Learning From Your Blog Critics

How to accept feedback from critics without ending up in tears

Last week, I wrote about how a string of tweets had me rethinking and eventually reshaping my disclosure policy. Since then, I’ve even updated my policy page with clarified information about how I tag my tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram pictures, etc.

(By the way, the FTC is jumping in as well, clarifying its own policy and suggesting that on Twitter, paid/sponsored posts should start with “AD:” and that #spon is not enough. I don’t love this, because I think there’s a difference between an ad and a sponsored message, but I digress…)

But there’s a larger discussion to have about blogging feedback, criticism and opinions. I vlogged about it because I felt like I needed to get something off my chest, and I’m curious to see if you agree or disagree.

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Comments

  1. 1

    says

    I kind of hate the “ad” hashtag. I tried using it last night in the way that they say it should be used, but it felt so *wrong*. Yes, I’m dramatic!

    Do you mind if I post something similar to your hashtag explanations in my policies? I just want people to know that if I type “spon”, “ad”, or “freebie” that they are totally different things. I rarely have the need to actually use “ad” in my opinion… like ever. (I don’t like tweeting things that other people TELL me to say. haha)

    • 2

      says

      I agree and in a tweet I sent last night, I used #spon but tried to make it clear. If I were copying and pasting, that would be a different thing, but those are my words!

      Take all you want from mine, and if you come up with other or better options, let me know.

  2. 3

    says

    After over two years of blogging, I still haven’t received a negative comment. Maybe what I write about isn’t stirring enough to get them? In any case, I don’t think I’d think of all negative commenters as trolls. It depends on what they have to say. If they are telling me my hair looks like crap, that’s one thing. But if they have some real feedback but are just shitty at communicating it, I would probably be able to see the constructive criticism in there.

  3. 5

    says

    I agree, but I have a question. There ARE Trolls. Lots of them on my blog, and I can track them because most come directly from GOMI or SMUGNOM and continuously stir up trouble and write really hurtful things. Those comments I believe I have the right to delete or at least be upset by. HOWEVER, whenever I do that, my other commenters get angry and tell me “I can’t accept criticism”. They can’t see which are the trolls and which aren’t – they don’t have the tracking like I do. So I feel like I get a bad rap for not wanting to be torn apart and hated, even thougH I always do leave and try to respond to the regular dissenting or disagreeing comments! I suppose my question is: how do we get rid of GOMI and SMUGNOM ;)

    • 6

      says

      I think you have the right to delete anything you want — the question is…*should* you?

      For example:

      “You are so ugly and stupid and your mom sucks, too.” I’D DELETE.

      “I can’t believe you think those shoes are cute — they’re horrible! The colors are ugly and frankly, I don’t think they flatter you.” I’D KEEP.

      Listen, I’m not a fan of either of the sites you mentioned. I think that 99% of what is posted there is mean, inflammatory and black-hearted. I can’t bring myself to go to the forums because not only do I stew about what they’ve said about me, I get choked up when they attack my friends. I’m a gossip by nature, so I understand the desire to talk behind bloggers’ backs, and support their right to do it, but what I don’t understand at all is why those same people then go out of their way to come to the bloggers’ sites and stir it up. Want to bitch about blogging? Cool. You have your place to do it. Stay there.

      And where I think GOMI, etc. fail, to be honest with you, is that 1% of what they say is right. Bloggers DO make some really dumb claims from time to time that deserve an audit. Bloggers DO break rules when it comes to disclosure. Bloggers SHOULD be called out when they are wrong. And GOMI does that. For example — their front page articles are genius. Snarky, bitchy, yes. But more often than not, I think those posts are spot-on. They just can’t and won’t get the attention and consideration they deserve because they’re surrounded by such crap.

      Let me be totally clear. I don’t like GOMI. I don’t like SmugMom. I don’t really understand why it’s so fun to make fun of the way people look or of their children or of their spouses. If I were in a room and that kind of gossip was happening, I’d walk away. It makes me sick.

      But it’s time that bloggers, especially those of us who make money from our work, open ourselves up to the possibility that among the absolute horrid crap is some feedback that, frankly, we should learn from.

