A big trip

Posted on December 9th, 2015 in AutoSpeed,Driving Emotion,Opinion by Julian Edgar

So in about 3 weeks we’re off on what has become, over the last few years, an annual trip: heading to another country to see the best engineering, automotive and technically interesting sights.

This year, though, it’s more than just ‘a’ country; the plan at this stage calls for travel through seven countries.

So where are we going – and what are we going to see?

The trip starts in Oslo, Norway. We don’t expect there to be long – just a day – before we head to Sweden. In Sweden we will go to the Saab museum in Trollhättan, and Volvo museum in Gothenburg. Also in Gothenburg is the Aeroseum aviation museum – a museum housed in a Cold War era underground bunker.

From there we head across the Oresund bridge (one of the most spectacular in the world) to Denmark, and then down to the Netherlands. In the Netherlands we’re going to the Louwman Museum in The Hague. With 250 cars on display, this should be stunning. We’re also going on a dusk tour of the Rotterdam harbour, the world’s busiest port. The Erasmus bridge, a gorgeous cable-stayed design, should able to be sighted.

From Holland we enter Germany, going back to see a museum we missed last time we were in that fantastic country. It’s the Technik Museum Speyer, an extraordinary collection of aircraft, cars, locomotives, a submarine – and so on. If it’s remotely as good as its sister museum in Sinsheim, it should be a fantastic day.

We then head to Switzerland, passing through the Simplon railway tunnel, one of the oldest and most famous railway tunnels in the world. In Switzerland we’re going to the Swiss Knife Valley visitor centre, where my 11-year-old son very much hopes to make his own Victorinox pocket knife. The Swiss Museum of Transport in Lucerne is Switzerland’s best-visited museum and looks spectacular – at least in the pictures! We also hope to have time to take the train to Jungfrau – Europe’s highest mountain station at 3454 metres.

Italy is next, with the Museo Auto Italy in Turin. It has what looks to be a quite awesome collection of cars. You’d expect that we’d also go to the Ferrari and Lamborghini museums, but I’d rather see cars that caused profound social and engineering change rather than supercars that, in the grand scheme of automotive things, have achieved little.

We’re also going to Pompeii and Herculaneum. We’ve become interested in Roman ruins as a result of watching an extraordinary series that covers the engineering design of these constructions. (Do a web search under “Great courses: Understanding Greek and Roman Technology”. And note that they discount the course periodically.) From there, it’s back to more Roman ruins… in Rome.

France is next – the Millau Viaduct (that I expect to be the most impressive bridge I have ever seen) and the Pont de Gard (that should be another stunning bridge, this time a Roman-era aqueduct). While in France we’ll also be attending the Cité de l’Automobile and Cité du Train museums.

Something else I am really looking forward to are the WWII Nazi submarine pens at Lorient, huge concrete constructions designed to prevent Allied bombers destroying the German submarines then berthed there. Of the same era in terms of historic interest are the Normandy landing beaches, the location at which Allied troops started their reclaiming of occupied Europe. We also hope to go to the Eiffel tower and the Louvre in Paris. Less well known but also in Paris is the Musee Air + Espace that we plan to visit.

From France it’s to our last country – the United Kingdom. There we will visit the Birmingham Science Museum (the home of the superb Mobil Railton Special Land Speed Record car), the Air Force Museum at Cosford, and the Cardington airship sheds – the latter almost the only remaining evidence of the major engineering effort the UK made over 85 years ago in lighter-than-air craft. I’d also like to go back to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu (we’ve been there once before but I’d love to see the Donald Campbell Bluebird Land Speed Record car again) and then to the Haynes Motor Museum at Sparkford.

We’ll be taking trains, doing one internal European flight, twice hiring cars – and no doubt walking a lot. The travel, accommodation, money – all the logistics, really – will be in the immensely capable hands of my wife Georgina. (And thank God for that!)

