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On the Ontology of Standards

Discussion in 'FanFic Discussion' started by T3t, Jul 2, 2017.

  1. T3t

    T3t Purple Beast of DLP Prestige DLP Supporter

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    The discussion about how to rate things in the Defiance thread prompted me to write this, since I didn’t want to clutter up a “For Review” thread.

    A lot of people rate things by gut instinct. I’m not going to talk about that because it’s not interesting and there’s not much analysis you can do on that (that would be relevant here, anyways).

    Subjective Rating

    For the purposes of this discussion I’m defining subjective rating as rating stories in relation to each other - the worst story ever would receive a 1/5, while the best story would get a 5/5. This an important question, however: how does the scale work?

    Linear

    A linear scale is just that - linear. The bottom 20% of stories hit a 1/5, the top 20% a 5/5, etc. This is pretty simple but also not really how people usually rate things, and for good reason - stories that range from mediocre to terrible make up considerably more than 20% of fandom (let’s be real, more than 80%, in all likelihood), leaving us assigning scores of 3/5 and 4/5 to bad stories that we wouldn’t enjoy reading. This doesn’t make much sense. What’s another possibility?

    Logarithmic

    Here’s a short rundown on logarithmic scales: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logarithmic_scale. A logarithmic scale running on a factor of two gives us a distribution something like this:

    1/5 | 51.6%
    2/5 | 25.8%
    3/5 | 12.9%
    4/5 | 6.5%
    5/5 | 3.2%

    This is probably a more accurate reflection of how we perceive the distribution of story quality, though the factor used to scale may change depending on the sample of stories used and each individual’s particular preferences (and discernment).

    Still, there’s something missing. We may approximate the quality of a story in a single variable, like we do with IQ for intelligence, but it is not a fundamental property of a story - stories have many elements to them - prose, plot, characterization, world-building, etc. - that each have their own level of quality (though they’re often strongly correlated - and, of course, these also aren’t strictly fundamental properties, but they’re close enough for our purposes). If you compare two different stories, both of which you’d rate 4/5, you will probably find that you like them for different reasons. One may have stronger characters, while the other has more impressive world-building. This is an important part of how we compare stories to each other - after all, the rating does need to come from somewhere.

    “Objective” Rating

    We each have certain standards for the quality of story elements. The reason objective is in quotes is because these standards are only objective in relation to each individual’s preferences, not in relation to any external fact about the universe. Different people’s preferences have a lot of overlap, because the neural architectures that produce those preferences are built on an effectively universal template, and differences come in based on biological, environmental, and cultural variation.

    Here is where the subjective rating system outlined above starts to break down. Assume, for the sake of argument, that we are working with a finite set of stories - let’s take the Worm fandom. Let’s also take a fictional reader of stories - call him Tom. Tom’s standards for stories have been shaped by the reading of his early childhood, which consisted entirely of classic works of fiction by highly-acclaimed authors. As a result, Tom considers the quality of the prose in a story to be an overwhelmingly important part of the story achieving a certain minimum rating (the rating at which he will continue to read the story, for example). Tom enters the Worm fandom and finds that none of the stories are written with the quality of prose that he expects. As a result, he would not rate any of the stories higher than a 2/5 - they may be very well characterized with excellent world-building, but the quality of prose is a “hard requirement” that none of them achieve.

    It’s easy to see how this would look confusing to other people who don’t have this hard requirement - “Look,” they say, “this story has a much better plot and more interesting characters than that other story! How can your rate them both 2/5?” Tom replies, irritated, “Yes, but the prose is so drab. What I would give for more Dickens!”

    Good thing we’re not Tom, really. Imagine having those preferences!
     
  2. Taure

    Taure Magical Core Enthusiast Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I have a different process to any of the above: I rate things based on where I think they should end up in terms of DLP categorisation.

