Daniel Harrison, Sr. Research Associate, Consumers Union


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Article ImageJob Function: Consumers Union (CU), publisher of Consumer Reports, is an independent organization that provides product testing and administers the second largest survey in the U.S. after the census. Daniel Harrison, senior research associate, is heavily involved in opening the ConsumerReports.org website (the largest magazine-based subscription site on the web with around 2.7 million subscribers) to user input. “I’m trying to add a parallel path for gathering information that will supplement the data my colleagues gather so formally and carefully,” Harrison says. “The launch of consumer opinions for cars is my baby—that’s how we got started and we now have about 24,000 reviews of cars.”

Harrison has developed a system to evaluate the reviewers based on what they say about themselves and the cars that they are reviewing. “We are trying to focus less on the consensus of the crowd and more on the over-the-garden-fence process,” he says. “For example, if you are a tall person and you are looking at reviews of a Mini, you would be interested in learning what reviewers over six feet tall are saying.”

In a Day’s Work: “I go out and play on the internet at least once a month just to see what is going on out there that we can learn from,” Harrison says. “I go to places like Flickr, Digg, YouTube—whatever the latest Web 2.0 or social media site might be.” However, Harrison says that CU represents a cautious and careful brand. “I spend a lot of time justifying my crazy ideas to upper management. They do a great job of giving me my head while still reining in any sillier notions.”

Oddest Customer Encounter: “We had this very engaged user whose submission would not go through because we had an overzealous filter on the system for unacceptable words. He had written that the manufacturer had done something that was ‘a bit cheap.’ When I asked him to change it, he replied to me that he was going to change it to ‘a bit chintzy’ but he realized that change would mean the same problem.”

View From the Desk: “I am in an office with a beautiful view of a hillside in Yonkers, New York, and I often see deer and turkeys. In contrast, my office is a total pit.”

Outside Interest: “I just won the CU ping pong championships!”

If Not Econtent, Then What?: “I’d be a researcher in evolutionary psychology.”