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Problems and Policies
While feedback systems help solve
a big problem—the trust issue—they can introduce new problems
as side-effects. Unless they are properly designed and managed, these
issues can undermine them significantly. In the worst case scenario,
the integrity of the ratings mechanisms can become so compromised that
they actually lead to worse decision-making than would otherwise occur
Here are some of the key concerns
with feedback systems that sites have to deal with:
- Abuse: Because of how much weight is put
on feedback systems, especially numeric ones, they present a high potential
for abuse. One of the most common methods is “feedback hostage-taking”,
where a client uses the threat of poor feedback as a tool to extract
extra work or other concessions from a freelancer. (Freelancers do this
too, but not as often.) Another issue is “retaliatory” feedback,
where a client gives a contractor a bad rating as revenge for receiving
one, or vice-versa.
- Confusion: Sites try to differentiate themselves
by the complexity of their ratings systems, arguing that the more sub-ratings
they have, and the more sophisticated the math they use to calculate
an overall score, they more reliable the feedback system will be. This
can backfire, however, if clients and contractors don’t really
understand what the numbers mean and how they are computed.
- Inconsistency: Related to the confusion
issue, another problem is inconsistency of ratings among users. This
is often caused by poor instructions given during the evaluation
process, and can result in a client “ruining” a contractor’s
overall feedback score even if they were happy with the work.
- Fraud: Unfortunately, it is not uncommon
for unscrupulous clients or contractors to game the feedback system through
techniques such as hiring friends to give them good feedback. Freelancers
will also offer to “buy” positive feedback by working for
free in exchange for reviews. Good sites keep an eye out for this sort
- Excessive Reliance on Numeric Systems:
As mentioned above, many people use the numbers in feedback systems as
a crutch, and they can be deceptive because they don’t really give
you anything more than a bird’s eye view of a potential freelancer
Fortunately, most of these gotchas
can be ameliorated by writing thorough policies designed to address them—but
that will only happen if the site cares enough to do this, and more importantly,
to enforce those policies.
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The Online Freelancing Guide (http://www.FreelancingGuide.net)
Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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