Bloggers are like critics

Anton EgoRatatouille (if you haven’t seen – go see) is easily one of the best movies this year. Beyond the gorgeous visuals effects, lovable characters, captivating plot and witty dialog, one particular quote – more specifically monologue had an effect on me that was probably more than intended. This will not spoil the movie if you haven’t seen it.

Anton Ego: In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.

When I first heard it with the highbrow voice acting by Peter O’Toole, it made me realize just how true it was. How most bloggers, myself include, are like critics if not food critics.

Our work is easy, too easy compared to even the most desired labors. We sit comfortably in-front of a computer, and once in a while visit some places and meet some people – often at the expense of others, and then write or create some forms of content. Our job inherent little if no risk. To those who we often write about – companies and individuals in particular, risk their brand and image in an attempt to ‘please’ us and our judgment. Admittedly, negative criticism is indeed both fun to write and fun to read, which might explain the lack of positive Vista news.

But none of the above is as true as the last sentence. Bloggers often forget in the midst of all the products and technology they come across, far more than the average and even educated consumer will ever come across, “the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so.”

Regardless of whether or not other bloggers will agree with me, I feel a little guilty now with all the things surrounding Ultimate Extras.

13 insightful thoughts

  1. Vista deserves the criticism it receives. It’s not a person, it’s a bunch of bits that’s supposed to make your life easier. Yeah, it’s the product of hard work of people, but those people got paid and the company that paid them reaps billions of dollars. Ultimately, criticism represents opportunity for software makers. Nothing is worse for a software maker than not having any idea of where to take things.

    No remorse or regret, Long. Keep blasting away – we all read your blog because, despite the great quote, it does have value.

  2. I think it behooves anyone in the industry (myself included) to remember that the software you’re criticizing is made by people. People that are usually passionate about what they do, and take their work seriously. Criticism is fine, if it is constructive. Beating someone up verbally for the sake of being witty or whatever is not really productive in any way. So I applaud Long for wanting to be more constructive with his criticicm. We all could stand to be re-taught that lesson every day.

  3. I believe you overestimate yourself a bit. Anton Ego’s opinion would change the rating of the restaurant – his word was good enough. With all respect, you’re not there yet.

  4. Hi.

    i just wanna give a couple of tips:

    make windows 7 as small as to boot from CD (like xp)

    make windows 7 to boot from CD, like so much livecd linux distro,

    make windows 7 compatible with older versions of windows (keep NTFS 3.1)

    make windows 7 faster than earlier versions was (as like as win2000)

    make windows 7 free

    make windows 7 open source

    make the windows 7 community happy !

    and at the end, but not at last :

    MAKE WINDOWS 7 !

  5. I don’t think any critics think software isn’t made by people. I think that is a point of the criticism. To send a message not only to the customers, but also to the people who made it.

    Most criticism, like that leveled against Ultimate Extras, is warranted and needs to be heard more by the companies.

  6. Criticising software is a different thing to criticising a movie. The movie is a finished product; it won’t go back for updates and service packs (nothing extensive that alters the movie – there might be minor differences between regions and once on DVD). If the storyline of a movie sucks, it still won’t be changed. If the GUI to a program sucks, criticism will help to change it (if everyone thought it was a good GUI, why would anyone change it).

    In the case of Ultimate Extras, the criticism isn’t so much pointed at the team, as it is at the decisions they made. We were told Ultimate Extras were going to be these amazing additions that would come out regularly. They aren’t. It was repeated to us on their blog a couple of times and there is yet to be some proper follow through. Somehow, a marketing manager got involved and forgot that he needs a product team to create the Ultimate Extras in the first place. That manager has been making promises that aren’t being kept. Ultimately it was a decision to go back on the original Extras promise, and it was a decision to release a buggy version of DreamScene that hadn’t had it’s code modified in months.

    Which brings me onto the final thing about software criticism. We can expect responses. The manager for Ultimate Extras can apologise, explain why all the cock-ups are being made (and then go about fixing them). The movie director is unlikely to start a blog about how the acting sucked, or how he wished he’d made the story less predictable, or the action sequences better.

    GOOD software criticism can start a conversation.

  7. Oh, and in case it wasnt clear, Ultimate Extras still suck.

    Just to re-enforce my point about the Extras team, has anyone seen or heard a log posting from anyone on the team other than the marketing/managing guy? The ground level, no bullshit reasons for what’s gone wrong? No. Which shows that this particular team (or again, at least the manager) aren’t really listening to the criticism.

  8. The problem with that movie is its marketing. What was really highlighted was the sentence: ‘The funniest movie Pixar ever made!’. The fact is that this was not a funny movie. As those modern cartoons are lately like Shrek for example. Mi kids asked me – so when is it going to be funny, after about an hour into the movie…

  9. Criticising software is not the same as criticising food or a movie, because they’re meant for one time consumption only. The same piece of software is consumed by the consumer over and over again.
    You get over it if it tastes bad as long as you know it was just this once. But the same is not true with software. It’s like BenN said: Good software criticism can be a vehicle for change.

  10. I was going to criticize the criticism of the criticism of the criticism of the criticism of critics, but I hit a stack overflow.

    “The average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so” is true because “the average piece of junk” usually represents someone getting off their a– and ATTEMPTING SOMETHING. It takes cojones to be tone-deaf and stand up in front of a national audience and sing “Rocket Man.” Whereas any idiot can jeer from the audience.

    That said, constructive criticism is a good thing. Vista would not be as good as it is, were it not for criticism of XP. XP would not have been as good as it was, were it not for criticism of Windows Me. And so on.

    I don’t know if I’d feel especially guilty for criticising “Ultimate Extras” — if they over-promised and under-delivered, they need to know that, they need to not REPEAT that mistake in Windows 7. So up to a point, it’s constructive criticism.

    But if your message has been heard, or the problem has been corrected, the criticism isn’t constructive anymore.

  11. I also found that Mr Ego’s thoughts were actually the highlight of the movie. It was interesting to see how such a “mean” critic could actually understand that by actually being a critic of a “product”, he actually affects the product and his review should be taken with a large grain of salt.

    I often read digg.com and see all the negative critics of an article and don’t understand what people are hoping to accomplish. It seems we all have opinions, but of Bob247 to say “Vista is shit” confuses me. How did this help me? How did it help others? How was this constructive? Was the critic being “mean” just for fun? Most of the time it appears so to me.

    I don’t think I have the capability to “learn” everyone into being a better critic, so now I just disregard almost any and all reviews that are under two sentences.

    Thank you for your excellent article. I assume it will only improve with age and a nice glass of red wine.

    John

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