Re: A proposal to solve the problem of trashy reviews

#1

I saw another thread about how most people only read the first reviews and then move on, and how this causes reviews to be less useful than we expect them, but personally i have noticed a trend of trashy reviews popping up when fictions have few chapters and this also deters readers from trying new works.

Then i checked the profiles of those trashy reviewers and found that in most cases they have no fictions while those who do have them leave more useful reviews.

Thinking about it is not a mystery why does it happens and i see three main reasons.

First – When people are not capable of producing something themselves they tend to take a stance of “connoisseurs” by claiming they are capable of judging the quality of the stuff they consume.

You know, like how art critics pretend to see all kind of metaphors and allusions in works that have no meaning at all, if you cannot make something just pretend you can analyze it.

Second – A phenomena i call the “editor’s judgment,” you see, there have been cases where people took famous, successful books and renamed the characters to send the story as an original and test the response of the editorials, in almost all cases the books were rejected based on “editorial analysis” that hold no weight considering those book were hits.

The immediate response would be to dismiss the editors as fools looking for an easy selling book instead of actual quality but there is a more fitting explanation, as editors receive tons of manuscripts every day they simply look for narrative flaws to dismiss the books as soon as possible and move on with their work.

This is what happens with trashy reviewers, they are not that invested in analyzing a story but in finding an excuse to dismiss it, and base their final verdict solely on the flaws rather than the work as a whole.

Third – Good ol’ Dunning-Kruger effect, people who have never wrote a story –no matter how well or badly- simply over estimate their understanding of storytelling assuming they are capable enough to enact righteous judgment upon those things deemed unworthy by their greatness.

This of course, leaves to the reader assuming that if they dislike one part of the story then it naturally deserves the minimum score because they messed up the most crucial, most important part in the whole history of storytelling, maybe ever.

You can see this over and over again “I didn’t like this part, therefore it gets a .5,” an instance that really tells us nothing about the rest of the story.

Trashy reviews are a thing and we will never stop them but we can give the reader a better perspective on it, if next to every review we see the number of fictions and the number of pages made by the reviewer.

Everybody knows that talking is free, but if people can see those two elements they will get an idea of how much effort those people put on their understanding of stories, why should i consider important the opinion of someone who does not even try?

Originally i was going to propose to show the number of fictions only, but then i found out that it’s possible to have a fiction with no chapters at all, then i assumed we could instead settle for the total number of pages but then i realized that starting a story is rather easy and the problem is to develop it, and by having both number of fictions and number of pages we can estimate how dedicated a person is to the writing.

Of course, this leaves the problem of some reviews being dismissed because the reviewer has no fictions, but that can be avoiding simply by writing an informative and useful review.

Which is kind of funny because i have found that trashy reviewers have a weird sense of self importance, and don’t take it well when someone doesn’t like their writings...  
Trashy reviewers don’t like to be reviewed.

Any thoughts?

Re: A proposal to solve the problem of trashy reviews

#2
I don't know. Readers are the lifeblood of a site like this, and will always vastly outnumber the writers. Sure, most of them don't understand the amount of work that goes into writing (I sure didn't before I started), but I don't know that that delegitimizes their point of view. Perhaps it depends on whether the purpose of Royal Road is to deliver stories to readers or to nurture aspiring writers. The current rating system is more conducive to the former than the latter. If the purpose was instead to nurture aspiring writers, the system should be more like Wattpad, where you can only upvote a story, not downvote it (though I feel both Wattpad and Royal Road focus too much on historically popular stories, and could do more to promote the full range of stories they host).

Perhaps there are other ideas that could help decrease the number of trashy reviews. Off the top of my head:

1. A rule to only review or rate genres you actually enjoy. Don't trash an isekai story if you hate isekai stories, don't trash western fantasy if you hate western fantasy. (Of course, a rule will only be followed by those who attempt to provide good faith reviews in the first place, but a reminder can't hurt.)

2. If a review has upvotes, and the reviewer changes their review, then those upvotes should be reset to zero (but not the downvotes, or they could game the system). (This one I feel is both important and easy to implement.)

3. No reviews allowed until a story has a minimum number of pages posted (unless it's marked as completed, for things like short stories).