Have we bitten off more than we can chew? We’ll see – people have implied that about our other overseas trips, but we’ve always managed to get through everything on the itinerary.  On the other hand, there’s never been quite so much on the schedule as for this trip…

Next year I hope to bring you in AutoSpeed a ‘diary’ series on the trip, and no doubt in later articles I’ll be covering specific cars, aircraft and technical sights that I’ve seen.

Seeing Buzz Aldrin

Posted on December 7th, 2015 in Aerodynamics,AutoSpeed,Driving Emotion,Opinion,Technologies by Julian Edgar

The other day I went and saw Buzz Aldrin.

Yes, that’s right, the second person to walk on the Moon, the pilot of the Lunar Module, and a man who today is 85 years old.

I don’t think in my life I have ever gone to ‘an evening with’ type of show, let alone one hosted by Ray Martin (a local Australian TV celebrity).

I had no idea what to expect, but my wife, 11-year-old son and I all went down to the Melbourne Town Hall. There were two chairs on the stage, and a large backdrop onto which stills and video could be shown.

The show started at 8pm and finished – I reckon – at about 10.45…. so it was no 10 or 15-minute chat.

Ray asked questions – largely banal, and at times ill-researched – and Buzz occasionally answered them. Usually, though, he treated Martin with veiled, slightly amused contempt – and talked about whatever he felt like.

The first half of the show – all about the Moon landing – was just riveting. I have a technical and biographical library on space travel (perhaps 50 books) and so many of the names and events that Buzz mentioned I knew something about.

But this was from the man himself!

Whenever I started to half relax, Aldrin would come out with something that entranced me.

Earth from the Moon looks about twice as big as the Moon looks from Earth.

On the day of the launch, Aldrin paused near the top of the mighty Saturn rocket. He looked down at the tens of thousands of spectators, and thought: I need to remember this; I am going to the Moon.

I liked the man’s humour – very, very dry – and his absolute lack of the need to say something that big-noted himself.

After the break, he returned to talk about how he’d like to see people travel to Mars. A man who did his Doctor of Science in lunar rendezvous, he had plenty to say about rendezvousing on the way to that planet. Martin was completely out of his depth – he didn’t even understand stuff that was explained to him quite simply – but kind of tried to hold on. Buzz got excited – he’d obviously rather talk about the future than the past – but I am more interested in what he did, than what he thinks we can do.

The evening drew to a close, but not before some questions from the crowd. Buzz again tended to ignore the questions and just say whatever he liked, but the questions were sufficiently open that he could do that and get away with it. He leapt to his feet and prowled the stage, gesticulating and motivating.

An old, feisty, out-spoken man, brilliantly intelligent, funny, warm and… and… one of the most extraordinary explorers we have ever had.

He was just wonderful.

Strange travel approaches

Posted on October 26th, 2015 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

Perhaps it’s because I live in Australia, a continent far from many other places. Or perhaps it’s the same the world over, but I just haven’t experienced it.

What am I talking about? Well, it seems to me that many Australians travelling to distant lands do so in a really strange way.

There seems to be a few different modus operandi.

One approach, seemingly confined mostly to young people, is to back-pack or party-bus around Europe, or the US, or – more rarely – South East Asia. The common aspect is that the tour comprises a succession of bars and other night-spots, and the main game seems to be to meet people. The exotic locations are just stage sets seen in the background.

When asked what they saw in these countries, the replies are invariably about the people they met and the good times they had.

(I wonder why they bothered travelling far at all; they could have just as easily done it all at home.)

Another approach, more the inclination of older people, is to go on tours. Invariably, these people see many sights that are of no apparent interest to them. This is most easily demonstrated by the fact that, here at home, they’d never go and see anything of a similar nature.

The mere fact that it is in another land, despite the lack of interest they have in it, appears to make it worthwhile to spend money in seeing.

When asked about these sights, they invariably can tell you nothing about them – not surprising, when they have no interest in them.

