Feedback Filter

“Send him his previous reviews — THE GOOD ONES!”
Editor to her secretary regarding one of her authors (scene half-remembered from a movie)

A few things came together recently that made me think about a (human) feedback filter for creative people:

  1. Me receiving very positive feedback in an important area of my private life (the “Spooner: wow” comic, unfortunately, hot linking is disabled) highlighting the powerful impact of positive feedback,
  2. Me giving feedback about a really badly done MOOC at Coursera and debating the merits of negative feedback in the forums of said course,
  3. Me writing a letter-to-the-author, or to be precise, giving kudos to Jacqueline Carey for her books Kushiel’s Dart/Chosen/Avatar, Kushiel’s Scion/Justice/Mercy, & Naamah’s Kiss (currently reading Naamah’s Curse, loved all books so far, very mature, sex positive and real page turners — seriously, this lady can write and it is very refreshing to read stories that neither shy away from sex nor make it the only focus of a story, but just treat it … normally), and
  4. Me remembering a part (* see end of posting) of chapter 8 (“Persistence, Persistence”) in Gavin de Becker’s very, very useful book “The Gift of Fear” (seriously, if you ever want to know how to deal with a stalker, this book and this chapter is for you).

But anyway, I wonder whether it is a good idea to implement a human feedback filter for creative people. Someone who screens all the feedback a creative person gets and aggregates the input and pulls the sting out of the destructive feedback. After all, destructive feedback hurts, even when it comes from total assholes whose only mission is to clip the wings of people who are better than they are, or to use Robert A. Heinlein’s words:

“Some people insist that ‘mediocre’ is better than ‘best.’ They delight in clipping wings because they themselves can’t fly. They despise brains because they have none. Pfah!”
“Have Space Suit will Travel” by Robert A. Heinlein

Such a human feedback filter would receive all messages this creative person gets and:

  • pass along all the uncritical positive feedback as one block each month (it is motivating, even if it is not helpful)
  • pass along all constructive (and implementable) criticism as a separate block each month (you should know it, but be forewarned)
  • simply aggregate all negative destructive feedback each month (you should probably know that you offend people, but not get into the details, simply say that x people objected your work due to x% religious reasons, y% political reasons, etc.

I think such a screening would probably be helpful for some creative people. Personally, after reading the first (and very negative) feedback on one of my books (last one — Reggae — in “What readers say“), it took some effort not to be discouraged. It would have been a matter of minutes to pull all versions of my book of the web and refrain from creating any books anymore. And for what? One person whose “pissed off” state was likely due to him paying for a book that was (also) available for free. Still, it did cost some nerves I would have rather invested in another project.

And a human feedback filter could do exactly that — not isolate you from negative (or even constructive!) feedback, but pull the sting out of it. Get the information but not the emotional impact that negative feedback incurs.

I’m not a professional creative person, but I really wonder whether such a service already exists. I surely hope so. Still, it could be transferred into other areas as well. For example, I found that some reviewer comments were really hurtful — having another person screen them first might have prevented a lot of agony and likely lead to quicker and better resubmissions. Yup, would be an interesting and likely helpful service.


(*) “What impact a harasser has is one of the few things a victim can control, and from that day forward, Tommy’s calls would have no impact whatsoever on Mike or Jackie [an agency would check all messages/calls and filter out Tommy’s messages]. In the end, Tommy continued to call for five more weeks. He left many messages, including threats that Mike would have found hard to resist responding to. Mike had predicted that Tommy would only stop if someone “made him stop,” but in fact, the opposite was true. He would only stop if nobody tried to make him stop.”
“The Gift of Fear” by Gavin de Becker