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Dooyoo is, as far as I know, the only other consumer opinion site that's UK-based. I had no intention of joining it - Ciao can be time-consuming enough! - until a weekend at the start of November 2003, when Ciao was unusable. Withdrawal symptoms crept in, and I decided to register at Dooyoo.
In many respects it's similar to Ciao - the overall layout, the method of submitting reviews, and the rating/commenting system all work in much the same way, so having been on one it's easy enough to use the other. I found both sites very welcoming, having previously only experienced Epinions, the huge American equivalent. As soon as I posted my first opinion on Dooyoo, just like on Ciao, I had friendly comments, and welcoming messages.
There are, however, some distinct differences. At first I didn't find Dooyoo nearly so addictive or interesting, even though many of the same people write there. When Ciao was re-designed, I was even less impressed with Dooyoo. But it's a useful site, it seems to rank much higher in search engines than Ciao, and it does have some good points, so I'm trying to spend some time there every day reading and rating as well as submitting some reviews.
Dooyoo has now been redesigned (July 2005) with many improved features. This review now reflects how it is at present, rather than how it was.
The colour scheme is still green, and looks much slicker than it was. Green is easy on the eye and whereas I used to consider Dooyoo rather old-fashioned compared to Ciao, I now enjoy spending time there.
Moreover, one of the worst features of 'old Dooyoo', the s-l-o-w browsing, has been changed beyond recognition. Although the site is still harder to navigate than Ciao, pages load very quickly. Dooyoo's sub-categories are less clear than Ciao's: for instance, looking in 'printed books' goes directly to a lengthy list of authors, rather than dividing further into poetry, fiction, non-fiction, children's, and so on.
But now that it doesn't take minutes for each page to load, this is less of a problem than it used to be. I also find that the search engine on Dooyoo works as I expect it to. Previously it was unreliable and inconsistent; upgrading that was a big priority and I'm pleased to find it works well.
If you want to write reviews on Dooyoo, or rate and comment on other people's, you have to be a member. Joining is straightforward with the usual information required. There's now an auto-login feature for members, and whereas earlier in the year it sometimes took several minutes to log in, it's now almost instantaneous.
Posting an opinion on Dooyoo is similar to doing so on Ciao. Find the product, click the 'write a review' link, paste the review in the large gap (or type it directly if you're brave!), enter a title, advantages and disadvantages, and answer any additional questions. Then click submit. I always go and read my opinion after posting it, just in case I've missed a spelling mistake, or something has gone wrong with the layout.
And whereas Dooyoo used to have huge problems with the layout, from missing capital letters to odd line-breaks appearing randomly, the vast majority of those are fixed. The only remaining problem is with those who use 'Smart Quotes' or other non-standard punctuation in their word processor. These appear as strange ascii codes in the reviews. However for those who don't use non-standard punctuation, there's no problem at all.
Dooyoo does seem to have rather more product photographs showing than Ciao, although occasionally they're incorrect. However they do not have any facility for uploading user photos at the end of a review.
On the front page of Dooyoo, like on Ciao, is a link allowing other users to read the most recently posted opinions, either in general or in particular categories. While Ciao gives the 100 most recent for each, Dooyoo gives up to 1000, which means it's possible to browse through it even after being offline for several days. I do like the fact that Dooyoo's 'all categories' really does include everything, including their debating section, and that the new reviews are on single pages rather than having only a small number per page.
Similarly when looking at lists of new writers, or new products, Dooyoo lists the most recent 1000 of each. And while these pages used to be rather slow to load, they're now amazingly quick given their size.
There's a circle of friends feature, rather like Ciao's 'buddy' list, but without any limit. I'm not entirely sure what the point of it is, other than to have a list easily available of people whose reviews you like reading. I often forget to use it.
Both sites will send alerts (if you choose them) when you are added to someone's circle of friends, and you can also choose to be alerted when any particular member submits a new post. With the redesign they've introduced clickable links, which makes it much easier to go directly to the review, and they've also introduced alerts to new comments - a feature that was missing until recently.
Dooyoo's system of rewarding writers is actually simpler than Ciao's. Rather than offering various amounts for positive ratings of some types of opinion, they offer 'Dooyoo miles'. These are not, as I first thought, the equivalent of Air miles: instead 10 Dooyoo miles equate one penny. Since 30 miles are offered per member read, that means that we get 3p per read in every category.
However while Dooyoo's payments sound considerably more generous than Ciao's varied (and lower) rates, Ciao has far more members, so the number of reads on Ciao tends to be higher.
Rather than Ciao's complex and mysterious system of the Premium Fund, with its 30 diamonds and hundreds of lesser payments each month, Dooyoo offer 'crowns', worth £1.50 each, which are awarded weekly. Old or updated opinions can be given crowns, as well as new ones. This is far more encouraging! For one thing, a very well-written review is likely to be given a crown within a few days of being written, whereas a diamond or premium fund payment is given at least a month afterwards, more still if you've written your rewarded review early in a month. There are also additional rewards for 'first' reviews in certain categories, listed each month.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, everyone knows which reviews have received crowns on Dooyoo. There's a list of the 1000 most recently crowned opinions on the front page, along with the other new lists, so they can be seen for some time afterwards, and perhaps provide some inspiration or ideas about how to write more successfully. With Ciao, by contrast it's only the 'top thirty' diamond reviews which are given official recognition. All the other many reviews which receive smaller awards are kept secret - even the writer doesn't know which ones they were.
