Author Topic: AGM 2015 and awards proposals  (Read 8660 times)

Offline Rolnikov

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AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« on: September 19, 2015, 07:20:32 AM »
The 2015 AGM is to be held at FantasyCon 2015, at the East Midlands Conference Centre and Orchard Hotel, Nottingham, UK, on Sunday, 25 October 2015, from 10 am till noon. More info about the AGM here.

I will be standing for the post of awards administrator again this year, but I would encourage anyone who thinks it's time for a change to stand against me, so that I can either (a) crush them in the election and rule forever or (b) be crushed by them in the election and relax while they do all the work next year. Either is fine! To stand for election, attend the AGM, where you will need to be nominated and seconded, and a vote will be called. I will be happy to nominate or second anyone who wishes to stand against me. You must be a fully paid-up member of the BFS to stand. If you wish to stand, but are unable to attend, please email chair@britishfantasysociety.org indicating your interest.

Remember that any proposals to change the awards constitution must now be sent to me in writing. You have the right to put proposals to the AGM in exactly the form you prefer (time allowing). I donít get to filter your proposals. However, I will be able to advise you, for example, on any practical issues the AGM might raise. Itís very helpful if, when proposing a change, you provide the precise form of words that you would like to be added to the constitution, so that it is absolutely and utterly clear to the AGM exactly what it is they are voting on. If youíre not sure how to go about this, Iíll be happy to help with the phrasing. Even if I don't support a particular proposal, itís better for everyone if itís clearly set out.

No proposals to change the awards constitution have been received so far this year, but as mentioned in the last bulletin, I may be proposing a big change myself. Our juries have done a terrific job these last few years of picking a series of highly creditable winners, but the system takes a great deal of work to maintain, thereís a limited pool of volunteers to draw on, and, more and more, everyone seems to know each other, making it quite difficult to find truly independent jurors. So I've been mulling over a proposal to take us back to member voting in the final round, but keeping an egregious omissions committee, and adding an statutory two-month gap between the date nominations are announced and the date voting begins, to encourage everyone to read the nominees. What would members think about that?

Offline Des Lewis

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #1 on: September 19, 2015, 08:10:08 AM »
Our juries have done a terrific job these last few years of picking a series of highly creditable winners,

I agree.

Quote
but the system takes a great deal of work to maintain, thereís a limited pool of volunteers to draw on, and, more and more, everyone seems to know each other, making it quite difficult to find truly independent jurors. So I've been mulling over a proposal to take us back to member voting in the final round, but keeping an egregious omissions committee, and adding an statutory two-month gap between the date nominations are announced and the date voting begins, to encourage everyone to read the nominees. What would members think about that?

I would personally support such a proposal.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2015, 08:12:04 AM by Des Lewis »
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Offline Dave Brzeski

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2015, 12:40:21 PM »
No proposals to change the awards constitution have been received so far this year, but as mentioned in the last bulletin, I may be proposing a big change myself. Our juries have done a terrific job these last few years of picking a series of highly creditable winners, but the system takes a great deal of work to maintain, thereís a limited pool of volunteers to draw on, and, more and more, everyone seems to know each other, making it quite difficult to find truly independent jurors. So I've been mulling over a proposal to take us back to member voting in the final round, but keeping an egregious omissions committee, and adding an statutory two-month gap between the date nominations are announced and the date voting begins, to encourage everyone to read the nominees. What would members think about that?

I'd be against it. There is no perfect solution, but with the Jury system, at least we have the final vote going to people who have actually read all the nominations (within reason, as no one could possibly read everything relevant in the Small Press category.)

Publishers are able to make sure a small jury actually has copies to read. In the event of an open public vote, most people will end up voting for the one nomination they've actually read, or in some cases simply the author whose work they know.
I really feel a combination of public nominations & a jury is by far fairer.

As I said, there is no perfect solution. As to the problem of jurors knowing the nominees. Those of us who attend Fantasycon pretty much know most of them. Amazon have started deleting reviews of late, based on the reviewer knowing the author. Understandable, considering the bad rep Amazon reviews get, but totally unworkable in this online age, where most reviewers have dozens of authors on their Facebook & Twitter lists.

