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Today I'm going to be rated not helpful, off topic and generally slammed by all and sundry. You see, here in this Ciao section, I'm going to concentrate on one particular part of Ciao; the surveys.
There is a reason for this, that is, that the chaos fairies seem to have hit Ciao again, or at least the bit that sends out survey invitations. I'm not given to moaning about this site, it's run by an amorphous corporate behemoth and anyone who thinks our views can have the remotest impact on what it does or says is deluding themselves. Yep, we really shouldn't confuse the company as a whole with somebody who gives a smeg. Various individual employees might but the corporate entity itself? Nah. And yet fool that I am! I've done just that.. credited the people who run the surveys side with a heart! Ooo deary me!
Conversely, a prime example of the individuals who are trying to sort us out are the Ciao help desk. When I've had a problem I've found them to be excellent - and also, responsive to humour. For example, a while back, when a survey crashed repeatedly with my internet browser - I use Firefox because it's secure and advert-free - I suggested they warn us in the e-mail invite of a survey needed to be done in Internet Explorer. I am sure I wasn't the only person but the fact they now do this is testimony to their desire to help where they can.
I enjoy writing, rating and reading reviews and I enjoy the community aspect of Ciao. It's nice to get paid but I don't really come here to earn money. I don't have any qualms with the eccentricities of Ciao members, to me that's part of its charm, I don't get phased by the strange inverse logic so prevalent that the lower readers rate you, the less likely they are to explain why... Hands up anyone who's been given an H rating with a decent explanation..?* Me neither.
*Although I should hasten to point out that there are two exceptions to the rule, SohoBlack and Chocolate Lady I don't mean you guys!
In fact, going off onto an aside, I think this is quite cool. We have a bit of joke going about this... Soho black has given me an H on most of my music reviews for putting in too much other information alongside the track listing and the Chocolate Lady has given me an H or two for putting a track listing alongside the other information. The way I see it there's something splendidly Adamsian about that, it proves you can't please all of the people all of the time and it amuses me and they always explain why which is all I ask... so you two, you just carry on! I only mention you because I don't want you to think the bit about H ratings was a dig or feel unfairly maligned...
====================================================== ======== SO WHY AM I HERE? WHAT HAPPENED? - the straw which broke the camels back. ================================================================ ==== Well... it all started when I had the same survey invite three times, even though it threw me out on my first attempt after asking my age and gender and then - when I got to the sign off screen, it wouldn't believe my user name was Sweary - not that I was going to get any payment.
While I was irritated, my thoughts turned to the bizarre Ciao screening process. You see I find it well strange that Ciao adjures me to keep my profile up to date and yet, the more information they have in my profile, the less notice they seem to take of it when they invite me to participate in surveys. I quote.
"Filling out several interest profiles and providing truthful answers will increase your chances of being invited to take part in our paid surveys. Your details are safe on Ciao and will not be forwarded on to a third party."
On the sod off screen when I am found, yet again, to be ineligible for a survey it says.
"To receive more survey opportunities, please make sure you are fully signed up for surveys on specialised topics."
So, I log in and check my profile. Yep, it's 100% complete and I'm invited to apply for all sorts of surveys at the moment but am ineligible for practically all of them. It's a little soul destroying, after getting 10 minutes into my 25 minute survey giving answers which are, essentially, simply inputting the information in my profile all over again, to discover I am not going to earn my 10p after all. In fact, it's so soul destroying and the reward so tiny that, for the first time, ever, I have found myself ignoring Ciao survey invites. At least YouGov give me 50p for their paid surveys and most of them are shorter because they don't have to ask me every single piece of information I've given them in my profile at the beginning of every single survey!
You may have noticed that some of the 10p prize draw surveys take you to a "beta" Ciao survey centre? Well, I discovered, I have another Ciao profile there. So I filled that in, too.
It hasn't made any difference.
================ SO WHAT'S MY PROBLEM?
In a nutshell... there are four things that bug me about the surveys side of Ciao.
1. Screening. Are they just being lazy? I am seldom eligible to complete any survey and most of the time, am screened out on personal information Ciao already has - for example whether or not I'm self-employed, have children, my household income etc. I would have thought that since I have already furnished Ciao with this information it would allow for greater accuracy of screening when it comes to inviting me to participate - ie, I'll get FEWER invites to surveys but I will actually be eligible for those I'm asked to do.
2. Redundant Detail. However safely stored their panellist's details may be, I would like to hear a logical reason from Ciao, for keeping personal information about me on file, in two places, to boot, ostensively, for survey screening purposes when it is abundantly clear from the survey invites I have received and the reasons given for screening me out, that they have at no time, EVER actually used it to screen me at all. What is it for?
