An article that rated badly

Posted on April 7th, 2007 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

107829_4mg.jpgAs most of you would know, we now have an instant reader feedback facility for every article. The system, which appears only for AutoSpeed subscribers, allows you to vote on a 1 – 5 scale, with ‘1’ at the bottom of the barrel and ‘5’ at the top.

On most days I look at the results once or twice – obviously not for every article but for the most recent. In general, the scores pretty well match what I expect. That’s not to say I can predict the results perfectly, but I knew that John’s Jet would be popular (it’s our highest rating article ever) and that, for example, Negative Boost Revisited, Part 1 would be relatively unpopular (cos it’s the first in a long series, and is for many people, just background material).

Subscriber article ratings that have really surprised me by how high they rate are mostly those to do with hybrids – Prius vs Insight and Diesel Hybrid! are two.

Of course (or perhaps not of course: I have been looking at readership stats for a long time), external readership numbers are often completely out of keeping with subscriber ratings; to bring new readers to AutoSpeed as well as keep current readers relatively happy, I need to keep a weather eye on both sets of data.

But one article that has really concerned me in its subscriber rating is How Heavy’s Your Knob?. As I have mentioned before, I thought this article was a really good one. Why? Well (1) it covered a modification technique I have never seen mentioned elsewhere; (2) it was very cheap; (3) it was very easy; (4) it was very effective.

To me that’s a killer list so I’ve been a bit puzzled that the subscriber rating has always hovered at around 3.7. (Obviously that’s not bad, but personally I would have thought it a 4.2 – 4.4 article.) No one’s ever written to us about the article, and for the life I me I can’t see anything much wrong with the presentation or the idea itself.

So when I was following a backwards link from AutoSpeed referrers’ page (which shows where people have come from when arriving at AutoSpeed), I was most interested in seeing the ‘How Heavy’s Your Knob’ article mentioned. The thread was on and was primarily about the intake system we’ve developed for the Ford EF Falcon we’ve been playing with. But in the thread there was this:

Autospeed has been going pretty rapidly downhill in my opinion.
They used to be a bit more like Zoom, feature cars that were alot of go, not much weight on show, and some pretty good DIY articles.
They had an article recently on changing to a heavier gearknob to improve shift feel.
A whole f**k article…

Apart from the interesting idea that AutoSpeed is going downhill when in fact we’ve just shown a low dollars and demonstrably effective approach to modifying Falcon intakes (and remember this is a Falcon discussion group!), there is the point made that spending a whole article on the weight of gear knobs is a waste. The same could of course be said about many car mods – a whole article just on grinding away bits of metal? A whole article just on a bent bit of pipe under the car? A whole article on attaching a slightly thicker piece of spring steel to your suspension? And so on. Clearly, in each of those cases it’s not the process that’s followed that’s important in itself, but the results gained from that process.

It’d work I guess, more weight, more leverage, less effort.
Would work well for those with shorter gearsticks I guess.
I just thought a whole article, including a table on the weights of different gearknobs he found at a wreckers was a bit bizarre

And here I was thinking that proving that in fact different factory gear knobs weigh hugely different amounts was one of the most important points of the article…

yes i agree, bit of a waste of an article.

But why is it a waste? It worked (I enjoy the improved shift feel every time I drive the car), it was cheap, it was easy.

I don’t always agree with his methods or his findings but it’s a free country and Julian has kicked more goals as a journo than most in this country.
He founded Zoom.
Gearknob weights? Too much free time.
Ask him about his crashed Skyline and using public roads as a race track. Called him a d***head that day

Which seems a non sequitur, but that’s discussion groups…and so it went on.

I know I have written about this before (see Driving Emotion – interestingly, an article with a surprisingly high subscriber rating!), but no-one in this discussion group seems to have given any thought to the worth versus cost versus time of implementing the mod. It works, so why the hell wouldn’t you try it?

I certainly think the modification much more likely to be effective on a lighter car (and so gearbox) that a manual Falcon, but just because the mod doesn’t appear likely to suit their cars, is it then intrinsically unworthy? And what about that low subscriber rating? Did all those AutoSpeed subscribers think the same as contributors?

Clearly, the article is out there for whatever it provokes – and reader response always has to be the absolute arbitrator for a journalist. But I still find the reaction puzzling…

2 Responses to 'An article that rated badly'

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  1. david said,

    on July 31st, 2007 at 5:11 pm

    I have not read the article in full, don’t have to i did this a few years back and yes it is the cheapest mod you can do and you will find it can change the whole feel of the gearbox. Reason for going through this was occasional missed gear at racetrack. Swapping gear knob fixed it.

  2. Ray Kretschmann said,

    on August 31st, 2008 at 1:40 am

    I’ve just read ‘An article that rated badly’ and I did read the Heavy Knob one. The original brought back happy memories of doing the same mod to my first car – a Triumph Herald . OK you can stop laughing now ! As a first car it was a great learning tool, the mates had FJ’s, FX’s and VW Beetles. The Trumpy handled well, went reasonably well and didn’t stop (I still go cold at some of the things we did) but then the Vw’s all fell over going around corners.
    But with that Big, Fat, Chrome Knob I could change gears with a flick of the fingers. Much faster than those FJ’s with Jag four-on-the-floor boxes. It wasn’t the only mod but every time I drove it I enjoyed it.