Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Do Not Read If You Are Easily Offended

So, here I sit at 10:25 PM, trying to come up with something new and controversial. Something that will offend people and make them write letters to the editor. or at least Sariah. I want to post something that will get all the people who hate people with children angry, like one of Julie’s blogs did. Or maybe I can rile up all the Book of Mormon historians that disagree with my sheep philosophy like Sariah. Rob just looks controversial. Stephanie lives where it doesn’t snow. And Kerry is so sweet all the time, that you just know she says mean things about you behind your back.

But I’ve got nothing. Maybe it’s because I spent the evening swimming, eating an amazing roast beef dinner, and playing cards at my parents' house. It’s just mellowed me out. Or maybe it’s because I’ve been answering like a hundred questions a day for my blog tour. As it is, I’ve spent most of my best ammunition. Why I think authors shouldn’t use prologues. My anti-SASE campaign. Why I hate flashbacks. It’s all out there already.

Anyone want to talk about how Vai Sikahema, a 45 year-old 5’9” ex BYU football player out-boxed the steroid using ex-major league baseball player Jose Canseco, knocking him down twice in the first round before the fight was stopped? Especially gratifying when it was Canseco that asked for the fight in the first place.

No? Okay, then how about book reviews, or any reviews for that matter? How realistic are they? And how useful? As a sales manager I am supposed to do annual reviews of my employees. I hate the 1-5 star process. It’s inherently flawed. You don’t want to give your employee five stars because that means they have no room for improvement. But anything less than 3 stars says, “You really don’t deserve to be working here.” So really you are choosing between 3 and 4 stars.

Is that the case with book reviews? If you give out 5 star reviews too easily, you lose credibility. But if you give any less than 3, it’s a pretty terrible review. Go look at the Amazon reviews of a popular book. The 5 star reviews are not all that helpful because obviously anyone who gave it five stars loved it so much they can’t find much of anything wrong. On the other hand, the 1 star people are so filled with hatred, you have to wonder if the author shot their dog or something.

So you go to the 3 and 4 star reviews to get the real scoop. What’s good, what’s not? But that takes us back to the issue of really just being a 2 star difference. Thus we introduce ½ stars. Or a 1-10 scale. Or some people have gone completely away from stars to descriptions. Liked it. Loved it. It was okay. I’d never read it again. I burned it and spread the ashes across the lawn of my meanest neighbor. That kind of thing.

So here are my questions—which are not nearly as controversial as the whole King Noah man or myth thing:

How do you rank a book when you review it?

What do you look for in a review, and how much credibility do you give it?

And lastly, what do you think Rob is really hiding behind all those fake interviews?


At 7/15/2008 4:31 AM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

Ahh, Jeff, you've managed to offend me with your statement that you can't give 5*s to your employees. It's managers like you that make us HR types create forced rating distributions.

5*s doesn't mean there is no room for improvement. It means that this person is performing at a significantly higher level than his co-workers. There is always room for improvement. Someone who is consistently performing at this level should be in line for a promotion.

As for book reviews, well I agree with you. But performance reviews? Come on. Give your best employees a 5. (And since you are sales, you should have hard numbers on such things and it should be easy for you to determine your 5s.)

At 7/15/2008 6:48 AM, Anonymous Floyd the Wonderdog said...

I'm totally offended that you admit to playing cards. Don't you know that Uno is the gateway game to face cards. Then it will be bridge, then poker, blackjack, faro, chemin de fer, etc.

At 7/15/2008 11:00 AM, Blogger Kimberly said...

Well, you didn't offend me but you made me laugh. you were hoping to offend but didn't, I can really only give 0.3 of a star for this post. Look! All that room for improvement!

When it comes to reviews I've tossed the stars, numbers, and thumbs out the window. When I read a book it falls into one of three distinct categories. So not worth my time. Not bad. So fabulous I must own it and buy copies for all my friends.

Guess which one yours fell into. Go on. Guess. While I sit here giggling maniacally.

At 7/15/2008 11:31 AM, Blogger Danyelle Ferguson said...

I use a combination of the five star rating as well as description.

I have found that book reviews really reflect how that one person feels. If someone totally hates fantasy and they review a book in that genre, then they are going to give it a pretty low rating.

When I'm looking for reviews, I like to see the stars - both low and high - and then jump into the description. I like to read what people loved and hated. It gives more balance. I rarely find books I totally 100% loved. There's usually something that didn't quite jive with me, or I wished there would have been more emotion or details in a certain area. The key to reading reviews, at least for me, is to remember that it's just that one person's opinion. That's why I like to see several reviews linked to a book.

My Star Rating Scale:

Five stars: I totally loved it. I would recommend it to every person I meet on the street.

Four stars: I really enjoyed it and think most people who enjoy the same genres I do would like it too.

Three stars: There were things in this book I liked - and things that totally bugged me or I hated. When I review the book, I go into details of both.

Two stars: I thought the book was pretty boring. If you really, really wanted to read it, I'd suggest checking it out from the library.

One star - This book was awful! Don't even bother picking it up.

Fake interviews? You mean Rob doesn't really know JK Rowling?

At 7/15/2008 12:00 PM, Blogger Don said...

Wait - Rob's interviews are FAKE? How could you say such a thing?

Now I'm worse than offended - I'm disillusioned. And to think I gave all his interview posts 5 stars.

