Bizarre doin’s over at Elecraft

imagesAh, the Outer Limits! Great 60’s TV…spooky & eerie! Remember the opening lines:

There is nothing wrong with your set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical. For the next hour, sit quietly and we will control all that you see and hear. You are about to experience the awe and mystery which reaches from the inner mind to the outer limits.

 

pied-piperIn a blatant attempt to manipulate the supposedly neutrally-derived product reviews at eHam.com, Elecraft’s Eric Swartz WA6HHQ made a posting to the Elecraft reflector soliciting reviews from effusive list members:

I just noticed that some of the eHam review categories are getting stale and could use some new reviews.

If you are feeling effusive and want to write a short review of your K3, W2 Wattmeter etc., here are a few direct links to the eham Elecraft review pages…

effusive – 1. unduly demonstrative, lacking reserve 2. marked by excessive emotion or enthusiasm 3. gushy

This goes hand in hand with a previous post I made regarding the wisdom of being suspect when hearing praise of an Elecraft product – it may have been either:

A) Solicited – read here, or

B) Manipulated, as called for here.

(The html addresses of both of the above links are, in part, “pipermail”…Pied Piper indeed!)

Regardless, such methods are unethical and perhaps even dishonest. Other reviews take their natural course. Elecraft reviews seem to be, shall we say, guided…..in a weird, Outer Limits-Stepford Wives sort of way. As if “you’d better toe the Company Line, son – we’ll tolerate no dissent.”

Fine rigs, no doubt – makes it all the more shameful they feel the need to dilute their company’s reputation with such low tactics. I’ve been debating the K3 vs a Ten Tec rig for quite a while now and am realizing that despite the specs, I’d rather associate myself with Ten Tec. Great rigs, sans manipulation.

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  7 comments for “Bizarre doin’s over at Elecraft

  1. January 29, 2010 at 11:54 am

    That posting about the 2/5 K3 rating is downright creepy.

  2. January 29, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Fair points, and I understand your distaste. That said, this is eHam — the reviews are mostly puff and fluff written by anyone who has but a single prerequisite qualification: an internet connection; knowing what you’re talking about is optional. I’ve found the majority of eHam reviewers to fall into one of two categories: fanboys, and bitch-and-moaners. Certainly not all, but the majority. I’d be a whole lot more concerned if Elecraft was paying off the ARRL, Sherwood, NCJ, or any of the big-gun contesters and DXers who have publicly praised the K3, since those are the reviews and opinions that matter to most me. Basing a decision on which radio to buy by what happens on eHam (or QRZ.com or wherever) is like getting car buying advice from a NASCAR fan. ;-)

    Although I don’t attribute nefarious purpose to Eric’s request (would he really have done it so publicly if he was trying to undermine a credible equipment review?) it isn’t something I would have done when I was working for JRC. I wouldn’t call it unethical, but it does have an appearance of impropriety.

    I wouldn’t base your decision to buy a K3 (or not) on what is more likely an error in judgement than an overt attempt to defraud the public. If you prefer Ten-Tec to Elecraft, that’s fine, many do. But if you buy a Ten-Tec when you would have preferred the K3 but for this eHam thing, you’re really only spiting yourself.

    My 2 cents…

    73 de WW2PT

  3. Wayne, N6KR
    January 29, 2010 at 7:20 pm

    John,

    We have always periodically (and publicly) encouraged our customers to “tell their friends” about their Elecraft radios. We mention review sites by name because some of our customers don’t even know that they exist.

    But I agree “effusive” was a poor choice of words. And the timing of this posting was poor.

    73,
    Wayne
    N6KR

  4. January 29, 2010 at 7:48 pm

    Hi John,

    Wow, I was surprised about your comments regarding my periodic posting reminding Elecraft list subscribers that they can make eHam reviews. My use of the word “effusive” was meant to mean more “if they were in the mood to take some time to write about our products” – it was not asking them to write a positive review. To be honest, I didn’t look up the exact dictionary definition when I posted.

