The Art of Criticizing a Blogging Buddy

by Jan Geronimo on September 14, 2009

criticizing blogging buddy

The art of criticizing a blogging buddy is a tough one to master. I’m totally clueless on this one so I need your help to sort this out.

If it’s a question of any other blogger you’ve just stumbled into online, this matter of leaving contrary view doesn’t matter at all, does it.  You just do it and engage the author in the most lively but civil manner.  Who gives in?  Who appears victorious?  These questions are not as relevant as the point that a fair exchange of ideas has taken place right in the blog itself.

But what if you find something objectionable in a friend’s post?  Uh-oh.  Anything can go wrong.  You maybe talking about ideas, but your friend may misconstrue the style of your comment as an attack on his person.

Your options

  • You leave a critical comment right on the comment section itself for all the blog author’s readers to see.  He did all the heavy lifting all right, but should he be commended if he places the sofa in the bathroom and the dining table in the garage?  Shouldn’t you have the right to tell him he’s out of his mind?
  • You write the blog author an email about your objection(s).  The thinking behind this is that he is your friend.  If you care for him, you avoid raining on his parade.  You do not embarrass him in his own house. What are blogging buddies for, right?
  • You avoid risking conflict with your friend by talking about the minor but less contentious part of his writing.  Perhaps you sweeten it up by talking about the weather.  Or perhaps you’re Mr. Congeniality himself, saying “Woot” here and sprinkling your comments with smilies to cheer him up.

So, my questions to you:  which is the saner approach?  Which path will you choose if you’re criticizing a friend?  Does a friend have special privilege when you feel he’s wrong on his posts?  Do you wear kid gloves to spare his feelings?  Or is everything fair game to you when it comes to voicing your opinions?

Photo CreditShyald

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  • Depends on how well you know your friend. If this is a close friend that you can confide in, some form of chat is best. If you are not close, as in someone you know through blog commenting, forums, etc. then an email may be the best route or some way of privately contacting them. I wouldn't go the comment route because it is really "calling that person out" publicly. That is hurtful to the friend/blogger's reputation. If you can't come to an agreement of some sort, or it all blows up, then best to just avoid the blog. If it that important to your value system, why put yourself in a position to feel betrayed or to feel dishonest?
  • Thanks, Connie. I'm happy to tell you we've survived my presumptuousness.
    My friend it turned out has a big heart. I'm so lucky. Big lesson for me,
    this. :)
  • Well, it's really tough but I believe there's always a nice way - or should I say a diplomatic way of expressing disagreement. It's sad I haven't learned that art yet. As I observe it, bloggers always tend to write comments to be agreeable - specially with a blog buddy.
  • Nice article Jan. I agree with DiTesco. We all have different opinions and views on a certain subject. It's well understood. In my case, i tend to be more kind when leaving comments. If there are things that need to be discussed and if its too personal, i would probably email him rather than posting all my rants against the person or post. But everyone of us has the right to post comments based on our thoughts, it's an opinion. As a blogger, we must expect how people would feel and interact on your post. It's different from personal attacks.
  • Very levelheaded of you, Ambo. Must be directly related to the personality of the blogger eh? If you're genial your interaction online tends to reflect that. If you've lot of unresolved issues with yourself and the world, that shows up in writing, too.

    Will it help if I learn the culinary arts? Serving not only palatable but magnificent, mouth-watering posts is something to aspire for. Fair enough, Chef Ambo? Ahehehe.
  • I've only had 90 minutes worth of sleep so you'll have to forgive me if I sound as high as a kite. Here goes; A co-worker once told me that we are only hurt by the ones we love or cherish (you can choose whatever word you want here). This is because we only take to heart the opinion of those who matter to us. The rest? Water off a duck's back. That got my attention and had me thinking for a while. Then I said, "What are friends for if you can't abuse them?" He walked away. What's up with that? People can really be weird sometimes. :p
  • Hmmm. Your friend had his Aha moment. But just because he had a flash of insight does it necessarily follow he can deal with this insight now? Give him time. lols

    What your friend said though is what's keeping me on an even keel in the blogosphere. He's spot on on that one. Hurray for him. :)
  • nobe
    gosh jan, i am all for taking the easier road. call me a coward. i can never criticize anyone's work straight to her/his face. i just don't know how to do it.

    sometimes, i'd rather drink big gulps of water. lol.

