1. Mike Sheridan

    Mike Sheridan TrainBoard Member

    This is one of those old ones, but I don't actually recall it being discussed as a specific item. It cropped up on another recent thread, but rather than pursuing it there I thought it would be better to start a dedicated one with a title to suit.

    The question is, who is 'allowed' to criticise? There are a couple of aspects to this.
    One is a school of thought that says "If you can't/don't do it yourself you shouldn't criticise others who do/attempt it".
    The second aspect is the "It his/her layout/hobby so whatever is good enough for him/her is OK".

    Now my view on this is a matter of publication I suppose. If I watch a film I feel perfectly entitled to say what I think of it - it was presented to me as a publication not a private thing. The fact that I am not a film producer/director/actor/cameraman doesn't mean I can't form an opinion on how good the film was, though obviously others may have different opinions.
    So if someone puts their modelling skills on public display, either at an exhibition or in a magazine or on the internet, I feel they should be prepared for viewers to form opinions about their work. Or put it another way, if you don't want people to assess your efforts, don't let them see it :)

    I don't have a problem with the second point - we all work to different standards. However there is a simple standard by which virtually all models that aren't entirely imaginary are judged and that is the full size prototype. If it can be seen to be a model then it clearly isn't perfect. I'm not saying for a moment that less than perfect isn't OK, just that this is the only real benchmark we have. As before the issue arises of whether it is then OK to say something is short on some aspect of being a convincing replica, and again I feel it depends on the 'publication' thing.

    As a rule I won't offer my opinion up to an owner on a specific item unless they have asked for opinions on it, but I will discuss such things within a group such as Trainboard where the subject is a 'remote' party such as a layout featured in MR or seen at a show.
  2. rray

    rray Staff Member

    I think "Criticism" needs to be separated into "Constructive Criticism" and "Destructive Criticism", and it's a very difficult thing to properly convey the difference in a forum post.

    Often, constructive criticism is taken negatively, simply because the reader missed a comma here, or a pause there, and it's meaning turned from positive to negative, when that was not the intent at all.

    Who is allowed? Everyone is allowed to offer up constructive criticism, especially if it's intent is towards offering suggestions for perceived improvement. But here is the rub, there will always be people who do not read every word, or otherwise misinterpret, then completely miss the intent of the criticism, taking it as a personal attack.

    If that person takes it as an attack, and replies with something negative towards the critic, it's on him. It would be wiser to say something like "Gee that's a good idea, I'll remember that for next time" or "Doh, why didn't I thing of that?" and the critic will not be forced to defend his opinion.

    Remember, it's just one person's opinion, and he is just telling you what he thinks. No matter what you say in retaliation to his opinion, you are never going to make him think "Oh, I was wrong, I really think it looks perfect after all", no way. Instead he will think that not only are you a lousy modeler, but you are a jerk, and probably half of those critics will also reply and tell you so. Best to just eat it and move along to the next poster.

    What I found works well is to take ALL criticism as Constructive Criticism, and act on it by trying to improve my models to the point that I don't get so many suggestions for improvement next time I post.

    As far as blatant destructive criticism, they poster is fishing for a flame war. Don't immediately reply, don't get mad, and don't kick your dog. Stop and think about it a few minutes, and something will come to you. You may better choose to completely ignore the post. Others will post after him. If that post is the same, you probably got some poorly posted Constructive Criticism, and need to act accordingly and either improve or take it.

    If it was just the one poster, and you got several others posting positively, again, ignore it, and he will feel out of place and either get himself in trouble somewhere else, or just plain go away.

