Abolish The No Vote, Downvote Your Friends, and Other Musings

Or, how I learned to stop worrying and love the critics

rating: +58+x

The SCP Wiki’s reputation for harsh but fair criticism and rigorous community-based content control is slipping away. As the quantity of content has increased, there have been increasingly few people to comment on new SCP articles.

In the past, directing venomous insults at the author was common practice when giving critique. The Senior Staff made an effort to stop this; personal attacks are neither acceptable nor productive forms of discourse in any setting.

Critique policy is not responsible for the creative crisis we now find ourselves in. There are simply not enough quality critics to go around, those that we have are often occupied with the thankless task of forum crit while most articles posted to the Wiki pass into the archives without serious critical examination. Many of them get more so-called "no-votes" than votes which affect the article's rating.

The state of our site critique is virtually non-existent outside lending helping hands to coldposts.

shaggydredlocks

Theoretically, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to no-vote on pages. Feeling torn between the good and the bad is understandable. It's counter-intuitive to downvote when there are redeemable aspects to a piece.

In our vote-centric culture, no-voting is not giving a writer any incentive to learn or improve. It’s a disservice to contributors who could meet their full potential by pushing themselves a little harder, every time they write. Without any way to track them, there's no way to tell the difference between a piece a lot of skippers didn't feel strongly on, and one they didn't read at all. There's no guidance for the writer on what they can do to be better, beyond feeling frustrated.

There have always been those critics who find themselves places in an elevated position on the site because of their consistent, unrelenting critique. Your Kalinins, Djorics, DrBright and Pooryoric. All of these people earned a reputation for holding writer's feet to the fire, but they don't exist on some higher plane of talent and ability. They just didn't hold back.

(…)Read outside your comfort zone.

A big reason why these people downvote so much in comparison to other people is that, more often than not, they read beyond what they're familiar with. They read mainlists by number, tales attached to certain tags, etc., meaning they're often exposed to mediocre but obscure works that'd otherwise only be read by the author's friend circle. And that's a good thing, because every piece on the site deserves a critical eye.

That tale about an obscure Series II from 2011? Check that out. The Series I in the 600s slot that got added in 2013 and subsequently slept on? Ask if it needs to be on the site. That one obscure GoI format? Take a look, the author might still be around to take crit.

UraniumEmpire

The invisible no-vote, leaving no vote and no comment on an article you've read, doesn't help anybody or make the site better. If you went through the effort to become a site member why aren't you taking full advantage of the privileges that membership affords you?

Unless you leave a vote, preferably putting a bit of thought into a comment to go along with it it, you're effectively disenfranchising yourself from the Wiki's quality control process. When you no-vote, nobody knows or cares about your opinion. If you downvote, you matter immensely and people would probably kill to hear your opinion. Isn’t it nice to be wanted?

Downvotes are not criticism. They are a measure of whether you, the reader, enjoyed something or not. But they are not criticism. Your downvote alone is not going to help an author improve, not in the same way a well thought out critical post will.

I am worried that this post will be misconstrued, causing people to just downvote willy nilly without actually, actively contributing to the discourse. If you truly want to see the writing on the wiki improve, you are going to have to critically outline why you are downvoting so the author can see and actively improve on it.

I understand if sometimes you dislike something and you cannot outright say why you do not, that is fair. And I am not here judging people who downvote without giving their thoughts. But I do not think it is unfair to say that those that do downvote and explain why are actively contributing in the improvement of the wiki in a more productive way.

Woedenaz

Newer users may not feel confident in their critiquing, preferring to say nothing or no-vote. There is also the social pressure that leaving a negative comment might lead to backlash.

Do not be afraid. Everyone is capable of developing their own criteria and consistently applying it to the articles they read. Letting less than amazing stuff slide because you wanted to spare the author's feelings hurts their development as a writer and sets back the Wiki as a whole. Analyzing, breaking down, and rebuilding a work is the ultimate sign of appreciation, not an insult or an expression of distaste.

  • Producing good criticism is a skill that is separate from producing good writing. You can be great at writing and give shit-crit; you can be great at critiques and shit at writing. When you fail to recognize this, you fail to develop your abilities as a critic.
  • Good criticism requires you recognize your role as an adviser, not an authority. You're not here to tell authors what to do. You're here to 1) Understand what they want to accomplish, and 2) Help them accomplish it. This is about them, not you.
  • Good criticism is always: 1) Honest, 2) Constructive, and 3) Encouraging. I presume the first two points are obvious ("honest" does not mean harsh, and "constructive" means you provide some explanation of what the author can do to address their concerns), so let me focus on that last bit:

Good criticism always encourages authors to write, even while it explains the problems with their writing. It does this by insisting that writing is not an innate talent one 'possesses', but a skill that one develops. Because behind every piece of writing that works are a thousand that don't.

Good criticism doesn't just point out where the author failed; it points out where the author succeeded. And if you can't find any place where the author succeeded? You affirm that while the author's competence might not be high enough to produce a successful piece yet, improvement is possible.

Let me be clear: You don't lie. You don't hide the truth. If a piece demonstrates a fundamental lack of competence, you say so. But you follow it up by providing links (like this one) to places where they can gain that competence. You don't mislead them — you make it clear that it will take time and work to achieve competence — but you make sure they understand that competence can be achieved. Writing is a skill. Not a talent.

No matter the competence of an author, make sure they understand that good writing is not something you either can or can't do. No one becomes a good writer by just being good at writing. You get good by being bad — and sticking with it.

(…)

I would emphasize that while you might not need to always be super-encouraging, you must always strive to never be discouraging.

The Great Hippo

I have a call to arms for all members of the SCP Foundation: Don't let anyone take your upvote for granted. You have but one life to live, and one vote to give.

Make sure you count.

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