I think I decided to begin these conversations with the RoadTesters group last Summer (2017) as a way to personally communicate what's going on in RoadTests, as well as a way to communicate my concerns, impressions, and suggestions of how to improve the group through inviting the members to participate in its administration. I believe I wrote two more (2, 3) more conversations last year, so this is my first one for 2018. Here goes.
2017 Was a Great Year for RoadTests
2017 ending up being a really good year for the RoadTest program. Thanks to all who participated. We had nearly 60 roadtests and about 2,500 members apply to be official RoadTesters. In our 2017 Roadtester of the Year Winners' Announcement, we chose Donald Lane, Lucie Tozer, Inderpreet Singh, Douglas Wong and Shabaz Yousaf as "official" winners, but the entire group was a "winner." I look at the reviews in toto as a compelling body of work. Reading the reviews is eye-opener on one level, and a great hands-on learning experience on another. People recognize this. I meet a lot of our suppliers and the first thing they usually ask me about are RoadTests. Thanks to all for a great 2017. But there are some things I want to talk to you about in this conversation for this year. So, let me get going, and first talk about applications.
To Get the Free Product You Need To Write a Good Application
All RoadTests start with the application. Besides providing your contact information (which is necessary to mail you the product if you win), the application asks about 10 screening questions to learn more about you. The last part of the application is an open word-processor space where you explain to me and the supplier what you are going to do on the RoadTest. In other words, your personal comments are persuasive in nature. Persuasion means that you are trying to give me a good reason to recommend you. It sounds simple enough, right? Maybe not. Too many people are sending me things like this to persuade me: (1) Nice product. Big competitor (2) My interest in learning new technologies is making me to fill this application, or (3) Full time student. None of these persuade me. To help applicants write a better application, I created a webinar show them what we are looking for. Click here to view the short webinar video.
Review Completions Have Skyrocketed
About a year ago, the roadtest completion rate was very low. We've worked hard to improve the completion percentage through better and more frequent communication and getting the products quicker to you (which is still a challenge). So, before writing this conversation, I did an audit today and calculated the review completion rate to be about 62%. Some Roadtests are getting 100% back. For the most part, the reviews we have not received have been due to sickness-, work- or weather-related issues. While I would like to get them all back, I realize things come up in people's lives that prevent them from writing a review. Perhaps the greater issue around RoadTests are field failures, tech support questions, and shipping issues, all of which I will address in a moment. But I'm also wondering if these delinquent reviews have to do with a problem that a roadtester experiences that he or she can't solve. Check out my roadtest roadblock discussion if that describes you. I cannot stress too often that the RoadTest plan which should be part of every winning application is important. Sixty days can go by fast if you are working full time and hit a problem. The best thing to do is not to keep your problem to yourself! Share it with the community. The members are more than happy to help. If you simply cannot write a review, please notify me and we will try to make some arrangements to have the product sent back to us. If you do not fulfill your part of the agreement -- write a review -- and don't notify us, I will no longer be able to consider you for RoadTests in the future.
Your Shipping Responsibilities: How To Avoid Abandoned Shipments
My assistant Dan Zima spends a lot of time packing and shipping the products we send you for a RoadTest. He has many other responsbilities on the element14 team as well so I need to use his time appropriately. Now, he may be the person doing the shipping, but shipping responsbilities do not end with Dan. The official RoadTester has shipping responsbilties as well. Often times, our shipments get stuck at a local shipping office or a country's customs office. Sometimes they need clarification, and I hear Dan at his desk calling the shipper to get the required information to the shipper, when he can. But sometimes the shipper needs information that only the recipient, the roadtester (You), can provide. If that is the case, and you have been notified by Dan or myself to contact the shipping office, it is your responsbility to do so. The shipper will not wait forever for the information. At some point, the shipper will deem your shipment as abandoned and will destroy it. Sometimes we can intervene and get it sent back to us if the cost to return it is not too high. But sometimes we have to let it go, which happened last week. I am not happy when a product is abandoned, especially if there was a couple of weeks to contact the shipping office to avert abandonment. Some of our members have gone out of the way to make a personal visit to the shipper's office. If you are in this situation and do not make an effort to avoid abandonment, I will no longer use you as a RoadTester, no matter what the supplier desires. If anyone has any questions about this policy, feel free to message me privately at rscasny.
This is more of a reminder than anything else. When you have a technical problem, make sure to make a comment of it on the RoadTest landing page. Describe it, give any other important information, and ask for help. It's okay to ask for help, especially if you are a first time RoadTester or a student. Your fellow RoadTesters often respond to your questions. Think of a RoadTest Group as a support community. If you suspect you have a failed product, do the same thing AND contact me. I'll see about getting you another one, if possible. If no one can answer your question, let me know. I will contact the supplier and we'll get you some help. Finally, let's say your problem prevented you from completing the review the way you had originally planned. That's fine. Write the review anyway. Report on what you could do and what you observed. That's all you can do. I still need the review.
How To Edit a RoadTest Review
I have had a few questions on how to edit a review once you post the review. It's simple to do. Once you write your review, you can save it in two ways: draft state or live state. If you saved it in the draft state and want to edit it, go up to your name in the right hand corner of your browser, click the black triangle, and then click Your Content. Another page will open and in the left hand menu, you will see Drafts. Click on it. Your drafts will be listed. Click on the RoadTest draft. So, now you are in the Draft. Look at the left-hand rail, and you will see a link called Edit RoadTest Review. Click on that and you will be able to edit your Draft review. If you have a live review, login to element14 and go to the review. On the left-hand rail, you will see Edit RoadTest Review. click on it and start editing.
I will be getting 10 new Raspberry Pi 3B+'s to roadtest in the next week. So, watch out for that RoadTest and make sure to apply. I have 3 more spectrum analyzers and 3 more oscillocscopes that I'll be roadtesting in April from Rohde & Schwarz; the supplier was real happy with the quality of the reviews (100% response!!) so they are happy to try again. I also am getting 5 Robotics Learning kits from Texas Instruments to roadtest. These are incredible products. Watch out for those in May. Finally, I am experimenting with doing theme-based roadtests that provide a number of products (perhaps 10). For example, a wireless roadtest or a motion control roadtest. Watch out for those in early summer.
RoadTest Program Manager