50

Story

I'm a participant in several arts and crafts groups on Facebook. Some of them have a 'be nice' rule stated in their group rules. This rule often states that when people post their craft asking 'what do you think', you're only allowed to say 'looks good!' or not react at all.

Last week, I joined a new international group. I don't know where the moderator there is from, their profile is very protected, but there are members from all over the world. After about 2 days there, I saw a post that went something like:

What do you think of X? It's supposed to be a gift, but I'm unsure about its quality. I'm unsure about the colors I picked (I'm always no good at that!) and the fact that I used so many different kinds of yarn.

To me, the doubts expressed in this post were genuine. Although I was new to the group, I had been practicing the craft for a while and had been picking color schemes and yarns for my own crafts for even longer. I thought the thing looked sort of messy and some of the colors were obviously clashing. So, I checked the group rules to see what their rules on feedback were. There wasn't anything that explicitly told me that I could only comment if I could say 'Looks good'.

So, I sandwiched my feedback, complimented the maker on their technique and expressed an interest in learning some tricks from them. I then gave some advice on how to pick colors, and on what to keep in mind when picking different kinds of yarn. I ended with a compliment to the creativeness of the craft.

This was well received by the maker, we continued our chat via private messenger and I gave her more advice on how to pick colors, provided her with references to sites that can help with such things. I told her my favorite kinds of yarn, and we exchanged some pictures of other crafts we did. She also showed me some tricks with regard to the craft we were originally discussing.

Problem

The crafter and I took our leave on Facebook, and I went to bed. Only to wake up the next morning with a stern message from a group admin saying:

I removed your post. We want people to be nice. That means you can't criticize other peoples crafts.

I apologized, stated that I didn't see the rule in the group rules and thus thought it was okay to provide constructive feedback, but that I wouldn't do it again.

The reply that came to this message is still puzzling me today, because how am I going to get better at my craft and share my experience/knowledge if it is true?

We shouldn't have to put such things in a group rule. It's common sense and good manners!

I didn't push it further, but since I don't want to make another huge faux pas in other groups, my question is:

Does it go against netiquette to provide constructive feedback in a Facebook group? If not, how do I explain so to the moderator and ask them to put something up in their rules so other people won't make the same mistake, without a risk of getting kicked from the group?

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    {COMMENTS REMOVED}: Please don't use comments to guess at solutions or provide non-IPS answers to this question. They will be deleted. Comments are to be used for requests for clarification or suggestions for improvement to posts. If you have an IPS answer, write one in the answer section below. – Catija Nov 16 '17 at 16:17
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    So, did you succeed in solving this issue? – peufeu Nov 29 '17 at 11:34

10 Answers 10

88

Netiquette

Netiquette is highly specific for different websites. Just as etiquette differs from county to country, so does netiquette from website to website. Facebook has a very wide userbase (also from different countries), so the netiquette is very likely to be different from group to group as well.

As such, it is hard to say whether this went against 'the netiquette', nor is it possible to say whether it is against the netiquette of that specific group. However, if the reaction of the moderator is a fair reflection of the netiquette in that group, then it could very well have been.

Your feedback

In general, however, this doesn't seem to be out of line. It doesn't sound like you were simply bashing the OP, or even trying to be hurtful.

Furthermore, they specifically asked for feedback, pointing to a few areas where they might be able to improve. As your private messages show, no offense was taken.

If feedback is only allowed to be nice and sugarcoated, the feedback is pointless. If that is the only acceptable response, the OP isn't looking for feedback, they simply want to show off their work and be able to ignore all wrongs with it.

How to handle the PM from the moderator

You could explain your point that they specifically asked for feedback and that in a PM you had an amicable exchange, so no offense was given:

I'm sorry that you feel this feedback was offensive. The asker specifically asked for feedback, and they even responded thankfully.

That's pretty much all you can do. Explain yourself and that is that. It serves little purpose to sugarcoat things, making your point more unclear. On the other hand, this shouldn't really be a reason for the moderator to start banning you.

Don't expect their opinion to change though, not for this post, or for future posts. That way, you can't be disappointed. It's also not worth getting into an argument over this with the moderator, you are unlikely to convince them of your right, while you are likely to rub hairs the wrong way and possibly get yourself kicked.

If your intention of joining the group is to have a place to improve your crafts and give honest feedback, this might just not be the group for you. There are plenty of these groups out there, so there really is no reason to stick around in a place you don't like.

The diversity of groups on Facebook also brings with it a diversity of etiquette. Find yourself one that matches your intentions.

