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Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Got an awesome creation that you'd like to share with the community? We want to see it! This is also where to post your WIPs and techniques to brainstorm with other builders.

Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby dWhisper » Tue Jan 27, 2009 6:39 am

Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Okay, just a bit of a disclaimer and a warning. This whole thing is a half-rant/half-suggestion based on some observations in the former SW MOC forum and the LEGO forum at the old FBTB. It's not directed any anyone in particular or any groups. It's not a call-out or anything like that. Really, it's just a move to try and improve what could very well be the most important part of our forums. And sadly, right now, it's probably the most underused.

First, let's talk about what the best thing is about LEGO: you can build anything you want. That's what makes it such a wonderful hobby and toy. It's pretty much the only response that needs to be written for every "I Wish LEGO would make such-and-such" thread. Have bricks, can build. Sure, we all have varying degrees of building skill and brick selection, but if you can wish to buy a new set, you can wish to buy some bricks off Bricklink. Probably cheaper that way too. ;)

The reality of the Internet is that you're putting yourself out there with every post. If you're a passive member, you're only here to read, you're not posting anyway, so it's a non-issue. But when you do post something, be it a creation or an opinion, you should expect to be held up for criticism. Such a cycle is necessary for a healthy community to continue and grow. It makes everyone better by continually pushing for a newer and higher standard.

In the scope of LEGO, it makes us better builders. Sure, it's nice to hear comments like "wow, that's great" or "I love it," those don't improve my skills. Fifteen responses that are one line long do not help improve my model, or bring up a technique that I'd never thought of. Honestly, that's the kind of responses I could do without. Yes, I appreciate a few of them, but I'd much rather have one response of "you should try out this block here, and add a bit of shape to this. Maybe something like this..." than 100 telling me I built the best thing since the Slave Leia Dancing Band.

This isn't to say that I'm advocating free reign in talking about how terrible something looks. It's about the art of "constructive criticism." This means adding to the discussion along with advice or a solution, not just tearing apart (or complimenting) something.

That's the whole purpose of a MOC forum, to get feedback. If you want to just post pictures of your build, try out Flickr or Brickshelf. People can look, oooh, and ah all they want. This isn't the place to come and get that.

The cornerstone of constructive criticism is that you critique the subject, but also give advice on ways to improve it. Members who provide feedback like this are not elitist, they're trying to help you become a better builder. And it can vary from person to person.

On the same note as comments like "I love it" or :shock:, things like "I don't like it" or "it doesn't look right," without any additional information, is equally worthless to a builder. These start to bridge on destructive criticism, and that's not what we're about. Save things like that for the work of Michael Crichton. If you don't have anything to add... then don't. Simple as that. Yes, it's nice to know people are looking, but ultimately, back-patting wastes time for everyone.

The moral of the story is that by posting in a MOC forum, you're expecting and accepting feedback and constructive criticism of your work. Don't get worked up if someone isn't wowed by your model... it happens to all of us, and there's always room to improve a build.
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby Septemris » Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:23 am

This is a very interesting post, but I'd like to comment (posts are up to critic right ? ;)).

While "wow, that's great" comments aren't that much of a help for advanced builders, I think these are still useful for younger builders. I'm sure if a new MOCer posted his creation and got at least a few of those it would probably help with his confidence to build more. Kinda like you don't start over-analyzing the drawings of a new student. I personally have no problem with these. As a reader, If the comment is not interesting to me, I just skip it.

Another thing, constructive criticism also comes with experience. New members who've seen less LEGO MOCs, might be impressed by something veterans have seen a hundred times before. So for them, it might be quite legit to say it's the best MOC they've ever seen. I wouldn't want new members to refrain from posting a comment on a MOC for fear of being judged for their lack of experience.
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby Nannan » Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:41 am

I believe that constructive criticism comes naturally. It takes time for a viewer to write a longer post on improvement rather than a short sentence praise. Of course, the first the best, but the second is better than none.

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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby theJudeAbides » Tue Feb 10, 2009 7:51 am

Personally, If I respond to a MOC, I try to make a habit out of specifying at least one thing that I really like and one thing that I would change. I think this is good for both the MOCer and the responder, because when you actually sit down to think these things out, you're forced to actually think about design issues. Whenever you think about design issues, whether for your own MOCs or for others, it helps improve your own skills, and that's always a good thing.

