Back away from the pointy metal tools, Etsy vendors
August 17, 2009 8:04 AM   Subscribe

Perhaps some people might have missed hearing and/or be interested in hearing that MeFi member Jacquilynne has taken down her blog, The Good, the Bad, and the Etsy, on which she served up the best and worst of Etsy with a generous dollop of hot, sweet snark. The Good, the Bad, and the Etsy was posted to Projects, and subsequently to the front page, and was building a good readership when Jacquilynne decided the fun of posting wasn’t worth having to deal with the death threats(!) from some unhinged Etsy crafters. I still can’t get my head around the fact that anyone would threaten someone’s life for critiquing their crafts, especially when said crafts were ripe for everything that Jacquilynne said about them. Jacquilynne, it’s a shame your blog had to die because some Etsy sellers have a tighter grip on their shears than they do on their sanity, but thankfully, you are still with us.
posted by orange swan to MetaFilter-Related at 8:04 AM (129 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite

I can say only this: holy shit.

I mean, when you take a chunk of society that wants to make crafts and put it on a website, you're bound to get the loonies but... wow. It still feels creepy when you hear about stuff like this, even if you've seen it a hundred times over on the internet. And to a MeFite, too.
posted by Askiba at 8:09 AM on August 17, 2009


Aww, that stinks. I enjoyed getting the sneak peek into the Etsy world. I'd even be interested in reading a blog that's just "The Good", but I doubt a blog like that would be much fun to write.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:10 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


death threats are scary-serious, but not surprising when dealing with internet (pseudo) anonymity + mocking people.
posted by edgeways at 8:14 AM on August 17, 2009


I'm shocked - shocked - to find that one doesn't have to make a very large mental leap to get from hand-crafted collectibles to Annie Wilks in Misery.
posted by Jofus at 8:14 AM on August 17, 2009 [6 favorites]


It was a fun blog, and one of the better ones, but I'm honestly getting a little tired of this rash of blogs that exist only to make fun of what somebody else is doing. I've done some of that styled blogging as well, so obviously I don't exempt myself from this critique, but lately I have been thinking that it might not be the best use of the most powerful publishing tool ever invented to direct its power toward poking fun at stuff that strangers make. I dunno. I guess I've just seen one too many blogs that's "look at how ridiculous this hair style is" and "look at how ridiculous this photo from 1974 is".
posted by Astro Zombie at 8:17 AM on August 17, 2009 [34 favorites]


Death threats? Probably a bunch of crocheters.
posted by DU at 8:19 AM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


knit 1, pearl 2, stab 3
posted by pyramid termite at 8:26 AM on August 17, 2009 [15 favorites]


Metafilter: internet (pseudo) anonymity + mocking people
posted by slogger at 8:31 AM on August 17, 2009


What a shame. I never would have found Sweet Ambs' cookies (which I intend to order for my next book launch,) without The Good, The Bad and the Etsy. Shame that some people had to go and ruin it for everyone.
posted by headspace at 8:42 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Surely there isn't anything that one could say about a craft that should warrant a death threat, but just as surely if you spend your time being nasty to strangers eventually you will find a stranger nastier than you are. Since the blog is gone and I missed it the first time around it is hard to gauge what happened here, and how disproportionate the response is, but really, I guess it doesn't matter.

Making fun of people sometimes makes them mad. Mad people sometimes do mean things. And so on and so forth, shooby dooby dooby.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:47 AM on August 17, 2009


You have to drain the swamp to kill the mosquitoes, eh?
posted by Burhanistan at 8:51 AM on August 17, 2009


I'd still read it if it was just Jacquilynne pointing out the cool stuff she finds at Etsy; lord knows that site could use more smart filters, and she's a fun writer. No need to nuke the whole thing, Jacquilynne!
posted by mediareport at 8:53 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


There is nothing so seemingly innocuous that someone, somewhere, won't threaten to kill you over it.

I once got a series of threats of bodily harm over a criticism of Martin van Buren. Seriously, some man in Indiana wanted to come to my house and beat me senseless because I dissed Old Kinderhook.

So I can only imagine the levels of murderous rage that a critique of someone's carefully-wrought macrame Kleenex holder would inspire.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:02 AM on August 17, 2009 [16 favorites]


What kind of a monster would defend Martin "the blood-rapist" van Buren?
posted by DU at 9:08 AM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


Astro Zombie: It was a fun blog, and one of the better ones, but I'm honestly getting a little tired of this rash of blogs that exist only to make fun of what somebody else is doing.

I only looked at The Good, the Bad and the Etsy once so I speak with little authority but it seems to have been more akin to reviews than "hey guys let's make fun of that 14 year old's MySpace page." If you're selling your work you should be able to take the reviews. Of course, people have been reacting to reviews in an unhinged manner for hundreds of years.
posted by Kattullus at 9:15 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


It was a fun blog, and one of the better ones, but I'm honestly getting a little tired of this rash of blogs that exist only to make fun of what somebody else is doing.

In all fairness to myself, it wasn't only to make fun of what somebody else was doing. I picked 3 items a day, and I only made fun of 2 of them.

Okay, so that's not much of a defense.

Still, the leap from "I think this item that you're selling is ugly" to "I hope someone tracks you down and beats you til you die" is quite a large one. To be clear, I didn't take the blog down because I felt like I was in danger (internet death threats -- ooh scary!), but I was already feeling sort of bad about one person who emailed me and seemed genuinely sad that I'd mocked her item, and when I got a couple of threats in a couple of hours, it suddenly all seemed not worth it.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:16 AM on August 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Making fun of people sometimes makes them mad. Mad people sometimes do mean things. And so on and so forth, shooby dooby dooby.

I understand this perspective, but in my experience we don't need to point fingers at Jacquilynne. The relative anonymity of the internet turns people into fuckwads. Taking examples from the home-craft community:

Yarn Harlot recently revealed that she has been harassed and stalked, apparently for the crimes of being a proud Canadian and expressing liberal opinions on the internet. Julie from Samurai Knitter has received death threats because, get this, she reviews patterns in a nationally-published magazine and does not always like them.

To respond to legitimate and fair criticism with a death threat is called "a disproportionate response".
posted by muddgirl at 9:17 AM on August 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


Still, the leap from "I think this item that you're selling is ugly" to "I hope someone tracks you down and beats you til you die" is quite a large one.

Oh, for sure. As I said, I enjoyed your blog, and you certainly didn't deserve those threats. My comment was about a more generalized trend online that I, personally, am getting a bit weary of.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:20 AM on August 17, 2009


I was already feeling sort of bad about one person who emailed me and seemed genuinely sad that I'd mocked her item

You should think about continuing with the good ones, and reposting the old ones that were positive. You'd still have a growing following if you posted one awesome etsy item a day, I'm sure. You wouldn't have to change the name.
posted by mediareport at 9:24 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


The relative anonymity of the internet turns people into fuckwads.

If you were at a craft show, would you ever go up to a table and tell the crafter that something they are selling is ugly? The anonymity of the internet goes both ways.
posted by smackfu at 9:26 AM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


would you ever go up to a table and tell the crafter that something they are selling is ugly

But that's not what's going on here. If Jacquilynne was posting nasty comments on the blogs of the etsy crafters, that would be one thing. But she's started her own blog - her own online domain - which the etsy crafters can ignore if they don't like the comments. It's closer to a situation where someone was telling her friends at a public coffee shop that something she saw on etsy was ugly, while the crafter happened to be sitting at the next table.

The mixed public/private nature of the internet makes such exchanges inevitable. I don't like Nasty, insult-blogs either. On the other hand, I don't think insult bloggers deserve to get death threats. They just deserve to get ignored.
posted by muddgirl at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


To respond to legitimate and fair criticism with a death threat is called "a disproportionate response"

A death threat is nearly always a disproportionate response, as I said. And, again, I didn't read the blog when it was up so I don't have any real idea what it contained. But, generally speaking, a blog that spends its time (or just two thirds of its time, I guess) making fun of things that other people make? Sorry, but my sympathies rarely extend to the loss of mean-spirited blogs.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:39 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I liked that blog. Too bad the assholes ruined it. Thank you, Jacquilynne, for your efforts.
posted by mds35 at 9:45 AM on August 17, 2009


to quote myself, "fuck that noise." It was good stuff jacquilynne and it doesn't have to be for anyone else but you. I suppose that dress was on the edge of mockability - it's not so bad, but the print is a wee bit busy and seems most useful for keeping my toddler from being eaten by lions on the savanna. It's ridiculous that someone would threaten you but some people aren't too witty and their only comeback to mockery is to threaten in return.
posted by GuyZero at 9:47 AM on August 17, 2009


You have to drain the swamp to kill the mosquitoes, eh?

Then you still have to deal with standing water in old tires, forgotten buckets, road-side ditches, and anything that will hold water. In short: mosquitoes aren't going away.

If you were at a craft show, would you ever go up to a table and tell the crafter that something they are selling is ugly? The anonymity of the internet goes both ways.

As Kattullus said, they're just reviews, but people have been getting angry at reviewers for a very long time. I wonder how many death threats Pitchfork gets for their music reviews.

