A bit more Wiki fact checking

One of the angry claims swirling around Puppy-Facebook groups is that Wikipedia is targetting Baen authors in general. To add to that claim Sharon Lee did have a notability tag added to her page on July 22 2019 [https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Sharon_Lee_(writer)&oldid=907340785 ] which has since been removed. I’ve since seen it claimed that over half or most of the authors listed on Baen’s Wikipedia page have various warnings added to them.

Is this true? As of about 10:30 am July 26 Sydney time when I visited each and every author’s page listed on the Baen page, no, it isn’t. There are 42 authors listed. 41 have Wikipedia pages (Andrew Dennis links to a page about a book series). Of those 15 have warning boxes of one kind or another at the start of their page — mainly “This biography of a living person needs additional citations for verification.” Note that among the people listed are very notable authors who aren’t specifically associated with Baen more generally e.g. Andre Norton whose page warns us:

This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. The specific problem is: Remove unreferenced text, original research, etc. (November 2014) This article is written like a personal reflection, personal essay, or argumentative essay that states a Wikipedia editor’s personal feelings or presents an original argument about a topic. (March 2013)This article may require cleanup to meet Wikipedia’s quality standards. The specific problem is: Remove unreferenced text, original research, etc. (November 2014)

That’s the thing about Wikipedia: you get the page that your fans write for you but with edits by passers by.

The mean year of a warning is 2015. Some pages have had unresolved issues since 2008. I don’t know the politics of every author listed on that page but I couldn’t see any particular political pattern.

Of course that doesn’t exclude there being some specific campaign going on right now but in general, warnings etc on books by Baen authors are just the usual stuff you’ll find on Wikipedia with no particular pattern

Full data after the fold.

For pedantic readers only

A dinosaur’s world

As I’m writing about dinosaurs in SF, Hugos and because I’ve written about book covers a lot, I just need to write a short post about the cover art to “The Mystery of Ireta” aka Dinosaur Planet book 1 and 2 (2004 Del Rey edition)

Here’s the cover art zoomed in:

Cover art to The Mystery of Ireta by Anne McCaffery, Del Ray 2004, art by Bob Eggleton
Cover art to The Mystery of Ireta by Anne McCaffery, Del Ray 2004, art by Bob Eggleton

It does rather look like that the t-rex is trying to spit rainbows at that pterodactyl. There’s obviously a lot of skill and thought put into the painting but the composition is a bit off.

The painting is actually by the Hugo Award winning artist Bob Eggleton, who has painted many many dinosaurs, dragons and Godzillas over the years. He’s been a finalist for Best Professional Artist over twenty times and won eight times — so he knows his stuff.

The issue becomes a bit clearer when looking at the same image on his website:

‘Sue’s World” by Bob Eggleton http://www.bobeggleton.com/images/suesworld.jpeg
‘Sue’s World” by Bob Eggleton http://www.bobeggleton.com/images/suesworld.jpeg

The poor pterodactyl got moved so that it would fit into the cropped section of the bigger painting. The move put the flying reptile along the same band as the t-rex’s gaze and the two rainbows creating that weird visual connection between the two animals.

The painting itself also has a Hugo connection:

“Sue’s World (2000) Done for one of the two covers for the program books to Chicon 2000, held in Chicago Aug 31st to Sept. 4th 2000. Chicago’s Field Museum is the home to “Sue” the T-Rex, the largest T-Rex skeleton ever found.”

http://www.bobeggleton.com/html/Galleries/Dinosaurs/dino3.html

Chicon 2000 being the 58th Worldcon. To tie that back into the Hugosauriad, Michael Swanwick’s “Scherzo with Tyrranosaur” won the Hugo for Best Short Story that year. And for File 770 readers, guess who won Best Fanzine that year!

Are Sad Puppy Supporters Attacking Sad Pup Wikipages Now?