    That is to say, if I think a story belongs in the Library, I will give it either a 4 or 5. If I think it belongs in Almost Recommended, I will give it a 3. And if I think it belongs in Trash, I will give it a 1 or 2.

    I consider the Library as the place for fics that I both enjoy subjectively AND which have objectively good standards such as an absence of spelling/grammar errors. Most Library fics I will rate 4/5. I reserve 5/5 for the one-in-100,000 fic that makes me genuinely excited.

    I consider Trash to be the place for fics which are unreadable. The ratings mirror the Library ones: 2/5 for generic unreadable fics such as a typical indy!Harry fic, 1/5 being reserved for fics that are so bad that they deserve special mention such as My Immortal.

    And everything else goes into Almost Recommended, which I consider as having an extremely broad remit. It's there for the fics that you really love but have a few too many spelling errors to justify entering the library, to the fics that are 90% awful but maybe have one interesting scene or idea that makes them worthy of note.
     
  3. arkkitehti

    arkkitehti Groundskeeper

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    Personally I use following scale:

    1/5: so bad I had to stop reading before finishing first chapter
    2/5: has enough potential to get through first chapter, but not good enough to carry on to the end. Alternatively stories with really bad endings.
    3/5: good enough to read completely; "almost recommended"
    4/5: a good story, something that I might consider reading again at some point.
    5/5: Best of the best, top tier
     
  4. CheddarTrek

    CheddarTrek Set Phasers to Melt Moderator DLP Supporter

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    My personal rating system is somewhat similar to Taure's.

    I try not to give out straight 5/5 very often, though sometimes I round 4.5 up to 5 for certain stories. These are stories that I like well enough to really follow. It updated? Well mates it's time for my fucking lunch break because I want to read this shit now, and I will adjust RL to make accommodations. A 5/5 story is not only good it hits the right notes for me pesronally as a reader.

    A story I put at 4/5 doesn't quite manage that, but it's one that I finished not because I was bored but because it was worth finishing. These are good stories that I would recommend to anyone. They just didn't have that intangible something that's so hard to quantify.

    Like Taure though... the 3/5 "almost recommended" category is by far the broadest category I see on DLP. Most people don't rec or bring up what I'd class as 1-2/5 shit here. These stories typically are either poor stories with one interesting/good thing going for them or decent stories with one thing that I hated. I only recommend these if someone is looking for a specific type of story that qualifies. You're looking for stories where Peter Pettigrew adopts Harry? Well there's not any good ones I know of, but there's a 3/5 one I can suggest.

    2/5 is stories I see no point in reading personally. Doesn't mean that some people won't, but there's no reason for me to bother even as a guilty pleasure.

    1/5 I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone suggest on DLP. These are the truly shit stories that exist.

    ...and with all that in mind, that's why it bugs me sometimes to see people rate things as 1/5 for reasons like "it hasn't got Harry in it."
     
  5. Download

    Download Chief Warlock DLP Supporter

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    Here you go
     
  6. Agravaine

    Agravaine Sixth Year

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    1/5
    Indefensible prose, mechanics, philosophies.

    2/5
    General but unremarkable incompetence.

    3/5
    Interesting ideas with bad prose; acceptable prose with little to say.

    4/5
    Seldom used. Either it passes muster or it doesn't. Don't see the use in delineating further.

    5/5
    Solid to transcendent prose and ideas; deserves to be read by all.

    --

    I suspect I am more generous with my 5/5s than most, but less generous towards the middle of the spectrum.
     
    Last edited: Jul 2, 2017
  7. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign Prestige

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    I guess I rate things somewhat similarly to Taure and Ched, with the caveat that sometimes a gut feeling about a fic will overwhelm any merits it may have such as characterization, plot, worldbuilding. For example, Prince of Slytherin has been one of the most popular fics in the fandom for a while. People on DLP drop 4 stars on it all over the Library thread.