    Remember, you are the one sharing your work with us, and it is appreciated, and is the reason we frequent this forum, so we can see what others are doing. But also remember, we are gauging our own growth in the hobby by what we see others doing, and sometimes others have been there and done that, and see how it could be improved and want to share their ideas, to help you improve too. ;)
  3. 2-8-8-0

    2-8-8-0 TrainBoard Member

    Criticism is important; without it, how does one ever improve? Especially on the internet, where we dont have those cues we would have in person, it can be hard to tell if someone is truly being helpful or simply being a jerk; I havent seen many posts from jerks as I have looked through old topics here the last few days, this is a much more "newb friendly" forum than some trains forums. But, some people can just be jerks, and need to just be ignored, moved by, and hopefully they go try and troll somewhere else.

    I wont dare criticise something I cant do myself; not saying that doing so is wrong, it simply isnt me. I think everyone is good at something; some people excell at A, some at B. The thing the critics need to remember is that they were new at some point, they were decalling their first model, laying their first track, painting a structure, for the first time, at some point. I know some outstanding modelers, and there are some amazing people here doing amazing things; but even they made that first cut at some point. It probably didnt look quite as nice as what theyre doing now.

    Be honest, but dont be harsh is I guess what I am saying. Mention what they did do well, what they could do different, maybe give advice on how to improve A instead of telling them they did B incorrectly. Im currently in neck-deep in my first ever loco kitbash, and me being the masochist that I am, I started on an intricate steam loco; it will not be perfect, I know that. When its done, Ill post pics here (along with a few of the build process) and ask for feedback. I want and expect criticism, I do not want (or expect it really, this dosent seem to be that sort of forum) people to be jerks.

    There are four "big" trains forums that I know of; 1 I will not visit because of jerks, 2 I visit regularly, the fourth has some jerks, I visit it occasionally. Wont name names, but the ones I dislike are both owned by major companies in the model railroading industry. Nice to get away from that.

  4. Dave1905

    Dave1905 TrainBoard Member

    At its most basic, anybody. In the US we have freedom of speech so almost anybody is allowed to say anything. This forum is on the internet. Anybody can say anything on the internet. If you post on a public forum on the internet, more or less you can expect anybody in the world to comment.

    At its most basic, if you like the comment, its a compliment, if you don't like the comment its criticism.

    If the post asks for feedback ("... how do you like..", "...what do you think of..."), then anbody is allowed to provide any feedback, good, bad or indifferent. If you ask, people will answer.

    The tricky part is if the person does not specifically ask for feedback, should someone provide feedback. One school of thought is that if I put my work on the internet, on public display, then I should expect public comment. No movie, book, article or artwork explicitly asks for feedback, but they still get get them.

    An exception here is internet articles very frequently provide a "comments" feature to allow readers to comment. One could make the case that since this is an interactive forum that allows and is specifically intended to invite comments, that the fact that the post is on this (or almost any other forum) is permission, even an invitation to comment.

    Since there is no mechanism to vet the qualifications of participants before they comment, there is no need for qualifications to present an opinion. One could also make a case that if you want to vet the comments you need to vet the posters. So if someone does not have a certain level of skills, they can't post concerning their work.

    This is purely a matter for the original poster. He is under no obligation to follow any suggestion. If the person has the courage of their convictions then any comments won't matter.

    The question you haven't asked yet is concerns not whether a person is ALLOWED to comment but what the TONE of that comment should be.

    Trains.com members get really testy about critical posts, even constructive one.
    Other forums, its expected that there will be vigorous discussion.
  5. COverton

    COverton TrainBoard Member

    I try to look at it as a psychologist who also teaches ethics and logic. Each of those three disciplines has 4000 years of human history behind them, and probably twice that.

    You know, the people who lived back then were not dumber than we are...they had the same brain capacity, learning ability, powers of deduction and reason...heck, our modern logic was well established way back when Plato and Socrates were sipping tea in a patio.

    These ancient peoples produced cultures of learning and reason. From the experiences of vast numbers of people came language and values systems, and in turn there came customs and The Law. They all change over time, just as any society evolves and matures. But human nature is very slow to evolve. What we see today is largely what we would have seen 4000 years ago...we have emotions, we strive, we seek acceptance and recognition, we want to bond with at least one other human, to procreate....and so on.

