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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 3:19 pm 
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Because I just don't think it's a good idea.

Right now in the Authors' Forum there are 1543 posts across 86 topics. There are around a dozen authors writing reviews (some of whom have already made it through the entire comp) and roughly half of the games have individual discussion threads. There are also threads about trends, and theory, and favourite moments, and tons of other stuff. I don't think I'm being hyperbolic when I say that there's been more IF Comp activity there than there has been on the entire rest of the internet.

Now obviously not everything that's posted in the private forum is fit for public consumption, but I'd say the majority of posts totally are. That energy could be going towards drawing in new readers and getting people to talk about the comp. As it stands we're just sort of spinning our wheels and watching as this year passes by in relative silence.

I can't speak for all authors -- in fact I know for a fact there are some that disagree -- but I think the muzzle rule hurts the comp more than it helps it.

I've been told the purpose of the rule is to stop people with large fanbases from having an unfair advantage, but that explanation doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Like, if the worry is someone's going to organize a vote brigade, why have a blanket ban? Why not just have a rule that's specifically against organizing a vote brigade? And really, do any of the authors even have a large enough fanbase to actually influence the comp this way? It seems like a totally unlikely scenario to me. Also like doesn't the five-game rule basically deal with this exact problem anyway?

When you take away our ability to talk about the games, you also take away our ability to speak constructively, and to effectively promote the competition. Like we don't just want to talk about our own work. There are games that I'd love to recommend to people, or quote, or discuss in public. But I can't and that kinda sucks for all the authors. We'd all benefit from more attention like that, not just the ones with the most twitter followers.

I don't know, I can see how the rule might have made sense when y'all were like thirty people on a usenet group or whatever, but I just don't think it makes sense today. It certainly doesn't match anything I've seen outside the interactive fiction (Literally every single non-IF person I have told about the rule has been shocked to learn how restrictive the competition is.) Ultimately it feels kinda self-sabotaging and almost disrespectful. Like you have so little faith in the ability of the authors to post responsibly that you have to ban us from doing stuff that could genuinely help the competition grow. It bums me out, man. I don't get it.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 3:30 pm 
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Quote:
Why not just have a rule that's specifically against organizing a vote brigade?


How would you enforce such a rule?

(I've no strong feelings on the issue one way or the other, but I'm illustrating the inherent difficulties in organising something like this. Rules have to be enforceable)

Also, post-comp discussions and postmortems tend to crop up as soon as the comp is over. FWIW.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 3:39 pm 
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[quote="Peter Piers"]
Quote:
Why not just have a rule that's specifically against organizing a vote brigade?


How would you enforce such a rule?

(I've no strong feelings on the issue one way or the other, but I'm illustrating the inherent difficulties in organising something like this. Rules have to be enforceable)[/quote]
No they don't. There are plenty of unenforceable rules already in the comp. "Judges must base their judgment of each game on at most the first two hours of play", "Judges may not rate any games they have beta-tested", "Every rating asserts that the judge who submitted it made a good-faith effort to actually play that game as intended." We set those rules out as a code of conduct for judges and ask them to participate on the honour system. There's no reason we can't do the same for authors, especially when we're talking about something that frankly I don't think most authors would want or even be able to do.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 3:42 pm 
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[quote="Peter Piers"]How would you enforce such a rule?

(I've no strong feelings on the issue one way or the other, but I'm illustrating the inherent difficulties in organising something like this. Rules have to be enforceable)

Also, post-comp discussions and postmortems tend to crop up as soon as the comp is over. FWIW.[/quote]

The same way we do now? All of this is essentially occurring on the honor system as it is, and violations have to be quite flagrant. Brigading is detected on a statistical level by the software Jason uses, not by trawling the internet looking for evidence of authorial malintent. I mean, we're allowed to talk in private about all of this. Why not just have the same rules apply? If we're not allowed to promote our game at all, and vote-begging -brigading is illegal in private, then nothing much is lost. If anything, it's just easier to see who's cheating.

The real reason it's kept in place, I believe, is to prevent the popularity of an author from overwhelming all the other entries. But:

1. The comp is judged based on the average of entries, not the number, so it's not like increased audience necessarily means better luck.
2. Everyone famous enough to fit into this sort of category is already going to attract a huge number of fans regardless of promotion. In fact, the gag rule might in that case ensure that the ratio of ardent fans to semi-interested voters is actually higher in the case of the gag rule. Which seems backwards to me.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 4:35 pm 
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I agree that there's a certain amount of babies being thrown out with the bathwater with the rule as it stands.

What we don't want is people canvassing for votes. We don't want the IFComp to look like the 2011 XYZZY Awards where Zombie Exodus swept the board because of the huge fan base voting up the game in a rent-a-mob fashion. We can still have a rule that tackles that but allows authors to promote the comp and help generate more public discussion. Something like:

Canvassing for votes is forbidden. Authors are allowed to discuss games in public so long as they do not explicitly encourage players to give their own game(s) a high score.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 8:02 pm 
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To be clear, in 2011, XYZZY had no rules about what authors were/weren't allowed to say; there wasn't even a rule against canvassing for votes. In 2012 the anti-canvass guideline went in place, and I don't think there's been an issue since then.

