Originally Posted by LaserPower
Are you saying that the dealer's reviews are inaccurate and exaggerated because they want to sell their products? That I can see as a possibility. But it seems like the reviews are still generally accurate. In that case what's wrong with advocating products with facts? The good neutral reviewers are biased too. The way they review skis are also biased by their interest, or preference so these review can also be exaggerated and inaccurate, and it does not make their reviews more or less accurate than what the dealers offer. OTOH from a perspective of a consumer, I actually like to know if dealers are offering discounts for the product that I'm looking for, as long as it is what I am looking for, and they are honest about the trade off between getting the exactly one that I want and getting the discounted one. IMO it does not make a difference between I hearing the deal from my friend, a neutral reviewer or a dealer.
These are useful points. IMO you're confusing accuracy with bias. Two different things. A review, at the end of the day is just some qualitative measurements: Bad, OK, good, better, best at xx and yy and zz. Accuracy is how close those measurements are to some gold standard. Which in the case of review, might be the world's most experienced skier, or it might be a kind of composite/consensus about xx. Not so easy to determine accuracy for value judgements as for pounds on your bathroom scale, where I can just put some heavy weights and calibrate.
Bias, on the other hand, is a systematic error in a measurement. Like people tending to overestimate their height. Or you weighing something and accidentally leaving a fingertip on the scale for a fraction of a second, so that's part of the weight. Note that "error" here doesn't mean "wrong," or "bad," it just means some distance between your measurement and what someone else might find. I might have a bias the other direction, for instance. So you're dead right that everyone has bias, and that a "neutral" review will still have bias.
But one problem with a bias, deliberate or unconscious, is when it can influence outcomes in a way that benefits the guy doing the measurement. Famous case: In the 19th century, a distinguished American anatomist decided to measure the capacity of skulls from different races. He filed them with birdseed. And guess what? The skulls from Africa had the smallest cranial capacity, then the American Indian series, and finally, European skulls were the biggest inside. Now since it was believed that cranial capacity was correlated to intelligence, these results confirmed what everybody already suspected or wanted to believe: Europeans were smarter.
Fast forward to 40 years ago. A famous Harvard paleontologist named Stephen Jay Gould realized that the very same skulls still resided in the museum's collection. So he had his graduate students remeasure them, this time using steel shot. Not surprisingly, there were no systematic racial differences in the skulls. Puzzled, he had his students exactly replicate the anatomist's protocol, right down to the birdseed. Still no differences. Then he had an idea: He told his students to try to replicate this guy's results. And they did, once they realized that birdseed was packable, and that if you ever so slightly tamped down the European series, so a little more seed went in, the skulls came out bigger!
Now Gould doesn't think this earlier anatomist (named Morton) was trying to tamper with the results. There's no evidence he set out to prove Europeans had bigger skulls. But, Gould argued, it's very likely Morton had an unconscious, systematic bias. As a man of his time, he expected, and maybe wanted, the Euro series to come out on top, so unconsciously he just gave them a slightly different treatment, an imperceptible tamp. Once he published, he was applauded for the first "scientific" validation of racial formalism, and he went on to be America's most lauded anatomist of that century.
That's often how it works. When we have something to gain from a certain outcome, we often end up with results that confirm it. Not because we planned it. Not because we were consciously fudging the data. Just because of systematic bias. Of course it can be conscious, but in a way that may seem benign. I could time the release of a movie review to meet my paper's deadlines because the studio has me on a list, sends me goodies, makes sure I feel like a VIP. Hell, my job may depend on collaborating with the system, timing that review. So I'd produce a decent review, pro and con, only the timing will have helped out the whole system: My job, the studio, and in my mind, the public. Is that also conflict of interest? For sure. Is it promoting something that I already feel fine about, but just taking advantage of the seasonal timing of movie releases to help all concerned? For sure. But will it introduce subtle biases? Equally certain. Does my readership understand the biases? Maybe yes, maybe no. I probably don't, completely.