      P.S. Clare, I think you’re awesome. Thanks for letting me give you some critical feedback in this comment and I hope you know that I’m on your side with the personal attack nonsense.

      • 7

        Liz says

        I am brand new to your blog as of this post but this comment made you a SOMI forever. I appreciate when GOMI brings to light things that otherwise might go unquestioned and I agree that it’s often couched in a lot of less relevant information that tends to be more hurtful than anything else. That said, I have also seen GOMI posters regulate each other when someone crosses the line.

        Regardless of any of that, this is a brilliant post that should be read by all bloggers. Thank you for sharing.

        • 8

          Jenny says

          Liz-I too am a fan of GOMI in some respects. I think they bring to light things like fraud, lying, blogger tirades and eating disordered behavior among HLBs. However, they need a real moderator. I do see some self-regulating, but not enough. I think if they actually has a policy of only constructive criticism so many bloggers wouldn’t be out the destroy them.

    • 10

      jessica says

      i don’t have a blog, so i dont have to deal with the positives and negatives first hand, but i think it is very odd to want to rid the internet of a site which sends ‘haters’ to you. i understand if you dont like that site, but wondering how to get rid of them is just sad. i dont like many things when i turn on the television to certain stations, but i know they will never go away and i cannot aide in their demise because they have been made for a reason. it may not be a reason i like, respect, or need, but hey it’s there. the world turns, we move on. it’s not about necessarily about developing a tougher skin because who wants to deal with/deserves negativity. there is a separation in what people say between being nonsense trolls and real informative criticism. it’s sad that they have to come together sometimes.

  4. 11

    says

    My blog is so small that I really have never gotten a negative comment. I guess because I don’t have enough readers! But, I was a graphic designer professionally for ten years so I’ve definitely dealt with criticism and it is hard to deal with, no matter how used to it you are. I think that you are right though, that even though it stings, ultimately you can learn from it and become a better blogger, designer, or whatever it is that you are doing.

    Also, my husband is a line producer. Hearing you speak about news directors and stuff was very familiar to me.

    • 12

      says

      So funny…tell him that he’s a minute heavy in the A block, that there’s breaking news with a chopper on the way, the D block lead package hasn’t fed yet and that the sales office wants to know if he’d be willing to drop the kicker and put in an extra commercial instead.

  5. 13

    says

    I also have never received negative comments or criticism on my blog, probably because my readership is small. But my family can be very critical of me and that is hard to take. I definitely think that what Lynna said is correct…a way to look at life as well. Although I think with my family it is a little different due to typical family dynamics (hello throwing things back in my face that happened 20 years ago!), I do try to find the validity in their criticisms and take them to heart. It still hurts, though. Thanks Katy.

      • 15

        says

        Hmm, maybe I put my family in a bad light, haha. They are generally extremely supportive and I love them dearly of course. It’s just the little comments they make. My Dad would say I’m too sensitive (another criticism), and it’s probably just that they know me so well and that I care what they think more than any random stranger, that I let it get to me so much. Thanks again.

  6. 16

    says

    Katy,
    I absolutely am GRATEFUL for your video post this morning. It was just today I saw some convo on trolls and honestly looked at the comment and thought that wasn’t negative against the writer! it was just a sad, somewhat bitter, lonely woman and I was confused. But the way you talked in this video made things easier for me to understand…. If I could for just a moment take up some of your space….

    I blogged as BigGirlBombshell for 4 years. In the beginning it was an awesome journey..i loved all the support, the sense of community, in awe of so many other *popular* bloggers but the comparison I put on myself actually took on a pendulum swing. Quieting my own voice because it might appear negative or disagree or yes..perhaps a criticism toward the writer. But yet, the finding of my own voice was what I needed…to continue my personal growth.

    In the middle of the pendulum’s motion there is the still spot dead center…the part of stillness where you read a post, it grabs your heart deeply with the WANT of that person’s life or circumstance or knowledge in that moment and the comparison thoughts you have of yourself personally bring out a lot of negativity and that thought pukes all over the comment that you wrote to give yourself a voice. That is how I have felt sometimes anyway….not meaning to criticize but actually feeling deeply stirred by the post or the comment but my own personal comparison with MYSELF not being good enough or oh no its different on this side spills out. It is just a desire to be heard……

    Anyway, I closed down my blog because of those reasons. Because of my own negative comparison’s within myself, I was constantly criticizing myself, taking others actions and posts as slights and it created a vision cycle and felt more and more as an outcast.

