Michael Marshall Smith's anti-nobody-review rant

This is hilarious. I thought Sean Coffee’s rant about software security in the Feedback forum would be the funniest rant I read this week, but Michael Marshall Smith - author and Scrivener user (I always have to get that last bit in) - yesterday posted this on his blog:

michaelmarshallsmith.wordpress.c … iews-suck-—-nuff-said/

It’s an impassioned rant against the nonsense and illiterate reviews that sadly now dominate the internet; the poorly-spelled, txt-like curt negativity and ignorant keyboard-baby-sick-ups that trail their vomity rivulets down your screen every time you tab to YouTube or flick through the iPhone app store, or even, these days, scroll through Amazon reviews. And he’s absolutely right, of course. Why should you even be allowed to share with the undemanding world your opinion about a book that took a year to write if you don’t even know the difference between “it’s” or “its”, “then” or “than”? (Would you let a blind man choose your wallpaper or solicit sex-tips from a nun? Okay, don’t answer the latter.) Really, how useful is it to ask random strangers for their opinions of a work of art without knowing their prejudices or tastes? We’re brainwashed into thinking that everyone’s opinion counts and that democracy means everyone’s opinion is as important as everyone else’s, a constant drone of voices talking over one another. Everyone has the right to an opinion, but that doesn’t mean that an ill-educated, unformed or ignorant opinion is as valid as a well-reasoned and constructive one, or that each such opinion should be foisted upon the world in all its hate-smitten, bile-ridden, grammatically-gralloching moribund pointlessness.

But mostly, I just like the undercurrent of misanthropism (note to my spell-checker: why isn’t that allowed as a word, you spell-checking b*****d?).

YEAH. That’s my opinion. 'Nuff said indeed.

Too much pussy-footing, punch-pulling and dancing round the subject, Keith.
Tell us what you really think. :smiley:

If I were MMS’s agent, I would tell him to get back to work on his next book. Venting spleen at readers or reviewers is a gigantic waste of time. If you choose to perform in a public arena, you have to take whatever the public thinks. Dismissing people as illiterate because they make typos or other mistakes is just sour grapes. I repeat, it comes with the territory.

As a published writer, you are a performer. You want them to buy the book or view the film. You need them, far more than they need you. (This is true of teachers, politicians, athletes, and possibly anyone whose work involves some use of the social contract.) Does everyone’s opinion count? I’d rather live with that illusion than the reality, common in China or Iran, that speaking out earns you a quick bullet to the brainstem.

Sometimes I think the most dangerous thing about the Internet is that it fosters the illusion of autonomy and privacy. Nonsense, we’re plugged into zillions of networks. People need each other, and writers need readers. Anyone who publishes is already a quite privileged person. All that privacy and silence, that superior education, that genetic accident that sustains articulation. MMS should cherish his gifts, take his lumps, and get on with it. (And KB, why such a misanthrope today? Is not your life and well-being tied to the immense kindness of many strangers?)

Hmm, interesting question. Are you saying that buying a copy of Scrivener is an act of charity or kindness? If so, I don’t think this is true. Rather, my current career is very much tied to the good fortune that a number of people like my app enough to use it, and my well-being and happiness in my job comes from the fact that so many of those people are nice, kind-hearted and intelligent. Oh, and yes - and I think this may be your point - yes, certainly Scrivener owes very much indeed to the generosity of those who have praised it on the internet, and who help each other on the forum, and I certainly would never have a go at those fine people and am eternally grateful to them.

So perhaps I didn’t make the target of my disdain clear. I find the internet very useful for finding opinions on things - there are decent reviews all over the internet, and still many on Amazon. What MMS was ranting about - and with which I was agreeing - was the abundance of one line reviews which are illiterate and negative. “Its sux” and the like. The ones that you have to skim over to get to the more thoughtful reviews. This sort of stuff:


(Actually, they are more hilarious than poorly written, but they are more fun to read than a link to the awful stuff would be.)

