Alice’s Restaurant

October 18, 2006

My Dream FanLit

Filed under: FanLit — aliceaudrey @ 4:22 pm

Clearly I’m addicted. But that doesn’t mean I can’t see ways to improve FanLit.

The way I see it, the biggest problem with FanLit is human nature, and the fact the system doesn’t compensate for it. The voting pool has become what Garrett Hardin called “the commons”.

On one hand we see noble people proving Hardin wrong by rising above it. But more often we see everyone suffering from .5 bandits, 0 bombers, and meaningless 5’s. This is because we all have a vested interest in seeing everyone else NOT do well. What an unhealthy set up.

What we need is people doing the rankings who have nothing to gain by giving low scores and nothing to lose by giving good ones. If we had enough people reading because they like to read and rank but who hadn’t entered anything, we would get a much truer picture of how good our entries are. But the only ones willing to wade through all the stuff that doesn’t interest them are our fellow writers.

Avon should have offered a prize for non-writing voters. It should have been as nice as the package offered to the winning entry.

Of course it would be hard to determine who should be the winning voter, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. The winning voter would have to 1] do the most rankings. 2] show a reasonable statistical probability in the range of her rankings 3] give rankings in line with what other people give and 4] have picked at least one of the top 10 while in the preliminaries. If a tie breaker were needed then who picked the ultimate winner could be considered or who produced a top 10 list that most closely resembles the ultimate rankings.

Bringing in voters who don’t suffer a conflict of interest is only a first step. Strictly speaking, those who entered a particular round shouldn’t be allowed to rank at all. If you have enough people going for the reader prize, that shouldn’t be a problem.

Conflict of interest goes beyond those who have actually entered. Friends and family might also be contributing to the unfairness of this contest. But not all friends and family are going around trying to hurt competitors while giving 5s to their darlings. I think the solution there would be to keep track of HOW each voter does rankings. Anyone whose rankings are only ever below a 1 and/or above 4.5 should have their rankings removed from all tallies. Simply don’t let their votes count. Whether the pattern of voting comes from those who are cheating, those who are ridiculously biased, or those with bizarre tastes, they have no place in FanLit.

I also think the way the entries is presented is causing problems. Everyone I’ve talked to about it finds having one entry presented to them at a time has a negative, eye-glazing effect. Instead, I think an entire batch should be presented the same way the finals are now being presented: all the promos visible at the same time.

This would negate the skip feature, but so what? Final ranking would be based on how many people clicked to view as well as average score given. To compensate for those who have lousy promos, randomly drawn entries could be given a featured position and voters encouraged to comment on the entry.

All entries should be available for ranking through a search feature during the course of the preliminaries so that those who have become interested in a particular title due to comments in the forum can quickly find the entry in question.

By letting readers pick and choose what they want to read, we would more closely match the book store experience. I believe doing so would encourage more reading, and a more positive attitude toward each entry a reader chooses to view.

Back to scoring, I cannot stress how important transparency is! Everyone should be able to take the numbers provided by FanLit and calculate for themselves what their ranking is. Let there be NO woo-woo involved. Go head and feed our obsessive tendencies. We are much easier to live with when we can assure ourselves over and over that what we are getting really is what we deserve. The average should be available to all writers through My FanLit at all times. Not just the last score given, although that should remain available as averages hide fives and ones.

Ok, this is the tip of the iceberg here, but I’ve gone on long enough. Thanks for letting me unload.



  1. You should have entered the Romance Junkies contest. I think they offer prizes to people who vote.

    My CP Racy finaled, and I know of a blogger, Vanessa Jaye, who finaled with 2 entries.

    Comment by miladyinsanity — October 18, 2006 @ 4:50 pm

  2. You make great points, Alice. If they ever ask for our opinions on the contest, you should post this up there. I think one of the DailyBlogs did, actually… But I just wonder how much of our opinions they’d really consider.

    Comment by Cat — October 18, 2006 @ 5:08 pm

  3. I understand your frustration with this contest, and I am as frustrated. The way I see it, however, is that this was never to be a fair and unbiased contest. Avon’s goal was to generate interest in their books and their authors. When viewed in this fashion, I have to accept the consequences.

    Comment by Fellowfanlit — October 18, 2006 @ 5:59 pm

  4. Amen, Alice! You hit the nail on the head. My beef all along has been that FanLit has failed to protect honest participants from the misconduct of others. And when called on it, they drop back to the “Oh, but it’s just supposed to be FUN” excuse.

    If they want to run a professional writing contest, they’ve gotta have some standards. It’s like inviting people to come for an Olympic-style skating competition but letting some participants treat it like 1970s roller derby instead. If you’re gonna have roller derby, fine, but TELL people that’s what it is and operate accordingly.

    Comment by Lynne — October 18, 2006 @ 6:10 pm

  5. Hey Alice! Love your “rant”! 🙂 Sorry, my post has gotten LONG! 🙂

    I agree, and am ashamed to admit, I have a hard time giving high scores to my competition.

    I started off the first round thinking I had a good shot at finaling…and I was really stingy with my scores.

