OK, I don't really have a lot of experience with this. But it's been on my mind lately, so I wanted to write about it.
I write freelance bar, restaurant, and concert reviews. Part of my philosophy is that almost no one gets a 100% positive review, because no restaurant is perfect. Think about your favorite restaurant. I bet there's something wrong with it, right? Not the food necessarily, but maybe the lighting is too dark, or the bathroom is a bit gross. I just have a hard time saying that everything is kittens and rainbows because I feel like it's not totally honest. You have to seriously blow me away to get a totally, no-negative-words review out of me (Green Springs Bistro in Safety Harbor, FL, is about to come close when it gets posted on the Tampa metromix.com site. That place was to die for.)
Generally when one of my reviews is published, I link to it on Facebook, because I am the youngest child and obviously starved for attention. Of course, this requires me to go back and actually read the review after it's published (always noticing the way the St. Pete Times cuts it up and rewrites it, and MetroMix doesn't touch a word, leaving any careless grammatical errors online for the world to see). This also forces me to view the comments that users have posted between the time that the review went up and the time that I clicked through.
For the most part, my reviews are nice. But every once in a while, I will tear a place apart. I think it's fine, as long as it's earned. The problem comes when people reading the article don't agree with my review. I have to read people calling me out personally, saying I don't know what I'm talking about, and even suggesting that I find a new job. In the review I linked above, I actually asked the friend who went with me to confirm that the food was awful, to make sure that I wasn't living in some delusional world where my taste buds were more sensitive than everyone else's.
Then, of course, there was that review I wrote of the Killers' concert. Now, if your reading comprehension is beyond that of a fourth grader, you will note that I said both positive and negative things. I said that I ultimately had fun, but I just wished they had kicked up the energy sooner. And man did that piss some people off! I can't decide which comment is my favorite: the one that actually links to another, more favorable review, or the one where the guy gets mad at me saying that Brandon Flowers' voice cracked while completely ignoring the fact that I said it was a good thing at that point.
Whenever I see these comments, these little snarky notes on the reviews I've poured my heart and soul into, I always want to write back. Sometimes I get the urge to log in anonymously, creating an alias I can use to defend myself. "This Heather is great! She knows what she's talking about!" Other times, I want to be just as mean to them as they are to me. "Learn to read, jerk-off." or "Did your taste buds break? You think that's GOOD food? Try eating somewhere other than Popeye's and maybe you'll learn."
But I never do. Part of being a writer, especially a critic, is learning to deal with critics of your own. And if I ever am lucky enough to see my book published, I'll have to read a lot more than the lame mutterings of a random Joe on the Internet. Entertainment Weekly gave Suzanne Collins' Catching Fire, the brilliant sequel to The Hunger Games, a C!! (Let's put that in perspective: that's the same grade they gave Sarah Palin's new book, which I haven't read, but I know is crap. Also, if you haven't read those books, you need to. Like, yesterday.)
My point is, reading those comments gives me a thicker skin, and helps me get used to the many criticisms I hope to deal with one day when I'm as famous as J.K. Rowling. If EW wants to give my book a C, I guess that's fine, as long as my ardent fans write in to let them know they got it all wrong.
For now, I'll stick to punching the one-star "rank this restaurant" button to let the world know that someone out there agrees with me. Even if it's just me.