Seven Maxims of Writing smArt Feedback

I’m on a major feedback-writing pass this week and I had seven feedback maxims I’d like to share:

  1. Make subject lines COUNT. Be as descriptive and meaningful as possible, especially when dealing with contracts. Use special easily searchable key words like “ArtStudio signed contract AS-0004” or “(2008-05-15) Feedback for Fat Stinky Orok.”
  2. Everything MUST create its own context. Act as if the feedback you’re writing is the only feedback you’ve ever written to them. Never create dependencies on past feedback! If you need to, re-paste relevant feedback from a previous email. Be specific, and don’t say “do it like that one time” when you could say “In the 2008-05-12 feedback revision when I asked you to adjust the size of the legs.”
  3. Official feedback comes from one place ONLY. I’ll answer very basic work-in-progress questions in an instant messaging app, but for me, OFFICIAL feedback is only for email. Feedback comes from only ONE place! This establishes a consistent approach with the artists, gives you a paper trail, minimizes your contact points and gives everyone only ONE place to search.
  4. Save feedback to its OWN directory. I have a directory for each individual contractor I work with. It’s divided chronologically by their asset deliveries and my reference and feedback drops. Every piece of feedback I ever send them gets saved into a text file and dropped into the appropriate dated directories. This makes it blazingly easy to refer to whenever I need it.
  5. Save ALL work-related instant messaging chat logs. If a casual IM conversation turns into something work-related, save all the relevant bits from that log into the same feedback directory. Every piece of correspondence is important, especially for potential legal issues that may arise in the future. Keep everything in one place!
  6. NEVER include a hyperlink to an image. The site can go down. Always save it, name it meaningfully and attach it in the email, forum post or FTP drop.
  7. ALWAYS specify filenames. In the feedback, never say “check the attached image” without giving the image’s exact filename! This will aid searching later. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone through old feedback and seen that and thought “WHAT IMAGE?!?” and had to search through old emails.

These tips will make all your feedback ridiculously easy to search through and refer to anytime you need, ever. It DEFINITELY pays to be smArt and organized. Leave nothing to chance and let absolutely NOTHING slip outside of the organizational systems you create! A system is only as effective as one’s continued adherence to it. Making even ONE exception defeats the system’s purpose. From there, it’s a slippery slope, and the system falls apart.

If I’d known these tips going into this job I’d have saved myself countless hours of pain and struggle. 🙂 I’m wincing to imagine the HOURS I’ve spent trying to find “that one email where I’m SURE I asked you to…”

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