3. Ignoring Easy Benefits for Little Effort. Does Ciao appreciate the benefits of properly targeting their panellists. If I am invited to participate in a survey and know I have already been screened and will be eligible, I will almost certainly take up the invitation and complete it, even for 10p. I can attest, from the days when they paid you 10p for taking up the invite and £1 or so for completing the survey, that those 10p's soon mount up. Presently, since I am so seldom eligible and know I am almost guaranteed to spend 5 or 10 minutes giving Ciao information they already have, only to earn nothing, I tend not to respond to survey invites any more. Incidentally, while I appreciate being entered into a prize draw, I seldom win raffles and while £10 and £20 represent a morning's work on minimum wage, that is helpful, handy, useful or even a jolly nice surprise but it's not amazing.
4. Arrogance, Laziness and Bad Management. Is there a logical reason why, when Ciao can screen it's panellists at source, it should continually piss them off by not doing so? These days, they are, essentially, volunteers, cooperating out of the kindness of their hearts. Effusive thanks and flowers are not required but a pretence of appreciation or respect would be nice. Presumably they are wrapping up the survey side of the site.
============================= THE RATIONALE FOR CIAO'S BEHAVIOUR? ===================================.
There must be a logical business reason to keep detailed profiles on all of us (the panel) AND ask us exactly the same questions at the beginning of every survey.
I, for one, would find it less irksome if a rational explanation was offered. Despite popular opinion, honesty is actually the best policy in corporate communications - people know when they're being lied to, condescended to or ignored and they don't like it, in fact, it makes them think your company is a corporate twat. Conversely, they will put up with a lot if you are prepared to sit them down and explain politely and fully why things are the way they are. I've done enough crisis management to know this, indeed, my only claim to TV fame is having one of the many statements I've had to submit to Watchdog actually read out on air. Frankly, it all looks a bit lazy and arrogant of them to me.
Since the helpdesk had been so helpful up until now and I wanted to ask them about the not believing I was Sweary thing, I thought I'd ask what gave about the selection process, too, when I dropped them a line about the technical stuff. After all, lots of people have mentioned it and it seemed like a good idea to get a rational explanation.
============================== THE QUEST FOR AN ANSWER... FROM CIAO ====================================.
The question. "You know all this information, why do I have to tell you again?" Was put to Ciao, along with my help desk queries. Their hugely disappointing answer went like this.
Thank you for your email. I am sorry but I am in no position to comment on your email. The purpose of the help centre is to assist our members with their accounts, payments and other miscellaneous problems that may occur during survey participation. Again, I am very sorry but I cannot comment on your email.
Ciao Surveys UK"
Bollocks Tom (sorry, couldn't resist that Viz readers) - a polite but firm "sod off", not even a response to the bit about the survey problem.
Help desk, exhausted, I tried the main site and on 21st December, 2007, I e-mailed their market research department at firstname.lastname@example.org
I asked them four things.
1. Why they don't revert to their old scheme where you get say, 10p for taking up the invite and 39p on completion if you are eligible. The logic being that most seemed to promise 10p and a prize draw entry or 49p at the time. 2. Why they ask me the same information again and again. 3. Why they don't use their user-profile information to filter the panel? 4. Why they need so much personal information about their panel members if they don't use it to filter them.
If you want to see the full script of what I wrote I've added it as a kind of appendix at the bottom!
========= CIAO'S RESPONSE =============== .None so far.
========================= THE QUEST FOR AN ANSWER MYSELF ===============================
.STEP 1. By going in from a survey link - I can't get it to work when I go there direct and try to sign in - I redid my profile on the Ciao online, YouGov style survey centre. I thought this might help but it was over a month ago and Ciao is still, apparently, without targeting.
I've had a look at the member centre... sure there'd be something there but nowhere I could readily find it. In their defence, this doesn't mean much, I may have been a member of Ciao since about 2002 but I've been busking it, I've never actually read the instructions. My smart Ciaoing goes about as far as clicking on the Top Products Without Reviews section in the Member Centre, realising it's all electronics, white goods (and two hotels I have never been to) and giving up! I'm a dabbler, not a professional.
If there's been a fill in both profiles announcement, I'm sure somebody out there who is a keener Ciao-er than I am will have seen it and enlighten me as to its whereabouts shortly.
STEP 2. I turned to the Ciao-UK.com site in search of information, I found the following interesting snippets which would suggest that for marketing purposes, at any rate, they present themselves as a company which targets the panel. Well yes, they do but they don't target the panel the way they pretend to us, it's members, they do ergo, they don't seem to be able to target the invites. Naturally, it is all written entirely in marketing puff but as a retired brand/marketing/communications manager I am fluent - if a little rusty, these days - in marketing balls so I should be able to translate... Here goes
In English: "We ask our members everything about themselves and they tell us. That means we can select exactly the people you want to talk to for your survey."
