Sunday, May 15, 2016

we may be the biggest, but that doesn't mean we have high standards or anything

luddites and grouches, I give you the clear vision and concise writing of pinkbike's Matt Wragg:

Richie Rude is on unbelievable form right now, taking five of seven stages wins and recovering from a 70th on stage two to get within five seconds of the win. He may not be the man on top of the box tonight, but he is still the man to beat right now.

I'll start gently here.

The man to beat has to finish on the top box, Matt.  Winning isn't almost.  Every rider who didn't finish 1st had issues that he or she could cite as their almost justification.

The man to beat "right now," this past weekend, was Greg Callaghan.  Richie Rude didn't beat him.

Perhaps you meant to say something like, "Despite his finish, Richie Rude seems to be at peak fitness and technical form at this point in the 2016 season."

Everything else is noise, Matt. 

As you show elsewhere in the same photo/writing story, having the confidence to run a brief caption is not a problem.  Not always, anyway.

For every photo, though, stick to this instinct:  the briefer the better.

This wordiness reflex gets you into trouble -- like talking about "unbelievable form." 

I think that might be best applied to Sam Hill and his finish, given his pedal preference and reputation as not being strong in pedally situations.

Richie Rude's kinda known as a pedaling powerhouse, isn't he?  So in relative terms, in the context of this race, Sam Hill is the one who showed the most surprising display of pedaling form -- isn't he?  But in any case, this sort of observation is best left to the written story, not the captions.  What I mean to emphasize is, if you want a pithy remark like "unbelievable form" to have the superlative impact that the word "unbelievable" actually carries (despite Hipster 2016 inflation/distortion of many words, yes, despite that), then maybe apply it to the rider whose form was surprising.

Facts.  Stick to facts in captions.

Don't try to read minds, or pretend that you can.  Don't do this:

Florian Nicolai contemplates what is ahead of him on the starting line of stage four.

Maybe if you tried to pull back and consider your audience, you may reconsider this predictive caption.  Perhaps you'll scratch that one out, metaphorically with the backspace key, and retype it as, "Florian Nicolai looking contemplative."  But exactly about what he's contemplating, do you really know precisely what he's thinking?

What you wrote was basically this:

If I were Florian Nicolai, with this many ________ (minutes, seconds, hours -- choose one) before the start of stage four, I'd be thinking here about just what is ahead of me on the track of stage four.

But it's not about Matt Wragg or his fantasies.

Florian Nicolai might be thinking about what's ahead of him.

He might instead be thinking, "relax."  He might be thinking, "trust yourself, don't think about it, just ride."

He might be thinking, "I am so flippin' hungry right now I'd like to be eating gigantic sandwich made from soppresata, capicola, provolone, roasted red peppers, pickled jalapenos and a little oil & vinegar."

Don't pretend you know what he's thinking.  But you can say he looks contemplative, if you wish.

Just remember, he looks contemplative.

Do you really need to tell us how to see or interpret his face?

Isn't it better if we do that ourselves?

This next one's a matter of perspective:

How loud were the crowds today?

A better observation might be, "how overprotective are parents today?"

But I get the point.  You want it to be loud, that's good for the sport.  Right?  More clicks at pinkbike, that's good for the sport.  The louder it is, the more "the sport" is "growing" and therefore the better "the sport" is for everyone.  I know.  I read pinkbike, Matt.  I know the pinkbike view.


I really do get it, Matt.

You don't care about your audience.  But really, you don't have to.

Do you?

If it means you have to constantly manipulate them by setting yourself up as The Expert, and talking down to them -- if you have to do that to hang onto your industry insider status and your money-for-nothing job that every perpetual adolescent in the pinkbike fanboi locker room... uh, I mean comment threads... would love to have, and honestly they'd probably all do a better job than you on the captions -- if you have to put on the Emperor's New Clothes which make you omniscient, then yes, just keep talking down to them.

You know, they basically do sort of worship you because you're an industry insider working at a publication that likes to remind us how much better at everything its staff are, given their status as industry insiders -- that means you can read minds and are way better at "reading" people's faces because you, too, have seen Tim Roth on Lie to Me and know the CIS: Birmingham UK routine cold.

