WEASNER'S EDITORIAL PAGE
This is my second editorial for Weasner's Mighty ETX Site. As noted in my first editorial, I've been asked many times over the three years this site has been online to do an "editorial page." Keep in mind that this EDITORIAL PAGE is just that. It is MY area to say whatever is on MY mind. Comments are welcome of course.
Many visitors have requested that I expand this site beyond just the Meade ETX telescope line. I have begun taking steps to do just that. If this site expansion continues, "Weasner's Mighty ETX Site" will evolve into "Weasner's Tremendous Small Telescope Site" early in the last year of the 20th Century (that is 2000, as the perfectionists know!). However, there are some risks in such an expansion of scope (no pun intended), just as there have been risks in expanding the site beyond the original ETX model, which is the only model ETX I actually own. In this editorial, I will be discussing some of the risks and ways to reduce the impacts of these risks. There may be other risks and solutions hiding out there, but we'll worry about those at another time. The risks I'll be covering here are in the areas of accuracy, credibility, site usability, time, and cost.
By the way, some of you may note that I have changed the proposed name. I think that "tremendous" is a more appropriate term than "massive" when talking about the type of small telescopes the expanded site will cover.
The risk of expanding the site is that we will erode the signal-to-noise ratio in the information provided. Obviously, I can not be, will not be, and never have been a filter for information posted here. I have always assumed that the information submitted was accurate, and truthful and based upon the submitter's actual experience or knowledge. What little noise there has been in the information is significantly exceeded by the signal (i.e., "value") of the information. But as the site expands, there will likely be more opportunities for lower quality information to be posted. To mitigate this, we could have designated and recognized "experts" for each topic who would volunteer their time to review messages and prepare responses. Sort of like an "Ask the Experts" area. Their email address would be posted, email would be directed to them for action, they would then send the original email and response to me to post for all to see. For example, we could have an ETX-90EC expert, an ETX-125EC expert, an Autostar expert, a NexStar5 expert, etc. Their task would be to filter out the noise and increase the signal. As the site expands to more and more small telescope models, more and more experts would be needed to cover the new areas. The alternative is to continue as today: I receive email and post them on the appropriate Feedback page. Others then read the email, send me their responses, and I then post those responses. In either case, my replies to senders would likely become just a "thank you" note and indicate that I'll be posting their message.
To maintain the quality of this site, some things will have to change. Reducing the frequency of updates does not really reduce the time required to prepare the updates. Using our recognized "experts" would reduce my workload in responding directly to individuals, and that would help. But site maintenance is my responsibility and for three years I have done that without hesitation. My only hesitation now is over the amount of time it will take to expand the site, make it usable in its new form, and then maintain it and the information flow that goes along with it.
As in the past, I expect that I will still be reviewing products I receive and preparing those reviews for everyone's benefit. As many of you know, reviewing products can be a simple thing or a complex thing, depending upon the nature of the product. In my case, I have used and reviewed products that I would not normally have purchased just so others could benefit from the experiences. This takes even more of my time. When products are provided for evaluation and retained for long term usage or to be available to answer future questions on, such products should not be considered as payment for the time it takes for the evaluation and writeup. But there are costs to maintain this site beyond just my time.
There are two ways to begin to recover a portion of these costs. One is to charge a small "subscription fee" to allow access to the site. The other is to accept advertising. While I am not saying that either of these will definitely be implemented, they are ideas to consider. Of these, advertising has the higher probability. If implemented, such advertising would be "targeted," meaning that only ads from reliable and known sources would be solicited and accepted and then only from companies selling products related to the purpose of this site. For example, these could include "Amazon.com" for astronomy books and perhaps telescope dealers and equipment manufacturers whose names are well known to visitors. Currently, some see that certain dealers and manufacturers receive "free advertising" by having their names and products mentioned on this site. Accepting paid advertising would not grant any editorial or product review control to those companies. But there is the risk that some readers would believe that the site's content is being bought by advertisers. On the other hand, money received from advertising could be used to "blind purchase" products that are then evaluated and written up on this site without the knowledge of a dealer or manufacturer. I would hope that most visitors would not find fault with that.
This is the first public announcement that advertising may be used to offset some of the costs of this site. No dealer or manufacturer has been solicited for advertising as yet. And none will be contacted about this (other than by reading this editorial) until I gauge visitors' reactions.
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