4. Reviewers must have read a reasonable proportion of what's been posted, not just the first page. This idea probably won't work, though. There are a lot of stories that you can tell are trash from the first page...or even from the story blurb. As a writer, I don't give reviews or ratings for bad stories, because I know that regardless of the quality, someone worked hard on it and I don't want to discourage them...but somebody's got to provide the bad reviews, so I'm not sure how to implement this idea in a way that would work.

5. Automated analyses to look for reviews or ratings that follow bad patterns. e.g., someone that just logs in to pull up the first page of a batch of stories to downrank them. Maybe Royal Road already looks for stuff like this?

Those ideas were just off the cuff, so I'm sure some of them may have unintended consequences that I didn't think about.

One thing that writers do here that I'm very uncomfortable with is review swaps. I've never done a review swap because it feels like cheating, since the number of reviews is somehow factored into your story's ranking (I don't know how, exactly). Plus, even without the number of reviews being factored in, it still feels like "You give me a good rating and I'll give you one," even if that's not the intention of either author. It would be nice if there was some author-specific critiquing tool that could be used in place of review swaps, and that wasn't visible to non-authors. A way to highlight and comment on specific parts, for example.

Re: A proposal to solve the problem of trashy reviews

#3

IvyVeritas Wrote: I don't know. Readers are the lifeblood of a site like this, and will always vastly outnumber the writers. Sure, most of them don't understand the amount of work that goes into writing (I sure didn't before I started), but I don't know that that delegitimizes their point of view. Perhaps it depends on whether the purpose of Royal Road is to deliver stories to readers or to nurture aspiring writers. The current rating system is more conducive to the former than the latter. If the purpose was instead to nurture aspiring writers, the system should be more like Wattpad, where you can only upvote a story, not downvote it (though I feel both Wattpad and Royal Road focus too much on historically popular stories, and could do more to promote the full range of stories they host).



I don't see how my proposal discourages readers from reading or from reviewing, but it does discourages them from posting without a proper argument, you see, the idea if that readers will only be dismissed if they write poor reviews, after all, a good review can stand on its own

Take the popular youtube reviewers for example, there are times when they dislike a story but that doesn't mean they are wrong per se, a popular critic has to present good arguments towards the presented opinion and that alone can make a review worthwhile and then the audience will decide if they believe those points to be fair or dont, Nostalgia Critic's Matrix review is a good example, just because he finds the movie filled with plot holes it doesnt dismiss his opinions because his arguments make sense

My idea wont discourage readers from reading, just from reviewing if they are not confident on their ability to review, also, it will give them better insight on who is reviewing, which can help them to read or dismiss a story, sure, if a guy who writes a lot tells me that a story is worth a try despite its faults i will be more willing to give it a try, but if a guy who writes nothing tells me a story is trash i will take the opinion with a grain of salt


About your points:

1. A rule to only review or rate genres you actually enjoy.

That's kind of redundant, because the people who likes to trash stories do so based on nitpicking stuff they don't like, and they will do it anyway despite any rules, its not about the stories themselves but about they feeling great for being able to put others down

2. If a review has upvotes, and the reviewer changes their review, then those upvotes should be reset to zero (but not the downvotes, or they could game the system). (This one I feel is both important and easy to implement.)


A pretty good idea, i see no drawbacks

3. No reviews allowed until a story has a minimum number of pages posted (unless it's marked as completed, for things like short stories).

This would protect regular stories but would stop people from reading good ones, but its worth discussing more

4. Reviewers must have read a reasonable proportion of what's been posted, not just the first page. This idea probably won't work, though. There are a lot of stories that you can tell are trash from the first page...or even from the story blurb. As a writer, I don't give reviews or ratings for bad stories, because I know that regardless of the quality, someone worked hard on it and I don't want to discourage them...but somebody's got to provide the bad reviews, so I'm not sure how to implement this idea in a way that would work.

There is a way to keep track of which page they are reading at the moment... but they could simply reach that page by browsing without actually reading and then trash the story, again, the problem is that some people like to play dirty to feel good, you cannot expect them to be honorable

5. Automated analyses to look for reviews or ratings that follow bad patterns. e.g., someone that just logs in to pull up the first page of a batch of stories to downrank them. Maybe Royal Road already looks for stuff like this?

I don't think it can be applied as there are plenty of circumstances as there are people, i think there is a report system for that but there is only so much the staff can do

Review swap can indeed become a society of mutual flattery but they can also be leveraged by proper reviews from readers, my idea is not to discourage them from reviewing but from doing it poorly