Sunday, October 11, 2009

I Wish I Got Better Criticism

The quality of the criticism I receive disappointments me. A lot of it, to be blunt, is shallow, ill-informed and driven by personal issues of the complainant.

These types are the weakest:

  • Dismissive know-it-alls. Don't bother them with logic or facts, they just spout.
  • Ignoramuses. They are in over their head, and blame you when they embarrass themselves.
  • Cherry pickers. They can't manage seeping overviews, so they nitpick about inconsequential items.
  • Evaders. These are the ones who dodge serious questions, to distract others, and to avoid answering.
  • Self-righteous peaceniks. They shield themselves by denouncing debate as "drama" or "arguing," and so try to raise their own self-regard. This is generally a cover for what is simply intellectual cowardice. Debate and rhetoric are art forms dating to Ancient Greece. Read up before you start squelching people.
  • Snipers. Afraid to confront me here, they blow steam about how I've ruined their lives in blog posts, most of them obscure. I find them because, ironically, they send a disproportionate amount of traffic, jumping out of analytics reports. Love it or hate it, they plunge into the blog for long periods. (There really is no reason to fear criticism, and people who over-react are probably revealing insecurities of long-standing. I do it myself from time to time.)
  • New faces that start out rude. I can handle posts from Scott Kurtz because I know he is prone to bluntness and so does everybody else. Strangers who walk in with a chip on their shoulder are not good contributors, and whining won't guarantee them a seat at the table. By contrast, Scott's made some good points here, though he's going to have to persuade me on others.
  • Delicate flowers. These are people who carry burning hatred because I am candid in saying that webcomics are not nearly of the same quality of comics historically, and that many people are engaging in life-of-luxury pipe dreams. Reality spoils their fantasies. How dare I?
  • The thin-skinned. These are people who do dodgy things and try to stay hidden. They don't respond publicly, if at all, and they bad mouth their friends in order to ingratiate themselves with you. Feeling a need to kick ass wherever it needs kicking, I pry them out. After about a year, they emerge, red-faced and furious. It's as if you could here the scream of a raw oyster.
  • The anonymous. It turns out this has mostly been one person, with a morbid preoccupation. The problem: they are not accountable, and the mischief wrought here by a sad case makes it impossible to honor.
  • Scape-goaters. Generally people with weak comics who decide they will feel better if they take me down. Like lost souls on an Outward Bound expedition, they hurl themselves forward again and again, until at last their rage begins to dissipate.
The less is at stake, the angrier people get. They provide me with lifestyle guidance: I need a hobby, I need to work on my comics (this is common from people who haven't read or understood any of my comics because they have been too busy polishing their 30-page archives over the past year), etc. Hello, we've been updating 4-6 days/week for two years, and will be updating 6 times/week in a few months. We work very hard, and we're having fun. Are you?

The smart ones have by-passed comments entirely (with some notable exceptions, whom I thank) and write me directly. I hate to lose the historical record, but I enjoy thoughtful letters.

What kind of criticism would I like? Well, anything thought-provoking is of interest, but just once I would like to hear from someone immersed in the webcomic scene who can nonetheless speak with real authority about many of the issues discussed here, with eloquence and reliability. 

I would like to see someone accept my long-standing offer to explain to the world how wrong I am, how offensive, and how irrational, by taking my offer for a page of their own here, to speak to readers without interference. I would like to see an essay by someone who has read my best contributions, understands them, and finds fault nonetheless. I could probably prepare a primer to save them wading through the archives.

Obviously, I am not holding my breath.