Are these forums a conflict of interest?

Many who post here would have seen me comment in the CT comments section as well as on other popular cycling forums…

Something I have noticed recently (and of course some forums are worse than others) is the appearance of “shills” who I suspect are using forums to influence purchasing decisions.

By way of example: “Should I buy wheelset/frameset A, or B” with comments then singing a products’ praises or putting it down. A few telltale signs that this is going on is when posters have a recent join date or very few posts, but neither of those are exactly a smoking gun…

Question to the CT brains trust… what could/will you guys do to ensure your readers that you or your sponsors can’t/won’t use this simply as another platform to advertise?

Apologies if this comes across in any other way than genuine (as a Melbournian I’ve been reading this site since it was simply Wades’ own blog waaaay back when). I’m not trying to be combative. We live in a post-truth world and (unfortunately) the cycling industry is not exempt.

Cheers, stay safe, Rob.

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Most shill posts are pretty self-evident, and that’s what the flag function is for, I suppose.

I’ve seen employees of various bike-related companies post in other fora, and as long as they’re open about their relationship to a product, I don’t have a big issue with them going online to defend/extol the virtues of whatever it is they sell.

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I think it’s reasonable to expect that anyone who has skin in the game should make that fact explicit, either by username or by adding a tag line or signature.

I don’t see a facility for adding a signature line on the forum so it may be more difficult than it is elsewhere.

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Hey Rob,

Good question and it’s certainly something we considered.

I have a few thoughts on this:

  • You, the audience is smart. Collectively you’ll be able to smell BS from a mile away and industry insiders aren’t going to bombard this forum with praise for their product in a way that’ll be influential. I can’t imaging this happening in the first place to be honest.

  • In general, I wouldn’t place a lot of weight on a purchasing decision based on a single commenter spruiking any type of product. You might start to form an opinion by the collective, but not on a single post.

  • Despite what people might say and the general reputation of media, our product reviews have no link to commercial obligations and we go to great lengths to make sure these relationships are kept separate. I hope you can trust our reviews on major purchase decisions and use this forum (or the comments on the review) to validate any points of concern with the community.

  • On the flip side, what’s more of a concern is people coming here trashing a brand or a product because of a single bad experience. They’re basing this on a sample size of one and are sometimes blown out of proportion.

One of the reasons we chose this forum platform is because of community moderation features and the level of trust that the system recognises in users (based on history) to prevent problems like this. I’m confident in the CyclingTips community to use this effectively to self-moderate.

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Thanks Wade.

Well reasoned response. It definitely seems like this was considered. In particular the self-moderation - if the CT comments section is anything to go by, the moderation in the forums will be… “robust” :wink:

To your third point, the only thing I’d add (along the lines of what Lyrebird_Cycles wrote), maybe a terms of use requiring industry insiders/vendors to make their position and affiliation known via a signature or icon? I realise this may be hard to police… just a thought.

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Is it possible that there exists a person who is a fan of cycling, a fan of community, and employed by a bike company?

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I reckon in most cases you’re able to spot people pushing products as they often don’t have any/many other posts and without coming across as a grammar Nazi they’re often not particularly well written/formatted.

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We have to accept, that at a point, it’s ALL an advertisement and we all have influence. The jersey, bibs, the bike, the helmet, the shades…We are literally rolling billboards. Like it or not even the CT independent, unbiased reviews and in depth discussions influence our buying. We didn’t just drink the Kool-Aid, we’re swimming in it.
As for “shills”? Well, if one asks about tubeless road wheels I’ll tell 'em that Mavic’s wheel tire combo is the best of the ones I’ve tried. I’ll tell you that the quality of LeCol is just as good as if not better than Rapha and Assos (with a lower price tag and great rider Strava based incentives). I’ll tell e’m that Lizard Skin may some damn good bar tape but I just don’t like the name or the logo so that’s a pass.

We’re all shills in a way. All peddling something. (SWIDT?)

Short Answer: No. These forums are of the interest of cycling and the cycling industry which inherently influences cycling and the cycling industry.

Ride on Rob :upside_down_face:

side note: this is coincidentally my first post and I do not currently not have I ever worked for Mavic and/or LeCol and/or Strava

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I’m not fast enough on roadie, steezy on the MTB, or fashionable enough so i love the idea I have influence!

Tbh I thought the only thing I could influence would be for parents to say look at him, don’t do that.

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