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Over the years, I have both contacted and been contacted by a few companies to perform reviews of their products on the Super User Blog with some success. Now that the blog is a bit more veteran (albeit a bit understaffed) we are producing consistent high quality blog posts some of which include these product reviews.

I was wondering what Stack Exchange would think about us actively pursuing partnerships/sponsorships with outside companies related to Super User. I'm thinking that we could establish something similar to what Stack Overflow currently has with Microsoft, but with companies that distribute PC hardware/software, Microsoft included.

The relationship, in my eyes, would be something along these lines:

  • We identify a few companies that share the same interest as Super Users and contact them requesting a partnership
  • We review their products, that they would provide and then give them away to the community
  • Maybe we could even plug in an ad or two in the ad box as the same time?

Some advantages of teaming up with other companies would be:

  • Incentive for more users to blog with us
  • Publicity for the Super User Blog, Super User and the partnered company
  • Depending on the partnership/sponsorship, we might be able to do a few more contests/giveaways during the year (similar to Apptivate.MS)

What does the community and Stack Exchange employees feel about this?

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    I, for one, support the idea. Could we also get the cool logo tags that SO has? – Tanner Faulkner Jun 5 '13 at 16:48
  • @Tanner so that every time we ask a question on foo, FOOMAKER© get free advertising? – terdon Jun 5 '13 at 21:38
  • @terdon Said that before I read your post. The forced positive review spin does trouble me... – Tanner Faulkner Jun 5 '13 at 22:00
  • @terdon After reading your post, I took back my upvote for the question. You are completely right on this one. KronoS, I understand why this could have been a good idea, but one big negative is covered below – Canadian Luke Jun 5 '13 at 23:35
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    Why would we put a positive spin if we reviewed something that was crap tho? The worst case scenario is they'd either ask for the review not to be published, or not ask for things to be reviewed. – Journeyman Geek Jun 6 '13 at 5:17
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    @KronoS - I think partnerships with companies would be great. One problem I have seen countless times is once somebody is a sponsorship they need to avoid writting future articles the sponsor's products because their is a very fine line between an ad and a review article on a product once that happens. Even with full disclosure I don't trust sponsor type reviews because they never point out the flaws it seems. – Ramhound Jun 6 '13 at 13:55
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    @JourneymanGeek that worst case is pretty bad. If anything, reviews that highlight crap are more useful than those that highlight gems. If we don't review a product because it is crap so as not to offend our "partner", that is a very real loss. – terdon Jun 6 '13 at 14:54
  • @terdon that's why we wouldn't partner with companies that produce crap. I know you try to avoid Facebook and Microsoft personally, but their products are of a high quality. Sure there are things about them that are annoying, and I'm not afraid to point them out with honesty. I guess what I'm saying is that I'm not afraid to point out bad things about the products that I use, but there are some companies that I believe produce high quality products that I feel we could benefit from partnering up with. – James Mertz Jun 6 '13 at 15:09
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    @KronoS the point is that suppressing a bad review is essentially the same thing as publishing a positive review for a bad product. Selectively reviewing products shows an inherent bias in the review process itself. – Breakthrough Jun 6 '13 at 20:37
  • possible duplicate of Expanding our product reviews for the blog – James Mertz Jun 7 '13 at 14:52
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    @KronoS might it be better to leave this open? They're very closely related, but different. I would put an answer on this discussion, pointing to your new discussion, presenting it as a compromise solution that accomplished everybody's goals without compromising the integrity of the site. – nhinkle Jun 7 '13 at 16:29
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Personally, I am very strongly against this idea. Sites that offer reviews should never be partnered with companies that produce the products under review. For obvious reasons this is likely to lead to at worst false reviewing and at best a pressure towards a favorable review that blog authors will have to fight against.

One of my favorite points about SU is that it is a community, it is a site moderated by us and we are the ones taking part in it. Why would we want to invite a faceless company into our midst? It seems like this suggestion would pave the way for SU to become "just another site" controlled by the same corporate interests.

The advantages you list seem to be mostly for the company. All we get is a couple of freebies they may send our way while the company gets "free publicity", free adds in the add box, and a direct line to a huge potential customer base. All of this could be worth a lot of money but we are offering it free for the dubious benefit of a few free items that would be distributed how among the pretty large SU user base? They would end up going to a select few chosen either by lottery (I hope) or by some other arbitrary method. The end result would be the same, a select few get a free gift of a shiny new router and the company solves its advertising problems for free.

The trilogy sites are rapidly becoming the de facto source of information for their respective fields. I feel it is very important to keep them independent, to keep the right --as a community-- to chose who and what should be advertised on the side bar. To chose what to review and to be able to give honest answers without fear of retribution.

I think a better way to get more publicity to the blog would be to link to it from the main site, for example, or advertise it in the side bar more rather than to invite corporate backing.