    Posting samples of our toys and train layouts is part of this process of seeking acceptance. Mean-spirited, or artless, or blunt criticism is damaging...it has the effect of saying, my hand is held up and preventing you from going further...at least with me.

    The best criticism is done with courtesy and sensitivity. It seeks first to offer the criticism, and once the intended receiver indicates receptivity, the criticism should be balanced. It should offer praise for what the person had done well, or even only begun to do well, and then point out what "appear to be" (this is important...appearance...) defects or deficiencies. We should remember that each of us is only an expert in our own perception, but what we perceive may not be the reality of even a single other observer of the same event or item.

    Some people have what I would call impoverished upbringings where they were not schooled, or able to practice, artful criticism, and I suspect it is because they were never exposed to it...probably at home. If a person had been criticized harshly at home, it is highly unlikely that person would be inclined to learn and to adopt the practices of artful criticism.

    Also, some people are marginal in terms of their own security and self-confidence. They lash out at others in an attempt to deflect their own inadequacies. Or, they show a weak character by keeping others back with cruel and uni-dimensional criticism when they, themselves, find they have succeeded in winning accolades and acceptance...they can't handle success the way more mature personalities can.

    There is something long since ingrained, and it is immutable in the study of logic, discourse, and in the field of 'informal fallacies' in discourse:

    Just because a person cannot perform or render something doesn't mean they can't know or recognize a defect or a deficiency in the outcome. I can tell when paint is mis-matched, but I am a poor painter...no patience and a bad hand. Does my inability or lack of expertise mean that my statement of fact is not credible or that it must be assumed to be false? I am not an astronomer, but if I state that a star is a gravitationally bound sphere of atomic hydrogen in hydrodynamic equilibrium that is polluting its core with atomic helium, is my statement wrong? No, it is the fact as we understand it, and my role or expertise, or lack thereof, doesn't make the statement any less true.

    Let's try an example: "Hey, everyone, I am trying my hand at weathering. Here is a tank car I am working on. What do you think so far?

    "Ha, ha!"

    "Holy crap, my three year old son could do better than that. Try radio controlled planes, dude."

    "Hi, Terry. I can remember when I tackled my first car. I almost had to close my eyes and have at it. It looked a lot like yours when I finally had to stop and regroup. Later, someone suggested that I try a white wash first. I did, and it helped to provide a working basis for what I later added. Your rust streaks are a bit heavy for my tastes, but I really do think you have the right idea. A wash will cut them back a bit. Over on the left side, the stirrup...you nailed that...well done!"

    See the difference? Two were "honest", the other required some thought, some art, and some time. Which of the three has the most value? Two comments offered an indignity to the intended, and they serve, in my opinion, to diminish purposefully the efforts and the person. The unintended effect, I suspect, is to also diminish every one of us who likes to post on this forum and who enjoys the hobby. It reflects poorly on those of us who actually know better. Instead, criticism should be a dignifying process!

    To conclude, my dear old dad was fond of saying, "Talk's cheap." He meant that actions speak much louder, and they require more effort. If our criticism, cheap to begin with, is to have any measurable value, it should be in the developmental effect it has on the intended recipient. If its first purpose is to erode, to castigate, to diminish, or to cause hurt, I would ask, as a humanitarian ethicist, of what value is it to society? What building up, or contribution, does it offer to anyone, let alone the victim? And if it is so, what value and dignifying nature does it offer this board?
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2010
  6. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    This is a hobby. The object is to have fun. That is the standard and all else follows after. Whether it's close to the prototype, or not, simply does not matter. The only critique which is relevant, is the eye of the model's owner. If they ever request observations and input, that's fine. If not, so be it.

    We all set our own bar level. Whether or not we choose to raise it, is up to no one but ourselves. If we don't, it's in no way detrimental to our hobby. There is no requisite for individual skill improvements. Toy-like or mirror image of something off a real railroad, it's all good.

