Last week I wrote about a quasi-negative review I received about my parenting. It came from a disgruntled man on a JFK-bound flight from West Palm Beach. It may have seemed like just a look, but to me it might as well have been a 1,000-word essay.
I wrote about the hurt it caused and the lessons I learned.
I'm no stranger to receiving negative reviews. In the world of online video, particularly when you run a YouTube channel, you get bombarded with hateful, chauvenistic, racist, anti-Semitic (really you name it, it's happened) comments. I would examine them for truth when most times there was none. Cerebrally I knew that these comments came from trolls living in their parents' attic. But when they are launched at a product you put time and care into, and at people whom you respect, it's hard to brush it off. Especially when comments drive people to your channel and views yield revenue.
Are these same angry YouTubers writing Phraseaholic reviews in the App Store? Sending messages to our support mailbox? We've been fortunate to receive only a few disappointed users so far. I know there will be more on the way. But I always wonder who are these people that don't like the app? These faceless critics? Are they representative of a larger group? Is the person who posts "It's a tease. ... Everytime it updates all your favorites are cleared. Ridiculous," a non-tech savvy parent who could have recommended it to all her moms in play group? Is the person who wrote "Crash. Crash. Crash" an influential teen blogger? Or, perhaps a social media intern for a competing product?
I hate the fact that I can't respond to the users, provide explanations, offer to help troubleshoot. Or, is this user just like me after an awful day. Not wanting a solution at all, just needing to complain?
If I saw their faces though, would they be as honest? If I gathered people in a room for a test, would they disclose how they really feel? A former colleague created a video customer review tool that he hopes will counteract what he has called "The Yelp Effect," where consumers stop trusting reviews after so many faceless fakes. We're not in the position to hire that company yet, nor would it necessarily be the best fit for our needs.
It's worth noting that I'm not someone who only wants overly-positive reviews. I still remember the power of the honest grades in elementary school. Instead of alphabet grades, my elementary school gave numerical ones, with the highest being a 5. A 5 was not easy to get, nor was a 4. They were both for exceptional work. I worked my tiny ass off for those marks and, while I may not have appreciated it then, see the extreme value of the lower mark with constructive criticism.
But how do I weigh the positive reviews against the negative ones? Do I give them equal weight when making development decisions? I surely don't give them equal emotional weight. The negative ones sit with me much longer than the positive ones.
That's not to say though that I don't love the positive reviews. They make my day. Keep them coming...