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On Reviewing in Fandom

So, I'm probably throwing my two cents in at the end of this debate but whatever. I've been reading the meta (slowly) about whether it's ok to say negative things about fanworks (if people have missed this and would like links, just ask, there are a ton floating around). Normally I'm one of those people standing firmly on the side of the cult of nice but this time, I just can't do it.

I think we all come into fandom, not only with different life experiences (mine tend to put me in the cult of nice) but into different environments of fandom. The point where I got into actively participating in fandom (and producing fanworks myself) there was a bit more room for reviews than my current place in fandom has. When I started vidding poison_pagan was posting her reviews to vidding and even though she would often say negative things, I was eagerly looking forward to her reviewing one of my vids (she announced she wasn't going to watch any more QaF vids before she reviewed any of mine). In fact, she inspired me to start my own vidding critique journal, I never shared it with anyone and now I'm really glad I didn't because, quite frankly, I didn't know what I was talking about. I just knew what I liked and what I didn't, I couldn't articulate why. I feel I've gotten better now (although, I'm by no means a vidding expert) so I also occasionally volunteer for the_reel and am a member of vid_critics (although I haven't participated there yet). (Random question, are there such comms for fics? Since I'm not a fic writer, I've never seen or looked for them, but I'm wondering if vidders are just different).

The thing is, I can remember my very first "in depth" review I ever received. There was a feedback exchange on vidding and exsequar got my vid The Otherman. I can honestly say, that review (which is here if anyone is interested) changed the way I vidded. Even though I had done mostly POV vids up until that point, I had never *realized* that I was doing POV vids! exsequar brought that up, she kept mentioning POVs and how I would randomly change the POV and I realized she was right! I did that all the time, because I wasn't thinking of POVs when I was vidding! It was such a basic thing that I could have picked up had I read any meta on vidding, but it had never occurred to me. All my vidding knowledge at the beginning of my vidding career came from watching other people's vids. I knew what I like and what I didn't and I stupidly thought that would be enough.

I think it can probably be worse with writing because we all write every day. We all had to take it in school, we don't think we have to go and research how to do it. Which is why I think critical feedback and reviews are great. They give creators a chance to experiment and have the information come to them. Have the information personalized to their styles and delivered right to them. They give the creator a chance to see other people's reactions. And, they give the reviews a chance to articulate things to better understand them too.

Most of us have betas but sometimes it's a matter of having a *good* beta. Sometimes we choose our friends to be betas, friends who can't tell you when things aren't great. Or don't recognize when things aren't working. I know that when I first started vidding, I'd show my vids to carr0ts1979 but she was more of a cheerleader than a beta. Once I started seeing more critical reviews, especially of my vids, it made me go looking for vididng meta, it made me want to become a better beta myself. Had I not been involved in such an environment, I'm sure my vids would never have improved (well, I *hope* they've improved!).

Comments

( 14 comments — Leave a comment )
edgyauthor
Aug. 1st, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC)
I fully agree with you. Constructive criticism is needed if people ever hope to improve, with fandom projects or otherwise, because it's not possible to spot all errors on your own. No matter how much I study writing, it's the feedback I get from others that really makes me want to take it a step further. Too bad not everyone is open to critical feedback and will lash out at you at the slightest thing negative in a comment, even if it is just to be helpful.
paraka
Aug. 2nd, 2008 12:30 am (UTC)
And it's not just for errors. Sometimes people point out things that aren't wrong but are being taken in directions you didn't mean. I know that with my last vid, which was for SGA, one of my betas came back saying "I don't know why you made this section about sex" and I was all o_O because sex? Wha? But I saw what she meant when she explained. I hadn't had any intention of putting that in there, so changed things around so that others wouldn't think that.

I can understand being off put by constructive feedback. I know a couple of times I've read it, and then had to step back before saying anything else. I went back to that first review I posted above and kept wincing at how defensive I was sounding :S

It can be hard to take critical feedback, but I can't help but think that if it were more common, people would be more used to it. I think now, since it's rarer people are thrown and get defensive more quickly because in it's unexpectedness it feels like an attack. *shrugs*
rae1013
Aug. 1st, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)
I agree that critical evaluations are essential for creative works. Obviously. That's why I started vid_critics. When I started vidding, way back in 2004, I thought I knew enough about style and technique from fangirling other vidders. I was wrong. My first vidding attempts contained every mistake I could have made. Talking heads, stray clips, random scenes, lack of story, excessive effect use (including that damn speed option). Oy! I need dramamine to watch my very first vid it's so damn fast.

