderated not because I am a scammer or a spammer, but because the moderators took the opinion that my solution has no merit and therefore not worth the potential risk of discussion. The moderators indeed have a mandate to address spam and scams. But nothing of the sort has yet occurred unless you believe that I am patient zero, so I would view their moderation decisions partly as a way of curbing a potentially uncomfortable discussion.

 

Why is the conversation uncomfortable? Because the same argument made for crowdfunding reviewers is the same argument for why Head Fi itself should be crowdfunded. I have become increasingly upset at seeing Head Fi become a place for advertorial disguised as information. From the constant positive reviews featured on the front page to the suppression on discussions of objective tests, to the unaccountable closed door moderation decisions, to the failure of moderators to enforce rules that dictate that reviewers must disclose how they receive review units and on what basis. I am sure that from the early days Jude has worked very hard to make the forum what it is today and that has involved a lot of painstaking work establishing relationships with sponsors. But at the same time I think these incentives have caused Head Fi to become a place that is more responsive to sponsors interests than the community.

 

You can disagree with me and that is fine and that is why I wanted to talk about this in the first place. I offered numerous times to Jude to reformat my piece so that no mention of my own personal interest was made. The end result is that I started a discussion with no suggested solutions and now I am being called a wrecker or a crybaby. Aside from these personal attacks, I think my proposal has merit and should be openly discussed. If it can't be openly discussed because of moderation decisions, then so be it. But if that's the case then I do not see how it is good for me to in some small way sustain a organisation that I believe distorts the market.


Edited by a_recording - 6/30/14 at 11:16pm
post #32 of 149
Quote:
Originally Posted by a_recording View Post
 

Surprise! I am going to post...

 

And, once again:

 

That such a self-crowdfunding campaign is run through a crowdfunding site doesn't make it any different to me than if someone posted a thread in the forums to say, "I'm a reviewer, please send me money to buy gear to review, and possibly even to cover some of my living expenses. You can PayPal me at paypal@acme.com," which is a type of thread neither I nor any of the other moderators here would allow. Using a crowdfunding site doesn't make it any different than that.

 

To be clear, I have no problem if you or anyone else wants to raise money for gear, living expenses, tuition, etc.--this just isn't the place it's going to happen. You have your channel, you have your website, and those would certainly be more appropriate places to ask for direct monetary support for you, your channel, and/or your living expenses.

post #33 of 149
Reviewer samples should be returned or bought. "I believe this is so good that I decided to buy it" says it all.
post #34 of 149
Thread Starter 

@Jude, I accept that this is your decision, but my original post was not of that nature. You could simply allow one thread to talk about crowdfunding while still enforcing the rule that reviewers cannot constantly spam specific crowfunding pitches in their written posts. Threatening to lock this generalised discussion thread if it simply turns towards a discussion of crowdfunding is not reasonable and it is the reason I am very angry.

post #35 of 149
Quote:
Originally Posted by a_recording View Post
 

@Jude, I accept that this is your decision, but my original post was not of that nature. You could simply allow one thread to talk about crowdfunding while still enforcing the rule that reviewers cannot constantly spam specific crowfunding pitches in their written posts. Threatening to lock this generalised discussion thread if it simply turns towards a discussion of crowdfunding is not reasonable and it is the reason I am very angry.

 

It's not about a stream of constant crowdfunding pitches here. It's the fact that we wouldn't allow anybody to make a post that says: "I'm a reviewer, please send me money to buy gear to review, and possibly even to cover some of my living expenses. You can PayPal me at paypal@acme.com."

 

Again, if someone wants to ask people to send him money to buy gear and cover his living expenses, that's fine--but this is not the place it will happen.

 

If you think I'm the only forum administrator who would not allow this, then good luck trying other forums. I think you'll find out quickly I am not alone.

 

Keep in mind that I'm not only a forum administrator here, but a forum citizen here and on many other forums. And as someone with absolutely no financial interest in any of those other forums I participate in, I can assure you I wouldn't want to see those kinds of pitches at any of those forums either.

