Feedbag #6: Feeling a Bit Drafty

image.aspx_1_croppedHello and welcome to the sixth edition of the Feedbag! Last time, we covered the best approach for writing a tournament report about a tournament that had some tournament organizer trouble.

This month, our topic will be drafts! No, not the kind that incinerate all your tickets on Magic Online! The kind that you write to share with your subject before submitting a review in Judge Center.

I’ve seen this topic come up over the summer in discussions here and here, as well as in conversations with other judges. In fact, I recently reviewed a judge and e-mailed a draft of the review to him before I submitted it. His response was,

I really like the review, but what do people usually discuss about the draft?

The practice of sharing a review draft was new to him, and he wasn’t entirely sure of the purpose. So why do it? Should everyone?

It’s a best practice that I’d strongly recommend for two primary reasons: 1) sharing your review draft lets your subject give input on your feedback and 2) your subject’s input increases the chances that your feedback will be accepted.

Presumably you’re reviewing another judge because you’re invested in their future success and you think that your input can help achieve that. In order to maximize the value of your feedback, you want to make sure that it lands as intended with your subject and that it isn’t rejected.

In fact, I also strongly recommend starting the review process with a verbal conversation at the event. For me, feedback often involves three steps: talk with my subject at the event, send a draft later by e-mail, and finally submit the review when they’re happy with it. I want to make it clear that my subject’s input matters when I’m reviewing them, and I strongly encourage others to do the same.

So why go through these steps? Why would your feedback be rejected? The worst-case scenario is that your subject will read something they disagree with and immediately ignore it.

Your critical feedback could be accurate, but your subject might not react well to their first encounter with it being the e-mail notification that they have a new review in Judge Center. It’s natural for people to get a bit defensive in response to having areas for improvement pointed out, and you want time for your subject to overcome that gut reaction so you can have a constructive conversation. 

Your feedback could also be rejected because it’s actually inaccurate. Even if you think you understand what motivated a particular decision, or what your subject had in mind while they were taking a call, you might be wrong. Your subject might be operating with some information you don’t have that makes a decision that seems suboptimal actually the correct thing to do.

My goal in writing drafts is turn reviews into more of a dialog, ensuring that your subject has a chance to provide input and talk with you about your feedback. Your review shouldn’t just be you dictating something to your subject; it should be a record of a conversation you’ve already had.

Interested in reading more? I recommend Justin Turner’s thoughts on why verbal feedback is so important. And Bearz points out some reviewing pitfalls to avoid in this brilliant piece of satire.

That’s it for this month! If you’d like to see your question appear in the next issue of the Feedbag, either in English or in binary, please contact me on Judge Apps.

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