Here’s a weird twist on the ongoing temper tantrum. There was a very brief attempt to flag Brad Torgersen’s Wikipedia page as being not notable (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Brad_R._Torgersen&diff=907713026&oldid=907687297 ). The attempt was slapped down by Wikipedia editors fairly promptly for the obvious reason that Brad may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but he’s got a pile of evidence of notability.

On Facebook Brad is claiming victim status:

“I’ve been alerted to the fact that digital vandals of a distinctly “woke” persuasion have been trying to get my Wikipedia listing deleted for being (and I quote) Not A Notable Author.”

I suppose it’s not a huge leap to assume the politics of somebody trying to downgrade Brad’s page might be on the left except…well it was from an IP address account without much of a trail targetting an account that was very unlikely to be deleted*. And here’s another thing…shortly before this attempt was made on Brad’s page, Michael Z Williamson ‘predicted’ it would happen on his own Facebook page [archive link].

Notably, experienced editors dealing with the various cases of harassment and sockpuppetry from Williamson’s supporters over his page deletion argument, far from targetting Brad’s page were arguing for his (and John Ringo’s) page to be protected [see comment time stamped at 15:13, 24 July 2019 (UTC) here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Administrators%27_noticeboard/Incidents#Long-term_sockpuppetry_at_AFD ]

Notably, Williamson is also boasting that he called in advance the other ‘targets’ of deletion: Tom Kratman and Sarah Hoyt. This appears to be true and interestingly in the order that the events happened. Curious.

Both Williamson and Kratman had weak pages and as has been discussed their notability genuinely is not straightforward to establish against Wikipedia’s guidelines. Sarah Hoyt’s though was stronger (although her page is puffed up) and Torgersen is straight forwardly notable. If some leftist was on a crusade against puppy author pages there are easier targets [not going to point them out].

How many finalists? Crunching continued…

This is a follow up to the earlier post. Read that post first for background and the data I’m looking at.

I’ve looked at 2018 Hugo data for both stages:

  • The nomination stage by EPH
  • The final voting stage by IRV

My impression was that there are some changes in the ranking between the two but not so many as to cast doubt on the nomination process itself nor so few changes as to make the final voting stage redundant. It looks like things are pretty much in a sweet spot:

  • final winners are often the top finalists — which implies there’s not a mismatch between how people nominate and how they vote (or between the people voting at each stage etc)
  • low ranked finalists often do better in the final voting — which implies that there is a lot of value in a two stage process.

To show that here is a graph of how the rankings compare between EPH stage 1 and IRV stage 2 of the Hugo voting process:

The width of a blob indicates the frequency of that pair of ranks. For example there were 9 cases of 1st rank EPH coming 1st in the final stage and 10 cases of 4th ranked finalist coming 3rd in the final stage. I’m not sure if a simple linear regression is appropriate with this data but Excel tells me that the first stage voting accounts for about 25% of the variance in the second stage ranks.

However, can we look at this data and say how long the finalist list should be? Are there ENOUGH finalists? Should there be a list of 7 or 8? Putting administrative and practical limits aside I think we can examine this question with the data.

Obviously, I’m only looking at one year, so any conclusions are tentative and limited. I could look further but recent data is weird due to Puppy activities and there have been rule changes since. So, I’m sticking with 2018 (also I’m lazy).

One graph I drew was to look at the distribution of the differences in rank between the two stages.

Again we can see that no change (zero on the x-axis) is common but that bigger changes in rank happen. Unfortunately, we really can’t take this as being true of every ranking. Obviously rank 6 finalists can only either stay the same of go upwards.

A different way of thinking about the issue would be to consider what would happen with different number of finalists. For example, what if in 2018 there was only 1 finalist per category? Yes, that’s silly be we can work out that of the 15 categories I looked at, 9 would have the same winner as what actually happened and that 6 wouldn’t. 1 finalist would contain 60% of the actual winners.

