• Equestria Daily, Fanfiction, and You: Survey Results

    We released a survey last week asking the fanfic community of Equestria Daily about the job we're doing with the pony fandom's stories. The response was so overwhelming that we had to close it down twenty-four hours later. Now that more than a week has passed by, I'm sure that a lot of you want to know what the results look like.

    Reflecting on this survey, there was always going to be a problem with selection bias. Encouraging participation from folks who don't spend time with fanfiction may not have been the best idea, and it only skewed some results more unduly than others. Therefore, I'm not going to post ALL the results we collected. I can, however, be pretty sure that there aren't 29 Hasbro staffers browsing this blog in "No-Fanfiction" mode for legal reasons, so there's that.

    Nota bene! I'm only speaking as one pre-reader here. No matter how overwhelming the responses are on certain questions or how I feel about the matter, what I say here should not be taken as a guarantee of action until the pre-readers have all come together and pow-wowed these matters out. Changes to the pre-reader system will be for a later post.

    Hit the break for the breakdown, as well as one more question we should've asked on the survey!

    I'm going to count you as an active reader if you read at least once per week and an active writer if you write at least once a week as well. Those noises you just heard were statisticians everywhere howling for my head. While I'm busy cackling at them because I have English major immunity, I'm going to point out that readers outnumber writers on Equestria Daily around four to one, after some rounding and accounting for sample size. This, I feel, is fairly important, but I'll come back to that later.

    Before FimFiction rolled around, Equestria Daily was the primary hub for fanfiction within the fandom. Understandably, some folks got tired of seeing fic after fic chugging up column inches, and thus the "No-Fanfiction" button was born. Since this survey heavily preferred respondents who enjoyed fanfiction, it's interesting that four in five of you wanted it to stick around.

    Another question we could have asked was "Why should we keep the No-Fanfic button?", but this other question does just fine for now. I'll admit to being saddened by those of you who don't find fanfiction interesting, and I'm interested in reducing the fraction that said FimFiction does a better job than Equestria Daily in the fanfiction department.

    "FimFiction?" you say. "You didn't let me say 'Fimfiction' there." Don't play innocent with me. I read the responses. Incidentally,

    The majority is on our side there, though it's far from a comfortable margin.

    And if we're going to claim we represent the best the fandom has to offer, we're gonna need to bump up that 20% sector to 100%. I'm serious. I'd love to hear from you guys in the comments about how we can improve the average quality of stories on this site. And yes, I'm aware of what this comic's saying about what I just said.

    Ah, star ratings. Controversial as they were, controversy attracts attention. Watching a story develop its rating over the days following its publication drew readers in. I believe getting rid of them contributed to a decline in readership along with disabling anon commenting, but the system was too easily abused by bombers who hated your OTP and auto-fivers who loved it. To this day, Blogger doesn't give us any tools for tracking who voted what, and our efforts to encourage readers to rate stories in the comments has largely fallen by the wayside.

    A post on Equestria Daily becomes a lot more meaningful to a writer if there was a way to separate their story from the hoi-polloi. This is why I'm particularly interested in this next thing:

    We the pre-readers are the ones approving the stories that get on this site, so I can see how we could be expected to stand behind our choices. Perhaps an end-of-week or end-of-month post by the picking out the stories that stuck with us the most might do the trick (and explaining why they won't leave our heads). And then we could also look at daily roundup posts for the stories that would be just shy of our current posting standards, since I've seen a Music of the Day track get a thousand views on Youtube. It's worth thinking about.

    I do wonder what would've happened if we had reversed the order of the genres presented here. Speaking for myself, I tend to gravitate toward stories that either fit the tone of Friendship is Magic or expand upon it, which is why I can't stop writing adventure stories I never get around to finishing. One of the hugest drives behind fanfiction during the Season One/Season Two hiatus was answering questions about Equestria the show left unaddressed, and the impact later seasons have had on this sense of curiosity are very much palpable. No one saw that Luna coming except this guy.

    I'm game. And from an internal survey the pre-readers took recently, so are they. Don't send in those shorter fics yet, though! They're automooned until we update our posting standards.

    And I'll admit that first result took a lot of us by surprise. I'll refer this to the comment section as well, since the pre-readers were a lot less forgiving of these genres. What are we missing out on by banning these?

    Remember, we still allow Human in Equestria fics, but for better or for worse they tend to be held to stricter scrutiny, too.

    These next questions dealt with things from an author's standpoint, so a lot of you didn't get to see this part.

    We're flattered, guys. We really are. It means a lot to us that you trust us to point out where your story is failing on all levels, and I don't think a single one of us wishes you to remain bad writers. That said, we really need to make the following clear:

    Equestria Daily is not to be used as an editing service.

    We can't help everyone, and it's not fair to expect us to do that. Remember when I first pointed out that we have many more readers than writers on Equestria Daily? We signed onto this job to make sure they were getting the best fanfiction experience possible, and knowing what goes into a good story on a linguistic, structural, and emotional level just happened to be the pre-requisite for joining the club.

    We're going to formalize our role in a future blog post clarifying our role in the fanfiction community and our standards of posting, but for now, you would be doing the pre-readers a huge favor submitting work to us that is as close to postable as you and your editors can make it.

    Of course, I realize that "useful feedback" for some is a bullet list of problems. Others need more than lists, which leads to follow-up emails asking for clarification and compounding wait times on responses.

    I think we can do a lot better than this for you guys. I'm curious about the things you guys think can take an otherwise knowledgeable reader and reduce his reading comprehension to the level of a nematode, and how we can squash perceptions of bias among our ranks.

    And here there's just no excuse for letting these results be anything less than 100% yes. I'd love to revisit the Omnibus and spruce it up a bit--it's showing its age, for sure.

    Now we arrive at the crux of our discussion. This is the part where non-authors were allowed to answer questions again, and I won't disguise my relief at seeing three quarters of you telling us to post what's good over what you want to see. Overmore, it's good that we have the majority when it comes to you guys trusting us with voting on a submission without needing to explain ourselves.

    The results of that last question have been stirring some debate amongst the pre-readers. On the one hand, we're not exactly speedy when it comes to sending fics up to publish on Equestria Daily, and forming responses takes me at least an hour per story if I have to moon it because I tend to lecture. On the other hand, we lose a great deal of transparency by reviewing with our thumbs. All I'm going to say here is that we're doing our best to find a balance to adhere to between the two, but I think it's fair to warn writers now not expect in-depth feedback on their declined submissions.

    The main responsibility of getting a story onto the blog lies with you, my friends. It's up to you to take the necessary steps to see it through. We're aware that there's a great deal of variance in the quality of feedback you can get from certain places, and we're still working on generating a list of places authors can go to receive feedback, but you won't hurt your case by showing some initiative in digging up that golden editor.

    Hopefully that was enough to whet y'alls appetites for facts. We've learned a lot from your responses, and we're excited to see what we can do with them. Here's the rest of the data, since I know someone's going to be asking for it.

    Oh, and that one last question we should have asked on that survey, by the way? I won't keep you waiting.

    Should Equestria Daily only accept completed stories?

    The author would only need to show us it's complete; it wouldn't have to be fully published before submission time.

    Since they have yet to invent a machine that will let you hit someone on the other end of the internet with your keyboard when you want to express yourself, a comment should do fine. Thanks for reading, guys!

    Bonus Material: Behold the very first email Seth ever sent to his pre-readers.