That's why scholarly journals ask authors to declare whether they have any conflicts of interest, and why referees give papers extra scrutiny if say, one author happened to be a consultant for a firm that makes the med the paper found to be awesome. We also expect politicians or judges to put assets in blind trusts if they will ever vote on anything involving the assets. Obviously that doesn't work very well, given the way lobbyists shape congressional votes. We expect our doctors not to push meds if they hold stock in the pharms that make them. Sometimes weak science or stupid votes get through, too. But we make a big deal of it then. Are you saying that you'd prefer that judges or politicians or doctors held assets in companies they were voting on, or took goodies from them and then pushed their products, as long as it was public knowledge? Or that somehow what's unacceptable in our government or scientists or doctors is no problema here at Epic?
The solution lies in what many professionals do routinely: Try as best they can to steer away from potential conflicts of interest, and then think hard about, and report, likely sources of bias. So not, uh, rocket science.
Originally Posted by SierraJim
I've just come back to Epic after a long and pleasant summer/fall hiatus only to discover a bunch of slams directed at SH crew. Whether specifically directed at me or not, I can only speak for myself as every SH member that posts here has opinions and I am one of those folks. If you have a beef with me......post it. If you have a beef with Phil......post it. Both of us can deal with that. But when someone (not you specifically BTW) posts a beef against the SH as a generality......I take strong exception and will continue to do so.
As far as our qualifications, I seriously doubt that is a question with anyone. As far as objectivity, read my reviews and decide for yourself. As far as ability to match individuals with product, it is the business of a successful retailer to do that. The very best 3-4 guys at that job on this site are retailers and they don't all work at SH. BTW.....we all know one another, like one another and although we are competitors, we generally don't pee in each others Cherrios. There are a lot of amateurs on this site that do a heck of a lot more of that than the professionals do. We all generally recommend stuff we sell b/c that is what we are most familiar with. One can take those professional opinions for what they are worth....or not. At SH we carry 10 brands and 80-90 models of skis this year. There is little out there that we haven't skied and not a lot that we can recommend that we don't sell. This is a far cry from many non professional contributors here that recommend what they ski on or often recommend stuff based on heresay.
The defense of the retailer members here got a little off track but it was probably worth mentioning. As far as new members not knowing who we at SH are.........I for one have it plastered all over my posts. What more would anyone like me to do? If there is some way for someone to access this site and possibly read my commentary without seeing all that...........again, not my problem. If you see it as a problem, fine...........propose a solution. BTW, you may have noticed that I haven't posted my category definitions and comparison reviews here on Epic. It's not that they don't exist.....they do.....all 40K words or so. I will continue to comment and compare as I always have and I will generally continue to answer the question that the poster asks not the one that they didn't ask. If someone wants to find all the myriads of written and video reviews they can do so but it is just not going to be posted (in their entirety anyway) here on Epic.
Hopefully, this will answer some of your many concerns but IAC...............yes....................the evil retailer has returned and that's me.
Jim, sorry if I single handedly ruined the buzz from your vacation. I'm not trying to tar Start Haus. I used a couple of Phil's posts, and some others, to address what I see as a larger issue. It's not about reviews, it's not about retailers doing reviews, it's about whether we should offer posters deals in the middle of a gear discussion thread. So I honestly don't know where you're coming from here about your reviews and other retailers' reviews. The most I said along those lines was that most retailers, if they review or advocate, manage to make it very clear what they do for a living, and how that bears on their review. And I gave some examples like Bob Peters and Dawgcatching. I'm not clear what this has to do with peeing in Cheerios, and I'm not clear what else I need to post to make my argument. I've tried to elaborate what I see as the problem, er, beef, and I've specified that it's related to larger issues of how we see Epic. As far as solutions, I've proposed two in my last post, here's the quote:
"And there are some silly simple fixes that preserve our god-given right to make deals. One is to make a person's connection to a product, any possible conflicts of interests, really transparent. Use words that everyone gets, make them easy to spot, and use them for every poster who has a connection to a product, whether rep, retail, etc. We always seem to valorize transparency in all the other arenas of our lives, why not here? A second simple corrective is for moderators to simply move offers, deals, prices, directions to store sites etc. to the appropriate forum. Which already exists. Or delete the problematic post and suggest a PM to the interested parties. mentioned briefly, as others have, that all of us, including you, could clean up and clarify those little titles under our avatars."
In what way is that not proposing a solution?
