Thursday, May 20, 2010

Positive or Negative?

In the world of climbing, it seems that anything, be it a new route, a problem, a film, a book, whatever, elicits strong reactions. I was struck by this recently in reactions to a post by the Climbing Narc on a new film from Big Up called the Insiders. I was one of the first to respond to the video, saying that while all the pieces were in place, I felt something was missing.
A number of others chimed in, pro and con, with one memorable quote describing how the energy of the "haters" could "probably end our oil dependence." While a bit of an exaggeration, the hyperbole of the statement struck me. Since when did a critical reaction to something become "hating?"

The same phenomenon shows up everywhere in climbing, whether in the business side, the media side, or actual practice of the sport. Climbing gets people riled up. Is it because we are so passionate about the sport? Is it because, as is said about academia, "the stakes are so small?" I definitely believe that there are many hardworking people out there trying to make the sport better in many ways. Sometimes it works out really well, sometimes not, but either way, the climbing audience should have a right to respond as it sees fit, hopefully constructively, sometimes not. I don't have the answer to how to best critique someone's project and sometimes it's best to say nothing at all. But I know that I find my own work is improved by solid honest responses from readers and viewers out there.


Anonymous said...

I second you on that one. Negative criticism certainly is not synonymous with "hating", and some people were pretty quick on the draw there.. The public's intake is indeed aimed at making things better, not solely insuring that they stay the same. Whilst Big Up work on the video was undeniably of high quality, it did (in my view at least) lacked the energy they themselves claimed to depict. Your take on it was as welcome as the ones who said to have thoroughly enjoyed it (whom no one called suck ups on a side note). We should probably try to stay reasonable and keep our words as high as the stakes indeed.. Good post.

gian said...

totally agree, on the criticism to the vid and on criticism being different from hating...

about the vid, reconsidering it i have 2 thoughts

a)Capturing the genuine gym's vibe on film and communicating it effectively, especially to outsiders, might not be that easy. I'm not a filmmaker but i can at least guess a lot more shooting, and a less predictable result.

b)Not all potential public is interested in joining a tribe of sweaty good-looking pot-smoking plastic pullers.
A kid's attention might rather be focused on fancy moves, their parents in the gym being a clean, safe and healty place...

Doug Lipinski said...

This may also be a part of the larger theme of hyperbole in many comments/discussions on the internet. Just take a look at the comments for almost any article posted on the Daily Camera's site. I stop visiting their site largely because of this.

I think since text lacks the subtleties of face-to-face conversation people misinterpret things and respond accordingly so the conversation tends to progressively degrade. Obviously there are exceptions, but it only takes a couple people to get things started.

Alex said...

Really? You wonder why someone would call you a hater? Dude all you ever do is "critique" stuff. I mean seriously that's the only thing I ever seem to read on your blog. Some one out there creates something cool and your response is always the same. You start out with a few nice things to say about the new movie, article or first ascent followed by an overly verbose and pedantic criticism on what you feel are the shortcomings.

Having worked as a film critic in the past I understand the value of a well written critique, but when you have something negative to say about everything from the latest V16 to the way Paul Robinson wiped his ass in the locker room at the gym it makes you come off as a righteous boulder brah.

While you try to hide behind your mediocre writing skills and your d-list reputation in Boulder, your pompous nature comes shinning through in every post and I think this is partly why you got called out for being a hater. Quit acting like you have a PHD in rock climbing and that what you say is absolute dogma and I suspect people like myself might get off your back.

Peter Beal said...

Thanks "Alex". Just one question. The examples of my criticism you cite don't seem to mesh with reality. So maybe you can come up with one that does? We can start from there.

tommy said...

"overly verbose and pedantic criticism ".

uh, you just got - in the proletarian parlance of our times - 'served'.

from now on, please keep your d-list discourse off the bros, brah.


Narc said...

I agree with Doug. Take a look at the comments section on just about any website and 95% of them are negative. For some reason most people only like to make their opinion heard if it's negative. By comparison climbing blogs are actually pretty positive by comparison.

It is strange though on climbing sites that the occasional negative comment is always taken so poorly and people feel the need to step in and defend whatever it is that someone had the nerve to be negative about. Whether this stems from the sense of ownership climbers tend to feel about the sport or something else I'm not sure.

Peter Beal said...

Brian, I agree with the generalization you mentioned. The state of blogging in climbing in my view is actually pretty good and upbeat overall. Jeff Jackson's comment about blogs in R&I was not just over the top, it didn't seem to reflect what's actually going on out there. Now forums and comments, that's another deal.

Maybe Alex will be back to explain himself?

Doug Lipinski said...

@Peter and @Brian: I was actually thinking the same thing (that the climbing blogosphere is relatively tame). Even the recent Nalle/Sharma saga, which was no doubt mostly in the minds of uninvolved observers, stayed relatively calm in most places.

@Alex: I think blogs are an excellent place for discussing the merits or failings of their subject matter. I didn't see anything dogmatic in the comments on Narc's blog, nor have I seen that here. If felt like this (or any) blog was wasting my time, condescending and dogmatic, uninformed or totally self promoting I wouldn't follow it.

keith b said...

Dear Peter,

I think culturally we are all still adapting to the internet as a changing medium of communication.

In the past, criticisms often were relegated to 'speaking behind someone's back' and contained to smaller circles of participants.

The basic rule people followed in public was ' if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all'. And this concept was supported by the 'treat people as you would like to be treated' ethos.

But in the realm of the internet where the over hyped concepts of 'sharing' and 'crowd sourcing' are now the norm, the once quiet criticisms are being blasted to the world. And people simply seem to often think that since its the internet, I can say what I want, how I want, with no concept of the ramifications - whether they be hurtfull, or uncharacteristcally negative.

- I know people will say I have the right to my opinion and the right to speak my mind how I see fit. And I agree, you absolutely do, But I also think that is the lowest rung on the ladder of communication, and if as a community we tried to strive for a little higher - like thinking about how our words or expressions or criticisms on-line impact others we might find ourselves a little bit better off as a whole.

I was watching a climbing video short with a friend the other day and she commented that the lady climbing in the video looked fat. Would the whole blogsphere really benefit from hearing that observation? Probably not.

The negative stuff is usually obvious, and I don't think is it really neccesary to always point out the obvious.

Just as people are starting to see that their on-line persona on social websites (like facebook / linked in) are taking on lives of their own, I think in time they will tend to see that their 'blog comments' are doing much the same and require a bit of self reflection as to what you want your on-line 'voice' to sound like.

There are many ways to say something is shit, if you feel compelled to say it, why not pick a way that is least offensive? (unless being offensive is your goal)

keith b

Anonymous said...

Well at least this thread seems to promote constructive criticism :).

sock hands said...

i didn't read any of this crap. so, i don't know about your stupid comments. waht i do know, however, is how to hate... and believe me, mr. beal, you don't have the fortitude to hate.



Mick Ryan said...

I see no hate in Peter's writing. I see an enquiring and curious mind.

I'd like to refer Alex to this, and yes Alex you are reading.

It was written by John Sherman,

"Item 1: I hate hypocrites who have nothing better to do than bash on “haters.” Labeling somebody a hater by definition makes you a hater."

Oooooh Ahhhhh Verm, does that make you a hater?

Any form of critique is seen as 'hate' these days by those not used to robust debate. Similarly the 'jealousy' card is just as lazily pulled if you comment critically on an ascent.

What an odd world.