  • It might be the easier road as you've said, but who's to say you're a coward. It might be even the wise thing to do under the circumstance. Each relationship is unique and has its own dynamics, especially online when you can't balance a stern comment with a warm hug or a winning smile.
  • I always seem to come to the party a day late, perhaps I could be a better friend and try to show up at the start of the gathering. At any rate, I feel the need to add my comment as you have asked us how we handle the act of criticism individually. I wish to add, both on line and off I try hard to follow what are reffered to as the three C's - never Criticize, Condem, or Complain. Though not perfect at it, it's a credo I have in front of me often. So, I would apply this to blog comments too - with this caveat - if the bloger has asked for criticism, as you did recently then I would offer it honestly. I do not see offering a different opinion as criticism - unless it's done in poor taste, without tact. I feel no need to offer unsolicited criticism. I say this because people need to want to change, and who says what I think is right for them?
  • I hear what you're saying, Trina. And it's true - it's a bit presumptuous of us to believe that whatever pops into our head is also right for the other person. There's no provision after all in every meaningful friendships and even ordinary online interaction between strangers to be unmitigated jerks.

    Maybe there is. But that can't be a healthy relationship, right?

    It occurs to me just now. This post is a note to my friends that it's all right to put me to task in the comment section of my blog. I just got sidetracked and put the point of view on the other person. Maybe another post when nothing else remotely interesting comes up? lols
  • You're absolutely right! I'll post another teaser in the near future.
  • Cool. I'd look forward to reading them. :)
  • I think it would also depend on how you know your friend. if he's the kind who doesn't welcome opinions, i would not criticize at all. if he's the kind who easily feels embarrassed, i will let him know discretely. if he's open-minded and sport, he won't mind whichever way you choose.
  • You break it down beautifully. Ahahaha. Thank you!
  • Hi Lolo Jan. This is quite tricky, I agree. But here are my 2-cents...

    If the topic is general enough to be available for a critique or an opinion, and I have a dissenting opinion on the matter, I would simply begin my statement with: "Let's agree to disagree..."

    If the blogger is a friend - I would probably choose to keep mum. I mean - just because I have an opinion on the matter doesn't mean I should argue about it with everyone. Besides, this is the blogosphere: anything you publish around here can stick around longer than you will live. :p
  • In a stretch of short comments, a long comment stands out. And if the
    reverse happens, a very short comment draws the eyes as well.
    If it happens that you disagree and everyone else agrees with the author,
    there's merit in making known your contrary view. It makes you an
    "independent" thinker, not easily swayed by the crowd's opinion. And with
    millions of blogs out there... Well you know what I imply, Rey.

    Having said that, it's not wise to play mind games with friends just to get
    ahead of the pack. So I agree with you on this one. We must choose wisely.
    If differences of opinion is on a trivial matter, just let go. But why am
    I addressing this to you when I should be sending this memo to myself.

    Matulog ka na, Rey. It's morning na, Sir. :)
  • This is complicated Jan as like you said, everyone may have a different opinion and for that matter, may have his/her own way of dealing with criticism. One thing I do know is that you or anyone will never be a blogging buddy of mine unless we mutually respect each other and provide positive and constructive criticisms.