On why it is not worth arguing

While this is something you might be emotionally invested in, all it takes for the moderator to deal with your arguments is a single press on the delete/ban button. I have seen this happen from both sides, not only on Facebook, but also in game chats and on other websites; people disagreeing with how a group is moderated and going on a crusade to convince everybody of their right. And it doesn't matter if you are right or not, 9 out of 10 times, the moderator grows tired of you and throws you out. Being emotionally invested doesn't help you beating a brick wall, it only hurts more.

And that is even assuming that the problem lies just with the moderator. If the entire moderation team, or even the entire community feels the same way, you are going to have an even hard time convincing them.

  • I disagree that it's "not worth it" - the moderator is obviously in the wrong and has a huge misunderstanding over differentiating constructive criticism from "trolling". OP has a good opportunity to enlighten them, and hopefully make them see that constructive criticism is not at all bad manners, especially when it has been requested. – ESR Nov 19 '17 at 23:48
  • @EdmundReed judging from their initial reaction, they might not think at all that they are in the wrong. I meant worth it in the amount of effort required to convince someone (in power) that they are misguided versus the effort of just finding another group to join on FB. The latter is just so much easier, and so much less confrontational that I don't deem the former to be worth it. – JAD Nov 20 '17 at 13:43
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    @EdmundReed Good luck convincing a moderator that they are obviously in the wrong, and sticking around in the group afterwards. Some level of effort, luck, and emotional investment is required. Finding a more like-minded group takes significantly less effort, luck, and emotional investment – Peter Nov 21 '17 at 21:00
  • @Peter sure, it's a fair point, but there's no implication that OP is after a solution which requires the least effort. They specifically asked how to explain themselves to the moderator - they didn't ask for the easy way out. The correct solution isn't always the easiest one. – ESR Nov 21 '17 at 23:36
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    @EdmundReed but that's the thing. While this is something you are emotionally invested in, all it takes for the moderator to deal with your arguments is a single press on the delete/ban button. I have seen this happen from both sides. People disagreeing with how a group (not only on FB) is moderated, and going on a crusade to convince everybody of their right. And it doesn't matter if you are right or not, 9 out of 10 times, the moderator grows tired of you and throws you out. Being emotionally invested doesn't help you beating a brick wall, it only hurts more. – JAD Nov 22 '17 at 7:34
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Does it go against netiquette to provide constructive feedback in a Facebook group?

That depends on the definition of "netiquette". My personal brew of common sense would say "constructive criticism is even essential to a community that exists for the purpose of mutually giving tips and tricks and ways to improve".

That being said - My personal brew may not necessarily be shared by everyone on the internet. And quite obviously not by the admin of the group you encountered. Or sharing ways for improvement just isn't the purpose of that group.

If not, how do I explain so to the moderator and ask them to put something in their rules so other people won't make the same mistake, without a risk of getting kicked from the group?

This ...

We shouldn't have to put such things in a group rule. It's common sense and good manners!

is a good indicator that you don't (in this case).

What this says (when I read between the lines) is: "You don't have good manners and you don't have common sense. My worldview is the right one and if you dare to have a different opinion you are a rude person and deserve my wrath (and censorship)."

I don't think it is worth your time and effort to argue with a person that has delusional views regarding etiquette and not the least common sense as well as (quite obviously, being that rude herself) good manners. Maybe the local perception of having power over others is a little too much for her to handle decently.

If you find the group good for getting inspiration, consider just participating passively or exchanging actually useful criticism outside the group (e.g. via PM if possible).

I also second Jarko's suggestion:

Find yourself one that matches your intentions.

Addendum:

...so other people won't make the same mistake, without a risk of getting kicked from the group?

This is very nice of you. But it is even harder to achieve. The Mod/Admin explicitly stated their stance on that matter and that adding an explicit rule won't happen. So all you could do is go to the group, read all comments, answers etc and "heads up" the authors of possible "problematic" posts. Do you have the time and energy to do that?

  • I think an addition of what could be sent as a message to the moderator in question would be a fantastic addition to this answer. A meek show of submission ("I'm sorry, I was only trying to help so-and-so") can do wonders going forward both for getting the moderator off your back and potentially making them let down their defenses and allow them to reconsider your point of view as a contributor rather than "evil criticizer". – Onyz Nov 16 '17 at 17:20
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There was no violation of any netiquette. Input was asked, politely given, and a third party stepped in to cause conflict when there was none.

If anything, netiquette was violated by the mod, but as the saying goes "Their sandbox, their rules". The follow up by the mod tells you everything you need to know.

We shouldn't have to put such things in a group rule. Its common sense and good manners!

Such a rude and hostile reply demanding good manners while showing deplorable ones demonstrates considerably irony as well as the mod having an axe to grind.

What you did was apologize and explain your confusion. The mod jumped all over you.

