This is a modification of, and expansion on, comments I made in this thread over at the Mobile Frame Hangar.
As builders, we all aspire to improve our Lego creations, whether through observing the work of others, studying arts, pre-planning and sketching, or paying close attention to things like use of colour. One way to really improve is to work in an environment of both support and constructive criticism. It’s something that – from my point of view – we are still lacking in the Mobile Frame Zero community.
In the discussion thread about this very topic, Joshua commented:
“Critique isn’t about whether or not you like something. It’s about asking the creator questions that they can answer at their discretion in a future iteration. Keep in mind that your opinion is only your own, but the creator is the creator. Don’t give advice unless asked specifically in a follow-up. It’s not about you. it’s about the person who created something and was nice enough to show you it.”
Joshua makes a very valid point here: people are being generous in sharing their work with us and that we, as observers, do not have much of an insight (if any at all) into the creative process behind the design. However, I do not wholly agree with the notion that criticism should always be solicited. When people post their frames, there are often many posts of the “Cool!” or “Nice build!” variety. This is not in itself bad. Not at all. Although, there is the danger that without some balancing force, things just become a positively reinforcing echo chamber. That kind of positive support and enthusiasm is vital in our community, whether for old hands or for newcomers. Of course it’s nice to be told that creations look good, have inspired others, or do something innovative with the bricks. But, that only goes so far.
For my own personal tastes, what I’ve not seen enough of is considered, worthwhile constructive criticism about builds. Now that doesn’t mean “Your frame is teh suxxor” or “I hate the colours you have chosen.” Far from it. What is means is offering praise coupled with asking useful questions (as Joshua noted above) about how a builder can improve their designs or their presentation. So, rather than saying “You SHOULD change this!”, you should be saying “Have you considered X or Y. How do you think it might look if you change this colour to that colour?” Many times I have built something and it is not until someone else points it out that you realise the build could have been improved markedly by a very tiny change. Perhaps this is adding a spot of colour, swapping out one brick for another, or just adjusting the stance in some way.
I should emphasise that this should not, under any circumstances, turn into some kind of cycle of Maoist denunciation and self-criticism (“Your build fails! That 1×2 tile would have looked so much better as a 1×2 jumper plate! Repent!” – “Oh, I have committed great crimes against the brick. Please forgive me comrades. And, I have also been a hoarder of Travis bricks that would have better served the community if they were spread amongst the populace!” and so on and so forth.)
There’s also a sense amongst some member of the community that because they have not reached a certain, nonexistent ‘standard’ in their builds, or because they are working from a limited palette of bricks, they somehow don’t have the ‘right’ to offer constructive criticism on the works of others. One thing I do feel quite strongly about is that members of the community should feel free to offer constructive feedback no matter how many frames they’ve built, or to what standard. Someone – to create an example out of thin air – may be totally new to building tiny Lego mecha, but in their day job they are an industrial designer with a great eye for shape and colour. That’s just a made up example, but I do think everyone has something to offer.
This all can be summed up in one word: help. It’s all about helping each other to build great stuff for MFZ.