 

And, in this thread, I agree with Brooko:

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brooko View Post
 

Well I shall put my 2 pennies in.

 

While I agree a little with what Lachlan is saying about bias - I see it as no different, or having less impact, than our own personal bias / preference.

 

I saw the original post - with all the talk about the alternate funding idea.  In fact I wrote a very long reply only to have it disappear when I clicked submit, and it vanished along with the thread.  So I'll go over some of what I originally tried to say.

 

The issue Lachlan - is that what you are proposing presumes that all of the reviewers are affected by this bias you're talking about.  I genuinely think that some of the more trusted reviewers out there aren't - or at least the ones I trust.  The second issue is that you were proposing an alternative that would only benefit you - and was clearly (in your initial post) a violation of the TOS - at least it appeared so to me.  In fact I can't really understand your rant on youtube either.  You seem to be confident in painting all reviewers with the one brush.  This is wrong.  By setting up this alternate idea, you would only end up with an extremely small core of reviewers - and there is definite benefit for you - as you get to buy / review / keep what you want, at the exclusion of everyone else.  I mean - why would people financially support (regularly) many different reviewers.  It would be different if it was going to a pool open to everyone who contributes - but good luck with managing that one.  Equality of donation, equality of order selecting and reviewing gear, who pays shipping etc.  It's a nice thought - but what happens when stuff starts going missing (it happens).

 

For my part - I started writing reviews because it helped get my thoughts in order, it promoted discussion, and I enjoyed (still do) writing them.  It's not for ego.  It's not for money.  It's not for free gifts.  It's for the enjoyment, and because I love the hobby, and I enjoy the community feedback.  I started with my own gear - and looking back on some of my early reviews now, I openly laugh at how naive I initially was,  how subject to bias my reviews were, and how very little experience with gear translated into hype for some products that weren't really that good.  I try to bring a measure of objectivity to counter my own subjectivity - and I still think the idea is to promote discussion, and evaluate all view points - rather than promoting hype.

 

As I stated above - I'm not paid.  Nothing I write generates revenue in any form for me.  I have (in the last 6-12 months) had companies approach me to try their gear and review it. I have only ever approached one company - and asked if there was a possibility of reviewing a headphone.  The company agreed.  I offered to pay freight there and back.  Apart from that I have put my name forward when suppliers have posted looking for testers - their choice for selection - but other manufacturers have approached me.  When I am approached, I always make sure the ground rules are clearly understood - and if it is a first time, I usually offer to pay the freight at least one way.  That way the manufacturer knows that I'm prepared to just have the gear long enough to review it.  With a lot of the manufacturers - they have told me afterward just to keep the gear - which is good for future comparisons - but I haven't solicited it.  It has been their call.  I've also had a few offers to buy the gear at a discounted rate - and I have taken advantage of this on a couple of occasions.  The freight to NZ is not cheap - so not sure if this has a bearing.  I have also offered to pay full price for an IEM that I was particularly enamoured with (I still use it).  They appreciated the offer - but told me to keep it, and just buy a replacement from them if I ever needed one.  Eventually I will probably take them up on that offer (if it breaks).

 

Getting to keep the gear is nice - but it's not the hook a lot of people think it is.  I have maybe a dozen boxes of sample gear in my wardrobe.  It's good to have there for comparisons at a later date - but for many of the items, they simply do not get used (as I have better gear that I've paid for myself).  The gear I have been given cannot be ethically sold (against the TOS here anyway) - so really there is not a lot of financial incentive.  If I get too much gear, I'll offer to either return it to the manufacturer, or (if they are agreeable) donate it to a raffle with proceeds going to charity.

