Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Comment Etiquette

This is a rather serious debate I just got into with a friend of mine, on the subject of comment etiquette.

I am of the realization that not everyone likes the same dolls I do – which is fine, because if everyone liked the same things, the world would be a dull place. I suppose, however, that it would make things a lot easier for the doll manufacturers!

Most doll collectors these days gather online to chat with one another and show off their darlings, on boards and forums, such as Prego, Riley Hugs and Kishes, MEF Forum, Zone of Zen, Den of Angels and many other such internet gathering places. Some boards specialize in a specific doll or type of doll, such as Den of Angels, which is dedicated to BJD enthusiasts, or The Studio Commissary, which is dedicated to Gene Marshall and her friends.

Doll boards and forums are frequented by doll collectors, most of whom are very kind, well-mannered and generous folks. There are moderators, however, who keep an eye on things, to make sure the board experience remains a pleasant one. Scammers or unpleasant types are blocked from cheating the other members or causing trouble.

But the debate with my friend started with regards to comment etiquette. As mentioned, not everyone collects or likes the same kinds of dolls – and there are a lot of dolls waiting to join someone’s collection.

That said, when going through the posts on a board, looking at the messages and the images posted by other users, the etiquette question comes up – how do you comment?

Lately, I have been a lurker on the boards I belong to, because I don’t really have anything to say. There have also been times when I haven’t taken any new pictures of my dolls that I feel are particularly noteworthy enough to post on a board or forum.

However, since I am a member of these boards and forums, does this mean I am obligated to comment, just because I happen to be there? If I dislike a particular doll, do I say something anyway to the person posting it?

My friend and I were debating about a particular doll I have taken a fancy to, that does not find favor with him. That the promotional pictures are not overly flattering does not help. I tried again, posting real life pictures from another friend who has the doll, and is a more skilled photographer than I am, and my friend who dislikes the doll made further comment that he did not like her.

I said that was fine, I knew the doll wasn’t for everyone, and if or when I got her, I would not post pictures of her. He said that I should post pictures, and he would say something nice about the doll.

This is where I am confused – I don’t comment on each and every post on the boards and forums I belong to, because I would get nothing else done during the course of a day. And sometimes, frankly, I dislike the doll or dolls the other collector has posted. On the larger forums, this is easy to avoid doing, since there are so many other members that what I might have to add is superfluous anyway.

Then, too, if a comment in response is negative, such as, “I dislike that doll,” or “the clothing is unattractive,” or any other negative thing that might be brought to bear about the post, the original poster, in some cases, is offended, and responds in an unkindly fashion. Sometimes, the other commenters will also chime in. Flame wars have started in this fashion, and sometimes, the moderators have to close the thread or even remove it from the board. I have started a few controversies, however inadvertently, and I know others who are smarting from the flames they received from upset posters.

So, does this mean the only thing we can post are accolades about whatever it is that takes a person’s fancy to post on a board or forum? I have made it a policy, at least on the smaller board and forums I belong to, which only have a few members, to try to comment on all the postings, because with the smaller communities, it is hard to avoid commenting about a post or posts. The few people there know you have not said anything, and wonder what is going on.

In that case, I try to comment on things about a photo or photos that I did like, such as congratulating someone on acquiring a much desired doll, how well the photo is focused, the surroundings – anything but say, “I hate your doll, but I love everything else about the photo.”

Technically, we are in a country where the freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution. We should be able to say whatever we like, but we are bound by cultural restrictions and expectations – religious beliefs, politeness, awareness of hate or racist speech and so on and so forth, influence what we say, not only to one another’s face, but also to our fellows on the internet. At least, if we are wise, we remember to be polite.

But I still wonder, just because someone posts a message and pictures on a board or forum are we truly are obligated to not only comment, but comment positively? For myself, I would appreciate someone commenting in a positive fashion about a message and pictures I have taken because they truly enjoy what I have posted, rather than feel obligated to say something nice, especially if they dislike the doll.

