“The impact of criticism is often not the intent of the critic” – Ze Frank

Putting things on the internet scares me every time. It’s hard to put yourself out there, open to whoever decides to comment and voice their opinion. That’s why it’s important as a community that cardists provide a nice, pleasant place for people to share content they’ve created.

In addition to cardistry, I do have other things I do with my life. One of them was a research program where we were forced to consistently present to other members, and give feedback to the presenter. Currently I think the cardistry community could work on treating everyone with a degree of respect, even if the people on the receiving end of the criticism aren’t good at cardistry.

Giving feedback is tough. A lot more should go into feedback than just an offhand note of your overall impression. Obviously not everyone has the time to write a lengthy response, but taking a second to think about why something was good or bad and then writing that in a constructive manner can go a long way.

Personally I have a list of things that I try to include whenever I give feedback. Not all of them are necessary to being helpful, but for me they really help ground what I want to say.

Specificity

“So good”

“Awesome”

“I hate it”

Technically, yes, these are all things you could say as feedback. None of them are helpful, but you could say them. If someone has requested feedback, that’s not what they’re looking for. People want ways to improve and they want to know what works. Giving a one word response has its place, but if someone specifically requests feedback then just remember you’re not helping.

For instance, Marko Juračić  posted this video to the /r/cardistry subreddit a long time ago with the title “Original and semi-original moves, feedback is welcome don’t be shy”:

And here’s one of the comments on the video thread:

“Really nice. I am only saying this because you asked for feedback; that second to last one that finished with the right hand pushing the last stack back to the top could use a better finish, it seems kinda of half-done. But that around-the-thumb move in the third one was beautiful.”

This is a good example of something specific. The commenter picked out one thing and then gave advice for Marko to work with.

One issue with that comment is that although specific in its advice, it feels more like a stream of consciousness than a structured comment

Structure

Being specific is good, but feedback should also have structure. I recommend structuring feedback to have a reasonable amount of both good and bad things, listing all the good first followed by the bad. I do this for a couple reasons:

  1. Most people only give constructive criticism, which doesn’t let a person know what they should keep doing next time. Giving constructive criticism on one specific thing is the second best way to give advice in my opinion.
  2. Putting the good at the end sometimes feels like they’re a bunch of reassuring afterthoughts that were only said to protect someone’s feelings.

Also, if everything is structured well, then it makes it easier for the person receiving feedback to read and understand it.

For instance, look at this video by Leonardo Tardino:

and then this comment by /u/engelthefallen:

“Not familiar with you, but video caught my eye. Video feels professional so I will kind of discuss it as such. If it is legit ametuar, then you got a lot of raw talent.

It is good, very good, but there were spots that could be better:

Strongest shot I think is the faro at :13. That shot is just beautiful.

Around :47 one recurring issue starts to appear with stuff happening off screen. If you are showcasing the cards, having the stuff occur off screen is, to me, counterproductive. If you were untalented it would not be an issue, but I found it annoying I wanted to see what you were doing but could not. The card spin at 1:10 gets cut off almost completely because of this.

1:20 is a great shot. I love the over the shoulder frame.

1:24 the blur is too long and starts to hurt my eyes.

1:40 has more off the camera work cutting things off of screen.

So yeah I am nitpicking, but I did love the video, and I figured you would want honest feedback. One thing I did not see you use is slow motion. I thought when you toss cards from hand to another that would be a great time to do some slow motion effects. It would fit the atmosphere. The overall style is amazing though.

Finally my advice to everyone, show your face in the video if possible. Too many of these videos are just hands. A face humanizes this more and makes it easier for people to get invested in you.

If this is amatuer, consider when you get stronger videos submitting to short film fests. With even a frame of a story told through the cards this could make an impact.”

This is great feedback. It’s very specific, but it also has a very clear structure. Using time stamps can really help let people know exactly what you’re talking about, and provide an easy way to look at the comment.

The way you should view giving advice is that you’ll gain nothing from it now, but someone else will. And maybe one day someone will try to return the favor. This brings me to the next most important thing:

Kindness, Dammit

It’s really important to be nice when providing feedback as well. I’ve noticed that the “constructive” in constructive criticism can be overlooked sometimes. Again, this is not just to save the cardist’s precious feelings. It’s a lot harder, at least for me, to take feedback from someone I don’t like. Why would I listen to someone who isn’t going to show any respect for me?

Let’s say you hate the way someone performs Squeeze, and you want to let them know. Do you think they’ll respond better to “Hey dude, your rhythm is all off for Squeeze, and if you sync the Revolution cut with that outwards motion it will look better” or “Your squeeze is garbage, quit making videos and practice more”?

For example, look at this comment from the /r/cardistry subreddit:

“I hope you don’t take offense to this, but I can tell you are still a beginner. Your movements are very mechanical and nothing seems to really flow yet. It’s getting there, but you’re not there yet. Keep practicing, and slow down for a while. Figure out how to transition from grip to grip smoothly, and then bring the speed back in.”