 

I have had the occasion to write a fairly negative review - and I didn't try to soften the blow.  I gave my honest opinion.  I did first contact the manufacturer, tell them what I intended to do and why.  The contact was very understanding - told me to post the review - and seemed happy I gave an honest opinion.  I would do the same with any manufacturer even if it meant never getting review gear from them again.  Ethically - it is against my nature to do anything else.  Funnily enough I haven't been approached by the same manufacturer again.  But I look at this as their loss - not mine.

 

Sorry for the long post - but as you can see, whilst I understand where Lachlan is coming from, I cannot agree with the way he went about it, and I also do not see his solution as viable, or ideal for anyone else but him.  I also understand Head-Fi's position - and actually agree with them.  I'm very surprised at the youtube video that was posted.  Personally I find that method of "having a crack" at someone both unethical, and a little immature.  Describing the moderation/atmosphere here as "toxic" is simply unwarranted.  If you have an axe to grind - IMO this was not the way to do it.  I used to moderate a Linux forum a few years ago, so I understand exactly how difficult moderation is.  These guys are unpaid - and do their job simply because they believe in the site, and want to contribute.  It's not easy to moderate - and especially difficult when you are simply following the stated TOS - especially when the real issue is the person who claims they are being targeted.

 

Laclan - I will miss your insights, your reviews, your contributions.  I sincerely hope that you can manage to patch things up - so that you can continue to contribute here.  The community would be a richer place for your presence here.  But ultimately that choice is yours ........

 

And I agree with billybob_jcv:

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by billybob_jcv View Post

I still don't understand why any of this is news or why suddenly, after 13+ years of head-fi, it has now become the reason to march on Detroit. IMHO, it's neither.

Drama for the sake of drama, I guess.
 

Regarding bias toward sponsors:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/197776/sennheiser-hd650-appreciation-thread/10905#post_9180061

post #36 of 149
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jude View Post
 

 

It's not about a stream of constant crowdfunding pitches here. It's the fact that we wouldn't allow anybody to make a post that says: "I'm a reviewer, please send me money to buy gear to review, and possibly even to cover some of my living expenses. You can PayPal me at paypal@acme.com."

 

Did I make that post? Did I say those words? Did I not offer to remove any and all references to my own crowdfunding campaign? None of these solutions satisfied you. I understand if you want to moderate other posts that are direct pitches. I did not make a direct pitch, I offered to edit my post to make it even more obscure.

 

Nothing prevents you from simply making a rule that states that people are not allowed to pitch crowdfunding campaigns on Head Fi (unless they are paid sponsors of course). But a generalised discussion about crowdfunding is apparently not permitted, and I am left to think that you considered my opinion to be spam.

 

As for bias towards sponsors, I think it is arguable that the videos and the buying guide that you produce are indeed advertorial disguised as information. 

post #37 of 149
Quote:
Originally Posted by a_recording View Post
 

Did I make that post? Did I say those words? Did I not offer to remove any and all references to my own crowdfunding campaign? None of these solutions satisfied you. I understand if you want to moderate other posts that are direct pitches. I did not make a direct pitch, I offered to edit my post to make it even more obscure.

 

Nothing prevents you from simply making a rule that states that people are not allowed to pitch crowdfunding campaigns on Head Fi (unless they are paid sponsors of course). But a generalised discussion about crowdfunding is apparently not permitted, and I am left to think that you considered my opinion to be spam...

 

And, still again: That such a self-crowdfunding campaign is run through a crowdfunding site doesn't make it any different to me than if someone posted a thread in the forums to say, "I'm a reviewer, please send me money to buy gear to review, and possibly even to cover some of my living expenses. You can PayPal me at paypal@acme.com," which is a type of thread neither I nor any of the other moderators here would allow. In my opinion, using a crowdfunding site doesn't make it any different than that.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by a_recording View Post
 

....As for bias towards sponsors, I think it is arguable that the videos and the buying guide that you produce are indeed advertorial disguised as information. 

 

See, now you're being personally insulting--but I'm man enough to take it, and I promise not to make a video about you to whine about it.