As mediareport suggested, why not re-create the blog as The Good of Etsy. With millions of items listed, it's always nice to have someone pull out their favorite items or sellers. If the blog gets enough of a following, some sellers might harass the blogger for good reviews or to get some recognition, but they could be nudged aside with a quick comment that the seller's work isn't the style for the blogger.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:50 AM on August 17, 2009


And yet, you've made a difference:

Nursery Rhyme Fairy tale Jack and the Bean stock Apron dress and Pant set BACK 2 School POSHM
ALL PHOTOS in ANY frogsandflowers listing ARE COPYRIGHT PROTECTED AND ARE NOT TO BE USED WITHOUT CONTACTING ME FIRST!!!!!
posted by boo_radley at 9:50 AM on August 17, 2009


I really liked your blog Jacquilynne, and I hope you pick it up again someday soon. Maybe after you've had time to get away from all this for a while. There's just so much good stuff on Etsy. It would be wonderful to have someone like you who could go through and point out the exceptional without criticizing the rest. I'll keep it in my RSS feed for awhile in hopes that you change your mind.
posted by sambosambo at 9:55 AM on August 17, 2009


I vote for putting it back up, then two out of three posts are just blank, with <redacted, so I don't get any more death threats from the thin-skinned> as the only text.
posted by adipocere at 9:59 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was already feeling sort of bad about one person who emailed me and seemed genuinely sad that I'd mocked her item

To be totally fair, she was asking for it with those pantaloons.

To threaten me in the most efficient manner, please try MeFi Mail!
posted by jerseygirl at 10:00 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh bummer. I really liked that blog.

I have been thinking that it might not be the best use of the most powerful publishing tool ever invented to direct its power toward poking fun at stuff that strangers make.

Did you see some of that stuff???
posted by CunningLinguist at 10:02 AM on August 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


I'd even be interested in reading a blog that's just "The Good", but I doubt a blog like that would be much fun to write.

Seems like there are more than a few folks doing just that:

http://www.google.ca/search?q=best+of+etsy&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a
posted by davey_darling at 10:09 AM on August 17, 2009


it might not be the best use of the most powerful publishing tool ever invented to direct its power toward poking fun at stuff that strangers make.

To copy and paste part of my comment from the thread on the defunct blog, for my part, besides the laughs, I find sites like this (Go Fug Yourself is another I read regularly) help me to develop and define my tastes, because I wind up trying to pinpoint why an item doesn't work and figuring out how it could be made to work.
As an art instructor of mine told me once, you can learn more from your mistakes than you can from your successes.
posted by orange swan at 10:10 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not really into the mocking, but holy shit that's $95???
posted by kathrineg at 10:13 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


Argh. It's really frustrating to not have the blog to refer to. But, orange swan, did that professor find the least successful piece of yours and then make fun of it to other people?
posted by dirtdirt at 10:16 AM on August 17, 2009


As an art instructor of mine told me once, you can learn more from your mistakes than you can from your successes.

Yeah, this is really true for the initiated. I've seen my work criticized online before, and it helps me articulate what I'm trying to do. I rarely take it personally.

Services like Etsy are different. They attract a broader range of artists' intents and personalities. There's a weird identity crisis that happens when people who might have only made gifts for their family start to market their work online. I can see where the criticism comes from and I can see where the hurt feelings come from.
posted by roll truck roll at 10:21 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


I dunno; I was pretty specifically threatened by a member of this very website and I don't really give a fuck because they never actually do anything about it. It's just their fantasy wank fodder.

I liked your site, Jacquilynne, and I'm sorry to see it go.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:24 AM on August 17, 2009


But, orange swan, did that professor find the least successful piece of yours and then make fun of it to other people?

Not to my knowledge, but then his job was to teach us, and teaching involves certain responsibilities in terms of creating a supportive atmosphere and not being unduly harsh. Critics and reviewers have no such obligation towards those whose work they review. Not that I'm saying that they have a free pass to be assholes, but they do need to be entertaining or they will not be read, and they do need to be intellectually honest and aesthetically rigorous or they will add nothing to public discourse on the topic.
posted by orange swan at 10:33 AM on August 17, 2009


Critics and reviewers have no such obligation towards those whose work they review.

I've been a professional critic for two decades. My objection is not to criticism. It is to assholishness, which some of these sites wear as a badge of pride.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:36 AM on August 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


If you were at a craft show, would you ever go up to a table and tell the crafter that something they are selling is ugly?

No. But would I trash other people's ugly stuff with my friends at a bar over drinks? Hell yeah.

In fact -- I sort of do. I run a playwriting contest every year, and every year I make myself available to the volunteers who read for us to let them trash-talk some of the stuff they've read. Because boy howdy, there is a lot of really, really terrible stuff out there. It's not the kindest or most charitable thing I do, but I think it's just human nature, and so long as you make a reasonable effort to not bring it directly to the feet of the person, it's...forgiveable.

I didn't get a chance to see your blog, so I can't comment. But: I didn't think that little girls' dress with the pantaloons was all that bad, actually.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:38 AM on August 17, 2009


muddgirl writes "But she's started her own blog - her own online domain - which the etsy crafters can ignore if they don't like the comments. It's closer to a situation where someone was telling her friends at a public coffee shop that something she saw on etsy was ugly, while the crafter happened to be sitting at the next table."

I'm going to guess she linked back to the mockable item? In which case it's like having that conversation and then mailing a recording to the crafter.

The thing that makes so many of these web sites kind of mean spirited (not speaking of jacquilynne's specifically because I never saw it) and sets them apart from reviews is the writer doesn't actually acquire the item and therefor isn't speaking with anymore authority than anyone else looking at the pictures. Anyone who agrees with you can see that by looking at the same picture and wouldn't buy the item based on the same criteria. Aggregating the "Ugly" of a diverse web site on a blog doesn't help anyone besides giving them a laugh at the expense of others.

IE: Telling others a movie sucked after seeing it has value. Going out of your way to let everyone know, including the actors, you think the actors are ugly strictly on the basis of the publicity material is just mean spirited noise.
posted by Mitheral at 10:39 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Man, I only wish any of my blogs I've ever tried to maintain were so widely read as to trigger death threats. Forget Alexa scores - one must know how many times an hour their writing makes a stranger want to kill them to know how much of an impact they're having.

Seriously, though, jacquilynne - sorry you had to go through this. I'm a little bummed your archives are gone, as this is the first I'm hearing about your project and it sounds like a hell of a fun read, but I totally get your reasoning for taking it down.
posted by EatTheWeak at 10:44 AM on August 17, 2009


Mitheral: Hmm. Good points.

I think that this actually is falling on a weird continuum when it comes to creative people who put their ass out there and then get subsequently judged by others. What you say about the linkbacks getting found out by the Etsy owners is a point I hadn't considered.

On the other hand, though - what you say about mailing the negative reviews to the creators of a play sort of actually does happen. The producers of a play get copies of all the reviews -- good, bad, or indifferent. They don't always go to all the cast members, true, but some producers do post them for the cast to read no matter what. And some cast members do dig them up and bring them in anyway. And even when the producers try to keep a given review away from the cast, if someone asks, "hey, did we get that review from THE NEW YORK TIMES?" and the producer says, "uh...let's change the subject, hmmm?" that also is telling. So even if you don't mail the cast the review, they often still know.

there is the school of thought that if you're going to put your work out there for the general public to look at, that part of that opens you up to the occasional snarky feedback from others; it's just part of the risks of playing this particular game. Not that this gives people the excuse to be harrassingly mean-spirited, mind; but I think this blog falls into the safe side of what is admittedly a murky gray area.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 AM on August 17, 2009


Aggregating the "Ugly" of a diverse web site on a blog doesn't help anyone besides giving them a laugh at the expense of others.

Entertainment is a worthwhile end in itself. And then, too, the snarky sites I like do comment on both good and bad stuff. I'll never get around to browsing Etsy on a regular basis, so I very much enjoyed getting to see some of both the dregs and the créme de la créme of the merchandise on Etsy.

Going out of your way to let everyone know, including the actors, you think the actors are ugly strictly on the basis of the publicity material is just mean spirited noise.

There are a lot of poor analogies in this thread. This is one of them. Writing reviews of crafts based on pictures of them is not the same as judging a movie based on its publicity materials, nor is calling a craft ugly the same as condemning a movie because the actors are unattractive. You don't have to hold a piece of handiwork in your hands to be able to tell that it's poorly made, that the colours clash, that its proportions are off, that it's totally impractical. The pictures may not tell the whole story, but they tell enough of it to allow for some assessment. And actors are not the creative product — the movie itself is.
posted by orange swan at 10:56 AM on August 17, 2009


I'm on both sides of the discussion, EmpressCallipygos, as I am both a playwright and a theater critic. Yes, you puts your stuff out there, you take your lumps, but that doesn't mean every criticism is valid or deserved, and there seems to be a culture of mockery that has really taken root on the Web that offers nothing but contempt. Criticism should add to a conversation about art; mockery seldom adds anything but scorn.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:01 AM on August 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


but I'm honestly getting a little tired of this rash of blogs that exist only to make fun of what somebody else is doing.

In the past few years Ive become less of a misanthrope and perhaps a bit more mature and am a little surprised by the sites I used to frequent. The 'everything sucks, let me tell you why' mindset is popular on the net. I think it reflects the mentality of a lot of us who spend too much time using it, perhaps because if we werent so negative we'd have better things to do. Not to mention, real life people wont sit there and listen to you complain for hours. Internet people will.
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:13 AM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


But, orange swan, did that professor find the least successful piece of yours and then make fun of it to other people?

I took some landscape architecture courses in college. And they do exactly this in academic art, architecture, etc. studios. It's called a "crit" (critique), and the professor, often along with a panel of invited guests - other professors, practitioners from the industry - pick apart your work with you standing right there, in front of the class. You are allowed to defend yourself, to a point. Or just try not to cry if that's all you can manage.
posted by misskaz at 11:15 AM on August 17, 2009


> mockery seldom adds anything but scorn.

