I chose to do CodeYear because I wanted to find a really successful way to learn web design and development. Because there are things I want to make and be a part of running. Perhaps it comes out of a ridiculous kind of contempt I direct toward myself for not being able to ever be considered a ‘good blogger’ - I mean, The House of Tycho Brahe rocks, but no one’s ever here. A thousand people follow me and maybe ten or twenty ever actually read, and it makes me feel like I’m doing really good work that no one ever really finds interesting except for me. And all the spaces that people find popular, especially review spaces, are actually kinda reprehensible - I don’t mean this in some hipster sense, I mean some of them really have this nasty idea in their heads that being obnoxious, rude, uncritical and closed-minded in paragraphs sloshing about in five-dollar words and references to classical prose is what makes people come back every week to read their stuff, as opposed to good writing and an accurate approach to the subject matter.
And I’m a peculiar animal when it comes to this argument. I have the only two dogs in the race - on one hand, not only do some places like Pitchfork reserve the right to be harsh about something they think is bad, but often it really is bad, and often they deal with it in a really readable way - which is how they gain a readership; on the other hand, sometimes they overlook really good art, sometimes they go right back to being weirdly mainstream, and sometimes they’re just classless about an issue - and there isn’t a reprieve except the comments section, provided there is one.
I keep dreaming of what I think is the ideal music review site - scratching my own itch, Rework would call it - and I know full well it may just only be my itch, but I just might make people scratch themselves for fun. The point of it is not to simply take a side as a writer. People always have a side. The point is to encourage readers not only to take a side, but to stand with the writer if they agree - and call him out if they don’t. Never one music review for an album on the page, but two, maybe three or four if it can be dealt with responsibly (a site like this is either a junior editor’s hell or what makes a future feature editor’s career). And then encourage readers to weigh in, not in comments, but in their own reviews and their own scores - as well as stating whose side they’re on. The site won’t just tally entire average scores, but the averages for each side, the averages separate from critics to users, the ratio of difference between those who rate it high and who rate it low, and the percentage of users who are on the fence. Then, and only then, does the matter of leaving some passing comment in the box below even become a discussion.
All just thoughts. I’m drafting it out right now. But I think it would be awesome. Because especially in the case of music, there are not only very little review spaces out there, but the ones that are don’t always do their subject matter justice. They stick to their guns - and that’s fine - but there is very little resistance after that. There are dozens of spaces a week that review the same movie side-by-side to each other. If you don’t think one gives you the whole gist, then read another. Let the ideas formulate. And if you’re inclined, respond. Music just has the Almighty Critic - the one who knows all about the industry, who is most capable of understanding, and if you don’t agree with him, well, you’re a cretin.
I don’t think that’s the right approach. I mean, I don’t like Lil Wayne or Tyler The Creator, but I think a reviewer who feels otherwise should not only be given the opportunity to rebut, but to gather other people who feel the same and let them have their say without feeling outgunned by the OP or those who agree with him. Everyone gets a say, so the very next reader, someone with no opinions about the product whatsoever, can make a better-informed judgment.
I mean, sometimes I’d like everyone to heed my musical taste above all. But then we’d all listen to experimental rap-jazz and lo-fi electropop, and that’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea. And besides, I would like to sample your cup of tea, especially if it’s good. So vouch for it, and take into consideration everyone vouching against it. That way, the next person to come around can come closer to making his own decisions.
That’s what I think critique should be like more often, and Rotten Tomatoes is closest to it. Its format doesn’t exactly lend to the casual reader wanting to see each individual review, in my opinion, but I could be wrong - I personally read almost every top critic review on the site when I just come from a movie I have strong opinions on.
So those are my thoughts. I do plan to be more concrete about this by December 1st - that’s the vow I plan to make, anyway.