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    Obviously, the products will be distributed among the moderators! ;D – Der Hochstapler Jun 5 '13 at 22:52
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    @OliverSalzburg I knew it, never trust a square that can't tell which was is up, diamonds they say, bah humbug! When's the next election? :) – terdon Jun 5 '13 at 22:57
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    I never though about it this way, and I whole heartily agree that SE should stuck to its integrity as a community. However, there must be a way to develop a partnership of some sort with an elect few companies, similar to what SO already does. – James Mertz Jun 6 '13 at 0:23
  • Now that I've been able to think about this for a little while, I'm slightly offended (nothing major, I know you mean well) that you would think that I or any of us here at Super User would 'sell out' and become "just another site". Stack Overflow has partnered with both Facebook and Microsoft and they've provided high quality answers for both sets of partners. I'm in no way suggesting that we start favoring one company over another, but rather creating an opportunity for Super Users to directly interact with companies that share the same passion as we do. – James Mertz Jun 6 '13 at 14:49
  • @KronoS I know this is not your intention, my apologies if I made it sound otherwise. I have nothing but respect and gratitude for the work you have done around here. All I am saying is that this is a slippery slope and I, personally, am not comfortable with the idea of corporate backing. Especially if it is from companies the like of Microsoft and Facebook both of whose products I avoid whenever possible. I do not want to open SE to the marketing minions is all. – terdon Jun 6 '13 at 14:52
  • @terdon don't take my "offense" personally. More, take it as a sign that I (nor anyone here at SE I believe) will sell our souls to the marketing devil. These partnerships wouldn't deter us from being honest in our assessments. Our loyalties will always lie with the SE community. We're just looking to better the experience of this community. That make sense? – James Mertz Jun 6 '13 at 15:01
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    @KronoS that makes perfect sense and I believe you mean it wholeheartedly. I still think this is a slippery slope, and I don't see any benefit to the community that outweighs the potential dangers. After all, you are not the only author of the blog and others may not share your integrity. – terdon Jun 6 '13 at 15:08
  • @KronoS continued, Perhaps you could update your post to clarify what the benefits to SO would be? You list incentives for authors (don't see why, what incentives? why would more people blog if the blog were no longer independent?), publicity for the blog (again how? We would give the company publicity, why would they give us?) and the freebies which again I feel are much more useful to the company than to us. I would be more open to the idea if we were talking about small independent companies with great products and not giants like Microsoft and Facebook. – terdon Jun 6 '13 at 15:09
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    @terdon: two things really - the would be more and more frequent blog posts, and more things to write about. Both of these things are good. Granted I have what.. two, three things I've been meaning to write about ... and haven't ;p – Journeyman Geek Jun 6 '13 at 15:27
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DISCLAIMER: I'd LOVE to review stuff, and as such, I think this is an AWESOME idea.

I think the blog and main site serve different purposes - we've already had articles on ssds, laptops and keyboards. None of these would have worked well as a question on the site proper.

People do reviews all the time and they arn't commercial sellouts. A good review should be objective in any case. This would be no different from hardwarezone, tom's hardware, tested or ars technica doing a review. If a company isn't prepared to back up its products when asking a SU blog writer to review it, well, they ought not to bother. With SU, we have the interesting option of having a wider pool of possible reviewers than most, and folk with a bewildering array of interests and specializations - I've bought a pretty high end gaming mouse (which I love to bits) entirely off the recommendation of someone off root access.

As for the matter of fairness, and well, people getting annoyed over not getting free stuff (we've lost a user or two cause of that). On the other hand, its useful to have folk who review things on a consistant set of hardware in some cases. I'd say that one option for that is to have. Least for users in the continental US, giving away reviewed hardware might be an option. This is certainly something worth considering if there was a formal framework for this.

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    How many of us are in the US? I'm not, you're not, I know at least 6 of the mods aren't either. Anyway, who gets the freebies is not the real issue here. The issue is whether having corporate sponsors will adversely affect the site. I believe it will and for very little benefit to us. If a blog is widely read, you can ask for and get free hardware without entering a partnership. – terdon Jun 6 '13 at 14:58
  • @terdon I don't think this really matters - I'm from Canada and they had no problems shipping my prize from the Super User Anniversary Contest back in 2011. I think this is even lesser if a product is "gifted" or being distributed as a prototype (or rather, when the product/prototype is not being sold). – Breakthrough Jun 6 '13 at 20:42
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I believe that a lot of people were confused and scared (understandably) by my use of the term "partnership". After discussing this in length I've come up with a more understandable proposal/solution:

Expanding our product reviews for the blog

*Note, I don't normally ask a similar question like this, however in this case, an edit to my current question would've rendered the current answers useless. I'm accepting this answer for this reason.

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