Bitching About the Loaner Program

Discussion in 'Rules, Payments, and Other' started by penguins, Aug 21, 2022.

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  1. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    I can understand not wanting to crap on every vendor, but at the same time, biggest concern with this approach is having everything read like this on SBAF:

    [​IMG]
     
  2. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    This is specifically for vendors and companies that send us a specific product for reviews and a loaner tour and furthermore specifically about the first review post ONLY. I'm not going to have companies spend their money to send us a piece of gear and then write a review about what a piece of shit it is and send it around on a joke tour where we all pile on. We would never get loaners ever and it would just be fucked up.

    You're free to write negative reviews in the rest of the impressions thread after the first post, and you're totally welcome to write negative reviews in any post about literally anything else that wasn't sent to us for free by a company out of their generosity to let us all hear it. Let's buy an Abyss and write about what a POS it is on our "not good enough gear to hear how incredible they are". (That's what Abyss told me when I asked for a loaner Diana or AB1266)

    Once again, I'm only talking about the introduction review posts for gear sent to us for free. I tell vendors our reviews will be honest and I expect them to be. But the first review needs to be a bit more diplomatic and a bit more about what SBAF might think about the gear and less about what you personally think about it.

    If you think SBAF will all dislike it, we send it back to the company and don't do a loaner tour. If some members might like it we can do a loaner even if it means some negative reviews. Or even if it winds up all negative reviews. We just try to avoid that with loaner gear.

    Please read this carefully before hitting the dislike button and read that I am only talking about THE FIRST REVIEW POST (ONE POST) that introduces new gear to SBAF for gear sent to us for free. There is no censorship on SBAF whatsoever and never will be. I'm talking about one post that starts off the impressions thread. READ.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 23, 2022
  3. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

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    This is an advertising program, not review program.

    If a product sucks, I expect a reviewer to have the integrity and freedom to say so. I also would expect SBAF to protect that, not sell out in the name of experiencing gear for free. Ensuring that negative reviews aren't published benefits nobody - even the manufacturer.

    It also raises the question on who gets to draw the line on what is a negative review. If a review is written that points out some flaws, and the company who sent it complains "you assured us only positive reviews!" then will SBAF bow to the pressure and take the review down? Censor or force-edit the objectionable content? The slope is too slippery for my tastes.

    There is nothing about this program I like or respect.
     
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  4. SoupRKnowva

    SoupRKnowva Official SBAF South Korean Ambassador

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    I agree with Elnrik completely. They aren’t doing us a favor by letting us have it. It’s advertising. If the product is good, many people on this forum will buy it. If it’s bad, well, they need to know we don’t hesitate to call it like we see it. To me that’s the heart of this forum and what it stands for and if a company doesn’t want to send us a loaner so be it.

    Hiding the truth is doing a disservice to the rest of the community, I care a heck of a lot more about the members here than I do about some company sending us a loaner
     
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  5. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    I think it's important to be able to have a plethora of reviewers who have particular preferences as that would better allow for readers whose preferences might better align with more niche inclinations to have a touchstone of sorts (speaking as someone who loves gear that others loathe), but I likewise agree that having people be able to safely crap on gear, so long as it's properly qualified and biases are disclosed.

    Basically, get more gear to more people who are willing and able to be candid.

    Not getting gear on loan from manufacturers would be a hit to forum finances which would then make it hard to get more gear to loan to members who review stuff, but as pointed out above good things are picked up organically, though that does limit context to impressions and might well reinforce the whole "echo chamber" thing.


    ADD: Isn't it a good thing to prevent people from making financial mistakes by buying horrible value, or outright horrible, gear instead of going all "everything is awesome" and pandering to sponsorships? But again, there's value to be gained in terms of being able to support the forum either through financial means or via generation of content to increase site traffic. This is a pain point going back years it feels like.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2022
  6. crenca

    crenca Friend

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    How about a "middle way"? A significant responsibility of the "first reviewer" will be to make a determination if the gear is just flat out shit and/or totally against typical SBAF preferences/sensibilities. If it is, then it will either be sent back or it will go on a very limited tour amongst people (because of their preferences) who can point out a couple of positives amongst all the negatives. If the "first reviewer" is not sure but has suspicions that the gear is shit, he can send it on to a second reviewer for confirmation. There are some companies (e.g. iFi) who simply have a mix - some shit and some decent/useful product.

