To Review or Not to Review: Externalities in the Making

If you find yourself visiting San Antonio with a child in need of an emergency room, you’ll also find yourself in need of advice on which hospital to choose.

If you read FiveThirtyEight, once you’re on the other side of the emergency room visit and on your way home, you might start thinking about Mona Chalabi’s article “Does It Make Sense To Split The Check At A Restaurant?” Within the article, Chalabi addresses the economist-coined concept externalities:

Any time you make a decision that affects someone else without considering how it might affect that person, whether positively or negatively, you create an externality — it’s basically a fancy way of saying “indirect effect.” There are positive externalities (e.g. when you decide to get a flu shot, other people benefit) and negative externalities (e.g. when you decide to fart, other people suffer).

The connection between externalities and the emergency room?

Sitting on the hotel bathtub, holding back my daughter’s hair with one hand as she was sick for the eighth time that morning, I looked up hospitals via the phone in the other hand. Desperate for good reviews. Bad reviews ruled instead. The tie-breaker? A U.S. News & World Report hospital ranking and my past experiences with university teaching hospitals.

In the immortal words of Taylor Swift, “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate” – while the lovers and likers are often silent, silent, silent, silent, silent.

I’m among the silent, silent, silent crowd. I send praise from time to time, but in general all’s quiet on the review front. The San Antonio experience forced my hand. By not reviewing what I’ve liked in the past, I’ve created negative externalities, allowing the bad reviews to dictate instead of making a decision to post reviews that help others.

In an effort to turn the negative into positive externalities, here are a few things for which I have endless praise:

Things I Use All The Time

Dropbox: Having access to all your files via multiple devices is a beautiful thing. I use it for work documents, but have pictures and other documents that I need for emergencies or just plain day-to-day work saved within it for easy access.

ScannerPro: I have a flatbed, but rely on this app for scanning more often. I started using it as an on-the-go option, when the flatbed wasn’t at my side, but have found myself using it as my “go to.” I like the ability to save files on my phone as PDFs and upload them to Dropbox (and other destinations). As its site says, Scanner Pro IS “Fast and Easy.”

Adobe Creative Cloud: Instead of buying all of the Adobe products, I have a subscription to the Creative Cloud program, which provides access to the entire suite. The beauty of subscribing is that every time a program is updated, the updates are included within the subscription. There isn’t a need to buy or update the program.

Skillshare: For very little a month, I’ve maintained a Skillshare subscription. The subscription allows access to all of the courses.

Highrise: I enter everyone I meet into Highrise, whether it is to record their contact information or to make notes about past conversations. Having access to all this information via the Internet, which means I can access it all the time, no matter where I’m at, is huge. I’d LOVE if its developers added an app, though. It’s a little bulky for using on mobile phones.


I don’t have time to read for pleasure as much as I’d like, so I listen to a ton of audio books, via an Audible subscription. Recent listens I’ve enjoyed:


Bellissimo Restaurant: This is a family favorite in Fairfax, Va. It’s a small restaurant. Food takes longer than other restaurants to be served, but I’ve always chalked it up to the fact that it is cooked as ordered, that there aren’t a ton of items sitting around waiting to be plated in advance. There’s a small kitchen staff and the waiters have been there for a long time. One of the senior waiters is always on-hand to say something sweet to my daughter and we’ve heard him make the same joke after singing Happy Birthday to customers for years. We continue to laugh every time. They ditched my favorite dish – Chicken L’Orange – recently. Seems I was among the few ordering it.

Around the House


Whether its fixing damage to the house or to the car, I’ve been a long-time fan of USAA. A special shout-out needs to go to Yolanda Rodriguez, who guided me through recent water damage, answering questions and offering advice about items I should have asked about, but didn’t know enough to know the questions in advance.

San Antonio Hospitals

University Hospital: Instead of sitting in the ER lobby to check in, we were put in a room right away, and a computer was wheeled into our room to do the check-in there. *Finding a place of comfort, rather than sitting in an uncomfortable lobby with a sick child went a long way… The nurse assigned to us was amazing. It takes a special person to comfort sick children in strange places. She had IT. A specialist came in with students to do an ultrasound of her appendix (all was fine), and a few different doctors and residents came in throughout the day. The doctors didn’t all have “IT” as the nurse did, but we left feeling we’d been in good hands.

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  1. David Kaufmann on August 14, 2015 at 5:42 pm

    I didn’t see this in my email inbox, but saw a link on Facebook. So here I am with a positive comment. (I haven’t read Mists of Avalon in years, but remember liking it a lot.) One of the things writers worry about, as you know better than most, is good reviews. They’re hard to get. So thanks for reminding us of the importance of reviews. I remember that my father would go out of his way to praise someone who gave good service, and would often call over the supervisor to commend the employee. I’ve tried to follow his example. Thanks, Callie. Glad everything’s fine with your daughter.

  2. Mary Doyle on August 15, 2015 at 5:57 am

    Great post Callie! I love posting positive reviews for products and for customer service whenever I can. Like David, I learned this early from my father. Hope your daughter continues to get well – those ER nights with a child feel like forever.

  3. Steve on August 15, 2015 at 6:15 am

    good list, dropbox fell off my use list because they like to read what goes on their website.

    • Marvin Waschke on August 15, 2015 at 9:47 am

      Dropbox is still on my list. I use Dropbox because I don’t have to think about it. It just works. I count that for a lot. I have more computers than I should that I like to wander through my house using or toting off to the library or coffee shop. Dropbox keeps them all consistent. I depend on it.

