Criticism pushes the web forward

Published 2021-05-08 category: thoughts

This week, a friend shared a blog post that critiqued a popular framework for CSS. Twitter started to discuss if it’s okay to criticise tools. In this post, I’ll say it is not just okay, it is also important.

I was a little disappointed to see the replies to this tweet. Among the many replies, the person who came up with the framework exclaimed seeing the post shared by her “ruined” his day. Note: the post was not about him, it was about the framework (the one that, on its homepage, criticises other people’s CSS methodologies) . Other commenters said the article was “not worth sharing”, “you’re just starting of fights” and “why would you amplify that?”.

I’m not interested in attacking anyone here, or going into the merits or faults of The Post, but would like to answer that last question. Or, in fact, a more generic one: “is it okay to criticise tools?”

Listening helps

The short answer is: yes. As long as it is aimed at the tool, not the person that created it, it is better to share criticisms than not. I have never been involved in the development of frameworks for the web, but in standards for the web, like HTML, CSS and ARIA, there is lots of criticism. People poke holes in each other’s assumptions, suggest ways to make features better and explain why things don’t work well for them. Good standards require diverse perspectives.

Again, the kind of criticism I’m talking about here is criticism of the content, not a person. Is some proposal vague? Should we really call that property “left justify” or number-form seems counterintuitive as a property name–just two examples of critiques of the first version of CSS, in 1995. They’ve made CSS better, because we’ve ended up with better names. Thanks to the people who took the time to send in comments. This is, for over 25 years, how we’ve evolved the web: by listening to each other and not taking critical comments personal.

Can we “just not use it”?

Maybe web standards like CSS are different. The web is built on it and you cannot not use CSS when you build a website. Browsers have stylesheets. But if we’re honest, the most popular tools and frameworks also impact all of us. Most web developers don’t always get to choose their own tools and frameworks, they join a team with existing code or have team members with other opinions.

I’ve never included Bootstrap in a project myself, but have contributed code to many projects that did. Just like it is helpful to comment on web standards, it is helpful to comment on tools and frameworks, because they too affect us all. This goes both for whether to use the thing at all, and for features the thing has or lacks.

Like critical thinking pushes the world of ideas forward, I mean in philosophy, criticism of ideas for standards, tools and frameworks pushes the web forward. We should give feedback respectfully and constructively, but we should give feedback. And open up to feedback, not demand it to go away. It may not be easy, but it is important to include perspectives outside your own.