If you continue to behave as you did in this instance, you shouldn't have any problems, but just be aware that there are some people out there who are unreasonable, and in that case, you just apologize, move on, and don't engage them if they obviously want to get into a fight with you.

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You didn't actually do anything wrong here. But that isn't the point there is it. You'll have to talk to the moderator some more, and figure out what expectations they have of the members of the group.

As for "netiquette" this varies wildly, but generally sandwiching criticism is really best practice - it makes people more likely to accept your criticism too.

As for talking to the moderator, there is really not a lot you can do. You can try, but it may well be that this community just isn't for you. In that case, you need to be prepared to walk away from it and find one that more suits your needs.

In your follow up PM to the moderator, highlight how you intentionally tried to be nice by using the sandwich method, and how the asker directly asked for honest feedback. Provide proof that the asker wasn't hurt or felt belittled by your criticism if you have to in the form of parts of the conversation you two had.

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    regarding the "proof" part: do not share the conversation without first getting consent of the counterpart. if it somehow ends up posted publicly and they find out, you might lose a friend, or in some cases this may even have legal consequences. – Sarge Borsch Nov 17 '17 at 19:25
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This was well received by the maker, we continued our chat via private messenger and I gave her more advice (...) She also showed me some tricks (...)

So your feedback seems to have been well received and led to an interesting discussion in which you and her learned something new. Perhaps you even made a friend. Very good.

Now, there are several kinds of communities like this:

  1. The community you (and her) thought you were in, where people ask for feedback in order to improve. Said feedback will sometimes be negative (the sandwich method works wonders). In fact, suggestions for improvement are the most useful kind of feedback.

    The level of negativity will of course depend on the community. For example I frequent a French electronics forum where the occasional clueless newbie comes in asking about how to build a high power railgun or how to play with lithium polymer batteries. Since this will most likely result in electrocution or fire, the answers aren't usually very "nice"...

    On the opposite side of the spectrum, I know a few people who are fanfiction authors, and when they get any kind of feedback sandwich, they're usually very flattered that someone was interested enough in their work to take the time to think about ways to improve it. In fact they often even beg for feedback.

  2. The other kind of community is the "participation trophy" one. In this case, people only come in to get a pat on the back and an ego boost, not to improve in their craft. I suspect you wouldn't be interested in this kind of community...

  3. The pet community which exists only as a means for the owner to socialize, exert authority, boost their ego, etc.

I removed your post. We want people to be nice. That means you can't criticize other peoples crafts.

Well, your mistake was simply that you both thought you were in the first kind of community, whereas the moderator thought you were either in the second or third, or both at the same time.

In my opinion, being "nice" means helping others, even if it means some tough love. In her opinion, being "nice" means keeping everything proper and tidy with a complete absence of any conflict whatsoever. Please picture a Dolores Umbridge type character meticulously ironing out the kinks in her tablecloth.

The reply that came to this message is still puzzling me today (...) "We shouldn't have to put such things in a group rule. It's common sense and good manners!"

So, "We shouldn't have to put such things in a group rule. It's common sense and good manners!" -- this fits the character.

Additionally, nebulous or imprecise rules allow a more liberal interpretation, which increases the moderator's power. You can't appeal to a vague rule. Also consider her stern tone and unwillingness to discuss matters with you. She sounds like she's correcting a misbehaving child. I understand your annoyance...

Does it go against netiquette to provide constructive feedback in a Facebook group?

Nope.

If not, how do I explain so to the moderator and ask them to put something up in their rules so other people won't make the same mistake, without a risk of getting kicked from the group?

If my characterization is accurate, you won't be able to. But you can always emphasize that helping people improve can't be done without pointing out what needs improvement, which means that constructive criticism is unavoidable.

2

So, I sandwiched my feedback, complimented the maker on their technique and expressed an interest in learning some tricks from them. I then gave some advice on how to pick colors, and on what to keep in mind when picking different kinds of yarn. I ended with a compliment to the creativeness of the craft.

This is exactly what I would have done, so I am surprised that the mod jumped on you. It is certainly not obvious that there should be no criticism, even gentle suggestions, on a craft forum.

However, maybe there's more to the story than you realise. Perhaps the mod thought "meat" part of the sandwich was excessively harsh. Compare for example, the following two statements.

That shade of orange makes me want to vomit! Next time choose a brighter colour using .

as opposed to...

If you decide to make another one, a brighter shade of orange would be lovely. By the way, I find helpful for choosing colours.

The first statement is harsh, the second one conveys the same information but is much gentler. Now, I'm not suggesting that what you actually wrote was rude. I'm just trying to suggest a possible reason why the mod reacted the way they did.

