Remember a couple of years ago when the bubble burst and everyone was down in the dumps? That was a great time for the independent web because when you are out of a job what else can you do besides write and work on your projects? Nothing inspires someone to start their own company than not having a job. Now a ton of people have a blog and even more run their own companies. This phase of the web that we like to refer to as “Web 2.0” can also be seen as the era of empowerment since technology has given us the ability to start almost any web project we want or at the very least copy or mimic a project that already exists.
Now I’m not sure if this sort of attitude has been around longer and maybe I am just now noticing it, but doesn’t it seem as though we are surrounded by a lot of animosity and jealousy? You can’t start a project and have a general discussion about it without it seeming like you are a copycat, using people or just selling out. Now I will be the first to admit that I place companies, sites, projects and people under scrutiny just as much as anyone else, but what happened to the praise and quality criticism we are capable of providing individuals? It still happens a lot, but more times than not it gets lost in the noise.
Admittedly a couple of years ago when this era was starting to build up you couldn’t go anywhere without simply hearing the sheep throw their praise upon any project that came around and it’s almost understandable when looking back because of the events that everyone had been going through. We just got down with our own mini-recession and bubble burst so finding something to be optimistic about was a very, very good thing. Now? Well everyone is on equal playing grounds again and therefore maybe we feel nobody deserves our praise anymore because we just couldn’t do it better or faster than them.
- Those that tend to agree with me.
- Those that wish to castrate me.
What the second group doesn’t realize though is that when I write about 37signals I do so from a passionate user standpoint. They helped to shape many of the philosophies that I follow today and therefore I put them under more scrutiny than I would any other company. Sure, I’ve noticed some changes in their attitudes over the years, but it’s not like my attitude or that of my colleagues hasn’t changed as well. For one I don’t want them changing from the 37signals that I know and love (they can’t stay perfect to everybody) and second, I write about them because I think it helps.
We have some passionate readers and members in the 9rules Network and they are not afraid to voice their opinions, but what they do really well is use constructive criticism when we do something they don’t agree with and give us praise when they want us to know we are doing something well. This is the key, we have to find a balance between criticism and praise that helps the companies and people we love and respect grow.
I don’t think its possible to find something good in every company. There are companies out there that I truly can’t stand, but now I just don’t write about them anymore. When I do critique I try my best to be balanced because I know how hard it can be to bust your ass on something only to have everyone jump on you not with constructive criticism, but with venom that leaves you wondering if you should even continue.
Last week, Mike Arrington came under a ton of scrutiny for his recent redesign of TechCrunch. This was a great example between the difference of haters and passionate users. Ignoring the aesthetics of the site many people felt as though Arrington had soldout his userbase for money and although I think most people understand that money is vital and with that amount of traffic you would be foolish not to try and monetize the site, I don’t think they wanted it to occur at the expense of their experience on the site. I’m not sure Arrington understands that and is taking all the criticism as people hating on him, which many times isn’t the case. Many people feel as though a trust was broken and if this era is all about the users that’s the only thing keeping them on your site.
As I mentioned before I am more guilty of criticizing without throwing praise when it is deserved as much as anybody so I am consciously going to try and put the good word out when I feel someone deserves it. If I do see one or two things that I don’t agree with I will point them out, but don’t take that as jealousy. If we ever get out of this phase I will be happy, but I don’t think there will ever be that perfect median that I am looking for so I can only worry about myself and how I come across to the world.