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  • A thought about the industry: Dropping the Prices

    Ok, I am putting this up for debate, but I do want to toss out the idea, to both FTDNA and all of the parallel tests, that they could probably make a lot more money if they brought the prices down for their "complete" tests down to some sensible level (like $50-250).

    I know due to how non-mainstream it is now, they're going the "tried and true" model of making a newer technology at an extremely high price (like, say, a 120-inch plasma TV is set at) in order to avoid risk, but I think it's simply the wrong approach here.

    I mean, do you know how many more people i'd get tested and submitted if it cost $100 instead of $764 (as discounted as it gets)? I'd probably get $2000 worth of testing done on all of my relatives, since we could correlate all of that data together and get something a hell of a lot more interesting than the 'most educated guesses' in terms of tribal migration we can do now with databases comprised of a handful of people who are so passionate about it to be willing to fork out the thousands of dollars and the extremely basic tests done by National Geographic and the like.

    I really think it's both in the interest of the community (in terms of getting larger databases of data to make more discoveries with) and the companies (in getting more revenue) if they substantially dropped the price, to the point it's actually reachable for most people's disposable income, which is a magnitude lower than the average $1000 mark. The way I see it, the current price point KEEPS IT A NICHE INTEREST, and works against everyone's interest.

    Thoughts?

  • #2
    Great idea for a topic! I think about this all the time.

    But I may be in the minority opinion here. I myself would gladly pay twice the current rates if I felt I was getting a very reliable consistent product.

    My own gripes are probably well-known to regular forum readers. I've experienced some apparent inconsistency and sketchy results in what I think should probably be a pretty traditional/standard Y STR product.

    I currently think that the Y STR product is probably very good and reliable in general. But I'm far from the only person who's had problems with these product. Perhaps commercial incentives encourage labs to push through a very high volume of tests that may result in comprimised quality.

    I do sometimes feel a little angry about this, but I know I have to balance that feeling with the appreciation that this technology would not even have been available a few short years ago.

    And I think these 'ethnic' dna tests like Tribes and so forth will probably reflect badly on the companies' reputations, in the long run. It must be embarrasing to issue such strange results on a regular basis -- and the constant revisions!

    Even assuming that science is able to identify useful biological markers that reliably indicate what is essentially a social construct, outside of the context of specific paper-trail documentation, it would have to take many years to develop. When people realize that their test fees are essentially subsidizing a wild goose chase, I think that many will be angry. And the reputations of these companies, and more standard, reliable products will suffer.

    Because there seems to me to be a sharp line deliniating the more reliable products from the merely speculative, and because those reliable products are based on a very sophisticated, albeit standard technology, I think companies should focus on tried-and-true, emphasize quality. Leave the weird science-fiction stuff, and low-margin-high-volume work to the fly-by-nights.

    Jack

    Comment


    • #3
      DNA prices etc.

      I don't expect the prices to drop. I expect techniques to advance to the point that what we buy today will be obsolete tomorrow, when we will pay new higher prices for the new technologies developed out of the endeavors for which we pay now. We will be looking at new techniques and tests at the high end of the price curve at that time, also, and will not want to pay even a tenth of the current rates for today's tests at that time. I expect it will go on at that rate for some time, because I think what we involved with is not just a new technology/product, but a revolution in the way we think about and measure the "golden thread" ... the "line of our ancestors."

      I do have a gripe. Well, maybe not a gripe. A frustration. The prices are one of two reasons there are so few people out of the general population taking the tests. The other reason I suspect is fear of what one would find out. As a result the data base is miniscule and all of our results have to be taken, I think, with a very large pinch of salt.

      On that last point, frankly a number of things in my test results do not make intuitive sense to me. I go to my FTDNA site and it lists 21 people who are within a Genetic Distance of 2 of me on the 27 marker test, but on the 37 marker test there is no one in what is considered a match distance. There are 42 people in my "clade." But none of them are any closer than a Genetic Distance of 4 on a 37 marker test. None of them are counted in the 21 people who are listed by FTDNA as matches on my 25 markers and many are as far as a GD of 29. So I am being told that I am closer on my markers to people who are in different clades.