    Boxcab E50
  7. Pete Nolan

    Pete Nolan TrainBoard Supporter

    Excellent discussion, all. As a writer most of my life, I'm used to criticism, some of it very harsh. When I do offer criticism, I try to do it on gentle terms. But even gentle terms can provoke a reaction from those not accustomed to criticism. I once made a criticism of 54 words, and 17 were conciliatory such as "perhaps," "might," "a little," etc. That didn't matter. I haven't offered criticism since, but that's just because there hasn't been a good thread for it. I will, in the future.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2010
  8. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    I'm not your judge and/or jury.

    I don't have the right to criticize for criticisms sake.

    Criticism is criticism no matter how you package it.

    I recently visited a club layout where a member was pulling a load of cole porter, coal cars with a Turbine. I could have pointed out that it was all wrong. Instead, I laughed and said it's good to see that your restored Turbine, is pulling a modern consist. Grin. I love stuff like that.

    This is a public forum and as such we should expect fellow model rails to give advice, state their opinion and/or answer specific questions.

    You can expect in a public forum, similar to living in a glass house, that there will be those who throw stones...figuratively speaking.

    We can expect to take the good with the bad.

    Here are some self policing rules I've adopted.

    I know I'm out of line when:

    I tell someone how to act.
    I tell someone what to believe.
    I tell someone how to dress.
    I tell someone how to feel.
    I tell someone what to think.

    If you haven't caught on by now. It's when I step into the telling mode that I know there's a good chance I'm out of line.

    You can give advice, share what you think is right or wrong...and/or get into a good pro and con discussion. Nothing wrong with any of that. The TELL mode is a different thing all together.

    Keep in mind a boss or supervisor has the right to tell an employee what to do. There are laws that govern and restrict supervisors and employees alike and they both must abide by such or it's liability time.

    Just some thoughts on the subject.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 27, 2010
  9. jhn_plsn

    jhn_plsn TrainBoard Supporter


    Man thats a cool shot.
  10. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

    That's off your layout. Isn't it Spidge?

    Nice work, detailing and where did you get those locomotives?


    Don't I wish I could drive back into Cajon Pass and see this today. To many lemon drops and pumpkins with look alike locomotives and trains.

    Thanks for sharing this memory.
  11. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter


    Remember the folk song from when we were kids? ("Little Boxes") Not what the song writer originally intended to protest, but yet it seems to fit nicely as today "they all look just the same!"

    Boxcab E50
  12. Mike Sheridan

    Mike Sheridan TrainBoard Member

    Wow. There is some heavy philosophy in that lot. I'm seriously impressed. And then there's 'Little Boxes' :) (I remember that (same age as Mr B) - it was a big hit I think; certainly got a lot of air time over here.)

    Good points about the constructive/destructive - I didn't think of that for my original post as I was assuming subconciously that it was intended to be constructive criticism. Certainly the language used is hugely important.
  13. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

    Who has the right?
    With rights come power.
    With power comes responsibility.

    We, er, most of the citizens of most democratic societies have the right to criticize. The manner we choose, our personal justification, and the consequences are our responsibilities.

    It isn't that we choose to exercise our right to criticize. It is that we do so in a responsible manner.
  14. ppuinn

    ppuinn Staff Member

    Fitting in with BarstowRick's comments about "telling" someone what to do and Pete's comments about using tempered language rather than polarized/extreme phrasing, I think criticism becomes more destructive when the critic frames his comments in terms of the right and wrong way to do something rather than describing a "different" method.
  15. r_i_straw

    r_i_straw Mostly N Scale Staff Member

    It's human nature. I thrive on "at-a-boys" and a pat on the back but even feel hurt when someone point out a place where I really screwed up. My rose colored glasses are usually pretty dirty so I really don't see things. (I'm in denial) Sometimes I have to step back and take a deep breath to get over it.

