This is a purely personal rant. All astronomers need their egos stroking... however, constructive criticism is infinitely more valuable than a three word compliment....

In these modern times when our lives are thoroughly internet-enabled, us astrophotographers love to while away the cloudy evenings posting on astronomy related forums. On those rare occasions we get enough clear skies to make a pleasing image, we post it to an astrophotography forum.

There are a small number of reasons for doing this. First of all we are after compliments. Astronomers often have delicate egos which need a gentle stroking from time to time. By posting images to forums our standing in the on-line astronomy community is well established.

Secondly we hope that others will gain enjoyment from looking at our works. This works both ways - we all compare our work to that of others, and gain pleasure from looking at a well executed image.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we are after people with something useful to say. An image post to an astronomy forum is basically the astrophotographer saying (either directly or indirectly) that this is the best I can do at the moment, please tell me what you think is wrong, how it might be improved or whatís good about it?

Which leads me onto the rant. All astronomy groups and forums that allow the posting of astrophotography normally have a large population of "GreatImageMaters": Users who post the same dull remark on pretty much every image bearing thread on a forum. It normally goes along the lines of "great image, Mate" or "that's a cool image" or some variation thereof.

These posts are pretty pointless. Because the typical GreatImageMater will post something similar onto every image related thread, nobody really puts any value the posts. As such, they do not fulfil the basic ego stroking requirement. Compliments from more respected members are far more effective at this.

For the love of God, please find something useful to say. If it is a genuinely good image, exceeding your own skills, then please say WHY it is a good image. Is the framing particularly effective? Is the noise low? Or the colour balance very convincing? You should always think to add value to the thread by saying why something is good.

Conversely if something is not good, then say why. The most useful threads on Astronomy forums are those in which one imager tells another that they have made an error, or could do something better. This way we learn more. If something is not good, then please do not say that it is good - it simply doesn't help. If the image has faults then point them out with suggestions - do not be scared to make constructive criticisms.

The astronomer who started the thread would far rather one post telling them, for example, the focus is out on one side, so maybe the CCD sensor is off-level, then twenty posts from a herd of GreatImageMaters.

Why do people do this? I'm not sure. Maybe they think they are helping. Some folks try and post as much as possible to get their "post count" as high as possible. Weird. Letís do away with post counts and replace them with post-word-counts instead!

Whilst you think simple unqualified compliments are nice, they are deeply boring for the rest of us. Don't just shut up and stop posting. If you are a typical GreatImageMater then get your fundamentally lazy brain off its fat arse and think up something useful to say instead of churning out the same dull bleat.

If you are offended by this, then good, Iíve found my target audience.