Author Topic: Flash Fiction Judging Rules  (Read 29976 times)

SFEley

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on: January 13, 2007, 10:28:36 PM
Okay all,

After seeing the volume of stories coming in, and considering all of the suggestions and discussion so far, I've decided how we're going to review and judge these stories.  This is a fairly long post, but most of it's common sense and will be obvious from the way the stories are posted.  If you just go and start reading, and only come back here if you have questions, that's fine with me.

I consider these rules to be fixed in semi-solid stone; any changes after this point will have to be for a very good reason.

THE PROCESS:
Revised 1/26 (included semifinal rounds)
Revised 1/29 (went to daily group postings and 7-day voting periods)


  • Stories will be grouped into blocks of 12.  The basis for grouping will be order of submission, with the exception that no two stories by the same author will be in the same group.
  • Each group will be posted in a separate subboard under the Contests board in the Escape Artists forums.  These subboards will all be members only -- you must register as a forum member to even see them.
  • Subboards will be created and stories posted no faster than 24 hours apart from each other.
  • Each subboard will consist of 13 topics: the 12 stories, and a 'Poll' topic asking people to vote for their favorite.  Members can reply to these topics, but cannot create new ones.
  • Members can vote for up to three stories per group.  You can change your vote until the boards are locked.  Each group will be open to voting for 7 days.
  • Voting will continue for one week after the last group of stories is posted, which in turn will be after January 31.  Thus, we don't know the deadline yet; it depends on how many last-minute entries come in.  The date will be announced once it's known.
  • After the posting of every fourth group (i.e. Groups 4, 8, 12, 16), voters will have one week until those four groups are locked.
  • We will then post a "Semifinal" subboard with the top 3 stories from those four groups, and we'll have a week for people to vote their favorites from that.  Thus, by the end there will most likely be between three and five "semifinal" rounds.
  • Once voting is closed, the top three stories from every semifinal round will be reposted in a "Final Round" subboard.  The "Final Round" subboard will have a final poll.  This poll will be used to determine the first, second, and third place prizewinners.  Final voting will last for one week.  The exact time of close of voting will be announced when the board goes up.
  • If there is a non-zero tie for third place when the boards are locked, then Steve will act as tiebreaker.  (This is the only circumstance in which Steve will vote.)
  • Winners will be announced here, on the blog, and on the podcast, and the authors will receive contracts and cash as described.  All authors of all stories will be announced after the contest is over.

GENERAL GUIDELINES:

  • Stories will be posted anonymously.  In fact, any replies or comments in the forums identifying the author or taking credit for a particular story (whether true or false) will be deleted.  The idea is to keep this from being a popularity contest in any sense.  I can't stop you from sending people to vote for your story from your blogs or whatever, but to really keep with the spirit of the thing, I'd rather you tell them "Hey, check out this story contest and vote for your favorites!" rather than "Click over here and vote for story X!"
 
  • Comments will be enabled on all stories and all polls.  We encourage constructive discussion about the stories -- it's good for the community, and helpful to the authors to learn how to improve.  If you don't want to be biased by others' opinions, simply don't read the replies until after you've voted.
  • That said, please keep your commentary honest but constructive.  "I didn't like this story at all; the characters were flat and nothing happened" is a fair comment.  "This story was a piece of shit; I had to fumigate my computer to get the stink out" is just a flame and will be deleted by our team of active moderators.  Don't stoop to insults, and if you can, explain why you liked or didn't like a story.  If you can't, perhaps it's better just to vote and not comment.
  • Insulting the author, other voters/commenters, or any other person in these boards is a red flag and will, at the very least, get you kicked from the story subboards.
  • Creating multiple accounts to vote for a story (your own or any other) more than once is an absolute violation of the rules and will get you banned from the forums permanently.  Yes, we'll know you did it.  (And come on.  Is it really worth it to spoil the fun?  We're not exactly giving away a new car or anything.)