Yet another approach is to pick a famous city and then go and see it. New York or Berlin or London. I find this perhaps the strangest approach of them all.

“Oh it was fabulous”, they say, “New York!”.

I ask, “What was good, what did you see?”

“Oh but it was New York”, they exclaim, looking pityingly at me.

I’d rank that with getting excited at seeing a passing movie star in the street. WTF?

Our family choose to do things very differently. Obviously we think the outcome is vastly superior to the above – but of course it depends on what you want to gain from your travels.

Firstly, we research the hell out of things that we could see. What man-made or natural features. What culture. And so on. (I once asked on a discussion group about good engineering and technical things to see in the US. The replies immediately asked: “Where in the US are you going?” I said: “Wherever the best things to see are!” Utter confusion followed – it was apparently unheard-of to pick the sights first.)

After we’ve come up with a lot of great specifics to visit, we organise an itinerary that incorporates these within the available timeline and funds.

We go on the trip. We see a huge number of fantastic things of great interest to us. Along the way, we experience the culture, the language, the people, the food, the ambience of the places we are visiting.

In my life it took me a long time before I travelled to distant places, primarily because I couldn’t believe how little of any real value other travellers got.

Example from traveller: “I just love Italy!”

Me (thinking of a specific like Pompeii): “What was good about it?”

Them: “It was just wonderful. We had glorious pizza at a darling little restaurant.”

Me (thinking): Who cares?

A friend of ours suggests that we don’t go on holidays – instead we go on study tours. That may be right, but it seems to me we then get all the intangibles that others believe to be the essence of overseas travel, but we also get to see wondrous specifics, things that have changed my whole appreciation of life…

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Two engineering autobiographies

Posted on September 22nd, 2015 in automotive history,Engine Management,Turbocharging by Julian Edgar

I have recently been reading some engineering autobiographies relating to the early years of piston and jet engine development.

The first, The Ricardo Story: the Autobiography of Sir Harry Ricardo, Pioneer of Engine Research, is the story of the early years of life of a man who, working outside of the major automotive and aircraft engine manufacturers, made a huge contribution to the development of piston engines.

The autobiography, which covers the period between about 1900 and 1930, is especially interesting in the technical area of fuel octane and detonation. In fact, Harry Ricardo invented the concept of fuel octane rating – the resistance that a fuel has to detonation. In those days, what made a fuel effective was not much understood – to the degree that Shell was burning off, as waste, high octane fuels! Why? Because the measured specific gravity of these fuels didn’t match what was then regarded as the requirement for internal combustion engines…

Ricardo was able to physically observe detonation occurring, using windows into the combustion chamber and a moving shutter. He was the first to realise the positive implications of high-swirl combustion chambers, the first to use water injection (unfortunately not much covered in the book), and the first to build an experimental variable compression engine.

The book is written in a flowing, readable style and – for those interested in the technical aspects of his career – doesn’t get bogged-down in personal life meanderings. It’s probably best a book for those who already know something about those early days of motoring (and aircraft – the engine technology was not much different) and want to see more into a world when so much was unknown.

Another book that I have been reading is Engine Revolutions: the Autobiography of Max Bentele. As I write this, I am part way through the book – and what a fascinating treatise it is.

Bentele, a German, started his working career in the late 1930s on turbochargers. Turbos? Yes, the world’s first. He then went on to German jet engines – along with the UK’s Frank Whittle designs, again the world’s first – before the world of German engineers came crashing down in 1945 with the end of WWII.

He then migrated to the UK and then the US, working in the latter country on – among other engines – the Wankel rotary engine. It’s now not so much remembered, but US industry was very serious about the rotary engine and did much development on this design.

As I say, I am currently only part way through this book – but it is already enthralling. The non-English native language of Bentele shows a little in his prose; at times it is a bit stilted and the text more uneasily mixes the personal and professional. On the plus side, the technical detail is very high and these aspects are also well explained.