Intriguing that it boasts about possessing this information when it doesn't use it up front to choose the participants it invites.
2. "...We have developed our own proprietary sampling technology allowing highly-complex sample and quota management and rapid dispatch of individual email survey invitations. Every project's sampling is managed by hand and our clients can see quota cells being filled real time."
In English: "We ask screening questions."
Yep, they have all that deep-profiled proprietary information at their finger tips but they ignore it anyway and ask us the details again "by hand" so we can reply "by hand" in every single s@*ding survey...
3. "With our proprietary technologies and deep-profiled, quality-managed panels around the world, Ciao can make reaching your target sample easier."
In English: "We ask our clients everything about themselves from monthly income down to their shoe size so we can select people who exactly suit your criteria for your research... However, they're only human, their profiles are probably out of date so we ignore it all and ask them the same questions, again at the beginning of each and every survey."
4. "Ciao only charges for completed interviews."
Ah ha, that sort of explains the strange screening process. If there's no pressing reason to introduce meaningful screening why bother. I used to commission a rolling market research programme and if Ciao charged by the number of invites sent then with my Mistress-of-all-that-concerns-Brand-X hat on, I sure as f*ck wouldn't pay 'em! Not looking at the ratio between the number of times I get invited versus the times my criteria fit the client's.
======================================================== === SO IF I'M WHINGEING ON LIKE AN OLD GIT WHAT AM I STILL DOING HERE? =================================================================
Well, there are lots of things I enjoy and appreciate about the review writing and community aspect of Ciao.
Many years go I went to a book signing. I told the writer, Terry Pratchett, that I wanted to write a novel but that it wasn't going very well because what was in my head was very detailed and somehow I just couldn't do it justice, on paper. I asked if he could give me some advice. He said I should just write stuff. Write something every day, write letters, e-mails or write about how you can't think of anything to write. He said that if I did that long enough, I'd learn to drop he details in, in passing, by instinct and he's dead right. Practice helps.
Several years afterwards, I found Ciao and I have discovered that it is brilliant is for those times when my brain's a bit dry. I think of something I use every day, or find a café review which piques my interest and I write it. I love reading the other writers here although I don't read every review especially from the more prolific writers - for which I apologise, I only have an hour a day to do this though. I like that people can comment on my writing, that I can try jokes and see how they are received, or gauge from the way other members react whether or not I've been clear and concise... yes, I know I'm not too concise on here but one of the joys of Ciao is that I don't have to be. Until a few weeks ago, as well as being an artist, I wrote corporate puff for a living. There's only so much spare, tight, corporate shite you can write before you yearn to produce the kind of ornate, wobbly, verbose prose I get to use here.
So... Ciao is great fun if you write and want to practise writing because you can find a whole wealth of topics so broad and far ranging that even the most jaded scribbler can find things to wax lyrical about. Even better, you can earn a little bit of pin money for doing so - especially if you're smart and choose the right reviews - look for the pound signs, you want to review things with three to earn maximum. It's great fun once you establish a circle of people... hmm... dare I call you all "cyber friends" whose writing you enjoy reading and who you can correspond and share the odd joke with.
================================ IS IT POSSIBLE TO EARN A LIVING FROM CIAO? =======================================
.Of course not! People do pretty well out of it but as I understand it, what you get out of review writing financially tends to be commensurate with what you put in. If you treat it like a job and spend a lot of time each day here reading, writing, rating other people's reviews and producing one or two good quality reviews of your own I should imagine you can earn a fair bit. Being prolific is no bad thing and is not the same as churning!
For my part, I have about an hour a day, tops to spend on Ciao so I get very little financial reward. You only have to look at my dot, red - and only just - after 5 whole years! I gain in other ways, though, which to me are worth more.
========================================== IS IT POSSIBLE TO EARN ANYTHING AT ALL FROM CIAO? =============================================== .
Of course! Again, it depends what you put in. However, where previously, as a sporadic user, I was able to top up my earnings very nicely with surveys and earn about £70 a year - very useful if redeemed just before Christmas - I have now had to accept that the surveys will earn me less than the reviews. In addition they've become a source of frustration and irritation to me recently, not fun so for the most part, henceforth, not bothering!
=========== CONCLUSION ================= .In a nutshell, if you like writing, enjoy the site and have fun! You will get out what you put in so you can choose how much time and effort you are willing to give. I came to the site expecting to enjoy reading, writing, socialising and to earn a little pin money. That's pretty much what I've done. I still read, write and socialise but now that Ciao have stopped making any meaningful payment for surveys, I know I won't earn much from now on. It's not what I've ever used Ciao for but I'm kind of sad to see it go.