    I rated it a nice shiny 1 star, because I couldn't stand the all the ridiculous things it kept throwing out for the 100k or so words that I stuck with it because someone said that if I made it 30 chapters I'd find something worthwhile. I didn't. You may say that I'm wrong, there's obviously some good stuff there (and I admit that freely), but imo the bad far outweighs the good to the point where the fic became unreadable to me and for that reason I don't think it belongs in the Library. So, 1 star it is.

    Logic has its place, but I disagree with T3t that his hypothetical Tom's standards are undesirable standards to have.
     
  8. CheddarTrek

    CheddarTrek Set Phasers to Melt Moderator DLP Supporter

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    I meant stories that I'd rate at 1/5, not stories that DLP would as a whole. XD:nyan:
     
  9. Anarchy

    Anarchy Prisoner DLP Supporter

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    That "Tom" example is kind of funny. I sort of agree with it, though for different reasons. Quality of prose doesn't matter as much to me, but rather, originality and execution. Like, you have this brand new fandom, with a ton of interesting possibilities, so of course an author immediately turns it into a crossover, of they give Taylor someone elses abilities, or a even a completely new OP powerset. They're going through what the HP fandom went through 10+years ago, but there's nothing there to keep it in check - there's no Worm version of DLP where there's a group of skilled authors cranking out classics. You can call it growing pains or perhaps I'm just using the standards of other fandoms or whatever, but the problem is that there's no hidden gems. There is no Wastelands of Time, no Skitterleap, no A Black Comedy. There's just and endless sea of mediocrity with a small handful of stories that I'd rate a 4/5, and not a single 5/5.

    So, when it comes to HP, I would grade a story similarly. Originality and execution are very important, but perhaps more importantly is the bottom line - are they entertaining to read? I've seen plenty of stories that have tried to hard to be original, to the point where it's a detriment. So often, it's the execution of old ideas that oftentimes make a story enjoyable to read. A prime example is "Out of the Night" when takes the stupid inheritance trope and does something interesting with it.

    Ultimately, there has to be a purpose to a story. Why is an author wasting 200k works on a story that doesn't have a single original thought in it, and is just a conglomeration of all the tropes that author just happens to like? It's not done an interesting way, and it's not entertaining to read, so why? It can have a coherent plot, be well written, might even be objectively a 3/5 story, but what is the purpose of the story? This is how I feel about the vast majority of Harry/Daphne fics.

    Of course, the idea of something being "original" in a fandom where there's a million stories written isn't something that really exists, so many times, "original" can merely be taking an old idea and putting a twist on it, or maybe it's just trying something new with often neglected characters rather than just relying on old standbys. Ultimately, I'm just kind of tired of reading the same thing, so if a story can make me feel like it's new, even if it's not, that I'll be more interested in it.
     
  10. Perspicacity

    Perspicacity High Score: 3,994 Prestige DLP Supporter

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    I use the same method as Taure: 4-5 means it is worthy of the Library, 3 for Almost Recommended. I don't bother with ".5" mealymouthisms.

    I am more generous with my 5/5 rankings than he. (And, I suspect, my 3/5 rankings, as I think Almost Recommended is a big tent.)
     
  11. T3t

    T3t Purple Beast of DLP Prestige DLP Supporter

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    That was sarcasm. I have Tom's standards. (Except Dickens. I hate Dickens.)
     
  12. ScottPress

    ScottPress The Horny Sovereign Prestige

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    Well now I feel like a dummy.
     
  13. Jon

    Jon The Demon Mayor Admin DLP Supporter

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    [1/5] I can't be fucked to even finish the first chapter. Just bad. In the Bin.

    [2/5] I managed to get several chapters in before it overstayed its welcome. In the Bin.

    [3/5] I had time to kill so I ended up reading until the latest update. Might pick it up at some point in the future again.

    [4/5] Oh cool. Interesting. I'll keep an eye out for this one. If it updates I'll check it out when I have time.

    [5/5] Oh shit, this updated? Time to drop everything and read it.