I don't have a good lead-in, but if you click below the break, you can treat yourself to some of my patented ramblings. Today's topic? That little thumbs-down button on FIMFiction: an entirely imaginary case study.
By quite a large margin, Going Up is the story of mine with the most FIMFic views. As I type this, the story has 2494 views, 343 thumbs-ups, 284 favorites, 84 comments (81, if you don't count my own)... and three thumbs-downs.
Now, by my calculations, that means that right around 0.1% of readers were disappointed enough in the story to give it a thumbs-down, and those are numbers I'll take any day for any story. But when I see that little red three sitting there amidst all the other feel-good stats, it does make me wonder: who were those three people, and what did they see in my fic that turned them off? The comments don't give any clues; no "I hated such-and-such about this story," or even just a "I hated this story," period. I've gotten some (wonderful!) constructive criticism on it, but I'm pretty sure the people I got it from aren't the three I'm wondering about.
It's not that I can't imagine anyone disliking the story, mind you. It's true that it's pretty inoffensive, but that's not the same as saying that everyone should love it. I don't even mind that they didn't leave comments, though it would have been nice. It's just that... well, I don't actually know who these three people were, or what it was, specifically, that they didn't like.
So I assigned them each personalities.
I gave them each names, too. I think there's something wrong with me.
Anyway, we'll start with Carl. Carl's a nice enough guy, but he's something of a contrarian. He saw this story sitting at a hundred and fifty or so thumbs-ups, with not a single thumbs-down to counterbalance. As soon as he saw that, Carl knew that someone had to be That Guy, and he was just the Guy to do it.
That's not to say he mashed the thumbs-down button as soon as he saw the numbers, mind you. No, he opened up the story and skimmed through it. "Well," he said to himself, a few minutes later, "It's not awful, but most of it's just these two ponies talking. And the way the narrator talks to the reader sometimes is weird..." He looked back at the red zero which marked the stories downvote total. "...Yeah, it wasn't that good," he said to himself, as he clicked it.
The next neigh-sayer was Wilbur. Wilbur mostly reads grimdark stuff and warfics; he plays a lot of Call of Duty, and doesn't blow himself up with rocket launchers nearly as much as I do, whenever I try my hand at it. Anyway, Wilbur clicked open the story on a whim.
"That's it?" he grunted, when he finished reading (I don't know why my imaginary people are so bent on declaiming to their computer screens, but they are). "That was boring. Why do people like this crap?" He glanced back at the description. "Yeah, who wants to read a kid's story, seriously. These people need to grow up." Then he absentmindedly tapped the thumbs-down as he closed out the window.
The last person was Todd. Todd read a recommendation of the story which described it as "really funny." Well, Todd likes funny things (who doesn't?), so he decided to give it a try.
After he was done with the fic, he sighed while biting his lip and stared off into the middle distance. "I guess it was okay," he mumbled, "but it wasn't really very funny. Well, the bit about Carrot Top's weight was, but a lot of the jokes were really drawn out. I suppose pacing isn't a big deal for a story this whimsical, but the digressions do get old after a while. And I really didn't like the way it felt like the author was talking down to me. Wow, that's a fifteen minute story that could have been half as long without losing anything." He hovered his pointer over the downvote button, then paused. "Hmm..." He wavered. Then he clicked. "Yeah."
I'm quite certain I'm oh-for-three on reasons, personalities, and all the rest, but in a weird way, picturing those people eases my curiosity a bit. Even if they're just two of my friends and myself mentally dressed up as fanfic-reading strangers.