Posts Tagged ‘criticism’
But I think there’s one thing that those blog posts didn’t address that needs to be — the responsibilities of the critic.
If social media is to advance, we need to be vigorous critics of the ideas we see. Unquestioning acceptance of what someone says doesn’t advance thinking at all. But there are some ideas that I’d like to put forward that I think should guide us:
- Punk the idea, not the person. There’s a difference between criticizing an idea and casting personal aspersions.
- Think before you type. If you see something you want to respond to, don’t do it right away. This is (a) a good way to train yourself against social-media-attention-deficit-disorder; (b) a chance for your brain to actually think about the idea in question. Neither of those are bad things.
- Choose your words carefully. I know how easy it is to scale the peaks of invective. The relative impersonality of online life allows us to forget there are other people on the end of our slings and arrows. But even if you follow the “punk the idea” rule, you still need to choose wisely. When writing a comment, blog post, or something that qualifies as criticism or debate, why not give yourself that extra opportunity to re-read it before hitting
”send” or “publish.” Walk away, then come back. One thing that I do — I’ll actually write in my word-processing program. Then I have to cut, paste, and hyperlink stuff. Those added steps are opportunities for me to rethink what I’m saying and ensure it should be said.
- Don’t hesitate to contact the object of your critique. If you have a concern about something you read, why not contact the writer and ensure that your understanding is clear. It’s easy to misread things, especially if someone isn’t a good writer. That in itself might be a reasonable criticism, but if you do ensure that your criticisms are founded, you save a humiliating climbdown later, a la Emily Litella. Being in contact with the person whose work you’re going to criticize can also ensure that you’re not writing things you wouldn’t say directly to the person.
None of this should stop people from being critical. In fact, I would argue that if people only did things as I commanded, we’d have a more robust, topical, and PRODUCTIVE discussion of how this big thing called social media works and how it should work.
I look forward to you criticizing this — and anything else I write.
After I posted my little rant about social media ideas last night (Sunday late-night posting bad for traffic? IN YOUR FACE), there was some Twitter talk, including this from Scott Monty: “Au contraire. Social media *leaders* need to be strong enough to withstand criticism. #socialmedia”
I agree. Let’s test this: Scott Monty, YOU SUCK!!! Just kidding.
I think that Scott Monty and I are actually in agreement (as you’d expect from a guy who does a Sherlock Holmes podcast and a guy who does a Stephen King podcast), but that we’re coming to a place of agreement from two different directions.
While I argued that ideas must be strong enough to stand up to criticism, I read Scott’s tweet as saying that those who make the ideas must also allow their ideas to stand on their own merits.
There was a medeival French philosopher named Michel de Montaigne. He once apparently wrote “We need very strong ears to hear ourselves judged frankly, and because there are few who can endure frank criticism without being stung by it, those who venture to criticize us perform a remarkable act of friendship.”
When you’ve worked to develop a concept, a program, a web site, something — it’s hard to hear it criticized. The natural tendency is to protect it. And sometimes, the most accurate critiques are those that sting the most. We clutch our ideas in our metaphorical arms, desperate to keep them from harm. And we sometimes lash out. Or, in the case of social media, our friends lash out on our behalf.
I think we need to ensure that if we’re the target of criticism, we first take the time to recognize whether the criticism is of us or our work. Then, be courageous enough to decide whether the criticism has a basis of truth. If there’s something in it, then USE it. If there’s nothing, then choose whether to ignore it or to respond.
I think there’s one more post in me about this — about the rights and responsibilities of critics in social media. Maybe today, or possibly tomorrow.
There’s a technique in improvisational comedy called the “Yes And.” The “Yes And” is a principle that states that if two people are in a sketch, each line they create should build the sketch up, not block its progress. Here’s how Wikipedia defines it:
“In order for an improvised scene to be successful, the improvisers involved must work together responsively to define the parameters and action of the scene, in a process of co-creation. With each spoken word or action in the scene, an improviser makes an offer, meaning that he or she defines some element of the reality of the scene. This might include giving another character a name, identifying a relationship, location, or using mime to define the physical environment. These activities are also known as endowment. It is the responsibility of the other improvisers to accept the offers that their fellow performers make; to not do so is known as blocking, negation, or denial, which usually prevents the scene from developing. Some performers may deliberately block (or otherwise break out of character) for comedic effect—this is known as gagging – but this generally prevents the scene from advancing and is frowned upon by many improvisers. Accepting an offer is usually accompanied by adding a new offer, often building on the earlier one; this is a process improvisers refer to as ”Yes, And…” and is considered the cornerstone of improvisational technique. Every new piece of information added helps the improvisers to refine their characters and progress the action of the scene.”
And there’s a similarly familiar concept in brainstorming that states that “There are no bad ideas.”
Social media is neither of these things, and we who work and think about it do ourselves a disservice when we pretend otherwise.
At this point, you’re likely asking “What in God’s name are you talking about, LeDrew?” Fair enough. There have been enough incidents in within earshot of me recently where criticism is construed as insult very quickly. There was the Gini Dietrich-G+ contretemps. Then there was the Neicole Crepeau-Copyblogger kerfuffle. Now there’s the Olivier Blanchard-Social Media Club
shitstorm, er, foofaraw. I could go on a lot longer, but you get the idea. I’ve heard it said that some of my book reviews here and on For Immediate Release have raised hackles (although I’ve never been contacted by anyone about them to complain.)
I am partial to the idea of debate. In fact, I love it. My partner and I met at a debating society meeting in university. She claims that the relationship won’t end until one of us acknowledges defeat. She could be right.
But I am getting the feeling that debate, criticism, and argument are becoming the “fights that dare not speak their name” in the world of social media. And that feeling was strong enough that I horned in on a BlogTalkRadio show hosted by Joe Hackman and featuring the aforementioned Gini and all-round pot-stirrer Danny Brown last week called “If you’re not making enemies, are you really doing it wrong?” to blather about debate for a while, until everyone got bored of me.
What does all this come down to? What am I saying? Here’s my manifesto:
- You are not your ideas. If people criticize your blog post, program, sales offering, etc. — they aren’t by definition criticizing you.
- If your ideas are challenged, don’t shut down the challenger, and if you are the lucky person who has fans and supporters, police them.
- If your ideas are so delicate and filigreed that the merest critique will cause them to crumple into a 52 pickup… maybe you need to have some better ideas.
If we’re going to tell ourselves — let alone our employers or our clients — that social media is robust, that it makes sense, that it’s worth going into, we bloody well better be able to defend our ideas amongst ourselves. Because if we can’t convince our comrades in arms, how are we going to convince the CAs, the lawyers, and the CEOs?
There might not be any bad ideas in a brainstorm. But there are in real life. And we need to do to put those bad ideas out of our misery. We need strong ideas. Weak ones won’t even support… a house of cards.