And lulz, which is a huge commodity on the net. You can argue that it's mean-spirited (because it is, that's the point), but entertainment has its own value. A lot of comedy is at the expense of others and that is nothing new, is it?

I think it is a perfectly apt to draw an analogy between laughing over drinks with your friends vs. insulting the person's art to their face and having your own blog vs. taking it to the comment section of the crafter's site. Google Analytics blurs this distinction if the artist is going out of their way to see what is written about them. I suggest this is a huge mistake if you have a thin skin.

I am not convinced that laughing at the expense of others is inherently bad, I guess. I believe you cross the line into assholishness if you go the extra mile to take it directly to the target of your mockery for the express purpose of humiliating them. I don't believe the case with this blog (nor most snark-blogs) is to get enjoyment out of hurting the artist. It is to laugh at some truly awful stuff. No one is forcing them to actually read it.

Are we to just pretend everything is great? Well, 'cos it isn't. There's some seriously bad stuff out there. I'm a huge fan of MST3K/RiffTrax/CinematicTitanic. Are those shows assholish too? Does mocking and laughing at Manos: The Hands of Fate make me a bad person because the hack who put so much effort into it was trying really hard? Is Battlefield: Earth above contempt because it might hurt Travolta's feelings? I am not comfortable with this universe.
posted by cj_ at 11:24 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Does mocking and laughing at Manos: The Hands of Fate make me a bad person because the hack who put so much effort into it was trying really hard?

Of course not. I don't think snark or mockery make people into bad people at all, although sometimes the way its used can make somebody deeply unpleasant. There is value to snark, and I enjoy it as much as the next person. I just get a little tired of the superabundance of it after a while, especially when it so often tips over into meanness. And I would argue that when you are doing comedy at somebody else's expense, you need to be extra cautious that you're not simply giving yourself permission to be a bully.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:29 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


If someone started up a blog that did the same sort of thing with Projects, I doubt it would go very well.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:30 AM on August 17, 2009


everyone loves a train wreck except those on the train.
posted by edgeways at 11:32 AM on August 17, 2009 [5 favorites]


Are we to just pretend everything is great? Well, 'cos it isn't. There's some seriously bad stuff out there. I'm a huge fan of MST3K/RiffTrax/CinematicTitanic. Are those shows assholish too? Does mocking and laughing at Manos: The Hands of Fate make me a bad person because the hack who put so much effort into it was trying really hard? Is Battlefield: Earth above contempt because it might hurt Travolta's feelings?

This.

I do see what you're saying, Astro Zombie, however. I have a feeling, though, that the question of where exactly to draw the line between "fair game for mockery" and "being a dick" is a highly individual and personal one, so we may not be able to clearly define it here.

However, I think we can all agree that whereever that line may be, responding to such a blog with death threats is way across it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on August 17, 2009


I see a need for more critical thinking when it comes to crafts and hand crafted items. Often people make items as gifts and politeness keeps the recipient from expressing anything but admiration for the item. When someone has made you something, you can do nothing but praise, no matter the actual usefulness or beauty of the gift. Therefore the crafter is often under the false impression that these items are good.
NO.
Anyone who goes to thrift stores as much as I do sees shelves full to the brim with ugly crafted items. It really gets to me at some level the waste involved, go to any fabric store last year and women were buying fleece to cut and tie to other pieces of fleece, often in hideous color combinations, and then to give as gifts. The thrift stores are full of them this year, along with picture frames with stuff glued to them, painted china, wreaths and too many other items to name.
There came a point of critical mass for Etsy a year or so ago, where I kept hearing people say “I’m going to start selling things on Etsy” as if the answer to all financial problems was a never ending market for home made crap. I got my daughter a beautiful laptop bag on Etsy and I have seen many beautiful things made by true artisans, but there is always stuff that makes me wonder whether the crafter really understands the marketplace.
I, too, tire of snark but when you put something out there you’ve got to be able to handle the fact that it may not get universal approval and be open to constructive criticism, because family and friends may not be able to be truthful in this regard.
I appreciate crafts and enjoy orange swans posts particularly when crafting involved remake/remodel/recycle and I have a bunch of yarn and am looking forward to knitting potentially ugly ill-fitting socks. But jeez, lighten up people. Maybe they are thin skinned because they anticipated a financial windfall that just did not happen.

Linking to the item may be a little on the mean side, if there is a level of mockery, but I don't get that that's what was happening here.

Sorry for the diatribe, this is something I think of often when at thrift stores. Wastefulness is a pet peeve of mine.
posted by readery at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2009 [8 favorites]


I have a feeling, though, that the question of where exactly to draw the line between "fair game for mockery" and "being a dick" is a highly individual and personal one, so we may not be able to clearly define it here.

I suspect the more meanness somebody pumps into their commentary, the clearer that line becomes.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's called a "crit" (critique), and the professor, often along with a panel of invited guests - other professors, practitioners from the industry - pick apart your work with you standing right there, in front of the class.

Here's the part where I admit I went to Art School. The best crits were the brutal ones, where the people didn't pull any punches, didn't try to tiptoe around your feelings. BUT the goal was always to make your work stronger, to make YOU stronger. Furthermore, the person being critiqued was, simply by taking the class, or being in school in general, was seeking this sort of relationship out. And even STILL, as you alluded to, it could be really really hard to take.

Here, the goal was for lulz (I assume, because, AGAIN, I haven't read it and it's gone), and the participants were both unpresent and effectively unwilling. Very different things. Valid or constructive criticism might have come from this, but it doesn't seem like it was the goal.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:44 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


To be fair, you are playing with fire when you critique hand knit Aryan themed gun cozies.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:45 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fair enough. Although I think the perceived overabundance of snark-blogs has an element of confirmation bias to it. There's a lot of content on the net, surely these blogs make up a fraction of a fraction of a percent of it. Even on metafilter, I don't see that many posts to them and they are often deleted anyway. YMMV on other sites, of course, but I humbly suggest avoiding sites that link to stuff you don't enjoy.

Another thing I didn't mention in my previous post because I'm not sure how strongly I feel about it: Etsy has a commercial component. People are motivated by profit to at least some degree, and I think this gives a snarker some leeway into criticism at the expense of the artist. If people weren't trying to sell this stuff, it would be more like making fun of children's 'fridge art (although that was funny too. Maybe I am a bad person.)
posted by cj_ at 11:46 AM on August 17, 2009


Wow, I didn't realize that the Project post was on July 21. So the blog didn't even last a month.
posted by smackfu at 11:55 AM on August 17, 2009


Don't mind me, I'm just crocheting your death shroud.
posted by electroboy at 11:55 AM on August 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


less mean mockery of honest people on the internet is a good, good thing.

It's strange to me that so many of its practitioners defend themselves with "you don't have to read it"-type replies. Because, er, you don't have to trawl Etsy/Flickr/Tumblr/Twitter, and you certainly don't have to increase the amount of sneering humiliation in the world, either.
posted by fightorflight at 11:56 AM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


Actually, the first posts on the blog were June 1st. I didn't post it to projects until I had been at it awhile, in keeping with the idea that projects wasn't just a place for one-offs. I wanted it to have some archives and some sense that it had staying power before I wasted Metafilter's time with it.

And you can see how well that turned out.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:57 AM on August 17, 2009


I'd even be interested in reading a blog that's just "The Good", but I doubt a blog like that would be much fun to write.

Eh. I was a freelance writer for years, including occasional arts criticism, and writing about things I loved was generally more fun than writing about things I hated. Seems kind of self-evident, actually.
posted by mediareport at 11:57 AM on August 17, 2009


I'd even be interested in reading a blog that's just "The Good"

Meta-Etsy? Best of the web Etsy.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:05 PM on August 17, 2009


The last time something of mine was posted to metafilter someone here suggested I should just kill myself. Its not nice to have people tell you your awful and you should be ashamed, obviously, but you probably shouldn't be putting things on the internet if you can't cope with criticism.

If I sent people death threats every time someone didn't take me seriously I'd have to learn to type at the speed of light.
posted by dng at 12:13 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


The last time something of mine was posted to metafilter someone here suggested I should just kill myself

someone said this to you about the saddest bear?

fuuuuck
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:14 PM on August 17, 2009


Metafilter is a cold harsh place
posted by dng at 12:16 PM on August 17, 2009


There was nothing wrong with the site. I thought it was hilarious, the criticism was always light hearted and as far as I can recall never went much beyond questioning the crafters taste....

For me it was pitched just right, because in a way it kind of celebrated the weird and wonderful crap that people can think up. Whilst simultaneously underlining the fact that no-one in their right mind was going to pay $95 for said crap.

Shame she felt it had to go, though its an understandable decision considering.
posted by munchbunch at 12:16 PM on August 17, 2009


I did an interview with Joyhn waters quite a few years ago, and we got to talking about zines. He read them, but he said the ones he particularly enjoyed were zines that tracked down forgotten bits of culture, or ephemera, or anything somebody would find disposable, and celebrated them.

He then told me why Pink Flamingos got its name. When they were getting ready to film, and got the mobile home that was to be Divine's residence in the film, Waters discovered Divine decorating the outside of it with plastic pink flamingos. Waters started laughing, thinking Divine was being kitschy or ironic, but she wasn't, she just thought they were pretty. And something clicked in Waters. He told me people think his films are about making fun of people, and, yes, there is some of that, but more than anything he tries to make love letters to the things he thinks are really strange and forgotten and worthy of love.

"It's so easy to just make fun of things," he told me. "But I find it much more interesting when somebody really loves something that other people think are awful or worthless."

