I know the setup on this is gonna be long, but if you hang in there, I actually have something to add on all this foofarah.
A little earlier this week, on March 28th, I read a Tweet by @Piratenami that went as follows;
It was followed by one of those short links, which I have added to the text line as the actual link for those who are cautious about where they’re clicking to. I always get nervous clicking on some random jumble of letters, myself.
I read that teaser, and of course I ignored it, because I’m above gawking at that kind of thing, right?
Heck no, off I scurried!
That teaser really got my attention on two fronts.
First, I fancy myself as being a writing enthusiast, which is my new euphemism for “I’d like to be called a writer but I know I’m not as skilled as REAL writers”.
Second, as an occasional theorycrafter, writer of guides about playing a video game, and blunt Bear about town, I’ve had my share of criticism and negative reviews… and trolling, and threats to my family, and so on.
I know how I’ve handled criticism in the past, which is to ignore it elsewhere, and to moderate it on my own website for language, threats, and extreme soapboxing.
Protip; if you don’t like something I said, hit your bullet points, quoting where I got it wrong, and end it short and sweet. If you write three posts of massive walls of text in the comments one right after the other counting over 4000 words each, longer than even my original Bearwall… that’s just silly. At that point, start your own blog, willya? Sheesh.
So, a train wreck involving a published writer commenting on negative reviews? Omigod! This I have to see.
Oh. Oh, wow. Oh, that’s simply amazing.
You don’t have to go far to find the author’s replies in the comments to that review… Jacqueline Howett, the author in question, was the very first commenter to the review. Kinda pounced on it. Which is great for our short attention span little minds, it helps us get to the good bits fast.
After my long exposure to Trade Chat in World of Warcraft, I have to say my first thought to Jacqueline’s comments was “Boy, for someone that works with words, she sure did resort to the two simplest words for a rebuttal in record time. What a stunning lack of imagination.”
I’ll give you this one, very small, directly copied sampling of one of her comments so you get a tease of the beginning of her descent. This is from before she really loses it. No, really.
Look AL, I’m not in the mood for playing snake with you, what I read above has no flaws. My writing is fine. You were told to download a new copy for format problems the very next day while they were free at Smashwords, so you could choose any format you wanted to read it in and if their were any spelling mistakes they were corrected. Simply remove this review as it is in error with you not downloading the fresh copy i insisted. Why review my book after being told to do this, and more annoying why have you never ever responded to any of my e-mails?
So, ummm… that’s just the start? Train wreck is such an appropriate description.
I’ve gone about my business since, and thought nothing more of it except to reaffirm my stance that once I say something, it’s out there. If people don’t like it, hey. I need to get a helmet and move on.
Then I woke up this morning to check my Tweet feed before work, and found this little snippet from Neil Gaiman himself;
That poor author meltdown over criticism of her bad grammar & spelling is pure Dunning-Kruger Effect. See transcript at website link.
I read that, and the very first thing that popped into my head when seeing the words “author meltdown” were the comments by Jacqueline. But surely that’s not what…
Yes, yes that was what he was referring to. Holy c^%!
You know, I can only pray that if I’m ever linked to or talked about by someone whose work I respect as highly as Neil bloody Gaiman, it wouldn’t be in reference to something like that.
I’m getting to a point, I swear.
The transcript Neil Gaiman linked to was a discussion about the Dunning-Kruger effect.
…It’s the idea that the worse you are at something the more likely you’ll hold an inflated view of your own performance…
…across every test, the students at the bottom end of the bell curve held inflated opinions of their own talents, hugely inflated. In one test of logical reasoning, the lowest quartile of students estimated that their skills would put them above more than 60% of their peers when in fact they had beaten out just 12%…
…on the other end of the bell curve the talented students consistently underestimated their performance. Again to the test of logic; those topping the class felt that they were only just beating out three-quarters of their classmates, whereas in reality they had out-performed almost 90% of them…
The verdict was in; idiots get confident while the smart get modest, an idea that was around long before Dunning and Kruger’s day. Bertrand Russell once said, ‘In the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.’ From his essay ‘The Triumph of Stupidity’, published in 1933.
Go read the entire transcript here. I enjoyed the way they presented their points and the examples they gave. The ‘juice’ example was my favorite.
Here is the reason I’m bringing all this up, and no, it’s not just because I like a good popcorn train wreck.
Well, maybe a little.
The suggestion that Dunning-Kruger Effect could help explain the apparent inability of Jacqueline to see anything wrong with her writing could just as easily apply to darn near anything we do.
But it doesn’t REALLY help anything.
Take my own writing, as an example. I’ve said before, I always publish my posts feeling that they’re, if not actual rubbish, close enough for government work.
Now, since I don’t think my own writing is very good, does that mean, by the results of Dunning-Kruger, that it’s actually very good?
No, no it does not. What it means is that I am too deeply involved with my own writing to be able to get an outside perspective on how other people would view it.
My writing may be good, bad or just middling, but being the writer, I’m not really able to have a clear, objective impression on what you as the reader are going to think of it.
I can give you another example from my own life. I have long thought of myself as a damn good Bear tank. I was confident enough in my skills at that class and role that I had the effrontery to write guides and tips and suggestions about how to do it as well as you can.
Does Dunning-Kruger mean that I’m actually completely delusional and actually suck at it?
Well, actually maybe it does. But I have no real way of knowing, because with some PUG groups we may go insanely smooth, and other groups we might have massive fail, and on the groups that went well I might have just been carried to victory by a great healer.
I can’t really KNOW. But being the kind of person that I am, I now have a wonderful new level of self-doubt to explore. If I am confident that I’m good at something, am I really bad and don’t know it? Omigod!
What I love about the idea of Dunning-Kruger, though, is what else it might apply to.
Say… social skills.
The people you meet in World of Warcraft, for example.
Are you talking to people in Trade chat, or in PUGs, or just over vent who are so incredibly bad at social skills and how to interact with other living, breathing people that they really think that the way they talk to people is great?
Did that guy who told you to “l2p, noob” when you asked for a second’s pause to drink to regain Healer mana actually think that you appreciated his taking the time to guide you on your priorities? Did he think you left the experience looking forward to playing with him again in the future?
It boggles the mind. It really does.
The very idea that the people who drive us batshit crazy might be that deluded is fascinating.
And I might be one of them!
The whole idea has added an entirely new level of surrealism to my already weird life. And I’m loving it.
It’s like tap dancing on a mudslide.
Geez, next thing you know I’m going to get into some kind of existentialist BS about “Am I really real”, and somebody’s gonna have to slap me.
Ah well. I hope that I have at the least amused you as much today as this entire thing has amused and educated ME.