So, just read Florian Nicolai's face and mind for us.  We don't have the imaginative power to do so ourselves.  And you're the expert here.

Just don't listen to idiots like me, who insist you insult them with your self-centered view. 

They're too stupid to have any view other than Matt Wragg's the Expert Here, I'll Defer to Him.

None of them could write better than Matt.

I mean, you work for pinkbike!  You have RC on the masthead!

I'd like to think that as a writer for such a large outlet, Matt Wragg would contain himself with some humility, including some higher standards for his writing.

But he just can't help himself.

Martin Maes wasn't about to let some minor technical issues stop him - he figured that running on the rim worked well enough for Gwin, so he would give it a go on stage four.

No, Matt.  He decided to run just on the rim.  It's that projection/mind-reading bug catching you again.

He didn't do it because of Gwin's run.  He did it because he had a tire issue and figured the rim would hold up.  If he didn't figure that, he'd have bailed with a mechanical DNF.

All you're doing here is showing your industry insider status braggart self.  "Hey, I remember Gwin running the course on his DT rim!  That must mean Maes thought of Gwin's run too, instead of just being his own self and running on the rim because the rim was true and Maes is a stout competitor."

You're again projecting Matt Wragg's thoughts onto the subject of Matt Wragg's photo.

Stick to the image, Matt.

The image doesn't tell us that Maes's reason for going on the bare rim was Gwin's run on his own bare rim.

So if you got that idea from Maes himself in between image capture and caption writing, you would write it like this:

Martin Maes had a tire issue on stage four but wasn't about to let that stop him.  When interviewed after the race, he told me that finishing a race run on the rim worked "well enough for Gwin," so he tried to finish stage four in a similar manner.

Finally, we have this short caption, which involves a much subtler problem.

A flat and some wheel trouble pushed Josh Carlson way down the order unfortunately.

You might not see this one immediately, Matt.  So I'll repost it with a color-based hint.

A flat and some wheel trouble pushed Josh Carlson way down the order unfortunately.

If someone wears suspenders, do they also need a belt?

If someone wears a belt, do they also need suspenders?

My pants hold up well with either, and no better if I use both.

I realize this is all essentially shouting at a wall, but I've read too many of these captions that ruin an otherwise outstanding photo story.

Let us use our imaginations, Matt.  Don't interpret it for us.  You're not our teacher.  And besides, good teachers don't interpret for students.  They help students learn how to interpret things for themselves.

Your images do a perfect job of capturing many things.  Stop trying to make the caption do the work.  The caption isn't carrying the message.  The photo is.

The captions are best when they just identify the rider, and maybe the stage and/or segment of the stage.

Why not pay attention to the high quality video journalism that the people over at the GMBN YouTube channel are delivering?  I never hear Martyn Ashton, Neil Donoghue, Marc Beaumont or Scott Laughland talk down to their audience, or pretend they can read a fellow rider or racer's mind.

Or maybe just talk to your fellow pinkbike writer, Paul Aston.  He's got his head on properly.

Whatever you do, don't start imitating that Felton character, who is pathetic.

--Charles F. Oxtrot, who normally charges between $175 and $200 per hour for such editorial work.

1 comment:

Chet Redweld said...

Chuckles Pawn-sell might have written a more tepid version of this, slightly more childish with a stronger need to reference a metal band of the 3d or 4th quality tier and a corny cartoon or 4, but Chuckles is retired.

So our own Chuck, whose views are slightly more useful if only because he's willing to offer them, decided to type this one up and forward it to me.

I know this little history ^^^^^ because that's nearly verbatim from the email enclosing the notice that he'd put one in the queue for me to approve.

I agree with Chuck's take on Matt Wragg's bad habit. Such a lousy way to ruin a photo essay. It's like those people who have to gussy up a poem with watercolor and 3 retraces of the BLOCK LETTERS as gimmick to distract from the essence of what's behind it all, as if there's no confidence in the essence.

The photos are good, Matt. Let them stand on their own.