      As I have become more understanding of the science as it stands today, I understand 4 is not a terribly big number even among surnames. That is not the point, really. The point is that sometimes when you look at a 3 legged desk you are looking at a 3 legged desk. So don't tell me I am looking at a 4 legged desk. I know the desk only has three legs.

      I expect 2, 5, 7 years down the road much of our understanding of what all this means will change. So what have we been doing? Paying the development costs of something so new it probably should not be considered well enough formed to be a technology.

      As I say, it is clear to me that this work we are doing is yielding thus far limited information that I can translate into what I want- meaningful forests to be discerned from all the trees. The trees are just not satisfying to me if I cannot see the forest. I am not convinced that the current haplogroup system is showing me credible forests.

      So, what I would like for the money I have paid (and continue to pay for pending tests) is for the experts at FTDNA to give me a Reader's Digest version of what my results mean in relation to the flow of time (after, I mean, 18,500 years ago), including telling me simply where the confidence levels fall off. It triggers obsessive compulsive desires in me when someone offers an inference then draws away when I ask for what, precisely, is the evidence that supports the inference. I am not trying to trap someone. I am trying to understand. If I could get that then I would be closer to your position that you would gladly pay more if you were confident mistakes were not being made. I am not inclined to back away or characterize this as a fraud. I have faith that something useful will come from it.

      Which leads me to my last point, which is to echo yours about the Tribal measures. Credibility is everything for a profession. I would like to see more knowledge shared by the knowledgeable, and maybe less information. To anyone from FTDNA reading, do not think that I don't appreciate what you all are doing. This criticism is not offered with a mean spirit.

      Comment


      • #4
        Hmm, I think you're ignoring marketing when it comes to this.

        To get people who aren't in the extreme niches, you have to have some other interest than your raw genetic code. People need to have a reason to see it, like Morgan Freeman coming from Songhai and Tuareg peoples of Niger or knowing that you come from the same family as Christian Bale circa 500AD even though you have different names, due to it prior to people using recorded surnames in Wales. When people will know there is a 95-99% chance they will get Colon Cancer based on their DNA, they will want it.

        Above all, what is needed is more and more people in large, ideally shared (but kept in terms of personally identifiable, private) databases. And, unlike today, databases combining parts of people's genetic code that is used for identity / genealogy as well as medical analysis. The more people who use it, the more answers will surface.

        Imagine if you had even 10% of all European-background people's DNA sequenced, with each person's Y-DNA country of origin (or even city) in Europe associated with that (considering there is probably over a billion ethnic Europeans, globally). A hell of a lot of interjection would be put to rest with tribal work, too, wouldn't it? What if you had every genetic disease everyone in the database had for 100 million people?

        Relating to what you're saying, I believe quantity and use will get both greater money into the process to improve the quality. I believe with the revenue the labs currently have due to prices being magnitudes higher than most people's disposable income, they're effectively scrapping by. If you had even 500,000 people annually contributing to it (which I believe is 3-4x the largest database now, compiled over years), they'd be able to much more easily afford to put some focus on accuracy.

        If anything, what you're seeing right now is proof that it doesn't work. Continuing on the same avenue (keeping it a very, very niche product, with little interest being brought into it) will keep you moving away from, not towards this precision which you desire.

        Originally posted by Clochaire
        Great idea for a topic! I think about this all the time.

        But I may be in the minority opinion here. I myself would gladly pay twice the current rates if I felt I was getting a very reliable consistent product.

        My own gripes are probably well-known to regular forum readers. I've experienced some apparent inconsistency and sketchy results in what I think should probably be a pretty traditional/standard Y STR product.

        I currently think that the Y STR product is probably very good and reliable in general. But I'm far from the only person who's had problems with these product. Perhaps commercial incentives encourage labs to push through a very high volume of tests that may result in comprimised quality.

        I do sometimes feel a little angry about this, but I know I have to balance that feeling with the appreciation that this technology would not even have been available a few short years ago.