Harry Ricardo was born in 1885 and died in 1974, while Max Bentele was born in 1909 and died in 2006. Ricardo’s name lives on in the engineering consulting company that he began, but Bentele’s name is much less well known.

Two fascinating books.

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Brilliant courses challenge and excite the mind

Posted on August 29th, 2015 in Driving Emotion by Julian Edgar

These days I seem to spend a lot of time flying from place to place, waiting in airports and so on. I used to read a lot of books (and still do) but with a smartphone, obviously your options are much broader.

One thing I’ve been spending a lot of that time doing is watching video courses. I initially thought I’d find plenty of free stuff online (you know, where professors have put their university lectures up) and while there is some of that around, very often the production is terrible and the lectures, well, pretty boring.

But there is one source of educational material that is proving to be a triumph. It’s not free and it’s not for everyone, but I thought I’d tell you about it. It’s the company ‘The Great Courses’, that sells video and audio material that comprises exactly what the name suggests – great courses.

I first bought one – Understanding the World’s Greatest Structures: Science and Innovation from Antiquity to Modernity – a few years ago and watched it with great enjoyment.

All the presenters for The Great Courses are university professors and the sections of the course are dubbed ‘lectures’. And in effect, that’s what they are. While there might occasionally be some video snippets and photos, the lectures are mostly the lecturers talking to camera in a studio. Boring? Nope! The World’s Greatest Structures has 24 half-hour lectures that cover everything from loads and structural systems to trusses, use of concrete and great bridges.

I thought it was pretty good but when I saw that my ten year old son was choosing to watch the same series that I’d dumped on his phone, I realised that the lectures were capable of working on all sorts of levels.

Another series, and from the same professor, is Understanding Greek and Roman Technology: From Catapult to the Pantheon. This course again has 24 half-hour lectures.

And I am not kidding in saying that this series has changed my life. I was never much of an ancient history scholar and to me, Greek and Roman ruins were basically just jumbles of old rocks. But interpreting Greek and Roman history through a mechanical and civil engineering perspective has made the history come alive. We’re aiming to go to Europe at the end of the year and we are now placing ancient technology sites on the itinerary, purely through having watched this course. (Yes, we’ve watched it as a family – it’s so interesting. And I have watched it all twice!).

Interestingly, having become excited about Roman times, I bought a book on it – but it was just as I remembered Roman history, a boring coverage of a sequence of emperors. Back to the technical videos!

Which brings me to the current course I am watching – Understanding Modern Electronics. It’s pitched at an interesting level. If you are a real beginner, I wouldn’t recommend it but if you know the basics of diodes, transistors, capacitors and circuits, it’s very good. For example, while I knew you could use circuit simulators, until the lecturer was constantly using them, I didn’t understand how effective they could be. (That is, free, online circuit simulators.) I am now up to the intricacies of op amps – while I previously understood them in general terms, I certainly couldn’t then have designed circuits with them. Now I can.

All the great courses are really expensive – until you get on the mailing list and buy them when on special. For example, as I write, one of the courses listed above is AUD$75 as a video download (AUD$85 in DVD form) and at those prices, it’s a bargain. (Normally, it’s $250 and $300, respectively.)

Especially if you travel a lot (or commute on public transport), I highly recommend these courses. No vested interest – just a happy customer.


Posted on June 4th, 2015 in Opinion,Suspension by Julian Edgar

I think that suspension design is one of the most complex areas of automotive engineering. I am not thinking here about just spring and damper rates – but those are of course hugely complex in themselves – but of changes that occur through suspension movement.

For example, a wheel experiencing bump and rebound is likely to have a designed-in change in its camber – going into negative camber when in bump. This helps keep the wheel more upright when the body rolls in cornering (or at least the outside, most important, wheel anyway).

But what about something like anti-dive geometry? This set of suspension angles causes the car’s front springs to resist compression when the car is being braked.