  • 1 finalist: 9 or 60% of winners
  • 2 finalists: 12 or 80% of winners
  • 3 finalists: 14 or 93% of winners
  • 4 finalists: 14 or 93% of winners (i.e. no extra winners)
  • 5 finalists: 15 or 100% of winners
  • 6 finalists: 15 or 100% of winners

So for most categories 3 finalists would just about do. Adding finalists after 3 brings only small gains but 2018 still need 5 finalists to capture all the eventual winners.

Now, obviously, if we added more finalists people’s choices and the voting would change but we can see from the trend that the gains trail off quickly after 3 finalists.

So is five enough? Five clearly works but that’s actually an argument for having six finalists if you want to be confident you’ve got all the plausible contenders. As we definitely got one fifth ranked finalist winning a category (Rebecca Roanhorse in the Campbell Award) there’s maybe a 6% chance of rank 5 finalist winning (one winner out of 15).

Add in the possibility of one finalist being in some way dodgy or have cheated etc then 6 is a safe contingency. Does the same argument not work for 7 or 8 finalists? No, because we can see that the gains trail off rapidly after 3 finalists. Five is probably enough, six is almost certainly enough.

John Scalzi is wading into the Wiki-fuss

John Scalzi has added his two-cents to the on-going Articles for Deletion discussion at Wikipedia:

Strong keep – Folks, Mr. Williamson has been regularly publishing commercial science fiction with a major publishing house for over a decade and a half, has been nominated for major awards (not without controversy BUT also not in violation of the rules that existed at the time, for better or worse) and has been an active member of science fiction’s fandom for at least as long as he’s been a published author. If he doesn’t qualify as notable enough for a Wikipedia article, then you’re going to have be deleting the articles of dozens of other science fiction authors of similar notability. Don’t delete them, and don’t delete Mr. Williamson’s entry, either. On the basis of his work, he very well deserves inclusion on Wikipedia. Edit the article so it maintains Wikipedia standards, obviously. But let it stand. —Scalzi (talk) 01:05, 24 July 2019 (UTC)”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Michael_Z.Williamson(2nd_nomination)

Wait, how can I be sure that’s actually John Scalzi? Well, the sentiment is repeated at his blog (and he confirms it in a comment):

“Looking at the disposition of this particular set of nonsense, it does seem like Williamson and Hoyt were targeted for deletion on the basis of their politics and/or association with the Puppy bullshit, and this is, well, silly. Wikipedia isn’t the place to settle this particular set of scores, and honestly, at this point there shouldn’t be any further scores to settle on that incident.”

https://whatever.scalzi.com/2019/07/24/a-couple-of-bits-on-hugo-award-proposals-and-attempted-wikipedia-deletions/

I’m not sure he is correct about the motives and to some extent motive is secondary as to whether the articles are on notable subjects or not. He’s right though, that across the spectrum there are a lot of author profiles of authors on Wikipedia that are equally weak on establishing notability.

Back on Wikipedia, John S has another comment:

“To be clear, there’s nothing charitable about my assessment of Mr. Williamson’s notability. It’s doubtful he’d want my assessment because as far as I know, he kind of hates my guts at the moment. Nevertheless, there’s textual support for his notability as a writer, starting with his entry in the Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, which in its print and online versions is a highly reputable source. His actual and substantial bibliography is not in dispute, nor is his Hugo nomination, in a category that has been deemed acceptable for Wikipedia’s purposes in the articles of other science fiction authors (ask me how I know). Now, I do understand that as the former president of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, a New York Times bestseller and a three-time Hugo Award winner, including Best Novel, I may not be considered a good assessor of who is notable in the field that I’ve been working in actively for fifteen years. But to the extent that this track record is acceptable to you as sufficient perspective, I would say there’s enough to Mr. Williamson’s career to keep him in Wikipedia. —Scalzi (talk) 15:52, 24 July 2019 (UTC)”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/Michael_Z.Williamson(2nd_nomination)

Essentially John S is arguing for a different standard of notability. As I sad yesterday, I’m sympathetic to that and ‘published a lot of books by a trad publisher strikes me as a reasonable criteria for inclusion [that’s not a dig at Indie published authors — it’s just that they need different ways of establishing notability].

