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ysabetwordsmith in crowdfunding

How to Make Constructive Comments

Cyberfunded creativity thrives on feedback.  One of the most important things you can do to support your favorite crowdfunded projects is leaving comments.  This shows your interest so that the creator knows what things people are viewing and enjoying.  Here are some ideas for making your comments as useful as possible.

First, comments with substance are better than those without.  Similarly, detailed comments are better than generic ones.  This is where it pays to know the project, because some creators make use of even simple "I like this" feedback to make important decisions such as which sketches get chosen to paint.  Other creators only count comments that say something specific about the item to which they apply.  If you're not sure what kinds of things are helpful in a comment, try focusing on whatever catches your interest the most.

A good approach is "Two Hurrahs and a Hint." Point out two things you like, and one thing that could be improved. For best results, start and end on a positive note, sandwiching the constructive criticism between those. (Thanks to the_vulture and ellenmillion for these ideas.)


Comments on images:  If you'd like to buy a print or other hardcopy, always mention that.  Name your favorite color in a picture.  Discuss the framing or focus in a photo.  Point out a specific object you like, such as a flower in the foreground or a character's hat.  Say what you think about the medium, especially if the artist is experimenting with a new one.  With sketches, it's often worth mentioning what areas you'd like to see refined further, like a carved door in the background.  For more depth you can discuss the action or emotion in the scene. 

Comments on divination:  The main point here is whether you found the reading/remarks to be accurate and insightful, or off the mark.  Feedback on the deck or other divinatory tool is also relevant, especially if the reader is using several and might benefit from knowing which is the most popular.  Mention personal connections, such as if the Tarot card drawn is one you use as your significator. 

This is one area where coming back LATER and commenting may be as much or even more use than immediate feedback.  Then you can reflect on how events actually played out in comparison to the reading.  Over time, this is the stuff that distinguishes the best divination projects from the competition.

Comments on fiction:  There are two aspects here, storytelling and technique.  Explore how believable, likable, complex or simplistic the characters are.  Do a little travelogue through the setting(s) and point to things that caught your eye.  Discuss how the plot is unfolding in ways that surprise you, make you laugh, make you cling to your chair with worry, etc.  In storytelling, it's often the people and places that hook readers as much as the actual plot; make sure the author knows what brought you in and kept you reading.

On the technical side, watch for typos or other errors and point those out if the creator welcomes that kind of feedback.  You can also highlight little gems that you love, such as a particular turn of phrase, or deft handling of a difficult technique like writing from a child's perspective.  In technique, the author's "voice" or particular way with words -- and their ability to write legibly without a ton of typos -- is what contributes to reader retention.  Anything you can tell them about how that works or doesn't work for you will be helpful.

Comments on music:  This can include vocal or instrumental content, or both.  A very simple personal response can be how the music makes you feel, or what you use it for (background music while writing, energy boost for doing housework, etc.).  For solo work, try to identify a favorite motif such as the chords or the words of a song.  For ensemble work, listen for a particularly charming instrument or voice.  If an unusual instrument is featured, such as a psaltery or an oud, say whether you liked it or not and why.

Comments on poetry:  As with fiction, this has an aesthetic side and a technical side.  The easiest feedback is to quote your favorite line(s).  A narrative poem tells a story; there you can discuss what happens or which character(s) you like.  Other poems focus on describing a scene, creating a mood, or just playing with fun sounds.  Try to figure out what a poem is "for" and discuss how well it achieves its goal.  If you read/heard the poem out loud, comment on how it felt in your mouth and sounded in your ears.  On the technical side, you can remark on such things as the rhyme, imagery, or other specific tools of the craft. 

If you haven't found poetry very impressive before, but this one grabs you, that's crucial information.  Poetry isn't popular in the mainstream right now, so knowing what hooks someone who's not already a poetry fan will make it easier to home in on what people really want in poetry.  Be as specific as you can about what attracted your attention, made you smile or shiver, stuck in your mind, etc.

