Friday, July 10, 2015

A Call for Guest Posts (and Some Other Stuff)

Today's post (and Monday's) come to you from scenic slightly-north-of-me; one of my co-workers needed some emergency house/pet-sitting, so I'm staying at his house for a few days while taking care of this little bundle of fuzz:

I was informed by reliable sources that it is required to include a picture
when one speaks of cute little dogs with yappy voices

I want to talk about a slightly longer upcoming absence, though: as those of you who've been around a while already know, I try to always take two weeks in summer to visit my relatives in Arizona, and this year those'll be the first two weeks of August.  And rather than leave this site in the lurch for two weeks (or worse, have to come up with that much of a buffer), I'm looking for some guests to fill in in my absence!  Some of you have done it before, others haven't, but there's no requirement for doing so other than the ability to write something interesting.  Click down below the break to find out more.

...And even if you aren't interested, click down if you want to find out what the results were of that questionnaire from last week.  It'd a double-whammy of non-reviews!

Guest Post Stuff

1) First, let me repeat: the only prerequisite to writing a guest post is being able to write something worth reading.  You don't need to be a fellow reviewer, a pony-famous author, or anything else (though you guys are welcome too, obviously); even if this is your first fandom foray, feel free to send me something--as long as you know how to spell and don't just send me a copy of your thesis on soybean subsidies in 19th century America, I'll take it.

2) So, what should you send me?  Well, that's up to you, and you can look through the guest column tag for some ideas of what other people have done in the past.  There are a few categories of things I'd suggest if you're not sure, however:

     a) A review of a story you particularly find interesting to dissect.  It doesn't need to be written in the style of a "Chris" blogpost, as long as it includes plenty of commentary and is generally informative.
     b) A review of a story I've reviewed that you particularly disagreed with, or felt could use expanding upon.
     c) General writing/pony writing commentary or advice.
     d) An author analysis; there's some details on what that encompasses here, and you can check out the ones I got last time via the author analysis (guest column) tag.

Of those, I'd especially like to see more of the author analyses; the ones I got last year were a delight to read, and I know they were widely enjoyed.  However, if you've got a good idea for a guest blog, go for it!

3) E-mail me to let me know you plan to do a guest post.  If you have an idea of what you want to do already, great!  If you want to run your idea past me, that's fine.  If you want to do a guest post but don't have any idea what it'll be yet, I'd still like to hear from you earlier rather than later; it makes it easier to plan if I know how many yesses and maybes I'm looking at.

4) E-mail me again before JULY 29th (that's just under three weeks from now) with your finished blog.  Format doesn't really matter; whether it's in a (shared) gdoc, a .docx file, or whatever, as long as it's well-written it works for me.

That's it!  That's how you get yourself in front of the coveted "people who visit Chris's blog" demographic!  I hope to hear from a few of you soon; the last few summer guest weeks have proven pretty popular, but more importantly: I love getting to see what everyone comes up with.

Results of the Questionnaire 

So, last week I asked you guys to sate my curiosity, and you did.  I got back over 50 responses, which seems pretty good to me (I probably wouldn't have filled it out; y'all are better internetters than I), and found out a few interesting things.  Obviously, there's nothing scientific about the poll and the sample is anything but random, but that doesn't mean the information isn't interesting!  As promised, I'm keeping any identifying stuff private, but there were a few interesting tidbits to emerge from the data.  I'll go through question by question:

1. Which of these best describes how often you read the reviews at OMPR?
I thought a lot of people only read the reviews of stories they'd already read--the pageviews I get on the most-read stories suggested that they're also the most-read reviews--but better than 3/4 of the respondents (not everyone answered every question) said they either read all the reviews, or have been reading them all since they stumbled upon me.  That's good; as well as I know the allure of seeing if someone will confirm your opinion, it's nice that a lot of people are (hopefully) finding stories to read or avoid from me.  I like doing that.

2. Which of these best describes how you feel about the reviews at OMPR?
Exactly one person chose one of the "I usually disagree with the reviews..." choices, which was a bit disappointing; I mean, I assume people will self-select toward reviews they consistently agree with and away from ones they don't, on the whole, but I put a premium on a reviewer's ability to provide useful information even to people who disagree with their assessment; as far as I'm concernedthere's no greater compliment than for someone to read a glowing review, say "it sounds like I'd hate that," (or read a negative review and say "that sounds pretty good to me") and be right--seems I might have some work to reach that ideal.

3.  Of the reviews you've read, which did you personally find most ENTERTAINING to read, and why?
Although "entertaining" isn't my #1 priority when reviewing a fic, I think a review ought to be enjoyable to read in its own right, in addition to being a means of adding or subtracting stories from one's to-read list; as such, I was curious what people found particularly enjoyable to read.