    There is risk however no matter what way we go, but perhaps something like the above is useful for on the one hand acknowledging and keeping relationships with suppliers, but on the other hand keeping SBAF from sliding down the slope of your typical audio "review" site.

    Just thoughts...
     
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  7. nishan99

    nishan99 Friend

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    We need to be realistic here, 99% of reviews on the web are positive, everyone is expecting positives reviews not only the manufacturers. 'Everything is good' serves the consumers to consume and give them the validation they need.

    People don't go out of their way to buy something unless it's reviewed as SUPERBESTAWESOME!, positive reviews alone won't make big sales. It's a game of good to super awesome nowadays unfortunately.

    So you all here should not take the literal meaning of "positive/good" review, you should imagine "meh" as "good" and so on on the goodness scale. That's how the public reads it anyway.

    You all can get nice stuff on loaner tours and you all can be a little bit diplomatic here when writing stuff you don't particularly like, we will get it ;) and outsiders won't buy it unless it's ultra great and the manufacturers won't demand that ultra great review anyway :) I see it a win win for everybody :punk:
     
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  8. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

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    Here's another question about the program... Let's say Company X sends us headphone Z. It goes to the duly designated gatekeeper, who writes a glowing review as they're obligated to do, and then I go out and buy said headphone. Now let's say that I absolutely hate the headphone and I want to write a review about it here. Will my review be swept under the rug or into a corner and kept out of the officially sanctioned glowing review thread of said headphone? Will SBAF allow independent reviews to also coincide inside of the same thread?

    Are we going to disallow any review that wasn't created from the loaner program then? Even if it purchased individually? If a company sends us an HD 650, are we going to have to purge the site of all negative HD 650 reviews?

    This entire program reeks of ASR cult methodologies and feels like a betrayal of what early SBAF stood for.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 21, 2022
  9. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    @Elnrik man it's the last paragraphs in each of your last two posts that keep me from fully cosigning haha.

    But yeah what then, need there be a quota of negative impressions to balance out the effusive praise, or do people earn a time out for not finding any flaws with a piece of gear irrespective of price point?

    I'm digging up old drama I suppose but this triggers recall of the BorderPatrol DAC SE from a while back. This is entering the realm of needless philosophising but this raises questions about what even counts as "good" gear, whether it be something determined by consensus or instead a theoretical ideal thing with preferred properties assigned by the individual.

    I'll be honest I was hesitant to talk about how much I liked Grados (specifically the vintage RS1) a few years back since you and some others were quite vocal about how trash you felt they were and I was actually pretty happy when others started praising em since it was an opportunity to gush over something I enjoyed (with heavy caveats).

    It all just serves to underline how important it is to have both positives and negatives of each product highlighted though. Feel free to cream yourself over gear but keep an open ear for valid criticisms.
     
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  10. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF's Mr. Bean

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    Let me all tell you something that I've learned during my time as gearmaster (which technically I'm still one now):
    This is a good point.

    This is also a good point.

    Part of the charm of SBAF is our unwillingness to proclaim that everything is awesome, even stuff that well-regarded ears have liked. For example, Marv likes Grado. With the exception of Hemp, I actively hated on every Grado I heard and have an old profile post where I complained the GS2000 (or whatever the f**k it's called) as one of the worst things I've heard. And even though Hemp was okay, I would never buy one; I'd take my JAR HD600 (or hell, a stock HD600) over any Grado. And I don't even have a problem with Grado like I do against Apple (and most tech companies actually, but that's a conversation for another time). This is why when I ask for a loaner, I explicitly disclose to companies that if they want only positive reviews they won't find that in SBAF.