Comments on serials:  This can apply to webcomics, weblit, song cycles, thematic art collections, or anything else where the creator is posting bits of related material over time.  The most vital input here is what you want to see more of or less of.  Name your favorite character, or list characters in order of preference.  Point out a setting that you loved and want to revisit.  Suggest a subplot or motif to explore in more detail.  If you want to get fancy, discuss the overall mood of the series, its recurring themes, or how it has evolved from starting point to current point.  Comparison/contrast of several favorite entries is another useful option.

Comments on multimedia: If it's a multimedia work (like a story with illustrations, or a CD and its artwork), comment on how the media work together. (Suggestion by mdlbear.) You may also want to discuss individual elements, especially if some work better than others.

Comments on production: If you're familiar with the mechanics of the production process -- recording and mixing for audio, scanning or photography for artwork, website layout or blog mechanics for prose and poetry -- comments on how well that worked and how it can be improved can be very helpful. (Suggestion by mdlbear.) Artistic media or cameras for art, tools for crafts, techniques and format for writing, etc. are also worth mentioning if you understand them.


Finally, connect the content with yourself as a person.  In crowdfunding, the audience is not just important as an abstract consumer base.  Creators go into cyberfunded creativity because they want to interact  with their fans.  This is especially true of patrons; creators pay extra attention to the people who send them money.  So tell them a little bit about who you are and what you like in general, how that relates to your enjoyment of their work.  The more you do this, the more they will get to know you and the more likely it is that you will influence what they produce.

One terrific area to cover is your favorite causes.  Maybe you're into peacemongering or abolishing hunger or portraying women in positive ways.  Highlight any case where one of your causes seems to match something in a creator's work.  Similarly, let the creator know if an item touched you enough for you to link it or otherwise recommend it to your friends.  Creators value exposure, so they're more likely to do things that inspire fans to boost the signal.  If you're a creative person yourself, and you've handled the same motif in your own work, that's another good comparison/contrast opportunity -- no two people will ever do exactly the same thing with a given inspiration, and looking for similarities and differences can be a lot of fun.

Comments are fuel as well as information.  They help distinguish crowdfunding from conventional business models.  They don't cost anything but a minute or few of your time, so everyone can participate.  This is a great way to support projects even if your budget is tight.  Do your part for crowdfunding -- delurk and comment today!

For patrons and fans:  What inspires you to comment on a project?  What are some projects where you tend to comment often?  Do you favor making some particular kind(s) of comment?  Conversely, if you prefer to lurk most of the time, why is that?

For creators:  What kind(s) of comment do you find the most useful?  What are some ways that you use comments?  Do you have any perks for feedback?

Comments

I like this.


*impish grin*

Thank you!

That's helpful to know. I've been writing a series of how-to pieces about crowdfunding. I think people find them useful, but they don't get much feedback.

Re: Thank you!

You do realize that I was being a brat (if subtly), right? :P

I think it's a great idea to show how to give more effective feedback. When I've worked with students in trying to give critiques, I explain that saying "I like it," is nice, but doesn't help improve the person being critiqued to improve his or her work. I encourage them to explain WHY they like something. I often start 'em off with Two Hurrahs and a Hint (also known as Two Stars and a Wish, and likely other names). Essentially, each student gives two things they like about a piece, and then a hint as to how it could be improved.

Re: Thank you!

>>You do realize that I was being a brat (if subtly), right?<<

Yes, but that's okay. It's still feedback.

>>I think it's a great idea to show how to give more effective feedback. <<

I've noticed that people often seem to get stuck, not knowing what to say or how to frame their opinions. So for the audience members, there are suggestions; and for creators, there's a resource they can link to and give their own audience ideas.