Offline Cate Gardner

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2015, 12:44:24 PM »
I agree with Dave. I prefer the awards to have a jury - less likelihood of their being any backlash about why a certain book/story wins.

Offline Djibril

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2015, 03:17:42 PM »
Given recent shenanigans in other cons and communities, I'd also be in favour of keeping the juries (not that I'm a member or regular con-attendee, so I wouldn't have a vote, but I do watch and care about the outcomes of BFS awards).

I'd be much more interested in seeing some deep and creative discussions around how to spread wider the pool of potential jurors. Ask members to nominate potential famous, expert, critic and fan jurors to give the awards committee a larger database to draw from? I certainly agree that having juries made up of a largely homogeneous and incestuous group of BFS friends starts to look a bit sad...
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Offline CJ

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #5 on: September 19, 2015, 03:21:39 PM »
I agree with Cate and Dave. I believe that a jury-based system offers a much more even playing field to shortlisted nominees. I appreciate that it's far more work, but it does ensure (as much as you can) that every shortlisted book/story does actually get read. And any time I've served on a jury, the winner has been argued and decided using a points-based method, which again, seems fairer.

I think in the past, it's been too easy to overlook lesser known authors or the work of small presses which have smaller distribution or marketing capabilities, even considering egregious omissions. By using both member voting for the shortlist and a jury for the winners, I think the whole process is fairer and less open to criticism, such as canvassing for votes.

I appreciate that many jurors will know the nominees and vice versa, but I'd argue that's the case with most members too. As a juror, you're expected to be both objective and impartial, and can at least be held to some account if you're judged not to be.

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #6 on: September 19, 2015, 03:35:34 PM »
I don't disagree, those are all factors in favour of keeping the current system, and it's interesting to hear what everyone thinks. On the other side of the scale is my feeling is that the current system isn't sustainable, because it's just such an awful lot of work. For example, I've written or received well over six hundred individual awards-related emails this year...

Offline jared

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2015, 04:09:27 PM »
I can definitely see the pros and cons.

I really like the jury system, and I think the quality of the shortlists and winners for the past few years has been great - a testament to both the voters and the jurors. And I would think that recruiting more jurors might be annoying, but shouldn't be impossible. (Speaking as someone serving now for the first time, it is a LOT of fun, and I'd recommend it heartily to anyone.)

The biggest 'con' to me would be that the admin must be overwhelming, and I'm not surprised at the volume of emails. Administrating four categories for the Kitschies was a pain in the ass and a full-time job during key periods, doing so for a dozen different categories would be nightmarish.

So any ways to make things easier? An Awards assistant, for example. Or fewer jurors (e.g. each juror judges multiple categories, so there are fewer cats to wrangle). Or don't bother wrangling the publishers - we buy the books ourselves with BFS money. (In fairness, that'd make the publishers happy too.) Or maybe some categories do become voted all the way through (TV, for example? Small press, maybe?). None of those are easy/great/ideal solutions, but just throwing stuff out there.

Offline jim mcleod

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2015, 04:15:10 PM »
I'm with the jury system.  I second the idea about admin assistants, how about looking to appoint an admin for say fiction non fiction and non written or some other such breakdown. 

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2015, 04:38:12 PM »
I have thought of appointing assistants, but a lot of the work isn't easily divisible, and the BFS always has other posts that need filling. Something like finding contact details for all the publishers, that could be handed off, I guess.

For the first couple of years we did have one main jury that did a lot of the categories, and it did lessen the work involved in finding jurors - as long as you can find people willing to be on that jury! - but there were logjams at the end of the decision-making, whereas with different people on the juries the endgame goes much more smoothly. I cut the juries down to three jurors in most categories this year, which saved time for me and saved money for publishers.

I could stagger on doing it, but I don't know how likely it would be to keep going after me. Of the six people who have done the job (officially or unofficially) since David Sutton stepped down, I'm the only one to have lasted more than a year, and most of those were back when it was a straightforward vote.