I guess that's sort of stuck with me. I do enjoy the snark on the web, to an extent, but I prefer the sense of wonder and discovery that accompanies finding a site in which the creator has a real passion for something unexpected. And there is a lot of that on the Web. I'd like to see even more.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:17 PM on August 17, 2009 [41 favorites]


John Waters, rather. Joyhn Waters won't talk to me.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:18 PM on August 17, 2009


I'm sort of hesitant to get more involved in this thread, since I fear it'll all come off as making excuses for myself, but there's a couple of things I want to comment on, as long as we're having this debate here.

One is the idea that linking to the items added to the cruelty. That honestly never occurred to me -- I felt like it would be wrong to mock them and not at least provide them with a few hits. And when a crafter with an item I mocked had other things I really liked, I tried to mention that amidst the snark, so people would look around and see those other things.

Another point is the one about why I didn't just do a blog highlighting the good stuff. There's a few reasons for that:

a) Because relatively few people would read that blog, versus one that was more mean-spirited. People like the LULZ. *I* like the LULZ.
b) Etsy already tries to surface good stuff, with the rotating sets on the front page, the favorites options, etc.
c) Because the vast majority of items on Etsy are just obvious knock-offs of each other. Finding enough really great and different stuff to highlight would actually be a lot more work.
d) Because when I'm trolling the Etsy recent listings page, I do pull up a mix of things that make me think 'Oooh, shiny!' and 'WTFSRSLY?!?!?' so it was truer to the experience.
e) Because the title of the blog came to me, and after that, the format of the blog seemed to write itself.
f) And finally, for the self-righteous bean-plating reason, which gets a paragraph or two of its own even though it's pretty far subordinate to the previous items on this list:

I think there's a fundamental problem in the way traditional women's crafts are created and marketed. Idea-stealing is rampant on the craft show circuit. Quality and taste are often questionable at best, and nobody is allowed to question them, because they're somebody's personal art, and because it's a very women-centric business and we're all supposed to be supporting our sisters (a *lot* of the non-threatening-but-still-negative email I got made this point). Prices are incredibly wonky, and further wonked out by the vast number of hobbyists who have no business being in business and just want to cover their material costs.

There are a number of great artisans on Etsy, and then there are a lot of people who are really dragging the general quality down, and that's not doing anyone any favors. Was my blog really, truly making the best, most sincere effort it possibly could have in this area? Highlighting only the worst of items and offering honest, constructive feedback to help the Etsy sellers understand why they should pack up their craft room and turn it back into a playroom for the kids?

No. God no. It was mostly about the LULZ and I admit that. But there's already a value problem with these kinds of crafts, and that the crafting community seems willing to embrace even the most ridiculous of crap does nothing to help with that problem.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:34 PM on August 17, 2009 [21 favorites]


Optimus Chyme: "I was pretty specifically threatened by a member of this very website and I don't really give a fuck because they never actually do anything about it. It's just their fantasy wank fodder."

I'm just biding my time, motherfucker.
posted by shmegegge at 12:36 PM on August 17, 2009


Okay, this is a serious question, AZ -- do you think the movie Ed Wood was mean-spirited, or an affectionate hommage? Personally, I think it all depends on what light you're looking at it.

Same too for John Waters' works, in fact. Speaking personally, my own snark about some of the lesser-than plays i've read can get a little mean ("....my cat ATTACKED THE SCRIPT as it was sitting on the floor, and I think that says it all"), but at the same time, my opinions of the people engaging in it is definitely an affectionate, "oh, God love you and your enthusiasm!"

Again, this just brings me back to the opinion that this is all a really, really gray area.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:39 PM on August 17, 2009


Okay, this is a serious question, AZ -- do you think the movie Ed Wood was mean-spirited, or an affectionate hommage?

Affectionate homage.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:10 PM on August 17, 2009


Well another way to look at it, their craft provided entertainment. As a fan of terrible movies and even worse music -- for the "lulz" factor -- I've gotten hours of entertainment out of some truly awful stuff. I believe the world is a better place with people like Ed Wood, Uwe Boll, et al, because they made me laugh. Does it matter that wasn't their intent? You know, not everyone has their spirit crushed when the laughs are at the expense of their artistic output -- only people that have emotionally invested in it beyond what is reasonable and healthy. IMO the world would be a boring place if we used the most sensitive people as a litmus test for what is acceptable. Would comedy even exist? Everything would be Family Circus and I would have to kill myself.

Another thing overlooked: Linking back also drives traffic, some of which may be from those who don't share the opinion of the blogger, or even purchase it for the kitsch value. This is similar to a bad movie going cult, which has been known to bring status and even money to its creator. No such thing as bad publicity, and all that. If there's any merit to the criticism (and surely there is, or people wouldn't take it so personally, or even read the blog in the first place), this might be to their advantage.

It occurs to me a lot of this reads like rationalization, but in the end, I'm just not convinced people's lack of taste should be above criticism, especially when they are trying to make money off of it. I think we can all agree there is a line somewhere that it's possible to cross where the snarker is out of line, but drawing that line at "any criticism where the artist might be offended" is a bit extreme, because that would be all of it if my reading of people is in any way accurate.
posted by cj_ at 1:29 PM on August 17, 2009


John Waters LOVES the subjects of his films. His films are all about how badly supposedly "cultured" or "high-class" people treat the bizarre or "trashy" protagonists.

Ed Wood was in the same vein. He's lauded for his enthusiasm and originality despite his shortcomings.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:30 PM on August 17, 2009


I'm just not convinced people's lack of taste should be above criticism, especially when they are trying to make money off of it.

Isn't this kind of tricky in the arts & crafts world, where I personally would consider most of the stuff to be in bad taste? But clearly there are people who want to buy country kitsch stuff. So you end up criticizing someone for what, really?
posted by smackfu at 1:33 PM on August 17, 2009


I think, smackfu, that there is still some kind of a standard in terms of what the degree of perceived expertise is. I've heard of an ongoing debate in the crafting community in terms of how "craft" can be defined, for lack of a better word.

On the one hand - you have the people who genuinely and sincerely put a lot of effort and time and training into creating something, which just happens to be butt-ugly. It's ugly, but you can tell that it was made from scratch and there is at least technical skill behind it (say, an expertly-sewn blouse that just so happens to look like the Puffy Shirt from that Seinfeld episode).

On the other hand - you have the people who just put a couple of fake flowers on something using some glue and calling it "craft." Or taking the rug they made using a latchhooking kit or a paint-by-numbers picture and calling it "craft". Technically, yeah, it is -- but is it "craft" on the same scale and worthy of charging people the same price as the Puffy Shirt?

That is another area in which there is grey area in the middle actually -- we are all agreed that the originally-designed-and-made-by-hand item is "craft," and we are all generally agreed that the paint-by-numbers Elvis is not. But -- those are the extremes. Where is the middle?

I think a lot of the "it's ugly" sometimes is addressing this question as well - it's not just a blatant "it's ugly", its a more nuanced "it's something my kid could have made from a kit and they're expecting someone to pay $95 for it".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:54 PM on August 17, 2009


And there's kitsch, which we love but can't be crafted. Or can't be intentionally created.
posted by readery at 2:07 PM on August 17, 2009


Damn. I suspected mine was sub-par when I saw Jacquilynne's, and now I know it was a waste of time; I never got a single complaint, let alone death threat. I even snarked on the toddler "clothes" -- nary a peep. Damn!
posted by kmennie at 2:07 PM on August 17, 2009


> So you end up criticizing someone for what, really?

Who said it was about criticizing anyone? I don't think that is what's going on here -- in this blog, or other "fail" blogs. Cake Fail, for example, isn't suggesting the bakers are horrible people or devoid of cake-making talent, just that the cake in question sucks. I agree it would be out of line to make it personal, but since that wasn't the case here, it seems a bit of a strawman.

The problem is when someone takes criticism of their art or craft as a personal attack, as people are wont to do. I don't know how to avoid this without putting everything above criticism, which is just not realistic or even desirable to me, hence "you don't have to look" and "grow a thicker skin" etc. Yeah, these arguments have holes in them if your goal is to never hurt anyone's feelings ever, but if the alternative is to pretend everything is great (which is demonstrably bullshit), it's the alternative they have to getting all upset about it.
posted by cj_ at 2:16 PM on August 17, 2009


On failure to preview and seeing EmpressCallipygos' reply, I realize you were asking something different about the nature of kitsch, which I don't feel qualified to answer. But the wording of "someone" instead of "something" set off warning flags for me. You all realize this is not about trying to make the artist feel bad, right? That they equate their worth as a human being to everything they produce -- to the degree that they will be offended when someone doesn't like it -- is an unfortunate side-effect. One that, if I'm not mistaken, is responsible for the takedown of this blog. If the intent were to hurt their feelings, jacquilynne would likely have a prominently displayed Hate Mail section rather than nuking the whole thing from orbit. At least, that's my take on it, since they said as much. I think it's unfortunate, but I understand not feeling great about it.
posted by cj_ at 2:33 PM on August 17, 2009


The problem is when someone takes criticism of their art or craft as a personal attack, as people are wont to do.

That's part of the problem, but it's also a matter of economics, isn't it? Etsy is a sort of eBay for crafts people, so the makers of hilariously bad stuff put up for sale on Etsy presumably were angry that that the blog might somehow hurt sales.