    In blogging we don’t have the luxury of seeing the sincerity of the person or the caring in their eyes, we only have words and our personal response. Watching you speak and hearing your words made this click for me. Thank YOU for your words, your sincerity and a new view on all things. Honestly…I am more grateful than you might understand….but I hope you feel my smile as I type this.

  7. 18

    says

    I like to go through life this way. You never know where people are coming from and what their intentions might be. I’ve deleted comments that are flat-out trolls (You’re a stupid fat b*$%h) but have kept ones that are highly critical (You’ll never lose weight if you keep doing XYZ, it’s pathetic). They both hurt, but once I get past my knee-jerk reaction of anger … I look for the deeper message. Maybe there isn’t one, but often there is!

  8. 19

    says

    Like Caroline and Lee, I have a blog with small readership and have very rarely received negative comments. However, I had not heard of GOMI or SMUGNOM until now. OMG. Just checked those out, and wow, just wow. Words cannot express what I felt reading what little I read on those sites. I completely agree with Clare – how do we get rid of them?

    • 20

      says

      We don’t. It’s free speech and what the Internet is all about. We just don’t go to them if we don’t like them. And I don’t. :)

  9. 21

    Sarah says

    If I’m being honest, I think more than 1% of what is said on GOMI / Smugnom is valid criticism. I’d actually go as far to say it’s 30-40% constructive. I think it’s hard to see that if you know people being discussed there or even if you’re an avid blogger yourself. And yeah, you have to weed through a lot of crap to get to the constructive criticism, but it’s there, particularly for those bloggers who are doing this full time. I think a lot of people turn to GOMI because bloggers aren’t open to criticism about their blogs. My concern, as a reader, is that even when I have valid criticism for a blogger, I hesitate to comment because anything that’s not “omg you are BEST” is typically viewed as mean. There is little room for offering opinions, even when those opinions ARE constructive because either your comment isn’t going through moderation or other readers instantly “white knight” your opinion, invalidating it. Ultimately, this is a disservice to the blogger AND the readers.

    It might even be worthwhile for bloggers to have a policy on their contact page about how they prefer to be contacted. Understandably, it can be hard to accept criticism merely because it’s public (when it’s in the comments); it’s not like in the workplace your evaluations are out there for all to see. Maybe you’d prefer email, etc. A number of blogs have run quick reader surveys where you are allowed to give an anonymous, honest opinion, and I think those are great.

    Not that it makes it okay, but I think a lot of readers go on the attack when they don’t see their valid criticism (more than just: those are ugly shoes) being taken to heart. If you don’t want criticism, well then make that clear too: If you don’t like it, don’t read it – at least then readers like me will automatically know not to bother (and probably won’t read).

    Anyway, I’m clearly a blog reader, not really a blogger by any means, but it seems like there’s an opportunity for bloggers to seek out constructive criticism in way that’s potentially less humiliating and show readers that their voices are being heard. There’s an opportunity to seek out criticism in a way that benefits the blogger and the reader.

    • 22

      says

      Yes to all of this. I’ve never had a job where there wasn’t some kind of review system. I’m less tolerant of attacks on smaller bloggers or hobbyists, but certainly those of us who make money need to try and get thicker skins.

  10. 23

    says

    So interesting. I just had a conversation with my boss (I work in a public recreation facility so we are trying to meet a lot of very diverse needs) about feedback and how to deal with it.

    His perspective was to focus primarily on the positive feedback; listen to what people say we’re doing well and keep moving in that direction. Positive feedback tends to be more specific and easier to act upon than negative feedback. While important to know what people feel you’re not doing well, it’s often very scattered, un-focused and very specific to the person making the criticism; meaning that it may not be a very good reflection of all of your other user’s or reader’s experiences.

