META/POLL: The Purpose of Criticism

Eagle racc-request at
Mon Feb 18 22:55:14 PST 2008

Martin Phipps <martinphipps2 at> writes:

> I don't have a problem with valid criticism.  I have a problem with
> criticism which is more focused on its own style and wit than validity.

That's always the hard part about criticism.  Writing harsh critiques is
fun, for all the same reasons why Usenet flames are fun.  Really turning
loose on something has a lot of appeal, and for whatever reason it seems
fairly common to feel exceptionally witty when putting down or attacking a
work.  Even if you're not consciously trying to attack something, it's
painfully easy for that tendency to sneak in.

And people (who aren't the author) like reading negative reviews, too.
There are whole on-line collections of them.  People clearly appreciate a
witty slam.

It sucks to be on the receiving end of such a thing, though.  Which still
hasn't stopped me from writing some fairly negative reviews before, but I
try to keep in the back of my mind the idea that the original author is
going to read this and try to think about how I'd feel if I were them.

All those standard, boring social grease sorts of things apply: focus on
the work and not the author, when focusing on the work try to avoid things
that even hint at opinions about the author, give the work the benefit of
the doubt and explain why it doesn't work for *you* rather than decrying
it as some objective definition of bad, and remember that the review is
only your personal opinion.

The problem is, it's much harder to sound witty and erudite when walking
that line of balance, and people don't go out of their way to tell you how
well you wrote a balanced, sensitive review.  Most of the incentives line
up on the side of turning loose on something.  One can always turn that
around and view it as a challenge, though.  :)

Eagle (eagle at                            Windrider of Crossroads
<>          rec.arts.comics.creative moderator

More information about the racc mailing list