My question to the world is simply this: Is it possible to criticize something without sounding like a total jerk? If it is, could someone please explain how to do it to me?
For those who may not have noticed, I posted my Anime Milwaukee 2010 Con Report last night. Now, people who know me understand that I really don't censor myself or hold back when I write about something, regardless of whether or not I like the people who created the subject of my text. People who've known me even longer know that I'm also a thousand times more critical of things that I love than I am of other things.
This is why some people are wary of asking me for my "honest opinion."
Most of you by now know that (especially since the stick figure comic kind of gave it away to start with) my report on Anime Milwaukee contained some critical elements. The thing is, I do really like this convention. Anime Milwaukee fills a void in the convention scene that the rest of the con ecosystem needs for long term survival: they are the (soon to be) large, gateway con. And the fact that the staff at Anime Milwaukee actually cares about what they're doing (and about the rest of the con scene) makes them different than a lot of other cons in their position.
It's an important con run by good people.
But that doesn't mean they're doing everything right. As I said, I see it as a convention that is 90% on target. Considering many cons at this age are only about 50% on target, that's pretty good -- but I (of course) want to see them do better. Why? Because I like them.
But the question still comes back to: How do you give this advice and report truthfully without sounding like a jerk?
I haven't really found a solution to that. Honestly, there's stuff I held back about, and things I thought about saying. The problem with that is my report would then be far more criticism heavy than I believe it should be. I didn't want to fill it with "this is what you did wrong" when I really had a good time. I didn't want 90% of an entry to be about the 10% I didn't like.
So please, when you read my Anime Milwaukee con report, remember that I love this convention very, very much. Also remember that I had a very good time, and think you should come to Anime Milwaukee 2011. This is, in fact, good stuff.
That's really a tough question to answer, because there is no black and white answer. Everyone views things differently. I'm a firm believer that it is nearly impossible to get your original tone and intent across in text.
I work in an industry where if something goes wrong, or if something doesn't go right - I get harshly criticized for it. I also always recieve well intended criticism - but 98% of the time the person comes off as a raving jerk.
The only 'solution' I may have to your question is when you criticize something - maybe think up a solution for the issue. I would never go to my boss with a problem I don't have an answer to and generally I take the same approach with any other issues I have.
So in reference to the Anime Milwaukee Cosplay Contest - along with your criticism you may have been able to pass along some valuable information on timing, where the contestants should move to, and how to keep the audience interested through a 'boring' part; and you could have been seen as wanting to help instead of being a 'jerk'.
Sorry that comment was so long but I hope it helps!
Here's my opinion: I don't think people are irritated at what in particular you mentioned, just the way you presented it.
Case in point: "Also, after walking across the stage, the cosplayers were ushered back to the green room. Also... not so great. Fix these issues guys, seriously."
Just because you personally think something is a issue doesn't mean they need to fix it. The way you worded that, especially with the "seriously" at the end, in my opinion, sounds very demeaning & sarcastic.
You have to remember, too, that any sort of criticism on the internet can and will likely be met with some sort of disdain. People get very defensive about things they are proud of, too.
A lot of times its not what you say, but how you say it. I'm guilty of the same thing, as Tae would chime in and say if she were reading this as well.
Also, and I don't mean to pick a fight, but I wanted to mention something I forgot before: one of my best friends criticized the abilities of one of AMKE's directors around you and you may or may not have taken it very personally simply because you knew them.
Someone could easily do the same thing with any criticism you make: take it as a personal attack instead of a mere criticism on the situation. It sounds like that's the situation with your con report as well. That's why its important for you to word things succinctly and carefully.
Critiques should be impartial, and it seems to me like that's something you aren't really that good at. That's how an editorial works, my friend.
There isn't anything else to mention about it, I'm just making parallels to a similar situation. I wanted to point out how you personally reacted in a situation the same way that others are now reacting to you. I'm sure most, if not all people are guilty of doing the same, myself included.
Y'know, you say that, but what's actually happened is that now my brain is frustrated that something happened that it can't remember. Respond to my PM so I can get my feeble mental capacity to stop stalling out...