I’m not sure if this is even a trend, but I’m beginning to think that online criticism follows rules and social norms that aren’t obvious in traditional, offline book criticism. This may not be a good thing. I’ve been actively looking around the blogosphere for the past couple of weeks, and I have to conclude that nobody criticizes via comments anymore. Consider: online works – be it novel, short story or photostream – are very rarely criticized on the creator’s own turf. I have yet to see a full blown review of a person’s writing on said person’s writing blog, nor have I seen a full-blown review of a blook (by a reader) on the blook’s actual site.
I believe the main reason for this to be that people now attribute ownership to a creator’s online channel. They don’t criticize you on your blog the same way they won’t comment on your (bad) taste when they’re visiting you at your home. Two photographers I follow – Olivia Bee and lightsongs receive praise – and only praise – every time they release a photo on their Flickr photostream, and I must say that it gets pretty annoying after two or three months, to scroll down and see a whole heap of amazing! piled upon them – upload after upload after upload.
There’s also the possibility that these people filter out their comments, and only approve the positive ones – but I don’t believe that to be the case. I wonder, though – how likely is a reader to post a negative review in an overwhelmingly positive comment thread? A creator’s loyal community is the best defense against trolls, but it also a deterrent from negative commentary on the creator’s work. And – if this is true, and it’s true for all creators – then wouldn’t the Internet be the ideal home for the narcissistic writer?
Note that this trend doesn’t seem to apply to Novelr, nor to any of the non-fiction idea blogs you have out there. People have no problems with arguing against ideas they don’t agree with. It’s the fiction – the creative work – that suffers from this dearth of online critique, and this means that the writers who blog for improvement aren’t likely to find it … not unless they ask for it, and ask for it regularly. There is one exception, however, on the Internet: writing forums and communities not clustered around the writer are good places to ask for writing feedback. Which means, then, that the trick to getting C&C isn’t to ask for opinions from the community clustered around your blook, but to ask for it at other places – neutral ones – where people do not feel that they’re intruding on your digital turf.