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Critical? Who, me?

February 12, 2003

The Real Diary Critic is the only journal review site I visit regularly, partly because it’s the first one I ever came across but also because I haven’t found another one I like as well. Some of the review sites have designs that are so annoying that they’re hard to look at long enough to find the reviews, much less read them. In addition, I thought Eli’s critique of my journal this past summer was fair, so I didn’t have to stomp off in a huff and never read her again. Now she’s looking for a new co-reviewer, and I’m tempted to apply. I was able to move from reading online journals to writing one of my own as well, so it seems reasonable that I could go from reading reviews at The Real Diary Critic to writing them.

I certainly know what I’m looking for in an online journal. Turn-ons: entries that give me a sense of who the writer is, easy navigation, biographical material and other meaningful extras, regular updates. Turn-offs: color schemes that assault my eyes by being overly bright or overly dark or overly uncoordinated, large graphics that crowd out the text, blogs masquerading as journals, visual clutter. For good writing, though, I’ll put up with a lot. I’ll read tiny red text on a black background if the stories are interesting; if they’re not, even a nice soothing white background with clearly labeled links isn’t going to make me want to come back.

I know what I like, but that doesn’t mean I’d be any good at doing reviews. It’s one thing to talk in the abstract, another entirely to look at a specific journal and pick it apart, being aware the whole time that there’s a real person behind those words and colors on the screen. The only way to know is to try, so I did a a sample review. This particular journaler got to be the subject of my first critiquing attempt because she was the Diary-X Plus member who’d updated most recently at the time I decided to do this exercise. I think the result is fair, and when anyone puts work out in a public forum they’ve got to expect people to evaluate it, but I feel mean anyway. I don’t like feeling mean. I’m afraid I’d constantly want to send apologetic e-mails to the people whose sites I critiqued.

I think I’m too wimpy to be a good reviewer. I’m afraid I’d constantly want to send apologetic e-mails to the people whose sites I critiqued. I’d also probably spend more time worrying about the state of my own site, too. I like it clean and simple, but a lot of people find that look boring and unimaginative. I’m sure some of them would take the opportunity to tell me so once I started calling other people’s kettles black in public. If I were lacking for ways to spend my time outside of work, maybe being a reviewer would be a good personal growth exercise, a way to toughen myself up a little and stop being so sensitive, but that’s not the reality I live in right now. Maybe Eli will have another opening down the road, and I’ll be ready then.

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