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Forum: Editors/Reviewers Hangout

Reviewing Reviewers

richardshagrin

We ought to consider discussing individual reviewers and their reviews. It might be a good way to improve our reviews or at least gain access to a lot of good stories that were reviewed in the fairly distant past. Well, the 20th century when SOL started seem pretty distant to me. The first stories here didn't even have story descriptions.

I think I will start with Jais Nereis who was Rachel Ross (rache and a lot of other pseudonyms.) She wrote very literate reviews that praised unusual attributes about stories. She may have been the most successful story writer who was also a reviewer. I recommend you look at the 25 stories she reviewed as stories as well as the reviews she made of them. This isn't the best possible way to suggest improvements in our reviews, very few of us, if any, have her skills with language and unusual viewpoints. There is at least on other skilled reviewer I would like to recommend reviewers to read, but it is late and I will do it in another post, probably tomorrow.

awnlee jawking

@richardshagrin

I appreciate the idea but I'm not sure how it's going to work in principle.

Some reviews on this site are littered with grammar and spelling errors, so how qualified are their writers to rate the technical qualities of stories? Some reviewers award high scores to stories which satisfy their particular kinks but have less general appeal. How do you review those reviewers without coming across as negative? Is a below-average reviewer better than no reviewer?

I'd like to see something like appears on many shopping websites, whereby readers of a review are asked a yes/no question - 'Did you find this review useful?'

AJ

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Some reviewers award high scores to stories which satisfy their particular kinks but have less general appeal. How do you review those reviewers without coming across as negative?

I would start by giving a score of 1 to any reviewer who scores any story as 3 tens.

richardshagrin

@Ross at Play

I would start by giving a score of 1 to any reviewer who scores any story as 3 tens.

I suspect there aren't any reviewers who pass your test.

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Sadly even a reviewer as good as Celeste was prone to doing that.

AJ

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@awnlee jawking

Celeste

I am glad you mentioned her name. She was the other reviewer I was going to recommend. She only reviewed 25 stories here all but one in 2002 and 14 of those reviews were stories by a single author. No, I don't know if he was married or not. Her reviews were literate and experienced as she had done reviews on ASSTR and before it was ASSTR. I looked her up on line and there wasn't much I could reach but there were several favorable comments, comparing her reviews favorably to the ones by other reviewers on SOL. Perhaps her most useful lesson is that the length of a review does not have to be the same from review to review. Really short ones sometimes work as well as longer ones.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@richardshagrin

She only reviewed 25 stories


According to 'reviews by reviewer', she reviewed 79 stories.

AJ

Replies:   richardshagrin
richardshagrin

@awnlee jawking

You are right. I was just looking at the first of 3 pages of reviews by Celeste, and I didn't count correctly that page. It was late, or maybe early, and I am only partly awake at that hour.

Keet

@Ross at Play

I would start by giving a score of 1 to any reviewer who scores any story as 3 tens.

That's the main reason why I find the reviews unusable. Way too many stories with only 9's and 10's. So which are the exceptionally good ones? Those numbers should be reserved for just a few exceptional stories. A generally good story should have 8's.

Replies:   Jim S  Ross at Play
Jim S

@Ross at Play

I would start by giving a score of 1 to any reviewer who scores any story as 3 tens.

Unless they're a rookie. It is a beginner's mistake after all.

Jim S
Updated:

@Keet


That's the main reason why I find the reviews unusable. Way too many stories with only 9's and 10's. So which are the exceptionally good ones? Those numbers should be reserved for just a few exceptional stories. A generally good story should have 8's.


One thing I find limiting as a reviewer is the ability to assign cardinal scores only if I choose to assign one. It would be helpful to have at least one decimal place available. The reason is I feel that the scoring system isn't on an even scale; rather it appears to be mildly exponential, i.e. the gap between 7 and 8 is a lot larger than the one between 3 and 4 in terms of the change in quality. Having decimal ability would alleviate that somewhat.

Replies:   Keet
Ross at Play

@Keet

Way too many stories with only 9's and 10's.

That's about it.

I was exaggerating a bit, and I wouldn't want to be dictatorial about what any number should mean, but when there's almost no range in the scores reviewers give out then they have no meaning at all: a review means nothing more than the story is one of the reviewer's personal favourites. :(

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@Jim S

One thing I find limiting as a reviewer is the ability to assign cardinal scores only if I choose to assign one. It would be helpful to have at least one decimal place available. The reason is I feel that the scoring system isn't on an even scale; rather it appears to be mildly exponential, i.e. the gap between 7 and 8 is a lot larger than the one between 3 and 4 in terms of the change in quality. Having decimal ability would alleviate that somewhat.

I agree that there's psychological gap differences. If a story scores 3 or 4 makes no difference, it's "not a good" story. 7 to 8 makes a 'normal' story a good story so that gap seems indeed much bigger. Compared to the current status of existing scores it might be even better to remove those scores and let the review text speak for itself.
Comments like "good for romance lovers" or "science fiction geeks will like it very much" are much more usable.

Keet

@Ross at Play

See my comment to Jim S.

anim8ed

@Ross at Play

I would start by giving a score of 1 to any reviewer who scores any story as 3 tens.