(It's not even a rule; canvassing is just "strongly discouraged," with a warning that canvassed votes may be discounted.)

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 8:04 pm 
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[quote="Joey"]I agree that there's a certain amount of babies being thrown out with the bathwater with the rule as it stands.

What we don't want is people canvassing for votes. We don't want the IFComp to look like the 2011 XYZZY Awards where Zombie Exodus swept the board because of the huge fan base voting up the game in a rent-a-mob fashion. We can still have a rule that tackles that but allows authors to promote the comp and help generate more public discussion. Something like:

Canvassing for votes is forbidden. Authors are allowed to discuss games in public so long as they do not explicitly encourage players to give their own game(s) a high score.[/quote]

Which should probably be a rule as it is! (In addition to a replacement to the ineffectual gag rule.) As far as I can tell, asking friends to canvas for votes isn't explicitly against the rules, given that private communication is A-OK. Even if it might be in violation of the spirit of the rules, it's far more difficult to detect. Plus, the friends of authors initiating/managing vote campaigns is a hugely more significant concern than individual authors doing the same. It's not only nearly unbelievable that an author would take it upon themselves to publicly beg for reviews, regardless of whether the rule is "no talking" or "no begging," but even if they are, the friendship paradox https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friendship_paradox suggests that most if not all authors will have more popular, more liked, more visible, more influential friends than they are themselves.


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 8:14 pm 
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[quote="bphennessy"]
Literally every single non-IF person I have told about the rule has been shocked to learn how restrictive the competition is.
[/quote]

The IFComp rules are very restrictive, but I'm not aware of any other game community where there's just one or two big competitions of the year settled by popular vote.

Instead, most other game competitions have pre-selected judges/juries, so it doesn't matter whom you tell about your competition entry. IGF, for example, even has an "Audience Award" where canvassing is welcome/encouraged; it helps to drum up publicity for the main event.

[quote="bphennessey"]
When you take away our ability to talk about the games, you also take away our ability to speak constructively, and to effectively promote the competition. Like we don't just want to talk about our own work. There are games that I'd love to recommend to people, or quote, or discuss in public. But I can't and that kinda sucks for all the authors. We'd all benefit from more attention like that, not just the ones with the most twitter followers.
[/quote]

Note that you can recommend/quote/discuss the games to your heart's delight on November 15th.

One thing that the XYZZY and IFComp organizers have been clear about over the years is that the purpose of the competitions is not to promote interactive fiction (or the competition) to newbies. It has been argued for IFComp in particular that we would not want to direct newbies to an IFComp in progress, but instead only direct them to high-scoring games after the competition had concluded.

[quote="bphennessey"]
I've been told the purpose of the rule is to stop people with large fanbases from having an unfair advantage, but that explanation doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Like, if the worry is someone's going to organize a vote brigade, why have a blanket ban? Why not just have a rule that's specifically against organizing a vote brigade?
[/quote]

It's not just about brigading. In score voting, if authors with a significant following criticizes their competitors, their readers can't help but incorporate those ideas when making their votes. In XYZZY, votes are only positive, and so a rule against canvassing can be effective.

My feeling is that the IFComp rules are now locally optimal. Small changes to the rules would hurt; big changes to the rules might be better for the community, (pre-select judges! allow commercial products! public betas! encourage canvassing!) but it'd be a completely different competition.

(Well, I would definitely tweak the "cost nothing" rule to make it clear that free-to-play commercial products are allowed. Just cut the last sentence, basically.)

[quote="bphennessy"]
And really, do any of the authors even have a large enough fanbase to actually influence the comp this way? It seems like a totally unlikely scenario to me.
[/quote]

Anybody with a dozen fans (or friends) could significantly influence IFComp results.

In last year's IFComp, no game received more than 129 votes. The difference between the winning game and the second-place game was only 0.11 points, well under the standard deviation for either game. By my calculations, if just seven people had popped in and voted the second-place game a 10, it would have won the comp that year. If just two extra people had given the first-place game a 1 and the second-place game a 10, their positions would have reversed.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 8:27 pm 
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[quote="furkle"]As far as I can tell, asking friends to canvas for votes isn't explicitly against the rules, given that private communication is A-OK.[/quote]

It's extremely subtle to ban third-party canvassing in IFComp while allowing reviews. Instead, last year the organizers made a new rule #7 for judges to require them to vote in good faith. (Note that the rule gives the organizers the right to disqualify suspicious votes.)

Quote:
7. Every rating asserts that the judge who submitted it made a good-faith effort to actually play that game as intended. The competition organizers reserve the right to disqualify any ratings that appear to have been submitted under any other circumstances.

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PostPosted: Sat Oct 24, 2015 8:44 pm 
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I see the big issue being that the current system is heavily biased towards a more familiar style of IF. I understand not wanting to bring in complete newbies as judges, but I don't think it's ideal to have voting dominated by the tiny dedicated core either. There are other IF players out there who are more difficult to reach because of this restrictive rule.


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