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posted by Brandon Blatcher at 1:48 PM on May 6, 2009


There is, of course, a difference between criticism and snark.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 1:49 PM on May 6, 2009


To illustrate the pickle of chocolate's point:

those who cannot do, criticize.
posted by spicynuts at 1:50 PM on May 6, 2009


Those that cannot criticize, snark.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:52 PM on May 6, 2009 [6 favorites]


I was like Wolverine, whose superpower is not his nigh-indestructible skeleton or super-sharp metal claws, but rather his body's ability to heal, which made his surgical augmentation possible, and which allows those claws to repeatedly pierce his hands without causing permanent injury.

"Also, I love macs!"
posted by Artw at 1:52 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


We still lack a framework for understanding and analyzing criticism though - you may be able to sort great designs from mediocre ones with criticism but how do we sort the great critics from the mere complainers?
posted by GuyZero at 1:52 PM on May 6, 2009


spicynuts:

Those who can do often criticize as well.
posted by kldickson at 1:54 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


My criticism of that article is that he started out dissecting an interesting process of seeing how his inner critic allowed him to reproduce drawings, and what that meant in terms of his developmental potential as an actual illustrator/artist. He could've continued on that line and explored more deeply what was really happening there at a basic level but instead he deflected that line of reasoning into a sweeping generalization about criticism and Steve Jobs and everything else.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:55 PM on May 6, 2009


We still lack a framework for understanding and analyzing criticism though - you may be able to sort great designs from mediocre ones with criticism but how do we sort the great critics from the mere complainers?

H.L. Mencken once said that criticism is prejudice made plausible. If the critic bothers to make their case, and is educated and fair, you may diagree with their assessment, but they have done their job competently. If they just do drive-by snarking, with no concern for demonstrating anything but contempt and mockery, they are a complainer.

As to whether critics can do or not, well, there is a fairly substantial list of critics who also excelled in the field they criticize.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:02 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


As to whether critics can do or not, well, there is a fairly substantial list of critics who also excelled in the field they criticize.

Everyone's a critic.
posted by The World Famous at 2:04 PM on May 6, 2009


I'm totally going to write a story about a guy who is a critic of serial killers... AND A SERIAL KILLER!
posted by Artw at 2:05 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm totally going to write a story about a guy who is a critic of serial killers... AND A SERIAL KILLER!

I'm going to write an even better story about a critic who criticizes your story, including the full text of the critique.
posted by The World Famous at 2:09 PM on May 6, 2009


That guy gets an axe in the forehead - INTERTEXTUALITY!
posted by Artw at 2:10 PM on May 6, 2009


That's critic-ulous.
posted by owtytrof at 2:12 PM on May 6, 2009


Apparently this guy's amazing self-critical capabilities didn't manage to catch any of the defects in this this godawful masturbatory peon to himself.
posted by delmoi at 2:13 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


The superhero I am most like is The Punisher, or possibly Judge Dredd.
posted by Artw at 2:14 PM on May 6, 2009


Those who cannot do, criticize.

Those who cannot criticize, snark.

Those who cannot snark, overthink.
posted by davejay at 2:18 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm totally going to write a story about a guy who is a critic of serial killers... AND A SERIAL KILLER!

Hop to it - we're all waiting for the next season of Dexter.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:23 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


If they just do drive-by snarking, with no concern for demonstrating anything but contempt and mockery, they are a complainer.

I have heard reports that Steve Jobs does exactly that fairly often.
posted by GuyZero at 2:27 PM on May 6, 2009


This article stinks.
This post stinks.
You stink.
I stink.
stink.
posted by blue_beetle at 2:27 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


You can't just decontextualize stink like that! You really do stink!
posted by Burhanistan at 2:29 PM on May 6, 2009


Stink.
Sink.
Sin.
In.
I.
posted by Skot at 2:29 PM on May 6, 2009 [4 favorites]


We still lack a framework for understanding and analyzing criticism though - you may be able to sort great designs from mediocre ones with criticism but how do we sort the great critics from the mere complainers?

