Handling Criticism

Trying not to take things personal

Robert McKeon Aloe
6 min readApr 14, 2020

Over the past two years, I’ve embarked on a writing journey to share my experiences with anyone who cared to read them. I’ve taken a closer look at espresso, a topic close to my heart, to share what I’ve learned. However, my writings and experiments have not always received a warm welcome. While constructive criticism shouldn’t be ignored, it is difficult to ignore any criticism even cynicism.

In the beginning, there was a patent

This all started two years ago when I posted a patent I was awarded. The response was incredible on LinkedIn, and I realized I could have an impact. My stories were interesting and helpful to others. So I commenced writing out experiences with the goal of helping others. I didn’t want anything for my writings because the gift was simply writing them. Crafting the story was far more satisfying than how many people read it or liked it.

I started with some of the more prominent experiences from my education and work. I would write drafts, let them sit, revise, add pictures, revise, and publish. The aim was two per week. I included some interesting topics related to data from my life because I love all the aspects of using data throughout my life.

The other area of interest was espresso. I love espresso, and I started to accelerate my scientific look at espresso. As a result, I started to feel like I was improving espresso past what was known. I think my skills as a data scientist give me a whole different perspective, and often, this goes against the current understanding of the broader espresso community.


As a result, there have been two discoveries that have received backlash. The first was the staccato espresso shot. I took a sifter, and I made layered shots after a lot of experimenting to determine the right size and order of fine, middle, and coarse layers. The second was pressure pulsing during espresso extraction.

I was quite surprised by the response to the staccato espresso article because so many people read it relative to my previous articles, and many people were interested in the experimentation. A few people argued that I should have used solubility (TDS) to measure the differences or that I should do a blind taste test. The critics were certainly had a point, but none of them tried to make the shot, to reproduce the findings. They equally did not have evidence to prove me wrong.

To solve their particular point on TDS, I bought a refractor, and I was quickly able to prove my point, that my new technique caused a higher extraction.

This criticism was similar when I was working on exploring pressure pulsing. The idea came about because another automatic machine was using jet-pulsing, and I figured I could try it for a manual machine. If it works for them, it would probably work for a manual as well. I certainly found improved tastes, especially for staccato shots. When I posted these results, I got silence.

A silent response from a critic is an admission that you may have done something right.

However, others argued with me about it. One argument, with respect to the Flair Espresso Machine, was that this technique was dangerous because the grouphead could separate from the filter causing hot water to go everywhere. We argued back and forth until the thread had comments shut off. The criticism, in some cases, was seeded in cynicism towards what I was doing in general with respect to espresso. Other bits of criticism was that such experimentation did not belong on said forum. I didn’t quite get what the point of the forum was for if not for ways to improve your espresso shot.

So I did what any rational person might do: I tried the technique on the Flair, and then I posted a video showing it would work with a ton of warning labels. Again, I did not receive much in comments as I clearly showed there was not some great threat to the machine as people had thought.

Responding to Mean Comments

I have tried multiple ways of dealing with mean comments like trying to see their point of view, sticking to the argument, and even aiming to prove my points with data or reason. Usually, there is always one per for whom there is no appeasement nor any indication admission they are wrong even when you do prove your point. I have been that one person at times, but I strive not to be the cynic.

As heard on the Polar Express: “You’re a doubter. A doubter. You don’t believe!”

Honestly, I felt uncomfortable ignoring comments or ignoring the people that were mean. Then one day, I decided, I could just delete the mean comments. If it is my post, I have the editing power to do that. That’s the joy of the Internet as we know it; you can just delete comments. And then I got to the point that I would delete mean comments regardless of whether they had any substance or not because usually they would have something negative towards me intermixed with a legitimate critique.

I did feel uncomfortable with deleting comments because I had this fear that somebody was going to point out that I deleted someone else’s comments and how wrong I was to censure people. We have this idea of free speech where we think everybody should be able to have their voice even if it means bullying somebody else. That’s all well and good but on social media platforms, as the poster, I still have the power to delete comments, and I don’t have to feel bad about it. I don’t have to argue with somebody who is being weird with me; I can just walk away. So deleting the comments for me is just walking away.

On top of that, my fear was unfounded. Nobody said anything to me. Nobody was mean about it. Usually the person writing the comment had spend some time writing some long piece only for it to be deleted. Then there was silence.

I’m aware this line of thinking could be misused if I were in government or running a company, but I’m not. You could say this logic could lead to tyranny, and it certainly could, but it’s a slippery slope argument to say I should delete comments or block people online.

As my friend always tells me, get off the internet. I don’t even have to ask his opinion when I might post something that could cause controversy; he already knows it’s self-caused drama because I’m aware of the comment section. The key is not to take human selfishness and self-centeredness personally, even from within.

After awhile, it is easier to accept that some criticism will naturally come your way no matter what you do. However, I would rather be the man in the arena, not the spectator.



Robert McKeon Aloe

I’m in love with my Wife, my Kids, Espresso, Data Science, tomatoes, cooking, engineering, talking, family, Paris, and Italy, not necessarily in that order.