I guess I'm a bit jaded, too, that the survey side of the company does come across as a bit of a shower, especially if it can't or won't use the information its users have given to make both our lives easier.
Ciao is a handy writers tool, a source of earnings for those with enough time to spare and a thoroughly sociable and enjoyable hobby. You will learn things, make cyber buddies and generally enjoy yourself. It's also very useful if you are looking for consumer reviews and find a good one of the product you are thinking about using or buying.
Don't bother with the surveys though, they'll really and I mean REALLY piss you off.
======== RATINGS ============== . Most of them are standard, as given, but where it's talked about customer service/support I've given an excellent to the Ciao help desk, not the miserable bleeders at Ciao-uk.com who still haven't replied to my e-mail.
Likewise, recommended to potential buyers yes but not the blummin' annoying surveys
And finally I've given it four stars. I would have given it five but again it drops one for annoying niggles and general arrogance on the surveys side.
============================================= FINALLY..... If anyone from Ciao's survey side would like to respond I'd be delighted to hear from you and to add your answer to this review.
================================================ ================= APPENDIX =================
.e-mail sent to the market research department at ciao on 21st December, 2007 to: email@example.com
I'm very sorry to bother you, I'm a member of your UK site and I was just wondering if you'd be able to explain something which has been bugging me these last few months. I've three questions really.
1. I am invited to take part in lots of surveys, which is great, however the rewards are very low - 10p mostly - for surveys which are quite long, often up to 25 minutes. I am a member of a couple of other survey sites but they tend to offer me shorter surveys for more cash 50p for 10 - 15 minute surveys or unpaid surveys which enter me into a prize draw. If I am not eligible I still get paid for the survey although often it is a token payment of say, 10p. I have always enjoyed surveys and it's nice to earn a little pin money - but Ciao's new rates are quite low and most of the time I spend 5 or 10 minutes answering questions for a survey which will pay a mere 10p if completed, only to be screened out and get nothing. So my first question is that with the budget ceiling at under 50p, Ciao's rates drop below YouGov's paid rates while your surveys are still, on average, at least 10 minutes longer. Have you thought of reverting to your original scheme where you offered 10p for taking part and 39p for completing the survey?
2. I've noticed that despite the number of surveys I am invited to take part in, I am seldom eligible. I have also noticed that as well as amounting to as much as a third of the total survey time the screening questions are often asking me for information I have already given in my online profile. On the page which informs me of my ineligibility it says.
"To receive more survey opportunities, please make sure you are fully signed up for surveys on specialised topics." On my profile page in my account it says, "Filling out several interest profiles and providing truthful answers will increase your chances of being invited to take part in our paid surveys. Your details are safe on Ciao and will not be forwarded on to a third party."
Looking at this now, I realise how carefully worded it is but the impression given is that by keeping my profile 100% filled in and up to date, you will be able to select me for surveys more accurately. My effort this morning, when my age and gender screened me out, would belie this. So my next question is this.
Why is the information on the panels' user profiles not used to filter them?
Filtering at source would benefit Ciao in two ways: One, if you sent out invites in two tiers you could start with just those panellists who were eligible. Knowing they were properly targeted and likely to be eligible, they would be much more likely to take part - especially if you paid them 50p or more but even for 10p your response rates would surely be higher. The reduction in the number of screening questions would reduce the time of the survey, also making it more attractive to respondents. Subsequently, you could fill up the quota by sending the survey to everyone - this would catch the people who might not have filled in their profiles 100% or whose circumstances had changed and catch any eligible participants among them. Presumably the profile information serves some purpose to you, so it would also benefit Ciao by encouraging people to fill in their profiles and keep them up to date. By targeting panellists properly you should also enjoy a higher take up rate among invited participants.
I tell you this simply because as a Ciao user and panellist, for the first time ever, over the last few months, I have stopped bothering with many of your survey invites. The reason why is simple. Why should I waste my time giving you information you already have again and again, for no reward when I know you already have a lot of the knowledge you need to filter me out (or in where relevant) at source?
3. I'm guessing the profile information must be of some use to Ciao - presumably so you can give prospective clients an idea of available user groups for questioning and their geographical locations. Please can you tell me what it is used for? As a panellist, it's clearly not used, as implied, to filter my invitations to surveys so I am only invited to participate in those for which I am likely to be eligible. I'd be very intrigued to know because I think many users feel that if you have no intention of using all this personal information we've given, then, however safely it may be stored, we'd rather you didn't have it.
If you were able to explain the answers to these questions it would be very helpful and I would be happy to pass the information onto other panellists by publishing it on Ciao as I know many users feel the way I do.
I really don't want to be arsy or difficult - I'm just at a loss to understand the policy, so any enlightenment would be just peachy!
Ciao User. In a previous life, Brand manager, commissioning rolling market research programmes!*"