I say "somehow" because I'm not sure how the average Etsy shopper would first see negative criticism on the blog and then decide not to my the crap Jacquilynne was calling crap. Were lots of people using the blog as a sort of pre-Etsy shopping filter? In any case, wouldn't the blog readers already have a certain aesthetic sensibility that precluded their buying the sort of crap mocked in the blog?
posted by pracowity at 2:50 PM on August 17, 2009


Too bad you dropped it, Jacquilynne. If you wanna dish the lulz, you've got to be ready to live with trolls.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 3:20 PM on August 17, 2009 [3 favorites]


The problem is when someone takes criticism of their art or craft as a personal attack, as people are wont to do. I don't know how to avoid this without putting everything above criticism, which is just not realistic or even desirable to me, hence "you don't have to look" and "grow a thicker skin" etc.

You can't avoid it, but you can mitigate it by ensuring the criticism is constructive, or at least has better motives behind it than "I can make people laugh at the expense of innocent victims". When the motives are bad, there's no reasonable ground to stand on from which to say "I am doing this and you must grow a thicker skin to tolerate it".

When the motive is good, you can say "I'm sorry if you were hurt, but I did this because x", and you get to have values of x greater than "I'm a mean person".
posted by fightorflight at 5:05 PM on August 17, 2009


Damn. I'm sorry to hear this - I really liked The Good, the Bad, and the Etsy, and I hate most blogs. I actually bought something on Etsy for the first time because Jacquilynne pointed it out (and it was every bit as hideous as I'd hoped).

Jacquilynne I really hope you decide to put the blog back up again sometime, it was a joy to read.
posted by Ryvar at 5:27 PM on August 17, 2009


Okay, I'm going to get slaughtered for this by people who misunderstand it, but I still think it's worth saying. And I'll say up front: I am not -- repeat, not -- calling the Etsy crafters in question terrorists. That would be incredibly stupid, and if that's what you think by the end of this comment, please consider going out for a nice coffee (or flag it and move on.)

However, I am saying this: consider what generally happens when a powerful police force or government attempts to conquer or oppress a relatively powerless population or government. As they have no capacity to respond directly in-kind (as an attacked powerful government might have), they have to either accept the attack or respond using the methods available to them (guerrilla warfare, terrorism.)

In an extremely small-scale way with (obviously, I hope) much smaller stakes, a similar thing is going on here: a person with an audience and pseudo-anonymity is making fun of some other people who have no means of reaching that same audience to defend themselves, and so they're responding in the only way they have: by harassing the person making fun of them until it's not worth it for that person to continue. Normally I should think this wouldn't be an effective ploy, but this time it appears to have worked.

This makes no value judgement on any of the parties involved; you can hope what you will about people's behavior ('oh, I think she's wrong for making fun of them', 'oh, I think they should learn to laugh at themselves instead of getting all hyped up') but in this case everyone seemed to behave economically rationally (though not socially rationally.)
posted by davejay at 6:14 PM on August 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you have a different impression of my audience than was true. After the day it was actually listed on the front page of Metafilter, my audience was about 120 people a day. It's not Go Fug Yourself by any stretch of the imagination. I'd guess a reasonably popular Etsy seller gets more hits than that in a day. Someone who had an item on the Etsy front page would likely get many times that many.

Also, I published every single comment my blog got, except 2 that were spam, including many that were highly critical of me. Reaching my audience certainly wasn't a problem for anyone who really wanted to.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:23 PM on August 17, 2009


It was mostly about the LULZ and I admit that.

And yet you realized you'd possibly crossed a line with that fairy tale dress and "felt sort of bad" about what you did. So maybe there's a middle ground you can find where you still get the thrill of the LULZ while being truer to *your own* feelings about what's fair.

Giving up before exploring that middle ground - and you've already said the death threats don't scare you, and bravo for that - seems like a mistake, if not something of a copout.

(fwiw, I get occasional death threats, including one just last Wednesday, from callers to my cable access show. The director handled it beautifully before she passed the news along to me, but still, I understand they're not fun).
posted by mediareport at 8:32 PM on August 17, 2009


I have received lots of lawsuit threats for a site I run which collects public information about collectibles, but have yet to be physically threatened, so I guess I'm ahead of the game.

readery had a very insightful comment, I thought, and it rang true: a lot of people who post their crafts (or, in many cases "crafts") on etsy have been told repeatedly over the years that "you should sell those" by folks too polite to say anything else. And now they have the chance to do so, and, sadly, the truth comes out. This is not something they're prepared for--and it does sting to have something you've created laughed at, especially if you know deep down that the people laughing are right.

Combine the sting with the implied (or overt) promise of easy money, the dreams easy money engenders, add the pseudo-anonymity and license to wish ill that being hundreds or thousands of miles from the person they threaten and it's not a surprise these people aren't all that sane.

I'm a designer and just like every other person in a "creative" profession I've discovered that pretty much everyone considers themselves to be a designer (or an artist, or whatever "arty farty" vocation strikes their fancy). If they can't take a good photo, build a nice table, or write a great story, it's not because they don't have the ability, it's because they "don't have time for that now" or "when I'm done with [fill in corporate job here] I'll probably do [fill in arty something here], I'm so creative!"

In the past, this would earth itself in a few gifts for family that mysteriously disappear, or perhaps a hot dusty day or two sitting at a local bazaar without a sale. A few too many carefully blank looks from friends when asked what they think. Time for a decision: the work wasn't fun because it was harder (usually much harder) than expected . The rejection of the "product" sucked. This isn't as much fun as it seemed like it was going to be.

Those who are in for the long haul recognize this is part of the process, and redouble their efforts, and take criticism in stride, and slowly get better. Those who thought they'd step right in and become a master of the craft but didn't want to work at it in will hang up their tools.

I suspect online markets like etsy short-circuit this process. Your crap appears to be just as legit as anyone's. The store design is nice and if you don't have any emotional distance, your goods probably looks as good as your competitor's. You have forums filled with folks who will offer you endless encouragement in hopes of receiving the same from you. You can set prices that make you feel like a pro ("if this wasn't any good, how could I ask $95 for it?"). etsy itself is no doubt encourages you by sending you friendly tips and "go get 'em" emails.

So when stuff doesn't sell, you have no way of figuring out why, as you're unlikely to use Occam's razor. "It's the search algorithm, or some magical missing keyword, or--holy shit--there's a blog which makes fun of my stuff! Christ, those fuckers are keeping my store from being a success! I only need to sell three of these this month to make the car payment--these shitters are costing me my car!"

Alas. I liked your blog, Jacquilynne. But I respect your decision. I've almost thrown in the towel a few times on the site which attracts the armchair lawyers, though it's otherwise admired in the circles where it's of interest. Regular doses of hate mail can really get one down if you don't thrive on that sort of stuff (I don't, doesn't sound like you do).
posted by maxwelton at 3:44 AM on August 18, 2009 [8 favorites]


I do disagree with those who feel that purveyors on Etsy or any other high-profile site selling original items should be somehow more exempt from criticism than other people marketing their goods or intellectual properties. Film, Food, Fashion, Literature, Music, Theatre... all have critics. People are actually educated at great expense in order to criticize/deconstruct these endeavours with greater insight, and pretty much every consumer or would-be consumer holds it as a sacred right to criticize these same efforts. Saying that original crafts offered for purchase at a popular web site shouldn't be treated harshly seems to me to be suggesting that it's in bad taste because this is just silly stuff that should be indulged as harmless as opposed to other works that deserve to be taken more seriously.

I disagree with this, because I see a lot of craft as true art, and I think that it should be taken more seriously and viewed more critically where appropriate. Can a gorgeous hand-woven shawl made from handspun yarn be as beautiful as an achingly poignant poem, or painting, or film? To me, yes. And bad work is as bad as other bad work... and equally snark-worthy. One isn't necessarily expected to provide constructive criticism to the author of a zombie-vampire erotic thriller, for example. We feel free to express whatever depths of disdain we might feel about such a novel, and nobody would ever be upbraided for being mean-spirited if they blogged about The Good, The Bad, and The Zombies in film or novels.

So, to me, it's not an issue. Personally, I would think: publicly making fun of an item on someone's personal web site where they are displaying their progress at learning knitting, for example? Mean spirited. Scathing remarks about the quality of writing from someone's personal site where they feature "a story about our dog BooBoo that I wrote for our kids"? Mean spirited. Snarking about a photo of a fairy tale/nursery rhyme dress someone made for their own little girl and posted on their flickr stream? Mean spirited.

Criticism, sarcastic or otherwise, of items offered for sale at a hugely popular commercial web site? Nah... I really don't see it. Does this mean that I think it's okay that somebody's grandma's painstakingly stitched but excruciatingly lurid rainbow quilt might be a victim of unkind comments? Yes, because it's being offered as a serious item for sale, and because I'm old enough to be somebody's grandma. Does this mean that nothing I do should ever be taken seriously enough to garner criticism? By being as willing to snark about craftwork as anyone else is about other commercial artistic pursuits, I think that Jacquilynne was actually honoring this particular field of creativity more than those who feel that they are above affording it any serious attention at all.
posted by taz at 4:19 AM on August 18, 2009 [4 favorites]


One aspect of this situation that I haven't seen mentioned is that by linking to the items she critiqued, reviewed, or whatever, she was sending traffic to those sites. And like the saying goes, there is no such thing as bad publicity. For example, that fairy tale dress; I thought it was a little gaudy but also know that little kids tend to like bright, colorful things and considered looking around at the sellers other offerings. Then I saw the price and changed my mind. But thanks to jacquilynne I at least visited the seller's site. And just because she thought something was worth poking fun at doesn't mean all of her readers would agree; a few might like the item in question enough to buy one. That's the thing about opinions: we can all have different ones. So in some small way, those who convinced jacquilynne to take down her blog might have been hurting themselves.
posted by TedW at 5:20 AM on August 18, 2009


I think that Jacquilynne was actually honoring this particular field of creativity more than those who feel that they are above affording it any serious attention at all.

