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A history, well I suppose I should have put my history on Ciao really as I am going to celebrate my fifth Ciao birthday soon.
Firstly, Ciao is a consumer website where you can voice your opinion and read the opinion of others. You can also join in a thriving community side to the site.
A day of destiny, the day I joined Ciao.
I don’t know what decided me to join really, probably the promise of making a fortune on the survey side of the site I think as at that time I was joining a lot of survey sites. This myth was soon to be dissolved and I don’t bother with surveys any more. It was a little while before I discovered the review side of the site. When I had looked through the instructions I did as a multitude of others have done and thought “hey this should be easy, write a few words and wait for the dosh to roll in,” Another myth or more probably massive overconfidence on my part. Also not taking time to read the instructions and total disregard for obtaining any writing advice also attributed to my initial downfall. I think too if I had taken time to read what other members had written I would have had a better idea of the acceptable standard. Anyway, one hundred and twenty words later and I post my first masterpiece and sit back to wait for the accolades to roll in. I didn’t have long to wait, as my new review was at the top of the new reviews list I soon received my first reads. It was an exciting time. Someone had actually read what I had worked so hard (for five minutes) to achieve. I soon had half a dozen reads and comments too. They were very welcoming and included advice on how to make my effort better. It was a good feeling to have people think your effort was useful and helpful ratings were accepted with gratitude. Buoyed by the reception it wasn’t long before I was looking round for something else to write about. This was easy, I had six people who had read my work and it was helpful, even if it had been pointed out that it could be a lot better. Over the next few days I wrote more, I put more effort in each review as well. Making sure my spelling and grammar were good by writing my reviews in Word and then pasting them to the “write a review” page. I also tried my hardest to write an interesting review which included fact and personal experience. Soon I had my first very helpful, now that was something to be proud of. I had read in the Ciao help centre that writing too many reviews in quick succession would put people off reading my reviews so I kept my output to at most one a day.
Points and little coloured dots.
At first I hadn’t noticed that I was actually rewarded for my hard work by receiving points for both posting and people reading my work. A quick bit of investigation in the Ciao help section of the member centre told me that as I accumulated points my little dot would change colour. Now that was exciting, only 500,000 points needed to get myself a gold dot. That might take a while. However I discovered I only needed a thousand points and my little circle would turn green, the first rung of the coloured dot system ladder that would take me up through the colours. Now that was an attainable goal and would be worth pursuing.
Payment, greed and how to get more.
I also discovered how I would get paid in cold hard cash in the help centre, how each product had little £ signs beside it in the category. One two or three told me I would be paid a half penny, a penny or two pennies each time a member read one of my reviews. So I was going to need to up my game and get more people to read my reviews. I soon found out that the best way to get more reads was to read other peoples work and rate them fairly. There was no point in gushing over a very poor review and give it an exceptional rating. Yes it would massage the ego of the writer and make them think they were god’s gift to writing. Long term it wouldn’t do me or them any good. They wouldn’t improve and I would be looked upon as a “points grabber,” both scenario’s leading to less reads for the both of us. The way to go was to rate reviews as to how useful I thought they were to me regardless of what anyone else thought. Eventually that would prove me to be a fair rater and would hopefully get people to treat me in the same way. As time went by I found that the more my name was seen fairly rating reviews the more people rated back. Oh, and another thing on payment, if you are the first person to review a product your payment will be double. So now I knew what I would get paid, not a lot in reality, it was never going to make me rich. Something else, something that I didn’t find out about for some time would net me cash as well. The enigma that is the premium fund, now this is a strange beast. It is a fund that is shared out between contributors on a monthly basis. Don’t ask me how it is split up, I have no idea but if you have written a few good reviews during the month you may well receive an extra few quid into your account. To me it seems a little random but I am sure there is really some logic to it, somewhere, buried really deeply, out of sight, etc. Another thing affiliated to the premium fund is the elusive diamond, the ultimate reward for a great review. A tidy reward is offered for one of these, sadly not a reward that has been offered to me in all my Ciao days. One day perhaps. Reviews have to be nominated as good reviews to receive these glories. Lots of things to think about then, mind you it hadn’t taken me long to work out that I wasn’t going to make a fortune and something happened that made the financial reward take a back seat for me.
The community side.
When I first discovered the interactive side of the site it made me very nervous. At the time I was little used to “talking” to people on line but there was also a thrill at the thought that someone wanted to talk to me. It was with some trepidation that I answered but got a pleasant reply so I thought this can’t be bad, maybe I’ll try talking to more people. It was shortly after this that I received a message from a delightful lady called Scarlet-Ribbons. It was a message explaining why she had added me to her circle of trust. The ultimate in Ciao good feeling, someone liked my work enough to trust me. Of course I answered and soon we were having regular discussions. This was great and soon I was talking to other people as well, soon I looked forward to seeing who had left me messages and soon I was talking to people as much as I was reading and rating. For me at that time that was what the site was all about. Over the next year or so I had made some really good cyber friends, some of which still are today and some, that have left the site over the years, are still firm friends via email or the telephone. For a while I was staying up late chatting and having guestbook parties that sometimes moved on to messenger and became really interactive sessions. I don’t know if it is the site or maybe me but for me the social side of the site has morphed over the years and has taken a much different tone. I don’t know if it was the time I joined or the people that were on the site then but guestbooks seemed to be much more lively then. It could well just be me and the fact that I have much less time to devote to the site nowadays. Maybe I am missing out on the wild parties, don’t know maybe some of you can tell me or invite me to the bash lol. I found that over time I was adding people to my circle of trust for a variety of reasons, not just fantastic writing but because we had become friends. I learned to add people because I wanted to, not just because they had added me or just to get the eighty points that an addition gave me.