2

There is no one netiquette for these things; some communities are looking for constructive criticism and improvement and some only look for validation. This one is clearly the latter case.

There is no real point in debating with them or pointing out (lack of) group rules, since such small groups are ran by one person or a small group of like-minded individuals and you disagree with them the group is probably not for you.

Fortunately there plenty of art sites that are interested in improvement, idea sharing and the like.

1

Background

Simiarly, I belong to a group for building brands, where the ages can be as low as 14. Being a designer myself (as a career), I've learned to take criticism and feedback as comments on my piece, not necessarily comments on my person. All of this took time, experience and confidence building, had over the years of college and on-the-job situations. Taking feedback/critique/criticism is a learned skill, and what could be you simply saying something looks off, could make the receiving person feel 'personally attacked.' Which causes a lash-out in most cases.

Given this information, you can't get better if people don't point out flaws to help you, I generally avoid groups with a "be nice" rule because of this. I'd rather be told something sucks, with feedback, than get ego-tripped because I keep getting comments telling me something is good.


Answer

I don't think you're in the wrong here, I think people should be open to their faults and more receptive to feedback, especially if it's valid and based on facts/further information (ie: color theory or color mixing).

I feel any group that oppresses these kinds of comments is not allowing their members to grow as artists/creatives. That being said, this does have a slight caveat.


Caveat

Just like most situations, judge your surroundings, is this group for people who want to eventually make a living off their craft? Are they trying to be the best, or is it just a hobby? These groups will react differently depending on what they want, in example:

Group 1: People serious about their craft

Person 1: "You won't sell this design because of X, you should try Y"

This is usually received by a "thanks for the feedback + either a defense of their design, or inquiring for more info/showing an updated version

Where as group 2, where it is just people doing it for hobby, the same comment could return a drastically different response. This is because, since they don't think of their craft as a 'business' you are not not attacking a 'creative entity(Think of a business)'. Now it comes across as you attacking someone's person/personal decisions they chose for their art.


TL:DR;

It's alright to give feedback, in fact it's better to be critical as it helps someone grow as an artist. However, you should be aware of the type of people in the group and what their goals are, as this will usually affect how they receive said feedback.

1

As you describe it, his standards deviate from the norm. His notion that all criticism is destructive criticism is plain wrong.

It's his forum, his press and his freedom of press, and he has a right to set any standard he pleases. But where he deviates from normal expectations, he needs to be clear about that.

The fairest way to resolve it is to daylight it, and let a conversation follow.

Post a message on the forum asking what people think about constructive criticism -- ask them if they think that only unqualified kudos, thumbs up and awesome's should be acceptable here, or if people should be able to honestly ask for constructive criticism and receive it. Keep the viewpoint totally positive, nothing to criticize.

Make best effort to time it for when the admin has left, and won't be back for awhile. That way the conversation is fully engaged before he joins, otherwise he'll just delete it on the spot.

The result of this conversation is that the mod will find his own constituency disagrees with him. This will fundamentally alter the group in one of several ways.

  • mod changes values to match the crowd.
  • you learn the unwritten rule has a reason you didn't know about, and maybe mod revises written rules.
  • mod learns nothing, stands to viewpoint, but does so civilly, and now you know this is the "approval-seeking suckup" group. Good to know.
  • mod throws some sort of tantrum, e.g. deleting discussion, everyone knows he did that, and the reasonable people clear out.
  • mod possibly /kicks you, but that conforms with what you would want anyway.

There's another way to do it: create another group with a conduct code that seems more appropriate, and then invite people to also join it.

-2

You were right, the moderator is an *** on a power trip. I say that so rudely to make it clear and unambiguous. It is, unfortunately, quite common and well-known that people get some kind of high as soon as you give them moderator privileges or some other kind of power over other people, especially on the Internet where their accountability is reduced. I have seen this happen again and again, including on several forums that I run.

Both from what you describe and from the reaction of the original poster, it seems clear that you behaved properly. The reason for removal and for the rudeness towards you is not in you, but in the moderator.

If the moderator is the owner or admin of that forum, I suggest you pack your things and move elsewhere. You will clash again. Once these jerks identify a victim, they pile it on. If he is one of several moderators, working for the group or for an owner, bring his behaviour to the attention of those who can take away his moderator privileges. Harpers approach is another, slightly more aggressive, version of this.

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    Hey Tom, your first paragraph doesn't really answer the question and your entire answer is overly rude - referring to this person as an "ass" or a "jerk" is unnecessary. Please remember to "be nice". I encourage you to edit your answer in a way that answers the question as you wish to but without the belittling language. – Catija Nov 20 '17 at 22:07

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