Very true MBasile, most photographs do not adhere to all of the standard rules however generally speaking using the rules as a guideline helps make better images.
Also true is every person that views an image will see it differently than the other, some shots will appeal to some and not too others...by using the guides you simply are able to create shots that more people find attractive. As you point out here, the shot does show the bareness of the land however for me if it lacked the telephone poles on each side of the frame it would show that better however for me still needs something to make it a "Better" image.
Photo Critic's are simply the viewers perspective of what they see, different people have different likes and styles. When I recieve a critic on my work, I may not agree with the information but I listen too it and store that information away for future use.
The exception is when the critic is so far off base...like one shot I had was entered for judging in a local competition, a judge scored it a 13 out of 15 points and used the justification "Too much photoshop creating a unrealistic depth of field, you need to be lighter handed with photoshop". The funny thing is the shot in question had not been photoshopped at all and was purely the DOF of an image taken at 85mm f/1.4 from about 10' away so the DOF was very shallow. Sometimes people make assumptions about images and need to be corrected, but I understood where he came from as many of the photographs submitted to that competition were heavily photoshopped...I will stop my rambling now.