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Thoughts on story and photo trolling.

Thoughts that have circulating in my pea brain for a bit:

I think we can all agree that the ratings trolling is a bit obnoxious.  You post a screenshot that you just love from your game.  You post a story that you worked hard on and it has significance to you.  Things go on swimmingly, you're getting good feedback ... and whammo!  Three hours later your rating has plummeted from the high 4s to the low 3s.  Or, if you're especially unlucky, the high 2s.  In every case when this has happened to me, it only takes me a few seconds to look around at the surrounding postings to realize that everyone took a hit along with me; a troll is on the site, and most likely it's not personal.  Still stings, though.  People have stopped contributing to the site over it.

Why do people do this?  Dunno for sure, but I've heard a few reasons over the years. 

  1. The troller is bored and just feels like being spiteful. (I had an ex who was a member of a few ratings site for this specific reason; he went after highly-ranked photos specifically to downgrade them.) 
  2. The troller is trying to "average" the ratings.  (Usually this seems to happen in reverse; people upgrade because they feel sorry to see such a low rating.  Every now and then someone admits that they don't like seeing someone with such high ratings and they need to knock it down a little.)
  3. The troller is not actually trolling; they are used to a system where "1" is high and "5" is low, so they think they're doing it correctly.  (I remember when this happened to an FA who was renowned for her excellent work.  We all felt bad for her, but at the same time it was funny in a "shake-your-head" way.)

The problem was resolved as far as submissions go by removing the star rating, and that may be a viable solution for screenshots and stories as well.  Personally, though, I'd rather keep the rating systems on stories, flaws and all.  It may be because I've been writing for the vast majority of my life and I'm used to feedback that isn't always kind or even constructive.  It may be because I'm not on Facebook and am not in the habit of just "liking" random stuff.  The saying "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all" might be suitable for photographs, but it doesn't work for a writer.  If a writer doesn't receive constructive criticism on their work, they'll still be writing in the same manner at 40 that they did when they were 18.  Trust me, that's not a pretty sight. 

Despite its potential and history of abuse, I find that the ratings are usually a good indicator that I will enjoy reading the story.  I've also noticed that stories unfairly knocked down by trolling usually float up again because the readership knows a good one when they see it, spitefulness be damned.  This is not a universal truth, of course, but I've found it to be so in most cases.

But naturally I want to know what you think. :)

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flody888May 4, 2011

Also! I'm guilty of giving a '5' boost to those 'zero', '1', '2' items! Chances are only a few people voted and one was a troll or 'critic'. I like to think my '5' is a way of practising some guerilla good-doing! Or even better, I'll actually comment and focus on what I like about the item!

flody888May 4, 2011

I personally think that the ratings system isn't actually designed to represent the value of the rated item. It's a way to make people feel like they are participating, franchised, empowered to rate/judge/voice and to do so anonymously. There may be 'real' commercial value too for sites that track votes for advertising, information, etc. And if the number of voters are high enough to offset any 'trolls', then the ratings system is beneficial to consumers to sort and to view what is popular, useful, helpful on a site... But I think most people will never consistently achieve a high or perfect rating on any site including TSR. Most items probably won't be rated at all unless you have devoted friends and fans. Even if you have a dozen people motivated enough to rate your item favourably, then it only takes one or two trolls to knock that rating... Even less people are motivated enough to comment on an item. And while some people berate TSR's ban on negative comments, I think it actually helps to foster a positive atmosphere and encourages both member participation to upload, create, and comment. I mean, we're talking about people's screenshots, game creations, and stories... (I just lost my train of thought!)... Basically, I think your "If you can't say anything nice" rule still applies here. Someone taking the time to post a comment means a lot! And if your ratings dip, don't let it bring you down! And if you want real criticism, ask a friend. I've stopped thinking I can contribute by critiquing anything. People really only want encouragement from others and criticism from a select few.

FlatterApr 28, 2011

oops - just discovered the hard way that structuring your text with newlines and new paragraphs does not work in the comment section... I hope my comment above was nonetheless readable.

FlatterApr 28, 2011

I can easily add some more reasons why the rating system has its faults, it's not only trolls:
- Kudos (as you can gain only so many kudos for doing something each day at TSR, some people might turn to give random ratings for stories without reading them just for kudos' sake)
- Age (since "Internetuality" begins at primary school nowadays, you have to deal with readers from a very young to a very old age. The ratings can be based on totally different things. While one person enjoys a complicated storyline, the next one is only in for the pics, while the third might rate mostly based on how cool the actors look etc.).
- Sympathy (like it is most dangerous to say something bad about any Stephen King book to a King fan - I tried it several times and got bashed up severely for it - there are some authors you really like or dislike and that will influence your reception of the story. A rating might be influenced by your sympathy for/dislike of the author and not solely based on the merits of the story).
I could go on for days. But to stay on topic, I turn to trolling again. As my list of reasons suggest, I don't think every strange rating is based on trolling (in the sense of doing wilfully something provocative or irrational which destabilizes and abuses the system you're using), although some motives I mentioned above - like kudo hunting - can be interpreted as being "troll-like".
Still, the 5-star system tends to remain functional as a rough guideline. From my own experience better stories tend to get better ratings than bad stories. There are some ways to improve the system instead of removing it completely. You can differentiate the rating (different ratings for pics, text, formal neatness, effort put in etc.) or give a rating guideline to readers what elements of a story should be considered before giving a rating. Or you can allow a star-rating only after having given a textual comment. Or... aww, if I had some more time, I could probably rant on and on... \:D Nice blog entry, April!

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One legacy ends ... another begins. **hangs head in shame** Thoughts on story and photo... Horrible, horrible, HORRIBLE Dream Occasionally Yours
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