>>I often start 'em off with Two Hurrahs and a Hint (also known as Two Stars and a Wish, and likely other names). Essentially, each student gives two things they like about a piece, and then a hint as to how it could be improved.<<

This is a really good idea, especially in crowdfunding. Given your experience in teaching students about critique, please feel free to post about that in more detail here, if you have time after you're more settled in from the move. I think we'll get more patron activity on here if there's more material aimed at them rather than mostly stuff for creators.

That reminds me: having moved, you presumably have a new address. Please send me the new one via email or LJ-private message so that I can update my records.

Re: Thank you!

>> Given your experience in teaching students about critique, please feel free to post about that in more detail here, if you have time after you're more settled in from the move.

And after finishing the essay I'm already working on, perhaps? :P

As for settling in, it's coming along. I've finally begun to feel a renewed sense of good Feng Shui now that I've got the living room and kitchen (mostly) tidied and organized. I'll have little bits to fiddle with for a while to come, but, overall, I'm just about done.

Re: Thank you!

>>And after finishing the essay I'm already working on, perhaps?<<

Of course. That's why I didn't want to push with this, since I've already asked you for something else.

>> I've finally begun to feel a renewed sense of good Feng Shui now that I've got the living room and kitchen (mostly) tidied and organized.<<

That's good to hear.

Re: Thank you!

>>Of course. That's why I didn't want to push with this, since I've already asked you for something else.<<

I just find it amusing that, whilst you were waiting for this essay to get completed, you get throwing potential distractions at me. Hee!

Re: Thank you!

Yes, I know. It's hard to resist my editorial urge to pounce on good writing and promising topics.

Re: Thank you!

:)

Re: Thank you!

BTW, did you get a chance to read the essay?

Re: Thank you!

I have now, and linked it accordingly. LJ was down for a while midday and that slowed my ability to read through stuff. *happydance*

Re: Thank you!

I wonder if they fixed the Gods frackin' journal entry editor. I was getting kinda snarly just trying to keep everything the font and colour I wanted, let alone adding cuts.

Re: Thank you!

I like the Two Hurrahs and a Hint title... I hadn't heard that before!

I've often recommended starting positive and ending positive - you can pack a lot of advice in between if you cushion it with an upbeat opening and closing remark, without hurting someone's feelings as easily.

(I have an article on the topic here: Giving Criticism)

Re: Thank you!

That's a good suggestion (and a useful article). Most of the group critiques I participated in in art school involved everyone posting pictures on the wall and going through them with a random student being called on to say something positive and offer a suggestion for improvement on each one. I didn't realize that placing the criticism between positive comments could be perceived differently from just having two sections, so thank you! :)

Re: Thank you!

Ellen is right, the sandwiching makes a huge difference.

It really annoys me that so many schools just tell people "critique this!" without ever teaching them how. That can do far more harm than good, to everyone involved. I think it's vital to explain what feedback is supposed to do, and how to make that happen -- especially in crowdfunding, where so much depends on it.

I've got a series going in EMG-zine right now, about art appreciation.

Re: Thank you!

I don't think my school did too badly at teaching us what sort of things to look for when giving a critique, but there wasn't much emphasis on how to present criticism to avoid offending people who are not art students.

Re: Thank you!

On the other hand, many schools do have a good go at trying to teach how to critique. I learned Two Hurrahs and a Hint on one continent and taught in on another.

Re: Thank you!

That's encouraging.

Re: Thank you!

The key is explaining that one should not talk about what they don't like, but rather, give a suggestion as to how to improve the piece.

For example, say Jane thinks Dick's painting is full of too many ugly browns. Instead of saying "I don't like all those browns," she'd be encouraged to say "Maybe the next you make a painting like this, try using more greens."

Re: Thank you!

I've added a note about "Two Hurrahs and a Hint" above, and your elaboration about the sandwiching.

"Giving Criticism" is really good. Might you be willing to post that on the community, so it can be added to the Memories here?

Re: Thank you!