To my chagrin, but not really to my surprise, the most-mentioned post by a mile was Brotherly Bond, aka "that story Chris really hated."  I can appreciate the appeal of seeing someone tee off on a story... but that's something I generally try to avoid, even with stories I didn't like.  Not your guys' fault for enjoying something I try not to do, though--the fact that it was out-of-character for me was brought up more than once as the reason why someone found it entertaining.  Other answers that cropped up multiple times included (I'm paraphrasing multiple responses here) "very popular stories, like Fallout: Equestria and My Little Dashie," "Stories I hate that you gave bad reviews to," "Guest posts" (TAKE NOTE, GUYS; PEOPLE ARE EXCITED FOR YOU TO GO BACK UP TO THE TOP OF THIS POST AND DO YOUR GUEST THING), "Posts with parenthetical asides," and, to my surprise, "The NHL/fanfic bracket"--turns out I'm not the only hockey fan around here by a long shot.

4.  Of the reviews you've read, which did you personally find most INTERESTING to read, and why?
I was mostly interested to see how these responses would differ from the "most entertaining" list... and there was a fair bit of overlap in aggregate, if not (usually) in individuals.  There wasn't a broad consensus here, but responses that cropped up at least a few times included "Stories you and I disagree about," "very popular stories, like It's a Dangerous Business and My Roommate is a Vampire," "Stories I dislike where you put into words what bothered me about it," "Reviews that made me want to read the stories," "my story," and (of all things) "the First Sentences posts," which aren't technically reviews, but which three of you independently decided to mention anyway (two of you even like them!).

5.  Of the reviews you've read, which did you personally find most DISAPPOINTING to read, and why?
This got significantly fewer responses than the last two; I guess you guys either think I'm just that good, or you wanted to be nice.  Either way, plenty of people still found one or more stories they thought I really missed the mark on... but out of the fifteen specifically-named stories that people brought up (plenty of people didn't name any fics specifically, and a few named more than one), only one was named more than once.  That would be Fallout:Equestria, whose name came up... twice.

I'm taking it as a good sign that there doesn't seem to be much unanimity about where I'm most disappointing; if everyone was singling in on a few posts, that would tell me those were pretty bad posts, at least comparatively speaking.  Still, I got some good feedback on what I made various reviews miss for people; one person said I missed a lot with my Friendship is Optimal review because I wasn't coming at it from a STEM background, for example, and another brought comparative rankings into play ("I'm pretty sure Giving Twilight Sky Over Canterlot the same score as Past Sins is a war crime").  Also, several of you told me I hadn't ever disappointed you (yet), you wonderful liars you, and a couple more mentioned being disappointed when mini-reviews got a little to mini-.  Duly noted!

6.  Of the reviews you've read, were there any which you felt were particularly HELPFUL, and why?
As I said earlier, what I really enjoy knowing I've done with a review is to help someone find or avoid a story that was or wasn't right for them.  A number of you mentioned "when you reviewed my story" again, which makes sense; even if the reviews are aimed at readers rather than authors, feedback is always helpful.  As with the previous question, there was almost no unanimity as to which specific fic reviews were most helpful, but people listed a nice mix of highly-rated stories (for getting them to read it), low-rated ones (for teaching them what pitfalls to avoid--one person even mentioned that while he disagreed that the advice I gave really applied to the fic I was talking about, he still found it useful advice for his own writing!), and stories that were or became personal favorites after I pointed them toward them.  Brotherly Bond popped up a couple more times down here (which did surprise me a bit), as, to my surprise, did "posts where you don't write a review, but just give general writing advice."

7.  Of the reviews you've read, were there any which you felt were particularly UNHELPFUL, and why?
As with questions 3-5, the negative question here got rather less responses than the positive one.  C'mon guys, the negative is what I was really interested in!  And then most of you said "well, nothing comes to mind," which is hardly actionable, you know.

Of the responses I did get, a few mentioned that reviewing "authors I already know are good writers" didn't tell them a lot, since they didn't me to know that a story by Cold in Gardez or Pascoite (two of their examples, but I don't disagree, particularly) is probably going to be pretty good.  A couple also found the First Sentences posts unhelpful, for different reasons; one because "they feel like filler," the other because "I don't agree with you on what an opening sentence should be trying to do."  They and the people who put "First sentence posts" in the "interesting" section have a rumble scheduled for Sunday night at the docks, and the survivors have promised to get back to me with a definitive answer.

8.  Are there any types of stories you think Chris is particularly FAIR or otherwise GOOD at reviewing?
9.  Are there any types of stories you think Chris is particularly BIASED (for or against) or otherwise POOR at reviewing?
I'm doing these two together because there's a lot of overlap.  Specifically, of the people who answered this question, all but six (out of 38) mentioned romance or shipping... but half listed it as something I was particularly good at reviewing, and the other half said I was particularly biased against it!  Beyond that, "adventure stories" also came up about equally on both lists, though not in nearly the numbers as romance did, as did that ever-popular staple, "I can't think of anything you're especially good/bad at."  For #7, other things that came up multiple times included "talking about the quality of writing/prose," and "you have biases, but you're good at recognizing and being up-front about them."  For #8, several people each said "human fics (against)" and "fairytales/children's stories (for)."  I can probably cop to the latter (though I try to be aware of it), but I hadn't thought of myself as having anything against stories with humans, inherently.  Something for me to keep an eye on as I go forward.