So really they should be thanking her for calling their work awful.
posted by smackfu at 5:41 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


smackfu, I wasn't arguing that crafters who were dissed in Jacquilynne's blog should shut up and be grateful, I was responding to suggestions by people here that she shouldn't have been talking mean about the crafts because it wasn't productive. Why doesn't the same criterion apply to criticism of other works?

Here's one:

Writer sued for a negative review in a blog post

Does anyone think that maybe the blogger just shouldn't have been so mean, and should have tried to concentrate on the positive, or offered constructive criticism instead of being snarky and saying that the author's drawings of embryos were "more about the evolution of balloon animals than biology"?
posted by taz at 6:29 AM on August 18, 2009


So really they should be thanking her for calling their work awful.

No more or less so than A. A. Milne should have thanked Dorothy Parker for saying that his book House At Pooh Corner made her "fwow up". Or Alan Rickman should thank Elvis Mitchell of the NEW YORK TIMES for saying "he flares his nostrils so much it looks like he's doing tantric yoga with his sinuses."

The idea is that if you want to be taken seriously as a vendor/artist/creator/etc., part of that means you have to deal with critics who will not pull punches. If everyone's playing nice, then....they're not taking you seriously.

Conversely, that also means that if even the mean people say nice things, then...you're on to something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:04 AM on August 18, 2009


The only people I've ever known who got very upset over criticisms of their work had serious pre-existing emotional problems and poor interpersonal skills. I spent one year in college suffering at the hands of a roommate who expected me to bend over backwards to validate her sense of self-worth. One morning she demanded my opinion on her new pink and purple cat sweater ("Didn't you notice my new sweater? Aren't you going to say anything about it?"), and refused to be put off with a "Oh, that looks warm!" When, after insistent and increasingly shrill questioning, I finally and angrily snapped that I didn't like the pink and purple cat sweater at all and could we just move on, she freaked. I was a bad person and a bad friend, as well as wrong, for not liking the beautiful pink and purple cat sweater. And she told several of our mutual classmates/friends that I said I didn't like her sweater (without, of course, explaining that she had insisted that I give my opinion on it), and told me that they said I was really rude for doing so. She would also demand I compliment her on her hair ten times a day. What did I think of it? It just looked "fine"? No, what did I really think of it? This is an extreme example, of course, but such experiences have left me very unwilling to accommodate this kind of neurosis.

My standpoint is that I just don't think it's at all unreasonable or out of line to review and critique items that are offered for public consumption, and if people can't handle criticism of their work it is literally their problem and they should probably refrain from going public with their work until they've addressed that issue within themselves.

Such people are the exceptions, fortunately, since most people can handle being disagreed with and critiqued. They don't enjoy it, but they can keep a healthy perspective about it and shrug it off, and maybe even preserve their sense of humour. When a friend of mine published a book of poetry he got negative reviews in The Globe and Mail and The Quill & Quire. He was stung but rueful, and on his own website he wrote a little piece about how one should never respond to one's critics, so instead he jokingly posted doctored quotes from the reviews by omitting certain words and adding ellipses to make them sound positive. It was hilarious. Then he wrote and published another book of poems.

That's how to handle criticism — not with death threats, not by trying to shut it down, but by considering it, and then staying the course as dictated by one's own best judgment.
posted by orange swan at 7:37 AM on August 18, 2009


(...) such experiences have left me very unwilling to accommodate this kind of neurosis.

The neurosis you are describing is not that she simply couldn't handle criticism - it is that she DEMANDED criticism that you were reluctant to give her, and then once she got it she couldn't handle it. That's different than finding someone, more or less at random, and picking their work apart. Not even picking it apart - making jokes about it.

I'm not saying for a minute that responding to that sort of thing with death threats is sensible. I'm just pointing out that some of the people in question are probably not versed in the whole criticism thing, and are going to take even constructive criticism hard - let alone when they find themselves singled out on a blog that "was mostly about the LULZ".
posted by dirtdirt at 8:17 AM on August 18, 2009


Yes, I know that the situations are not paralell. My roommate demanded that I compliment her sweater; we're talking about unsolicited criticism and mocking. The point of my illustration was more that a) some people are completely unable to handle any criticism or disagreement, and that it's not indicative of a healthy or normal psyche and b) such people will go to considerable lengths to try to shut down the critic, and that they are out of line in doing so, since everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

And Jacquilynne hardly found those items "at random". They were items offered in a public marketplace for public consumption, and it's reasonable to critique them.
posted by orange swan at 8:35 AM on August 18, 2009


"parallel" Sigh.
posted by orange swan at 8:38 AM on August 18, 2009


EmpressCallipygos: I run a playwriting contest every year, and every year I make myself available to the volunteers who read for us to let them trash-talk some of the stuff they've read. Because boy howdy, there is a lot of really, really terrible stuff out there. It's not the kindest or most charitable thing I do, but I think it's just human nature, and so long as you make a reasonable effort to not bring it directly to the feet of the person, it's...forgiveable.

I disagree.

I'm definitely on Astro Zombie's team on this one. There's obviously a spectrum; there's a huge difference between publicly eviscerating Transformers 2, which made billions and was by millionaires none of whom cared that it was pap, and, say, snarking on your blog at poems written in therapy by people with learning disabilities. Those are examples from the extreme ends of the spectrum, obviously, but you should be aware that the power relations of anything you write. 'Is it me + the audience vs someone guilty of nothing more than incompetence who never asked for my opinion? Yes? Then I should refrain.'
posted by Cantdosleepy at 8:52 AM on August 18, 2009


They were items offered in a public marketplace for public consumption, and it's reasonable to critique them.

Does doing stuff in public make it fair game? How would you feel about a negative version of the Sartorialist?
posted by smackfu at 9:17 AM on August 18, 2009


TedW: "One aspect of this situation that I haven't seen mentioned is that by linking to the items she critiqued, reviewed, or whatever, she was sending traffic to those sites."

Yup. I do a blog that has a similar "I can't believe you thought that was a good idea" theme. So far I haven't had any complaints from the people whose judgment I've commented on -- I've even received thanks from them, because of the traffic I send their way.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:21 AM on August 18, 2009


I'm not saying for a minute that responding to that sort of thing with death threats is sensible. I'm just pointing out that some of the people in question are probably not versed in the whole criticism thing, and are going to take even constructive criticism hard - let alone when they find themselves singled out on a blog that "was mostly about the LULZ".

So what are you saying -- that critics should abstain from critique on the off chance that "oh, maybe they're new at this and don't get how criticism works"?

Because frankly, I think that's unfair to the majority of professionals who do get how criticism works, and do want to hear the harsh stuff because that's how we learn and that's how we know we're taken seriously.

When I was a senior in high school, a friend and I made a full-length anti-nuke film in her TV production class; we both collaborated on the story, I wrote the script, she produced and directed. Somehow the entertainment editor of our local paper caught wind of this (I'm from a really small town, with a really small high school, and this was an especially ambitious undertaking for a student), and actually requested a private screening so he could review it.

Up until that point the comments I had been received had been gushing, "oh, you did this big project all by yourself, isn't that impressive!" statements, of the sort that you'd give a child. And it pissed me off -- because that kind of praise for nothing more than actually making an attempt is condescending, and really is no different from telling a two year old that wow, they made a big poopie in the potty all by themselves! And I also believed that the only reason they were saying this was because I was "just a kid" and therefore they felt they had to be nice, because they felt that because I was a kid I couldn't take anything harsher. So when that editor actually gave me a full-on review, which included a discussion of the flaws of what I'd written, I was ecstatic, because I knew he didn't see me as a kid who'd made a poopie -- he saw me as an artist whose work deserved to stand or fall on its own merits.

To be fair, his critiques were constructive as opposed to being mean-spirited. But we were indeed just talking about people who would even see constructive criticism as mean-spirited. We are also in an era when online blogging does blur the line somewhat between what is official critique and what is unofficial gossiping -- but if you think about it, online blogging today is simply the word-of-mouth of yesterday, and that has also always been a factor. There have always been a minority of people who can't handle negative feedback -- either from formal critics or from word-of-mouth -- but most people know how to evaluate and process it, and actually look forward to hearing it so they can consider it accordingly. And pulling your punches on the many just to spare the few is unfair to those many. and may piss them off.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:25 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


So what are you saying -- that critics should abstain from critique on the off chance that "oh, maybe they're new at this and don't get how criticism works"?

1) We are not talking about good-faith criticism. How would you have felt if the newspaper editor, without talking to you, put up an article about how funny it was that you made a shitty video, and all the obvious pitfalls that you stepped in?

2) I'm not saying that critics should pull punches to avoid upsetting people - I'm saying that if you swing wildly at someone who probably don't know a punch is even coming you can't be shocked when they get upset.

3) We can play lawyerball about it all day long, and I can only ever admit that yes, if you put an artwork out there, anywhere, it is open season on it. Sure. But even if it is fair game, is it kind? By aiming at that particular target, in that way, is one contributing anything positive, other than the lulz? I guess that's MY criticism of this sort of artwork, the blog I mean, and I am entitled to it.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:45 AM on August 18, 2009 [2 favorites]


Uh, that reads more heatedly than is my intent or my feelings. Forgot to include the laissez-faire tag.
posted by dirtdirt at 9:51 AM on August 18, 2009


We are not talking about good-faith criticism. How would you have felt if the newspaper editor, without talking to you, put up an article about how funny it was that you made a shitty video, and all the obvious pitfalls that you stepped in?