      I once coded up my own file synchronization system. It worked, kind of, but when Dropbox appeared, I dumped my system. I have not regretted using Dropbox for a second.

      Yes, Dropbox employees can and, I imagine, do occasionally read customer file content, and I’ll bet they are fired when they are caught. That sort of thing happens everywhere, banks, doctor’s offices, stock brokers, all sometimes have rogue employees. Everything is vulnerable to people who don’t follow the rules until they are caught.

      I am working on a book on computer security. File synchronization and other home storage products are one of my topics. From from what I have learned about Dropbox, it is at least no worse than any of its competitors. They all have strengths and weaknesses. Yes, I’ve read Snowden’s condemnation of Dropbox, but Dropbox has rev’d its code several times since then, and I have never thought local encryption increases privacy by much anyway. Here is not the place to explain why.

      As for privacy, there is no privacy on a computer, even off the net. On a computer, whatever one person can devise to protect themselves, someone else can get around.

      I have a safe bolted to the floor of a concrete crypt in my basement for my private documents, and I don’t completely trust it. Dropbox is good enough for me for file synchronization.

  4. Sherrill on August 15, 2015 at 6:23 am

    Awesome!! Hope your baby girl is better!! We as a collective must start singing praises and I’m glad you did!! Btw high rise does have an app – I checked it out- not for me but a link to their app popped up!!

  5. Brian on August 15, 2015 at 9:04 pm

    Your shot group is tight, as always. One of the things that saddens me (I almost wrote hate, but that would have been inaccurate) about our current time is everywhere I look, listen, or pay attention–I feel dirty, belittled, indifferent, or offended. (not the PC kind of ‘looking to be offended’, but truly–is this who we are? kind of offended.)

    I have killed most of my ‘news favorites’, tried to unplug–haven’t watched the news since the last election cycle. I still try to pay attention (with a clothespin on my nose) to politics and current events–I believe it is our responsibility–I know–I’m corny.

    That said, I feel completely different when I hear an honest good review or suggestion from a trusted source. It is like I can breathe again. I know this sounds melodramatic, but it part of the reason I find a way to say, “hey–do you read Stephen Pressfield?” in any conversation that matters.


    Because we, the tribe that Steve wrote about Wednesday, is a lonely tribe. I do not think artists, writers, entrepreneurs, or anyone on this site feeds on cynicism, hate or discontent. We choose to battle those daily–and when there is a small victory somewhere–we all rejoice.

    I’m an absolute audible addict. Have been since I did a small stint commuting 16 years ago. I listen at 1.5..and usually get in 50-60 books a year. My library is closing in on 1000.

    Here is my one shout-out: Overdrive
    It is the public library version of audible, and just as user friendly. Certainly does not have the inventory of Amazon (owner of Audible), but when you find it there–you can save your credits for the new releases.

    Thanks again Callie!

    • Brian on August 16, 2015 at 6:19 am

      This is creepy, but I’m going to reply to my own post.

      I just downloaded Scanner Pro 6, joined Skillshare, started listening to ‘Mists of Avalon’ last night, and am reading about Highrise.

      I am not a lemming. I simply did not know about these products or services. My wife will LOVE Scanner Pro 6.

      Thanks again Callie. The closet hippie in me thinks it may be worth having a quarterly ‘best of shout-out post’. I trust the posts on this blog.

  6. Beth Barany on August 16, 2015 at 1:59 pm

    Callie, I hope your daughter and you have recovered! It’s no fun being ill in a strange place or being the caretake of a little one who’s ill in a strange place. I really really love that you spent time focusing on the positive. I read your article with a bigger and bigger smile on my face. I love the notion of Scanner Pro 6, but don’t really have a huge need for it. I do see the same company has a calendar app that may solve some of my iPhone to google calendar syncing issues.

    Like Brian, I find ways, when appropriate to always recommend Stephen Pressfield’s site and The War of Art.

    I do want to a give a shout out to you, Callie! I always get a reply from you when I write and have felt like I matter to the Pressfield and Black Irish community.

    Thank you!

    • Brian on August 16, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      You’re so right. Callie always sends a thank you email. It does make me feel like I matter to the entire Black Irish Books Team.

      Great point!

      • Beth Barany on August 17, 2015 at 10:32 am

        Brian, They’re awesome. When I feel they care, it actually helps me care more about me. Funny how that works!

  7. Consuelo on August 16, 2015 at 6:01 pm


    Great post. Will check out a number of the items you recommend. Another friend just turned me not Audible. Need to check my Adobe it, but don’t think it;s the cloud version. I am way behind on my enamel But was a very pleasant surprise to see you post on Saturday.

    Thank you!

  8. Julie Gabrielli on August 19, 2015 at 10:22 am

    Ha! I’m amused by how many of those same products and apps I use – down to the same Audible books. (Must confess — I listened to all the “Mists of Avalon” books, and by the end, I was a little worn out by them. But generally great!) Scanner Pro ROCKS! Use it all the time. Did you know you can click on a scanned image and send it to your saved images on your phone? It turns it into a JPEG instead of a PDF. I often email them to myself for manipulating on my computer. Just a little trick . . . .Thanks for the suggestion to spread those positive reviews around liberally.

  9. Sonja on August 21, 2015 at 10:12 pm

    Oh I’m digging all of this! Thank you, Callie.

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