Feedback: The Good, the Bad and the Useless
Mr. Fireproof Pants
There has been countless times when a response was requested, begged, gained, invented, siphoned out, leeched, pulled or plundered out of an a victim's mind. The confessional, the Spanish Inquisition and those irritating people standing outside shops with a clipboard are all types social outcasts whose very presence can strike fear into the heart of Genghis Khan, Vlad the impaler and politicians alike. (Oh, almost forgot, diskmag editors too. ;))
Quest for the Holy Typo
The need for feedback is a vital part of any task in life. Imagine trying to hold a conversation which was only one way. Yeah, it is both stupid and a contradiction in term. But this illogical behaviour happens more often than not in the world of diskmags and the scene in general. We have all seen requests for feedback and have mostly ignored them, or we have given a one or two word comment through an email. "You suck" or "Cool" maybe great for keeping Internet data traffic down to a minimum, but it isn't really worth sending, is it? I mean the person(s) whose work has captured your critical eye have spent hours, days or even weeks creating something for your amusement, so is 7 characters really enough of a reward?
I fully understand that many people have very little time to compose a full 'opus-maximus' 50 tome essay on the merits of the cultural, artistic, originality and quality of every production. Giving feedback can be a tricky task. You need to walk a thin line between truth, opinion, respect and flames (hmm.. not sure if that is humanly possible ;)).
The sacred letter: 'Y'
The magic contained in this rune-like symbol is the key to writing (IMVHO) good feedback. Usually when giving feedback you will be e-mailing someone for the very first time and who you don't know. Okay, perhaps you have gained a little insight into their mind-set from their productions, but you're still walking on thin ice. So ask yourself 'Y' you want to post some particular feedback, 'Y' you like/dislike something and 'Y' you think the recipient will not flame your ass off. ;)
So it is NOT just a case of saying you like/dislike a piece of music, code, demo, graphics or writing, but a case of expressing 'Y' you feel this way.
Tri-2-state your feelings
You all have encountered positive and negative people in the scene. You may have even attempted to assess your own mood from time to time and how others may judge you. I would dare to say that the upbeat, positive sceners are the ones who are the most talented and productive. The negative ones simply sit on the side lines taking snipe-shots at others (sadly many newbies are the target for this lame behaviour). The other state is neutral, being neither positive or negative. I guess many long term 'oldbies' in the scene are neutral to most situations and feedback.
Remember the magic 'Y' symbol? Of course it's a shorthand way of writing 'why' just as the IMHO, LOL and the smileys are quicker ways of expressing a mood in a 'real-time' environment like ICQ, IRC or on-line gaming. When it comes to writing feedback you can (and should) allow yourself more time and space to develop your feelings, to explain yourself more fully and to back up your reasons for doing so. In fact the longer the feedback you can give the more value and respect it will gain in the mind of the recipient because it shows you have bothered to spend the time to construct your opinions rather than a knee-jerk reaction.
A personal view
I have received quite a lot of feedback and I wish to send my thanks to all those who have took the time and effort to do so. It has been both good and bad for my writing, graphics and coding articles. Perhaps the most negative feedback I've received was from (nah, I'm not gonna name names here) which concerned my attempts at graphics. It was along the bland lines of 'You suck, your gfx suck' etc.. Personally I think this kinda feedback sucks far more than my pap pixels ever could because the e-mailer didn't bother to back up their lazy opinion with any reasons 'Y' they thought something sucked.
Now, what is the f***ing point of negative ('you suck') type of messages? Let's examine the motives and the short sighted mentality of the sender. He/she obviously wants to try to feel superior to the recipient of their feeble feedback. In fact I don't think it can really qualify as feedback. To me it should contain some kind of nutritional value, something which the receiver can take, digest and provide energy for self improvement using the suggestions.
The strangest 'feedback' I got simply said: "Your jokes are pathetic, sorry". This is still the most amusing and confusing email in my InBox. It reminds me of a comment made by the people at www.psuedo.com when they were reviewing some of the latest games last year. It was along the lines of "You're a dick! ;)". The reviewer rightly said, "Hey, wait a minute. You've just called me a dick! I hate it when some lamer thinks he can post an insult, add a smiley and think its okay. Someone trying to make out that the smiley at the end makes it okay, it's NOT!".
So please, if you are going to give feedback then make damn sure it has some merit in it. If you're sending an e-mail simply for the sake of sending an e-mail then DON'T! Anything less than 3 or 4 lines isn't really worth posting because the recipient won't gain anything from it, except perhaps that they will now know that you've seen their work.
If you are truly superior or super-ill-eet to someone then you shouldn't have to tell them, they will already know.
IMVHO negative feedback doesn't work. It won't motivate the person into increasing their skills or towards helping others. In fact it will just create bad feelings, flamez, apathy and lack of production. If something is bad in your opinion then offer suggestions, tips, advice and positive encouragement for the parts you do like. No-one is perfect, not even you, so your feedback will not be either. And please make sure that your comments are clearly stated. A misunderstood joke can lead to self combustion and smoke in your InBox and/or ICQ messages.
The cool ppl aren't afraid of flames
fire + ice = hot air!
Oh well, that just about wraps it up for the time being. Sorry if this sounded like a self indulgent moan, but I felt someone needed to tackle the feedback issue. Now I'm off to buy the new McAfee Mailbox fire extinguisher v2.
Be positive, be active, be happy!