Advantages Great concept, fun, enhance your writing skills
Disadvantages Bugs, frustrations
I first joined Ciao in May of 2007. I had just had an operation to repair my knee after a bad footballing injury and needed something occupy my time during my month off work. I had previously done some Ciao surveys and after completing one of these, I found myself browsing the Ciao site in some detail. I wasn’t originally aware that you could write reviews, I had always assumed Ciao was just a survey site. I had always fancied myself as a writer so I thought ‘Perfect’ this will keep me entertained whilst off my feet. Without giving it a second thought, or reading any of the reviews currently on the site, I dived in head first and started writing my first review.
By April 2009, some 15 months after my final review, I started to get the writing bug back again. After writing a handful of reviews for American review sites without any real reward, I decided to come back to Ciao to see if I could pick up from where I left off before and make a few quid. First impressions were that the site looked identical to the one I had left at the start of 2008. I quickly got back into the swing of things and my first review back managed a grand total of 43 rates and one Exceptional rating. Having been out of the writing game for so long, I was very happy with this return. Either raters had become more lenient or I had become a better writer, the only way I would know for sure, would be to write another review and gauge the response. I brought a review across from the American site I had been using and this got 100% very helpful. Now I wasn’t really putting my heart and soul into the American site so again, I was pleased with this result and I did get 45 rates, my highest to date.
I was now enjoying my writing again, and was trying to publish one review every week. I had now learnt how to use the Ciao styling so I could now emphasise my reviews with bold titles and italics, etc. On June 8th 2009, I wrote what I would describe as my first quality review. It was never meant to start out that way, I had just bought Fifa 09 for the Xbox and decided to write about it, however, it just flowed and flowed to about 2000 words, it felt so good writing this review that I decided to add a few images too to compliment it. I got 27% of Exceptional rates on this review and I hold this review fully responsible for catapulting me to the next level of respect on Ciao. 72 members rated this review and Craggybuk was well and truly back.
By this time, writing reviews was becoming a bug and I even started writing and thinking about content during the working day when my mind should have been elsewhere. Reviews were getting longer and I was now writing with the aim of getting at least one Exceptional rate per review although obviously I would have liked more. I was now going through the community colours quicker than I had ever imagined and I was building up a nice little following of members who seemed to like my reviews and I was now getting around 70 to 80 reads on all new reviews which made it all feel worthwhile.
On July 20th 2009, I made my first product suggestion, Full Tilt Poker which I had played for about a year. As this wasn’t already on the site, I wasn’t sure how well the review would go down, surely someone else would have requested it if it was popular enough to do well. Anyway, as with the Fifa review, I just wrote and wrote and wrote, not padding the review out but just writing lots of relevant content. With anticipation, I hit the publish button and waited to see what the reaction would be. I wasn’t prepared for the barrage of Exceptional rates that came in, one after the other. Suddenly, I was up to over 100 rates for the very first time and with 68% (69 rates in total) of voters giving me an Exceptional rating I had achieved my very first Diamond. I had never strived for a diamond at any time since joining the site but it felt so good, knowing that my peers in the Ciao community and the panel at Ciao itself had enjoyed my review enough to award it this prestigious accolade.
I now knew I could live with the very best writers on Ciao and from this point onwards, I made it my aim each month to write one diamond worthy review complimented by several good and useful reviews. So far, this policy has sort of worked as in September 2009 my Tiger Woods 2010 review was also awarded a diamond. It might sound smug of me that I am admitting to trying for a diamond each month, but the reason I do that is to push my own writing talents to the limit. There are hundreds of excellent reviews posted each month, so to get in the top 10 is a great achievement for anyone. When you have been there once, you want more of it.
During September and October, in my opinion, the site went mad. Ciao in their generosity announced double payments on all rates in these months. On the face of it, this sounded great and I made a nice amount out of it but it saw the emergence of new writers with no writing skill attempting to hijack the site. They wouldn’t have made much money, if any at all but their constant churning meant that quality reviews were getting lost in between all the dross. Sadly, it wasn’t just new members that adopted the churn strategy. Some distinguished members of this site also thought it would be a good idea to churn out as many as they could and in my opinion, the site suffered badly due to the poor quality of reviews. In my opinion, the site is still struggling to recover from this madness as I feel a lot of genuine members were put off by the sheer greed of others. Consequently, now the site has gone back to its normal payment structure, my rates are down as low as they have ever been since my return to the site in the Spring.
