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Detailed Constructive Feedback = Worthwhile Award Program
by Randal A. Burd, Jr., M.Ed. -- January 7, 2009
In order to fulfill our common purpose as Internet Award Programs, which I assume is to “make the Internet a better place,” it is vitally important that we provide our applicants with the detailed, constructive feedback they deserved when they humbly submitted the product of their blood, sweat, and tears for our evaluations.  Award Sites!, along with other AP rating systems, attempt to give value to our website awards by holding us to high standards of criteria, and for the most part, these rated APs are heads above non-rated awards.  Most sites which apply to our award programs are not going to receive our top award on their first try, and that is where detailed feedback should come into play.  We as evaluators are not making the Internet a better place simply by bestowing  

Randal A. Burd, Jr.

or withholding our approval in the form of awards we give for the hard work of others.  Those who are not deserving of our top awards are looking for help in getting there—at least that is our wish as program operators.

Chase Young, a teacher whose website I evaluated, commented thus upon receiving my feedback and score sheet, sent to every applicant as an Excel document upon completion of my evaluation.  “Thank you so much for your incredibly detailed evaluation. I have never received such in-depth feedback.  I am extremely honored to accept the award and cannot wait to show the students; they love being awarded.”  Thinking back on the evaluations I have received, I realized he was right, it is the detailed evaluation and in-depth feedback that make certain awards stand out to become useful tools for improvement.  While I am glad I provided this for Mr. Young, I believe it is something we all can provide for our applicants. 

O.N.Z.C.D.A., rated 5.0+ by Award Sites!, provided me with a detailed list of the issues they found with my site, including specific links.  They also provided me with a zip file, including screen shots of problem areas, and a link validation report.  The administrator of Talking Hands (another 5.0+ rated site), Mr. Denny Lancaster, has provided me with unlimited help and support as I have sought to better my site.  Ms. Jo Phillips gave me some very nice compliments before giving me some very specific constructive criticism, all of which was very motivational for me in my journey to improve. 

There are a few other programs that provided me with a nominal amount of feedback, but for the most part, it was downhill from here.  The two other 5.0+ rated APs never even informed me of my rejection.  One 5.0 rated AP disqualified me because I forgot to add the name of his pet insect to the application form.  Two others wouldn’t evaluate me because my site was hosted by Geocities.  One evaluator for a 4.5 rated award actually runs five different APs, all of which disqualify me in their criteria simply because I participate in the Site Fights, a family-friendly web competition that makes no illusions about being anything other than a contest for fun.  I have had evaluators e-mail me their criteria without telling me what was wrong with my site, as if it should be obvious to me (which it wasn’t).  I have been accused by evaluators of not reading the criteria when the problem was simply a misunderstanding of definitions.  Here is some unhelpful feedback I have received (names have been withheld):

“We have your pages to an end now, and you'd like to announce that an upgrade you currently can not be awarded because your pages unfortunately not the necessary criteria points.  But there is a possibility that after a period of three months to re-apply.  We wish you continued success with your project.” 

“Dein Award program complies unfortunately not the necessary criteria points to one of our level to be admitted.” 

“Their websites have unfortunately not Award.  That does not mean they are bad, but they did not correspond to our requirements.” 

“I am sorry to tell you, that your web site was not accepted for evaluating. It doesn't meet our criteria.”

I will give these programs credit for actually informing me of the rejection, because many others were not so considerate.  The bottom line is being an evaluator without providing usable constructive feedback is a fruitless endeavor.  You are not making the Internet a better place.  All of the criteria in the world are useless if you refuse to explain to those who do not meet it where they fall short, or in some cases why meeting those criteria will make their websites “better.”  I know the argument for more feedback is frequently met with, “well if people would just read the criteria...” 

Honestly, I can barely understand three out of the four feedback examples above.  If the nominal rejection notes are that unclear, perhaps the criteria are also.  Providing detailed, constructive feedback is where award programs begin making the Internet a better place.

 
Randal A. Burd, Jr. M.Ed.
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