    Because of all that, I try to do what Pete does and compose my wording in any comments so that it is harder to be misconstrued as an attack. I am usually more likely to post a complement and avoid any constructive criticism just to avoid any misunderstanding. I suppose I am a wimp in that respect.;)
  16. smallbore3p

    smallbore3p TrainBoard Member

    I've found that this board is really very polite almost all of the time and in that way is very refreshing. I've always operated here with the idea that criticism will be given if asked for and it's understood that it will be done in a constructive manner.
    Having said that, if one ASKS for criticism they need to put on their thick skin and realize that not everyone is as diplomatic as one would like.
    Basically, the Golden Rule applies here in that one should never give any ctritique that they wouldn't mind receiving.
  17. Candy_Streeter

    Candy_Streeter TrainBoard Member

    What happened to FUN!?

    Gezzzzzz ... first it was, " why do we post " now it's criticism ! I'm starting to believe I stumbled on an extension of Sigmund Freud's lost writings: " Model trains and their relation to the unconscious" What happened to fun!? I just like building my little world and if someone doesn't like that tree over there, I think, okay.. but I like it there and it's my world.

  18. maxairedale

    maxairedale TrainBoard Member


  19. Carl Sowell

    Carl Sowell TrainBoard Supporter

    All this talk about criticism; how it's given and how it's accepted. Sounds like the real explanation as to how this forum recently "dispatched" a very prolific poster. Maybe ? ? ? ? ?
  20. friscobob

    friscobob Staff Member

    In the end, it's all about playing with trains

    AND at the end of the day, that's all that matters.

    This hobby has a wide variety of folks who pursue it in various ways. On one extreme are the anal-retentive, superserious types who model their little empires down to the last nut & bolt, and who generally demand that:

    1. If the (railroad they model) didn't have it, it won't be on my layout
    2. Thou shalt operate only by timetable and train order. All other methonds are an abomination.
    3. Thou shalt faithfully model the prototype, down to the day, hour, minute and second.
    4. Thou shalt use DCC and only DCC.
    5. Thou shalt have sound in all your locomotives.
    6. Thou shalt operate trains as they originally ran.

    Now, I don't really see anything arong with DCC, sound, prototype fidelity, TT&TO, or anything else, but to demand that this is the One True Path is taking it a bit far. After all, it's still playing with trains.

    Now, on the other end, we have folks who run a hodgepodge of locomotives and rolling stock, operate trains that by no stretch of the imagination ever co-existed in real life, use horn-hook couplers, never weather their equipment, and use power packs. Their scenery, if it exists, is surrealistic.

    I have no problems with those folks, either, because again, it's playing with trains.

    Me? I fall in the middle somewhere, as do a vast majority of model railroaders. I prefer to model the Frisco in the last decade of existence, but I do have some throwback locomotives (believe me, a Russian Decapod counts) and freight cars, and would not throw rocks at someone running an SD70MACe painted in Frisco colors (which, or course, doesn't exist in real life, but hey....). I'm trying to nail down operations on a particluar subdivision of the Frisco, but wouldn't mind running, say, some other stuff for grins & giggles. I subscribe to Allen McClellan's philosophy of "good enough" in my layout building, adding the details that I feel are needed on diesels and rolling stock that would label them as Frisco, but only up to a certain point (after all, who gives a rip about the color of caboose toilets, or the location of a cobweb on a building in a certain town at a certain day, hour, minute & second? People that stress on thaqt minutiae need to get a life, IMO).

    There are ways to make comments & offer suggestions to someone that don't smack of outright negative criticism. Sadly, there are folks who either don't know or care to make those comments, and would rather slam someone's efforts as being substandard (in their eyes), and also there are folks who cannot take even the slightest comment, criticism or suggestion, and take their ball & bat & go home. I don't care for neither of those types of individuals, nor do I care for the demonstrative, arrogant and derisive muck shoveled out by the nitpickers, flamers & holier-than-thou (model-railroad-wise) nitwits.

    Two things to remember:

    2. if there are any questions, see point number 1.
    Highball, y'all!

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