Review Rivalry: How We’re Gonna Beat the Mid-Atlantic

This is a guest post by the wonderful Tony Houst(Tony Houst)

When Io announced the Review Challenge of 2018, I was giddy with excitement. I love silly competitions and contests, and I love them even more when they have a purpose. Making a game of reviews is also not something I’m a stranger to.

In early 2016, I was playing at a PPTQ head judged by my Area Rep, Chris Wendelboe, who was excited that his standby got activated so he could write a review. “I’ve written so many this year, by the end of 2016 I’ll have written more than the rest of New Hampshire combined!” We laugh for a moment, and little judge Tony, who hadn’t been an L1 for even 6 months, and had not written a review prior to that day, went “Challenge accepted! Heck I’ll beat you by myself!”

For the rest of the year Chris and I had a fun Review Rivalry, checking in on each other, floating ideas about reviews, and feedback in general. When on staff at my first GPs one of my main focuses was getting more reviews and feedback in, and for an aspiring L1 this was huge. I made the realization partway through the year that I was not providing all the feedback I could, and found some of the weaknesses of written reviews as opposed to flash feedback. At the end of the year i had gotten Nine reviews in, and Chris had done about 18, but the result wasn’t what mattered, there were no stakes, and we wagered nothing. The review rivalry got me excited to talk to people about judging, got me to think about what makes a good judge, and got me to review judges with more experience than myself (which is super intimidating for a new L1)

As of writing this, we’re three weeks into the year, and the Mid-Atlantic is beating us 14 to 12, and honestly that’s sad, for both of us. 2 NH judges got more reviews done in a year than over 2000 judges did in 3 weeks? We’re better than those numbers, we have the capability to crush the Mid-Atlantic to the point where math doesn’t exist that would enable them to win, so let’s go do that!

Today I’m going to give a couple bits of strategy as to how we’re going to out review the Mid-Atlanticians. I will go into the selfish motivation that helps us win, the other positives that make reviews worthwhile to do in general, and how to make the first steps towards that strategy These are suggestions, and if you have other goals that work better for you, sweet, do that!

#1. Get Level 1s Involved

This is the first and foremost important strategy for getting those numbers up. We have more L1s in our region than the Mid-Atlantic does, and even if only half of the L1s in the Northeast put in a single review, that’s still about 200 to 300 reviews! Holy moly! Our L1s will blot out the sun!

More importantly, it does what I highlighted in Chris and I’s Review Rivalry. It brings some of the L1s more into the fold, getting them involved with the program on a more intimate level. This is something that is going to be daunting for some, which is why i’m not saying “Tell someone to do a review”

Find an L1 in your area and reach out to them, tell them about our challenge, and say “Hey, it’d be awesome if you wrote a review, what can I do to help you do that?” Keep in mind that most L1s don’t work large events, but they work prereleases, fnms, and more. Finding another local judge to review may certainly be possible for a good portion of us. For the Judges in more remote area’s, a self review may be a decent alternative to this if they’re not able to find someone to give feedback on. Offer to help with that, as self reviews can be much harder for some than reviewing another person.

#2. Self Reviews

Have you done a self review? When was the last time you did? The very first review I’m writing this year is a self review, which I’ll be starting right after this article. One of the final reviews I will write this year will also be, you guessed it, a self review. That’s 2 reviews you can get in regardless of your activity in the program this year. If everyone in the region did this, we’d have somewhere around 2500 reviews!

Self reviews are important tool in gauging where you are at. While I’m sure lots of us analyze our successes and failures constantly, putting them into written words is very useful, gets the thoughts out of our heads and gives us something to point to. You’re not the same judge now that you were a year ago, nor will you be that same judge at the end of the year. The person who knows all this the best, is you. This also is helpful to those reviewing you, as you can choose to share this with them to help give them a sense of where you feel you are at.

Starting off with your goals, especially ones for this year, is a decent place to start. Then dig into where you need to go to get up to those goals. Make sure to be honest with yourself with where you did awesome things, and where it became very apparent that you need to improve.

#3. One review per Large Event you go to

Every SCG:Open, GP, or or other large local tournament series brings judges from all over together for a single weekend. This is like a game reserve for review hunting! Feeling adventurous? Make it one per each day of large events you go to! I travel to events about once a month, some are 2 day, some are 3 day, so if I do one each day of those I’ll have 30 reviews.