However, I recieved really *nice* feedback in the beginning that never pointed any of this stuff out. It wasn't really until I started to get better on my own that I recieved more critical reviews. Which is just ass backwards if you ask me. The only really helpful feedback I recieved came from _gater_ and the_muppet over on the <href="http://kawoosh.co.uk/forum/index.php">
Kawoosh! forum</a>. I remember squeeing like a fangirl whenever either of them left reviews on my vids. They were always honest, respectful and pointed out things I would have never noticed on my own.

The simple fact is, I think, that if a vidder wants to evolve and grow then critical feedback is essential. If a *vidder* (I use the term loosely here) only wants praise and fame within a contained field of other *vidders* then they usually bitch, moan and lodge attacks against any negative comment that may have helped them get better.

*Sigh*

I may have just rephrased what you said. I just wanted to throw my two cents into the pot. And there you go. Two cents doesn't get you a lot these days. =)
paraka
Aug. 2nd, 2008 01:54 am (UTC)
When I started vidding, way back in 2004, I thought I knew enough about style and technique from fangirling other vidders. I was wrong.
Ha, that was me too. It sounds dumb to say that knowing the name for something will mean you'll be better at doing it, but the thing is, if you know the name, you know the definition. That's why I think it's kind of important to read at least a little bit of meta before you get started in vidding.

It wasn't really until I started to get better on my own that I received more critical reviews. Which is just ass backwards if you ask me.
It's backwards but it also makes sense. I like to think that I'm a pretty good vid beta and while I'll beta for friends, I'll also offer to beta for complete strangers if they ask for one and I see it. I've gotten a whole range of vids from the stranger sets. Some of them have completely blown my socks off with how awesome they are and even though they are awesome, I can still send back a 3 page email of things to fix up. Others though, are not so great and it can be hard to come up with anything to say to them except "start over" which I'm never mean enough to do.
The thing is, a vid needs to have a strong story line/theme to be good. If it's a random shippy vid set to a love song with just clips of the characters together... well you can throw a few technical suggestions like "extra frame at 1:04, transition at 4:56 is too flashy" but at the end of that, the vid is never going to be anything more than mediocre because there's no backbone to it. It's like you're showing them how to colour within the lines instead of showing them how to make something original. The best you can do in that situation is maybe refer them to some meta.

To equate it to fic, if the story line is bad, well you can go in and fix the grammar, spelling and maybe throw a characterization suggestion in but you can't totally redo it for them.

If a *vidder* (I use the term loosely here)
I think the difference is that you need some kind of artistic talent to vid/write fic technical ability isn't really enough. I mean, I can write. Obviously, since I'm doing that now, but I would never write fic because I know I'm not any good at it. I think you can learn how to be an artist but there are very few people who just *have* it right out of the gate.

I may have just rephrased what you said. I just wanted to throw my two cents into the pot.
No, you brought up some points I meant to bring up but forgot. Thanks for stopping by :)
the_muppet
Aug. 3rd, 2008 11:08 am (UTC)
Thanks Rae - it's nice to know that you found those reviews useful.

If a *vidder* (I use the term loosely here) only wants praise and fame within a contained field of other *vidders* then they usually bitch, moan and lodge attacks against any negative comment that may have helped them get better.

I do see that more and more lately, and with people that quite surprise me too. And I think it's a shame. As long as constructive/critical feedback is done properly, everyone can learn from it, or pick up tips, or whatever.

Not very coherent, but it's early and I'm tired =)
kronos999
Aug. 1st, 2008 09:33 pm (UTC)
I have decided to throw my two cents in here even though I am typically on the consumption side of fandom rather than an active ficcer or vidder.

A good critical review is a wonderful thing. I have rarely received them and the first time it happened I was a bit put out (I was VERY young and stupid. I still feel guilty about it since the reviewer was totally on the money.) Every time after that I have been immensely grateful that someone went out of their way to help me improve and, in the end, I generally agreed with their assessments.