I have to keep it simple for the kids, but, yes, perhaps Hurrah, Hint, Hurrah is something we can strive for here. :)
This is very useful -- making useful comments is one of the things I'm particularly bad at, though I'm working on it.

A few more: if it's a multimedia work (like a story with illustrations, or a CD and its artwork), comment on how the media work together.

If you're familiar with the mechanics of the production process -- recording and mixing for audio, scanning or photography for artwork, website layout or blog mechanics for prose and poetry -- comments on how well that worked and how it can be improved can be very helpful.

Thank you!

I've added those notes to the post.
You probably understand my relationship with audience feedback better than I do :P but for the benefit of others who are reading this:

Comments are very important to me as an artist. Even a simple "I like this" can help me determine which sketches are popular. What's really valuable to me, though are the kind of comments that help me learn. Pointing out which elements are (not) working, telling me what areas you most want to see refined, letting me know if there's something in the text description that I missed; these can all contribute to vastly improving an image as it moves from rough scribble to more finished drawing. I use comments to decide which sketches to work more on, and to figure out what needs to be done to them. The perks I offer for feedback include refining a sketch when it reaches certain comment threshholds, and doing a free icon for a random ccommenter each week.

As a fan, I tend to lurk more than I comment...usually because I find it difficult either to come up with something meaningful to say, or to put my opinion into words. I'm most likely to comment if I have an immediate reaction that's easy to express, if I strongly identify with a particular character, or if the community surrounding a project is one I feel drawn to. Require: Cookie is one that I've been actively commenting on, and it's also one I've been inspired to create unsolicited fan art for.
I do try to leave helpful feedback for other artists when I have the time, because that's where I feel most qualified to contribute.

Thank you!

I really appreciate you laying out your thoughts like this.

>>I use comments to decide which sketches to work more on, and to figure out what needs to be done to them. <<

It's really fun to watch your pictures evolve from rough sketches to more detailed images.

>>As a fan, I tend to lurk more than I comment...usually because I find it difficult either to come up with something meaningful to say, or to put my opinion into words.<<

Have you ever considered leaving art as a comment? Even a quick sketch pretty much says "I love this to bits." Not everyone is good with words, but there are other ways to express oneself.

>> I'm most likely to comment if I have an immediate reaction that's easy to express, if I strongly identify with a particular character, or if the community surrounding a project is one I feel drawn to.<<

Those are useful points to know.

>>I do try to leave helpful feedback for other artists when I have the time, because that's where I feel most qualified to contribute.<<

It makes sense to play to your strengths. I hang out with a lot of artists, so I can comment pretty well there, but still there's a limit to my experience in that field. I can usually see what works and what doesn't, but I can tell how to fix it only sometimes.

I can go farther with writing. As an editor, I can usually figure out how to fix things. Today I spotted one where somebody commented, "This didn't have as much emotion as I expected." I suggested that it was due to being written (quite well) from the perspective of the less-damaged character, and that doing a segment from the other perspective might yield the desired result. The first person's comment reminded me of the little tip about how stories usually work best when told from the perspective of the character most affected by the action. There are exceptions, but if the intensity is low, that's a good rule to check for. So the more of the parameters one knows for a given field, the easier it is to make precise comments.

Re: Thank you!

Have you ever considered leaving art as a comment? Even a quick sketch pretty much says "I love this to bits." Not everyone is good with words, but there are other ways to express oneself.

That would be the unsolicited fan art I mentioned. :) I used to do more of that sort of thing (see all the pics I drew of TWO from Tales of MU for example) but I haven't had as much time for it recently because of all the art people are actually asking for.

Re: Thank you!

>>That would be the unsolicited fan art I mentioned. :) I used to do more of that sort of thing (see all the pics I drew of TWO from Tales of MU for example) <<

Good point ...

>> but I haven't had as much time for it recently because of all the art people are actually asking for.<<

... although I'm really glad that people are actively requesting art in the Story Sketches project.