July 12, 2010

Reconstructing Criticism: Work

This is the last post, at least for now, on the subject of constructive criticism. Feel free to suggest other subtopics that I haven't covered. This post doesn't contain any new information about making criticism effective, just some general thoughts about offering criticism.

Many of the the topics in this series are interrelated, and I've attempted to include those relationships as links. Beyond that, however, there is one thing that every part of creating constructive criticism has in common. It's a lot of work. It might even be too much work. After all, you've got other things to do. Honestly? That's okay.

One of the goals of this series is to give you tools for making any criticism you might offer more effective. I think I've done that, and I think I've explained how the various tools work to improve efficacy. But I also wanted to differentiate between criticism that is called constructive and criticism that actually is constructive. There's a fair amount of the former around on the internet that has as its sole claim to being constructive "Well, I think it will be better for you if you do it my way." By now you should know that constructive criticism requires more than that.

That isn't to say that there's something wrong with criticism that doesn't work to be constructive. There's a place for that too, in the grand scheme of internet chatter. However, we shouldn't call it constructive when it's not. Doing so claims an effort that hasn't been made (sometimes because it can't be). It can also be used as a lever to demand explanations for why criticism hasn't worked, when the simple answer is that it wasn't really built to work.

Calling all "friendly" criticism constructive also confuses people about what constructive criticism actually is; namely, a process that can produce excellent results when we're willing to put in the work. I hope this series helps to make your work more productive.

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