I am fairly new at the whole blogging “thing” and my time is limited so there are only a few blogs I read regularly. On the whole, I have found the blog world to be a wonderful adventure. I have learned new knitting techniques, found free patterns, received much needed encouragement and “met” knitters from all over the world. It truly humbles me to realize how many knitters there are in the world. Thanks to the internet, I have made friends literally all over the world. These are people I will probably never meet face to face but we are alike none-the-less. Through their blogs, I can share their triumphs when they conquer a new knitting technique, I can sympathize with their disappointment when their project ends up in the frog pond, I can even feel their pain when they fall upon hardships in life. It truly makes you feel part of a world-wide knitting community.
However, there is a disturbing trend that I have noticed lately. And today’s post on the Yarn Harlot’s blog made me realize that I am not the only one who has noticed. I hope Stephanie will forgive me for expanding upon her original theme a bit. I, like Stephanie, have been surprised at what some people will say on their blogs. It is almost as bizarre as the conversations that people will hold over their cell phones in public. People seem to lack a sense of privacy.
Now, I understand that many people think of their blogs as a kind of on-line journal and it is easy to get lulled into the idea now one really reads it. I also understand that everyone needs a good rant every now and again but I am amazed at how specific some of these rants can get. It is one thing to let off a little steam about how stressful, terrible, or vile your job is, but it is another thing entirely to rant on about “Purvis Q. Plantworker”*** who works in bolt counting department at “BoltsRUs Corporation”***. Besides being hurtful to poor Purvis, who might be counting his bolts to the best of his ability or who might be distracted by a serious personal problem today, it is a bit foolish because your boss could actually stumble upon your blog someday and decide that BoltsRUs Corporation needs to downsize your position. You will be amazed what Google can find and your boss may be smarter than you think.
I have also been quite shocked at the number of bloggers who will personally attack other bloggers. There is a huge difference between not liking the pattern that they have designed and insulting another person’s intelligence or looks. Every single one of us has our own idiosyncrasies. Each of us has good AND bad parts to our bodies and personalities. Even though I may not like “Sally-Sue Knitting-Blogger’s”*** green pony-tail Mohawk hairdo or her Teletubbies tattoo and even though I do not agree with her politics and religious beliefs, it does it give me the right to insult her mother or point out to the world that she has ugly feet.
Now let’s take this a step further. Let’s suppose that Sally-Sue designs a knitting pattern that I positively detest. Should I rant on and on and on… about what a horrible pattern it is? Does my dislike of that pattern give me license to personally attack Sally-Sue? Or does it really mean that the style, color or yarn are not appealing to me personally? If I choose to comment on Sally-Sue’s pattern, shouldn’t I find a way to tactfully say that I do not like it without insulting Sally-Sue’s ancestry?
Let me give an example, I generally like Cookie A’s sock patterns (sorry to single you out Cookie but you are one of the few designers whose patterns I will actually pay for- don’t you feel special now). I have knitted several of her patterns and was one of her first buyers when she set up her website. However, there is one of her designs that I simply do not like. I think it may just be the colors that she chose but I cannot imagine any reason why I would want to knit that particular sock. Now if that were the only one of Cookie’s patterns that I had ever seen, I might think that she was not a very good designer. And I could use this design to blast Cookie in my blog or any other public forum. I could rail on and on about what a horrible design it was and call her all sorts of unkind names. But that really wouldn’t be very fair to Cookie, would it? In truth, if you look at all her designs, she is quite an exceptional designer. I have seen very few sock designs that can rival hers. And there is a possibility that the reason she used those particular colors may have more to do with the yarn manufacturer than her personal choice. So to be fair I would need to look at all the facts, instead of just one isolated fact. And if I chose to elaborate on what I didn’t like about that one design, I would need to list specifics – the color combination is unappealing to me – rather than insult her personally.
Yes, there are knitting designs, books, websites, magazines, blogs and podcasts that I do not like. Many of these are for completely valid reasons. It is perfectly acceptable to say that we do not like these things but we should also remember that the writer of that book, the designer of that pattern, the host of that podcast may actually see your blog. It causes fewer hard feelings if you stick with specific facts – the neckline it too low for my short frame – rather than general slurs – it’s hideous.
Finding something you like about that pattern/book/blog before you start criticizing also goes a long way toward making the criticism easier to handle – the designer chose a nice yarn and stitch pattern but the overall design is too boxy. I took a photography class in college. I was totally out of my element since I was a math and science major but the instructor was one of the best I every had. When we had our critiques, he always, always, always began with what he liked – sometimes it was a challenge for him to find something to like, I admit – but he always had something positive to say before he told us any of the bad stuff. And when he did get to the criticisms, he limited his statements to specific techniques – the lighting is poor, the photo is grainy – instead of broad, negative statements – this is terrible. Believe me sometimes, my photos were terrible, but he talked about them in terms of technique, showing me ways to improve the next time. His teaching method has always stayed with me. I have tried to use the same technique in my own children and whenever I have something negative to say about a pattern, book, designer, yarn manufacturer,etc. Approaching criticism in this manner will help you be more fair and balanced. So before you smear Sally-Sue’s blog, take a moment to think how you would react if Sally-Sue said the same thing about you on her blog. As the Harlot said “We Are Not Alone”.
*** The names of these places and people are strictly imaginary – duh! Any similarity to real people or companies is completely unintentional. And if your name really is Purvis you have my deepest sympathy.