Purchasing things online has become very much a convention of modern day living. Things can be ordered without even having to push a button, electronic assistants can do so for you and, if you do wish to remain in control, one click and it’s all done. My point here is not about modern day ease of consumerism, moreover, I was paving the way to discuss that we are then encouraged to review what we have purchased.

To go further, social media and blogging has empowered the masses and turned everyone into their own self appointed critic, if they so chose to be one. Companies ask for feedback via instant social media now as opposed to slower methods like email, letters or picking up the phone.

Bearing these two things in mind, why should we review and engage in giving feedback? Of late I’ve been so busy that a lot of my sourcing for work has been done online as opposed to in person. I’ve become subject to the barrage of emails that then follow in making purchases. I’ve always been one to tweet my thoughts on shows, work and films I’ve seen – provided the criticism is constructive, positive, analytical or humorous (nothing good ever comes from a hateful tweet). I have shyed away from leaving reviews on online emporiums like Amazon and EBay. Confronted with my current demands from online retailers asking for my views on my purchases, I have started to engage and send my thoughts back to them.

It’s got me thinking about what use is a review or feedback.

Firstly, the two terms are used for different purposes but essentially, as a construction, they are the same thing: information passed from one party to another, they are just framed and intentioned differently. Reviews are intended to inform other consumers. Feedback is usually asked for from the vendor and more often than not, its aim is to improve.

I’ve re written this several times, from several
Starting points but have always come back to the same end point – so I think it may be easier to start there and work backwards.

Three things I’ve come to conclusion on whilst contemplating this: purpose, intention and function. Generally, all feedback or reviews inform. They are there to help gather data. How they are intentioned (as in audience) and function (how they are purposefully designed to operate) are what give us the difference between reviewing and giving feedback. However, bearing in mind that at their root these devices inform, surely we should then aim to provide honest, constructive, useful evidence.

A policy of honesty offers two off-shoots, each relating to the two parties involved in the process of giving feedback: the giver and receiver. Firstly, the receiver is presented with comprehensive data to be able to use – perceived opinion, insight into context and culture, effectiveness etc. Even negative feedback can be a good constructive tool for improvement.

The second off-shoot, or by product, of honesty is for the giver. Here is where I have really had to consider what the value of reviewing is. In creating evidence – particularly that which sits as hard evidence like a tweet or a review on a website – we are able to see where values and beliefs are held. This is a rare opportunity to gain a perspective on ourselves, externally, as opposed to through our own filtered vision. Having distance from something we said or did ages ago is a great way to gain perspective and also note development.

Conclusively, giving feedback or reviewing (done constructively) is a progressive tool to help inform and improve – we all kind of know this. However what is overlooked is the crucial opportunity for to be honest and reflective, not just as someone receiving this kind of information but also as to someone who is giving it.

On a greater scope, we are presented with excellent perimeters for context, culture and circumstantial information. On a more personal level, we are offered a rare chance to consolidate our own set of beliefs and values which in turn inform our judgement and behaviour.