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First expert workshop: What is online feedback for?

by Malte on April 2, 2011

The first expert workshop is over, and the ideas are piling up on our desks. The range and richness of views and insights was absolutely amazing. This promises to be a great project, and we are already looking forward to the second workshop on 11 April.

The openness and energy of the expert group was quite impressive. Although the workshops bring together a rather diverse group of people, this did not prevent anyone from jumping right into the discussion, sharing and challenging expertise in marketing, monetizing, facilitating, soliciting, moderating, preventing, evaluating, giving and receiving feedback online. We are currently working on a detailed summary to prepare the ground for the design work in the second workshop. So for the moment, this is just a brief overview.

John guides the group through NHS Choices. Coffee keeps feedback experts going.

Introduction and background: In an attempt to introduce the project, I mapped the current landscape of web-based review and rating schemes and sketched six puzzles that had got us thinking in the project team. We will write more about this soon.

Stories from the field: Among the highlights of the afternoon were certainly the talks of three expert group members, who had volunteered to kick us off.

  • First up was Jason Smith, Client Partner at Bazaarvoice, who talked about his experience with designing and managing feedback systems for big companies like Argos and Expedia. Bazaarvoice has only been around for a bit more than five years, but already generated 196,224,118,952 conversations across its platforms (and counting). Jason showed how this data can be crunched and analysed with custom-made tools. This includes an early warning system for identifying product failures or capturing the sentiment of customers to improve marketing strategies.
  • Next, Peter Harris provided us with a fascinating inside view of what it takes to be a top reviewer on Amazon. A quick look at the top reviewer table confirms that Peter knows what he is talking about. Interestingly, it turned out that it is not always a blessing to lead the lot. Being a no. 1 reviewer comes with its own pitfalls and politics, such as receiving more critical comments or being offered free products that do not interest him. Other aspects Peter covered in his talk concerned the differences between country versions of the Amazon website, the implications of the change from the old to the new ranking system and the many ways in which reviewers interact among each other through forums, e-mails and comments.
  • Finally, John Robinson, User-generated Content Lead at NHS Choices, gave a guided tour through the comment functionalities of the government-run NHS Choices website. John talked about the challenges of designing a scheme that meets the expectations of both policy-makers and users. One example is the difficult question of moderation: what is OK to mention on a public health website and what might interfere with complaints procedures or even legal proceedings? How do negative comments affect small GP practices as opposed to big hospitals? And how to make sure that changes resulting from online reviews are sufficiently visible to the patient and the feedback loop is closed?

William and Harry sort things out at the flipchart.Group work: In the last hour of the workshop, we split up into two groups and discussed four questions based on the presentations: What is online feedback for? What are the benefits — and to whom? What are the harms — and to whom? And what counts as a “good” and a “bad” feedback scheme? Again, we are currently working on a summary of the discussion. Quite a daunting task, but an essential step on our way to the prototype.

Many thanks to David Albury, Sarah Drinkwater, Peter Durward Harris, William Heath, Helen Hancox, Harry Metcalfe, John Robinson, Stefan Schwarzkopf, Jason Smith, Marcus Taylor and Elizabeth Forrester at Which? for making the first Expert Workshop a success.

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