Crunching reform or rollback

There is an on-going discussion at File770 on the 5/6 Hugo nomination rule:

While the Sad and Rabid Puppies slates were filling up most of the slots on the 2015 and 2016 Hugo ballots, majorities at the Worldcon business meetings passed and ratified several rules changes that made it much more difficult for that to keep on happening. The success of these majorities has tended to overshadow how many fans did not want any changes made – no matter how often Vox Day dictated what made the ballot – or else did not want these particularchanges made. And there are business meeting regulars who evidently feel now is the time to start turning back the clock.  
Here’s a matched set of proposals to end the “5 and 6” part of the Hugo nomination reforms. If you are going to the Dublin 2019 business meeting, you will have to decide whether the claims made about convenience and efficiency warrant undoing the protective rules put on the books just a few years ago.

http://file770.com/reform-or-rollback/

The proposal states that:

“The losers will be those who had placed sixth in recent years. There is only one case of a sixth-placed finalist at nominations stage going on to win the Hugo in the last three years (the rather odd situation of Best Fan Artist in 2017, where two finalists were disqualified). On the other hand, a reduced pool of finalists increases the cachet of being among that number.”

I have some doubts about this point. Firstly, 2017 and 2018 isn’t a lot to go on and 2017 still had some residual Rabid Puppy action and hence isn’t a great example for 6th places. We really only have 2018 as ‘regular’ year of the two big voting reforms EPH and 5/6.

I won’t rehash all the arguments from the File770 discussion (at least not yet) but I did want to look at the specific issue of how likely is it that a 6th place nominee might win the Hugo in their category.

Obviously, there are zero examples of this from 2018 but it would be wrong to infer that the answer is therefore zero chance. Instead, I decided to look at how ranks change between the EPH nomination stage and the instant run-off voting (IRV) final stage.

To do that I looked at the nomination rank (EPH) and final rank (IRV) of Hugo and Campbell nominees from 2018. I discarded categories which had declined nominations because I felt they might have weird impacts. Here’s an example of the Novel data:

IRV EPH Dif Mag Finalist Category
1 1 0 0 The Stone Sky Novel
5 2 -3 3 Raven Stratagem Novel
4 3 -1 1 Six Wakes Novel
3 4 1 1 Provenance Novel
2 5 3 3 The Collapsing Empire Novel
6 6 0 0 New York 2140 Novel

In the example: IRV column shows the rank of the work through the elimination process; EPH shows the nomination rank; Dif is EPH minus IRV (negative means the work was less popular in the 2nd stage); Mag is the magnitude of the change regardless of direction.

The average difference has to come to zero (everything balances out) but the (mean) average of the magnitude comes to 1.27 i.e. on average finalists shift about one place from first round to second round. Of the 90 finalists listed 25 had no change, 34 changed by 1 (i.e. the modal change), 19 by 2, 7 by 3, 4 by 4 and only 1 by 5. That last change was a drop from 1 to 6 rather than a rise but does demonstrate the scale of possible change.

How about 6th placers in general? The magnitude of the shift for those ranked 6th in nominations was 1.2 but that was also the average of the difference (i.e. with direction). Of course, if you are in 6th place you can’t get a negative change in your rank in the second stage because you can’t get lower (assuming you don’t get No Award of course and I didn’t model that).

Of the 15 6th placers I looked at, 5 didn’t shift at all, 4 shifted up by 1, 5 shifted by 2 and 1 shifted by 4 (Sheila Williams in Best Editor Short).

I’ll put all the numbers after the fold but I think the figures point to it being unlikely in general that a 6th placer will go on to win in the second round but not so unlikely that we won’t see it every so often.