    Food for thought! And personally, whenever I get negative feed back I try and take time before responding; if it’s on my blog, I resist the temptation to fire off and immediate response, which is almost always defensive. In person, I try and acknowledge the other person’s perspective without getting into a discussion. (If only I could do this with my kids…)

  11. 25

    says

    Awesome post!! I think that you’re 100% right that there is a distinction between trolls and comments that are negative – trolls are idiots with nothing better to do with their time than spread venom and hate; a negative comment can offer a lot of insight and good feedback on how you can be better. When I became a FitFluential member, someone suggested to me that I change my blog colour scheme (though she did so very nicely) – I thought the hot pink type on black background was unique and cool.. haha turns out it’s just annoying and hard to read! It’s never fun to hear that you’re not doing something right, but if you take that criticism with an open mind and realize that it’s being offered constructively (and I find lots of the “negative” comments are), you can improve your blog.

    I like your suggestion to look at it as work feedback – it helps when you can distance your ego from it a little and be objective.

  12. 26

    says

    While I intensely dislike the mean-spirited fashion of GOMI and FatFluential, I do think we should be a bit less thin-skinned. By having a blog, we are by nature opening up to criticism. It is part of the gig and like you said, there just might be nuggets of value in SOME of the criticism. I think you are recommending a really sound approach here.

    That said, there are some trolls (I’ve been a target of Carla’s/many other’s troll) who really only live to be nasty and don’t offer constructive criticism. Those are the ones we should ignore.

    As always, thanks for your sage advice!

  13. 27

    says

    I try to ignore the negative feedback — I don’t delete, I just don’t respond directly to negative comments that are not posted in a constructive way. No one has ever called me a bad name, but I would probably delete that. If it is constructive criticism then I usually reply with something like — thank you for sharing your point of view. I welcome open dialogue on this blog. I really try (it is hard when you pour your heart and soul into something) not to take things personally especially when they are in relation to my opinions being different than someone else’s.

  14. 28

    says

    What I truly don’t understand about people who get bent out of shape about comments is this: You write a blog. That means you obviously want people to read what you write, or you wouldn’t blog publicly, right? (I’m assuming that people who blog (myself included) don’t do it just to hear/see their own words.) So once you put something out there, you HAVE to expect that people reading it are going to comment on it. And since we’re all different, some of those people commenting are probably going to disagree or have a differing point of view.

    Yes, sometimes you get trolls. But most of the time you just get people who disagree. And often those people do have a valid point, even if you personally don’t like the way their comment is expressed. I’ve also (and this might not be a popular comment) have noticed that the non-professional bloggers (mommy-bloggers? although I mostly dislike that categorization) tend to be a LOT more thin skinned and over-reactive to people who don’t either always comment 100% positively or who don’t couch their criticisms in hearts, flowers, rainbows, and unicorns. Telling people who disagree with you “if you don’t like it then don’t read it” is just silly, IMO, not to mention counterproductive to building a readership to your blog.

    I guess my bottom line opinion is that if you’re not prepared to have another human being disagree with you – even maybe fairly bluntly – then maybe you need to reconsider blogging publicly.

  15. 31

    says

    Since changing my blog from a personal finance focus to a lifestyle focus (more journal-type writing), I’ve noticed fewer negative comments, but my problem as a personal finance blogger was actually that I took criticisms *too* seriously. My friends and fellow bloggers would brush the comments off as “haters gonna hate,” but I would think, “Okay, I’m portraying myself honestly here, so if this person really thinks I’m ‘using my husband for money,’ maybe she has a point!” My husband was unemployed at the time, and this person actually made it her life’s mission to spit on my marriage publicly in the comments of my blog. (Things like, “You need psychological help. You’ll be lucky if your marriage lasts two years.”) I’ve since been able to see that THOSE comments are people trolling, people unhappy with their lives so they feel the need to criticize others. Something more along the lines of, “I think you’re missing the point of life if you spend all your time obsessing about money” was an invited criticism, and I often wrote posts in response to those criticisms because they made me see myself and my blogging in a new way. (I blog as a hobby, not for any income.)