...And I think that covers it.  Thanks for following.  Any questions?
« Last Edit: January 30, 2007, 04:25:15 AM by SFEley »

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tdmca

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Reply #1 on: January 15, 2007, 05:48:58 PM
I have one question regarding author voting.   I've never liked the idea of going in and voting for yourself, but I also wouldn't want to loss because the other authors voted for themselves and I didn't.  I know that ultimately you could not restrict this but, want to know the expectation.

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SFEley

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Reply #2 on: January 16, 2007, 04:17:14 AM
I have one question regarding author voting.   I've never liked the idea of going in and voting for yourself, but I also wouldn't want to loss because the other authors voted for themselves and I didn't.  I know that ultimately you could not restrict this but, want to know the expectation.

I have no problem with it.  The votes are anonymous, so no one's going to know it's you.  Also, you can vote for up to three stories in each group, so if you're not playing this on game theory, you don't just have to vote for your own story.  >8->

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smartbombradio

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Reply #3 on: January 16, 2007, 11:15:30 PM
I'd like to suggest that before the final round the authors who have moved to the finals be allowed one quick edit.  Escape pod fans tend to do a really good job of pointing out things that could use a tweak and since in the end some of these stories are going to be purchased for escape pod, it might be good for the authors to get a chance for a final clean up.


ClintMemo

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Reply #4 on: January 18, 2007, 03:43:15 PM
I know it's way too early to be talking about this, but I was thinking that if you ever do a another flash contest, it might be fun to restrict it to a particular subject - write an original 300 word story about, say, "1st contact". There are lots of topics you could use.  You could even have a contest with different topics and have the author write a story for that topic, group the stories by topic, then have them compete against each other - the finals would be the best "1st contact" story vs the best "time travel" story vs the best "end of the world" story...

just a thought...

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SFEley

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Reply #5 on: January 25, 2007, 11:35:27 PM
...Hmmm.  On further reflection, I believe I'm going to have to reconsider the "no semifinals" rule.  I wrote that when I thought we'd be doing ludicrously well to get 100 submissions.  Well, I've now posted 60 of them, and I've still got well over 100 in the pending queue.  By the time the contest closes to new entries on January 31, I think it's probable that we'll have over 200 entries.  It'll be 15 groups for sure now, and probably more.

Having a final group of 50 or more "finalists" is just ridiculous -- the brain can't hold that many at once and judge them against each other.  And the more groups we have, the harder it is for anyone coming new to the stories to catch up.  So here's my new proposal:

  • Groups 1-4 will be locked to voting in about a week.  (I.e., enough time for more people to catch up with Group 4.)
  • I'll then post a "Semifinal" group with the top 3 stories from every group -- the top 12 from Groups 1-4 -- and we'll have a week for people to vote their favorites from that.
  • I'll continue doing this with every four groups.  Thus, by the end there'll most likely be between three and five "semifinal" rounds.
  • The final round will consist of the top three from every semifinal round.

Any opinions?  Questions?  Serious objections?  Since this is a change to the rules, I thought I'd best open it up for discussion before making it final.  I know it makes things more complicated, but again, we're talking about a lot of stories here -- far more than I ever thought we'd get.

On the upside, we're also getting more voters and more discussion than I ever thought possible.  I'm serious; it blows my mind how much people are getting into this.  And that's great.  Having to change the rules because the competition is too successful is at least a better reason than the opposite.  >8->

I look forward to hearing your thoughts.

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ClintMemo

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Reply #6 on: January 26, 2007, 01:36:00 AM
I think having a semifinal round is a good idea. I've had a hard enough time picking 3 out of 12.  If I had to pick 3 out of 50, I'd probably just get my dice.  Since 25% of the stories in each batch go on to the next level, if you started with 200, then 50 would be in the semifinals and 12.5 (13?) would be in the finals, so for the readers it's only one more round of voting.  My only concern is that the last four or five batches need to have the same number of stories in them. It's a bit unfair if the last four batches have 12, 12, 12 and 5 stories.  My suggestion is to not post the last 50 or so until after the deadline so that you can divide them into equal sized groups.