The other thing is that with every new event, there are people you haven’t given feedback to. A fresh set of eyes may see something that others have not, and make your review potentially mean so much to this Judge you hadn’t seen before this event. Having a review in the back of your mind each day also can help you see things you can improve on that very same weekend.

The small moleskine notebook is my close friend for this. I see something cool, scribble it down; I see something that can be improved, same deal. I also make sure that I talk to each person I wrote something down about, before I leave. Some scribbles lead to reviews, some are just small bits of flash feedback, and if I miss the person leaving, a small email or private message with a nugget of wisdom from the weekend has been how many of my close judge friendships have started.

#4. You do not need to be judging to write a review

You want to play in that awesome Legacy Open, but still want to get a review in? No problem! Under the “reviewer roles” tab there are roles of “Attendee”, “Player”, and “Spectator” that are intended exactly for this. Win some GPs and get some reviews done along the way? What are playing, Jund, because that’s what I call value.

This is also a good way for an L1 to start dipping their feet into their first reviews by reviewing the head judge of a PPTQ they go to. Reviewing as a player gives the perspective of the audience, and the insight of a judge who knows what it’s like on that side of things. There may be many events where the judges are so busy with tasks that they don’t have time to stop, breathe, and think about feedback, so getting some from players can be awesome.

Big thing about this is ask the judge if they’d like some feedback from you after the event. Not everyone is comfortable talking about their successes and failures and failures in public, so respect that. Do not just throw a review in judge apps without having talked to that judge, that’s a fundamental rule for most reviews, but especially ones submitted as a player. Like in the previous point, Notebooks are your friend, just make sure you write stuff down between rounds, and don’t refer to your review notes during a match, as that would be a weird reason to have to issue an Outside Assistance penalty.

#5. You don’t need to only write reviews of Floor and Head Judges

All of the roles for reviewers and subjects in judge apps are Appeals Judge, Attendee, Floor Judge, Head Judge, Judge Manager, Player, Presenter, Scorekeeper, Spectator, Staff, Standby, Team Lead, and Tournament Organizer. That opens up tons of possibilities!

I’m sure a whole other article can be written about how to approach a review of each of these roles, so I’m not going to every single one of these in detail. The important ones here that I think get overlooked are Presenter, Scorekeeper, Staff, Team Lead and Tournament Organizer.

Have a ton of feedback on a presentation from a Judge Conference? See amazing customer service from the Prize Wall? Do you have a hands on TO that goes all out to make entertaining events? Did you see a Scorekeeper single handedly save an event from the fiery clutches of WER?

Write about it, talk to them about it. The main thing I want to stress here is that some of these roles may have challenges you aren’t aware of, or things you don’t see, and while that certainly doesn’t invalidate your feedback, it does make these conversations different than our typical reviews between judges in judge roles. If you don’t have a ton of experience in these areas, I would suggest flash feedback as a better starting point, and to ask the person in that role if they’d like feedback. Some will say no, and that’s ok, others will be incredibly happy to hear input, especially if they don’t typically get feedback when in that role.

#6. Make a Review Rival

Like I said above, a lot of the fun of my review rivalry with Chris was the rivalry. Smack talk, while fun, also helps keep us engaged with the challenge. I love competition and having someone be the Gary Oak to my Ash Ketchum always helps spice things up.

It doesn’t need to be constantly checking in, but even if just once a month, having a quick text chat as to where you are at, goes a long way. Beyond just checking in, sharing reviews and reviewing reviews will help improve both of yours dramatically. I say not just to have one Review Rival, but two, one in here in the northeast and one in the Mid Atlantic. We’ll help whip ourselves into super review shape, plus we’ll get to have some more fun amping up the competition between our two regions.

#7. Make personal goals.

Maybe your goal is a number, or is just to beat your rival, whatever it is, set it and don’t forget it. Let people know your goal to hold you to it.

To come full circle my first goal is the bold claim that Chris made in 2016 that started our Rivalry, I will do more reviews in 2018 than the rest of the state combined. I’m confident I’ll get to 40, but will shoot for a stretch goal of 60 reviews by years end.

Thanks for reading, let’s get to writing, making each other awesome, and crushing the Mid-Atlantic super hard in the dust. 🙂

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