14 comments:

  1. It's that old song, "If you can't say something real nice, just don't talk at all is my advice". Of course you can't comment on every photo that would be ludicrous, plus how would anyone know if you did or didn't? Even on the smallest forums I don't count the number of members and then tick each one off as they comment on my photos!

    Just comment when you see something you like. Or don't comment at all.

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  2. I would also agree, Blue. If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

    However--then you come across other message boards, which require you to post at least two comments per week in order to "stay an active member." I understand wanting a new message board to have new content, as well as wanting a new member to make relevant posts. However, I think as the message board grows in size, rules like these are no longer necessary--in fact, they seem to be a bit unruly, as there is no way to have the time to keep up with all the new information out there.

    Finally--as far as negative comments go--I totally understand that not every doll is every person's cup of tea. Nor should it be. As a collector, however, I find it easy to find something about a doll that I like. And I usually find it easy to find something positive to say, if it's only being pleased that the other collector is happy with his or her doll. Especially if it's a closer-knit board, and you "know" the others posting on it. Do you think it's difficult for some people to find positive things to say?

    Maybe it's all my time trying to make 90% of what I say to my kids NOT be "no." ;)

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  3. Ope. And after I posted, I have to say, I thought of a doll I don't really care for, and would have a hard time finding something positive to say about: those baby monkey dolls that Shuga-Shug likes so much:

    Baby Monkeys

    Actually, check out her new blog, too. It's awesome. And go click on her ads.

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  4. Thanks for talking about this issue. I lurk on several doll places because of it. While it's better to not comment if you can't praise the other person, the opposite is also true. Why does that person have to react negatively if you say you didn't like the doll? I'm not talking about being rude but a simple statement of dislike, or that the doll would look better in a red dress, etc.

    I've seen well-known fans on doll boards get all huffy and attack a person just because he/she said he didn't think this sculpt was for him. Or that the newly released doll is overpriced. Or that a doll's outfit wasn't well-made. Woe befall the doll fan who points this out. *rolls eyes*

    As you said, not everyone likes the same dolls but surely a difference of opinion is also healthy? I like Terri Gold's blog because she expresses her likes and dislikes plainly and at times that's a relief.


    Ariss

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  5. Good points, Ariss.

    Terri's Blog is definitely a fantastic read. She definitely minces no words in her posts--that's for sure. :) I love reading her reviews because of that, actually. And she actually reviews the dolls in person, which also makes a difference.

    Even if I don't always agree with her stylistic preferences, she has such funny ways to get her point across--like with the new Vanessa's lips and the Where's Waldo collage. I loved those! LOL!

    For me, having seen or held the doll (or owning it) is what gives you the authority to comment about how well the doll or outfit is made. Maybe from promo photos you can tell some of the time whether you will like the sculpt. But much of the time, you won't know until you see the doll in person and take a closer real-life look will you be able to see the details.

    So back to message boards: why waste time making negative comments if you haven't seen the actual doll, especially if no one is asking? I mean, I've seen two types of posts. One is like this:
    "I'm so excited about my new doll--here are my real-life photos of her. Look at my new grail! I just love her!"

    To this post, I probably wouldn't respond if I didn't care for the doll. Or else congratulate the new owner by saying something about her finally getting her grail doll.

    Then, the second type of post:
    "What do you think of [any particular company's] new doll? What's your opinion? Here is mine."

    If you post a thread like that, you should expect to get both positive and negative remarks, and you shouldn't be surprised. You're asking for commentary. Of course you'll get both.

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  6. I would much rather someone not comment at all, instead of commenting positively out of obligation. That is counterproductive, and very deceptive. We all have our likes and dislikes. I comment a lot in the forums and on flickr, but everything I say is truthful. When I see a picture that grabs me, I make a comment. If I see a picture that does nothing for me, I move on to the next picture. This one just wasn't for me, but there are others that will find it to their liking. I am not here to question anyone else's taste in dolls or tell them it would look better this way. I have people from the boards and the blogs that I reach out to, for advice to make my work better, but I never do that directly on the forums, I go through email. I always appreciate getting tips from people who's work I admire. I am not too proud to ask, and never too proud to try to get better. I think we all start somewhere with the intent of getting better. The key is to start. Getting constructive feedback is good. It is rarely what you say, but how you say it. There is even a constructive way to say, that doll would look better in a red dress, without coming across arrogantly. "Wow, I wonder what she would look like in a red dress?" That way the thought is conveyed and hopefully no feathers have been ruffled. We should all work towards truthfully inspiring others to get better, not causing them to stop posting their pictures for fear of backlash.