So how does this work? Imagine a very simple front suspension system with a leading arm per wheel – an arm that runs longitudinally to support the wheel. (A Citroen 2CV is the only car I know of with this approach, but that’s OK.) The brake is mounted on the wheel, so the torque loads of the brake are fed back through the suspension arm.

The car drives along, and then the brakes are applied. The brake load causes the longitudinal suspension arm to try to rotate around the wheel, so applying an upward force on the suspension pivot. This prevents that end of the car from compressing its springs as much – more of the car’s weight is being dynamically taken via the suspension pivots than through the springs.

The result is that the car dives less under brakes.

Now as mentioned, not many cars have longitudinal suspension arms, so this arm is often actually virtual, being in effect created by (for example) the front wishbone mounts not being parallel when viewed from the side. If they form an angle that converges towards the rear of the car, anti-dive will occur.

So anti-dive sounds great… but there are also downsides.

Under brakes, the car does not behave as many expect it to – it doesn’t dip its nose as much.

Under brakes, the suspension is less springy – more of the weight (and so vertical acceleration of bumps) is fed through the suspension pivots and not the springs.

Under brakes, in many cases the geometry is such that the wheel moves forward, so meeting bumps more harshly. (And there’s already a higher effective spring rate, remember.)

And it goes on: under brakes and when hitting a bump, the steering geometry (eg castor) may not adopt the same angles as would normally occur if anti-dive were not present… so the car may react to bumps differently when being braked.

So should anti-dive not be used? No – in cars with soft suspension and a high centre of gravity, it can be very effective.

But then again, the amount of brake dive also depends in part on the stiffness of the slow-speed bump damping provided by the shocks.

You see? Every aspect relates to another aspect: not one suspension design criterion can be viewed in isolation.

It’s all very complex….

New aero

Posted on May 17th, 2015 in Aerodynamics,Driving Emotion by Julian Edgar

Automotive aerodynamics keep changing.

Recently I read a paper on the development of some late model Audis. Much of the rationale behind the aero development was as you’d expect – minimising flow separation, keeping the area of the wake low, using a smooth underfloor – stuff like that.

However, a significant amount of effort was directed at reducing the size of the vortices being shed from the angled vertical surfaces – the C pillars in sedans and the D pillars in hatchback (or wagon) body styles. After all, if the wake size has been minimised, any further reduction in pressure drag comes from controlling these vortices – the whirling ribbons of air being dragged along behind the car.

Interestingly, much of the technique in reducing these vortices occurred under the car – the shape of the rear diffuser influencing the size of the vortices that were being shed. In fact, the differences between the body shapes (eg sedan and hatch) was such that the underfloor attachments needed to be tailored to suit.

And you can see another, more visible change, in aero occurring as well.

For a long time, the trailing edge of the upper car surfaces has been sharply cut off to promote better flow separation. So think of the roof extension spoilers used on the trailing edges of hatchbacks, for example. Or boot lid extension spoilers on sedans.

However, now the focus has clearly moved to additionally promoting clean separation on the side panels of cars. Take a look at the rear three-quarters of newly-released cars and you’ll often see a vertical crease on the corner of the car. This crease causes flow separation to then occur cleanly at this point, rather than the airflow wrapping around the rear edges. In fact, one Honda Civic I saw had a small vertical spoiler mounted at this location. I thought this factory attachment looked pretty trick – and doubly so when you think of its function.

If you do a lot of driving in slow-moving traffic, looking at the different styling approaches that manufacturers are using to achieve this clean side separation can keep you entertained for hours!

And finally, the way in which front and rear coefficients of lift are regarded is changing. The traditional wisdom has been that a low coefficient of lift (eg at the rear) promotes a stable car, and that a car with a higher coefficient of lift will consequently be less stable.

However, Mazda research indicates that this may not be as valid as first thought.

The trouble is that coefficients of lift tend to be averages – rather than taking into account fast changes in lift values that may occur due to transient changes in local airspeeds. What sort of transient changes, then? Well, the wind does not blow constantly as a steady stream: it contains gusts and other fast speed changes caused by roadside obstacles (and other vehicles) creating turbulence.