Good criticism would be understanding what the author attempted, pointing out things that furthered his goal and things that didn't.

There's probably a good framework for doing that in critical text analysis, in literature.
posted by Tobu at 2:31 PM on May 6, 2009


moar like arse technica
posted by klangklangston at 2:31 PM on May 6, 2009 [2 favorites]


How is it that Pontiac and Oldsmobile managed to find their way into the hearts and minds of consumers (ask your parents about it) while perfectly competent Dell and HP have not? I contend that it's at least partly because the auto industry has enjoyed a rich history of subjective, high-quality criticism, while the technology industry has been busy measuring megahertz and counting bits.

This is an interesting point of view, but one I suspect should be significantly expanded on; I think that the reason that cars get into people's souls has more to do with the fact that, with a car, it's a partner in your endeavor, where up until just recently, computers were generally just tools. A car on a road trip is like... one of the gang (for lack of a better term) you listen to its creaks and moans, you make sure it's not hungry or thirsty, and it takes you to different places with your friends. You listen to music in it, you eat in it, you make love in it, you move your friends to a new apartment, you bring your dog to the park... In all of these, the itself car is a part of the story.

For most people, we've only just reached the point where the computer is anything more than a basic tool. I can go on and on about my Mac 635cd and the wonderful things I did with it, but I'm in a minority. I'd bet that anyone within my earshot couldn't tell you what their first computer was, or the one they used in college (assuming that was more than a couple of years ago), but nearly every single one of them could tell you what their first car was.

This will change. Computers are becoming more and more a part of our social experience, and the ability to bring your laptop with you means that the memories you forge when having fun will include stuff you did with the computer even more than it has in the past.

Another aspect (and one he does cover) is that the branding on specific machines has become much more sophisticated. I'm not driving a Ford, I'm driving my '65 Ford Mustang, just like I'm not using a laptop, I'm using my ASUS EEE, or my Apple iBook. This makes it more than just a hammer or a wrench, it makes it something specific that you can focus on. Something around which you can build memories.

And I think that makes a difference.
posted by quin at 2:36 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


or one could argue that people put their cars in the story because they've been told to and that's what branding is all about. One could forgo all the touchy-feely criticism stuff and simply posit that Jobs was the first/most successful brand builder to work in the mass-market PC industry. How different is Steve Jobs from the guy who decided they should be "Green Giant" canned peas instead of just plain ol' canned peas?
posted by GuyZero at 2:48 PM on May 6, 2009


Good criticism would be understanding what the author attempted, pointing out things that furthered his goal and things that didn't.

Well, that's part of it. But sometimes what the author attempts just isn't worth a damn anyway, and critics should be able to point that out too.
posted by Astro Zombie at 2:55 PM on May 6, 2009


This thread really needs the Charlie Brooker on macs link. Now that's some proper criticism.
posted by Artw at 2:57 PM on May 6, 2009


quin, I think cars and computers differ in that I can buy a '60 Ford sedan and use it for everything you'd do with a '09 Ford sedan, generally without much compromise. Fuel economy might be a bit worse, and you might not be as happy in an accident, and it might not demist as well on a wet day. You can buy a new car, fall in love with it, take care of it, and have it essentially be yours forever, with the knowledge it's likely to last as long as you want it to.

Even mechanical failings may take your car out of service for a few days, but they rarely "take" anything personal from you other than some money. You can even get a rental and do the same stuff without any real inconvenience.