Data in EPH rank descending order after the fold.

Continue reading “Crunching reform or rollback”

Bronte’s Egg Update

It took more effort than usual but I finally got a copy of Bronte’s Egg by Richard Chwedyk. The anthology “A Fistful of Dinosaurs” (edited by Jim LeMay Edited and Charles Eugene Anderson) has Chwedyk’s earlier “Saurs” story “The Measure of All Things” but Bronte’s Egg has so far only been anthologised in Nebula Awards Showcase 2004 (ed by Vonda McIntyre). Amazon has used copies of that but not from a vendor who would ship to Australia. Amazon.com.au had a copy but…

AU$109.13 ! And, oddly, it ships from the US. No, non-Amazon online vendor in Australia had a copy nor did some of the more expansive second hand bookshops.

Luckily, somebody known to the meat robot actually had a copy of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction from 2002 where the story originally appeared. This was very serendipitous as I really couldn’t justify over a hundred dollars.

I have to say that I enjoyed both the Measure of All Things and Bronte’s Egg very much. I’m surprised there’s not a collected version.

In other news: Dinosaur Planet is still on its way.

Today’s right wing author meltdown…

Michael Z Williamson is very upset that Wikipedia is discussing deleting his page:http://www.michaelzwilliamson.com/blog/index.php?itemid=502 .

I’ve some sympathy, mainly because I often write about obscure right wing authors and being able to point to a Wikipedia page is handy. However, the Articles for Deletion page [wiki, archive] makes some strong arguments: specifically the article doesn’t establish his notability with third party sources.

Rather than address those issues, the deletion argument is getting swamped by really bad arguments, presumably from Williamson fans egged on by Williamson via his multiple Facebook accounts. A moments thought would have indicated that trying to brigade Wikipedia into keeping an article by throwing the standard paranoid line of ‘politics, bias!’ would be counterproductive. There are few people sensibly trying to offer suggestions of sources for notability who are getting swamped by really poor arguments by obvious partisans.

Meanwhile, Jon Del Arroz has waded in with his usual journalistic standards:

“Now, years later, big tech is taking its revenge on Michael as they’ve deleted his wikipedia page. The excuse is his relation to “sad puppies” — which goes back to a group that was trying to bring the Hugo Awards back to sanity several years ago.”

http://delarroz.com/2019/07/22/bestselling-author-michael-z-williamson-erased-from-history-over-politics/#comments

At this point his page hasn’t been deleted [it was briefly and restored] and ‘Sad Puppies’ hasn’t been offered as an excuse (it has been mentioned as a place his entry could be redirected to).

‘But wait!’ I hear myself say rhetorically ‘Don’t all the right read Voxopedia these days instead?’ Apparently not.

Hugosauriad Update

The Jurassic is circling the airport as I’m still waiting for a copy of Dinosaur Planet by Anne McCaffrey to be delivered. Otherwise, the only other story that I’ve not sourced yet is “Brontë’s Egg” by Richard Chwedyk (appears in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, August 2002 and in Nebula Awards Showcase 2004 but otherwise hasn’t been anthologised as far as I can tell).

I went down a bit of a rabbit hole trying to track 1990’s internet science fiction communities, the brief life of the HOMer Awards (and Compuserve forums) and also some of the history behind Robert J Sawyer’s short time as President of the SWFA. How much of that, if anything, will work its way in I have no idea.

I think I also need to write something about how our understanding of the extinction of the dinosaurs have changed their representation thematically. There is still a metaphorical use of ‘dinosaur’ as something outdated and past its time but from the 1980s on, there’s a sense of dinosaurs just being unlucky and deserving of a second chance. Presumably because of how the idea of a catastrophic event killing the dinosaurs changes the ‘moral’ of their story. Also maybe as our understanding that mammals were not new comers at the end of the age of dinosaurs makes the idea of furry ancestors superseding the dinosaurs by being smarter or quicker less tenable.