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  7. Thanks, Vanessa, for your comments. I think you have a good approach. Especially for Flickr photos.

    And definitely being constructive is helpful, too--I've found some constructive comments, such as yours, are sometimes ideas I hadn't thought of before, and often help me like a doll much better than I had originally.

    A little off-topic here... are you the Vanessa that one of my other readers keeps addressing? Her name is Loretta, and she seems to comment the most on Kathie's vintage Barbie posts. This one is her latest. ;)

    Just had to ask! :)

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  8. This is an interesting topic and one that I've had the odd debate with my fellow "doll" people.

    "But I still wonder, just because someone posts a message and pictures on a board or forum are we truly are obligated to not only comment, but comment positively?"

    IMHO: no. Being part of a forum does not obligate a member to comment, let alone giving them a positive comment.

    That isn't to say that you shouldn't comment, but rather only that you do it if you feel moved to comment. My fellow-collectors/customizers have come to term the "required" comments you mention as "fluff comments" things that people seem to write--that have about as much substance or meaning as, well, a bit of fluff!

    I don't know about anyone else, but I'd much rather someone give me a positive comment which really applies to some aspect of the photo or post, than someone giving me a well-meant but empty "fluff" comment. IF people get something out of my photos or posts--that's great and that really makes me happy. I usually don't mind constructive criticism, but I feel that on many forums people don't want that-and it feels on some that there is expected "ego stroking" more than anything else.

    "For myself, I would appreciate someone commenting in a positive fashion about a message and pictures I have taken because they truly enjoy what I have posted, rather than feel obligated to say something nice, especially if they dislike the doll."

    Exactly. However, I think a lot of people do post "fluff" comments because they don't really know what else to say or (sometimes) they don't want to put the full effort into writing a real comment(takes more time).

    In my opinion, no matter how someone feels about a given doll or action figure---there is never any reason to belittle it or comment negatively. Sure, it might not be to that individual viewer's taste, but then--no one is forcing that person to look, or more importantly to comment. (I've had the situation in the past--I posted a doll and it was not appreciated by some people. I received rather catty comments about it. Those people obviously felt the need to comment even though they could not bring something positive to the conversation. All that kind of treatment does it make some people "shut down". I know when that happened I pretty much quit those places. Who needs a reception like that?

    The question is why, since on so many forums it's easy enough to skip to the next thread, post or entry.

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  9. I'm with Alison, that you should feel out the post before you comment - are they just sharing their excitement or interest in something, or are they specifically asking for some feedback?

    I'm never one to rock the boat, so I always air on the side of "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." However, for myself, it's good for me to get a little criticism (hopefully positive, but not necessarily) every once in a while to practice "not taking it personally."

    As an internet surfer, I would tend to leave off the "fluff" comments and not fill up bandwith with unimportant comments. But as a blogger, sometimes a little "fluff" is nice confirmation that one more person is reading what I'm writing. ;)

    Thanks for posting on this, Blue - it's a great topic. :)

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  10. Blue, I can't believe after knowing me all these years you didn't understand what I was doing there with my comments on the doll you referenced in our original conversation. (Yes, folks, I'm the "he" mentioned in Blue's original comments.) At the beginning you were talking about how you were finding it impossible to resist a doll that you weren't originally interested in but even the fact that the company had modified one of your favorite sculpts and put it on a different body from what you normally collected couldn't keep you from lusting after the sculpt you liked so much. If I recall correctly you even jokingly berated yourself for being such a sucker for that sculpt--your word, I believe. ;-)

    So, going along with the gag I put on my best teasing face and told you I really hated that doll. I said it a couple of times. Even after all these years you seemed to take me as seriously as a heart attack, which surprised me to no end. So, when you came out with "if I buy this doll I'm sure not going to post her photos here," I responded with "sure you will, and I'll comment positively." Why, because I don't hate the doll--I was pulling your leg for heaven's sake. And since when have I ever EVER said one of your dolls stink? Oh, I've said I don't particularly care for some of the mandolls, but have I ever said I HATE one of your dolls? Give me some credit for tact.