A computer, on the other hand, will be out of date within a few years and simply won't be usable in another few after that. It is constantly harassing you about updates, when it has a mechanical failure it takes your data with it, a lot of the time, which these days can not only include treasured correspondence but photos of your kids and what-not. It's a much more hostile and cold relationship. Becoming invested in that kind of relationship is difficult.
posted by maxwelton at 2:58 PM on May 6, 2009


Everyone's a critic.
jay sherman is the critic.
posted by the aloha at 3:06 PM on May 6, 2009




The basic argument of this article was pretty weak... It is in fact very easy to know something is wrong and still have no idea how to fix it. I think any child who tries to draw something knows they aren't doing it very well. It isn't that they're satisfied with the rendition they are able to produce, but that they're frustrated & just don't get how to make it better. That's why so many people, after like the 4th grade, just declare that they "can't draw". They don't realize you can learn to draw (not as well, perhaps, as someone with a knack, but anyone with basic hand-eye coordination can learn to improve and eventually make reasonable drawings).

Also, criticism can be preemptively dangerous - as an often too-critical person, I realize I am sometimes too quick to see flaws in something, and don't give it enough of a chance. "The perfect is the enemy of the good"... very true with one's own work, as it causes continuous procrastination when you only see what is wrong and so can't get through a sentence because it needs to be better. Better to be done, sometimes.
posted by mdn at 3:22 PM on May 6, 2009


"I am the Steve Jobs of this sandwich!"

I think that guy made my sandwich yesterday. He took 30 minutes, but the end result was pretty good. All he needed was a true sandwich artist, who could be the yang to his awkwardly critical yin. That, and he should stop cursing under his breath for being a terrible sandwich maker. It creeped me out.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:24 PM on May 6, 2009


The best critic I ever read was also one of the greatest authors of his generation: David Foster Wallace.

Interestingly, I believe he would provide a counter point to this article. Here's my dumb downed version.... criticism may be useful, but it is a tool and a tool alone. It is literally deconstruction, as in it builds nothing. An assessment of truth is utterly meaningless without the application of truth to the point of valid contribution. Which is not to say you have to make art for example, but you would have to better service those who stand to gain from said criticisms. The problem is that soooooooo many critics who believe that is exactly what they are doing, are actually failing in the "valid contribution" area. Most often, the moment when a "critic" stops thinking of him/herself as a contributor or meditator, and more as the standard-bearer of value, is usually the exact when they have crossed the threshold into unproductive.
posted by Lacking Subtlety at 3:42 PM on May 6, 2009


"Computers are becoming more and more a part of our social experience, and the ability to bring your laptop with you means that the memories you forge when having fun will include stuff you did with the computer even more than it has in the past."

This is difficult for me to imagine. The experience of the computer is within my eyes (and ears), not without. I have had vivid and important experiences with computers and while I might be able to recall the make and model, it's invariably irrelevant to the experience. In the case of computers, the more the presence of the object disappears, the more I appreciate the object.

The author's point that computers should be considered more subjectively, like cars, seems more an idea about branding than 'subjective' criticism. Computerized tools can obviously be bound to the identity of an owner. Your branded laptop at the coffee shop can function as a signifier of identity and your iPod in a public space can function as a mask, but, excepting temporary brand desires, computerized tools that are overly reliant on subjective physical presence accelerate their obsolescence.

Cars, to point out another difference, transcend their object-hood by virtue of the space they provide. The experience within a car is literally contained - and therefore implicated - by the image (character) the manufacturer has provided.
posted by xod at 3:54 PM on May 6, 2009


I would totally dismiss this guy after reading that essay (well, at least the first half. Page 2 when he gets to the point is as good a person manifesto as any) if I didn't know him for writing the best and most through reviews of OS X there are. Here he is on Panther, Tiger and Leopard, and he wrote a super special feature on the Finder.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 3:57 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


how do we sort the great critics from the mere complainers?

If you read a review by a mere complainer, you know whether the complainer liked whatever he is criticizing.

