How big should the Hugo Awards

abstract2An elevated comment from file 770: http://file770.com/?p=24698&cpage=6#comment-334965

Mark Dennehy on September 3, 2015 at 8:25 am said:
Much as we all love you Kevin, I’m going to go disagree with you there. No amount will ever be enough, even if you got nine billion people nominating (though we might ask to check the math then too). The reason is that the more people nominate, the higher the value of the Hugos to everyone else. So if next year we see three thousand submit nominations, that’s better than this year. And we should strive to see four thousand the next year, or more. And that should never stop.

And I say that for purely selfish reasons – the Hugos act as a giant mechanical turk of a search engine for me. And while a thousand pairs of eyes reading and recommending means I get a good recommended reading list, two thousand gives me a better quality reading list. Three thousand and its better still, and while it’s not a linear thing, more is always better.

I have to disagree. We know that quality and popularity have some relation but that they aren’t the same. The bigger the Hugo voting pool gets the more it will tend to popularity. Popularity isn’t particularly useful information because there are plenty of ways of already finding out what is popular.

We know that the Hugos work well as a non-juried award but we don’t know they will work better with a bigger participation of voters. What the Hugo Awards should be good at is saying – this is where the field is at with people who pay particular attention to the state of the field in general. Of course making that group of people larger (i.e. people who pay particular attention to the state of the field in general) is good but simply increasing the number of people who vote in the Hugo Awards is not *IF* it reduces the signal from relevant group.

This, I think, is the one bit of FUD that the Puppies injected successfully into the debate. That because the Hugos is a vote then the Hugos are about democracy. They aren’t and more importantly they CANNOT be – i.e. there is no way for their to be a successful Award based on a popular vote of all people who are in some ways fans of SF/F because
1. [people who are in some ways fans of SF/F] is a shitty category to define and you’ll never get a sufficient proportion of it to make it possible to say that is unbiased.
2. If you actually wanted to know what was most liked by [people who are in some ways fans of SF/F] you wanted have a vote you would use market research (which should help indicate how dull that approach would be)
3. Finding out what [people who are in some ways fans of SF/F] like isn’t that hard. What are commercial publishes pushing? That is what their marker research is telling them their audience wants. How interesting is that? Not very at all.

What is the ideal number of people to vote on the Hugo Awards? I’d say it should be around whatever the number of people is that feel they can make a reasonable decision on the least popular story category (Novelette? I haven’t checked historically) – i.e. how many people are taking an active interest in SF/F Novelettes published in English in a given year. I don’t know what that number is but those are the interesting people. Why? Because they are people looking at newer writers and people doing interesting things and who are interested in trends etc.

Note: I don’t want that to sound disparaging about the other categories. I’m restricting my attention to the story categories on the basis of the Hugo Awards (particularly Best Novel) being INTERESTING information that can’t be got from somewhere else.