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SFEley

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Reply #7 on: January 26, 2007, 01:52:17 AM
My suggestion is to not post the last 50 or so until after the deadline so that you can divide them into equal sized groups.

Oh, that's definitely going to happen anyway.  Even if I space all future groups exactly 48 hours apart, the last several groups will happen after January 31.  And in practice I've been giving them a bit more time between, mostly deliberately.

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Laieanna

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Reply #8 on: January 26, 2007, 02:39:36 PM
It's a plan, man!  I'm sure it'll be much easier to sort out all the ugly details once you hit that deadline.  I just hate waiting so long for another round.   :'(    48 hours?!  That's a lifetime for some insects!   ;D

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Russell Nash

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Reply #9 on: January 26, 2007, 02:43:23 PM
Even if I space all future groups exactly 48 hours apart, the last several groups will happen after January 31.  And in practice I've been giving them a bit more time between, mostly deliberately.

Thanks for the extra time. Especially over the weekend I had time keeping up.



Swamp

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Reply #10 on: January 29, 2007, 05:45:18 PM
I know we can't send revisions of our stories, but can we change our titles?

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SFEley

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Reply #11 on: January 29, 2007, 06:14:51 PM
I know we can't send revisions of our stories, but can we change our titles?

Um.  A change in the title is a revision to a story.

But just to be clear on this: between now and the January 31 deadline, if anyone needs to revise or resubmit something that hasn't been posted yet, you can just resend the story.  I don't recommend it, but a few people have already done this, so anyone else can too.  Please make clear in your e-mail that this is a resubmission.  Resubmitting, however, will bump your story out of wherever it was in the queue and place it at the end.  (Right now "the end" means either Group 19 or 20.)

If your story's already been posted for voting, then that is its final form.  Modifications will only be made if I screwed something up in posting it, or if there are formatting problems that impair reading.  Allowing people to start voting on a group of stories, then changing some of them in midstream, would confuse the entire process.  Even if it's just the title.

The best thing you can do for yourself -- in this contest or in any artistic project -- is to make sure that your work is the best you can possibly make it before you submit it.  Then, once it's sent out to the world, put regrets and revisions out of your mind and start thinking about your next work instead.  >8->
« Last Edit: January 29, 2007, 06:16:38 PM by SFEley »

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Heradel

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Reply #12 on: January 29, 2007, 06:39:28 PM
When will the next few groups be posted?

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SFEley

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Reply #13 on: January 29, 2007, 08:07:57 PM
When will the next few groups be posted?

Tomorrow, and then Thursday, and so on.  I'm probably going to stick closer to the 48 hour interval from now on -- again, because it's now clear that we'll have at least 20 groups.  Even at two days apart, this is going to take us through February and the final voting will happen in early March.

If anyone wants to discuss posting groups daily, or at least every weekday, I'm willing to hear opinions on it.  My own worry is that it'd be too much and participation would drop off, but if you all say it's a better idea, I'm game.

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nemesisau

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Reply #14 on: January 29, 2007, 10:11:43 PM
I think daily posting is a good idea.  It is, after all, only 3600 words max you have to read, and mostly, you get an idea of whether you like it or not pretty quickly.
Most everyone, I think, visits daily, so it's not like it's out of the way for anyone.

Also, I think that 2 months of voting, involving 3 rounds, is a little excessive, but I can see that this little competition for little stories has grown magnificently!

Something for the suggestion box: Once a month, entries open for a week for flash stories on a topic decided by you or the population at large. Post/Vote/Prize.
That way you don't get inundated for over a month with hundreds of stories, it's a quick round of voting and its decided before the month is out and a new round starts. Everyone is kept on their toes creatively, and you get a metric buttload of flash stories that you can use for podcasts, fillers and/or anthologies.