    However, it isn't that simple when asking for loaners. Sometimes a piece of gear is a piece of shit. You all have no idea how many times that I've either sent something to Marv or other staff likes Hands and asked "is this actually shitty or am I deaf," or wrote the original company an apology, told them I didn't like their product and sent it back all without posting anything on here. This is for a couple reasons:
    • Some companies are small or new startups. I can only imagine the damage that I could have caused ETA if I told everyone their first-gen Genesis was shit (it wasn't and I thought it was pretty good, so I ended up recommending it). These companies would go under immediately if we all shat on their product.
    • It's poor form to show as @rhythmdevils pointed out. These companies are taking a financial hit and a risk by sending things to us.
    This is why we gatekeep loaners (no, this isn't a new concept). I've gatekept gear from you all that, fairly or unfairly, I thought no one would have liked. This is not a new concept. However, at the same time, I expect full and complete honesty from SBAF in impressions whether they be negative or positive or meh. I have written meh reviews and I think most of you all know me well enough that you can tell when I think something is meh even though I'm trying to be nice about it.

    Let's not lose sight of what's happening here. We're going to be SBAF and if you hate something go ahead and shit on it. All we're asking for from people who sign up here is to gatekeep and not actively shit on something just because. Those loaners that I never sent out or reviewed? Our silence here speaks louder than words (old timers know what I'm talking about; new readers, this means we heard it and hate it or we haven't heard it yet).

    This is a big reason why being gearmaster is such a thankless and busy job. There's so much going on behind the scenes you guys don't know about and frankly speaking I appreciate that @rhythmdevils is splitting responsibilities with me.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 21, 2022
  11. SoupRKnowva

    SoupRKnowva Official SBAF South Korean Ambassador

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  12. brencho

    brencho Friend

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    Did I hear right, list of reviewers, reviews will be positive or not posted?
     
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  13. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    To clarify - not trying to complain about the loaner program. At the end of the day, no matter how we cut it, we get to hear gear that we often otherwise simply can't access for availability or financial reasons for relatively cheap (some shipping costs, time to write a review, and hopefully the occasional donation back to SBAF) because SBAF war chest, SBAF staff efforts and relationships, and vendors bear the brunt of the costs instead. I also get how much work it is etc managing both the vendors and the members of sbaf on top of any incidentals, etc.

    However, I did want to explicitly point out what I perceived as a pretty obvious potential conflict of interest as I believe SBAF's integrity and openness as a whole is what sets this place apart from a lot of other places.


    Practically speaking, after reading @ChaChaRealSmooth 's post, it seems like this is just distributing the gatekeeper job out to other people to reduce the burden on SBAF staff. Maybe another potential compromise is that the gatekeeper is not allowed to write anything other than a "yes / no" review publicly with a yes meaning loaner proceeds and all subsequent reviews are 100% honest and a no meaning cancel loaner? Or they can only PM SBAF staff with their honest opinions, good, bad, or otherwise, and together they decide how to proceed? This seems like it would be the closest thing to what we have now.
     
  14. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Feel free to not participate in any loaner tour ever again if this is how you feel. I may remove you from all current loaners.

    I put a lot of effort into the loaner program and I expect a bit more respect than this. Also just a bit more thought before posting something so inflammatory. I don't do all this work for me, I get very little out of all this work, I do it so SBAF members like you get to hear more gear.

    I never said that no one can write negative reviews in loaner tour review threads. I never said that no one can write positives and negatives in loaner tour review threads. For Christ sake, have you even thought about the current reviews of loaner tour gear? There are plenty of criticisms. Nothing has ever been edited or censored. Maybe you should read my first post of the Audeze Euclid iem, I don't rate it #1 and I point out that it has an upper midrange sickout that I don't like among other things I don't like. But I also say that this is the standard Audeze tuning and those who like that will really like the Euclid. This is the sort of finesse I'm asking for here IN THE FIRST REVIEW POST. And if a product is so bad that there is nothing good to say, and no one will like it, then no, I do not want a loaner tour for it or a thread full of "this is a piece of shit"

    As @ChaChaRealSmooth said, many of these companies are owned by a real human beings, who I am speaking with directly when I ask for a loaner of the product they put a ton of effort into. Most audio gear we care about doesn't just appear from the asses of huge corporate overlords.

    Everyone is welcome to be completely honest when they review something that is part of a loaner tour. In fact, when I reach out to vendors, I tell them that they can expect our reviews to be honest.

    what I'm talking about here is specifically the first review for a new loaner. And what I'm trying to avoid is specifically sending a product around that no one is going to like, and will wind up with an entire thread full of negative reviews. This serves no one. It wastes our time and will ruin the loaner program.