If you read a review by a great critic, you know whether you would like whatever he is criticizing.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:20 PM on May 6, 2009 [1 favorite]


can we please avoid writing things like "literally deconstruction" when what we really mean is "un-constructing?"

thank you.
posted by artof.mulata at 4:26 PM on May 6, 2009


Do we really mean "dismantling"?
posted by xod at 4:41 PM on May 6, 2009


we don't, but maybe you do.

snarky - snarky...
posted by artof.mulata at 4:43 PM on May 6, 2009


Coming soon: In Defence of Snark, by A. Douchebag, an essay in six JPEGs
posted by Artw at 4:46 PM on May 6, 2009


It was neat to see him critique criticism, and the limits of doing so, while looking out how it's beneficial to creation. I wished he dug a little more into how people react to and resist criticism and methods of getting around that.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:30 PM on May 6, 2009


What's most funny about all that masturbatory leader worship is that Apple fanboys are apologists, not critics.
posted by 0xdeadc0de at 5:37 PM on May 6, 2009


Another reason people put more pride into their cars: financial investment. A basic Toyota Yaris will run you $12k (new); $1200 will buy you a fairly nice computer (like a basic iMac).

Barring inflation, in three years, the Yaris's performance will be close to that of a new $12k car; the iMac will be much slower than 2012's $1200 computers.
posted by Monday, stony Monday at 6:14 PM on May 6, 2009


spicynuts:

Those who can do often criticize as well.


You do realize I was being facetious after Chocolate Pickle's point, yeah?
posted by spicynuts at 6:30 PM on May 6, 2009



The best critic I ever read was also one of the greatest authors of his generation: David Foster Wallace.


And, not coincidentally I think, a serious depressive. It is very hard to self-critique gently-- if you are too good at attacking yourself it is very hard to turn that voice off.

Someone once told me about a computer part in airplane autopilots which basically is always telling the parts that control altitude and attitude etc. that they are slightly off-course and need to correct. the poor plane never gets it "right"-- but the computer isn't always saying, to paraphrase... "you're off by X, ASSHOLE! it just says, "off by X, do Y" and of course, this gets the plane where it needs to go. I wish I could remember the names for these things, but I cannot, I'm sure someone will correct me ;-)

but the point is that it's hard to have the patience with yourself or with others whom you need to critique in order to get maximum performance and minimum heartache-- so you need to watch that harsh criticism doesn't become bullying or it will ultimately backfire.
posted by Maias at 7:10 PM on May 6, 2009


If something's not worth doing, it's not worth doing well....
posted by Rumple at 8:10 PM on May 6, 2009


Wallace was more of a neurotic than a critic, imo, and, sadly, never quite got around to being the great author many (me included) hoped he would become.

The kind of criticism that leads to a spiral of paralysis, self-loathing, and despair is clearly not very good criticism.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 11:16 PM on May 6, 2009


Waffle waffle blah blah something about drawing a bull blah blah Wolverine blah Steve Jobs...

Those that can do, those that can't teach... and those that can't even mange that become critics. I am of course, a great critic.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:37 AM on May 7, 2009


What's most funny about all that masturbatory leader worship is that Apple fanboys are apologists, not critics.

Is it possible in 2009 to not actually know any Mac users, aka the pickiest, hardest-to-please software users around?
posted by Space Coyote at 9:49 AM on May 7, 2009


That's when they think no one is listening, otherwise it's all "it just works!".

I dunno, I feel kind of sorry for Apple fans - after bitching about their platforms lack of success for years it's now on the cusp of success, certainly in the laptop field if not desktop (mainly because desktops will probably just die before they get there), and now Apple has a second platform that's looking to be the next big thing, maybe even a bigger deal than the mac was, and well, that rebel cool outsider thing just isn't going to hold. Pretending they aren't a regular computer company is going to be a lot harder.

Also when thy become big enough to attract significant malware attention it's going to be just painful.
posted by Artw at 9:58 AM on May 7, 2009


and well, that rebel cool outsider thing just isn't going to hold

Nope, PCs still suck.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:00 AM on May 7, 2009


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