    One way that I found out on how to do this in a more "diplomatic" manner is to do it right on the very start. This way, my "blogging" buddy to be, will know right at that moment what he/she can expect from me. Ultimately and if at all possible, I will invite that buddy to chat with me or maybe even talk directly to him, after all, Skype, VoxOx and the sorts are all out there for free.
  • Cool. You've got all bases covered in your outlook. The total approach! lols. In SEO parlance it can be taken to mean you've highly optimized your intentions with your buddies. And with this in mind there's no way you can be accused of using black hat tactics to further your own ends. Ahehehe
  • Hmmm this is hard. Well, if I find something objectionable in a friend or a stranger's post I tend not to dwell on it. Instead, I focus on the positive side of things. People have different ideas and I respect that. Accepting diversity is what makes this world a better place.
  • Hi, Charles. The matter of making a relationship last takes a lot of work huh? And online friendship is no exception - just like the ones we have offline. That's a nice point to remember indeed. Thanks, Charles.
  • I so agree it takes a lot of work but at the same time it´s rewarding. Friends are life´s second greatest treasure after family. Btw, I´m happy that you find my book´s excerpt interesting. I am just hoping that I managed to finish it before the year ends.
  • I'm sure you'd do well, Charles. I'd love to read future teasers from the pages of your book. Not to make you give away the meat of the book of course, but give us something more - amuse our inner spoiled brats. lols. Perhaps a scrap, a snippet, a teaser is on its way? By the way, that's also good for drawing interest for it when it's ready for book launching, right?
  • I'm getting the weirdest sense of deja vu...

    Um, I'd say that if it's the content of the post you feel a need to criticize, you respond right there in the comments and tell it like it is. That leads to lively discussion.

    If it's the blog strategy, or something more personal, and you have other means of contacting this person, perhaps you could share your criticism more privately. The whole world needn't hear "You've sold your soul to earn a buck, have you?" type criticism, I think.

    But when you're putting it out there in your blog, in public, it's good to hear straight talk from your "blogging buddies." It's good to hear their honest impressions, because strangers may or may not tell you if you're coming across as a pompous ass, or if you're writing too many paid posts, or being too snarky with your friends and just looking mean. Friends will. And it may sting, but in the long run, if it saves you from looking like an ass in public, it's a kindness - isn't it?
  • Well said from beginning to end - and not because it's beautifully put together, but it totally makes sense.

    It's weird seeing a gray anonymous avatar here instead of your face. You don't trust leaving with Disqus the email you've registered with Gravatar? lols

    Is this a subtle campaign to make me switch to Echo? By the way, you've not switched yet to Echo, I noticed.
  • debbieyost
    I think it partly depends on the post. Are they looking for opinions? If so, then they should be open to some disagreement. I've written posts in the past that I knew others may have a different opinion on. As long as commentors keep it civil and debate in a respectful manner, I don't mind if they disagree with me. In fact, it can actually help the post build credit. In these cases, I think commenting in their comment section is the best answer.

    If however, there seems to be a string of comments of support and I think their all nuts, I chose not to comment at all. But I'm not a controversial type of person and prefer to keep the peace. I prefer to protect the friendship over making sure they know I'm right. :)
  • "As long as commentors keep it civil and debate in a respectful manner, I don't mind if they disagree with me. In fact, it can actually help the post build credit."

    At last somebody pointed this out. Thanks. That's a very good point. :)
  • i tend to be "kind" when leaving comments, to friend and stranger alike. my criticism is not so much "you're doing this wrong!" as "don't you think it will be better if..?" it's the textbook definition of "constructive." :D

    i take criticism really well, that is, i take it really personally (even when i'm so nice on the outside). hahaha! that's a joke. my buddies are allowed to be harsh on me, even though i could never bring myself to be as harsh to them. different strokes for different folks.

    would you like a little demonstration?

    jan, may i just say one thing? don't you think moderating each and every comment isn't in some ways stifling the conversation? there's a lag between the time i say one thing and the time i see my comment and the time i see your reply, which may discourage some people from replying to other people's comments and extending the conversation..?

    but i can see how this system will invariably drive out the trolls. hehehe!

    see jan? that's the way i "criticize" someone. i sort of take back the criticism in a subtle way. wehehehe! :P

    btw, thanks jan for the encouraging words in your other comment. :D
  • My brand of kindness is tough love. Here I am, putting a good spin
    (excuse?) on it. But I don't do it very often. Conditions have to be met:

    1. You disrespect Kris Aquino.
    2. I've run out of coffee.
    3. I'm bored.

    A good friend tore me to pieces in private on this one. I'm giving up Kris Aquino now. Conventional wisdom has it that a friend is more important than Kris Aquino or any celebrity who by the way doesn't even know I exist. That's good advice. I hate never realizing this on my own, but it's true - a friend is more important.