    In this thread I was asking for people who are willing to do introduction reviews. they don't need to be super long or in depth, it's just not quite the same as a follow up review, because you're introducing it to the community. So saying what it is, for example would be good.

    The only thing I don't want is an entirely negative first review saying that a piece of gear is crap when it comes from the loaner program. Follow up reviews can be more blunt I their criticisms. And gear reviewed that is someone's own purchase or something someone borrowed can say whatever the hell you want. You can post pictures of dog shit, I don't care. I've done this myself. Reviews are not censored on SBAF.

    The first review for a loaner tour can point out negatives as well as positives as long as some people on SBAF are likely to like the product. And it should be done with some intelligence and subtlety. You all are smart enough to read between the lines and don't need to hear "this is a piece of shit in tone" to understand that someone is saying it has an issue in their opinion.
     
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    Last edited: Aug 21, 2022
  15. brencho

    brencho Friend

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    Disagreement isn’t the same thing as disrespect. And amount of effort doesn’t alone merit respect. Carry on…
     
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  16. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    @rhythmdevils I don't think anyone is particularly dismissive of the crazy amount of work that goes into organising things like this, but it did seem to read like the intent was to prevent manufacturers that offer gear to be sent out on tour from getting humiliated in public, so to speak.

    The intentions behind that are kind, but they do come across as being a disservice towards people on the forum. The cost of buying something on your own v. participating in a loaner tour are very different so that in itself could be a barrier to valid criticism.

    Feel free to say if that's all bullcrap out of my mouth. Wouldn't be the first time I've misinterpreted something because I'm ESL, but a tacit "we're not reviewing this so the lack of conversation should be answer enough, but we'll bluntly say something is crap if asked directly" comes across as much less concerning than "the forum will only post positive impressions so manufacturers feel safer here".

    Same thing in action but different in spirit.
     
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  17. loadexfa

    loadexfa MOT: rhythmdevils audio

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    Yeah, exactly, this gatekeeping is nothing new for SBAF, simply spreading out the work to other people. I guess many in this thread didn’t get that, some of the reactions seem overly strong.

    Regarding doing just a “yes/no”, I think there is value in a first review so people know what they’re getting into to help them decide if they should join the loaner. For example, I didn’t prefer the Ollo headphones when I took on this “reviewer” role recently, I believe I made that clear. At the same time I tried to provide enough info so those with different taste than mine would be enticed to consider the loaner.
     
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  18. ChaChaRealSmooth

    ChaChaRealSmooth SBAF's Mr. Bean

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    Ding ding ding! We have a winner.

    If any part of the loaner program turns into this I'm going to do my darndest to right the ship and then resign from my position. Clearly I don't deserve to be staff if this ever happens to the loaner program directly under my watch and I should be ashamed of myself.
     
  19. YMO

    YMO Chief Fun Officer

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    Some of you guys really need to get some more pussy in your lives and really need to try to get out of your bedrooms. Some vibes of this convo sounds like Small Penis Syndrome and I don’t like it.
     
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  20. Wilewarer

    Wilewarer Almost "Made"

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    From the perspective of someone who reads these reviews and finds them helpful...

    I've gotten the sense that a lot of the time one is supposed to take the lack of discussion of an item here as commentary on whether it's worth considering. This doesn't universally apply (and maybe is even unfair to some stuff) because there's just so much out there and it's hard to try it all, but I've understood that as a tendency of this place - that a lot of stuff just isn't worth discussing - it's not necessarily worthy of contempt, it's just not for people here.

    I wouldn't see a problem with there being some amount of audition/screening from that perspective. If people don't want to talk about it, they don't want to talk about it, and that's a message too. Anyone reading an audio review already has to put in a fair amount of work to figure out whether what someone is saying about a piece of gear would apply to them, this is just an extension of that. So I wouldn't see it as dishonest or deceptive at all. A minor concession to reality, at worst.

    It'd be different if the idea were censoring negative reviews, but doesn't sound like that's the idea - it's really really far from how this place behaves.
     
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