The User Experience of Review Writing

Another excerpt from the forthcoming white paper on Review Sites…

Review Writing
The inner experience of writing a review involves a large number of things, and without going into any in depth, we need to acknowledge at least several of them. There is the thing reviewed. There is whom it is written for—this might be “yelpers” or “anyone” or “mommydaddy” or “friend,” “stalker,” “business owner,” “the Almighty,” or “the cute Yelper who just requested my friendship.” There is the style of writing, which might hew close to the utility of reviewing or stray off into personal ramblings, flashes of wit, hooks and lines designed to get attention, and so on. There is the use of qualifying observations by which a reader can glean, for him or herself and not because the author has said so, the salient selling points of the thing reviewed. There is then, as just mentioned, the recommendation or advice given within the recommendation, which itself can vary among all shades of “should,” “perhaps” “tentatively” “confidently” “ought” “must” and “not.” There is the revealing of the depth and scope of one’s authority on the matter, or not, or lack of it (which is not the same as not revealing, it’s a matter of not admitting!). There is the difference between being the first to review, in which case the review may inform subsequent reviewers, because a review can easily be a response to a review, to reviews in a series, or to reviews overall, depending on where the author puts him or herself in his/her emotional/mental relation to the whole proceeding. There is the review as comment to, or commentary on; and in commenting to, one might address reviewers, commentors, their reviews or their comments, though it may be hard for the reader to tell which is which.

The experience of writing a review is in fact complex indeed, and that’s not including the potential for misspellings, errors in fact, misinformed or inaccurately attributed perspectives and observations. Nor is it including the post window, tags, and now the addition of icons that can be used to represent a gestural remark, which again may indicate to some a reflection on the review, or the reviewer, and it can be hard to tell which is which since we can’t ask the person who selected them. And none of this includes the context of the review, which is to say some reviewers choose a time of day, or a category, an oft-reviewed Thing, trend, or bit of news as a means of attracting more attention (to themselves, their review, the view of themselves as manifest in the review, or perhaps to others. Or the Thing, even!). And again, none of this addresses the site in which the review is posted, its “branding” and community, and the sense that each user may have of what those are, how it serves them, or whom is served, and so on and so forth. The production of a review, as we see, is not so simple as the posting window would have it. From the perspective of social interaction design, at least.

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