Choice Community - for what purpose?

Hi, I was just wondering what people think about the Choice community and what they believe has been achieved to date. Let me be the devil’s advocate. I think it’s pretty useless. It clearly lacks a defined purpose and direction. Yes it provides an outlet for expressing consumers frustration but you can do this by talking to family and friends. At the end of the day, the posts seem to dry up and whither on the vine. What do you think?

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Hi Albie,

Personally, I use Choice Community to educate the public on environmental and scientific matters. I want people to be able to make better choices and habits through having access to more reliable knowledge.


@Albie I think one of the greatest gifts we have as human beings is the ability to pass ideas on both by the written word and orally . I really cherish that ability to do so . To have sat and listened to my own grand father who lived to 100 years old impart his wisdom to me… He saw Halley’s Comet twice in his life time and made me laugh when he said it was "better the first time around .You could see it more clearly " The wisdom of ages was being passed down to me . My father and mother taught me many things about coping with life . Again I reiterate that great gift of the transferring of ideas is something to be treasured and preserved . We now have the internet . What a fantastic tool it is to espouse our opinions and ideas on a myriad of topics . That’s why I don’t think this forum is useless . It will find its way in due course as the users and Choice fine hone it and shape it into something we can be proud of . Reddit and Whirlpool forums were slow starters , I contribute to them as well and look how they have grown . Yes some posts do wither on the vine but like a lot of vine fruits come spring they bloom , flower and produce fruit again . Not all things are of interest to all posters . There will always be disparity of favour in the rating of posts due to the timeliness of the post and also it’s relevancy to the readers of the forum . I believe the Choice Community Forum is a much needed means of expression for those that take an active interest in the topics and categories it covers . It is not perfect no doubt but it is new and can only improve as it grows and gains more contributors .


My 2c is that yes, it can be a bit alarmist/conspiracy theorist, but also gathers some useful info more often than not.


I love the Choice Community.

I learn about what other people are using and the benefits they get from their goods and services.

I learn about what to look out for and beware of when using particular goods and services.

The forum gives me an opportunity to offer other people my suggestions to help them or try different ways of solving their problems.

I become educated on the scams happening on the internet and at home, and sometimes even in my Supermarket.

I am a more knowledgeable and wise person because of the Choice Community.


Thanks for the topic, which is of course of great interest to those of us at CHOICE who are working on

Our hope is for the community to be a place where Australians can give and receive help with consumer problems, as well as exchanging information. The first step is to foster a positive and helpful community – I think that together we are doing that.

There are some threads that get a bit heated, and sometimes someone will step over the line. This usually starts with someone assuming bad faith on the part of another and questioning their motives. However mildly expressed, this is one accusation that never fails to annoy. So if you do see someone kicking it off, please do use the Flag feature. And if you see something helpful, please use the Heart. Over time, this will tell the system who the most helpful people are, and give their posts more prominence. I reckon if we can work to establish a place of mutual respect then even the most contentious issues can be aired, debated, and brought to a place where an engaged reader can figure out which argument is well supported and which is bunk.

So unlike a lot of other forums we have a dedicated moderator in @BrendanMays, and we have ground rules that we’re serious about, and we even have a dedicated software developer who can modify the platform and add features. I reckon a couple of useful features would be a better Q&A system, and a product/service review template. If you have feature ideas that would make more useful, please tell us about them.

And we have each other. Everyone here has been invited because you’re an engaged CHOICE member or supporter (for those of you who’ve been around a while, you’ll start to see an INVITE button at the bottom of each page, which gives you the power to issue invitations by email as well). CHOICE board members and experts are on here as well, chiming in with questions and answers of their own.

So I reckon we’re in with a chance of making something special, useful and helpful for Australian consumers, if we want to :wink:


Thanks for the feedback Viveka. Unlike most other social media, this forum is subscriber funded. As a result, there is I believe, a responsibility on Choice to ensure the forum value adds to the subscriber. To date it seems most of the useful information shared on the site could be accessed through the Choice magazine or by looking back through archived on-line service.

I think the on-line product / service review would be a great addition giving members an opportunity to post their own expieriences / pricing etc. While this would be quite subjective (unlike the Choice testing), if enough people comment on the product / service then you would have enough information to form a reasonable opinion.

The other contentious issue, as with all forums, is how do we know an anonymous individual is an “expert”. For example I read one post where the author seemed to clearly to be a bit of an expert, with a very detailed explanation of some chemistry. Unfortunately it was taken verbatim from Wikipedia without attribution and Wikipedia is a site I never rely on when researching a topic.

That is why I’m not convinced the Heart is nessecarily a good indicator of the value of a post. It’s a like button, which just means you agree the author and the post doesn’t necessarily add to your knowledge of consumer rights. One alternative is a “how helpful was that” scale. Again it goes back to value adding to the subscribers membership.

