Revenge ratings

So, this is embarrassing... I don't want to stir up drama, but as someone starting out and struggling to get exposure, this is something I don't think I can afford to ignore. Very sorry to the WFG community if bringing this up is a breach of custom.

My serial just got its second rating on the site, a one-star. I was understandably baffled by this as the responses I've had so far (relatively few, as I said, I'm new to the biz) have been uniformly positive. So I clicked around a bit, found who gave me the bad rating.

During the couple of weeks after submitting my serial and before it made it to the actual listings, I've been making an effort (as I have time) to participate in the community, bearing in mind Wildbow's comment from an older thread that if everybody just took and nobody gave, we'd have nothing at all here. So I've been reading and reviewing things fairly prolifically. I am honest with my opinions, and as a point of policy I never leave a rating without leaving a review. As an author I know how aggravating that can be; I want to let people know why I liked or disliked something. For the most part, the fiction I've found around here is good, some a lot better than I was expecting, but there's a variation in quality, obviously.

The lowest rating I've given out was two stars, with an accompanying review explaining what I thought of the story and why. Turns out, the author of that story just gave my serial one star without comment. Now, maybe they honestly thought my little fantasy Western sucks and didn't have time to write anything out, but to be quite honest, I suspect a motivation other than community participation here. And again, if it was just someone talking to me about what they think, I'd shrug it off, but as someone who's still in the early stage of trying to get readers, this kind of thing actually does me some harm.

I encourage the rater in question to add a review explaining why they think The Gods are Bastards deserves the worst possible rating. Or, at least, say so in this thread. I'd love to hear feedback on what about my story deserves to improve. Alternatively, if this was done in a moment of anger, let me say I very much understand that. Our writing is very personal and feeling it's attacked can be painful. If, in a calmer moment, you think maybe this wasn't the best way to express your disappointment, I believe the ratings we give on the site can be changed.

Otherwise I'm afraid I'm going to have to go to the site admin about this and I really would rather not. Those running WFG are doing it without compensation out of the desire to give us all a place to post and discuss webfiction: they deserve thanks, not stress and silly busy work.

So maybe we can straighten this little matter out ourselves, yes?

After recently seeing another example of a rating that seemed purely spiteful (not aimed at myself, but Tempest) I have to agree that this looks to be a bit of a problem. It's going to scare people away from writing honest reviews, as well. New authors without a large amount of ratings to help balance out the effects of a single one are especially vulnerable.

I'm not sure what can be done about it, though. Maybe ratings should have to include at least a few lines of reasoning, just like reviews. Or maybe it would be possible to mark them as 'unhelpful', just like reviews.

A few lines might be a bad idea since it might reduce the number of ratings, 'Unhelpful' might work better. I'll try to write a good review for you Webb, and I'm sorry another writer acted like this. Our community has been better than this, and I hope it will remain better.

It seems to be a recent thing. Even if a story isnt your thing that is no reason to tank it for others.

In the past, when the topic of questionable reviews came up (I believe in context of Diary of a Runner and the author Steve Kuhn getting a number of non-reader members of his social network to spam 5-star ratings for his story), the general sentiment from Chris (please correct me if I'm wrong) was that with enough reviewers, things will level off and stories will find their true rating. I'm inclined to agree.

This is kind of a difficult thing to adjudicate. When DarkD gives Tempest a .5 (half) star rating for Mage Life, is that a genuine rating or a malicious one? I haven't read Mage Life, but I don't think it's deserving of a .5 star rating; Tempest can string ten words together in a way that makes sense, and I've reviewed stories that couldn't do that on a consistent basis, giving them higher ratings than that. A .5 star rating suggests that DarkD doesn't know how to rate something, he's reacting emotionally.

On the flip side, however, when someone goes into a review with an emotional high, they're liable to give higher ratings than a story deserves. I've benefited from such.

What do you do to curb the most extreme cases? I think it's fair for D.D. Webb to ask for more words to clarify the low rating, but I'm suspicious that Chris won't act on it or remove the rating. Once you start doing that, it's a slippery slope.

The fact of the matter is, it isn't easy for a new reader to review a story when you have to decide to go to the site, find the listing, sign up, log in, rate and quite possibly put together 5-800 words for a review. People are going to be motivated by a need to praise, a need to criticize, or a need to say something. The latter case is great, but the former two cases (praise and criticize) are going to put down ratings and reviews that tend to be higher or lower than is accurate.

But, given enough reviews, we find our way to the more 'accurate' rating/review.

Trick is to get people to review more. Things will smooth out, and the problem elements get drowned out.

"Trick is to get people to review more."

I have to agree, and I wish they would. I'm not sure how to go about motivating people to do so, though, either in general or with regard to my own serial. I posted a link in my widgets to WFG under the text "Write a review" (a method borrowed from your sites, Wildbow), but that appears to be the limit of what I can do without being pushy.

I'd rather not be pushy. The point has been made repeatedly that in this age of connectivity and ESPECIALLY with internet-specific forms of entertainment like weblit, the way the audience interacts with the creator can have as much impact as the quality of the story. Well, maybe not as much (maybe more), but it's a definite factor. I don't wish to seem needy or pushy.

I did, however, poke around a bit more on this site and "retaliatory reviewing" is something specifically mentioned on the "Decorum" page (under Info/Submissions) that's grounds for an account to be suspended.

You're right, and it says something that he only has one review on his account thus far, which is the one-star review.

I am sorry about the confusion on this matter. I was originally at work when I saw the review on my page. I was switching back and forth between work stuff a WFG and I had though that I was rating your review, which I was indeed rather angry about, but I had no intention of giving your serial a bad rating. Now that I went back and looked at it without distraction, I really don't understand how I had thought that I was rating a review. I have cleared the bad rating and will gladly give a more appropriate rating when I have had a chance to read your work. Please forgive me, I really meant no harm to your serial or reputation on the site.

Well, no harm is done then! I was hoping it was a misunderstanding or something else easily resolved.

As for the review I gave, I do my best to be honest, which I think is the only way to be fair to everyone. Obviously, I'm one person and my opinion only counts for so much. I'm of the opinion that while the purpose of reviews is to telling prospective readers what to expect, an additional function is to let authors know what they can improve, and as such I try to be plain about what I don't like about a story. I'm also willing to discuss any review I've made, and potentially to change a rating I've given if a story improves.

I try to check in on this forum regularly so you can open up a thread here if you want to discuss it further.

I absolutely intend to get back to you later on. My story is still very young and I most of the things you spoke about will be addressed in time. With that being said, as a young author here I do not want to agitate the only real resource I have for future growth and betterment, and that is this community. I sincerely hope that in the future we can work together to help each other out with both exposure and promotion. Anyway, thank you for being understanding of my mistake and once again I do apologize.

Hey, mistakes happen. As I see it, the measure of character is in how you address them. You're cool in my book.

Wildbow summarized WFG policies quite well. That said, I'm working on a redesign of the software that I hope will eliminate a number of the problems we've been having (submission backlogs, low interaction, poor usability on mobile devices, etc.). It's on my list to include some kind of direct messaging, so people can work these things out amongst themselves. No promises on a timeline, but I am actively working on it.

PMs would be awesome!