What Would Jesus Do when it comes to leaving online reviews on the App Store or Google Play? What does the Bible have to teach us about how to review apps in an Internet age? It turns out, quite a bit!
I think the clearest bit of teaching on the subject comes from Matthew 18:15-17:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
Ok, so I’m stretching it a little. But notice that in disputes (particularly between believers) Jesus describes a clear process of escalation:
- Start by telling the person who has offended you in private. This is just good manners. It’s easy to take offence at someone, but there’s a good chance that they weren’t acting maliciously or with evil intent – and raising the matter privately avoids unnecessarily trashing their reputation and giving them a chance to repent.
- If that fails, bring in a couple of others. Sometimes our hearts are stubborn, and it takes a little social pressure to make us see the situation clearly. This still allows for the situation to be dealt with privately and without airing the dirty laundry in public, but helps show the seriousness of what’s going on.
- Finally, if and only if there is still unrepentance, get the whole church family involved. If even the whole body of Christ can’t help this person see what’s wrong, then there’s something really wrong.
So how would Jesus review? Here’s what I reckon:
- He’d begin by raising any issues privately with the developer. If it’s a bug in an app, then the best way to help the developer fix it is to get in touch and give helpful background such as your operating system version and the exact steps you went through. A 1-star app review isn’t the right place to report bugs.
- If reporting the issue fails to produce any response, he’d probably try to discover if it’s a widespread issue, to help the developer see the seriousness of the issue. Maybe he’d tweet or post on Facebook – “anybody else had this issue?” Most app developers are super busy with all sorts of competing priorities, and bugs that are affecting several people are much more likely to get attention than one-offs that are hard to reproduce.
- If the bugs persisted, then he might politely warn others in a review. Sometimes in good conscience you want to leave a negative review of a product, to warn others not to waste their money on something that doesn’t work. But you can still be polite about it! “I wanted to love this product, great concept, but sadly, after long conversations, the developer was unable to resolve some serious flaws”
Some examples of a really bad review:
- 1 star – no explanation. Not even an “I hated it!”. This serves nobody – the developer has no idea how to improve her product, and other potential customers can’t tell whether they’ll hate it too for the same reasons. I’d suggest that this is pretty lazy.
- 1 star – “the app crashed on launch, sort it out, waster!”. If this was the only review left on an app, this might be within the realms of the useful to other potential customers, but (apart from being pretty rude!) it’s very unlikely to actually help you get the app fixed, since the developer has no information to go on. If it’s the only such review amongst hundreds of very positive reviews, then it’s not even all that useful to other users since it’s probably a fairly specific issue that relates to your particular setup (as an aside, I might gently request that if you’re running a beta version of iOS then you should please refrain from leaving reviews about app crashes)
There are some cases where a negative review is appropriate, but I think one should always aim to be courteous, and remember that the person at the other end is a real human being who probably works hard and isn’t deliberately setting out to create rubbish apps:
- Make a clear distinction between the app in general and specific updates / issues. Every app has its catastrophic update that goes disastrously wrong. This is inevitable from time to time. But I’ve also seen excellent reviews in such situations, along the lines of “This is one of my favourite apps but this particular version has serious issues”
What do you think? How do you think Jesus would review apps?