    Back to your vlog though… Something I’ve noticed lately, in both blog comments and tweets, is that no one can tolerate disagreement. It’s as if people think disagreeing with someone is the same as insulting them. For example, a woman and I were having a perfectly civil discussion about changing your last name when you marry. She changed hers. I did not change mine. I politely asked why she changed her last name, and she told me it was because she wanted the same last name as her children. All was fine. In marches this other blogger who asserts, “Everyone is different. You’re not more of a feminist than her!” Whoa now. No one said that. In another example, a disagreement about the tone of a blog post went into a full-on SEVEN HOUR rage fest on Twitter because the blogger was not having any conversation about the post (beyond “don’t read if you don’t like it”) and wanted to argue with people until they stopped talking about it. (Not argue about the post, mind you. More along the lines of, “Your opinion is invalid because of X, Y, and Z thing” – points that were completely beside the point.) This may be specific to the personal finance community – because there’s a network called “Yakezie” where bloggers join and basically make certain to visit and leave positive comments on blogs in the network to advance their Alexa ranking – but it seems that the attitude of many bloggers these days is “don’t say anything if you can’t say you love me.”

    As someone who spent many days crying because an anonymous person was leaving downright mean comments about her marriage, I don’t think bloggers need skins as thick as leather. I don’t think we should accept that it’s okay for people to poo on us just because we “put ourselves out there.” But, as you said in your video, there’s trolling, and then there’s disagreement and criticism. If we only ever have conversations with people who love us and agree with us 100%, what can we possibly hope to learn?

    • 32

      says

      It kinds of seems like the way culture is going, though…the whole “participation” trophy instead of giving kids credit for winning games, etc.

      Sorry you’ve gone through some tough stuff :(

  16. 33

    says

    I used to read my threads on GOMI but I can’t anymore b/c it was upsetting me, even though I knew they were off base and crazy. I kept wanting to defend myself even know I know it wouldn’t get anywhere. When i get mean comments like “you are a crappy blogger and a slow runner, you suck” I delete. I think there is def. a difference between mean spirited and a difference of opinion. However I also think people need to learn to use tact. You can still disagree with someone and tell them on their blog, but in a nicer way. I leave up a lot more negative comments than I used to, if for nothing but to prove that I am ok with it!

  17. 34

    says

    amazing post, even though watching the video made me miss you even more :)
    i totally agree with the things you said. in my early blogging days, it was really hard for me to take criticism. i took everything to heart, and would instantly dismiss it by thinking “if they don’t like it, don’t read.” now, i’m really thankful for criticism because it makes me a better blogger. i’ve made a lot of changes to my blog per readers’ suggestions, and even though the pure hateful zingers are still in there, i’ve learned what to use and what to dismiss.

  18. 35

    says

    Great topic Katy, and I love your thoughts on this…something that’s not often discussed in the blog world. Negative feedback can be tough, and I go either way on this. I don’t take criticism the best in all aspects beyond blogging (I’m super sensitive) but have learned to welcome it and handle it in a pro-active, mature way. I think it makes me stronger and also like to learn from what people have to say.

    That being said, there have been rare times where I had to delete a comment or simply not respond, because it was either offensive, hurtful or just plain not true (and not just geared toward me.) One comment stands out in particular from a post last year I wrote on steps to completing my first half marathon. I posted a pic of me and my sister wearing our medals proud, dripping in sweat, after we finished our run – proud and exhausted! Someone commented that my arms were fat, I was ugly and that I shouldn’t be promoting healthy living because I was “obviously not healthy” myself. They also poked fun of my sister. It was just a nasty, unnecessary comment which I didn’t think served a purpose on my blog especially when my blog’s purpose is to ignite confidence, passion & healthy living among women.

    Criticism and negative feedback is fine but nasty hate comments can be hurtful.

  19. 38

    says

    I agree with most of what has been said here, but where is the line between free speech and cyberbullying? Given that is what my research is in, I should have an answer, but I don’t. Legally, what is said on GOMI, etc is covered by free speech, but what happens if the comments there leads to something bad? There is already a thread on there that is seriously questionable in taste as it is. ( They are not setting a good example for bloggers of the future, IMO.)

    My worry is that younger bloggers (and there are more of them out there than before) could read threads on there or have comments directed toward them that harm them. If it happens to them by other students there are some legal precedents that will protect them, which is good. But in the case of adults who may not have thick skins, there is no (current) protection under the law in cases of cyberbullying. I haven’t had any negative comments on my blog, but I was the recipient of a negative comment on Livejournal a few years back, and in all honesty it still hurts, because it was SO uncalled for. I honestly just wish people would think before they speak (write) and remember the golden rule.

