Saturday, June 18, 2016

Stars, scales, ratings ...bureaucracies! (rants)

I just turned in a bunch of grades for my classmates. I ended up being the "leader" for a project and I had to fill out an evaluation form about each of them. It feels weird to me to do things like that. It isn't as though I can be certain that I'm offering feedback to people who want me or any else to offer opinions about how to pinpoint ways to improve. They're more like trapped animals. So I feel ambivalent about any automatic feedback system involving a person as a person from person to person: how was your service today, instructor feedback, etc. 

It's potentially useful, but it would be impossible for it to be too informative with prompts like "On a scale of one to five, please rate how positive the __person_as_an_object's____ attitude is." I would never hire someone in the real world based on someone else's assessment of their soft skills unless I was hiring someone who was about to be paid to deal with crazy people- probably people who have very little money to spend in the first place. I wouldn't have a strong incentive to value the units in either position very much. Both seem more disposable than not in most situations since there isn't much money involved and no time-consuming, costly or rarely-completed training is necessary.

Giving feedback is dangerous. I don't want to risk bringing injury upon myself when I get nothing out of it. I need to know someone wants to know my thoughts, not that they are forced and I am an intruder. Besides, I believe that the truth has a time-limit in most cases. The only exception I can think of right now is math or perhaps the scientific method. Every time I've had to grade papers other than my own, I have felt uncomfortable, unless they are people people worth risking offending (or, sometimes, principles worth defending. That's trickier though; I don't know what to think of that). For example, if I'm required to train a new hire, I need to know the person wants guidance. I've been told off by trainees before, and despite knowing that they aren't demonstrating that they can do the job to what I believe the employer's or customer's satisfaction is, there's not much I feel I should do in most cases.

I am never comfortable rating media on a scale or point system either- not even if I love or hate a book, movie, etc. This is sort of a review site (although I haven't been able to read or review nearly as much as I had hoped. I might have to give up on that), but I don't ever relish using stars or scales. I don't know of a better alternative for large-scale products or systems though.

Things like this have always tied into how I feel about the causes of mass violence in our times. I don't see how it's possible for us to eliminate terrorism and school shootings when we pay people low wages, restrict their access to education and job training, make them feel desperate, small, temporary and nasty, all while knowing they have increasing access to increasingly effective weapons or the technology to make them. It only seems more and more inevitable for things like this to crop up the more small larger numbers of people are made to feel.

Again, I don't see a really good alternative. I really enjoy the benefits of stiff competition and I think lot of people do. I may not be able to be a big fish in a little pond, but I am pushed to try harder, and I like the results better than when I don't have more incentives, whether positive or negative. I don't at all see the idea of "cream rising to the top" manifesting; it's more like the relatives, the cheap, and the group-think rise to the top while one or two people who benefit the most go on vacation.

It's very rare for someone to go rogue, so I guess things work out well enough for most people. But it seems to me as though we as a planet are ever-increasingly less able to afford to let people fall through the cracks, emotionally.