Guru - Feedback System
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Issues and Problems with the Feedback System
Guru has clearly made an effort to try to address some of the most common issues typically encountered with numeric ratings on freelance marketplace sites. And it has succeeded in a couple of areas. However, there are still a few concerns, and sometimes fixing one problem introduces a new one. This is pretty much unavoidable: there are no easy answers when it comes to feedback, only tradeoffs.
Take feedback blocking for example. On the plus side, it is one of the few practical mechanisms that helps address the “feedback hostaging” problem, where an unscrupulous client or contractor can use the threat of a bad feedback score to exact concessions from the other party. This is a serious issue that plagues many sites, where it’s quite common for freelancers—especially newer ones—to get an unfair black mark that they can’t get rid of, which impedes their ability to get more work in the future. With feedback blocking, these “brick” reviews can be blocked from a freelancer’s profile entirely.
But is this really a good idea in general? An argument can easily be made that the ability to block feedback undermines the entire point of having a feedback system at all. Most clients and contractors want to know about bad experiences, because they are key to separating the wheat from the chaff.
Guru attempts to deal with this problem with the blocking power calculation, which limits how much feedback can be blocked. And it’s certainly better to have this based on project size than say, just allowing one out of ten projects to be blocked. But in my opinion, 10% is still a pretty large amount of feedback to be blocked. Would you really want to do business with a company that had 10% unhappy customers? I wouldn’t.
Numeric feedback ratings are already deceptive in many ways because of a tendency to give high scores even for mediocre work, and a culture that develops over time that encourages “5 star” ratings across the board. With clients and contractors blocking bad scores, this problem gets even worse: everyone can simply block reviews they don’t like, and the result is huge numbers of people with “perfect” ratings.
Guru disables the ability of either party to leave feedback for each other when a project goes into mediation or arbitration. This seems like a smart idea, since the potential for unfair feedback comments and ratings increases when the parties are engaged in a dispute. But here too, this is a double-edged sword: there often is one party at fault in these cases, and this policy means that future business partners cannot be warned about past behavior.
Guru’s feedback system also suffers from the usual issues that arise when feedback is linked to payments. What happens if a contractor agrees to do work, the client puts money in escrow, and the contractor just disappears? Guru’s rules don’t allow feedback to be left in this situation, which means clients cannot warn each other about contractors who are “flakes”.
The seven-day hold on publishing feedback, as mentioned earlier, does not prevent retaliatory feedback, since the feedback period is 60 days long.
The company also could do a better job of helping explain how to leave feedback ratings so that they are consistent. What exactly constitutes a “5 stars” rating for “Creativity” as opposed to “4 stars” or “3 stars”? Hey, don’t look at me. Everyone ends up either using their own interpretation of what these numbers mean, or just “going with the flow” and giving “5 stars” across the board if there are no problems, as I mentioned above.
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Last Site Update: October 21, 2011
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