Apples and oranges, though. He wouldn't have put up an article about it in the paper -- but it's possible that he talked about it at the bar with the other reporters. And if he did that, it's possible that if he did that, and my dad's friend was also at that bar, that I may have heard about it.

But anyone could have engaged in that kind of informal, word-of-mouth kind of thing. And it would have stung, sure - but it's word-of-mouth nonsense, and I've never had any kind of control over that anyway and people are going to do it anyway. What are you going to do, track down all the people that give you bad word-of-mouth and tell them that they shouldn't say anything if they can't be nice? It's just not possible.

The "blogs for the lulz" are like the silly word-of-mouth commentary. People have been gossiping behind the scenes about each other since the beginning of time, and I don't see how you can stop it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:51 AM on August 18, 2009


The "blogs for the lulz" are like those vapid people who sit around public places are criticize people as they walk past. You know, those people that fleetingly make you want to smack them in the face.

Just cause you have the power to say means things that may also be true, doesn't give you the obligation to do so... even if it is funny.
posted by edgeways at 10:05 AM on August 18, 2009


Snarky review blogs infrequently contribute to any sort of discussion or improvement; most of them are glorified pointing and snickering at the weird kid. This can be entertaining, it appeals to the part of me that enjoys being part of an in-crowd. Hey, I wear ugly jeans but at least I don't sew ugly clothes. Ha, ha.

Snarkiness is not criticism. It's circle jerking. If you like it, fine, whatever gets you off, but it's not all that valuable in the end.

By criticizing the snarky review blogs, I am acknowledging them as valuable works in their own right. You're welcome!
posted by kathrineg at 10:16 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


The "blogs for the lulz" are like the silly word-of-mouth commentary. People have been gossiping behind the scenes about each other since the beginning of time

I disagree. If by simply putting artwork out there you are opening yourself to the same criticisms that are pointed at, say, the Venice Biennial, then by posting a blog of criticisms you are just as legitimate as, say, the New York Times, and have to own your behavior. That validity goes both ways or neither.

(...) and I don't see how you can stop it

By not participating in it.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:24 AM on August 18, 2009


Does doing stuff in public make it fair game? How would you feel about a negative version of the Sartorialist?

Glamour magazine has, for many, many years, run a feature called "do's and don'ts", always found in their back few pages. It features pictures of random women photographed on the street, and usually there's a theme, such as the do's and don'ts of denim or purses. Some women look fab, and the ones who don't have black bars photoshopped in over their eyes. Even though I never read Glamour anymore I still do pick it up in drugstores to look at the feature. It's hilarious. So.. speaking for myself, I guess I'd enjoy a negative version of The Sartorialist, though I would want them to use the black bars or some kind of photo altering trick to preserve the anonymity of their victims, and I don't think I'd care to run a web site like that myself.

Everyone has a different comfort level on this issue, and a different place to draw the line. I would find a website that made fun of stuff on personal blogs over the line of what I considered appropriate. I not only wouldn't create such a website, I wouldn't visit it. If someone just posted pictures of the first thing she ever knitted on her personal blog, I'd feel like a jerk for making fun of it, because the person probably knows full well it's nothing special at best, is pleased with having made a beginning in a medium she's always wanted to learn, and just wanted to show it off to family and friends. And she's just a beginner — it's not fair to hold her to high standards.

I'd also draw the line at making a blog about the worst stuff on Craftster.org. Craftster is a community based on sharing information and its members are expected to be kind and tactful in commenting on other's work. Even if I didn't agree with those expectations, I would feel obligated to respect them, both on and off the site.

But making fun of Etsy crafts falls well within my comfort zone.
posted by orange swan at 10:27 AM on August 18, 2009


I disagree. If by simply putting artwork out there you are opening yourself to the same criticisms that are pointed at, say, the Venice Biennial, then by posting a blog of criticisms you are just as legitimate as, say, the New York Times, and have to own your behavior. That validity goes both ways or neither.

I'm a bit lost -- are you suggesting that the people who post things on Etsy should not consider themselves to be on a scale with the Venice Biennial?

Because you're right that they're not quite like that. But they do consider themselves on a par with a local gift shop, in the sense that they expect people to pay them for their work. If you're just making something and holding it up to people and saying "look at what I did!" then no, that'd be one thing. But the people on Etsy are not expecting us to just look at it. They're expecting us to buy what they have made, and that carries with it a degree of seriousness.

Same too with the critique blogs. If a blog is actually pitching itself as a source of critique, then yes, it is accountable to the same standards as the New York Times. If it's just a yutz mouthing off, then it's just a yutz mouthing off, just like someone posting a picture of a sweater they made on their blog is just saying "look what I did!"

The people with the lulz blogs aren't pitching themselves as sources of serious critique; they're just yutzes mouthing off. But the people on Etsy are also not pitching themselves as a "Look what I made!" blog -- they are expecting us to take them seriously as vendors because they are charging prices for what they have made.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:37 AM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm saying that both of those (Etsy v Venice, LULZ v New York Times) are situations where the answer is not clear, and in my mind if I accept one as effectively equivalent than I must accept the other as equivalent too. It's OK if you do not.
posted by dirtdirt at 10:46 AM on August 18, 2009


I'm saying that both of those (Etsy v Venice, LULZ v New York Times) are situations where the answer is not clear, and in my mind if I accept one as effectively equivalent than I must accept the other as equivalent too. It's OK if you do not.

I'd be curious to hear your criteria for that, then. For the record, the distinguishing factor for me is a) if they are presenting themselves as "I am a source for reasoned critique" vs. "I'm just a guy mouthing off", and "I am presenting my work to the view of the public in the hopes that someone will purchase it for a sum of money" vs. "I'm just showing off what I made".

In the case of the Etsy-ites AND the Venice Biennial, they're both looking to get purchased. Maybe not by the same market, but they are still both looking for someone to pay them a sum of money in exchange for the goods that they produce. Whereas "Alice's Crafty Corner" where she shows off "ooh, look at how the sweater I made for my niece LuluBelle came out!" is not looking to sell you anything. She just wants to show off the sweater she made for LuluBelle.

By contrast, the New York Times -- and other smaller online-only critique sites, like one I write for -- are presenting themselves as "we are a source for informed theater/art/movie/consumable items reviews". "Sid's Blog O'Ugly" is not, however.

Again, that's just where I draw the line and why. I'm just curious about your line and where and why it's drawn.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:09 AM on August 18, 2009


I would want them to use the black bars or some kind of photo altering trick to preserve the anonymity of their victims

That's kind of my point. Anonymity turns it from cruel to fun.
posted by smackfu at 11:11 AM on August 18, 2009


I think money confuses the issue. Sure, the Venice Biennial people are probably involved in Art as a commercial endeavor, but I would argue that there are fewer people making money off of High Art than there are making money off of Etsy. The High Art people, I think, are in it for the Art, and Art is so commingled with criticism at this point that you couldn't really produce Art, as such, without being aware that it will be criticized. The Etsy stuff, not so much.

And I am not making any sort of judgement call on Etsy, or 'craft' - I just think that generally it is less about a philosophical intent, a larger conversation. In fact, maybe that is even a workable definition of craft - artful things that are divorced from the artifice of a calculated critique. I acknowledge that there are a million ways that might not be true.

The difference between you and Sid, I guess, is that Sid is only reviewing things that he knows will suck, by his criteria. He isn't interested in a conversation, but it's still criticism, and there still can be accurate ideas presented.
posted by dirtdirt at 11:25 AM on August 18, 2009


I think what may also be confusing things is that you are concentrating on the distinction between the Venice Biennial and Etsy, whereas I am concentrating on the distinction between Etsy and Alice's Crafty Corner.

For Sid to pick on Alice would be mean, I agree, because Alice is just showing off the pretty things she made for her niece on her blog for fun. But Etsy people are asking people to pay them for their work, and I think that with that expectation comes the tradeoff that you may have people like Sid weighing in about you.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:46 AM on August 18, 2009


I wonder if matt has had any death threats ?

he's probably had rocket propelled grenades fired through his windows but is too laid back to notice them.

Matt, have you had any death threats ?
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:30 PM on August 18, 2009


Hi, sarge!
posted by languagehat at 4:35 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


There are rules about humor. Humor is hierarchical. Making fun of people with more power (money, status, etc.) than you is acceptable. To continue the art and design theme, you can make fun of Marc Jacobs, Damien Hirst, or whoever is the overblown designer or artist of the day. Making fun of people with less power (money, status, etc.) than you is not cool.

The blog Go Fug Yourself makes fun of misdressed celebs because they are very good-looking and presumably have the money to buy flattering items and the handlers who could tell them how to dress in a way that won't earn ridicule. To have a blog that makes fun of misdressed average lower-income people ("a negative version of The Sartorialist," from upthread) would be cruel. I'm not sure how Glamous gets away with it, but the captions to these pictures are sparse. They don't rub it in.

Similarly, caricature artists and political cartoonists make caricatures of the wealthy, famous, and powerful. They don't go around making caricatures of downtrodden people.

It's OK to make fun of Dave Eggers or Augusten Burroughs. Making fun of people who self-published their own books is not cool. I have been tempted to do it, and I have torn these books to shreds in the privacy of my own journal, but I wouldn't put them on the Internet.