        And I think these 'ethnic' dna tests like Tribes and so forth will probably reflect badly on the companies' reputations, in the long run. It must be embarrasing to issue such strange results on a regular basis -- and the constant revisions!

        Even assuming that science is able to identify useful biological markers that reliably indicate what is essentially a social construct, outside of the context of specific paper-trail documentation, it would have to take many years to develop. When people realize that their test fees are essentially subsidizing a wild goose chase, I think that many will be angry. And the reputations of these companies, and more standard, reliable products will suffer.

        Because there seems to me to be a sharp line deliniating the more reliable products from the merely speculative, and because those reliable products are based on a very sophisticated, albeit standard technology, I think companies should focus on tried-and-true, emphasize quality. Leave the weird science-fiction stuff, and low-margin-high-volume work to the fly-by-nights.

        Jack
        Last edited by jr76x; 28 July 2008, 09:34 PM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Deirwha
          ... frankly a number of things in my test results do not make intuitive sense to me. ...

          So, what I would like ... is for the experts at FTDNA to give me a Reader's Digest version of what my results mean....
          I think I hear you, Deirwha. I think this lies at the heart of our dilemma--we want a service that we cannot perform ourselves, either through lack of capital equipment, training or time. We are grateful when it is offered. But how do we respond when the results are not satisfactory?

          I think that, fair or unfair, like it or not, the burden can only fall upon ourselves to be informed consumers, and learn how to properly challenge poor service. Clearly, waiting for Adam Smith's "invisible hand" won't magically fix the problem for us on its own.

          This could be a particularly hard case, because the service at hand involves technically sophisticated data generation and interpretation processes. Clearly, it cannot be the case that everyone who purchases these services can 100pct understand every technical detail.

          But it really angers me when companies appear to stonewall legitimate quality concerns. I think some companies find a lack of transparency commercially useful.

          Maybe there will ultimately be some equilibrium when the number of people taking these tests reaches a critical mass, and thereby creates an installed base of informed consumers.

          I just hate to think that as an "early adopter", I may have bought the Betamax of dna products.

          Jack

          Comment


          • #6
            I would also like to see lower test prices for the sake of expanded databases, but insofar as only a fraction of those currently tested make their data available, there is another constraint on the growth of databases that is not addressed by price.

            If marketing can solve problems let the marketers solve that one.

            But what I really want are more test options, especially comprehensive options, such as mitochondrial FGS!
            Last edited by tomcat; 29 July 2008, 10:35 AM.

            Comment


            • #7
              betamax

              Think that is the right analogy.

              Yes, and I wish there was a mechanism so that the info from those who wish to remain anonymous could still be utilized, if blind, but the rest of us. But then, I am not pursuing this so much from a "find you cousins" point of view as from "find your tribe."

              Comment


              • #8
                Post script

                This is in the nature of a post script to be fair to FTDNA. They have set out the Reader's Digest version explanation for one of my little mysteries. It is found in the FAQs for mtDNA. But it rings true it applies to Y. I received my mtDNA results today and therefore had cause to look through those FAQ. No doubt it is in the Y FAQs but I just missed it and everyone was too polite to point out my ignorance. Here it goes: how come if I belong to the haplogroup into which tested do I have closer apparent Genetic Distance scores with people who are not in the haplogroup. Answer: Convergent Evolution. Those who are not in the same haplogroup come from lines where the common ancestor with me may be actually tens of thousands of years ago, but their numbers are close because as we all moved around together we all adapted to the same conditions. IE, If my ancestors moved from say the Balkans to the Fowey River Valley of Cornwall, and the other guys moved from say Goatland to the Fowey River Valley of Cornwall, both sets of ancestors would be adapting to the same environment. Makes perfect sense. They go on to explain that the same GD score with a member of my haplogroup might be hundreds of years a closer link. So, check off that mystery for me and the rest of you try not to laugh so hard that I did not understand.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by jr76x
                  Ok, I am putting this up for debate, but I do want to toss out the idea, to both FTDNA and all of the parallel tests, that they could probably make a lot more money if they brought the prices down for their "complete" tests down to some sensible level (like $50-250).

