You win some, you lose some. Why feedback matters.

You might not know this, but I designed three sets of iMessage Stickers that are available in the Apple App Store. My husband is a software developer and when Apple introduced “Stickers” we thought it would be a fun way to collaborate on something. So he wrote the code and I made the art. I did a set of sewing themed stickers, a set of knitting themed stickers and a set of black cat stickers.

What are iMessage Stickers? Well, that’s part of my story. They are like big emoji but they are only available in iMessage on Apple devices. (Believe me we tried to figure out how to make them work for Android or in Facebook, but they just don’t all play nice.) But if you have an iPhone or an iPad, you can use them in messages. My mom and sisters and I send them back and forth all the time.

The problem is that Apple implemented them in kind of a dumb way. They are hard to find in the iMessage app and if someone doesn’t show you, I don’t think you’d even know they were there. And although when you go to the App store to purchase one, it looks exactly like a regular app, it doesn’t work the same way at all. Instead of installing on your phone with an icon like you expect it to, Stickers get installed inside iMessage. So you download it and it looks like nothing happened. And then you have to go in to some place in your phone settings and activate it before you can use it. It’s all doable, but you are never going to figure that out on your own. Much of technology is like this, sadly.

The other day, I was surfing around in the App Store looking for a sticker set with dinosaurs (I forget why) and I saw this:

That’s my Sticker set of sewing stickers showing up as #19 on the Top Charts for Sticker Sets. WHAT? I was so excited. Getting featured like that is huge! I took a screenshot and texted it to my husband.

It struck me as funny that is was that set because I thought “why is the sewing one in the top charts and not the knitting one? I thought the knitting one would be 10x more popular because I know soooo many more knitters”. So I dug in to the stats a little bit. And there’s where I found the issue.

Horrible Feedback.

That is horrible feedback. Look at all of those angry faces. My sewing stickers had a rating of 4+, but the knitting stickers were rated a 2. I wouldn’t download anything that had 2 stars.

But the catch is that the feedback actually had nothing to do with the quality of my stickers or the way they worked, it was all negative feedback from people who couldn’t figure out how to install them in the first place.There weren’t any reviews that said “Your art sucked.” or “Your stickers are dumb.” I can take that kind of feedback and work with it. But these reviews were not anything I can fix. I can’t make the Stickers install in a different way. I can’t make it so you don’t have to do that extra “activate” step. That whole part of the experience and everything they are frustrated with is something Apple designed and not me. And I know it’s confusing and there is nothing I can do. Sadly, I have a link to a help page that says “Did it install but you can’t see it anywhere? Here’s how to fix it.”, but none of these people clicked through that link before they left these reviews. (Some people do click through and ask for help and I am always super grateful for them. 99% of the time we can fix it with just an email.)

Feedback matters.

There were only about half a dozen negative reviews (all about how it didn’t install properly), but those six people made a huge impact on my product. And that is worth thinking about. The new algorithms with Facebook and Instagram are doing kind of the same thing. Their algorithms favor posts that are getting positive feedback as soon as they are posted (rich interaction like lengthier comments & shares) and demotes those that don’t. It is intensifying the effect in both directions. Likes get promoted and get more likes which get them more promoted, which gets more likes and so on. At the other end, if you don’t have any likes, then they just won’t show it to anyone. So no one ever sees it in order to like it. You get the idea.

When feedback is doing its job, that’s awesome. When I buy a can opener on Amazon, I want the one that is getting positive feedback. I don’t want the one that everyone says is junk. We can all agree on that. Honest feedback is truly helpful.

But the Instagram and Facebook algorithms don’t quite do that. And there isn’t anything I can do about that either. My husband’s Instagram algorithm is insane. It can’t figure out what to show him, so he will have 25 posts in a row from the same person, and he only sees the things I post about half the time. And if you follow me on IG, you probably only see half of what I post too. And not because you don’t like it or wouldn’t like it. But because you only check Instagram on your lunch hour and didn’t instantly comment on the thing I posted. So IG decided that you weren’t interested without you even being in the room. Talk about pressure.

Facebook is scolding me right now about my response rate for messages.

I don’t know what “the badge” is, but I am not getting it. Because I think 100% at 37 minutes is pretty darn excellent considering I have a life that doesn’t involve me being on Facebook 24/7. Ask me about the last time I had to contact the power company to help me with something. They definitely don’t have “the badge”. But that probably means that I get demoted somewhere in the algorithm.

I’ve had students tell me on class evaluations: “I thought your class was amazing, but I don’t believe in giving 5s so you get all 4s. But it was really great.” Not that I expect to be 5 stars to every person, but I’m not exactly sure what to do with that information. I am not sure that feedback is helpful to anyone.

Moral of the story? What’s the takeaway?

I’m not sure exactly. Maybe it’s to think about the feedback that you are giving. My mom was a teacher and one of her colleagues had a rule for students making comments that was something like: Before you speak, ask yourself: Is it helpful? Is it true? Is it kind?  I think those are pretty wise words.

Apple has a new mechanism for letting creators ask for comments to be reviewed and we are doing that and hoping that they will see that the comments are to do with their interface and not our sticker set. Maybe it will help it look more balanced.


  1. Elizabeth Rodriguiz April 3, 2018 at 5:09 am

    Thanks for the links. I just now followed the instructions, and it’s all good.

  2. Damir Radovic (@DamirRDC) April 24, 2018 at 8:32 am

    Hi Becka, you’re absolutely right, and how you said it, Instagram is literally pressuring me to go and like posts of people or pages that I want to see, just so I can ‘ensure’ I will be able to see their posts tomorrow, day after, etc… PS: That Bernard Meltzer’s quote is something I try to live by 🙂

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