More on nomination systems for the Hugo awards [Updated]

[Update: an observant reader at File770 has pointed out that I may have misunderstood (and hence misrepresented) Brian’s position i.e. he is not sympathetic to a long list – and that also I may have misunderstood what the long list proposal was. Apologies to Brian in either case.]

So despite my recent attempts to provide counter-arguments in the form of meta-fiction or verse arguments continue at File770 over the E Pluribus Hugo nomination system. I say ‘arguments’ but it has been primarily one person (Brian Z)  repeating objections in the hope that somebody will bite.

The latest is support for an alternative suggestion: instead of a single nomination vote, there could be a two stage nomination. The first stage would be as per normal: eligible votes would submit a set of five (or less) works in each category that they liked. These nominations would be tallied and a long list of 15 works would be produced (possibly with the top 5 indicated). People would then nominate their preferred 5 from the long list. Brian is now advocating for this proposal.

I don’t regard Brian’s argument as sincere as the long list idea seems to have more of the flaws that he objected to with EPH

In previous threads Brian Z has raised a number of objections to EPH:

  1. a social response is better i.e. get lots of people involved to swamp the slates
  2. EPH effectively institutionalizes slates i.e. by limiting the damage and allowing some slated candidates a chance to get on the final ballot
  3. EPH treats the nomination process like a party political election
  4. EPH if applied to past results might create asterisk nominees i.e. people who were nominated under the old system might not have been nominated under the new system
  5. something something weird scary something confusing something [not really coherent style points in general]
  6. by making a radical rule change in response to slates this may be seen as an aggressive move by puppy sympathizers who are fans and they may feel alienated wibble [slightly incoherent points/concern trolling EPH
  7. his vote gets diluted by the EPH process
  8. people will adopt tactical nomination methods that will be bad somehow
  9. it should be about the love of books etc

As mentioned at the start, Brian Z has now suggested a two-stage nomination process. In the first stage people just nominate and in the second a long list of nominations is published and people then pick their top 5 from that.

I mentioned a two stage process in a much, much earlier discussion about voting systems at File770 to show how the Single Transferable Vote voting system works. With a long list you could (and should) use STV as the means to pick 5 nominees so that people can order the 15 long list nominees by preference. However, I won’t get into that in this post.

Comparing a 15 long list proposal against Brian’s objections it becomes clear that it performs worse against Brian’s objections than EPH. A rational or sincere Brian should object MORE to the long list proposal than he should to EPH.

  1. A long list does not aid a social response to slating. Rather it makes the nomination process more complex for the end user and hence discourages participation at least a little bit.
  2. (and also 8) A long list severely institutionalizes slates. In a a year with a dominant 5 work slate in a category (like this year) a de-facto 10 work anti-slate (or two competing anti-slates) is created. If we had this system for 2015 there would have been a substantial discussion among non-puppies on which works stood the best chance against the puppies. That really establishes counter-slating as norm to a slate, as well as tactical nominating and discussion of work on tactical basis rather than quality/love basis.
  3. A long list approach will have a feel of a US style party political primary process. It is a VERY party political approach (see previous point) and would incite mid-vote campaigning (particularly if there is a slate)
  4. Although we can only run the long list approach up to the first stage with past votes, it still would suggest that people may have voted differently if they could have up-voted a nominee that was less than fifth in the first stage nomination process. A long list encourages the same kind of ‘if we had this system X would have won in 198Z instead of Y’
  5. Exactly cthululu miemetic brain virus cats living with dogs etc
  6. A longlist is still a radical rule change in response to the puppy campaign
  7. In EPH a work you nominated might get eliminated at an early stage, in the long list a work you nominated might get eliminated at the first stage.
  8. Discussed already in point 2. A long list encourages its own tactical responses and then some.
  9. Discussed across the board above. The two stage process encourages a focus at the second stage on what will win against other known choices, which may be political (in the horse-trading sense) or ideological.

Now a long list has some nice qualities and some of the above might just not happen because people might just choose to not do things that we don’t want to happen. However the nice qualities of a long list is that allows people to risk nominating less popular work without fear of inadvertently helping a slate and it gives more popular non-slated works a boost when in competition with slated works.

But EPH does both of those things AS WELL, but the side-effects are much, much less. For the user (i.e. the nominating voter) they just nominate works they like as they would normally. No preferencing, no multi-stage voting – they just write down a bunch of stuff they love. It gives no opportunity for mid-vote politicking or campaigning. It doesn’t exclude anybody, it treats fans who vote for slates in the same way as fans who don’t vote for slates. It is *JUST* in this sense (although because there are winners and losers and some losers may deserve to be winners it is arguably not *FAIR* but life isn’t fair etc – it is at least as fair as any proposed or existing alternative).