                  I know due to how non-mainstream it is now, they're going the "tried and true" model of making a newer technology at an extremely high price (like, say, a 120-inch plasma TV is set at) in order to avoid risk, but I think it's simply the wrong approach here.

                  I mean, do you know how many more people i'd get tested and submitted if it cost $100 instead of $764 (as discounted as it gets)? I'd probably get $2000 worth of testing done on all of my relatives, since we could correlate all of that data together and get something a hell of a lot more interesting than the 'most educated guesses' in terms of tribal migration we can do now with databases comprised of a handful of people who are so passionate about it to be willing to fork out the thousands of dollars and the extremely basic tests done by National Geographic and the like.

                  I really think it's both in the interest of the community (in terms of getting larger databases of data to make more discoveries with) and the companies (in getting more revenue) if they substantially dropped the price, to the point it's actually reachable for most people's disposable income, which is a magnitude lower than the average $1000 mark. The way I see it, the current price point KEEPS IT A NICHE INTEREST, and works against everyone's interest.

                  Thoughts?

                  The way it looks to me, most of the population has no use for these tests. They would not even pay $10.00 for a 67 markers test.

                  Even most genealogical hobbyists seem to be barely involved, if at all, in DNA-based research.

                  Genetic genealogy, so far, is a niche hobby within a broader hobby most of whose participants are superficially involved in genealogy.

                  The technical part of testing will be getting cheaper. The value-added labor-intensive aspects, however, cannot be gotten on the cheap. Without making the confusing numbers meaningful, interest will remain limited. Dumbed-down mass-marketed ventures are a hinderence to meaningful integration of genetics with geenalogy.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Itzhak Epstein
                    The way it looks to me, most of the population has no use for these tests....

                    ...mass-marketed ventures are a hinderence to meaningful integration of genetics with geenalogy.
                    Agreed. My comments earlier in this thread were intended as a practical example of preoccupations of people likely to use these services. Price is NOT near the top.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Clochaire
                      Agreed. My comments earlier in this thread were intended as a practical example of preoccupations of people likely to use these services. Price is NOT near the top.
                      You two are going OFF the subject.

                      Of course, it could be higher. They could charge $100,000 per test. They could charge a million dollars per test if they chose to. Hell, if you're so bent on ultimate precision, why don't you buy your own lab and hire your own scientists to do the work?

                      My point, which still stands, is that we stand to gain far more and the companies stand to profit far more if they lower the prices.

                      There are also gains to be made (and necessary ones, at that) in terms of accuracy, but that is for another thread.

                      Again, as I said earlier - I would contribute likely my entire family, possibly to my third cousins into the database, paying well over $764.00 for it to be done, if it was only somewhat over that amount.

                      So, instead of making, say, $2000 off of me and having 20x the data, they choose to have less than half of that and 1/20th the data, and that's simply not intelligent.

                      To repeat myself, this is a different subject than accuracy, so can you please at least entertain the idea that it might benefit the community having more data in their databases via lower prices?

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by jr76x
                        You two are going OFF the subject.

                        Of course, it could be higher. They could charge $100,000 per test. They could charge a million dollars per test if they chose to...

                        To repeat myself, this is a different subject than accuracy, so can you please at least entertain the idea that it might benefit the community having more data in their databases via lower prices?
                        Leaving aside for the moment the possibility that there may exist a number lower than $100k, I admit that I have veered away from your discussion of price.

                        I think that we may have to agree to disagree. All I will say here about price is that I believe that price plays a much less significant role in the success of this product than you may believe right now. And I think that others' comments on this thread support the idea I put forth.

                        I do support the general goal of extending the volume of data available. But demonstrating a consistent track record of results with practical application is the best way to do this. This may not seem as glamorous as other approaches, but it is the most realistic, and in the long run most profitable for the companies.

                        Didn't mean to cause a fuss.

                        That's all I have to say about that.

                        Jack

                        Comment

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