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #10 on: September 19, 2015, 04:40:41 PM »
I suppose part of it for me is that the amount of work involved seems disproportionate.

Offline Djibril

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2015, 04:59:55 PM »
Yes, there's no doubt it is a disproportionately labour-intensive process, which is why most institutions I know that have any kind of elections or votes of this kind have a committee, not a single coordinator. Stephen has done heroic work in this area for several years now, and it's hard to imagine anyone as committed and indefatigable coming along to replace him or give him a much-needed break any time soon! :)

The whole issue clearly does need thinking about and discussing, and probably in the AGM rather than just here on the boards, so a proposal of some kind would be useful. I would still vote for trying to streamline the process by:

1. Appointing an awards committee rather than a single coordinator (committee members may inevitably already hold other posts); the committee might appoint a chair or coordinator from among their number in any give year, but that person wouldn't be expected to act alone. Just the presence of other responsible committee members around can make a task feel less onerous, as I know.

2. Building a process for nominating and soliciting volunteers for jury duty. Other organizations I know, for example, solicit all conference attendees/panellists/authors to volunteer, asking them to (a) give their interests and qualifications in a given area, and (b) actively opt out if they don't want to be considered. This might not be appropriate for the BFS/Fantasycon community, but some such ideas might be discussed.

But the issue of sustainability is an important one, and Stephen's concern about the labor-intensiveness of this needs to be seriously addressed. (Maybe everyone who has expressed a very vocal vote in favour of juries should be invited to join the awards committee in the first instance. ;) )
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Offline Dave Brzeski

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #12 on: September 20, 2015, 12:35:19 AM »
But the issue of sustainability is an important one, and Stephen's concern about the labor-intensiveness of this needs to be seriously addressed. (Maybe everyone who has expressed a very vocal vote in favour of juries should be invited to join the awards committee in the first instance. ;) )

Well I'd be willing to help out in some capacity, except, everyone who was on the committee couldn't be on a jury, which would mean a few more spaces needing filling.

I'd be happy enough to chase up & distribute electronic copies of books to the jurors for instance, and coordinate publishers getting hard copies out to the correct people if they so wished. We almost had a problem on the jury I'm on this year, with one of the nominees only getting copies to us at the very last minute, so I reckon it would be helpful for that job to be farmed out to someone who wasn't too busy with other stuff.

Offline Rolnikov

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #13 on: September 20, 2015, 08:13:35 AM »
We do invite volunteers for the juries, both online and in the FantasyCon souvenir programme, and as per the awards constitution the BFS committee is involved in recommending and approving jurors. This was the first year when we had enough volunteers to fill pretty much all the slots. I agree that there's a benefit to having jurors who are not my personal chums, but there are risks to appointing people you don't know at all and can't check out online, as I've learned in previous years.

On the other side of this issue, these are the British Fantasy Society's awards, and I'd positively prefer them to be decided by our members. We voted to give the decision away because we goofed, but the rules could guide members to more sensible decisions - thus my proposal of a reading period between the announcement of nominations and the beginning of voting. (People used to announce that they had voted the night the voting form went up, and then talk about not having read any nominees.)

Having an awards committee wouldn't lessen the amount of work involved, it would just spread it around, and almost inevitably it would be spread to someone more likely to let us down. Approaching publishers for reading copies is one of the most sensitive parts of the job, that would be the last thing to pass to an assistant.

None of the nominees arrived at the very last minute this year - the last came in with over three weeks to go, because the publishers had been away on holiday. There were two or three things that hadn't arrived with three weeks still to go, and we bought them out of expenses. If anything really had arrived at the last minute (i.e. a week to go), there is a fortnight of emergency padding built into the schedule.

Offline Djibril

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Re: AGM 2015 and awards proposals
« Reply #14 on: September 20, 2015, 12:27:06 PM »
Just for the record (before I bow out as a non-member trespassing in this part of the forum) my suggestions were meant purely as examples of the sort of the solutions that might be considered in a wider discussion on this topic. I'm certainly not suggesting that I have thought of things you've never considered before, or that would necessarily work. Just advocating for brainstorming ideas for getting more people involved.
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