    Also, participating in Romance Junkies last year, I realized most of the entries ended up lumped around 8.1-8.5 (on a 1-10 scale)…no one wanted to be mean and there was very little separation between participants and finalists.

    That’s what I wanted to avoid at FanLit, so I didn’t just give 2.5 if I didn’t see it as a winner, I gave it a 0, .5, or 1.

    BUT – I ALWAYS left comments – sandwiched bad with good.

    As it went on, I realized more and more that SO many people were there for the first time, writing for the first time (and my own dreams of top 10 were a pipe dream!)…and the more I lightened up and tried to reward everyone, the better time I’ve had.

    But, I’m still a little disgruntled… 🙂

    I think not voting as a submitter, but still being able to read and comment would work…and the transparency of scoring would be nice.

    *Good job!* 😉

    Comment by Sarah — October 18, 2006 @ 7:01 pm

  6. For FanLit scores, I used the same criteria I did for all the RWA contests I judged this year. It made things a lot easier for me.

    Comment by Lynne — October 18, 2006 @ 8:07 pm

  7. I hadn’t heard much about the Romance Junkies contest until recently. Now I’m wishing I’d taken it on.

    Cat, what did one of the Daily Blogs do? Ask our opinions? I’ll have to go check them out again. I haven’t in several days.

    Liese, I was really hoping Avon was doing more than promote their current stable. I was hoping they were also on a fishing expedition for talent. I don’t mind at all that they are promoting their line. That’s what they should do. It’s why they are in business. But hosting an unfair competition is not good for their reputation and does not reflect well on anyone involved. Nor do I think FanLit is necessarily the most cost effective advertisement considering that activity in the contest has dwindled radically from the start and less than 5,000 signed up to begin with.

    Not that it hasn’t been worthwhile for them, nor that they shouldn’t do it again. Only that doing it well would be more effective as well as more fun. You don’t see me quitting, do you.

    Lynne, my thoughts exactly. It aint fun if it aint fair. A rousing game of Last Author Writing would be fine, if they made it clear from the beginning we could expect a lot of meaningless bashing. But then, if they had I probably wouldn’t have gotten past the first assignment.

    Sarah, I didn’t start off stingy with my scores. I got that way when I saw how stingy other people were through the average score display. It went downhill from there, and I’ve been fighting it the whole way.

    I don’t think we should end up with a bell curve necessarily, but there should be a good dispersal. Some of us write like God’s gift to readers. Others, it’s the devil to get past the first line. Most of us are going to land somewhere in between. The ranks should reflect that, even if some people rank harder than others. It should be all low or all high.

    I tried to leave both positive and critical comments when I was invited, just to let the person I invited know I was there. But I was afraid I’d put my foot in my mouth too many times when fishing the pool, so I only said “Excellent” when I ran across something really good and let the rest slide. I’m thinking now I shouldn’t have done that. The comments have proven more valuable than the ranks.

    You have to let the writers at least read what the other writers are doing so they can see if they are anywhere close to the mark. Not to mention the way we tend to spark ideas off of each other. But to score is a direct conflict of interest. However if a writer scores during a round they haven’t entered, it’s another matter.

    Can you imagine how the forums would shift is writers who entered couldn’t rank each other? We would all have to court the elusive readers. Actually, come to think about it, the forums might not change at all. We’d still be pimping and doing “Shameless Self Promotion.”

    Great. My response to everyone’s responses has gotten nearly as long as today’s blog. Well, it’s not like I didn’t warn everyone in my first ever blog that I tend to be long winded.

    Thanks for commenting everyone.


    Comment by aliceaudrey — October 19, 2006 @ 2:07 am

  8. Here’s something to think about, with regard to their problems with account integrity. HarperCollins and FanLib are just now kicking off their Teen FanLit contest, which is limited to those between the ages of 13 and 21. As far as I can tell, their age verification is totally honor system. What’s to stop predators from signing up and pretending to be teens? I was watching something on CNN just today about how an editor at Wired used a perl script to match up a bunch of MySpace accounts with convicted sex offender registries, and MySpace is now facing big PR issues, as a result. If FanLit went to more trouble to verify that people really are who they say they are, they’d eliminate a lot of problems.

    Comment by Lynne — October 19, 2006 @ 4:02 am

  9. Shiver. I’m glad mine are too young to take part. Maybe by the time they are old enough FanLib will have everything working better.


    Comment by aliceaudrey — October 19, 2006 @ 5:24 am

  10. Here’s the link to the DailyBlog from last week, I think. One of the Avon people asked about what improvements/suggestions we had for the FanLit event.

    Comment by Cat — October 20, 2006 @ 8:27 pm

  11. Thanks Cat. You think they really want an earfull? I’ve been holding back.  *grin*


    Comment by aliceaudrey — October 20, 2006 @ 10:59 pm

  12. LOL Hey, they asked, so no complaints if you unload! I didn’t even read all the comments, I just know we are not alone in our feelings about AFL.

    Comment by Cat — October 20, 2006 @ 11:34 pm

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