The Griefer Matrix [Update]

[Update: started writing part 2 and discovered I’d left off three important things; hostage taking, nominating poor quality (but not actually discreditable) works, and general sweeping categories. In other words VDs 2016 tactic plus Sad Puppy issues. I’ve added those as x.5 issues in places because I’d already used the other numbers in a whole section I’d written.]

This post will get a bit involved, so be warned.

At File 770 there has been a number of discussions about further reforms to deal with briefing from VD or some future obnoxious person. Regular Filer Stoic Cynic collated a list of possible solutions:

1. Do Nothing
2. Membership
a) Restrict nominations to attending members.
b) Restrict nominations to a jury.
c) Remove second year nominating rights.
d) Increase supporting membership fees.
e) Ban bad actors.
f) Restrict nominating to members with consecutive years of membership.
3. Nomination
a) Implement slate detection algorithms (These were mentioned last year. What would they look like?).
b) Allow the membership to confirm nominations through a long list (DN).
c) Allow membership to deny nominations through a long list (3SV)
d) Empower the admins to remove ballots of bad actors.
e) Empower the admins to add a limited number of nominees in years with bad actors (A+2)
f) Empower a jury to add a limited number of overlooked nominees to the short list (Juried+2)
g) Algorithmically filter the nominations (EPH, EPH+, Diluted Nomination, Frozen Nomination, NOTE: Jameson Quinn is working on another algorithm variant, as yet unnamed, to incorporate a ‘satisfaction index’ and achieve A+2 type results in conjunction with EPH programmatically).
h) Restrict the nominations relative to the field (4/6)
j) Empower the admins or a jury to remove works which tend to bring discredit on WorldCon
k) Allow the membership to vote on expanding just the number of nominees on a given year’s shortlist.
4. Voting
a) Filter the votes by preference ranking (IRV)
b) Veto bad actors (No Award)

There is much active discussion on these – particularly 3c “3SV” which has a 2nd round of voting in which members get to throw out some works from a longlist. In my earlier post about EPH I said that I thought it works better than people were saying because it prevents a briefer forcing No Award on a category. Others (particularly Jim Henley) have pointed out that it doesn’t stop a whole range of other bad-effects. The bad-effects are what motivates a griefer to grief. While they can still gain one of these negative achievements they still have an incentive to make other people miserable.

So based on what other people have said here is a list. Again Jim Henley originated some of these but this is how I understood them – so credit to him for good things and blame to me for bad things about the list 🙂

List of possible things to be solved.

In the list GSBA stands for griefer or slater or bad actor of some kind.

Three meta-level issues

A. The GSBA undermining the reputation of the awards
B. The GSBA demoralising the participating members (and hence also achieve A)
C. The GSBA makes the awards administratively to complex
D. The GSBA uses the awards process to harass/defame either specific individuals or groups
E. The GSBA forces a change in the character of the awards

Specific issues

  1. Harassment/libel of members of the community by the GSBA via nominated works. e.g. stories in which a member of the community is defamed or violence is acted out towards them
  2. Blocking the nomination of a declared enemy of the GSBA  e.g. stopping Tropes vs Women getting a nomination for best related work by using a slate to sweep the category
  3. Blocking by ‘king making’ of a declared enemy of the GSBA e.g. throwing the weight of a block of voters against one finalist to stop somebody else winning and then boasting about it.
    3.5 Hostage taking. Nominating or otherwise associating the GSBA with a legitimate work to cause consternation and baffle voters.
  4.  Ridiculous nominations e.g. nominating obviously not good works to make the award look ridiculous.
    4.5 Nominating weak or poor quality works (e.g. some of the SP3 slate)
  5.   Forcing No Award on a category i.e. using a slate and a tactic like #4 so that members have no option other than to vote No Award. The GSBA doesn’t win but then neither does anybody else.
    5.5 Sweeping a category with works for reasons other than those covered elsewhere (again SP3 issues)
  6. General king making – I’m distinguishing this from 3 in so far as a minority faction may do this in good-faith or even without really thinking about it. The difference is the GSBA will tend to boast about it.
  7. Finalist label-bogarting i.e. getting to be a finalist with no hope of winning just so they can say ‘Hugo finalist’. In particular when this is done by a publisher.
  8. Hugo-packet ride-hitching i.e. becoming a finalist means that you get to have Worldcon distribute your work/samples to a wider audience.
  9. Publicity stunting i.e. the act itself gets you coverage and hence sales, blog hits, notoriety etc
  10.  Winning an award i.e. actually winning a Hugo award
  11.  Radicalization of sympathizers: the Rabids use a kind of Trotskyist model with the Sad – get them involved in a conflict which they will lose but gain more radical sympathizers as a result.
  12. In-group bonding. The Rabids use these kinds of actions as a way of making the group feel involved in something and actively fighting their perceived enemy

Of those #10 is a solved problem. No Award and the final voting system pretty much make it hard for the GSBA to win an award without massive effort. 11 and 12 are not directly solvable but by dealing with many of the others the process by which these work is disrupted – an attack on the Hugos that goes nowhere. The same is true of 10. Undermine success in the others and you undermine in general the publicity enjoyed by the GSBA. To get publicity they have to do something noteworthy.

That leaves 9 specific issues. How do each of the solutions do against the 9 issues? I’ll try and make a matrix of issues versus solutions and see what we see. But that is for next time…


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11 responses to “The Griefer Matrix [Update]”

  1. If you wanted to algorithmically detect slates, you’d presumably start looking for identical or near-identical ballots, and particularly clusters of ballots with massive overlap. Over fifteen categories with five slots in each, identical ballots are wildly improbable, so even a small number of them would be a dead giveaway.

    In practice, I suspect it’s easier to just empower administrators to boot ballots based on evidence of organized slates, with a transparency requirement describing the number of ballots and nature of the evidence. Stop playing keep-up with Vox and just empower administrators to fix the damn problem.


    • Doesn’t that then lead to the reiteration of the original refrain that a small cabal is fixing things? (I mean, let’s set aside the obvious rebuttal to this that a small cabal *has* been fixing things for the last couple of years; said cabal comprising one person.)
      The argument is that whatever system is employed, it needs to empower the whole electorate, partly in order to specifically counter the position of those who say that wider democracy is a bad thing. (And yes, some sort of transparency expansion needs to be included in the reforms too, whatever else happens.) Involving some sort of jury, even at a minor level, risks giving the impression of “we know best”, and look how well that has worked out for, say, the US Republican Party this year…

      Liked by 1 person

      • These all seem like minor concerns compared to the fact that the Hugos have been reduced to a festering trash fire such that “nominated for a Hugo Award” is no longer a phrase that carries with it any implication of quality and the best most categories can aspire towards is rubber-stamping the book that got the most nominations as the winner.


      • @David Brain: Put simply. I don’t care if it leads people who wish fandom only ill and have devoted time and money across two years to ruining the experience of their fellow fans and harming authors’ reputations and livelihoods say a thing.


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