Never underestimate the human desire to game systems. Why expend actual effort when you can “win” by cheating? Because, to the victor go the spoils. Today I’d like to explain one way that business owners go about gaming their reviews.
So there’s this thing called Yelp. They claim to be generally positive system but the dictionary definition of the word “yelp” is: “a short sharp cry, esp. of pain or alarm.” Yeah, baby. Those are my kind of reviews. Let’s go negative and keep it that way. Don’t believe me? Look it up in your own dictionary.
I went to the trendy meat cafe and they served me an elk burger that was oozing blood. That’s how I earned “connoisseur of raw elk meat” on my Twitter profile! And, oh yeah, you better believe I yelped it as soon as I got home.
My understanding is that Yelp frowns on business owners asking for reviews. That’s bad form in a reputation system that’s supposedly driven from a wellspring of organic experiences from normal people like you and me. Normal! Yeah, right.
Here’s how the gaming works:
You place an order on a website. A few days or weeks later you receive a survey request. “How did we do on your recent order?” and what not.
You’ll likely be given the ability to enter some comments and provide a rating. If you give them a good rating, they’ll say thanks and provide a clickable link to the Yelp website where you can enter a review. If you give a bad rating, they only say thanks. No linky for you.
Voila! It’s as simple as that. The system just got gamed. The preliminary survey is nothing more than a sieve to sort the good eggs from the bad. The good eggs are passed along to Yelp and the bad eggs go down the chute. You might think that businesses appreciate negative feedback most of all because that’s vital information to help them improve. You’d be wrong. Why waste time on that shit when you can be gaming the system instead?
This is just one small example of gaming. People in the world of business spend more time thinking about stuff like this than they do on actual products and services. And they’re really good at it. That’s ingenuity.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to nosh on some raw elk. RAWR!
There I was, in my office, headphones safely ensconced over my grimy ears, listening to music that made blood trickle down my external auditory meatus, minding my own business. Those are the conditions under which I work the best.
Suddenly… what’s that? Brenda Lee?
There goes my toe a tappin’. And I just lost the ability to properly nest my code. What was I working on again?
Yep. Christmas music in April. What’s wrong with this picture? My wife knew something was up when she heard me in the kitchen. “And we’ll do some caroling.” She just shook her head.
Little did she know it wasn’t my fault. I’m here to tell you about the feature that
time Apple forgot.
It’s an idea so simple and elegant that Apple probably worried it would make them a bit too cool. Apple knows there’s a law of diminishing returns on coolness.
The missing feature I’m talking about, of course, is a “Festive” system that tells Shuffle to omit music flagged as “seasonal” during certain months of the year. If enabled, for example, seasonal music would only play Nov. 15 through Dec. 27th or so. (The actual dates could be adjustable.)
While I hold my breath and wait for Apple to get right on this humble request, who wants to lend me a hand? These halls aren’t going to deck themselves! It’s beginning to sound a lot like Christmas around here. And, baby, it’s cold outside!
“Unicorn” is the codename I’ve given to one of the technical people who came on board after I quit. She’s been working on my stuff.
To: Tom B. Taker
CC: Former Boss
I just wanted to take a moment to give you some positive feedback on the scripts you created to manage vendor/product information.
Your extensive, clean documentation, stable code, and useful logging / script echos has made this transition run much more smoothly than I have experienced in other small businesses. Well done.
Note the date and time in the ship’s log. I’m speechless. I have nothing negative to add.
I once quit a job over a staff meeting. True story. I’m sure it’s documented here on the blog somewhere, but long story short, they made us on the 6am crew stick around for a 5pm meeting. I asked, “Is it important?” Our managers assured us it was. “You have to be there,” they said.
The meeting started and the first item of business was rolling out birthday cake for our safety director. At 5-fucking-o-clock. It’s not like most of us would be consuming dinner any time soon.
Then, for the icing on the cake, the rest of the hour was consumed by our managers reading memos to us. Line-by-line. Word-by-word. Like we were in kindergarten or something. Memos that had previously been delivered to our inboxes. Memos I had already read on my very own. It was worse than an insult to our intelligence. It was calling us babies.
After the meeting I opted to go back to my desk rather than heading straight home. I sat there and wrote out a memorandum of my own. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. It’s a classic piece of Americana called the letter of resignation. I plopped that puppy on my manager’s desk and then called it day.
In another place and another time there was another staff meeting. This one involved the quintessential management tool known as the employee survey.
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Call it feedback, validation or just an unbiased appraisal of the way you truly are. Whatever. It’s all good to me. When the Universe speaks, you better be ready to listen up. It means you are about to be schooled.
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Uh oh. Apparently I went and did something good. Dammit. Even the best of us can still make mistakes.
I think I’ve mentioned in the past that I used to be involved in Relay For Life, a fund raising arm of the American Cancer Society. I got into it after my dad died of cancer and I bumped into a friend who was running our local event.
My dad smoked his entire life. So did my mom. Fun childhood for me, yeah! My dad would also “breakfast” by swigging directly out of a bottle of Black Velvet to start the day. Cancer wasn’t exactly the biggest shocker ever in his case.
After his diagnosis my dad approached the American Cancer Society. Apparently whatever happened didn’t go well. My dad specifically told me, “I don’t want anything going to ACS in my memory.”
Still, I did go on to do the Relay For Life thing and my dad was a big part of the reason why. I figured he’ll just have to live with it.
Meanwhile, at work, while being forced to answer phones against my will, I happened to take a customer phone call the other day. This woman was untrusting. “How do I know if I give you my money you’ll send me anything?” LOL! Love it! Bottom line is you don’t. There are no guarantees. But even though this is a shithole the employees still care too damn much and actually do a good job. You are buying a piece of crap but at least you’ll actually receive it. We don’t lie, cheat and steal quite that much.
So in the end I convinced her to make the leap of faith and trust us with her $30 USD. 🙂
During the discussion she mentioned she had cancer. I talked to her about Relay For Life, which she had never heard about. So after I was off the phone, I took a minute to drop her a link to the official RFL web site which includes a function to locate her local event. I told her how RFL is an event where teams commit to walking around a track for 24 hours. The opening lap is for those fighting cancer and those who have survived cancer. It is very moving and I had tears in my eyes at the last one I attended. In the evening there is the Luminaria ceremony where people decorate bags for loved ones with cancer or in memoriam. These bags a lit and placed around the track while the names of everyone being honored are read out loud. My wife made a luminaria bag for my dad with little airplanes (he loved to fly) and it was pretty emotional.
I actually haven’t done RFL for a couple years now due to our local event getting all political and nasty, but that’s another story.
Anyway, so I talked this lady into a sale and thought it would be nice to turn her on to RFL. In my experience some people with cancer won’t go, and I try not to pressure, but I at least wanted her to know.
Here is the email I received in response:
When I opened this email it brought tears to my eyes. Above and beyond is all I can say. I’m going to attend the first one that I am able too, and will think of you as I am walking. Not to sound like your mother, but I must say she must be exceptionally proud of you. I know that we have never met, yet I felt a very special warmth in your tone yesterday.
Thank you again for caring.
With much respect,
Yikes! I hate answering phones and talking to customers. How in the hell did something like this happen? “Warmth” in my “tone?” That’s impossible!!!
We’re supposed to forward all “testimonial” style emails to the boss but I’m not giving this one up. No way no how. I do not want my boss knowing something like this no matter what. This could really damage my career!