    So if by chance you've dug your happy talons on Kris Aquino's white neck in the past, it's fine by me. I'd just refuse to read past the title of the post. All is forgiven - even future editions of your harangue if you wish to go that route.

    Moderation? Okay, I'd do away with the moderation. Hey, are you serious? You call that criticism? That's a suggestion.

    Thanks for the suggestions, Deejay.
  • But it isn't just about Kris Aquino, or other celebrity target du jour. It's about your friend's behavior making you uncomfortable. It's about the "disrespect" part of the equation, and the way they went about it. (And before anyone jumps on this, I have no idea what friend or post you're talking about, so for the purposes of this reply, it's all hypothetical.) It's about, "If you can disrespect anyone, you can disrespect me, too, if you turn against me some day."

    Now, that may not have any validity in fact, because it's easier to take potshots at celebrities and politicians - they're not "real" to us in the way that a friend is. But just how "real" is a blogging buddy, and how long does it take for them to become the kind of "real" where you're conscious that what you say or do might really hurt them, in fact?

    I agree with deejay. I completely understand the moderation, but it does lead to some lagged, disjointed conversations. I give everyone a chance. Once. I've figured out how to block them. ;) And I can always turn moderation or registration or the dreaded CAPTCHA codes back ON, if anyone gets too unruly.
  • Thanks for the qualification, Holly. That needs to be made clear at the outset.

    "Just how "real" is a blogging buddy, and how long does it take for them to become the kind of "real" where you're conscious that what you say or do might really hurt them, in fact?"

    Or just how how true is my claim that I'm their "real" blogging buddy?

    I've switched off moderation already, Holly. Ahehehe
  • I think its all about tone really, use a phrase like a noticed this... or this could help
  • That's a valid point. The right tone can spell the difference as to how well the well-meaning comment will be received. Thanks for pointing this out.
  • In my case, if you consider me a buddy then give me your constructive criticism. Bring on your objection, personally, I have no problem with that. Maybe I am asking for it.

    However, when I reply to a comment and/or make a comment, I always make sure that... wait, how can you criticize good/excellent writing?

  • Ahahaha. You're much too kind, Darbs.

    Excellent writing can be just that - technical excellence. Just one aspect
    of the whole package. The more relevant part and fair game - at least to me
    - is the idea of the post. A rubbish idea can be dressed up eloquently,
    right? So there you go.
  • I created something in the exodians blog a tribute to your "The Art of Criticizing" - to criticize or not to criticize: that is the question.

    Ready for the hailstone. Charge to my religiosity: So help me God...
  • I have been attacked recently by Anonymous comments with one of my posts. I do find their comments offending, specially because they had left their comments Anonymously. They were too afraid to reveal themselves when all along they know me (through my blog). But, no matter how offending or harsh their comments are on me, I explain myself to them by replying to their comments and keep my cool.

    So I guess, that's how I will treat it. If I find a post of a blogger friend different from my point of view. I'll let him. He is entitled to his opinion, and I am entitled as well. There will always be the nicest way to voice out your criticism without offending the other party. Right choice of words, I guess.

    For that, I'm choosing #1. :)
  • I have found that Anonymous can be kind, as well as cruel. But when Anonymous chooses to hide behind anonymity to take nasty little potshots, I have no respect for him or her. That's why I do require an email address (I'm the only one who can see it, but I not only want to know that you're a real person, I want you to be willing to admit it, too). I don't feel the need to respond to snarky, cowardly comments from Anonymous, period.
  • As for me Holly, I replied and keep my cool. In that way, I had my
    sweet revenge. Since they would normally expect that I will burst
    into anger and tell them unkind words too. Well, not replying to
    anonymous comments will do too :)
  • That's wise. I once got a nasty review, courtesy of Anonymous, of a short story I'd posted on a writing site. I knew the story was good, but moreover, the criticism was just designed to be hurtful - it had NOTHING to do with the story itself. I wrote back something to the effect of, "I'm really sorry you're having a bad day. I don't know who has said hurtful, nasty things to you today to make you want to lash out at strangers on the Internet, but I hope that doing so has made you feel just a little bit better about yourself. Have a great day!"