So the next time you see some mind-blowing MOC, some eye-strain, or something in between. Take a minute to think, "What design elements do I like that I would take with me into my future MOCs" and "What design elements do I dislike/would make changes to if this were my own MOC." You'd be surprised how helpful it can be to both yourself and to others.
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby Commander Aero » Sat Mar 21, 2009 9:50 am

Hi,
I'm a new member, have looked on other forums and seen some cool stuff. Back to topic, when I just give positive comments I try to tell the person what I like about their MOC, not just how good it is.
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby bigkid24 » Sun Mar 22, 2009 10:45 pm

I usually find that if I reply to a MOC thread it's because something about the MOC has either really spoken to me or disgusted me. I agree with what the OP is saying but I don't think that everyone is necessarily looking for constructive criticism. Sometimes people do just want to hear "Wow, that's neato." Sure it won't make someone a better builder but some people do just like having their ego stroked. Since it is LEGO and you can build whatever you want then why worry about other people's criticism anyway?
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby JPCJedi » Mon Mar 23, 2009 3:56 pm

dWhisper wrote:...back-patting wastes time for everyone.
While I agree with your argument, I disagree here. "Back-patting" is part of the "constructive" in constructive criticism, because it provides encouragement.

I will also say that "constructive criticism" as described by dWhisper here applies to general discussion as well as LEGO MOCs. Part of being polite is giving a good reason for your opinion instead of just dismissing (or agreeing, for that matter).

Elitism comes in only when experienced builders dismiss noobs. (When there is no constructive in the criticism.)
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When the Lord spits in your face, he’s trying to cure you of something.--John 9:1-41
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby dWhisper » Wed Mar 25, 2009 5:29 pm

The point of the back-patting comment has to do with only throwing up a "good job" or "wow" comment, and then no way to improve. Part of constructive criticism is giving someone something to work with in your response, and those comments don't do anything. Yes, it's important to call out what you like and reinforce a builder's skill, but you're not really doing that with a :shock: smiley and no further comments. Even if you only call out the good parts of a build, you're giving something useful, but short "nothing" comments only serve as a thread-bump.
If the above post didn't offend you, you're probably reading it wrong.
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby Logan » Mon Apr 13, 2009 5:01 pm

:shock: Good post.


See... that was fairly useless. And by fairly, I mean completely.

The entire point within the process is that many people post creations, whether expertly done, or a My-First-MOC style rainbow warrior for the chance that they will get noticed and get some recognition. The feedback that gets received is not always reflective of the time and effort that a builder puts into it, whether or not the build, description, photos, and post itself are any good whatsoever.

This article is designed to not only encourage thoughtful posting and insightful commentary, but to elicit the same from those building and posting. If we can't see or understand what you're talking about, it's that much more difficult to give feedback. Many times, the public might not be interested in your particular theme. A basic little CITY MOC isn't going to get the same attention as a grand-scale Star Wars UCS-scale MOC. A custom minifig isn't getting the same attention as a diorama.

Ask for specific types of feedback: Do you want a critique from someone? Are you asking for building tips, maybe a different way you could approach a build? Would you just like to hear "Hey, that's neat!"? State your intention to your audience in your original post... how you frame that goes a long way to giving the readers an idea of what you're looking for. Last, think about your title. There are literally hundreds of threads to read on this website alone, and many users here frequent other sites as well during their designated "internet time" throughout their week. Some may use comments on another site (i.e. flickr), others may just want to browse a Brickshelf gallery and not necessarily find something that they have to say once they finish. Some migrate to MOCPages, and others just peruse the blogs at Brothers Brick.

Bottom line is, do your best, and ask for what you'd like in sharing with everyone. Sometimes a little extra clarity and a little more patience goes a long way.
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby Larry Lars » Sun Mar 14, 2010 4:03 am

Wow! Reading this topic again makes me wonder. The situation with the old forums must've been really bad and hard to moderate. Why else would you feel the need to introduce these harsh rules to the most important section in any LEGO forum. The urge to show your good stuff to fellow members and having the MOC section as a source for inspiration is a great way to build the community. Or maybe I should say "would be a great way to build the community". When I visit the MOC section today it feels very sleepy and I have to spend a lot of time before I find anything that gives me inspiration.

This could be just me, and it may even show that I'm a bit of an elitist anyways. ;)
But let me be a bit drastic and give some of the reasons for my lack of interest in this MOC section lately.

This thread is the new version of a similar thread in the old forums so when the staff repeatedly states that this isn't a place to show your stuff unless you need help to finish your work or tips on how to be a better builder, I think it's time to listen and act accordingly.

I'm one of the builders that rarely post my projects here nowadays. I usually build until I'm satisfied and then uploads a few pics to my Flickr account. For me LEGO is part art and part clever construction hobby. And for that blend to work The community builders have to be allowed to be artists and divas. ;)

I don't view this dilemma as huge in any way. The Lego community on Flickr is a great way to satisfy multiple facets of every builders different needs.
I just think it's a bit sad that FBTB that I for a long time considered as my online home, as mainly a Star Wars builder, no longer is an everyday part of my LEGO hobby. Why should I look for inspiration for my own work in what's essentially a forum for work in progress. I like to be wowed and sometimes get a kick from wowing others.