Originally Posted by Lorenzzo
^^^^ I haven't been critical of Start Haus until now. The comments in this thread haven't been directed at you but the way things are being done generally and the questions being asked are appropriate. I'm not witnessing combativeness except perhaps yours which seems to be interrupting dialogue.
As far as responses you may have recently gotten, consider it pushback against advertising. No matter how helpful and well intended your comments might be, they are still some part advertising which is true of every single comment posted by anyone here with a sales motive. I'm not saying those comments are not useful and additive, but they are still some part advertising. I'd also point out there are posters here who are selling where the comments are of virtually no use other than serving their own purpose. Like it or not you're going to get associated with them. I hope that alleviates some of your indignation.
This. Advertising, and how we weigh it in terms of Epic's values.
Originally Posted by Philpug
Beyond, thank you for taking such an interest in the well being of the forum, it is truly cavalier of you. Some of us here have to wear multiple hats while working here. I think we do a pretty good job being objective and I am sorry that some biases come through. It seems that you feel that that these biases are self serving where as in this particular thread, some very well respected members here, including another shop, replied here that it was to help the original poster. If you have an issue with me, please feel free to contact me directly. When you were looking for special pricing when you were buying some Kastles, you had no problem finding me then.
Phil, passing over the sarcasm, I don't have an issue with you personally. The few times we've interacted outside of here, you seemed like a very good guy. (Even on the phone, I'm sure I came across like the geek I am.) I have no problem with multiple hats. Yet typically we switch them when we go outside. This is about Epic. So I'm concerned about the possible regularization of retailers, who may not be identified as same, offering deals or advice to new posters on a gear discussion forum, rather than in the deals forum. We seem to be in the middle of a transition to a very different kind of online experience here. I know you see this as being all about getting the best fit of skier to ski, but I hope you realize that Epic's not your store.
It's a vast online community, whatever that is, with a mission, if we have one, that may more about quasi-social interactions, arguing POV's, getting off on exchanging experiential data. We may be a target of opportunity for canny retailers, but how does that play? Have you ever wondered, for instance, how the constant annual 400 post threads about the wonderfulness of a couple of skis in a couple of brands comes across to a guy who doesn't own those skis, doesn't have the money to own them, and wants to feel OK about his own stuff? We mock our own tendency to be gear whores, but seriously, if I'm a new poster with a 3 year old pair of Fischers that I thought I liked, how do I process the viral buzz, deals, and the utter lack of information or reviews about 4/5 of all skis made? Is that what we want Epic to be? Should we have a warning label on the home page that new posters should avoid the gear discussion and gear review forums because it will make them feel like s**t if they don't line up to buy a Brahma or a Soul 7?
I also have concern about an editor and staff member, prominently labeled under the avatar, who is in charge of gear reviews also selling much of the gear he reviews. Yes, I get that it's tough to find non-industry members to do this kinda stuff. (Although historically, we had a lot more reviewers, evaluating a lot more equipment, on the Gear Review Forum. Now, it seems as if we have a few exceedingly long threads about the one or two skis anointed with buzz, and the now traditional roundup by Dawg.) Yes, I get that you have access to all those skis, so it's helpful. Yes, I get that you try to be fair, and that it's all about helping the OP. Yes, I appreciate all the energy it requires to wear all those hats. But I note that you decided to. And I note that there have been previous administrators who weren't so visibly assertive about advocating particular gear in particular places. It's not like the job description requires you to handle ski evals like you do, or to create competing areas for gear reviews, let alone to help posters toward your sales department. You've chosen to develop your role, and by extension, Epic in that direction. As Lorenzzo said above, Epic's starting to seem to be all about advertising.
So most of all, I have an issue with the entire thrust toward normalizing all Epic's forums as marketplaces, of one form or the other, conscious or unconscious. Of allowing deals and advertising and pushes of certain products on forums that historically were devoted to back and forth about what's good and what's not by a bewildering variety of posters. And I definitely have an issue with inevitable conflicts of interest, however unintentional, that may not be apparent to new or infrequent posters. It's not about helping the OP, I'm all for that, it's about how and where it's being done.
Originally Posted by sibhusky
So, is he being debonair? Or disdainful? Or aristocratic?
Wow. I kinda like debonair, but aristocratic has that feathered hat and gold scabbard thing going for it. Hmmm.