META: The Problem of Subjectivity

Andrew Burton tuglyraisin at
Fri Mar 14 08:42:41 PDT 2008

Martin Phipps wrote:
> If you say so.  At least you were able to admit that a negative review
> can make the writer feel bad AND that it can cause other people to
> decide not to read the story.  It's hard to see how a 100% subjective
> negative review couldn't be seen as an attack, especially on this open
> forum where we all supposed to be friends.

Because if a 100% subjective negative review is an attack, then a 100% 
subjective positive review is a blow job, and if that's the case then 
reviews stop having any value whatsoever.  At that point reviews become 
as meaningless as a used car pitch.  If you want your reviews to be 
hollow praise, that is your right.  Frankly I'm much more happy even by 
an attack, because it means I'm getting an authentic, emotional response 
from someone who's read my work.

But then I am a forum troll, and we're all about the visceral responses, yo!

[snipping over where the FAQ says people like getting negative reviews, 
because commenting on that would be redundant...]

> Isn't this exactly what I've been saying?  I know I posted a negative
> review of ASH once: I said that I found it depressing, what with the
> worldwide calamity that killed billions, separatist terrorists in
> Quebec and a nuclear detonation in Beijing.  But it was negative in
> the sense that I was finally explaining why I didn't read ASH

So, again, we're back to "it's wrong, unless it's not."  I utterly, 
completely fail to see how that's not a 100% subjective world-view. 
Please tell me how "it's a terrible thing to do, but I can totally 
justify doing myself it" is not a 100% subjective argument.

> I get the feeling that somebody out there thinks I just write stuff in
> a few minutes and I don't put any thought into it and that my stories
> exist for no other purpose than for him to rip into with a "stylish
> and witty" review.  That isn't the case.

And so what if they do?  I do admit that good reviews can make people 
feel good and bad reviews can make people feel bad, but I also know that 
know one can make a person feel anything.  Both a good review and bad 
review only makes you feel something if you let it make you feel 
something, if you have some investment in what a person thinks of your 
work.  If whoever thinks you just dash things off in five minutes is 
wrong, then ignore them, because by your own arguments their review is 
worthless anyway.

> And if he does the writer / director / producer of the movie could
> very well see it as an attack.  But even if he hates a movie then he
> at least tries to say something constructive about it.  Otherwise it's
> pointless.

And if he only reviews things positively or talked about their internal 
logic, his reviews would be pointless.  It's because he has the freedom 
to subjectively say that something was good or to say something was bad 
that people listen to him at all.  I'm pretty sure if Ebert's reviews 
were only always positive except when he coldly dissected the internal 
inaccuracies, people would quickly tire of his reviews; at that point, 
he would be come a shill, and when you become a shill, then your opinion 
is worthless.

Andrew Burton
tuglyraisin at - A Guide to Esoteric Technology in Paragon City - Take a guess. ;)

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