At 7/15/2008 1:00 PM, Blogger Jon Spell said...

When I do book reviews on GoodReads, I will give 5 stars to a book I really enjoyed, even if it has flaws. I usually do point out flaws, but if I've given it 5 stars, it means that I can overlook the flaws and still get an enjoyable read.

As some of you know, I will give an honest review, warts and all. =)
(DoA: 5 stars, ending: 2 stars)

Ms. Evil: you must know that managers are often under pressure to not hand out too many 5's, because more 5's typically means more raises. My manager in my last performance review said he never gives out 5's because no one so exceeds his standards as to merit getting one. (Who can compete with his 16-hour days?)

Also, it is true that Kerry says mean things, but only about you, Jeff. =D

P.S. If you want to offend people, tell them you're a member of the NRA, pro-choice, supporter of SSM and that anyone that disagrees with you should get the death penalty. It's sure to rile someone up.

At 7/15/2008 1:33 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

Jon--your increase budget should be fixed. The ratings determine how it is allocated--not the amount spent.

And managers should be giving their top performers 5 ratings. It's helpful for your retention.

At 7/15/2008 1:48 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

If you REALLY want to offend someone, tell them the Twilight series isn't very good...Been there, done that. Not that I don't like it, it's just that it's not stellar and I don't get why it's so widely loved.

But back to you. I only believe a reviewer after they've reviewed books I've read and proved that their taste is as good as mine. :)

At 7/15/2008 1:51 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

See, I did create some controversy. I just didn't know it would be about employee reviews. For what it's worth, my reviews include what you did well the year before, what your goals are for the next year, and in the employee's opinion what percentage of the previous year's goals they reached. That makes more sense than an arbitrary number of stars.

I see the same thing with book reviews. I hate it when someone says they loved my book, then gives me less than five stars. Tell me what you thought I could have done better. Tell me you don't give five stars to first books in a series. Tell me fantasy doesn't ring your bell. But darn it. If you don't give me five stars, tell me what I can do better next time.

Am I picky or what?

And yeah, I knew Kerry was talking. She gives me dirt on Julie all the time. I just didn't know she was giving dirt on me too.

At 7/15/2008 1:52 PM, Blogger Jeff Savage said...

What if I say "Somewhere in Time" was the worst movie ending ever?

At 7/15/2008 2:19 PM, Blogger Julie Wright said...

oh sure throw that last comment in there. I had this brilliant response on star ratings and why I think you're a creep for not giving out five stars when you hit me with the somewhere in time deal. Now you officially are on my list--don't ask which list since it's buried under four months of non house cleaning debris.

Jose canseco got knocked out? That's just wrong. He's suffered enough indignities throughout his career. Leave the poor man be. Actually I like canseco. Did you see the simpson's episode where he joined the nuclear plant's baseball team? Hi-lar-i-ous.

Seriously I hand out four or five stars to books when they were worth my time to read and if I am willing to recommend the book. If they have a few flaws so what? I try HARD not to hand out lower than three stars in public forums because the chances of me meeting the author someday and then having guilt are pretty good.

Rob and Santa Claus .. . you're the bearer of bad news man. I'll never trust anyone again.

At 7/15/2008 2:32 PM, Anonymous Sheila said...

Wow! This is a lot of controversy that you have created Jeff...or is that J.Scott ...or is it Mr. Savage...or just "Savage"? I'm not sure what to call you these days. Now this is a real controversy to me!

As far as book reviews, I review a lot like jon spell...if I liked it a lot, I give it 5 stars. If I would read it again, I give it 5 stars. Some people think I give out 5 stars too easily, but to give 2 or 3 stars, that is very mediocre in my book. If I finish a book, it will at least get a 3 or 4. I won't waste my time on a book I can't get into quickly...too many books out there that I want to read.

I have to agree though, if you give anything less than 4-5 stars, explain why. In the case of your new book that's coming out in September...there was nothing else to give it but 5 stars. I read it, I loved it, I will read it again and will encourage my kids to read it. Enough said...nice job Jeff/J.Scott/Mr. Savage/Savage! :)

~~Sheila (reviewer LDS Womens Book

At 7/15/2008 2:49 PM, Blogger Heather B. Moore said...

Anything less than 3 stars, it't not worth my time to finish reading, let alone to take the time to write a review.

And I agree with LDS publisher. Give out those 5's to your excellent employees. Reminds me of a former biology teacher who said that since no one is God (i.e. perfect) no one deserves a perfect grade (i.e. A).

At 7/15/2008 3:01 PM, Blogger Evil HR Lady said...

Jeff--I'm thrilled that you write thorough employee reviews.

And, FWIW, I hate 5 point scales.

At 7/15/2008 4:48 PM, Blogger erin said...

"Somewhere in time" does have the worst movie ending ever. I hate that movie.

At 7/15/2008 6:18 PM, Blogger Melanie J said...

When I taught middle school, you couldn't get anything higher than a "Meets expectations" on a review. Apparently, it was impossible to be spectacular. Sad! So after I left my reviews, I would crown myself with an imaginary tiara and wave happily at passing eighth graders. They were confused.

At 7/16/2008 9:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some time ask Jeffrey how he used to bribe his 5th grade teacher to let him come in late.I wonder does he still do that to get good book reviews. Oh and I used to work for him and he never did give me a review.


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