Feedback vs. Commentary

As The Meteor Chef continues to progress and grow, criticism of the the work has grown as well. I’ve found my decisions coming under more and more scrutiny while also finding that how that criticism is delivered to be a bit more biting. At first I was deeply bothered by this. What I’m producing is by no means perfect, but I had to ask “is this deserved?”

The answer ultimately ended up being “it depends.” After thinking about it for awhile, I realized that the increase in criticism wasn’t necessarily because the work being produced was worse. Instead, it was because the audience was growing. What used to be the occasional dismissal has multiplied commensurate to the size of the audience. For every ten happy people, there will inevitably be one unhappy person. Once I accepted that reality, I started to take a breather.

The tricky part with all of this is that I didn’t (and don’t) want to ignore the negative feedback. Not because I was interested in self-loathing, but because in most criticism useful feedback actually exists. You have to learn to separate the real feedback from the commentary. For reasons I don’t fully understand, a lot of criticism is steeped in dismissive language.

For example, a comment I received awhile back on a post:

The demo doesn’t send the invitation emails. Also I think it’s pointless to have admins send the invitations manually, instead of automatically…

There are two parts to this. The actual problem “the demo doesn’t send the invitation emails” is something I can respond to. The commentary, however, “Also I think it’s pointless to have admins send the invitations manually, instead of automatically…” I can’t do much with aside from acknowledge. This is where having a thick skin comes in handy. While the first part of this comment is useful, the latter part is just an opinion wrapped in misdirected aggression.

What I’ve learned over time is that this is par for the course. When you do anything, someone will hate it. It might as well be law. Accepting this early on means you can start to improve your work by identifying the useful parts of criticism and discarding the rest. Of course, this won’t apply to everything. Some criticism will be nothing more than an attack on your work and possibly, you.

The number one thing to remember in this situation is that you are not your work. If you get feedback that isn’t particularly rosy or helpful, let it go. Wasting energy on the negativity will just distract you from doing what matters: getting better. Keep doing the work, take the punches. Every swing at your work is just a chance to improve. Embrace it and laugh the rest off.