One SPB (I am deliberately not giving the title) was a chapbook of poems in memory of a seventeen-year-old girl who had died in a fire. The book was created by the gir's parents. The cover art and the poems were terrible kitsch (think Emmeline Grangerford's efforts updated for the late 20th century). I thought, "Tragedy is not just tragedy, it creates tragically bad art."
posted by bad grammar at 5:28 PM on August 18, 2009 [1 favorite]


Glamour, sorry (interference with "famous")
posted by bad grammar at 5:29 PM on August 18, 2009


Honestly there are many items on Etsy that I think should be laughed at, especially after I've seen the price tags. And it all depends on the spirit of the snark. But I think it's perfectly ok to laugh at someone who, for instance, might feel that a hand knitted washcloth was worth $300. (There are some things that I've seen on Etsy that are that ridiculous, but I won't go hunt one up! Note: I have changed the type of craft that I'm actually thinking of, to protect myself. Please don't hurt me, you who are knitters!)

It does make me scratch my head and wonder at those who would be offended by criticism of their Etsy work - because all art/craft is going to be subjective, so there's always going to be someone that'll dislike what you make. Just as there will usually be someone who'll like it as well. The death threats thing is way too extreme though - that's a crafter that's gotten way too into hypersensitive mode. I can understand how the blog became a lot less fun for the author after that happened. But I'm sad that it's gone.

Meanwhile I think that the laughter at Cakewrecks is always justified.
Also I wonder if Craftastrophe has had similar issues. (Note their about page, they're clear on their goal in the blog.)

Also if you have never seen the horror that can be the Handmade Christmas Sweater (With Sequins, Bells and Working Lights) - well, it's a trend that I think everyone at least HAS to smile at, if not roll their eyes. And honestly deserves to be poked fun at.
posted by batgrlHG at 2:23 AM on August 19, 2009


I'm also wondering if the Museum of Bad Art ever receives complaints from the artists, if they ever find out that their work is exhibited there.
posted by batgrlHG at 2:34 AM on August 19, 2009


"Etsy people are asking people to pay them for their work, and I think that with that expectation comes the tradeoff that you may have people like Sid weighing in about you."

That may be so. I suppose if you put anything of any sort 'out there' then you do have to expect people to be mean about you. This doesn't make it okay to be the person being mean.

If someone's flaunting an iPhone in a dark alley they could perhaps expect to be mugged. They're behaving foolishly. This doesn't in any way mitigate the actions of the mugger.

Yes, some items on Etsy are badly made and overpriced. Perhaps a private mail to the person showing similar items that are nicer and cheaper might convince them to lower the prices or increase the quality. That might be okay, if a bit weird. Writing a blog post mocking the thing is a different world. Do you not think there's a spectrum? Are any of these actions better than any others?

a) Providing trader solicited advice
b) Providing trader unsolicited advice
c) Providing web populace lulz at the expense of the trader
posted by Cantdosleepy at 7:00 AM on August 19, 2009


So you're comparing writing satirical reviews with mugging now? Seriously?
posted by orange swan at 7:48 AM on August 19, 2009


So you're comparing writing satirical reviews with mugging now? Seriously?

A poor example, I admit. I was in no way equating their severity; the analogous aspects of both cases are 'display of something', ' reasonable expectation of negative reaction to display' 'culpability of negatively reacting party'. In that way the two things have enough similarities that I thought the analogy would give my point some clarity. I should have remembered that using analogies and examples in discussion are almost always a poor idea, on Metafilter particularly.

Rita: Well any analogy will break down eventually.
Frank: Yes. And some will break down sooner than others.

Aside from that, though, what do you think about the point I was *trying* to make? I'm finding this thread very interesting - some people here are sharing perspectives that I really didn't think existed.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 8:16 AM on August 19, 2009


...there should be an 'and' in the second paragraph, as well.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 8:16 AM on August 19, 2009


Review and criticism don't fall into the category of "advice". They aren't primarily for the benefit of the person who created the work under discussion, but rather for the benefit of the audience. So they can't really be cast as "wrong" in the same way as "unsolicited advice" can.

For example, I can only watch so many movies, but I read a lot of movie reviews. The reviews are of use to me: they help me decide what movies are worth seeing; they bring movies I might never have known about to my attention; they inform me about movies I don't want to see but that people I know are discussing and referring to; they often provide educational data about movie making and movie history and factual background relevant to the movie, and, if the reviewers are any good, the reviews are thought-provoking and entertaining and worthwhile reading in themselves.

An Etsy critique blog serves much the same purpose. I will never get around to browsing Etsy regularly in any depth, and so I appreciated that someone else had done so and was serving up the best and worst crafts from it. Hell, for that matter Metafilter does the same thing. We mock stuff here all the time. And yeah, the people whose work we ridicule sometimes show up here in high dudgeon to tell us off. Should we shut down Metafilter entirely because sometimes we're mean and people get hurt?

I do get really impatient with the "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" Pollyanna-style school of thought. Not saying anyone here is calling for that or to simplify anyone's point of view, but that's as repressive and creativity-killing an attitude as any other you're likely to hear. Criticism and satire and negativity are not only valid but necessary to human endeavour. At their best they qualify as achievement in their own right (i.e., Jonathan Swfit's work, Saturday Night Live on its better days). And especially for me personally... well, I'm no Pollyanna. I find it pretty bloody boring to be sweetness and light all the time. I'm sardonic. I'm malicious. I'm a nitpicker. I'm irritable. I do try to keep it in check because no one wants to hear anyone being a negative, critical, ranting asshole all the time, including me, and because I do want to avoid hurting people or being mean as an end in itself. And sometimes when I'm tired or angry or uninformed about something I go over the line of what's appropriate. But I'm not going to try to eliminate something that is a fundamental part of who I am, especially when I'm an editor and I earn my living by spotting mistakes in other people's work.

So yeah, I just don't agree that those who write satirical reviews on the "smaller potatoes" examples of creative work are mean or out of line. Sometimes the feelings of the creator just can't be and shouldn't be the main or only consideration.
posted by orange swan at 9:04 AM on August 19, 2009


Review and criticism don't fall into the category of "advice". They aren't primarily for the benefit of the person who created the work under discussion, but rather for the benefit of the audience. So they can't really be cast as "wrong" in the same way as "unsolicited advice" can.

This. Thank you. The point of a review is not to offer constructive criticism to the creator -- the point is to tell other people whether they should be an audience.

This does, however, draw a distinction between the serious review blogs and "Sid's Page O'Ugly" type of snark sites; reviews and critique are one thing, and Sid's page is more like the catty people who gossip about stuff.

Is Sid a little mean? Yeah, without question. But should Etsy crafters feel that they should be somehow protected from Sid simply by dint of them posting somewhere? No. No more so than they should feel exempted from real-world gossip.

To return to Sid: is he being mean? Yeah, kinda. But in the grand scheme of things, is what he's doing forgiveable? It depends: does Sid make a reasonable enough effort to keep an Etsy vendor from accidentally stumbling over what he's written? Does he keep his blog to a small audience, or make it "friends-only", or something of that nature? Does he deal sharply with commenters on his blog who go and tease the Etsy vendors on THEIR sites? If so, I think that Sid is...naughty, but forgiveable. It's mean, yeah, but at least he's making an effort to contain his meanness so it's more like a family in-joke. Still a little mean, but those of you who haven't had a laugh with your friends over someone else's ridiculousness you all saw once, raise your hand.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:14 AM on August 19, 2009


The problem is when someone takes criticism of their art or craft as a personal attack, as people are wont to do. I don't know how to avoid this without putting everything above criticism, which is just not realistic or even desirable to me, hence "you don't have to look" and "grow a thicker skin" etc.

THIS. Very timely. I made the mistake of posting an "Anti Knit Graffiti Manifesto" on my blog a few weeks ago and royally copped it from some highly defensive "guerilla knitters." You'd think people who are so COOL and SUBVERSIVE and STICKIN' IT TO THE MAN would be willing to defend their half-finished scarves tied to trees. But no, most of them got really huffy and started saying nasty stuff about me on Twitter and Ravelry, and I gave up trying to defend my position. Some people identify really, really strongly with their chosen craft, and they simply can't separate their own sense of self-worth from criticism of their output.
posted by web-goddess at 9:32 PM on August 19, 2009


I have no problem laughing at some items for sale on Etsy. Same as I laugh at some of the items for sale at the dollar store - I'm not going to apologize for laughing at sad clowns. Or at items in garage sales. Or thrift stores.

Next thing someone will be telling me that I really shouldn't be laughing at the bakers behind the Cakewrecks.

I think maybe some of you have spent a little too much time on snarky websites and don't realize that it's perfectly ok to smile or laugh at something - without being mean. Finding humor in something needn't be painful to someone else, if they have a good sense of humor themselves. I myself own a velvet Elvis - and I'd be shocked if people didn't laugh at my taste when they see it. And I don't spend any sleepless nights worrying about the poor artist who created it and whether they mind that I laugh at their art.
posted by batgrlHG at 11:48 PM on August 19, 2009


And because I can't resist a quote out of the blue...

"Mr. Darcy is not to be laughed at!" cried Elizabeth. "That is an uncommon advantage, and uncommon I hope it will continue, for it would be a great loss to me to have many such acquaintance. I dearly love a laugh."

"Miss Bingley," said he, "has given me credit for more than can be. The wisest and the best of men, nay, the wisest and best of their actions, may be rendered ridiculous by a person whose first object in life is a joke."

"Certainly," replied Elizabeth "there are such people, but I hope I am not one of them. I hope I never ridicule what is wise or good. Follies and nonsense, whims and inconsistencies do divert me, I own, and I laugh at them whenever I can."

posted by batgrlHG at 11:53 PM on August 19, 2009


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