10.  One day, you're working at your job at a lamp-polishing factory when a genie shows up and offers you one wish--but you can only use it to change Chris's reviews for the better. What do you wish for?
Okay, this one was mostly just for fun.  But here, I'm going to share a few I wanted to answer, some of whom are speaking for multiple comments:

That Chris makes a living wage per review
I support this wish.

I wish to see him review more ponyfics than just those posted on fimfiction. There are some good ones that slip through the cracks on sites like deviantart and fanfiction.
I'm totally willing to review fics hosted on any site, as long as they're public and accessable; the problem is finding them!  Remember, if you spot something that looks right for me, you can e-mail me and let me know I should read it!

I'd like to see you try reviewing some different type of fanwork (Radio Plays, Comics, Animations, etc.)
That'd be interesting, but I don't really feel qualified to judge some of those things at a useful or effective level.  Still, reviewing's a skill you only acquire through practice...

Unless you mean something other than what I think you mean, I already have that!  Well, spread over two pages; go to the top of this post, look at the menu bar, and click "6-Star Reviews by Star Rating" or "Fandom Classics by Star Rating" to see all the 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 stars grouped together.

Imagine that you had a rating for each key aspect of the story. Characters, story, setting, etc.
Those dang star ratings are the part that give me the most grief, both coming up with them and seeing them start arguments.  Now you want me to give fics more numerical scores?

A ridiculously minor thing: it'd be nice for the fic titles in the list of 6-star reviews to be italicised, as they are for the Fandom Classics and Mini-Reviews lists.

...Anyway, those are the interesting bits.  Thank you all for taking the time to indulge me; you've given me a few ideas of what I can do to keep improving as a reviewer, and some of your responses were genuinely funny and/or heartwarming.  Now, go back to the top of the page and admire that dog write me some guest posts!


  1. They and the people who put "First sentence posts" in the "interesting" section have a rumble scheduled for Sunday night at the docks, and the survivors have promised to get back to me with a definitive answer.

    Bring it.

    1. Which side am I supposed to bring it to again?

  2. Ugh. Pomeranians.

    Anyway, I'm interested to see what happens come your two weeks of vacation. Two weeks! That's six whole guest posts! Who knows what crazy capers could occur? Hopefully it will be a little crazier than the answers to your survey! Because those... those sound like they were all pretty much the same. I feel like someone needs to shake up the cage a little.

    Shake, people! SHAKE THIS BLOG APART!

    Other than that I don't have much to say, so... here's a link to a song! Why not?

  3. As per usual, my reaction to this announcement is "OOH, I COULD WRITE A BLOG ABOUT"

    Spoilers, that sentence will never be finished. :(

  4. Oh hey. I'm all for writing a guest blog in here, if only to see just how huge the contrast between a normal post and a guest post o'mine is.

    1. Also, holy hell that dog is cute. Looks extremely angry, though.

    2. 's probably angry because I didn't turn off the flash on the camera when I took that picture.

  5. "You don't need to be a fellow reviewer, a pony-famous author, or anything else..."

    Maybe I'll give it a shot this time

    "...don't just send me a copy of your thesis on soybean subsidies in 19th century America..."

    Well, shoot, guess I won't then

  6. Maybe I should have held this for a "first sentences" post, but I had this thought: All of those so far have been of stories you already read. How about you record your impression of first sentences each time you're doing a review, then save those up to post later. That way, you're going in much more blind—you don't have the benefit of already knowing what significance some of the material in that sentence might be. And then, as I did ask in a previous such post, say whether your opinion of its effectiveness changes after finishing the story (which obviously wouldn't help draw in readers, but anyway).

    1. That'd be an interesting idea! I think I'll try that down the road a bit.

  7. "I'm pretty sure Giving Twilight Sky Over Canterlot the same score as Past Sins is a war crime"

    . . . Do you have any idea which the person thought should have been scored higher?

    And it seems (possibly like you said in the comment to the last post, on "Mortality Report") like there's no reason not to expect a big variance in quality within the "better than 9/10 of the stuff out there, but I don't think it should be held up as an example of the fandom's best" category.

    1. Twilight Sky should have been much higher (according to that person). Depending on how much of an insult you feel it is to be compared to Past Sins, that'll affect your mileage on the "X shouldn't be two stars" argument, I reckon!

  8. Heh -- I'll out myself as the author of the comment about italicisation that got that rather... strong response right at the end. I can't shake the feeling that I may have made the equivalent of a Fight Club faux pas there... :P

    1. I was just messing with you.

      Seriously though, you got a wish and you used it to standardize italics? Really? You were the kind of kid who wanted to grow up to be a CPA, weren't you :P

  9. Ah yes. The survey. Most excellent. Tell me, Chris, did you consider my generous offer? I still have not received payment.

  10. Gosh-darn it, Chris! There are two typos in this: "mini-reviews got a little to mini" and "since they didn't me to know". I'll have you for this!

    All joking aside, I may be interested in doing a guest column (if I can overcome my laziness). I'll see if I can find anything interesting to write about.