 

Meridian is not a sponsor. I mention them because that was the last Head-Fi TV episode (as of today). To the best of my knowledge, they have never advertised here, unless they purchased ads through an ad network that we run (which, to the best of my knowledge, they have not done, but I can't say for certain, because I don't manage the ads here).

 

We launched the Shure SE846: Shure is not a sponsor (and wasn't then, but was years ago).

 

We launched the Shure SRH1540: again, Shure is not a sponsor (and wasn't then, but was years ago).

 

In the videos, I have called the Stax SR-009 perhaps the best sounding headphone in the world--a headphone made by an enigmatic, small Japanese company who, if you know a thing about them, know rather certainly they will likely never advertise here.

 

Etc., etc.

 

In the upcoming summer gift guide, two of the most praised products are by two companies who are not sponsors (one used to be): Astell & Kern (used to be) and Chord Electronics. And you know what? Next to every piece I write, it says who the piece is written by. So if you feel my review is corrupt, then skip it--or skip the whole guide. See how we can all make choices like that?

 

Are there going to be products by sponsors covered here by me or others? Of course. This is a niche of a niche. And this is a site that has occasion to reach over two million unique visitors per month, and is one of the most trafficked sites on the web focused on that niche of a niche. So, yes, companies who make things for that niche of a niche will sometimes want to sponsor the site.

 

So here's the thing: this is not a community full of halfwits who can't make up their own minds. They can read my reviews, and even though I assert strongly that I call it like I hear it, they are perfectly capable of making up their own minds about whether or not they feel they can trust my opinions or not.

 

Regarding the gift guide, in addition to what I said above, I have been accused of this since the very first one, and I responded in the past, too:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/618255/check-out-the-head-fi-summer-2012-buying-guide#post_8527169

 

Again, though, no matter what I say, if it bothers anyone that we have sponsors--and if that makes someone uncomfortable with my reviews as a result--then anyone can choose to simply disregard my reviews and opinions for that or any other reason.

 

For over 13 years now on Head-Fi--and on pretty much every other gear enthusiast forum I go to (and I go to many of them)--this is what we do. We read, we do our own due diligence, we figure out which reviewers' tastes are like ours and which aren't. We figure out which reviewers we trust, and which ones we don't. If every reviewer here only reviewed things that he bought from money given to him by our community members, I really don't believe it would change that balance as a whole.

 

I will be the first to admit, though, that this won't be the place where that experiment happens, because, again, I will not allow anyone to make a post asking people to send him money so he can buy gear to review and/or to support his living expenses. I know it bugs the crap out of you, Lachlan, that it's not up for discussion, but it's not up for discussion. That's not going to happen here.

post #38 of 149
Quote:
Originally Posted by jude View Post

Regarding the gift guide, in addition to what I said above, I have been accused of this since the very first one, and I responded in the past, too:

http://www.head-fi.org/t/618255/check-out-the-head-fi-summer-2012-buying-guide#post_8527169

I don't have a settled opinion about this yet but since you mention it, those numbers don't provide overwhelming support for your conclusion: at least 43% of the products are your sponsors'. Maybe that's unavoidable in the buying guide, but I've experienced the effect it has on moderation and it's evident on the front page. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
post #39 of 149
They're aware of the idea, the owners of this site don't want to go that route. This isn't a democracy, it never has been, beating this very dead horse won't change that. Why? The mob is fickle, one month they love you and want to fund your hopes and dreams, the next they're focused on something else. It's the reason why pure democracy is such a bad idea. Want to drum up financial support for a film? Sure. An ongoing series? No. It's about consistency and steady revenues, and crowdsourcing hasn't proven that it's a viable model in that capacity. It's similar to the reason why cable and satellite companies haven't gone a la carte with their programming, and won't be for the foreseeable future.