Well if I had ended this review before writing this section, you would have gone away thinking that Ciao was a perfect website where everyone was content and we all lived happily ever after. Sadly, this is the real world and Ciao is certainly far from perfect. Currently the new site format is terrible but this will get fixed over time and we will all learn to live with the changes but there are underlying problems far worse than a change of skin.
Speed raters – Speed raters are, in my opinion, the most frustrating group of people that frequent this site. I can guarantee that within 2 minutes of this review going live, somebody would have rated it Very Helpful. Now I know that we all read at different speeds but if someone can read this review in 10-20 seconds and make a valued opinion on its content then they are a better person than I am. Speed raters have no interest whatsoever in the review they are ‘reading’. The only objective a speed rater has is to get themselves noticed by the original reviewer in the hope they will return a rate. I could say anything I like about speed raters in this review, safe in the knowledge they will never get this far into the review to be able to read it.
Lack of raters – Some people have a strange perception that everyone who has ever joined this site should go and read their reviews but they are not going to rate back. This, as a reviewer can be extremely frustrating. There are certain members on this site that I know that, even if I rate every review they have ever written, there is not a cat in hells chance of ever getting a single return rate off them. We are not talking about white dots here, were are talking gold and silver users, in other words, the users who according to Ciaos flawed points system are the pioneers of this site. Whilst I admit it is not compulsory for users to rerate, the site would soon go downhill if people never rated other members work, after all, this is what makes the site tick.
Tactical raters – Like it or not, tactical rating does go on here. On various occasions I’ve received Exceptional ratings for some of my reviews that quite frankly did not deserve them. The reason for this is that people give Exceptional ratings to receive Exceptional ratings. Without blowing this all out of proportion, I don’t think this goes happens on a widescale basis but it is something that certainly goes on and does need addressing.
Community points – Well what a completely useless concept this is. So just because someone has a higher amount of community points, does this make them a more valuable member than someone with a lower amount of points? The answer is a resounding NO!! We need to investigate the stats a little closer, rather than just take a little coloured dot as evidence of someone’s worth. If a member has written 500 (just an arbitrary number, not using anyone in particular) reviews, amassed 100,000 points and has never returned a rate, does this make them a more valuable member than someone who has written 50 reviews, rated 8,000 other reviews and has a points total of 50,000. I have raised this with Ciao before but never had a reply. A system like the one used by Helium would be a lot more helpful where users have a separate writing and rating points, thus making it easier to see who the active members are on the site.
I also feel that the weighting behind community points is totally wrong and doesn’t give members any real incentive to rate a review. For example, if I write a totally average substandard review that gets 10 rates of helpful, then I get 30 points for writing the review, and then 50 points (10 lots of 5) for the ratings I receive on this review. As a rater, in order to accrue the same points I either need to read 20 reviews and comment on every one, read 80 reviews and not leave any comments or somewhere in between. To me, this doesn’t encourage users to rate reviews which is one of the reasons in my opinion that people just don’t seem bothered about returning rates.
Well seeing as there are all these issues with the software and certain behaviour that frustrates me, you might ask ‘why are you still here’? Well beneath all the problems, the concept of this site is great. Everyone has their opinion on items and its great that this place exists for people to share and debate these opinions. The site is always evolving, and us as community members have a part to play in making sure this site is still around in years to come, unlike Ciao.com which became unmanageable due to a large majority of its user base behaving like fraudsters. It would be all to easy to throw my toys out of the pram and just leave, and never to return. If we all did that, then the site would die.
Despite all of its problems, Ciao.co.uk is still a great site and hopefully will continue to be for many years to come. This will only happen though if us as users do not abuse the site and police it in the correct manner. Ciao will always throw spanners into the works with their slaphappy releases of new software but we are all aware that this happens so we shouldn’t sound too surprised. Well done if you have made it this far, I’m sorry it was such a long one. Now if you were a speed rater, you’d have left long ago and rated 10 more reviews in the time its taken you to read this!!!
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