Sneak preview of the first Expert Workshop

by admin on March 28, 2011

Time has flown by since the project started last fall, and the first expert workshop is only two days away. Everyone who has ever organised such an event (or, in fact, any event) knows the strange tension between happy anticipation and panic attacks caused by unwell speakers or the discovery of an overlooked e-mail at the bottom of the inbox.

Which? Head Office, London

This time, however, there is not much to complain about. First of all, the line-up for Thursday looks terrific. The expert group is now about 20 members strong, covering a broad range of backgrounds and experiences from all shades of business, government and civil society. Social commerce managers, government innovators, academics, reputation consultants, web developers, social media geeks, consumer spokespeople, top-rated reviewers and the targets of reviews — this promises to be an engaging discussion. Furthermore, we are very grateful for the opportunity to meet in a wonderful venue in the heart of London, thanks to the generous support of Which?, the consumers’ association.

Finally, four members of the expert group volunteered to kick us off with short presentations, highlighting different perspectives on online reviews and ratings:

  • Jason Smith, Client Partner at Bazaarvoice, is a long-time expert on consumer feedback in social commerce: “Reviews and Social Commerce: Learnings from 1000 Brands”.
  • Peter Durward Harris is a Top-10 Amazon Reviewer and will share some of his stories: “My experience as a Top 10 Amazon Reviewer”.
  • Chris Emmins, Co-founder of Kwikchex, will highlight the consequences of public evaluations for individuals and businesses: “Online Reviews – The Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly”.
  • John Robinson, User-generated Content Lead at NHS Choices, will share his experience with user reviews in the public sector: “Introducing patient feedback on NHS Choices: the challenges and what we’ve learned”.

Feel free to have a look at the preliminary workshop programme. We will make sure to take a lot of notes and post a summary soon after the event.


New ‘Resources’ on project website

by admin on March 22, 2011

You might have noticed that we recently added a new page to the project website. It is titled Resources and contains all the articles, bookmarks, notes and references that we picked up along the way. It is by no means complete or comprehensive. Nor do we claim it is particularly well organised. Nevertheless, it may still be useful to have a look, check out recent news items, have a look at some spoof reviews or simply be dazzled by all the possible (and impossible!) things that can be reviewed and rated these days.

Thanks to those who already sent suggestions! Please keep the feedback coming so we can make the site even more useful.


Share your online review and rating story!

by admin on March 11, 2011

Do you have an interesting story to tell about online reviews and ratings? Have you ever been troubled by online feedback — or learned something very valuable from using it? What exactly happened and how did you deal with it? Do you have any ideas or thoughts about what could be improved? Have online reviews and ratings changed the way you go about doing things?

Whether you browsed book reviews on Amazon, shared Friday night’s restaurant experience on Qype, have a B&B discussed on Tripadvisor, commented on your tutor at RateMyProfessors, run a garage service reviewed on Google Places or offer reviews and ratings on your own website — please share your experience in the comment section. We are currently collecting stories for the project and would like to find out what you think. Difficult situations, anecdotes, problems, success stories, whatever you think relevant.

We will use these stories in the upcoming expert workshops in London so there is a good chance that your story will be read by people who care about them. Many thanks!


Updates and dates for 2011

by admin on January 14, 2011

Happy new year! After we set up the project and took the first administrative and technical hurdles, we wanted to give a brief overview of what lies ahead. The first project team meetings are done, and we have been busy organising the months to come. The key dates to mark in your diary:

31 March 2011 – Expert Workshop 1, London
11 April 2011 – Expert Workshop 2, London
27 June 2011 – One-day Conference, Oxford

What’s next?

Workshops: We have started sending out invitations for the workshops. Many thanks to all those who proposed participants. This promises to be a smart and diverse group of people, who will help explore the idea of How’s my feedback?. The group will include designers and managers of review and rating schemes, but also reviewers, rating subjects, policy-makers and academics. If you think we missed you or someone else, please get in touch. Space is limited, but we hope to accommodate everyone who would like to contribute.

Conference: We have also started thinking about the conference in Oxford, which will take place late June. The rooms are booked, and if you have ideas for speakers, topics or interesting formats, please let us know.

Prototype: Finally, if you are a web developer or designer and would like to get involved, please e-mail us.


A brief history of ‘How’s my feedback?’

by admin on November 18, 2010

To get us started, it might be useful to give some background on the project. How did it all begin?

As usual, it began with confusion. Over the past three years, we have been researching various issues of governance and accountability in digitally networked environments here at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society. During that time, we have been increasingly puzzled by the rise of web-based review and rating schemes – all those websites and mechanisms that generate public assessments of people, products and services and carry them out into the world.

Logos of web-based review and rating schemesWhile eBay‘s seller feedback and Amazon‘s product reviews are often mentioned as the archetypes, the idea has spread across a range of industries and targets. These include hotels, movies, restaurants and beer, but also lawyers, teachers, drivers, freelancers, dates, haircuts and knitting. Search engines like Google or Bing rate and rank the relevance of websites with considerable implications. And even public services have mobilised the idea more recently in areas like health care or policing.

While these schemes differ in their focus, scope and methodology, the claims made about them are surprisingly consistent. They variously make hidden qualities transparent, hold individuals and organisations to account or facilitate ‘democratic’ engagement of those who would not otherwise have a voice. Accountability, transparency and participation – against the backdrop of this trinity, it is hardly surprising that web-based review and rating schemes have become so popular.

Interestingly, not everyone shares this enthusiasm. While some have welcomed the development as an innovative solution to public problems, others have criticised the forced exposure and alleged lack of accuracy and accountability. In the case of the travel review website TripAdvisor, for example, hotel owners recently threatened to sue its operators, mobilised a counter-scheme identifying ‘guests from hell’ or struck back against individual reviewers. In the shadow of web search, a fascinating industry emerged around the idea of search engine optimisation and other attempts to reach Page 1 of search results.

So where does this lead? A new form of distributed control and peer-produced transparency – or an audit society on steroids?

The goal of this project is to tackle these questions head-on. Over the next few months, we will work together with managers, designers and users to develop a website that will allow people to share their experience and learn about the implications of web-based reviews and ratings. Turning the idea of public assessment on its head, we hope to generate some interesting discussions about the utility and ethics of these schemes and support both operators and users in their day-to-day work.

Of course, you are more than welcome to join us in this effort.


Welcome to our project blog!

by admin on November 16, 2010

So this is our brand new, shiny project blog. Over the next 12 months, we will use this place to share our thinking and keep you posted about all things How’s my feedback?. This includes regular updates about the activities of the project team, the events we are about to organise and the insights, ideas and irritations we generate along the way.

Even more importantly, this will be a space where you can have your say about the project and share your experience with web-based review and rating schemes more generally. The prospect of putting together a website with a lot of people from different areas, industries and backgrounds is quite exciting, but also a bit daunting. So we will definitely need your help and advice – no matter whether you consider yourself a long-time expert or a newbie user.

We will very soon start with a bit of background to the project. In the meantime, feel free to comment or send us your ideas directly. You can e-mail us at any time, especially if you would like to get involved. We would love to hear your thoughts!