As for helping each others. As it is today it's often difficult to know if the builders think they need help or not. These things are often very subjective and if everyone interested in a project by default needs to bring their own wishes there's a risk of FBTB building rules slowly creeping into the community. I for one thinks there's too many automatic tips on cover up studs with tiles and and using only one shade of grey color in the so called "constructive criticism" in here. ;)
The helping each other function is of course great, but would be a lot better served if this was the most awsome place on the internet to hang out when it comes to Star Wars and LEGO combined.

"This town needs an enema" :cool:
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby Draykov » Sun Mar 14, 2010 9:15 am

dWhisper wrote:That's the whole purpose of a MOC forum, to get feedback. If you want to just post pictures of your build, try out Flickr or Brickshelf. People can look, oooh, and ah all they want. This isn't the place to come and get that.


Is this still the case? Because I don't really have a feel for the LEGO MOC Showcase forum as a place for WIP only...and that's kind of how I'm interpreting that.
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby onions » Mon Mar 15, 2010 12:26 am

@larry lars: you post a reply to a topic that's seen it's last response over a year ago, and you're just now commenting on the stringent guidelines? you yourself admit that you don't post here or even visit here for that matter, and that's probably the case with others as well as we all seem to be flocking towards flickr. given that, how can this part of our community thrive if no one actively participates, including yourself?

and honestly, since nick put this up, i really wonder how many people have followed the guidelines and posted only wips and not finals, or restrained themselves from "wow"ing another's post.

@draykov: yeah, i think that bit needs to be revisited.
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby Solo » Mon Mar 15, 2010 12:38 am

Draykov, I think that part is just poorly conveyed, because it was original written a few years ago to address the people who wanted to post their creation and would get upset about the comments and suggestions given. They weren't prepared to handle any criticism, and for those people something like Brickshelf is more appropriate. Since the flickr boom in recent years a vast majority of MOC feedback has taken place outside of forums, because lets face it, flickr makes it easier. People are welcome to come to the MOC forum and post completed projects of theirs, and that's what most of the posts now contain, but simply using the forum as a signpost is still frowned upon. "If you just want your ego stoked, you shouldn't be posting stuff here" is how Nick summed it up in the original thread and I think it covers the thought nicely.

Larry, you're reading way too far into the words and missing the point of the guide completely.
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Re: Constructive Criticism, Building, and You

Postby dWhisper » Mon Mar 15, 2010 10:41 am

I would go with reading too much into it...

I wrote this way back on the old board, probably back in 07 or 08 (I don't remember, really). And the purpose was never to discourage posting finished products, or to limit it to WIPs or the like. It was always to point out that if you were posting on the forums, you were opening yourself to feedback from the community.

The MOC forums are really a double-edged sword. It wasn't just a place to post your pictures and run off, or to engage in artistic indulgence, it was meant as a place to engage with others that were building things. When they were initially posted, we were seeing a few trends that we tried to address.

The first was a rash of posters throwing up their builds, wanting advice, and then attacking everyone who posted anything. Not just ignoring, but actively getting into flame wars with other members. And those fights spilled out into other areas of the site.

The second was the type of posts that I suppose are being insinuated here. Ask any "artist" and they'll tell you there's no such thing as a finished work. You're always wanting to tweak, address, or revisit. Maybe that version is at its end, but in the MOC community, perfection is only as close as the latest piece that does what you thought about. If you were showing up here to just pimp your work, we were saying that was great, but really not the focus. People were more than welcome to do it.

But really, what I was trying to do was address the problem with responding to threads in general. There was, and maybe still is, too much of posting "ooooh cool" and leaving the thread. It was like throwing up lol or a smiley in a thread and moving on. It added nothing to the thread, it was just a bunch of ass-slapping (have to love the word filter) and back-patting. Those are fine and good, but really, they're fluff in the grand scheme.

As a builder, artist, writer, whatever, critique and criticism are the devices that make you better. If you're ever to the point where you can't take it, or don't want to take what people say, you may be in the wrong hobby. I'm not saying, and never was, that every idea needs to be taken to heart. Ignore them all you want. But know that the internet is all about the exchange and butchering of other people's ideas, and in that, it's the perfect, and dirtiest, way of getting feedback.

Yes, a lot of builders don't post their stuff here all that often. Even I don't when I build something. But that had nothing to do with the guidelines, it had everything to do with the community. Fact is, no matter how much effort we put into this forum, it's only as good as the participants. The last building binge I posted a few different threads. Responses to them were between 1-4 posts, at most. They sunk, I realized I wasn't going to get feedback here, and didn't post any of the rest of the builds.

Those same models on Flickr garnered about 20-30 comments each, sometimes more, mostly from people I didn't know. So I still come here and try to contribute, but I know that I won't get anything much from the builders. And when the best builders amongst us can't be counted on to provide help to others, there's no reason to really keep pushing it. We're all guilty of not helping, but I'm not sure we can blame the guidelines.
If the above post didn't offend you, you're probably reading it wrong.
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