  20. 39

    Marcee says

    It’s good to read all the comments + opinions.

    One thing I know for certain, is when I read a blog …. very important to keep an open mind. It isn’t MY blog. The owner can say whatever. If I do not like what’s being said …. either delete, or just cancel out the entire blog of the individual. In the past, I have unsubscribed to various blogs for all sorts of reasons.

    Folks should not be rude and crude. That is totally immature. In all my years of reading blogs, I cannot recall making negative comments. Nothing that would deeply hurt the blogger’s feelings.

    Who knows what goes through people’s minds these days? There isn’t enough time to figure it out.

  21. 40

    says

    Yep! First, I agree there is a difference between an ad and a sponsored post. I’ve posted things about companies I like just because I felt like it but now I wonder if people thought I was doing it because it was paid and I just didn’t disclose that? (And I haven’t had a sponsored tweet yet so I will keep this in mind! Thanks!)

    Second, it can be hard being public! And like you said, you need to learn from it. I have yet to run into any truly negative comments on my blog itself. The only “negative” thing so far was just this week I found out I’m on the “worst health living blog names list” – funny because my blog started out about “Food, Fitness, and Farming” so the name goes right with that last theme. It only got on my nerves because it was on GOMI and I couldn’t find the site – half their page doesn’t work. I just wanted to see what it said! (I got a hit on my blog from it which is how I knew about it, LoL) But otherwise, it was no big deal.

    I dread the day I get a truly hateful comment and I don’t undestand the people that feel the need to bash others they don’t even know. I am pretty good at brushing those things off but I know the first read will be a bit of a bite before my logic sets in. As for constructive criticism, I would welcome it as long as it was thoughtful. But on the same GOMI post, it said the blogs listed with mine “seemed food obsessed” (even though they said they didn’t actually read any of them), but it made me stop and think if I was being obsessive about my eating. No matter the conclusion, it made me consider about where my blog was going and if it was a good direction *for me*. That is good feedback, no matter if I agreed or not!

    ~Ang

  22. 41

    says

    I was actually surprised when I got a mean comment on my blog (and was even mentioned twice on a thread on GOMI) but I laughed it off. I honestly find a lot of what is said on GOMI to be true. It’s mostly said in horrible ways, but…that doesn’t make it any less true. And I just thought “yup, I do look horrible/ridiculous in that picture. I like it anyway, snark away!”

    I was more so surprised than anything else because my family and close friends are pretty much the only people who ever visit my blog.

    But about the ads/sponsored posts, I HATE it when a blogger tries to skirt around the issue. As a reader I shouldn’t have to guess as to whether a blogger is being truthful about their opinions and I hate not knowing about affiliate links. If I do actually want to try a product, I specifically want to know if they have an affiliate link. If the product is good, I WANT them to get some sort of compensation for turning me on to an awesome product. I just hate it when bloggers lie or hide the truth behind awkward wording. I just like the bloggers I read to be transparent.

    I don’t know if any of that makes sense, I’m just thinking “out loud” and don’t feel like going back and reading it through. But you have always come across as very down-to-earth, honest, and willing to take constructive criticism. And I really admire that!

  23. 42

    says

    I haven’t really gotten any negative or troll type comments. I really don’t have many followers.

    I have seen them on other blogs, and I feel for them sometimes, because sometimes, it is the “haters” that really can mess up your day.

    I did like this vlog, it was very candid and honest.

  24. 43

    says

    A lot already said! Lots to think about & I so appreciate your thoughts! I don’t get a lot of this due to me being small BUT when I do, I try not to jump first but sit back, get my calm back & think about it before responding or even if I should respond. Great thoughts & thank you again!

  25. 44

    says

    I absolutely loved this Katy! First of all – you are really correct and I love your authentic message and how are organic it was. :-) It’s always nice watching your videos-so well spoken and always motivational!!

  26. 45

    says

    Great post Katy! Criticism is hard for most of us. Just writing it off for the sake of our own egos can prevent us from growing. Trolls aside, it is important to have an open feedback loop. While it may hurt at times, I think it goes a log way at the longevity of any project.

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