I also think that MMS has every right to rant about that sort of thing, and that it’s not necessarily sour grapes to get fed up of reading that stuff. The clutter of these grammatically-gratuitous TXT-like reviews is the visual equivalent of getting on a bus and being forced to listen to the bad tinny rap music emanating from teenagers who think that they have the “right” to play their music, never mind everyone else on the bus, and don’t dis them, okay? The exact same thing I go to the internet or entertainment to get away from. But then, of course, I do enjoy reading a good rant.

Also, I found his rant highly entertaining and my own addendum rant was meant in fun, so I hope this doesn’t turn into a debate or argument. Instead, how about anyone who has seen a particularly nonsense or silly review share it? Or is that too harsh?

Mind you, I still say that if you don’t know the difference between "it’s and “its” or “then” and “than” then you have no right to be reviewing a book. I thought I’d be able to say that within the safety of a community of writers, but I should have known it would ruffle feathers. :slight_smile:

I’m a misanthrope every day, though…

Hmm… I guess most of my posts are unwelcome. :sniff:

But at least I am not being critical of literature! Or Lattes. Maybe I am safe.

Keith, thanks for a very thoughtful response. Perhaps I am in a ridiculously benign mood on this glorious September day. Must get a grip. Send me the next bullying noob post. – D

Glorious September day? Where are you? It’s been raining all day here! (Maybe that explains my mood…)

Ha aaaaa!!! Eeeeeeee! Pfffrrrrrttt!!!

Been raining here, too.

Talking of language – which was at least part of the splendid splendid rant on the blog – I recently had an email from the police (who occasionally send out alerts) telling us that some suspicious characters had been knocking on doors, and advising us to “remain vigulent”. I was tempted to reply that I would if I knew how. On the whole, I think I’d prefer it if the police were good at catching criminals rather than being good at English, but I do sometimes wonder what happened to the English language. I fear that the internet is actually increasing ignorance by making certain mistakes more commonly visible. In a lot of cases I fear it’s not the computers that need anti-virus software, it’s the people using them.


We’re into the forth or fifth (or sixth?) simply spectacular fall day here in Chicago. It’s odd to have early October weather in late August but I’m not complaining. Spectacular.

That is a very amusing rant. I’ve come to the despairing conclusion that the majority of user reviews and comments are written by snarky 13-year-olds, or those whose development arrested around there. Every once in a while you get a truly thoughtful, well-written paragraph or two but unfortunately it’s like coming upon a lily in a bilge.


We have the bad attitude to think that democracy can work without education. Democracy was invented in a deeply literate country like Ancient Greece.

Today’s problem is not that there is too much democracy, but too few literacy. Teach the kids to read, understand, think before writing about something. We would have a great democracy.


Can we blame this on the old enemy … Micro$oft? After all, they are the people who’ve filled their software with grammar and spelling-checker based on a readability index based on the ability of the average 13 year-old?
Mind you of course, here in the UK we’re also saddled with the results of those wonders of intelligence in the latter half of the last century, who foisted on an unsuspecting nation the idea that to correct a child’s spelling or grammar was to stifle their creativity … or worse was adhering to an elitist language variety!

Mini-rant over

As much as I of all people want to blame as many of the worlds ills on Microsnot, I am afraid that even I must exonerate them from this one. There is no individual to blame, but there is a single group that is entirely guilty of this travesty.


Shut of the TV, take away the video games, make them walk places, let them ride bicycles, take them fishing, and for God’s sake, TEACH THEM TO READ FOR ENTERTAINMENT.

I took my own medicine 10 years ago when the oldest was 5, and now have the extreme dissatisfaction of not being able to get my kids to sit through a movie. They keep reading through the whole thing. Oh, and the school has finally realized that the kids “problem” with the test answers is not basic understanding, but over thinking the question. As in “that is not the canned answer we expected from you”. Suddenly we find ourselves in the advanced learning classes when a year ago we were threatened with remedial intervention (this is why the no child left behind mantra is so distasteful to me).

