How to Give Constructive SL Style Criticism: My Top 3 Tips
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world style
Nothing spoils an otherwise good SL fashion blog post for me like bad criticism. Statements like "These shoes are ugly, don't buy them" don't help anyone. They don't help the consumer who thinks they look perfectly fine, and they don't help the designer who probably doesn't want to make "ugly" shoes. Are their seams in the textures? Is the sculpting poorly done? Is the style just not your taste? Saying petty or vague things (or acting like your personal opinion is a universal truth) doesn't offer the designer any useful feedback, and it makes both you and your blog a lot less appealing to readers.
At the same time, a blogger who never has an ill-word about anything is just as useless to their readers. They're coming to a blog to be educated about their choices as shoppers in SL, and if there's a glaring flaw in a product even a photography and Photoshop-heavy blogger should probably be sharing that info. Are you sharing a product with friends, or are you just advertising it?If you want to get in the habit of giving good critiques (even for more than just virtual fashion,) here's how to get started:
Remember that the point of criticism is not to punish or antagonize someone. The goal is to offer your opinion (and a set of fresh, unbiased eyes) on where improvements could be made, to help them develop their skills and products further. It's not about you being right and them being wrong, or vice versa. If a designer reads your review and comes away from it feeling like they want to quit creating, you've probably done something wrong.
When I started writing about SL fashion, I decided that I didn't want to be the reason that a potentially great designer quit. Later on, I decided that I also didn't want to be the reason a designer stagnated. This means that my criticism is often a balancing act. Fashion bloggers writing on this topic will often refer to the "compliment sandwich", where you book-end a negative comment with two positive ones, and I'm a pretty big fan of this technique. The intention isn't to coddle the subject of your criticism, but to soften the blow. No one wants to feel like they've done everything wrong, and it's a lot easier to stay motivated to make fix future creations when you know that you're at least doing something right.
Check out this recent review by Cajsa Lilliehook for a good example of balancing criticism with compliments.
Giving critical feedback is easy, when you're giving it to someone who trusts your opinion. If you tell a mesh designer that rigging is super easy so they must just be lazy, they'll probably stop taking you very seriously.
Lots of designers who are anti-blogger like to say that unless a blogger is also a successful designer, they have no right to comment on their work. Unfortunately since most customers aren't successful designers either, there still needs to be someone who can speak to (and for) them. Being in this position means that you damn well better have some understanding of whatever you're talking about, otherwise all you'll do is leave designers resentful and readers misinformed. The resources are out there if you want them. There are tutorials, Youtube videos, free Photoshop resources, and tons of material if you're willing to look at it. I'm not saying you need to invest in a 3 month long Blender course, but if you don't know what a UV Map is, find out. If you don't know what causes seams on the avatar, ask. Otherwise, designers will have no reason to trust your opinions.
Salome Strangelove is a good exemplar in this case not just because she's extremely knowledgeable about SL fashion, but because when there are gaps in her knowledge and understanding she will admit it. You don't have to know everything, so don't act like you do.Be Prepared
You can deliver the fairest and most educated criticism in the most delicate way possible, and sometimes people will still get pissed off about it. If not the designer themselves, then die-hard fans and people who have taken it upon themselves to champion a brand. They may leave mean comments, send harassing IMs, or just snark about you in private on Plurk or in-world. It can be hard not to take these attacks to heart, but remember that these people are just a loud minority.
Sure, some day someone might call you a dumb bitch. And... so what? That's not exactly constructive criticism anyway.Tweet
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.