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Baldur Bjarnason wrote on 8 May 2021:
“Criticism pushes the web forward” hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0…
jalbertbowdenii wrote on 8 May 2021:
dissent is healthy
Robert Ⓥ -🤘🏻 wrote on 8 May 2021:
100% agree! 👍🏻
Stephen Hay wrote on 8 May 2021:
Leave it to Hidde to eloquently explain the _need_ for critique. We need _more_ critical thinking. Not less. Being able to cut the umbilical cord between your ego and your work is a skill (hard, but doable). A skill that works well with reflection on cult behaviour.
Matt Wilcox wrote on 8 May 2021:
Any group that is incapable of taking criticism is doomed to failure. We know what this is about; and if Tailwind users are so fragile they must attack people FOR criticising it; not the criticisms? Get out of this profession. You are toxic and tech isn’t suited for you. Out.
Alestor Aldous wrote on 8 May 2021:
Critics is a part of every system
Ahmad Shadeed wrote on 8 May 2021:
"We should give feedback respectfully and constructively." A great post by @hdv. It's important to criticize tools so we can learn and make better tools.
Dwayne Holmberg wrote on 8 May 2021:
I wish we were collectively better at the "constructive" part. I've found the current debate frustrating because I've found some of the criticism valid, and some very use-case specific. And much of the defense...defensive.
Piet 🇳🇱 wrote on 8 May 2021:
These two articles have good insights into the conversations around TailwindCSS right now: dev.to/cher/sexism-ra… hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0…
Mo wrote on 8 May 2021:
I appreciate you linking to the CSS standards issue, but the thing here is that that was an actual constructive conversation, whereas the blog post in question was weirdly aggressive. Comparing a tool to farts is not a way to politely share critisicm and I felt weird reading it.
Blake Campbell wrote on 8 May 2021:
Criticism is healthy. Comparing a tool to a fart isn't good criticism.
Frank ⚫ wrote on 8 May 2021:
That some people apparently need pointing out that criticism of tooling / frameworks is absolutely essential in a) advancing and evolving the tech b) helping me choose the right tooling / framework for given circumstances doesn’t bode well for the health of the tech community.
Erik Kroes 🏔 wrote on 8 May 2021:
We're here to make each other better 👍🏿
Simon R Jones wrote on 8 May 2021:
Agree with this
André Luís wrote on 8 May 2021:
Tribalism is harmful. Even if you think the criticism is wrong or missing something, you can either tell your own version. Or ignore it. But not bully or attack. You should hear me talk about scss/less when they came out. Hell, some of you did and still mention it today. 😂
Accessabilly wrote on 8 May 2021:
Nice follow up to the Tailwind thing. Criticise please, but don't spread hate...
Eric Fortis, uidrafter.com wrote on 8 May 2021:
I disagree that it should be considered a duty. That would make worst because it invites people without good intentions.
Bernard Nijenhuis wrote on 8 May 2021:
Very nicely said!
Tim Severien wrote on 8 May 2021:
Criticism is essential to move forward technically, professionally, and personally. Sometimes it’s upsetting, but there’s always something to learn. You only have to listen to what they are saying.
Már Örlygsson 🔵 wrote on 8 May 2021:
Also this: dev.to/cher/sexism-ra…
Bram Smulders wrote on 9 May 2021:
@hdv with a great take on this weekend’s tech Twitter drama: It’s okay to criticise frameworks/tools, it will be for the better.
Hans Gerwitz wrote on 9 May 2021:
White men in tech are too goddamn sensitive. hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0…
Samuel Štancl wrote on 9 May 2021:
This is obvious, no one complained about criticism.
Hidde wrote on 9 May 2021:
We need criticism and we need constructive criticism, neither That Post (on Tailwind) nor the Tailwind homepage (on CSS) are good examples of that
Hidde wrote on 9 May 2021:
sounds like you've not seen the same responses or interpreted them differently
Samuel Štancl wrote on 9 May 2021:
The issue isn't that there was an article reviewing Tailwind CSS and suggesting improvements, it's that a very negative article with horribly wrong misinformation was broadcasted to thousands of people.
Samuel Štancl wrote on 9 May 2021:
Okay, how is the linked article horrible misinformation? adamwathan.me/css-utility-cl… Happy to hear it.
Hidde wrote on 9 May 2021:
This is also very negative about CSS and broadcasts horrible misinformation to thousands of people
Manuel Matuzović wrote on 9 May 2021:
“We should give feedback respectfully and constructively, but we should give feedback. And open up to feedback, not demand it to go away. It may not be easy, but it is important to include perspectives outside your own.” hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0…
Evan You wrote on 9 May 2021:
This completely conflates healthy, constructive criticism with rude, disrespectful and misinformed takes that are focused more on tearing something down instead of pointing out where it can improve.
K. wrote on 10 May 2021:
Smh. This, this is why I hate the tech industry sometimes 🤦🏽‍♂️
TheDutchCoder wrote on 9 May 2021:
I agree with constructive criticism driving the web (or anything, for that matter) forward. But let's not pretend that the original article was constructive criticism.
🐤kazupon🐤 wrote on 10 May 2021:
Reading... / Criticism pushes the web forward hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0…
Sacha Greif wrote on 10 May 2021:
I agree, but I can also relate to how bad it feels to have someone you admire share criticism of your work that you feel is unfair or misinformed. Although when this happens I try to reach out via DMs precisely to avoid the kind of negativity chain reaction that happened here.
Alex Layne wrote on 10 May 2021:
That guy’s a clown and I’m perfectly comfortable not taking his criticism seriously.
reddit programming wrote on 10 May 2021:
Criticism pushes the web forward - commentary on the recent Tailwind CSS discussions hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0… /post reddit.com/r/programming/…
imah@Laravel使い wrote on 10 May 2021:
海外でTailwindCSSを巡って諍いが生まれている。発端はTailwindCSSをインラインスタイルと区別できない技術者が書いたdev.toの記事。そしてなぜか記事をツイートした女性技術者が叩かれ、戦線が拡大した。批判は良いけど雑な分析による批判は制作側の意欲を削ぐのもまた事実。
Lewis Gavin wrote on 10 May 2021:
Criticism pushes the web forward - commentary on the recent Tailwind CSS discussions hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0… #programming #softwareengineering #bigdata #datascience #analytics #ai #python #javascript
Hidde wrote on 10 May 2021:
my post is on the generic question if people should criticise tools for the web and how. People read that Tailwind post differently, that's for sure. I personally think it had constructive and non constructive points.
corbosman wrote on 10 May 2021:
Except it had absolutely nothing to do with healthy criticism, and on top of that completely misunderstands, and misrepresents (on purpose?) how people use tailwind.
milben tan wrote on 10 May 2021:
Criticism is a strong word. But we as developers should start looking at the intent of the creation and how it solves and usage that matters. Customers/Clients might not care how you do it as long as it satisfies your need. The same thing it applies for every other tools/frmework
corbosman wrote on 10 May 2021:
What bothers me about his blog post is that he obviously made zero attempts to understand what it is about tailwind that make people like it. It's 100% negativity, no attempts at understanding it.
Linus wrote on 10 May 2021:
hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0…
Yossry wrote on 10 May 2021:
Criticism pushes the web forward hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0…
Paras Malhotra wrote on 10 May 2021:
Constructive criticism is good. But plain bad mouthing and hate is unwarranted. Comparing something to a fart can by no strength of imagination be compared to constructive criticism. At that point, it's not even a rant. It's plain abuse.
This is why I code wrote on 10 May 2021:
Criticism pushes the web forward - commentary on the recent Tailwind CSS discussions hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0… #programming
Pinboard Popular wrote on 11 May 2021:
Criticism pushes the web forward hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0…
Ринат Валиуллов (4rontender) wrote on 11 May 2021:
Я бы даже сказал, что нужно! К сожалению, до некоторых это не доходит. "Good standards require diverse perspectives." hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0…
James Seconde wrote on 13 May 2021:
Thanks to @_pads for making me aware of @hdv's post here that, in the midst of the Tailwind storm, backs up one of the most important aspects of my 2019 talk on gatekeeping & elitism in tech:
æ wrote on 13 May 2021:
Ugh, miss me with this. The type of tool critiques the author refers to in this are the reason I don't engage with web dev Twitter much any more. It doesn't help the field or the web when a toxic culture pushes away new ideas. hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0…
Andy Crouch wrote on 19 May 2021:
The keywords here are "Respectfully" and "Constructively". "Criticism pushes the web forward" ... hiddedevries.nl/en/blog/2021-0…