Wednesday, February 10, 2010
A number of people have been expressing their concern about the levels of negativity on Authonomy of late. (My two cents worth is posted here.) The community is awash with personalities that conflict and the race for the Editor's Desk takes a toll on the sanity of those with books in range. People are getting discouraged by all the chaos.
However, I found (and lifted word for word) this open letter to the Powers-that-be and a very gratifying reply:
Keefie Boy: There is so much negativity in the forum these days. And with good reason. The system is broken. We have people offering guaranteed backing in return for a backing. We even have people with sock puppets offering 2 for 1. In what way, do you suppose, does this 'flush out the brightest, freshest new writing talent around'?
No, you're right, it doesn't. It flushes out the sneakiest, most amoral people on the site. Maybe you (Authonomy), don't see that as a problem. You published Sarah Palin, so it wouldn't surprise me.
Us boring, normal(ish) people are getting seriously fed up with the fun and games, though. (Okay, I shouldn't presume to speak for the majority (see what a reasonable guy I am?), but I don't think many people will argue with what I'm saying). There's a gazillion threads on here containing proposals on how to fix the voting system. I'd be very interested to see an answer, one way or the other. Is Authonomy happy with the way things are, or are there going to be changes?
The Site Admin answers:
We hear you, and the countless voices that have raised this issue in the past. We are not unsympathetic to the view that the system has its shortcomings, but it is worth pointing out the simple fact that this website has allowed HarperCollins to acquire more titles than any other unsolicited submission system (more announcements soon). It is considered a great success. Other publishers and agents have also picked up authors from the site. All round, that is good for new authors, good for readers, good for publishers and good for the future of authonomy.
But as you know from your long tenure here, we are not averse to change. We have modified the algorithms of the site in the past and will do so in the future, as required. However given the rapid and ongoing growth of authonomy, the implications of any changes are now far more difficult to predict. We have to consider the likely impact in a holistic way, not just with respect to the efficacy of the Editor's Desk. We think about this a great deal and will not be hasty.
authonomy was founded on the principle of giving over control to writers and readers, (albeit in a small way, so far) – the clue is in the name after all – but with this comes a degree of individual responsibility. The general criticisms made of authonomy, editors and other industry gatekeepers is a diversion from the reality that the outcome of the authonomy charts is determined solely by the authonomy users. As a wonderful community full of individuals able to think and express yourselves, to inform, amuse, rant, persuade and cajole, you already have everything at your disposal. This is not an argument against us attempting to improve the site – we will be – but the true responsibility for the success (or failure) of this site will always rest with you all.
We'll gladly accept the accusation of idealism, but ask yourselves, do you really want more rules, more hurdles, more gatekeepers?
When I put my Tech-hat on I see the point – changing the algorithms of the site at this point could set off rippling aftershocks that make the Starcraft invasion look like a mere traffic issue.
Litopia – another writer's colony – still isn't completely running after a major software update. While the colony appears intact – the 'daily' podcast hasn't happened in over a month. If that doesn't mean serious software issues, I'll eat my laptop.
BTW – did you see that beautiful bold text? It is considered a great success. TaDa – we have arrived at a wonderful (if frightening) conclusion – the system works better than anything they tried in the past. Authonomy has justified itself with just a scant handful of titles.
Think about it, more titles than ANY previous system; say a dozen "full reads" in a year and a half, minus the ones that got away? This evokes an image of the 'slush pile' a ten-foot high room stuffed to the rafters – with 'Harry Potter,' 'Twilight' AND 'Jurassic Park' (maybe even 'Gone with the Wind') somewhere inside – unread.
Rumor has it, that Authonomy has become Harper Collins' private fish tank – the employees drop into the forums. I'm sure that the water-cooler topics include the latest spats. Since I'm riveted to the site – I'm sure that other's are as well. Facebook doesn't have this kind of entertainment value – a cross between 'Survivor' and 'Idol' with 'One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest' thrown in for spice.
"A great success…" in spite of the flame wars – the whining – the sock-puppets (my biggest complaint is the sock-puppets) and the cast of characters – just goes to show how poorly the old system worked. So the experiment continues –we stumble blindly into the future of publishing.
Authonomy is not the only site of its kind. There are many others, I find them all the time. It is the one where I spend the most time, a little guppy in the big fish tank of publishing.
I'm never going to get any work done at this rate. (G)