One of the great things about the Web is that there are people who sit around mounting thoughtful and intelligent analyses of just about everything. There are brilliant people posting on Yahoo Finance message boards about how corporations should be run. There are people who run amateur sports sites that write incredibly thought provoking and intelligent articles about how to manage professional sports franchises. There are obsessed players of computer games who probably know a heck of a lot more about the way game mechanics play out in real life than even the developers do. And it seems very, very few of the people who stand to benefit from this criticism actually read it.
For a long time, this really, really bothered me. It disturbed me greatly that there was all this great feedback out there that was just falling by the wayside. Then, the other day, I realized something that made it all click for me. When I wrote my first book, Teach Yourself CGI Programming in a Week, I was obsessive about checking its sales rank at Amazon.com, and I was incredibly eager to get my first review from an actual reader. The review I remember was my first bad review (it could have even been my first review overall). I disagreed with the whole thing. I was outraged. I sent an email to the reviewer (it was actually very respectful, I even thanked him for the feedback). More reviews followed, and I read and contemplated every one. I even had a program that tracked my sales rank on a day to day basis and how many reviews had been posted.
Gradually, I started looking at the page with the rankings less and less. The script broke and I didn’t fix it. Then I quit looking for reviews of my book altogether. I can’t remember the last time I’ve even entered my own name in the search field at Amazon.com. So, even on the minute scale of my own professional writing career, I have no interest in seeking out feedback on my work. I can only imagine how unlikely it is that people who are executives at big companies or working heads down at game companies seek out criticism of their own work on the Internet, regardless of how valuable it is. Those guys have to deal with the fact that paid journalists criticize them in print before an audience of thousands or millions every day, to say nothing of bloggers and other amateurs on the Internet. It’s no wonder they tune it out.