The Value of Peer Reviews (& why we don’t use it more!)

I am presenting the subject of Testing Intelligence on next month’s CAST Conference.

One of the things I like about the CAST approach is the fact that they promote the dialogue and (safe/constructive) discussions around the topics and sessions presented, allowing presenters and audience to gain from the experience.

The other thing I like, this time solely as a presenter, is the fact that even before the event starts you begin getting feedback on your paper and presentation in order to reach your session as ready and “polished” as possible.
In my case this means that some very insightful people went over my paper and gave me good feedback that will make it more focused and help me communicate my message in a clearer and more effective way.

Last week I was busy providing an ISTQB Certification course (will write more about it later).
There is a whole chapter in the course dedicated to “static testing & reviews”.  Two central objectives of this chapter are (1) to emphasize that reviews can be done on any document; and (2) to explain that the value gained from reviews is extremely high even though people tend to underestimate this value.

I think that the review process for my CAST paper is a great example of these 2 points and some additional personal inputs I just realized.

Going back to the feedback I got on my paper, the reviewers asked questions that made me realize my paper did not communicate the message in a clear way.   They also offered suggestions to make it more easy to follow and comprehend.  And finally one of them gave me and idea to add to the initial model to make it more robust and applicable to more organizations.  In short, I GOT EXCELLENT FEEDBACK FOR FREE!!!

The funny (or sad?) thing is that I had not thought of asking for feedback or peer reviews before I submitted this paper, or all the other papers I’ve published in different conferences and magazines up to now…
This made me wonder why, and come up with a couple of interesting thoughts on the subject, at least focusing on myself.

Why didn’t I seek feedback previously?

1.  I was not sure I would get real value.
I had not realized that there are exceptional colleagues out there that take the time to do a thorough read and provide insightful comments just for the sake helping out.

2.  I was afraid of criticism.
I think this is true for all of us: we are afraid of rejection or getting hard criticism on the things we hold dear, even if we are talking about an idea or a paper.
Then I realized it is better to get a partial or total rejection earlier from people I trust, than later from total strangers.
In any case it is not easy to get comments and criticism, but it is definitely something we all need to work on.

3. I didn’t realize it would be so easy.
I never thought it would be so easy to get the feedback in the first place.
There really are (high quality) people out there willing to take time of their busy schedule to help you out just for the sake of good comradeship.

NOW I’M SOLD!!!

I made a mental vow to make sure I reach out to my peers and colleagues and ask for their feedback whenever it might prove valuable.

Since nothing in life is free, I am also opening myself to anyone who would like to get feedback on the things they are writting/developing/thinking/etc.  Just drop me a line and I will do my best to serve as a white-board where you can bounce your ideas in order to get (hopefully good) feedback.

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2 Responses to The Value of Peer Reviews (& why we don’t use it more!)

  1. Jeroen Rosink June 28, 2009 at 3:23 pm #

    Hello Joel,
    It was a pleasure to review your paper. Besides helping you, it also helped me, I got information for free.
    You asked why aren’t we doing this more often? Perhaps it is hard to find people as they are everywhere and also hard to find papers. Perhaps creating a paper-peer-review-portal might help?
    I will keep your offer in mind, when there is time I will also ask you to review as you might ask me when you need a nth-opinion
    regards,
    Jeroen

  2. Joel Montvelisky June 29, 2009 at 8:17 am #

    Hi Jeroen,

    The idea of a paper-peer-review-portal might work, we can ask some of the current forums & communities if they are interested in taking on this initiative.

    I will be very happy to review any of your papers or publications anytime.

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