I’m very glad, and to some extent relieved, you are looking features that will assist consumers over and above the services already provided by Choice. Please keep up the good work and I look forward to the innovations to come.


I also love Choice Community, having a common bond in being members of Choice, wanting to learn and being willing to share our experiences with other members.
I do not have any friends with the expertise of those who contribute to the Electronics and Technology threads. I envy Vax2000 having been able to learn from his grandfather who lived to 100 years, what an amazing experience !
Thank you to all the contributors for the time and effort you put in Choice Community, and to Brendan and to all the team. God bless.

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As a subscriber, I like the community for chatting about what is going on and finding what everyone else is finding dodgy. It has helped me to move away from a couple of products towards something marginally better (if everything is made in the same factory, how does anything really be “better”?).
I’m happy to pay for community involvement if it make Choice even better than it already is.


I agree to a certain extent. It seems to be more of an outlet for members to express their views than an avenue of actual change. I would like to see those views mean something in the sense that Choice actively took them on board and incorporated the ideas into its frame of reference. Otherwise, it simply becomes another chat group.

Now clearly Choice cannot act upon every idea, complaint or individual gripe, because not all of the threads warrant Choice’s involvement. In any event, there are too many different ideas floating around to pursue each and every one. However, I would like to see at least some of the ideas acted upon because otherwise there is indeed little point. The world doesn’t need another unproductive chat room.

Is that practical? Sure … Choice needs to continually source new ideas and areas of concern, and this group is potentially just the right place to source new ideas. It could provide a conduit between the community and the management, and it does provide a fresh and different source of community views. However, we all need to feel that our contributions are being taken seriously and that there is a point in sharing our thoughts. Otherwise we might just as well use any old forum.

So yes, I do agree that at present I don’t have any sense of achievement in posting here, because I don’t really see any evidence that any of the views have lead to change. It does provide an outlet, but does it provide any more than that? Albie makes a valid point.


I like Choice Community as it gives me information on dodgy products, and general info on uses of products. Also I have learnt more about my rights.

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Great points @boblorel - I really want this community to be a place that we can float ideas, get feedback and incorporate it into our work.

My team at CHOICE (we look after the campaigns, policy and political engagement work) is looking at community conversations really closely. We’ve used inspiration from a few discussions about travel to shape a report we’ll release in the next few weeks. Watch this space. I’m also looking at the different ideas coming forward for future campaigns.

We’ll make sure we report back when we do use ideas and input. You’re right that the community needs to know how it has contributed.

I’m also interested in how people would like to contribute. Is anyone interested in discussions about specific policy or research work? We could let you know early when there’s a government consultation and the discussion could be about possible issues/research points. We could also post some draft recommendations for discussion and community input.


Marvellous Erin. I would love to have the opportunity to have input to or review draft reports.

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I’m certainly interested in discussing specific policy and/or any and all conversations which have a real prospect of making a difference. The key element here is whether or not our views are factored into the final decisions (whatever they may be) rather than being just background noise. I don’t expect my individual perspective to have any greater weight than anyone else, but I think anyone who participates wants more out of it than simply a forum to vent. The great advantage of accessing people’s views in the broader community is that we collectively have far greater experience than a select generic committee.

By more experienced, I mean that individually we may be clueless on many issues, but at some point each of us might find ourselves discussing an issue in which we do have some experience. That’s where the advantage of numbers kicks in, and potentially could provide a useful and productive path to somewhere useful.


Again, good points.

We will need to ask good questions to get good, useful answers. In some cases, I suspect we’ll have subject matter experts in the community - this is, after all, a group of CHOICE members and supporters. I’ve found that many CHOICE people are experts, academics, professionals or just really smart.

We’ll make it really clear when or if we’re on the hunt for an expert opinion or for links to research we might not know about.

In other cases, the team will be looking to stress-test ideas or for your thoughts as a general consumer.

For example, I really wish the community existed about a year ago. I was working on a submission about the credit card market. The submission put forward suggested changes to credit card statements and advertising but flagged that they needed to be subject to consumer testing. In future, I’d like to ask the community if these kind of changes would be useful - it’s not the same thing as funded, full-scale consumer testing but it’s the first step to test an idea.

We could also ask questions to shape bigger, quantitative research we’ll then do.

Lots of possibilities. Are there any other approaches you think would work?


These all sound like sound strategies, and you are quite right in suggesting that the way in which questions are framed is crucial. Leaving aside the views of experts, academics and professionals (none of which I would claim to be), the broader community is the group most impacted by many changes. Sometimes, a strategy which is intellectually sound ignores or overlooks the impact in the 'real" world because frankly there is a disconnect between those who make decisions and those who are effected by them.