The writing experience.
This bit is personal to me and I expect many members have very different writing histories and if you are fairly new I expect you will find your own path as your Ciao career unfolds. I started writing product reviews and took delight in it until the day a story crept into my mind and I thought I would write and post it. It was a story called the beach and to my surprise it was extremely well received. I was chuffed as much as I was surprised. I found that I enjoyed writing stories more than I did product reviews, not to say that I no longer enjoyed writing to inform but having fiction appreciated gave me a special kind of buzz. At that time I was also writing several personal accounts, challenges if you like, I enjoyed them too but there is only so much I could write about me so it happened that I started to write more and more fiction. It was from this that something very special arose. I had my first novel, Halleswell Hall, published. This was written together with an ex Ciao member (elffriend) and this came about purely from my stories being appreciated on here. It is hard to explain but the realisation that I could maybe write half decent fiction is down to the good folk of Ciao and for that I will be forever grateful. It was partly for that reason that I recently posted my latest attempt at a novel on Ciao, maybe as a thank you for the support I have received over the last few years. And yes for those still waiting for it to be finished I am nearly there, only a few chapters left to do. Oh and I found out something, probably a useless fact but the maximum word count allowed on Ciao is just over 47000 words. So over the years I found that my trying to earn a quid and chasing coloured dots had a lessening effect on my reasons for remaining a member but the community and appreciation held more and more import. Although I am not able to spend quite as much time on here nowadays I think those points still hold very true for me.
Statistics, (ok skip this bit if you like, I just like numbers)
The statistics page is one that I find very interesting and tell a tale or two about members perhaps. Could be that this becomes a little controversial but then it is only my opinion. A look at the reads values brings up some very interesting points to me. Firstly it is quite surprising how much the public reads outweigh member reads. This is gratifying in a way as it means that members of the public do read my hard work and I like to think that they have found it useful. The surprising thing for me is that I have 90% of my total reads is public ones. Slightly more disappointing for me is the fact that of member reads over 1000 haven’t bothered to rate. That is disappointing, it would be more so if I actually chased dots as had those people rated I would be very close to bronze by now. I wonder how many other people see the same. It’s a shame as if they have actually read the work it doesn’t take two seconds to add a rate. It makes me think that those 1000 people haven’t bothered to read the work which is disappointing. There are plenty of other things on the page that are of interest but I’ll be here all day so you will have to investigate for yourself.
Types of review.
There are new types of review that have come on the scene since I first joined, the quick review. Write a few words about something, more like a caption really. Must admit that I haven’t done any and doubt very much that I will. The other new type is the video, something else I haven’t tried. Many reasons for this, mostly too self conscious about having my ugly mug up for all to see running on about something for ages that could probably be done much better by someone else. That is of course just my personal view.
The good the bad and the ugly.
It would be unusual if there weren’t a few niggles about any experience and Ciao is no exception. My experience has been almost without bad points to be honest. I have really enjoyed my time here and wouldn’t change it for the world. That doesn’t stop me having a few gripes though. Firstly, product proposal. Why do they have to make it so hard to find the link and when you do, have to go through search after search when you know full well the product isn’t there. Come on Ciao, how about making this an easier option. Other things haven’t affected me that much but I have seen them around the site and I think some of them are becoming more prevalent. Revenge rating, this is when someone gives a low rating to one of your reviews, probably because it could be better, but instead of accepting it and striving to improve, the revenge rater goes back and intentionally rates one of their reviews low. To me that is a nasty thing to do and does nothing apart from turn people against you. Another thing I have noticed is that people are going into guestbook’s asking to be added to CoT’s or begging for reads, something else I don’t like. I would much rather have people read because they want to. I must admit that I won’t entertain people who do that and won’t read that review because of it.
There are probably no end of places I haven’t visited on the site and an explorative session would be of great benefit to a new member, have a good look around. Read reviews and find out the dos and don’ts of the site. I think doing so will not only give you a better insight about what the site is about but will also help cut out some of the mistakes so many new members, myself included, make when they first join.
To sum up.
For me Ciao has been a life changing experience and one I wouldn’t change for the world. It taught me that I can write. It taught me that I can write material that others will appreciate and has most certainly improved my writing ability. I have made some really good friends on here. I met some of them at a Ciao meet last year and for me that was a great experience and one I hope I will repeat in the future. Friends I have made have become more than people I chat occasionally to in a guestbook. Some I have spoken to on the phone, some I e mail regularly and some I talk to via guestbook every day. I don’t think there is another consumer site that could make that possible. That is the unique quality of Ciao. There is any number of consumer sites out there but Ciao is the only one that makes such friendships possible and I for one am very grateful for the day that I decided, on a whim, to join the world that is Ciao.