Financially, I found that when I was first on Dooyoo, I earned about the same as I did on Ciao for a similar amount of effort. But since Ciao's redesign, I've earned significantly more on Dooyoo, despite posting less.
With Ciao, you can put in a payment request as soon as your account reaches £5. The only criteria is having a UK bank account. With Dooyoo, you have to be over 18 with a UK address (though it doesn't have to be your own - a relative's is fine).
A slight disadvantage for some is that Dooyoo's main payment method is via Amazon UK vouchers. For those who use this site as I do, this is fine. For those who would prefer cash, it's much harder: Amazon vouchers can be claimed as soon as you reach £10 worth of miles, but for cash the minimum payout is £50. Moreover while they've removed the administration fee for vouchers, those wanting £50 cheques have to pay a fee for the privilege. It's only if you claim £100 that you don't have to pay for a cheque. If you were thinking you could save up your miles for a couple of years, think again: miles expire after a year if unclaimed.
As for the speed of payment: whereas with Ciao it can take up to six weeks to receive payment, depending on when you claim, with Dooyoo it's typically about a week. Recently there have been some complaints about slowness of payment, but they do reply to email! A couple of times in the past I had vouchers which failed to arrive within about ten days, but after a quick email I received them within 24 hours.
As at Ciao, Dooyoo members are encouraged to read and rate other people's reviews. At first glance, Dooyoo's system is much the same as Ciao's, with four possible buttons at the bottom of the review, from 'Very useful' to 'Not useful', although disconcertingly they're arranged the other way around. However with Dooyoo, you don't automatically see what other ratings have already been given, other than the most recent few - you have to click an extra link to do that. I find this means it's much easier to rate the way I consider a review, since no matter how much I try to be impartial, I find myself being aware of how everyone else has rated a review on Ciao as the ratings are displayed so prominently next to it.
I also find it easier to rate fairly when there aren't any community points at stake. One of my biggest gripes at Ciao is that 'somewhat helpful' is considered negative, since it subtracts a significant number of points. For a newcomer to the site, this must be extremely disheartening, particularly if there are enough to make even the new white spot vanish. I would like to see 'somewhat helpful' as a zero-point option, reflecting that it is, indeed somewhat helpful. On Dooyoo, by contrast, I can rate a short review with just one or two significant points as 'somewhat useful', and it's not such a big deal.
A little like the ciao 'Exceptional' button, in Dooyoo a crown nomination is extremely easy: just click the 'nominate for a crown' button. The difference is that it doesn't show to the writer of the review, and one of the ordinary ratings should be clicked as well to evaluate the review.
Currently there is no way to add new products. Dooyoo do use a database to add certain items, and the best selling products from Amazon UK, but have not yet got the member product-addition feature working. Since it was rather complicated prior to the redesign, and often took weeks - even months - for a product to be added, it's not a disaster, just a nuisance when people want to enthuse or rant about something that isn't in the database already.
While Ciao has the archive of every opinion ever written, ordered by date, and by 'helpfulness' within each date, Dooyoo doesn't seem to have anything of the sort. So although it's easier to find new reviews, it's harder to find old ones, other than by browsing product categories, or looking through individuals' review lists. Not that this is really a problem.
Again unlike Ciao, Dooyoo doesn't have any guestbooks. Although many people have 'Tooyoo' guestboooks at the crosswordcheats.com web-site, they aren't so well used. Instead, people in Dooyoo resort to replying to comments in comments threads - either the other person's (in which case it's nothing to do with the product in question) or, even more oddly, in their own comment thread - which the original commenter is unlikely ever to see.
On the other hand, without guestbooks people spend more time reading and rating reviews, and less time in chit-chat. This means there's unlikely to be any unpleasantness of the sort that occasionally arises on Ciao. It also means that members tend to be slightly more anonymous, but in my view that's all to the good since people are more likely to rate reviews according to the review's worth.
On Dooyoo there are no community points, and no coloured dots. To most people who are on both sites, this is a major advantage. Admittedly the spots do add a little extra colour to the Ciao site, and help us 'recognise' people, but the longer I'm here, the more I see that they can encourage unhealthy competition, even churning, as people try to reach the next dot 'level'. There's also a lot of friendly congratulating when spots change colour, and people who spend extra time reading and rating to help with the colour-changing, even when they're not interested in the products they're reading about.
Oh, and there are no surveys. Not that I get very many from Ciao, but they're a useful little extra when I'm actually eligible.
Finally, while Ciao has 'league tables', showing lists of most-read authors, most-read opinions, and so on, Dooyoo doesn't have anything like this. While I do occasionally browse through the Ciao ones, out of curiosity, and they were quite interesting when I was new, I can't see any real value for them. Indeed, they give potential for unpleasant competition, to gain the most reads rather than to write the best reviews. So in my opinion, this 'lack' is a positive advantage to Dooyoo.
I thought I would always be more attached to Ciao, because I arrived here first, but there are some definite advantages to Dooyoo, particularly if you generally write in categories that do not pay on Ciao. Their crown system is much more visible, encouraging and fair than Ciao's premium fund, and their speed of payment is remarkably quick. Moreover since their redesign the bugs and problems which made Dooyoo feel like hard work have vanished, leaving it an efficient and professional-looking site.
All in all, I'm glad Ciao was down for that weekend, and plan to stick around on Dooyoo as well as Ciao, for some time to come.