Literacy has little to do with education. It is entirely a product of self motivation. Self-motivation is derived from a sense of self-worth mixed with a little bit of discipline. Both of which are gifts that a parent bestows on their child starting from the moment that child is conceived.

Whew. No idea were that came from. Oh yes I do. The person across the street telling the 4 year old that they are worthless. No amount of education will repair that damage.

Countering my dyspeptic post above, I offer my favorite user review ever. I was looking for a parka that would handle sub-zero F temperatures and after the usual endless search came upon a real possibility. At the bottom of nearly a hundred tin-eared user reviews that caromed off every point of the review compass I found this:

I bought the coat. It works.



The alternative being

“Shut the fuck and buy my shit because you are not educated enough to dislike or even criticize such a work of art as I have created. My magnificent creations are so above you little people you can even bask in the glory I have bestowed upon you in letting you BUY my creation”

is rather stifling to me.

I like the can of worm reviews available out on the internet. They seem much more honest than marketing reviews that are purchased for no other reason than to push a product.

Yes many may contain such gems as “This sux”, “OMG WTF Dis Sux!” and “Only tools use this crap” but there are many that are heartfelt reviews whether they are good reviews or bad reviews.

Some people’s egos just can’t handle criticism and in doing so they cannot handle the truth.

The best review is the honest review and in the end the product will speak enough for itself.

PS: My review of reviews sux.

I have to agree with the sentiment that not everyone’s opinion is valid. That’s because personal experience tells me that some people are so stupid that they’ll announce that something doesn’t work because a) they didn’t know that they had to plug it in, b) they didn’t check that it was compatible with their system before buying it, or c) they really thought it was something else when they bought it, and so it was bound to let them down.

I often read the ratings on iphone apps before I download them, and ones that read “dun work, total shite.” are less than useful. You have to ask yourself if the person is smart enough to have installed it correctly in the first place. Does the app really not work, or is the problem in the user rather than the user interface?

Same goes for books or movies that don’t appeal to certain people. The fact that they don’t understand the plot or simply don’t like the genre doesn’t actually make it poorly written. Reading a negative review that isn’t backed up with a reason makes you wonder - did the reader get past page two, or did the word ebullient stop them in their tracks because it had more than two syllables.

I think reviews are fantastic when people back up their opinion with some reasons. But if they won’t spend the extra 2 minutes, or can’t string enough sentences together coherently to express their thoughts - then how do we know that their opinions are even relevant?

It is true that many “nobody” reviews online are not worth their weight in pixels. But I’ve found that most reviewers are thoughtful and sincere, even if they are not always eloquent. The point being that most of us can tell the difference, which is something that MMS apparently fails to appreciate himself. In fact, I’ve read many reviews online that are far more thoughtful and well-expressed than MMS’s rant…

However, I can understand how an author or other creative person might feel the need to rant a bit in the face of overwhelming criticism. Just don’t demean everyone by implying we can’t tell the difference between useful commentary from a thoughtful, knowledgeable consumer and the ravings of a dimwitted imbecile.

Well, I enjoyed the rant and it made me laugh, but it seems to have raised a few hackles.* :blush:

I agree with Pink (never thought I’d say that!) - I’m running away now.

  • Interesting biological fact I just discovered this weekend: we get goosebumps as a genetic leftover - our ape forefathers used to puff out their hair when they got scared or agitated, but our poor bald selves have no hair left to fluff!

I’m like a fungal infection, I just grow on you :wink:

It made me laugh too.

Of course creative people are not usually the most level headed and thick skinned beasts in the first place, so it’s not improbable that he got fed up with negative reviews and flew off the handle. That doesn’t make his sentiments invalid though. The ability to spell 90% of your words correctly and have some semblance of grammatical nous really should be a mandatory entrance exam before people can partake in interweb jubblyness.

I think that was called Gopher.