It is suggested that the reason that some cars are more aerodynamically stable than others – despite both cars having ostensibly the same lift figures – is due to differing behaviour under these rapidly changing conditions.

Car aero is a fascinating subject….

Sprung and unsprung weight natural frequencies

Posted on May 10th, 2015 in Suspension,testing by Julian Edgar

My major job – training people in business and government writing skills – takes me all over the country. Usually that involves lots of flights, but recently I chose to take the Greyhound bus between Coffs Harbour and Port Macquarie.

The bus travel was actually very pleasant – though I didn’t envy the driver threading his way through the dusk traffic on narrow roads constrained by constant roadworks.

When I was sitting in the bus, I started analysing its ride quality over the often poor road surfaces.

To cope with the large variation in possible load while still giving the best ride quality, long-distance buses typically use air suspension. (This also lets the bus ‘kneel’ as people get on and off.)

The air suspension stiffness is set to give a natural frequency of about 1Hz – the best frequency for ride quality.

And, in the bus, the ride felt about right for a 1Hz natural frequency – the absorption of large bumps was superb.

However, sitting back and admiring the flowing scenery outside the window, I thought I could feel another ride quality characteristic – and this one was not so pleasant.

Superimposed on the soft suspension movements was a higher frequency judder. It was like riding in a conventional car travelling on a road that had long wavelength bumps – but a corrugated surface.

Rather than guess any longer, I whipped out my iPhone and, using the ‘Vibration’ app, recorded the ride accelerations being experienced by the bus body. The seat next to me was empty and so I put the phone down on the cushion and gently held it in place.

Ten seconds later I had a record, and a moment after that I used the software to perform a Fourier analysis, giving the dominant frequencies in the waveform.

This showed a peak at 1Hz (the air springs) but also another peak at about 10Hz. The latter was the juddering “corrugations” I could also feel.

But what was causing this higher frequency of vibration?

The higher speed juddering was caused by the natural frequency of the unsprung mass – the weight of the suspension acting on the “springs” that comprise the tyres.

But it gets more complex. How do the 10Hz unsprung weight vibrations get through the 1Hz air spring isolation? With the forcing frequency (10Hz) so far from the natural frequency (1Hz), wouldn’t the transmission be almost zero?

I am not completely sure, but I think it has to do with the massiveness of the unsprung weight. Was that rapid shaking of the huge tyres and suspension arms feeding a vibration through the suspension mounts that I could feel?

Reflecting on this, I realised that I’d felt all this before – but to a lesser degree. In 4WD passenger cars using solid front and rear axles (ie a high unsprung:sprung mass ratio) you can feel something similar… it’s a bit like the car is being shaken by the suspension. So the soft main springing was being subverted in ride quality by the high unsprung weight bouncing on the tyres.

Here’s another point: dampers need to control suspension movement at both the suspension and tyre natural frequencies…. but the requirements for controlling each mode are quite different. One requires damping of large amplitude, low frequencies (the movement on the body springs) – and the other damping of high frequency, low amplitudes (the movement on the tyre springs).

It would be interesting to talk to a damper manufacturer about the decisions in damper design that they must be making.

The end of hobbyist electronics magazines?

Posted on March 2nd, 2015 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

For  more than 20 years I have contributed to various hobbyist electronics magazines – including as a columnist, feature article writer and co-designer of electronic projects.

Hobbyist electronics magazines are interesting publications. Over a long period, they have evolved a business model that is based around specialist advertisers. These advertisers, often those selling electronic project kits and parts, form a major component of the income that keeps the magazine alive.

How it works is this. The staff at the magazine design a DIY project (say an audio amplifier); the businesses that advertise in the magazine source and stock the amplifier kit – and the magazine readers buy the kit from the advertisers. And while they’re in the shop, no doubt pick up a lot of other bits as well.