I think that although this sort of forum might not be the funded, full scale approach one might prefer, it has its own advantages in immediacy and volume of raw data. However, as with a more formal focus group, the nature of the questions needs to be sufficiently tight to avoid tangential or irrelevant distractions and to avoid misleading results.

Specific questions tackle the issues, but allowing for comments provides clarification, it’s a double barreled approach. There are many questions which don’t adequately address issues simply because of poor framing. By way of example, I recently applied for travel insurance, applications for which are largely handled automatically on-line with no human intervention. Questions such as “Have you had an operation recently” or “Has you medication changed recently” can produce a totally inaccurate picture. A traveler who had a broken finger repaired, and whose improved health resulted in a reduced level of medication would score the same as someone who had undergone major surgery and whose medication had to be dramatically increased. Having both the questions and space for clarification would result in a much clearer understanding of an applicant’s health. The same goes for focus groups of any kind.

I think the forum here has great potential with two different purposes. Firstly, as a means of identifying issues which Choice may not have considered; and secondly to evaluate the support and level of interest within the community in pursuing those issues further.

The bigger the volume of respondents, the more likely it is that you will find meaningful data, so I guess promoting the group and encouraging participation is another key element. This gets us back to the original question, because you may not maintain a sufficiently large participation rate unless the contributors feel some sense of achievement or value in the whole process. I guess we’ve come full circle huh ? 8*)

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Sadly, I think that the respect you show for the views of the older generation are not necessarily reflected in the eyes of many younger ones. As one of the older generation, I find that our views are less likely to be of interest than perhaps was the case in past generations. It once was the case that the wisdom you speak of was cherished, but increasingly I believe this to be less and less true. As older people, my wife and I have often observed that as one ages we develop the ability to become invisible to the next generation, and our views and experiences are seldom valued or respected.

I am heartened by your positivity and the fact that you are receptive to the views of older people. We might not look or sound as though we have much to offer, but many years of life do teach us much about the world and how to negotiate its many pathways. I find it frustrating that we humans live and learn for decades only to have all that accumulated knowledge snuffed out in an instant. Just when we are at the point of understanding what life is all about, the rug gets pulled from under us. I think someone needs to develop an app to rectify that! :wink:

Let me go back to one of the points I made in an earlier post about the use of Hearts in this type of forum. I just read a post by Jonathan, from Cunsumer Action (see Services category) about cooling off period. He closing statement was

This post received four likes but no replies! I’m pretty sure that this was not terribly helpful for Jonathan. Just pointing out the issue. If you could visit Jonathan’s post and give your opinion I’m sure he would appreciate the feedback.

Sorry to make this a gripe session but in the main menu there are 18 topics listed, including the ubiquitous “General”. It’s great if you want to post a comment or query about a specific product but very difficult navigate if you want to review posts that may have a particular interest in. As an example I went to the main menu to locate Jonathan"s post again and couldn’t remember which category it was filed under. In the end I used the search function to find it. An alternative menu would to list the main menu in terms of Choice’s main activities e.g. Choice Campaigns, Choice Action, Reviews, Scams, Ask an Expert & Misleading Advertising (plus others I may have missed). The current main menu categories can the be subset of that menu if they are relevant. For example Choice Campaigns would have no additional sub-categories and jump straight to all current and proposed campaigns. The Reviews catergory would most likely have all the current main menus as a subset & the reader could then select the review item of interest. This won’t affect creating a new topic. The person wishing to write a post would simply need to select the revelvant category and sub catergory. It may be only me, so please share your ideas on site navigation.

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For me Choice Community is a very worthwhile additional benefit that comes with membership. Not all that is written is relevant to my interests or needs of the moment however it’s a great resource for when I’m contemplating all manner of circumstances that arise daily and it often is my first goto should a particular need arise.

In line with what @boblorel has said, I find the site interesting, but not especially useful. Certainly, props have to be given to both the participants and the moderators for keeping the comments (mostly) relevant and civil. I remain a little uncertain as to the purpose of the site: what it’s intending to achieve.

I think some excellent suggestions for content and functionality have already been made. I’d like to add that one of the huge benefits of an online community like this is the ability to capture data. For example, if there is a section for “suggested Choice investigations” (which I think there is/was), community members could vote on which topics they would also find interesting (as opposed to “liking” a post - which is more feedback to the poster than to the administrators). As one poster has already suggested, templates would be effective in managing how things like reviews and suggestions are presented to enable more effective data interrogation.

I have no gripe with the site, but agree that it needs some rigour and governance around ordering and classifying the information it captures. Otherwise, it is no better or worse than Whirlpool.

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