The commenter doesn’t seem to be a fan of the video they watched, but regardless of that they were very nice in letting the flourisher know that they need to improve. It would have been very easy to put the flourisher down and maybe discourage them from continuing.

In that comment, it might be hard to judge whether or not the person actually knows what they’re talking about, or if they’re just being nitpicky and mean. That’s why it’s sometimes important to provide some perspective of where you’re coming from when you write out feedback. Wow, look how perfectly this leads into the next section:

Perspective and Style

Penn and Teller (well, mostly Penn) talked about the idea of stating your bias before presenting information:

They basically say that it would be easier to watch the news if we all knew the viewpoint of the news anchors. This applies to feedback as well. Telling someone their video is bad is infinitely more helpful if you provide another video to compare it to. That creates a frame of reference to quickly identify where you’re coming from, and where the performer can look to set goals. You get bonus points if you take the time to make a video to show someone what’s wrong.

It’s also important to note that all feedback is inherently subjective, so it can be helpful to remind people that what you’re saying is an opinion you hold as opposed to an objective truth of the world. It’s ok to dislike a video that was well done, and that’s a valid thing to say.

For example, take Aimee Maddox’s newest video melodic:

I think it’s a really well-done video in terms of editing and production quality, but I don’t like the video too much. The almost psychedelic style isn’t for me. Does that make it bad? No! So if Aimee had asked me for feedback I’d definitely mention that I didn’t enjoy it too much because it’s not my thing. It’s still a good video though, and I think it’s important to be able to recognize that.  Mentioning my negative perspective would also make the praise I had more meaningful,  and the criticisms that I would give would become a lot more relevant. It also allows the person receiving the feedback to more easily know what to ignore from what I had to say, since sometimes you won’t always agree with how people feel.

 

Receiving Feedback

The only thing worse than people who can’t give feedback are those who can’t accept it. If someone can’t accept feedback, they might get into conversations like:

A: “hey I didn’t like the way you did x, maybe you should change it to y”

B: “I know what I’m doing, get off my back”

A: “sorry I just want to see you improve”

B: “yeah well go help someone else I don’t need it”

Never get mad at good-willed feedback. 99% of the time, people want to see you improve, even if they don’t know how to help you get there. It’s important to remember two things:

  1. Most people are trying to help, even if they don’t go about it the right way. Attacking them for sharing an opinion, or even being mean, will also never make the situation better
  2. You can totally ignore people if you don’t like what they have to say. If every cardist followed all the advice of every other cardist, every video would be exactly the same and not very good.

Putting the pieces together

To sum everything up, here’s an example of how I’ve been structuring my feedback these days:

Hey here’s my list of critique and advice

  1. Find a more interesting environment. Some videos are shot at one angle in a plain background, but they’re more to showcase awesome moves/insane skill. You’re still kinda starting out (which is totally fine!) but having some different shots and angles would go a long way.
  2. With your usage of the theme I think you might’ve been better off alternating shots of the red bikes and blue tallys compared to just using one and then using the other
  3. Your text (especially the word equals) felt like it was on screen for a short amount of time, which while readable, is an easy fix
  4. I felt like the red filter made it a bit harder to see things, but I’m colorblind so that might just be me.
  5. Try finding some really beautiful fonts to use. I love custom fonts and I think typography goes a long way.
  6. You showed yourself squaring up the cards a lot, and I recommend avoiding that since it just gives it a messy feel (not to say squaring up doesn’t have it’s place)

Things I liked:

  1. You synced a lot of the edits to the music, which is always nice and I think adds a lot to the video.
  2. I liked the way the intro was setup with the two different cards flying in, it got the point across without seeing the words “red + blue”
  3. Even though you didn’t switch up the angles of the shots too much the angle you chose framed everything really nicely, I never saw cards noticeably leave frame, and it didn’t feel like it was too far away to be focused on the flourishes.
  4. I liked the song, but that’s more personal.

Making videos is hard and requires practice, but I can try to link you some stuff depending on what program you’re using.

Why this matters

Feedback matters because it’s an essential tool to improving. Without knowing what to fix — whether it be the performance of a flourish, or the creation of a video — people will practice the wrong technique and will settle at putting out subpar content. I also can’t stress enough how easy it is to just be nice to someone when helping them. If we as a community provide awful feedback, we’ll only drag ourselves down and chase away a lot of new and aspiring flourishers.

TL;DR

  1. List the good and the bad.
  2. Be nice.
  3. Show that you know what you’re talking about, or maybe that you don’t.
  4. You can always ignore feedback you don’t like.

I really hope everyone takes at least one thing away from this article. Feedback is so important to establishing a nice community, so it would be a shame if when people ask for some advice they’re still met with a chorus of “Good Jobs”.


 

Have any feedback on this article? Try applying what you learned (if you learned something) and let me know what you thought!

About Billy Markowitz

Hey, I'm an all around average guy with hobbies besides cardistry including lockpicking, creating amazing spotify playlists, running, and playing the game spyparty.