To Escape Criticism: Do Nothing, Say Nothing, Be Nothing

Criticism is the art of appraising others at one's own value. ~ George Jean Nathan

It's been a fascinating week at Radio Riel!  In listening to the programming provided by our Presenters on the Radio Riel Main stream lately, I've been thinking about what an amazing job they've all been doing.  The depth, creativity and variety has been at a peak, and I was not the only person that was noticing it.

Over the past few weeks, I received IMs, emails and comments on the Radio Riel blog from listeners who are cheering us on.  We get a steady stream of this type of feedback all the time, but there was a distinct surge in "you rock!" comments in the last two weeks, so I passed the feedback along to the Staff.

Then, a few days ago, I received an email from someone saying "I thought that you might like to know that I recently wrote a review of your online radio station Radio Riel Dieselpunk."  So I followed the provided link and took a quick look, and found a very negative write up.

If you've spent *any* time on the internet, then you know that it's *the* place where everyone feels that they can be a critic...and where people soak happily in their own narcissism.  It's due to the narcissism and desire for attention that I am NOT going to post a link to the site of The Dieselpunk Critic.  Sorry DP Critic, but I'm not going to drive my web traffic your way!  I have my own narcissism to nurture!

The "review" left me with several impressions:
  • Oh look! Someone who thinks their definition of Dieselpunk is *the* quintessential definition of Dieselpunk.  Hmm, where have we seen this before...?
  • Wow...this person clearly knows nothing about 20th Century Music
  • Gee, there are actually some helpful bits of feedback in this "review", albeit buried under ego and Dieselpunkier-Than-Thou snarkiness
My last observation is actually the saddest.  This person, in their attempt to get on their soapbox and proclaim how DP THEY are and Radio Riel is not, missed a huge opportunity.  They don't know who Radio Riel is, nor how we work, but if they had contacted me, or done a write up, and said: "Hey, I know several current, contemporary groups that fit the Dieselpunk theme.  Take a listen!  Would you consider playing them?  They could really expand your playlist in a good way, you guys are heavy on vintage stuff.", I would have embraced their feedback, and brought them into the Riel Audiophile community as a Dieselpunk Advisor.

The Dieselpunk Critic has no clue that that is how Radio Riel Steampunk has grown.  That I've been contacted directly by artists such as The Clockwork Dolls, The Deadly Nightshade Botanical Society, Alexandra Hamer, Véronique Chevalier, Tom Slatter, The Extraordinary Contraptions and more so they could contribute *their* Steampunk music to the station.  I've been contacted by fans of these groups, and Steampunk in general, with suggestions on music for the stream.  I've evaluated all suggestions, and I've implemented 99% of them.

We are a station created by our listeners.  When you bash us, you aren't just slagging some nameless, faceless Corporate Barbie named Gabrielle Riel, you are slagging the thousands of Riel Audiophiles that tune in and participate in an audio community.  I'm all about win-win partnerships.  In your desire for attention, you just lost a large potential audience of readers for yourself.  I'd have pimped the heck out of your site, and sent people your way, if you were the type of person who likes to make things happen and contribute to solutions.

Now...regarding criticism in general...   I *did* spend many years as a Corporate Barbie as a Trainer and Instructional Designer.  You all know that whenever you attend a class or presentation, you end up with an evaluation form at the end.  I passed out thousands of evaluations forms to students in those years, so they could evaluate ME and my classes.  I am wired for feedback - it's actually a key component of ISD.

Here is what I learned from thousands of evaluations of me and my performance:
  • You are never going to please 100% of the people 100% of the time.
  • In a group of 15 evaluations, you will (provided that you are doing a good job) receive 14 back with scores of "good" and "excellent" and 1 with "poor".
  • If you consistently see a high majority, like 95% and above, of "goods/excellents" and only a few "poors", then you are doing just fine.
  • You *do* have a valid problem if you start seeing a high percentage of complaints about the same thing.  You need to listen to that feedback and modify accordingly.
When I was a young trainer, I used to beat myself up over the single "poor" eval. As I became more experienced, and just older in general, I see that there are people in the world who are just always unhappy.  It has absolutely nothing to do with you.  They live in a world of gray colored glasses.  They are always complaining about something.  They don't like anyone...including themselves.

There are also people who love to elaborately criticize others, and yet when you look at these folks, you see that they themselves don't actually *do* anything other than criticize.  They've *never* planned or executed a project of any kind that is even remotely like the target of their criticism.  I wonder of The Dieselpunk Critic could tell me what it takes to become licensed as an internet radio station, what are the specifics of the DMCA that constrain us, how to create a revenue model to float it all, and how to find and keep the highest quality talent for 3.5 years?  We'll talk in 3.5 years when you've done that DP Critic  :-) .

The ratio of "good" feedback versus "negative" feedback at Radio Riel, in all of our 3.5 years, on all of our streams works out to that same ratio I knew so well from training.  About 14 "goods" for every 1 "negative".  If I started losing "goods" and gaining "negatives", then I would look at how I do things.  As of right now?  That's not what is happening.  The "goods" keep coming.

DP Critic also does not know that I've had so much mud slung at me in the last 4 years that I could build a large, adobe house from it all.  I've had many people bash me behind my back and several who have done it publicly.  I've been called a "cunt" and been accused of having Multiple Personality Disorder.  I've been accused of all sorts of things that simply exist in peoples' minds and not in reality.

It's not fun nor pleasant, but you know what?  I can roll with it because I know in my heart and soul the reasons I do the things I do.  I do it all for joy.  I do it for the pure love of music and its magic.  It's about spreading that joy and magic.  If it were about anything else, I highly doubt that neither Radio Riel, nor I, would have lasted this long.

I am putting my thoughts about criticism here and nowhere else.  DP Critic will have to scare up web traffic somewhere else.  I've had enough people try to make something out of themselves by "opposing/fighting with Gabrielle Riel". Not worth my time!

(FYI - if by some chance DP Critic finds this post and puts comments on it, I'll be deleting them. This is someone outside of SL though, so the chance is slim.)

Now, back to the business of joy and the magic of music!  Thank you Riel Audiophiles, you wonderful people, you!



Zoe Connolly said…
Your post came along at just the right moment. Thank you, Gabi ;)
I too have received criticism for my radio station but not as publicly as you. Those who've criticized me had no idea what it takes to run a station and how to keep it fresh and exciting. If it's criticism meant to belittle I ignore, but if it's constructive I give it a listen. Many times I've implemented their suggestions and it has helped.

Your passion is what makes Radio Riel so special Gabi. Keep up the outstanding work. I am very proud of you.
Azul said…
*smiles and blows you a heart-shaped smoke ring*
Gabrielle Riel said…
Thanks Zoe! I'm glad I posted this at a good time for you!

Rav, you are one of the few people on this earth who knows what it takes to create and sustain a successful internet radio station, and you've been such a good friend to me. I can't tell you how much I appreciate your support, because I know you really *get* it.

And thank you Azul. You are my rock.

Love to all of you,
Darien Mason said…
You know what they say: opinions are like arseholes...

In the meantime, I'll keep my parcels tuned to you!