This is superficially all well and good – an interesting magazine is produced, the readers get access to better quality DIY electronics than they otherwise would, and the retailer prospers.

I say ‘superficially’ because there are deficiencies in having such a close relationship between advertisers and editorial content. Indeed one such deficiency has started appearing – and it’s something so major that I think it potentially spells the end of this type of print magazine.

What happens to that business model when, through eBay, you can save perhaps 80 per cent of the cost of buying hobby electronics kits and parts? To bypass the local retailer and very cheaply buy a pre-built or kit amplifier module, or remote control module, or even just parts like plugs and sockets and integrated circuits… just by going to eBay and importing them direct from China?

The cost of pursuing electronics as a hobby has just fallen through the floor – but how can hobbyist electronics magazines trumpet that? If they did, they’d lose most of their advertisers – and Chinese eBay sellers aren’t going to be stumping up the same amount of cash to take their place.  

Rather like has occurred with traditional bricks and mortar department stores, the speed of change in Web-based retail has caught-out these magazines.

From someone who likes electronics hobbyist magazines, are there solutions?


Moving to a purely web-based medium will reduce publishing costs – but of course, readers will need to be prepared to pay real money to access the content. (And despite all the talk, you can still expect to lose a lot of your readers if you move from print to being pay-walled web-based – consider, a loss of paying readers AND a loss of advertising income…)

Or what about just embracing the change in manufacturing and retailing? How could this work? The magazine staff design kits and modules; these are then featured in the magazine; manufacturing of them has been tee’d up in China; and they are then sold directly from that source to readers. This would give the best outcome for readers – who would have world-class electronics design along with low costs. The magazines would lose the advertising income from retailers – but they’d get more readers.

But taking this approach would represent a very major philosophical change for those who own and run electronics hobby magazines – I doubt it will happen.

In the meantime, these magazines will keep publishing as if nothing has changed, designing and featuring kits that few will  buy, pretending that electronics as a hobby is how it all was 10 or 15 years ago.

Well, to put it more precisely, they’ll keep doing this until they run out of money…

Thanks two million

Posted on February 2nd, 2015 in AutoSpeed by Julian Edgar

Back in February 2011 I wrote in a blog post:

Feedback from the audience can be detailed, it can be analytical and it can be highly structured. Alternatively, it can be very simple, very quick and anonymous.

At AutoSpeed we chose the latter, giving readers a 1-5 continuum they can use to assess every page of content on the site. Because it’s simple and anonymous, many people choose to provide feedback.

In fact, as this is published, we will have received close to one million page feedbacks! One million! That’s quite extraordinary – and from a writer’s perspective, it provides immense feedback value.

Well as you may have guessed, we’re just about to pass another milestone – an incredible two million feedback ratings on our articles.

That is, 2 million times, people have paused over the 1-5 ratings at the bottom of one of our articles, and thought: hmm what will I give this?

Perhaps you’ve been inspired and excited – or perhaps you’ve been pissed off and disgruntled. Or somewhere in between. Whatever your selection, it’s been noticed and factored into the mix of material we provide you.

Most AutoSpeed readers today are not those that have been following us for the last 16 years (although you, as a reader of this blog, are more likely to be one of those ‘long-termers’) but people who drop in and out. Either way, those stats go on to form averages for each article that I, as editor, look at long and hard.

Sometimes the rating is low – and I don’t agree with it. The article in question might be one that my experience suggests that over the long term, will go up and up. (Or of course I might just be completely wrong in my assessment of the article – it still happens.)

Another time, we run an article we have published previously and the new reader ratings are just extraordinarily high – much higher than when we first published it. Was the article before its time, I wonder?

And of course, other times, the ratings reflect just what I expect.

(And the average of the two million ratings? 2.87 out of 5)

Every time you read an AutoSpeed article, I encourage you to select one of the numbers down the bottom, the ones that tell me what you thought of the piece.

That way, the number will grow to 3 million….