I wonder what score people like me would get. I don't use the scores. If you want to know what I thought about the story you have to actually read the review.

Replies:   Ross at Play
PotomacBob

@richardshagrin

To me, as a reader, the least important part of the review is whether the reviewer liked the story.
What I want is enough description so I can determine, before I read, whether I think I would like the story.
I read a review that went along these lines (paraphrased): I really liked this story and I'm not going to ruin the surprises by telling you what it's about. Go read it for yourself.

Ross at Play

@anim8ed

I don't use the scores. If you want to know what I thought about the story you have to actually read the review.

That's downright devious. I love it. :-)

Safe_Bet

If a story scores 3 or 4 makes no difference, it's "not a good" story. 7 to 8 makes a 'normal' story a good story


My question is why would someone review a story that merits a 3 - 4? The Review Guidelines makes it pretty clear that if you think it is a "3" story then you shouldn't be reviewing it in the first place.

As for "reviewing the reviewers" I had that happen the other day. A reviewer "reviewed" a story a day or so after I did and disagreed with my giving a story a "7/6/7".

I would have been okay with that, but the reviewer decided to take me personally to task for it solely because he liked "burn the bitch" stories, yet admitted the my criticism regarding the ending was valid. It also irked me that no scores were given so I couldn't see what rating he would have given it.

If you're going to "review the reviewer", and disagree with a prior review, I think you best have a valid basis for it. To me, "They're wrong" isn't legit and a review without scores is nothing but fan mail.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Safe_Bet

I read the story to see what the kerfuffle was about. Apart from 'I have a slightly different take on this story then did the previous reviewer', you seemed to have very similar opinions.

I think your 6 for quality could be considered a little harsh - I've read worse stories to which reviewers have awarded 10s. I agree with your assessment of the ending. It was a neat, albeit expected, twist, but the way it was presented was unsatisfying.

I was also unsatisfied by the other reviewer's lack of scores. If reviewers are going to eschew the scoring system, I think it should be incumbent upon them to supply the equivalent of each category as narrative.

AJ

Replies:   Safe_Bet
Safe_Bet
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

I think your 6 for quality could be considered a little harsh - I've read worse stories to which reviewers have awarded 10s.


First of all, I consider Technical Quality not just to be the "quality" of the story (including things like character development, theme, consistent story line, etc.), but also to be the "science" of writing and should reflect things like grammar and sentence composition. If I've got that wrong, please let me know.

I've read stories that were a lot worse and got a "10", as well. I consider that "fanboy'ing" when that is done. I don't mind only writing generally positive reviews, but giving all "10"s undermines the rating system, IMO.

In the subject story there were multiple instances of improperly used synonyms and tenses that affected readability, so I was trying to keep it real and "rate it as I saw it", which would be a Technical "6" (which still equates to "not bad").

I also know that JPB usually writes MUCH better then that, so I might have been in a "tsk, tsk" mood when I wrote that review. LOL

SB

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Safe_Bet

I'd include things like character development and consistent story line in Plot.

Plot is the components that make up a story.
Technical is how you tell the story.

Theme? Why would you rate theme? If you don't like the theme of a story, like revenge in my novel Sexual Awakening, wouldn't that be Appeal?

Replies:   Safe_Bet
awnlee jawking

@Safe_Bet

First of all, I consider Technical Quality not just to be the "quality" of the story (including things like character development, theme, consistent story line, etc.), but also to be the "science" of writing and should reflect things like grammar and sentence composition. If I've got that wrong, please let me know.


FWIW, I approve of your view of technical quality. Some reviewers restrict it to spelling and punctuation without considering other aspects of story construction.

AJ

Safe_Bet

@Switch Blayde

I'd include things like character development and consistent story line in Plot.

Plot is the components that make up a story.
Technical is how you tell the story.

Theme? Why would you rate theme? If you don't like the theme of a story, like revenge in my novel Sexual Awakening, wouldn't that be Appeal?


Your definition of "plot" is different than what I learned (granted a LOOOOOONG time ago). I take a lot of liberties with the definition as it is, but I was taught that a "Plot" is the cause-and-effect relationship between major events in a storyline. When I review a plot that is what I TRY to stick to, but usually end up adding in the storyline. For things like character development, I usually include them under appeal because they help me flesh out "why" the story does or does not appeal to me. (and, yeah, I know that's a bit backasswards.)

BTW, have you ever read a story you thought, because the author told you, was about one thing and went a totally different direction? I ding for an inconsistent theme when I see it. I rate divergence from the stated theme, not the theme itself. It's like being told I was going to get Romeo & Juliet and end up with Mein Kampf. It basically is the writer being dishonest or oblivious (and I don't care which) and reflects a lot on the tags he/she selects, as well.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Safe_Bet

Your definition of "plot" is different than what I learned


Yeah, character development isn't plot. But when I only have Plot, Technical, and Appeal, for me it makes more sense to put it in Plot.

Plot is the story. Characters, suspense, twists, flow, etc.

Technical is how the story is told. Grammar, punctuation, spelling, vocabulary, sentence structure, pace, POV, showing vs telling, etc.

Appeal is how much I liked it. It's the most subjective of the three so it can vary greatly from reviewer to reviewer.

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