Posted on Tue 25 September 2018

On public criticism

I've noticed a few posts on Micro.blog today that are clearly related to my post about leaving yesterday (though not sent to me directly). The general gist of these posts is that criticism should be done privately.

I understand that criticism can be tough, and public criticism in particular. In fact, I held back most of yesterday's post for weeks because of this fact. I've held most of these reservations for a while, but I didn't want to share these criticisms because I felt there were other ways I could help improve Micro.blog instead. Leaving the service and sharing my reasons for leaving publicly was a last resort for me. I had attempted to share criticisms and suggestions inside the service and directly with its creators, and I had attempted to take personal action to remedy some of the criticisms I had. When none of this seemed to make any difference, I resorted to sharing my disappointment publicly and leaving the service (to be fair, I haven't quite left yet—I'm still responding to direct mentions about all this, but I've stopped my posts showing up there and will leave when this all dies down).

For those who don't know, I wanted to share the specifics I can remember of all the ways I tried to change Micro.blog directly or share feedback with the community and its creators before I published yesterday's post:

  • I was involved in community discussions about improving the diversity and freshness of Discover. I directly offered suggestions and my time and energy to help.
  • I opened a pull request against the docs repo
  • I opened an issue against the docs repo
  • I spoke to Manton directly about my issues with the API and docs
  • I wrote an entire Android client for Micro.blog to fill the gap that existed
  • I suggested to Manton directly that Micro.blog be open-sourced so I (and others) could contribute to the issues I could see

I did all of this before writing any public criticism about Micro.blog because I want Micro.blog to be better. I love the core idea, and I'm already feeling bereft from no longer participating. But it's horrible to feel voiceless in a community you care about. I tried to make a difference and I kept hitting roadblocks. I tried to take my feedback directly to the creators and I felt ignored or brushed-off at every turn.

I think starting with private, direct feedback is a great suggestion. But when that doesn't work, what else can we do but share our frustrations more publicly, in the hopes someone will listen?


One final thought: in case it comes across as if I'm attacking Manton personally in yesterday's post, this is not at all what I meant. Manton is the sole creator of Micro.blog and the public face of the service. He's the only technical employee, and makes the decisions about how the service works. He also speaks publicly about Micro.blog and his values. Any criticism that mentions Manton directly is specific to his actions or his words. I would never criticise his character, because I barely know Manton—but from what I do know, he seems like a really nice guy with some great ideas.

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