Why reviews are kind of worthless

I’ve done a few reviews in my time, but it’s not something I’m really into. I look at reviews as being recommendations–here’s why you should or shouldn’t try/buy this service/product–and that’s great, but some just strike me as a bit… odd. There’s certainly validity in writing game, movie, or food reviews, because you can try something and then let other people know if they should spend their time and/or money on it as well. But sometimes, I don’t think writing a review is a good first step.

In this case, I’m talking about food reviews. You visit a restaurant and dislike it, so you write a review about it. That’s all fine and well–you’ve let other people know that it’s not worth their money–but maybe the restaurant just needs to change a few things. Sure, maybe they’ll change when/if they read the review, but by then the damage is done.

It’s sort of like when you find a major bug or exploit for a software program. Writing a review (or expose, or hacker’s how-to, or whatever) that talks about this is where we get “zero day exploits.” These are things that came to light with no forewarning and no opportunity for the software company to fix them. Now everyone knows about them and the company has to get a patch out as soon as possible to correct this horrible problem.

A better tack to take is to contact the company and say, “Hey, I found this exploit and you ought to fix it. In fact, I’d be happy to help you fix it if you want.” If they refuse to fix it, sure, out them: post it for all the world to see. But they should at least be given a chance.

Writing a negative review of a restaurant is like posting a zero day exploit. Maybe no one has ever shared these frustrations with them honestly, or maybe they just haven’t realized the problem. Working in Computer Services at Missouri State University, we regularly have recommendations brought to us that we just never thought of–we work so closely with our environment and systems that it’s hard to step back and see something that needs changed. When someone makes a good recommendation, though, we work to implement it. We often have conversations of, “That’s a great idea, why aren’t we doing that? Let’s do it!”

Instead of writing negative reviews, we ought to contact an establishment to let them know our concerns. The problem is that you can’t sell those communications. You can’t get page hits with no content. At best, your write-up would be delayed by weeks or months, and at worst you’d never write anything because there’s nothing left to write. You may not even want to post something about working with the company because it would still give a negative impression of them and harm your relationship with that company.

In the end, I think a lot of negative reviews exist to generate discussion, page hits, and attention. They’re definitely still valuable–I don’t want to go someplace that sucks–but I don’t think they’re as valuable as helping someplace improve.

Kampyle Reviewed

Kampyle

A few months ago, I came across a blog that had this neat little button at the upper right-hand corner, lurking unobtrusively and offering to take my feedback on their site. Rather than comments on content, Kampyle offers users the ability to comment on the site itself: its layout, overall content (rather than a specific article), its colours, etc. I thought this would offer a unique and helpful way to garner feedback from readers about what they liked and disliked on the site, which would help me make things better.

For the purposes of this review, I was going to link to the article where I first saw the Kampyle button and was a bit surprised that it wasn’t there anymore. Then I smirked a bit, wondering if they had removed it for the same reasons I am.

I’m removing Kampyle from my site, not because it’s a bad service, but because I haven’t found my users to use it in a manner that’s helpful to me. Rather, its presence has been potentially detrimental to my blog.

First, I want to say that the Kampyle service is free and easy to integrate into your blog. You need to put a short snippet of javascript into your header (code provided by Kampyle) and you’re done. It’s attractive, easy, and gives one a warm fuzzy feeling of providing another means of contact for users.

However, I found that only a few users commented on my site, and those comments were largely positive. For those of you who work in customer service or have to receive surveys, this is a bit of a surprise. Generally, the only people who fill out feedback forms are people who are dissatisfied with something, so having all positive feedback is odd. But via a medium like the Internet, it makes sense. Why waste time complaining when you can just surf away?

The positive comments told me things were great, but what I found more frustrating, they were often comments on specific articles. Notes to tell me that some instructions worked well for them, or that they liked a particular blog entry. While I appreciated the praise, I wished people had put their comments in the comments section on the blog article. Communication through Kampyle doesn’t allow for dialogue because it’s usually anonymous, and even if the individual did put contact information in, only I would see it. No discussion between readers can occur.

Of course, I don’t blame the commenters for this. They used a really nice communication tool to communicate with me, but its presence has had unintended consequences for my site. As such, I’ll be removing the code to better encourage people to use the commenting features built into WordPress.

Kampyle really is great, and I like it in theory, but I don’t know that it has a good place on a blog. If I was running a business website that had less commenting opportunities or means for discussion, I’d definitely put Kampyle on there. I might look into putting it on some of our sites at the University soon. But for a blog that’s ostensibly trying to encourage discussion within the articles itself, I don’t think Kampyle’s a good fit.

Just a work in progress

I’ve been tinkering with this poem for a while, but this is the first I’ve put much to paper. Below is an insight to poetic progression, a work in progress. As I write, I play with words and line breaks and regularly scrap an entire idea. This is by no means done, and the final product very well might not look like any of these.

Progression

I like it when it rains in November,
when it’s dreary and the fallen leaves stain
the sidewalk. Eyes smiling at each other,
we’re trying to match strides, and I’m afraid
I’ll miss you. Trying to kiss in mid step,
my head wobbles a bit before we touch,
lips laughing and our noses are scrunched like
a Disney picture that


You said,
I like it when it rains in November,
when it’s dreary and the leaves stain
the sidewalk. The sky’s cloudy, I
don’t have to squint; I love
you.

Walking
in stride is a game, and you walk straight
into me because your eyes aren’t on your feet
this once; our hands grasp tighter, having sex,
but no one notices. We
skip.


I like it when it rains in November,
you said, when it’s dreary and the leaves stain
the sidewalk. Eyes smiling wide, we kiss in mid step,
and my head shakes a bit before we touch,
afraid I’ll miss but unwilling to slow. We laugh,
noses scrunched from impact and you exhale,
growling as dragon’s breath envelopes me. Our hands
have sex with everyone watching. They can’t have us.


Rain in November
Stained sidewalks leading us home
Grasping hands tightly

You smile, eyes laughing
Growling as dragon’s breath curls
From your lips near mine.

Can I get some feedback?

I haven’t written a poem in over a year… maybe a year and a half. But I have the option of doing either a story (15 pages) or a poem (no length or form requirements) for my Life Stages in Literature class and I, of course, chose a poem. It’s my forté, more so than fiction anyway.

Since I put this off until today and the poem is due by 5 p.m., I was wondering if anyone out in cyber-land wouldn’t mind giving me some feedback of what they thought, maybe their interpretation, what did or did not work, or just whatever. Any feedback at all is fine, I just want to bounce this off someone before I turn it in.

Sorry Best Friend

Tracing ellipticals around a fractured star
That sought a spotlight for its shine; we skipped from
Eight wheels to four, wooden slats bound tightly so our
Skates could glide while we held hands, and the roaring hum
Of sixteen-hundred revolts against inertia
Rattled our smiles. Eyes wide as we spun ecliptics
Inside the bleachers where he sat, eyes dark and shunned,
Hopeless anger flaring like a too-bent matchstick.
“He’s such a loser,” you complained, and I was shy,
So we laughed at his disease, like a secret shared
Between two friends who had escaped a forest fire
They chose to not prevent. I asked “Should you be there?”
But you, his girl, just smiled and clasped me to your chest;
Fell laughing to the floor, my head upon your breast.

Edit:: How embarrassing… I published this as a sonnet and it was only 13 lines long! I can’t believe I did that… fixed now.