    Remember the dinner scene in "The Sound of Music," just after Maria sits on the pine cone?

    Yeah. He wrote back apologizing, admitting I'd nailed it - he was a high school student who was, indeed, having a lousy day. He'd forgotten for a moment that there were real people on that site and that he was being just as mean to me as people had been to him earlier, and he turned out to be a pretty nice kid.
  • As for me Holly, I answered the Anonymous comments and was really
    delighted that one of them had commented and was now greeting me for
    answering rude remarks nicely. And it was a great feeling.
  • So you'd rather other people - perhaps strangers - call out your friend's
    over-the-top post for example? Is that not being wimpy?

    Being critical is not helpful at all? Bear in mind millions of blogs are
    out there, with new blogs by the hundreds of thousands being launched in a
    day/week - I'm not sure. Can this not be considered your way of helping
    your friend be the best that he can be to stand out from the crowd?
  • Well, I will surely leave a comment, making my point. But I will
    choose the right words so as not to make my comment disagreeable. I
    still leave him with the liberty to voice what he thinks. :)
  • I'm rather straightforward with these matters so I would likely go for the comment there and then, but if I am among my gentler moods, I would simply go with the email option.

    Call me ruthless, rude, insensitive... anything you want, but that's me. I guess I got it from my high school days: all those friends that turn your back on you just because you won't give in to their whims. I've learned to despise this dialogue: "Kapag hindi ka sumama, wala kang pakisama" by my "friends" before.

    If someone's really your friend, he would be open to criticism, as long as the criticism is justified. It doesn't matter how you deliver it to him, he'll accept it, think about it, then change the things that needs changing.

    If he doesn't then you have something to think about for yourself.
  • Oh dear, I'd hate to be caught in your cross-hairs, my friend. Will have to
    wear flak jacket, methinks. lols

    Here's the thing though. Okay, you've said your critical, well-considered
    opinion, but you've hurt your friend in the process. He knows you've got a
    point. Everything you say is valid - technically.

    How does that change the dynamics of your friendship? How do you repair the
    damage? Are you up for mending fences, too? Or is this a part of a
    winnowing process, meaning you let go of this friend who can't stand your

    That's a very hard thing to consider, right? Are you not bothered?
  • The "mending fences" part shouldn't be YOUR problem, IF everything you've said is honest, fair, and respectful. Your friend may need time to lick his wounds, if he's overly sensitive. And if he thinks you've been too harsh, it's his right to respond and you should listen and take his criticism, in turn. Then move on. That's how trust is built - though you may criticize, if you have your friend's best interests at heart and do nothing with the intention of hurting him, it will all be okay.
  • Bothered? Cold as I might sound and appear, I am not bothered at all. Whenever I put myself into something, I put the better part of me into it. And that includes friendship. I pour huge amounts of trust into that friendship and believes it would be able to stand the test of time.

    Me not being bothered about the tongue-lashing I just gave doesn't completely mean that I'm not affected or hurt if he or she gets me wrong.

    What can I say? I'm just human and also vulnerable to hurt, pain, and frustration just like anybody else. Besides, I believe that being vulnerable to these emotions is living. I guess that counts me as a living thing... hehehe...
  • Well said. ",)

  • I'll just probably email my friend. Hindi sa public, para naman di masaktan.
  • Roy
    like what I've said in my reply to Novz, an email would be very convenient... and it really won't hurt. after all, you are friends, right. but his idea is better ;)

    if it can't really be tolerated (at least for the moment), a direct approach is the best way --- rather than ranting about it via blog post.

    I remember a quotation which goes something like, "if you can't tell the person concerned directly, you shouldn't tell others eithers" and if I may add, "especially those who has no concern about the subject/person"

  • There is always something good in anything. This is where I concentrate on. I focus on this positive and comment about it infront of all his/her readers.

    And if I feel strongly negative about the other contents of the post, I would opt for no. 2 - email him/her.

    What are friends for? But this I do with any blogger, how much more with my friends?

  • You're an angel, Jen. Sadly, I am not.
  • Jan, this is why Scarlett was such good friends with Melanie - Melanie pricked her conscience and made her WANT to be a better person...

