I don’t often use this blog for posting opinion pieces, but this is definitely one.

Obviously, like many wargamers I often post up pictures of my completed stuff online. Invariably the response is the same, and I’ve noticed that it’s the same for everybody else as well. Any comments will always be of the “looks great” variety, even when you see stuff posted that, well…isn’t great.

So, intrigued about whether other people feel the same way about that as me, I threw this quick poll up on Twitter:

Honestly, I think most people are looking for a little of both. But are we doing ourselves any favours by perpetuating this culture of zero criticism, even though most people actually do want your advice? Surely constructive criticism is a good thing?

Some sites like www.coolminiornot.com actually specialise in letting people critique each others’ miniatures.

Personally I actually find it a bit dissapointing when I post something and it only gets “looks great!” comments. I’m not a great painter, and maybe if people were a bit more forthcoming with advice I’d be a little bit better than I am.

Clearly, 57% of you out there feel similarly. I wonder if we’re being too nice, and worrying so much about hurting somebody’s feelings that we won’t actually offer any help or advice? That’s silly. We’re all big boys and girls and most of us can take feedback on board without tossing all of our toys out of the cot.

Of course, it’s easy to cause offence online, so it’s a good idea to phrase your feedback carefully. So I headed online to track down advice about good techniques for delivering useful criticism. Honestly much of what I found was a bit wet, and I find myself coming back to the classic “shit sandwich” method, where you bracket your critique between two compliments.

Some of the other advice that I found includes:

“Looks great!”

Compare the bad to the good

A variation of the “shit sandwich”, this helps by making sure you’re pointing out the good parts, too

Turn a critique into a question

Instead of “Your paint is too thick, you idiot.”, try “Have you tried thinning your paint?”. It sounds silly, but people do seem to react better if you’re talking about a solution instead of a problem.

Depersonalise it

Obviously. It’s not about them as a person, or even their skills. Just focus on results.

I’d love to hear any feedback you’ve got on the issue. Do you regularly give feedback online? Do you think some groups or environments are more open to it? Have you had a bad experience with criticism that you thought was harsh or poorly delivered? Let me know in the comments.