What Have You Done?

When it comes to building, launching, and maintaining your own projects – be it software, hardware, blogs, sites, songs, paintings, …, anything, etc. – one of the things that you have to be prepared for is the amount of criticism to which you’re opening yourself up.

Granted, you have to take the good with the bad, but the problem with the bad is that it’s so much easier to take to heart and/or focus on that the good, right?

But the irony in this is that not only do we subject ourselves to said criticism, but some also offer criticism to what others have done.

If you’re on the receiving end of said criticism, it’s easy to get defensive; if you’re on the giving end of the criticism, it’s easy to mask it as constructive when, in fact, it may not be at all.

So how do we deal with this kind of stuff on a day-to-day basis?

What Have You Done?

The truth is that I wish I had an answer.

Dear Abby

Dear Abby: Why does others’ work suck so much?

Honestly, even writing this sounds like a “Dear Abby” letter or some type of self-help post, so I can only imagine how it’s coming off when you’re reading it :).

Come at Me, Bro

Here’s what I do know: many of us are our own worst critics, so when we see others criticizing something that we’re doing, it feels almost a bit like affirmation of a fear that we already have.

Being in that place sucks.

Not only does it make us a bit skeptical about what we’re doing, but it also puts us on the defense – which may or may not be warranted – thus wondering if the effort is even worth it, and likely even feeling a bit of animosity of disrespect towards the critics.

A Little Help

I’d like to think that those who are offering criticism are doing so with the best of intentions, but are simply having to keep it concise thanks to channels such as Twitter that require such short messages (which raises the question: is Twitter the best place for this type of conversation?).

And if you find yourself in that place, then maybe it’s better if the criticism is kept into an email or something that supports more longer form opinions. Sure, there are other options, but I digress for now.

Haters Gonna Hate (Or “Sticks and Stones”)

So here’s the thing: Whenever someone ends up critiquing work we’ve done, it’s much easier to simply ask “Oh yeah, well what have you done?” as a way to help deflect some of the criticism.

But what does this matter, really?

The thing is, people are going to say what they are going to say whether or not they’ve done anything. Those who have understand just how hard it is to ship something – anything, really – and those who don’t might as well be trolling.

Haters Gonna Hate

Haters gonna hate, but I don’t think that helps.

I don’t know how the rest of you guys and gals handle criticism. For what it’s worth, I think it’s actually a learned skill. The more you put yourself out there, the thicker your skin has to get, but the truth is that I don’t know if the sting of negative critique ever really goes away (of course, that’s just my experience).

And yeah, it’s easy to say “haters gonna hate” (which is nothing more than the adult version of sticks and stones, am I right? :)), but if I get caught in a bad day, criticism simply sucks. Plain and simple.

It generates pure old fashioned anger that ends up sending you in a bit of a spiral wondering if it was worth putting said project out there. Surely we can all identify with this in some way.

Make It Stop!

As I mentioned earlier in the post:

I’d like to think that those who are offering criticism are doing so with the best of intentions, but are simply having to keep it concise thanks to channels such as Twitter that require such short messages.

But the truth is that as much as I’d like to think that, the truth is that I don’t really believe that. I see far too many debates, arguments, passive aggressive whatever, and flat-out negativity permeating our social networks to know better.

So how do we actually make this stop? I don’t think we can. As much as I want to go all John Lennon and “give peace a chance” on this kind of stuff, I think that half of being involved in open projects is accepting the potential negativity that exists.

Give Peace a Chance

Dealing with it is the tough spot, sure, and for those of us who have ever offered up criticism of someone else’s work, perhaps it’s better if we opt to do it in private first and see what happens then go from there.

It results in being able to provide longer form explanations, examples, discussion, and respect that’s simply lost in short-form posts.

Then again, it feels almost futile to even mention this because the critics who we’d like to see do this likely won’t dig it, anyway. And for those who already do it, the whole post may seem redundant.

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Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. i think the internet is the perfect place to:

    1. showcase that you’re a badass with stuff that you’re building.
    2. showcase that you’re a dumbass and that you’d rather talk then do anything of value.

    fucking love the internet.

  2. Tom, agree … great post.

    I readily admit criticism is a tough one. I realized that no matter how perfect we were … someone was still going to gripe and complain and criticize.

    I won’t even start to say criticism doesn’t affect me … that would be a bold lie. But over the past couple of years, I’ve sought to redirect that negativity into focus on what we’re doing and seek to minimize its effect on me.

    So my internal (and sometimes public) mantra (and reassurance) becomes … It’s just about us … our customers, our team, our partners … everything else is noise.

    For what it’s worth …

    One parting question that all of this brought up and maybe something I’ll add to my mantra …

    Is criticism also relevance?

    At least someone cares enough to say you suck, right?

    • I readily admit criticism is a tough one. I realized that no matter how perfect we were … someone was still going to gripe and complain and criticize.

      Human nature, I think – both sides, really. Both complaining and how it affects those on the receiving end.

      I think it’s a relatively constant battle between taking notes from the criticism that’s actually good, ignoring the negativity, and figuring out how to simply take it in the chin and keep on going.

      But I think there’s some merit to this:

      At least someone cares enough to say you suck, right?

      I think the people who care about what you’re doing do; otherwise, some people are just jerks :T.

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