  • Hi Jan, As you say, there's a big difference between disagreeing with someone's ideas - which should be fine in a blog comment - and chastising someone for being disagreeable. For the latter situation, my policy is to praise publicly and criticize privately - though like anything there can be exceptions. Embarrassing people in public more often leads to both sides digging in their heels than to anyone experiencing a change of heart. Plus, ripping into somebody in a blog comment may give us a moment of satisfaction, but it may well be followed by a lifetime of regret.
  • You said, "...ripping into somebody in a blog comment may give us a moment
    of satisfaction, but it may well be followed by a lifetime of regret."

    That's good advice, Brad. Thank you.
  • i wrote a long comment only to erase it. i can tolerate friends, and i don't impose my ideas either. would criticizing be good for him and for our friendship? let him say his piece, let me say mine. and let's have a drink to that. diversity of ideas is, i think, a good thing.
  • "I wrote a long comment only to erase it."

    If it's a long comment about my ideas, Novz, why erase it? I find that odd.

    Being forthright with your friends - does this constitute imposition? Would
    it not benefit the blog if there's a free exchange of ideas? Are we not
    setting the tone for the rest of the readers NOT to go beyond being nice and

    Is there not a danger of our blogs becoming a predictable, ho-hum echo

    These are just points to ponder, Novz. I'm not advocating a free for all in
    a blog section. This is farthest from my mind.
  • do you want to know what that long comment was all about? hehe.

    it goes into the various levels of friendship and how we see each other. you might think of someone as your friend, but he thinks otherwise. Or it could be vice versa. It could also depend on the personality of the blogger. some could respond deadlier no matter how many smileys you put on the comment or in the email. it might take sometime before the wound is healed notwithstanding the intention. some may not be slighted at all, because in truth, they could just be ignoring you.

    there are nice comments, and brutal ones too. there are nice replies and there are swipes. what it the comment box for?

    i see the blogger above the blog. more coffee please. i need to be coherent here :)
  • Cool. Let's see what we have here.

    1. "you might think of someone as your friend, but he thinks otherwise. Or it could be vice versa."

    I'm not squeamish getting my feet wet in untested waters. It's how things
    are being invented. It's a gamble. I just have to know - that in itself can be its own merit, right? But of course there's a price to be paid. I know that, too.

    2. it might take sometime before the wound is healed notwithstanding the intention.

    Friendly fire can just be as fatal. I amuse myself I'm a poor marksman. I
    deal only surface wounds, mind. Okay, who am I kidding, right. Point well taken - too much after the fact, sad to say.

    3. i see the blogger above the blog

    Ah, Novz, this is the heart of the matter, isn't it? I see now why you initially have second thoughts about submitting your first reply. If this is the original comment? Let me say this then - because you've decided to repost it - thank you. Thanks a lot, Novz.

    But to be able to answer that I need a stiffer drink, Novz. Coffee doesn't
    cut it anymore.
  • Roy
    nicely put Novz!

    I would have said I'll email him ASAP, but then, you're right. Friends can tolerate friends, as long as you know what he is not hurting himself with what he's doing.

    While a friendly email would be convenient, I guess there would be a better opportunity for the case to open itself, in a more receptive environment - over bottles of booze (or in my case, over a cup of coffee).
  • Nice suggestion, Roy.

    Here's a thought. I'm a regular visitor of your blog. Ninety eight percent
    of the times your ideas resonate with me. Can't complain. You give good
    value - useful info, good tips, good clean fun. And you enlarge my mind.

    But in blogging you're bound to have differences. Not personality-related.
    Just ideas. So in comes two percent chance that I'd not agree with you.

    Is it horrible to do it in the open? What kind of friendship is it that
    cannot survive differences? Are we not too onion-skinned?

    But of course if you at the other end of the line feels offended, I'm open
    to the possibility that indeed I might have crossed some lines with you. You as a friend do know the subtleties, the undertow of these critical thoughts and words.
    I don't discount that at all.

    Love the reference to coffee. Good reminder. Just have to lug a big thermos whenever I come visiting my friends. Just to be sure. ahahaha
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