The Advantages of Online Critiquing

One of the problems with gathering a group of people together in real life is that when five or six relative strangers are collected in a room repeatedly, and engage in conversations that tear apart each other’s work to some extent, some frictions are inevitable. These frictions may have nothing to do with the critiquing itself – the more people are together, the more likely it is that some personal habit of one participant will irritate another one, perhaps to the point of causing snide rejoinders or simply disruptive distractions. For example, if one member constantly sucks on a toothpick and you find this to be irritating, it will be difficult to focus on what they are actually saying, especially when they mumble around the toothpick. You can always listen to an online audio book while you drive.

Online critiquing is often more detailed and useful, also, because of the very nature of the medium. Having keyboards and monitors separating the participants, and with the speed of typing providing a natural moderating influence on the pace of discussion, helps to foster an environment where measured consideration is given to the topic. You are much more likely to see critiques offered in a systematic, detailed way onscreen, whereas verbal conversations tend to wander and even ricochet from point to point and topic to topic in a chaotic manner.

Besides the fact that carrying out your critiquing online tends to smooth out any ripples of personal antagonism that might arise in an offline venue, meeting with your critique group online is more convenient as well. Making time to get in a car, fill the gas tank, drive to a rendezvous, and spend several hours there physically away from other places you might be needed is a much larger commitment than switching on a computer at home and chatting at your keyboard.

For example, many people would likely be unwilling to go out at ten o’clock in the evening after a day’s work and the kids are in bed, simply to discuss the merits and flaws of articles or short stories that their friends have written – especially if this means staying out until after midnight, with another busy day ahead. However, logging into a private chat room in the evening is a far less intensive enterprise – it does not require driving or dressing up, it does not take you away from your home and the things you still need to do there, and it still allows you to discuss writing in detail with your critique group.

Flexibility is the hallmark of online critiquing, and this is especially true for those who have work commitments that vary from day to day. Finding a time when everyone can be online is usually easier than finding a time when everyone can be physically present. Switching the meeting to another day is likewise simplified by use of the Internet. Finally, if one or two critiquing group members absolutely cannot attend an online meeting, it is fairly easy to save a log of the discussion and e-mail it to them so that can keep abreast of the latest developments, and be up speed the next time the group meets.