On the Balance of the Negative

Soo, how do we as a community say something negative?

I'm sort of awestruck by the consistency of the output and the unabashed positivity of the 'community' of bloggers. Some of that seems like a natural outgrowth of a decentralized posting area - obviously in a forum people of wildly differing opinions will congregate and post, whereas in a blog, you will only typically acquire followers who approve of your message. In the short run, this creates like a positive, can-do type of environment, subject to high duplication of creative output and a poor indexing method. Some of which is being addressed.

However, the longer I am part of the community, the more issues that are contentious and possibly may reflect certain people or products in a negative light rear their head. What is an appropriately positive way to discuss these issues?

I've already encountered a major issue in this regard, due to my A-Z posts. I had never really read any of the Forge theory before I started and discovered numerous issues with both the methodology and some of the core points.

But where do I stand critiquing the thousand+ hours that man has spent thinking about and codifying his theory? How do I provide criticism or critique that is both effective and constructive, (a difficult challenge for me, being my default conversational stance is "inflammatory")? How do you say something on a blog that's critical and yet does not dampen the enthusiasm of the poster?

More importantly, how do we, as a community, have a discussion about something complicated, like charging for .pdf's versus free .pdfs, or duplication of work and intellectual property rights vs. not being a dick without being negative?

13 comments:

  1. Well, I produce free PDFs and I have said multiple times that I want strong critique and that I will not be offended by it, the purpose of public beta is to get other opinions.

    So far, very few have been harshly critical. Most of the criticism has been well-said and nice. So I don't think people are incapable of engaging on specific subject matter, but they may be incapable of discussing abstract subjects without getting heated.

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  2. You just do it. I criticized a rule someone came up with this weekend. Hope I didn't come off as a dick. I wasn't trying to be dickish.

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  3. You know, I think more to the point, I have specific criticisms or questions on specific products.

    Like, I want to do a review and be like "this isn't useful and I'm not using this product because of X".

    I have questions that I feel if I ask, they will eat up goodwill, and I find I'd rather just focus on my own creative projects, but then I notice the questions never get asked.

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  4. I possibly shouldn't have said anything at all, but if I post a rule and someone sees a hole in it, I would want them to say something. I may not agree with them, but if I decide they're right, then they've done me a favor. You can obviously go too far with that sort of thing, but nothing's wrong with healthy debate and if we can't, as a community, deal with that sort of thing, then maybe we should just turn off our comments.

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  5. I actually posted a negative review a few weeks ago, which felt really weird. No comments were left, at all.

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  6. I don't know that comments are a good metric for the value of a negative review.

    I released both Locks & Keys, and A Table for Avoiding Death under a license (The Alexandrian Rule) where the ONLY REQUIREMENT is to comment.

    I have well over 100 downloads and both posts have 0 comments.

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  7. Whoops! Missed that. I have to try and read very fast. I'm like the proverbial one-legged man in a butt-kicking contest.

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  8. I am fairly certain including it in the weekly news is a bit of a step up from a comment. :-)

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  9. I think that it would be very valuable to have CRITICAL reviews that were constructive. Being critical in a positive, constructive manner is an art. A lot of times I'll read reviews on various forum where the reviewer just states that the product was full of suck or maind bendingly awesome. These are not true critical reviews, they are just a poor articulation of a matter of taste for the most part. I think for a good critical review, it is best to state what didn't seem to work and why without resorting to inane comments like "it sucks". Then it is OK to make some constrcutive suggestions without being superior about it. And most importantly, for matters of taste, the reviewer should be up front about it. For instance, it would be helpful for a reviewer to state that there were mechanical acuracies in the text and refer to what should have been done to fix those. For matters of taste, one could say something to the effect "This module takes place in the court of a vampire lord. I have to note that this is not up to my particular taste as I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the vampire books/TV shows/etc and don't think this particular product has brought anything new to the table in that genre. Perhaps those that enjoy Twilight/True Blood/etc will find this more to their liking."

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  10. Yeah, I'd go for constructive criticism. A friend of mine is currently reading one of my books, giving me plenty of feedback, and his has all been constructive and useful. As long as you back up your feedback and comments with a reasoned argument or explanation, most people won't take offence. People posting negative comments just because they don't like it from a personal point of view, and offering nothing more than "I hate it" are the bad negatives; for me at least.

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  11. Though there are many facets to this, we can take an example of something I've already done - Discussing Ron & Forge theory. What's the constructive criticism there - you don't define any of your terms or use the scientific method? How do you even begin to breech that nut?

    What about endless personal revisions of tables - if someone made a different table that gave locks complex names (or someone made a table before me, etc.) would that be ok? No? What if they charged for theirs? How close would it have to be if it was a problem.

    These, and other issues like them, I find myself at a loss at how to tackle.

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  12. I agree on the Forge theory thing. That is hard to tackle constructively.

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