Nobody Likes Feedback

Its Monday morning and the start of a new week. First thing to do – check email, have a browse, read some blogs and check Amazon for the chart position of the Rush book (OK its in the four-thousands now, but why not, its all good procrastination). The eye inevitably strays onto the reviews… and ouch! There’s another three-star baby in there. “Not well written, badly formatted, poor pictures.” Hum.

Following an initial, “What the heck” denial, the reaction is to put oneself into an entirely self-serving justification mode, “If only he knew what effort went in, etc, etc.” Of course this is a huge mistake. Next stage comes the, “Maybe he’s right,” (which of course, he is); then the recognition that, of course, he is right, both to have his opinions and in his justification of them.

All of this within the space of about a half hour, a microcosmic version of the four stages of trauma (denial, anger, bargaining, acceptance) or the four stages of team dynamics (forming, storming, norming, performing). Yet again I discover that my feelings are not my own, but purely some sequence of chemical reactions to cause various synaptic connections to form and reform in my grey matter.

Hum.

Speaking of connections, I notice that Garr Reynolds put a handy summary of the Cluetrain Manifesto up on his blog, over the weekend. If I may summarise his summary, the manifesto boils down to three words – “Markets are conversations.” About five years ago it appeared for many as absolutely the right thing to be said, just when the internet was fouling up corporations’ efforts to put some kind of sheen on their doings. It was also, so totally just at the wrong time, a victim of the bubble bursting, all of its sage ideas left to rot as bricks overtook clicks in the fashion industry we call IT. So – its good to see the Manifesto re-emerging, or at least being given a bit of credit.

Meanwhile, here’s the link. I fully applaud Amazon’s ability to print comments, indeed, I use them all the time when deciding what to buy. However, the interaction is all one way – there can be no Cluetrain-style conversation initiated here, either between reviewers, or between reviewer and author. This opens up a whole set of questions, not least, should the author actually be able to comment on the feedback of others? In the case above I would have loved to do so, but I’m not sure it is always such a good idea; not least because it might stymie further critique, but also because the author’s own comments might not necessarily be that valid. I’ve seen the former when I’ve participated on mailing lists – there’s no better way to halt a perfectly good tirade, than for the author or artist to wade in with their own opinions. Its one of the reasons why I’ve stopped posting things to the Rush lists, for example, though I confess I do have a quick peep every now and then. As for validity, one could probably determine what stage I was at (denial, anger etc) based on whatever comments I made.

Second (and this goes to the heart of Cluetrain), are all markets really conversations? For a conversation to exist there has to be both a channel of communication open, and a common language available to, all sides. I believe that Cluetrain is saying, companies should open their ears and start listening to their customers that are already in conversation. Perfectly valid, but many customers are considerably quieter, and it would be a big mistake to prioritise conversations with the more vocal customers, over serving the needs of the less vocal. Conversations are valid up to a point, but then, whether its a book being written, or the latest brand of soap powder, or a new gizmo being released, there has to be scope for leaving people to get on with it. Equally then, on the other side of the fence, producers have to accept there are consumer-oriented conversations that should take place without the producers being present – kind of, “would you mind leaving the room now please, we want to talk about you in private.”

As always, the keyword is going to be ‘balance’. There can be no absolutes here – if anything, with blogs, discussion boards, conversations, feedback and the like, it all serves to illustrate how far we have to go with these interactive technologies. It’s one, big, indeed global experiment, one in which I am very happy to participate.

Feedback welcome πŸ˜‰

P.S. Hands up anyone who thought this post was to be a comment on the Rush EP

Nobody Likes Feedback

2 thoughts on “Nobody Likes Feedback

  1. Jon says:

    Indeed, and indeed! It all reminds me of when I was a student, my best mate was a bloke called Steve. On one occasion we said to each other, “If there’s ever a problem, just say it,” so I said, “In that case, I’ve got a problem with your cooking…”

    We didn’t speak to each other for days…

    … but he’s stil my best mate πŸ˜‰

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