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Messages - J Naylor

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Announcements and Suggestions / Re: E-memberships
« on: October 12, 2011, 03:40:51 pm »
If I understand correctly from the AGM the current membership charges are predominantly a product of the production of a hardcopy journal and the costs of mailing it out.  In fact the mail costs have been the cause of the recent price increase.  For overseas members there is a 25 surcharge to cover the additional mail costs so an E-membership would be a big help here.

The hardcopy journal has its place and is useful for distribution to promote the society as well as being something for the members but could it not be an opt in system i.e.:

Membership 17.50 per year (all electronic)
Opt in hardcopy journals posted + 17.50
Opt in hardcopy journals overseas  + 40

The E-members would still be heavily subsidising the hard copy members so they shouldn't really complain but it would make the society more accessible and attractive to new members.  This would increase participation and hopefully be good for the society as a whole.

This area may also have a bearing on the current two members at the same address which is based on hardcopy journals again.   

In does appear as though publishing the journals has a higher priority than encouraging members to join. (Probably not the case but that is what it looks like.)

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This was suggested at the AGM Philatron and the response was that to be workable there is a minimum print run on hardcopy journals etc.  If too many people opt for the PDF version then it would make production of a printed version untenable.   
(Consider the merits of it as you will.)
Perhaps membership pricing levels are best discussed on a seperate thread.  Note that the current constitution says that membership prices are set by the committee not the membership/AGM.  There was a groundswell at the AGM objecting to price increases in membership.  Perhaps this is a constitutional issue that needs to be floated at an EGM restoring control to the membership.

3
All prepayment funds for FantasyCon are in the BFS account.

The forms will be handed over to the new committee when collection is arranged,

You will note that pre-registration explicitly said that people would be refunded if there was any change to the venue or date.

We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience caused.

4
Staggered rotation is a good idea on a Jury.  (2011/12 four people appointed but two knowing they are on for just one year.  They are replaced for two years for 2012/13 etc)

Not sure how I feel about specifying genders.  The optimist in me would like to think there would automatically be a mix. The pessimist fears such a proviso being the thin end of a wedge of tokenism.

Who would appoint or how would they be selected?  This should be the next question if we were to go for it.

I still think some awards should remain as a popular vote by the way since this helps members feel they can contribute.

I am not convinced about the one award being made by the BFS committee and the FantasyCon committee on a one person one vote basis.  It would be so easy for a FantasyCon organiser to load their committee should they wish. I am not suggesting anyone would but the loophole immediately brings the awards into potential disrepute.

Would it help if we talked more about suggested mechanics and structures rather than broad outline concepts?

(Sorry I have a task oriented personality ;D)

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There are a lot of valid points being made - sometimes in direct opposition to other equally valid points.  That just goes to show how difficult this sort of thing is.

We need to recognise that where a popular vote is made that it does not indicate the "Best" of something but actually the "most popular".  (Why do you think soap operas always win TV awards - shudder)    

Popular votes will also follow trends in the social makeup of organisations.  If someone is very active in social media, active in the running of an organisation etc then they are likely to get more support (votes).  

Finally I suspect the majority of voters had only read a fraction of the works listed and so feel they can only vote for works they are familiar with.

These factors are common to all voted awards.  People may not like it but they are fixed.   As was said above perhaps we need to look at the perception of the awards rather than the mechanics if voting remains a factor.

Juries and panels mean that in theory they have at least all read the books and so are judging equally.   Such panels do have their own inherent bias however.   How many people actually consider all the Booker prize winners to be great works?  

Perhaps having a panel which has:
1. BFS member who is not a writer/publisher/agent etc
1. Representative of a large publisher
1. Representative of a small press
1. Reviewer

(Or similar)  The panel would be compelled to change each year.  None of the panellists could have a direct interest in any of the nominees.

The awards could be of two types - Popular awards voted by the membership and juried awards by a panel as above (Oh look that is what happens already...)  The difference would be that this would be more explicit - change the name of the awards - Best Novel becomes Most Popular Novel if voted on etc.

We are back to addressing perceptions.

I don't think there was any wrongdoing in the awards.  I think the difficulties are in the structure of the awards and the lack of active members willing to help run things leaving them open to criticism.  I also think that criticism is easy and losers and their advocates/supporters ought to be gracious in losing. Then campaign discretely to get things changed if they are sure it needs change.  Otherwise they are demonstrating the same inherent bias they are complaining about.  

One good thing may come out of this. When politics rears its head like this people stand up, make their voices heard and volunteer.   Usually storms mean a few years of peace once the dust settles.   Whilst there is good reasoned debate going on about this I think there is an excellent chance of the storm being ridden out and some calm sunny waters ahead.

Find a solution folks.  Good luck with it.

PS since other posts made whilst I was typing:

On physical awards - it is possible to produce an excellent physical award at lower cost to the society. Alternatives are available, sponsorship is also an option.

On status of the Awards - this needs addressing.  A new awards system needs to be agreed and implemented very promptly to allow for next year. By my reckoning a 6 week timescale should be the maximum for coming up with a new structure.

There is however no such thing as bad publicity.  Capitalise on this and you can  get The Guardian to attend the awards next year - a big boost in status.


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I echo everything that has been said about jury selection.  Juried awards are just as open to bias and even more suscepetible to corruption than popular vote awards.  Finding jurors who are unbiased and unconnected is bound to be difficult but not impossible.

Where retained the voting system needs to be seen to be independent and transparent and many more people need to be encouraged to vote.   Of course the fact that most of the voters won't have read all of the works up for the award means that they will inevitably end up voting for their favourites.

Is there not scope for increasing the number of juried awards but retaining some membership voted awards?  All could still come under the BFS Awards but some would be "Members Awards" i.e. voted and be for "favourite" or "best liked" etc and the others would be juried and could have the title "best".

The idea of a "no award" category on the voting form has merit too.  members who don't think any of the shortlisted books should be winners could vote "no award" and a threshold set as a percentage of the vote which would mean a popular(voted) award is not made in a particular year.  This could serve as a "quality assurance" measure to counter bias in shortlisting.

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Awards are always difficult.  If they are voted it is often best to use the term "favourite" or "best liked" rather than "best" which has an inherent quality inference.

Awards from within a community often boil down to a cult of personality and almost inevitably end up in acrimony as lobbying groups wax and wane within the whole.

Juried awards are in their own way more susceptible to bias than voted awards sicne who appoints the jury etc can affect the outcome.

A very difficult area and one which would benefit from thoughtful and unbiased discussion concentrating on the mechanics of decision making etc rather than worrying about what is in place or how we got here.

Oh and remember you can't please all of the people all of the time...

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