So that means you balance sponsors and members. I know for a fact the admins here have swatted vendors who have stepped out of line, they've even kicked a few to the curb, much like they don't tolerate members who refuse to follow the rules and/or can't find tactful ways of getting their point across. If you don't want to respect their wishes and want to continue trying to push them in a direction they aren't interested in going, then you could find that your posts get removed, and ultimately be shown the door. I assume you don't go to other people's homes and hassle them about how they run their homes, well, a web site is much the same. It's their property and you're their guest.
post #40 of 149
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jude View Post

 

And, still again: That such a self-crowdfunding campaign is run through a crowdfunding site doesn't make it any different to me than if someone posted a thread in the forums to say, "I'm a reviewer, please send me money to buy gear to review, and possibly even to cover some of my living expenses. You can PayPal me at paypal@acme.com," which is a type of thread neither I nor any of the other moderators here would allow. In my opinion, using a crowdfunding site doesn't make it any different than that.

 

You keep repeating this, but this does not actually address the point. I agree that pitching a crowdfunding campaign is no different from direct solicitation.

 

I am saying that my original post was not direct solicitation. Because you disagreed, I offered to edit the post so that it was even less direct solicitation and more a conversation about crowdfunding in general. That was not satisfactory. You seem to be suggesting that even saying the word crowdfunding as a general idea is not permitted on this website. Which is absurd, especially given that sponsors that people get to talk about crowdfunding for many other kinds of products here.

 

Whether or not you have individual products in your buying guide or your sponsor videos which are not from sponsors, there is clearly a conflict of interest when you endorse any products (if they are sponsors and arguably even if they are not) in an official Head Fi publication. The adminstrator of the forum, who is being paid by manufacturers, is telling the members what they think is good and what they might want to buy. I am not saying you are doing anything sinister. I am saying there are severe ethical issues with doing this, and they reflect badly on the forum as a whole.

post #41 of 149
Quote:
Originally Posted by Claritas View Post

I don't have a settled opinion about this yet but since you mention it, those numbers don't provide overwhelming support for your conclusion: at least 43% of the products are your sponsors'. Maybe that's unavoidable in the buying guide, but I've experienced the effect it has on moderation and it's evident on the front page. Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Given the volume of their advertisers, and how prolific they are in audio, that number is average representation.
post #42 of 149
Quote:
Originally Posted by Magick Man View Post

Given the volume of their advertisers, and how prolific they are in audio, that number is average representation.

As I already conceded that, I'll suppose that you concede the rest.
post #43 of 149
Quote:
Originally Posted by a_recording View Post
 

...Whether or not you have individual products in your buying guide or your sponsor videos which are not from sponsors, there is clearly a conflict of interest when you endorse any products (if they are sponsors and arguably even if they are not) in an official Head Fi publication. The adminstrator of the forum, who is being paid by manufacturers, is telling the members what they think is good and what they might want to buy. I am not saying you are doing anything sinister. I am saying there are severe ethical issues with doing this, and they reflect badly on the forum as a whole.

 

This is your opinion, and I'm sure some agree with you; but I'm just as sure many do not.

 

And that's what I'm saying: this community is full of people who can individually decide for themselves whether or not I am to be trusted.

 

If you think I'm the only forum owner who posts reviews, you're wrong. I don't lie in reviews for anyone, but you can choose not to believe that.

 

Perhaps that you feel I reflect badly on the forum as a whole is the reason you said goodbye (and then hello again). Whether you stay or go is your choice. We're a community of people who can make up our minds on those and related matters.

 

I don't hide who I am. I am Jude Mansilla, and I happen to be the founder and owner of this website. Like most of the websites I visit (certainly ones this size or bigger), this website is mostly ad-supported. I sometimes write reviews, and I sometimes post videos. Some of those will be about products made by sponsors, and some will be of products not made by sponsors. If you want to discount all of my opinions about sponsor products, you are free to. If you want to discount all of my opinions, period, you can do that, too.

post #44 of 149
post #45 of 149

A bit off-topic here... but I don't buy anything significant unless I get to hear it first.  I use reviews to streamline and prioritize my auditioning list, not to make purchasing decisions.  I would assume this is the same of many others as well?


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