    As for the rest of you ladies, since you've offered your opinions on etiquette, I'll share mine too.

    There are all kinds of doll collectors out there and we should expect that. If you know going in you are going to get some poorly worded and flat out unkind statements you won't get your feelings hurt by surprise. If it's a stranger, it shouldn't matter. If it's someone you thought was a friend, maybe you misunderstood them--or maybe you misunderstood your relationship. Find out which it was before you get bent. And most importantly, find out if they are criticizing you or your workmanship (for you customizers ad painters, rerooters, etc), or just your tastes. If they are knocking your skills, they are being a jerk. If they are knocking your tastes, they are still being rude, but as many of you noted,, starting with Milady Blue, we all have different tastes, and that other's are different should not be a surprise, and certainly no cause for getting upset. If these people made a mistake and seem amenable to being made to see how their comments were hurtful, approach them about it. If they are simply incorrigible and they dominate a forum or chat-place, go elsewhere. If they can be removed by the powers that be better yet.

    But I believe the ultimate defense is not to let these people get you down. Why do you care what some Internet stranger says about your dolls? Surely you are bigger than that and your own ego doesn't depend on the comments of those kind of people? You do have friends, whose real names you know and whom never give you that sort of real grief. Don't you?

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  11. Hi Mark,

    Thanks for your comment--believe it or not, I didn't know you were the "he" (the "him"?) in the above story. ;) Good to hear from you.

    The actual "event" aside, after reading your comment, I think the issue is really more one of understanding the tone of "internet conversation," rather than anything else. For some reason, unknown to me, it's much easier for people to write things in typed text that they wouldn't say out loud at a doll meet.

    For the most part, as an optimist, I'd choose to believe it to be a sign that tone is hard to communicate in writing. I'd have to go back and read my post before I clicked the "Post Comment" button, for example.

    Don't get me wrong--I'm not saying I've never heard rude comments at doll meets. I have. And they get to me, too. Even though I do have real life friends, even attending that same meet, too. I don't know--maybe some people have more tact than others, just as some people are more sensitive than others. (I at least put myself in the sensitive category, if not in the more tact one.)

    I, for one, tend to read between the lines, thinking, "I wonder what the person really means with that statement?" assuming, sometimes falsely, that people actually think before they speak or write. ;)

    That being said, I need to fix myself a margarita!

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  12. Hi Alison--I have known Blue for so many years, and I do believe she is pretty thick-skinned, so I believed she wouldn't actually take offense at anything I said. When she said she wouldn't post pix of this doll if she actually buys it, I still thought she was kidding back at me! So I guess it is clearly possible for long-time old Internet friends to still misunderstand each other. We get so used to each other we start dropping the usual emoticons and so forth, assuming the friend knows our "mood du jour," and "hears" our tone of voice, and just "gets us." It is a learning experience. Milady hasn't said anything to me on our home planet so I suspect I should talk to her and make sure she isn't harboring a hurt--I've not so many doll friends I can afford to upset them. Your blog is looking lovely!

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  13. @mark

    taking etiquette lessons from you
    is like spitting onto a fire.....

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  14. First I'd like to thank Alison for her comments about my blog. An accurate way to describe my attitude/humor is irreverent.
    I do sometimes comment on dolls I do not own but there are so many I don't own. LOL
    Anyway, as to commenting on posts, I skip over those that I don't care for unless they specifically ask for opinions and I have time to comment. It takes a lot of time to read comments and tons more time to comments. I love so many pictures I see that I wish there was LIKE button. I feel that if I can't say something I believe in, I'm not saying anything at all.

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