Behind the Numbers – 300, Rise of a Reviewer

Here at the Feedback Loop, I like to follow and break down all kinds of numbers behind the art of reviews. Recently, David de la Iglesia, Level 3 from Madrid, Spain, hit a significant milestone: 300 reviews written. I had a chance to sit down an talk with him about this milestone and his thoughts about reviews and their place in the Judge Program.



Riki: First off, congratulations on achieving this milestone. What does writing 300 reviews mean to you.

DLI: It means I am not so far behind you! On a more serious note, it’s quite a personal achievement. I don’t think the number is that important in itself. I think that consistency and dedication to review writing is what the real achievement is.

Riki: On that note, there is a tendency in the Judge Program to shy away from the celebration of numerical milestones with regard to reviews because of the concerns between quality and quantity. What do you make of this debate?

DLI: I see the concern. This same debate can be made of “Judged X GPs” or of “Tested Y L1s”. In the end what matters to me is that these celebrations have a positive impact on the community. If you are just bragging for the sake of your own ego, that’s obviously not ideal, but on the other hand if I make a FB post about the 300 reviews and some other judge gets motivated by it, then that’s great! What actually has happened to me in the past is that these type of posts has generated positive responses from some of my local judges, who have engaged in productive interactions with me because of seeing this as an example to follow.

Riki: Take a look back at your very first review written of another judge. Do you remember much about it today? How does it make you feel to read it?

DLI: I was L0 at side events of my first GP, Madrid ’08, where I worked 8-player events with a Czech L1 called Jiri Nitsche. What can I say, it was a blast, and I learned a lot that day. This review to me is a thank you note for Jiri’s mentoring, and his outgoing attitude. I am very happy nowadays about how well balanced that review was, it had specific examples, and proposed a well-defined course of action to improve on some stuff.

Riki: And, plug, people can read it here:
No doubt you’ve come a long way in the 299 reviews since then. Part of the process of becoming a good reviewer is to receive reviews and to use those as examples to learn from and motivations to improve. Name a few of the reviews you’ve received (writer and event) and how they influenced you in this regard.

DLI: A very important one for me was one of my L3 recs, from Daniel Kitachewsky at GP Prague ’11. This review came at a time where I really could use some perspective on where I was and where I was coming from. It helped me understand that despite I had been working on some areas, and that was great, there was still a lot to do. Daniel acknowledging my efforts was something that definitely pushed me to keep improving.
There is this other review that helped me learn something very important when you’re Team Leading at an event. This L1 judge (I’d rather not disclose his name), was being careless and quite distracted during the start of day of a GP. Because of that I chose to ignore him, I wanted the team to succeed, and I remember that my feeling at the time was that he was a burden to the team. This was a huge mistake on my part. His review points out in a very candid way how he wish he could have had more time to interact with me on the floor, and that I was so focused on the team’s overall performance rather than on the team members. Truth is the team did well, but I didn’t personally succeed. Leaving people behind is simply selfish and inappropriate, and I learned a great lesson that day.

Riki: I think that’s fantastic. I was actually going to ask if any lower level judges had ever given you a review that really helped you.

DLI: After getting this review I chatted online with the HJ for this GP, and I remember him telling me that being a leader is not about our own success. After all a TL’s main job is making sure others beneath him succeed.

Riki: Yeah, newer judges often say that they don’t know how to review higher level judges because they don’t have areas for improvement, but that’s a good example of being able to say how your interactions affected him, and that is valid feedback.

DLI: Yeah, absolutely valid. Even though his performance was not my fault, it was definitely my responsibility, and in a way he pointed it out in this review.

Riki: Do you have another goal now that you’ve hit 300?

DLI: I have to say 300 was never a real goal. It was simply the inevitable consequence of doing what I like. Again, it’s the same as when I get to judge, let’s say 100 GPs. Yeah, the numbers might be impressive, but in general I think what matters is walking your own path and how the travel affects you, and not so much the destination. When it comes to reviews I think my goal is to keep certain consistency, and provide feedback at every single event I attend, or from every interaction I have outside events due to projects, for example. I was recently talking to an American L2, who was surprised to hear from other L2s that “L3s talk”, meaning that we talk to each other and share our observations. Sharing regularly feedback in a productive and constructive way is an actual goal for me.

Riki: You’ve talked about how the number didn’t mean that much to you, but you did save #300 for someone.

DLI: Yeah, you.

Riki: Why was that?

DLI: It was a friendly gesture, you’re clearly the most inspiring figure in the program when it comes to reviews, and someone who has helped me improve as a judge in general, but very specifically in my review writing over the years. While I had that review written weeks ago I postponed submitting it, so it was the 300th. It simply means to me that you mean to me a lot.

Riki: Well, it meant a lot to me, and will be one of the reviews that I will look back in years and treasure. You, more than just about anyone else, are willing to say the things that no one else is willing to say. How do you do that? Is it difficult?

DLI: It is super hard. It’s not easy to be perceived as “the bad guy” because you take the responsibility of giving someone a perspective that is not pleasant to hear. At a very recent GP I had a chat with a judge about his behavior at events, and while I know it was hard for him to accept the feedback, I like to think it will help him along the road. To me it was emotionally draining, and something that I didn’t particularly enjoy, but… it needed to be done. This judge needed us to do this for him, and I’m glad it got done. And as for how do I do it… I’ve made every mistake in the book. I’ve done almost every possible thing wrong while judging. And you know what? There’s always been someone there for me. Not for smacking me down, but rather for helping me realize why I was doing wrong, and very important, how to stop doing wrong. Now I just do the same for others. Opposite to the famous Batman quote, I’m perhaps not what the program may deserve, but rather possibly what it needs.

Riki: There simply aren’t many educational materials on how to improve at giving feedback. Do you have anything you suggest for judges who come to you asking for help in this field?

DLI: I always tell them to be both honest and constructive on their feedback above all else. A review is meant to serve several purposes, but the main one is and should be helping the reviewee to improve. A review is not about telling someone in excruciating detail how he/she screwed up, but rather about giving this person the tools to learn how to improve.

Riki: What advice do you have for a new judge starting today when they see you with 300 reviews and they think “I can never be like DLI.”

DLI: Please don’t be DLI, why would you want that? Be yourself instead! (This is a replacement effect.) Now, you can take some positive stuff from me and try to incorporate it to your own ways of doing things. As I said, the most important thing about how I write reviews is consistency. Developing a habit is what will make you get there (wherever you define “there” to be). On top of that let’s use this opportunity to clear up a common misconception: you don’t have to be at an event to give feedback or write a review. You can give feedback for any kind of interaction, even passive ones. For example you can give feedback to someone who works with you in a judge project (active interaction), or also to someone who just published a judge article (passive interaction).

Riki: Do you think that feedback and reviews are important for all judges to participate in?

DLI: Yes. It should be like math in school. You may think it’s going to be boring, and that you’re never gonna need to use math in real life. Well, you’d be wrong. Judging is more than memorizing the rules and learning a few procedures and recipes on tournament operations. There’s a lot of stuff about judging that can be learned by the basic peer review process: observation, assessment, discussion, transcription.

Riki: That’s all I have. Thank you for your time. Any closing remarks?

DLI: It was my pleasure 🙂


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