Recently, I selected roadtest applicants who were both new roadtesters and have not participated much on the community, primarily because I have had some other members tell me that I am using experienced roadtesters too much. (This is never my intent; I select the best applicants. When I roadtest writes only a 1-sentence application, I don't have much to go on and these folks usually don't get selected.)
I had to report roadtest results to 2 sponsors. Well, the results for these 2 roadtests were not great: 4 roadtesters haven't done their reviews, they haven't logged in for 3 to 4 months, and they have not responded to all our follow ups that we do for every roadtest. Before I selected these 4, I contacted them and they agreed to commit to delivering the review in 60 days.
Now, 2 roadtests is a fraction of all roadtests. For many roadtests we get 100% compliance. I'd say overall we are getting a compliance rate in the upper80s/lower90s, which is good and a far cry from where we were 2 years ago when we were at the sub-20% level.
Speaking for the sponsor and myself, we understand that in some situations people will be unable to complete the review. After all, people do get ill and emergencies do arise in everyone's lives, so I never expect to have 100% compliance for every roadtest. I recall someone who had a tree fall on his house in an ice storm. That's a major tragedy in my book. Of course I would not expect a review. But these instances are atypical and very few compared to all roadtests and roadtesters I deal with.
While we give the official roadtesters the kits and the shipping for free, someone does pay for these things. Typically, the sponsor pays for the kits and element14 pays for the shipping costs to the roadtesters. But we are more than happy to do this because we value our roadtesters' opinions and we are happy to absorb the costs when the reviews are published.
But the question comes to mind: what happens when a roadtester doesn't complete the review:
1. The sponsor does not receive all the feedback he is seeking when he enrolled in the roadtest program as a sponsor.
2. Someone who does not complete the review prevents someone who could have done the review from doing it.
3. It prevents our members from learning about the product.
4. It damages the credibility of the program.
5. The delinquent roadtesters prevent themselves for being considered for a high-priced product. If I can't reliably use someone for a $35 US roadtest, how can I expect them to do the review for a $3500 US roadtest!
6. I am placed in the embarrassing situation to explain why 4 people I selected did not do their reviews.
There are other reasons but 6 reasons is enough to make my point.
It is my responsibility to get the required results for both our sponsors. My bosses also have expectations and expect that I will solve problems. I want people to use the RoadTest program to have fun with technology, and get some products or equipment that they may not have the budget to get on their own. But I also need mature, responsible members who are engaged in our community, demonstrate an appropriate level of professionalism, and are responsive to our follow up requests. I like to think most roadtesters are professional. I surely do not think these 4 delinquent roadtesters represent the RoadTest group.
But going forward, I will have to modify my approach in selection somewhat. And I probably will not hand out all the kits if I don't feel I have enough roadtesters who are knowledgeable about the product, and are mature, professional and reliable. If you were in doubt that I am very serious about people completing their reviews, I hope this discussion makes my position very clear. I apologize to all my loyal and responsbile roadtesters who do complete their reviews. But this is a community and I have to communicate my concerns as well as be open to new ideas and feedback: it's a two-way street.
If you can't finish the review, contact me and tell me or my colleague danzima why. If you need a bit more time, that's fine if you need to do more testing. (Needing more time to finish your Differential Equations homework or finishing your digital electronics lab is not a reason for needing more time.) Communicate and keep us in the loop; you will find in your career that developing communication skills is as important as honing those engineering skills. Even if you received a non-working product, you are still required to post a review. Put it out to the members: "I took these readings and I believe it's faulty. Help me troubleshoot it." There are plenty of eager members who are more than happy to help.
I want everyone to benefit from a Roadtest. I think completed roadtests are a great place to learn. I think they are a fantastic vehicle for the new engineer who is trying to shine in their first job interview. Read our e-book on IoT careers to learn more shining in a job interview: https://www.element14.com/community/community/publications/ebooks?ICID=hp-iotcareerebook-rotational#?ICID=ebooks-downloa…
But you can't reap the benefits of the roadtest program if you don't do your reviews.
RoadTest Program Manager