Friday, November 6, 2015

2015 Mid-Atlantic Judge Conference: Virginia is for Reviewers by Riki Hayashi

There are many, many facets to the Magic Judge Program. If you need proof, take a look at the ongoing projects on JudgeApps or check out the official Magic Judges Blogs page. Being on the floor at events is only one piece of the judging puzzle. The truth of it is that it's impossible to focus on everything: Without choosing a niche, it's easy to become overwhelmed.

Riki Hayashi, a Level 3 judge from Roanoke, Virginia, has not only chosen his niche, but he's worked hard to make it as approachable as possible to everyone else. What's his niche?


Coincidentally, that was also his presentation topic at Richmond's judge conference in September, and his message was all about approachability.

As a Magic judge, I've written three reviews lifetime. One of those was a very long time ago, so it doesn't even count toward my L2 checklist (because, you know, one day maybe I want to advance as a judge). By comparison, there are judges in the program who have written hundreds of reviews. A hundred reviews is intimidating, but what about one? One review is easy.

I have a bad habit of providing people with feedback in person and never writing it down for them, or for myself. Riki pointed out that this kind of feedback is both excellent practice for writing reviews and a foundation you can build on.

Reviews don't have to be a thousand words long. They don't have to be elaborate, literary masterpieces. They just have to be specific and helpful. As you get more reviews under your belt, you'll get better.

You may get to the point where the reviews you write *are* elaborate, literary masterpieces, but that takes time and practice. Start small, and be aware of where you are on your journey toward becoming an excellent reviewer. Think of the judge you worked most closely with at your last event. Did you provide them with any feedback? Did you observe anything that you wanted to point out to them? Write it in a review. One review about one constructive thing. That's all it takes to start.

Riki also shared some of his valuable insight into the feedback and review process with us:

  • Newer judges tend to emulate the reviews that are written for them. When you're reviewing a new judge, keep that in mind when deciding how much and what to write.
  • Feedback can be spread over multiple reviews. Giving another judge one or two actionable things to work on at once is often more effective than presenting them with a list of 10 or 12 things, especially if you work with them over an extended period of time.
  • Reviews go two ways. They're as much a learning experience for the judge you're reviewing as they are for you. When you're thinking about how an event played out and another judge's performance, you're also thinking about what role you played.
  • The sooner you provide feedback to another judge, the more time they have to internalize and act on it.

Riki threw quite a few statistics at us: most prolific reviewers, their time in the judge program, average reviews written by different levels of judges. One in particular stood out to me.

On average, judges promoted to Level 3 had written 42 reviews, but there wasn't a correlation between reviews written and the time it took them to reach that level. There was, however, a correlation between how many reviews they had *received* and the amount of time it took them to get to Level 3.

That's a powerful testament to the power of reviews. It's difficult to assess our shortcomings ourselves, and written feedback helps us see the big picture. Your observations might be just the thing another judge needs to overcome the things that are holding them back, so tell them what you notice, good and bad.

Then login to Judge Center and write it down for them. It's easy to forget things people tell us, and there's nothing quite like looking back at old reviews and seeing how much you've improved.

Reviews. Write them to help your fellow judges, and write them to help yourself. But one at a time. Event by event. There's no need to feel overwhelmed by lofty goals.

P.S.: Reviewing up – Why is it so hard? is a great resource for reviewing judges who have more levels than you do. What other tips do you have for writing reviews?