Gadget Sites Could Be Useful…But Aren’t

There are plenty of gadget-happy, marketing types out there who want to make money off your personal information–namely, what gadgets you own and what gadgets you want to buy. Such sites, like  ProductWiki and the me-too site gdgt, have failed miserably, but there is a way to make them successful.

The reason these sites have languished is that their developers want to sit back and have us do all the work. Based on so-called "user-generated content" (translation: completely unreliable speculation and rumor), the sites purport to offer useful tips and tricks. The truth is, what it really means amounts to is a behavioral marketing experiment in which visitors are asked to input all the information but are offered little in return. For example, the search engine at gdgt makes it impossible to find any products and the advice forums are generally bereft of helpful advice (though they can be an ideal breeding ground for hackers who want to lead the gadget-lorn astray).

However, with some work, these sites could succeed if they offered two critical pieces of information:
1.- Links to the latest drivers and software for all the products.
2. – Recall information for all the products.

The first idea is obvious: List all your gadgets at the site and in return we'll send you notifications every time there's a software or driver update (or not, if you so choose). Consumers are tired of having 20 "update alert" buttons across the bottom of the screen (knock it off, Adobe). A one-stop shop for this stuff would be useful, and sites like gdgt could put this information together with little cost and effort.

The second idea is courtesy of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who recently proposed legislation that would establish a single list of all product recalls to be posted on the Web. It's a great idea that would help busy families and alert them when dangerous child seats, cribs, lead-encrusted toys, or other devices are subject to recalls. It's also something sites like gdgt could do now…and offer visitors something of real value

One word of warning for those who visit gdgt: I recommend skipping the Facebook feature. It's part of a (hopefully short-lived) marketing trend of tracking all of your behavior online. You don't want that, and the security and privacy concerns are far too serious to ignore.

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About jquain

Technology reporter, writer, and television correspondent, JQ has been covering the computer, communications, and consumer electronics industries for more than 25 years.A contributor to The New York Times, Popular Mechanics, PC Magazine, U.S. News & World Report and many other publications, JQ appears on CBS News television program Up to the Minute and on Fox Business.
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