There is, however, an other side to it. I think in some ways the cult of nice prevents the people giving reviews they think are critical, but actually are just mean. Yes, flamers. Some of them do it on purpose, but others don't realize it. These people are usually young, though sometimes only in fandom terms, and end up giving a flame as feedback. They may not intend to, but a negative comments which are not constructive are only hurtful. Telling someone that their fic/vid sucks because it is XX pairing and it would have been so much better if it was XX or something similar (especially in a public post rather than a private message) has absolutely no value. Maybe 'it would have seemed more realistic to me if you had done xxxx' or 'Maybe you could consider XX pairing next time' is acceptable. I have a feeling that this does not happen as often on LJ as in some other forums since the demographics tend to be more experienced fans, but has happened to me (and to other writers that I enjoy) often enough that I firmly believe in the cult of nice. At least until one knows what is acceptable as feedback and what is not.

This would be generally true for me for vids. I am more into fic, so I could only say what I like and don't like. If I don't like something, there is no way I could give a review beyond 'I thought it kinda sucked' or 'I just didn't get it' or 'huh?'. And that just isn't fair to someone who has put so much time and effort into something.

There is an exception to this. If something has been posted specifically somewhere for critical reviews in order to improve it, I think it is pretty fair game.

So, there's my thoughts. A critical reviewer with experience that can tell how to improve is a great thing, but for those of us without it, we should probably stick with 'if you don't have something nice to say, don't say it at all'.

Regarding the lashing out at negative feedback, assuming that you are respectful with your comments. If the fan is inexperienced, they will probably do this the first few times until they develop a thicker skin and realize you are trying to help them. It will happen eventually. Just reviewing your old work requires it. Oh, does it ever. And, if they don't grow up, I'd stop bothering with feedback since they clearly don't want to improve.

I haven't been reading the meta-posts at all so I hope this is semi-coherent and I'll leave my rambling here rather than continue to torture you with it.
paraka
Aug. 3rd, 2008 04:11 pm (UTC)
I was VERY young and stupid. I still feel guilty about it since the reviewer was totally on the money.
Yeah, doesn't that seem the way? No one likes being told that they could have done better but as I was saying to rae1013, if someone takes the time to tell you what you could have done better it generally means you're doing something right. It's much easier to find things to fix with a good vid than it is with a bad vid. If it's a bad vid there's generally too much wrong to be able to fix it.

I get what you're saying about people flamming but in some ways, I think that it'd be less likely to happen if critiques were more wide spread, because then you'd be able to see what other people are saying, be able to see what is and is not appropriate before trying to submit your own. Also, I'm sure if it were more common there'd be more meta and cheat sheets out there for newbies to consult.

If I don't like something, there is no way I could give a review beyond 'I thought it kinda sucked' or 'I just didn't get it' or 'huh?'. And that just isn't fair to someone who has put so much time and effort into something.
I do think that giving reviews is something that'll take some talent. Luckily most people in fandom are lazy so won't bother doing so. I think most people who would go to the trouble of reviewing will also have some actual suggestions to go with it. I mean, I wouldn't consider "I thought this kinda sucks" to be a critical review. To me, a critical review is like a beta except with the understanding that the product is finished.

I haven't been reading the meta-posts at all so I hope this is semi-coherent and I'll leave my rambling here rather than continue to torture you with it.
That's fine. And actually most of the meta posts have been about fic instead of vids, so most of the comments to this post have been different. :)
kronos999
Aug. 3rd, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
Also, I'm sure if it were more common there'd be more meta and cheat sheets out there for newbies to consult. That's a good point and one I didn't consider. Hmmm.

I wouldn't consider "I thought this kinda sucks" to be a critical review. Neither would I, which was my point. I wouldn't consider myself capable of giving a critical review so I wouldn't give a negative comment at all. It is why I don't leave feedback for things I dislike unless I can make some suggestions (along with things that I did like about the work since I wouldn't be bothering if it was irredeemable).

I am probably just wary since, as with many other people, I have received flames which were, I'm sure, in the the eyes of the writer a critical review. One memorable 'well-intentioned' 'review' of some length that added up to "I hate this pairing WTF is wrong with you OMG slash is wrong you are going to hell" when reading between the lines. But I probably shouldn't throw out the whole bushel for a few bad apples and just get over it.

To me, a critical review is like a beta Yes. That is exactly how it should be. except with the understanding that the product is finished. Or is it? The best vid beta I ever had was someone who emailed me out of the blue and worked with me for a week on something I had considered finished. Both of us on dial-up so sending things back and forth was painful and her using English as a second language.