    I am always very careful to avoid asking specifically for positive reviews, and in fact in the past we have received a wide range of reviews in response to similar postings. We certainly can’t please everyone, but we try. I also was not asking anyone to respond to a specific review. With so many review categories on various sites on the net, including eham, it takes a while for me to even see all of them. I try to list most of our main products in this posting and do not try to steer anyone toward a specific area. Our goal is to get more current information out there about our products. (We add new features regularly to the k3, K2, K1, W2 etc.) The bottom line: People should always feel free to ask someone they know and respect who has one of our products for their opinion – that’s a great way to get real detailed information.

    Please feel free to contact me directly if you have further concerns. (Our office number is 831-763-4211) We absolutely try to maintain a high level of truthfulness and ethical behavior here. If you ask our customers about that, i think you will find they strongly agree. Both Wayne and I are lifelong hams who have put our total energy into making cool products for the ham community for the past ten years, and we hope to keep doing so for another ten or more. :-) Elecraft is not a huge impersonal corporation, so we put our personal reputations on the line every day.

    In any case, I’ll try to be even more low key in any future list postings of this type to avoid misunderstandings like this.

    Regards,
    Eric Swartz WA6HHQ
    Elecraft

  5. John Harper AE5X
    January 29, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Paul, Wayne & Eric,

    Thank you all for your replies. Lest you think I “have it in” for Elecraft products, a search of QRP-L archives of my experience with the K1 and KX1 as well as these short write-ups (http://www.ae5x.com/blog/?tag=kx1) should dispell any such notions.

    Regardless of various opinions of reviews seen on eHam, it is the go-to site for most (by far, I believe) hams looking to add equipment to their shack. If I’m going to buy a gadget, I check the reviews there first – I may take them with a grain of salt or I may give them creedence. A lot can be determined by the tone of the review as to whether it rates credibility.

    My take on Eric’s posting was that if a company employee made such a public request for owners to seed a website with effusive reviews, he’d be up front & center with management the next morning. But in this case, company management made the request!

    Given the multiple, always highly-favorable reviews in QST and other publications, it seems like such measures would be unneccesary. And undesireable.

    So I guess my posting here was a result not so much of “distaste” as of surprise. Why would you seed a – no, THE – review site for ham radio equipment? Do the benefits of having currently-available reviews outweigh the perception that comes with the company president asking that those reviews be made, and be made effusively, particularly when such favorable reviews are available elsewhere and from more reliable sources?

    Like it or not, there is a cost associated with such a request.

    Thanks again for taking the time to respond. I do realize that would not be the case with any of your competitors.

  6. Ed
    January 30, 2010 at 11:58 am

    Hello John,

    I wonder if when you sat down to write this entry, you thought you’d end up with not one, but both owners of Elecraft posting comments? More tellingly, both took the time to acknowledge that the timing of their request was poor and that their intent did not revolve around monkey business to further taint eham reviews.

    eHam may be “THE” site for ham radio equipment reviews, but that doesn’t mean that it is worthy of praise. It simply means that ham radio is glaringly lacking in terms of reputable review sites. That’s not to say that all the reviewers on eHam are bozos – obviously the folks at Elecraft think that there’s some value in them or they’d never have bothered with this request.

    I think you bring a good question to light and I thank you for doing so for the ham community, but as a potential customer, I’m also totally satisfied with the response from Eric and Wayne. I also believe that Paul says it best when he urges not to base a decision on whether to buy Ten-Tec or Elecraft on what you might read in eHam. That’s a recipe for disaster in most cases. But smart shoppers know that already.

    73 Ed

  7. January 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Ed,

    I was having that very conversation with my wife last night – that both Wayne & Eric took the time to respond. Not knowing really who they are or the company’s history, she nevertheless echoed my sentiments that it spoke well of them to take the time to do so.

    And regardless of one’s opinion of the reviews at eHam, Elecraft obviously considers it relevent, if not for reviews then at least as a de facto source for an advertisement that poses as a review. And that was my overall point.

    You’re right – a decision totally based on eHam is foolish. My use of the reviews is to get an indication if there’s a valid reason to avoid something, ie a genuinely poor product is going to show as such in the reviews. The reverse is not necessarily true.

    73,

    John

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