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Heradel

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Reply #15 on: January 29, 2007, 10:17:22 PM
I think that posting 5 groups a week, and making the 5's significant instead of the 4's, would make it easier. Post all five on a Monday or a Tuesday, so people can read them during coffee breaks or in a lump on the weekend.

And ditto to the 2 months of voting. Anyone would get fatigued waiting for the thing to end by then.

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ClintMemo

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Reply #16 on: January 29, 2007, 10:19:10 PM
If you did do a contest on a regular basis, you might want to limit it to one entry per person.

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Maria

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Reply #17 on: January 29, 2007, 11:18:58 PM
I agree with nemesisau. I'd like to see the flash stories posted daily. 3600 words is like reading one regular short story; I don't think it's too much for one day.



Swamp

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Reply #18 on: January 30, 2007, 12:26:31 AM
Daily posts for this contest: Great idea!

Future contests:  Great idea!

Single submission limit for future contests: Great idea!

Topic decided by Mr. Eley or the population at large: BAD IDEA.  This best thing about this contest is the openness of the content.  It opens up a lot more creativity and makes for much more desirable reading as a judge.

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slic

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Reply #19 on: January 30, 2007, 12:55:09 AM
I also think posting more often is good idea because the contest will take too long otherwise.  5 groups at once or everyday - not sure...

Topic decided by Mr. Eley or the population at large: BAD IDEA.
Having participated in a great many competitions (writing, models, 3d art), I have definitely found that a little restriction actually makes creativity bloom.



Laieanna

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Reply #20 on: January 30, 2007, 01:19:47 AM
I don't have any useful info, but I want to throw up another voting hand for daily posts.  I also love the monthly contest idea, though I don't know if that was a plan of yours.  I'm sure that all depends on your donations for such a thing.  I also like the idea of doing an assigned topic.  We do that at Laurence Simon's 100 word story challenge he has each week.  One topic and you come up with a 100 word story for it.  It's a lot of fun and like Slic said, really gets those creative juices going.  Heck, you could have occasional free topic months if this becomes a regular thing.  I also agree to one entry...or even two.  I'm sure that's part of why you have such a large volume to deal with now.

By the way, thanks for this competition, Steve.  Thanks to you and the person who is making the donation for it.  I think this is a lot of fun for all of us.

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Heradel

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Reply #21 on: January 30, 2007, 03:48:54 AM
I don't mind the idea of a theme for the competition, so long as it's broad. Something like - Exploration, Time Travel, Space Travel, Monkey Butlers, etc.

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nemesisau

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Reply #22 on: January 30, 2007, 03:57:22 AM
I don't mind the idea of a theme for the competition, so long as it's broad. Something like - Exploration, Time Travel, Space Travel, Monkey Butlers, etc.
Oh yeah, that's what I meant - broad definitions. Not like "Time traveling monkey butlers exploring space". That's just silly. Monkey Butlers...now *that's* gold right there...  8)
I know others have mentioned it here, I just wanted to voice my opinion in a single thought.

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SFEley

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Reply #23 on: January 30, 2007, 04:22:39 AM
Okay, it sounds like there's at least enough support for going daily that we can be sure of each group getting some readers and votes.  That's all I was worried about.  (I must here confess that when this whole contest thing started, I intended to count it a success if we got at least 20 stories and at least a dozen people willing to read them.)  >8->

So we're going to do that, go daily, starting...  Oh, what the hell.  Now.

I'm also going to go one slight step further and give each future group a fixed 7-day voting period.   On further thought, it really doesn't make sense that some groups should have longer to vote on than others -- and looking back, a week has been plenty of time to get scores of votes.  It'll also keep new people just coming in from getting overwhelmed by having to vote on everything.

...Yeesh.  Has this gotten complicated enough yet?

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nemesisau

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Reply #24 on: January 30, 2007, 04:32:19 AM
...Yeesh.  Has this gotten complicated enough yet?

Give us time. We'll think of something.

Improvise. Adapt. Overcome.
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