Constructive criticism is, of course, crucial to any creative endeavor – to refuse to accept criticism is to assert one’s own superiority in an arrogant manner. I welcome criticism to the show, and sincerely take to heart the things people say about British History 101. However, it should be noted that there is a vast difference between constructive criticism and pointless whinging on the part of some listeners. I specifically want to address a few points from iTunes reviews, from both the helpful and non-helpful categories. I doubt that anyone who takes the time to read the blog would ever say some of the more ridiculous things that come across the reviews, but just in case:
“Good podcast, but I haven’t seen one for over 3 months. I agree with other reviews that the podcast is drifting. That is a shame since I really enjoyed the earlier podcasts.”
This is good, and I can completely understand why the reviewer says this. Unfortunately, life tends to intervene, and I can’t put the show up as often as I’d like. However, it is extremely encouraging to know that people enjoy what episodes do exist, and this is a strong motivator.
“I hate it when Americans do history of other countries.”
It’s hard to know where to begin with this. This comment conveys either absurd American ultranationalism or absurd non-American xenophobia, not to mention academic close-mindedness. I am open to suggestions, but I fail to see how it could possibly be argued that Americans should only interpret American history. And on that note, how exactly does one “do” history? One does yardwork. One does the dishes. One does homework. One does not “do” history.
“This is a good history podcast. However, I would have liked dates in the titles so I could have listened to the history chronologically. I did enjoy every topic except the personal sidenotes sometimes thrown in.”
It makes sense that a person would like to enjoy history chronologically; while this show’s stylistic approach doesn’t cover history in that manner, I can understand why someone would say the above. I can’t say that I’m particularly moved to change that, but I know why the listener would think that way. I have taken the comment about personal sidenotes into consideration; if not outright removed, they can certainly be moved to the very end of the show so that listeners can stop listening as soon as the history ends. A completely valid (and useful) criticism.
Not helpful (towards the end):
“i will say that mr. anthony puts forth some effort into the podcast, but i get a feeling that the author really knows little about british history, or history in general. also, the mis-pronunciations are difficult to stomach. wouldn’t bother downloading this one. would love to see a good british podcast come around though.” [sic]
I will admit that I am not sure which part of my podcast conveys my ignorance of British history. This criticism would make sense if I made a whole slew of factual errors (and I do know I make the occasional mistake), but I don’t believe the show is full of false information. However, I will make sure to inform the history department of the university that I will immediately withdraw from the program due to my ignorance. Now, regarding the mispronunciations: living in southern Indiana, I am not exposed to too terribly many British-accented English speakers, and the podcasts from the BBC to which I listen don’t tend to speak the words that I have trouble with. Unfortunately, the language barrier that divides British from American English speakers is substantial, and so words that come naturally to British English speakers are difficult for me to pronounce. I apologize for these mistakes, but surely anyone listening to the show when I say a word incorrectly at least knows what I’m talking about, and those with a few seconds of free time are more than welcome to email me and let me know how it should be pronounced.
Helpful (blunt, direct, concrete):
look, I appreciate the work you put into this, very much, and I find what you come up with worthwhile — otherwise, I wouldn’t be listening. I am also pretty sure that the majority of your other listeners feel this way.
Therefore, as a piece of honest and well-intended advice: you absolutely need to stop apologizing and/or discussing your tech problems at length, over and over again, all through your podcast. There are few things more annoying than having an interesting bit of history interrupted countless times by you talking about yourself, often questioning your own expertise. Seriously: nobody cares, or they would not be listening. If you do feel the need to add caveats of whatever kind to what you are recording, please do so once at the beginning, if you must, or the very end, but please, please do stick to the history in the in between. That’s what we’re interested in. I don’t mean to sound inconsiderate, but you are not doing yourself or your podcast any favours by obsessing about its (real or imagined) deficiencies all through the program – you’re just putting off your listeners.
Thanks, and keep them coming.
This is extremely useful to me. Why? Because the commenter is A) polite B) blunt and C) concrete. They offer real solutions – “Add caveats…once at the beginning, if you must, or at the very end,” and this is only after they have clearly said that they are offering “honest and well-intended advice.” They don’t pull any punches, but they’re polite about it. That is information I can (and will) use to improve the show.
I don’t mind criticism – I really don’t. It is a delight to get an email from a listener who says “Listen, old boy, good effort, but this is just not working correctly, and here’s why…” Comments and emails which say something to the effect of “Americans are too bloody stupid to say our words right” or “Quit talking about anything not related to history” are not helpful, and quickly find the inside of Gmail’s trash system. In all frankness, I would remind some listeners that the show is offered free of charge (any money collected from listeners is done so on a purely at-will basis), and those not wishing to listen are more than welcome to go elsewhere. iTunes is chock full of high-quality podcasts (see especially Dan Carlin’s work), all of which would welcome a new listener. To those of you who are always faithful listners – thank you! To those of you who have offered your assistance and gentle guidance and suggestions – thank you! To those of you who simply can’t stand the word “Magdalen” pronounced as “Mag-duh-len” – I think you know where the “skip” button on your iPods is.