I don't think that there is anything wrong with remastering something, though it doesn't seem to be common practice after it has been released. Or maybe that is just my wish to remaster my first vid which had an awesome choice of song and terrible quality footage (and terrible quality vidding). Actually, there is a thought. I haven't touched any vids since LJ became dominant in fandom so I don't know if it exists already. Are there any communities meant for doing critical reviews of 'not-quite-done' pieces? It would be interesting to see how something would evolve based on feedback from what would essentially be group betaing.

Back to the critical comments and reviews. Perhaps it would be best to let it depend on the creator. Some people really do just want to hang something on the fridge, are fiddling around just for fun and don't really want negative (even if helpful) comments. Maybe people asking for critical reviews being taken seriously would be the key. That way those that are willing to listen get the feedback that they want and those who are just going to be insulted don't get bothered with it and waste the time of the reviewer.

so most of the comments to this post have been different. I guess they would be. And I'm wasting your time again. Maybe I should meta on my own LJ ;)
paraka
Aug. 4th, 2008 06:20 pm (UTC)
I wouldn't consider myself capable of giving a critical review so I wouldn't give a negative comment at all.
*nods* I think that's still the best policy if you're not going to be giving critical reviews.

And you know, I think I must be sheltered or something because I don't think I've ever gotten flammed for any of the 11 vids I've posted over the years. I've gotten some critical reviews that have pointed out problems I once got a pretty useless beta that upset me but never anything I would consider a flame (for my vids).

Or is it? The best vid beta I ever had was someone who emailed me out of the blue and worked with me for a week on something I had considered finished.
I have known a few people to go back and do remixes, and certainly some who have gone back and fixed a few things in fic, I just don't think you should go in and do a review with the expectation that the artist will go back and fix their work. I know that I would love to go back and fix up some of my vids, the thing is, I don't have the files any more so I'd have to start again from scratch. Even my more recent vids; the working file for a single vid can work out to be 80+ GBs with the source files and renderings. I just don't have the space to keep those on my computer and while I'd like for my vids to be perfect once I have it posted I'd prefer to move on to something new than to constantly be going back and fixing the old one up. Vids can also be tricky because people often save them to their computers and watch those versions, so they won't always get a chance to see the revised version, certainly not if you're going to update it multiple times.

Are there any communities meant for doing critical reviews of 'not-quite-done' pieces? It would be interesting to see how something would evolve based on feedback from what would essentially be group betaing.
Yep, vid_critics allows that.

Perhaps it would be best to let it depend on the creator.
*nods* It would be nice if there were more comms out there that were for critical reviews, that way it's the artists choice if they want to to post their fics there.

I guess they would be. And I'm wasting your time again. Maybe I should meta on my own LJ ;)
Hey, you can't waste my time. My journal welcomes meta and rambling as much as people are willing to throw at me. Feel free to continue as much as you'd like :)
the_muppet
Aug. 3rd, 2008 11:05 am (UTC)
I'd like to see some links please, and also if you could point me in the direction of some useful meta comms I'd be grateful =)
paraka
Aug. 3rd, 2008 04:23 pm (UTC)
Sure, although most of the meta has been in regards to fic, not vidding.

This whole things started when kyuuketsukirui posted reviews for the mecshep_match fics and was less than satisfied when them.

lamardeuse saw them and told kyuuketsukirui that she was going to make a post about it. Things got a little mixed up because instead of posting about reviews she made this post about feedback.

kyuuketsukirui responded in her own journal, and metafandom exploded.

I'm a slow reader, and haven't gotten through all of the meta yet, but here are some of the posts I thought were good:
synecdochic: "Cult of nice" vs. "cult of mean", round 2847, fight
xparrot: To crit or not to crit
the_muppet
Aug. 3rd, 2008 04:35 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much for these - I'll have a proper look through over the next couple of days =)

*hugs*
paraka
Aug. 4th, 2008 06:21 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. Have fun, and if you have time, let me know what you thing :)
the_muppet
Aug. 4th, 2008 06:33 pm (UTC)
Well I only read a couple so far and honestly, I'm feeling really conficted like I'm jsut not sure where exactly I stand now. I want to read them all thoroughly though, and I've joined the comm you listed too.
( 14 comments — Leave a comment )

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