Hugo Voting Rules Proposals Sponsored By Harris, Buff, Standlee, Others

Mini Hugo rocket carried into space and photgraphed by astronaut Kjell Lindgren in 2015.

Mini Hugo rocket carried into space and photgraphed by astronaut Kjell Lindgren in 2015.

Apart from the discussions Jameson Quinn has been leading here, another group of fans has been working on ideas for reforming the Hugo voting process. Yesterday they published the drafts of their three main motions and an amendment to EPH (given its first passage last year) as a Google document.

The three main motions do these things:

(1) Change the deadline you must be a Worldcon member to be eligible to nominate from January 31 to December 31 of the previous year.

(2) Restrict eligibility to nominate to members of the current and preceding Worldcon.

(3) Add a second round that allows members to vote out something that makes the initial long list (“Three Stage Voting”).

Colin Harris (co-chair of the 2005 Worldcon), Warren Buff, Kevin Standlee (co-chair of the 2002 Worldcon), Nicholas Whyte, and Colette Fozard each sponsor at least one of the several motions. Harris explains:

We plan to submit the motions officially in about a week; we are publishing them now to encourage discussion, rather than because we expect to change the text — but of course if people point out important things we’ve missed, we’ll take the opportunity to fix any issues.

Commenting specifically about the Three-Stage-Voting proposal, Harris says:

To be clear, my stance as the main mover on 3SV is simple. I wish this change was not necessary, but I believe that EPH and the other proposals already in hand will not achieve the necessary outcomes. In particular, I believe that guaranteeing a couple of broadly acceptable finalists per category is simply not a high enough bar for “success” in restoring the integrity, reputation and stability of the awards. I do not know if 3SV will pass, but I believe that the Business Meeting should have the opportunity to discuss this more direct option for tackling manipulation of the nomination process.

The text of the proposals follows the jump.

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Hugo Voting Proposal Status Update

By Jameson Quinn: Since the last thread (“To Say Nothing of the Dogs”), there hasn’t been a whole lot of progress in Hugo voting proposals, but it’s still clearly time for an update on various fronts.

To summarize the (tentative) consensus plan developed in the last thread:

  • Ratify EPH this year.
  • Make the following two proposals this year, hopefully to pass and ratify at least one of them.
    • 3SV
      • This means a second round of voting in which the “longlist” of the top 15 from the first round is publicized, and clearly-unworthy works from that list are eliminated if they have enough votes against. It is not intended to deal with mere matters of taste, but merely to insulate against offensive works promoted by slate voters.
      • The text of this proposal is being worked on by a group of (what I’d respectfully characterize as) SMOFs led by Colin Harris. They are behind schedule for various reasons but still plan to reach the finish line.
    • EPH+
      • This means using the Sainte-Laguë divisors with EPH; that is, SDV-LPE-SL, as explained in my paper with Bruce Schneier. To put it in more understandable terms: it’s like EPH, but is slightly harder on works with above-average overlap with other winning works, so that a slate or slates like last years’ puppies could probably average under 3 nominations per category.
      • The text of this proposal is included below.
  • Next year, make one or more of the following two proposals:
    • +2 (or +1) against trolls
      • This is meant to go along with 3SV. It would mean that each voter in the second round could add 2 (or 1) nominations per category for works on the longlist. These nominations would be treated the same as first-round nominations.
      • This would help people make sure that their ballot would have at least one nomination with a viable chance of becoming a finalist, without requiring them to run out and read a full longlist in each category. By doing so, it would help reduce the “long tail” issue, and thus increase the power of non-slate voters. Since slate voters can already ensure they have nominated works on the longlist, their voting power would be largely unaffected.
    • Extend finalists (if it appears necessary)
      • This is also meant to go along with 3SV. It would mean that the elimination ballot would have three options; not just “eliminate” or “keep”, but also “keep but extend”. If a work with a quota of “keep but extend” votes became a finalist, then the number of finalists would be increased by one in that category. This would ensure that slate voters could not push things off the ballot using nominations for things that have non-slate support (such as the puppy support for Sandman: Overture this year).

So, if this is the plan, what still remains to be done in this thread?

  • Discuss whether this plan should be modified (I think not, but I’m open to counterarguments).
  • Settle on a wording for EPH+, find co-signers, and submit the proposal. Current draft is below.
  • Make sure the Colin Harris/ Kevin Standlee group submits their 3SV proposal. For now, I trust that they’re on the job, but if they continue not to have a proposal, I’ll shift that trust to the community to get them back on track.
  • If people want me to be there at WorldCon, then my fundraiser has to be successful. I am very grateful to the people who have so far helped me raise just over $700, but in order to actually go, I’d need $1400. And honestly, I’m hoping to raise even more than that; any excess goes to the Center for Election Science (electology.org), which works to bring well-designed, more-democratic voting systems to contexts beyond just the Hugos. (The consequences of poorly-designed intraparty democracy are on full display these days in both the US and UK. And speaking as someone who lived in Guatemala for 10 years, many other countries would be happy to have as much intraparty democracy as those two.) All donations are tax-deductible in the US.
  • Talk about voting systems and/or electoral pathologies in SF stories. For instance: in Too Like the Lightning, (minor spoilers to end of paragraph) one plot point is an asset voting system, that is, one in which voters can vote for any other valid voter, and each person who gets votes exercises power proportional to the number of votes they hold. This is an excellent voting system, and I’d be happy to discuss how it works / doesn’t work with the rest of the plot.

Here’s the proposed wording of EPH+:

(1) Calculation Phase: First, the total number of nominations (the number of ballots on which each nominee appears) from all eligible ballots shall be tallied for each remaining nominee. Next, a single “point” shall be assigned to each nomination ballot. That point shall be divided equally among all remaining nominees on that ballot. each nomination ballot shall give a point or fraction thereof to each remaining nominee on that ballot, according to the number of such remaining nominees, using the following pattern: 1 point for 1 remaining nominee, 1/3 of a point each for 2 remaining nominees, 1/5 of a point each for 3 remaining nominees, 1/7 of a point each for 4 remaining nominees, and 1/9 of a point each for 5 remaining nominees (extending this pattern as needed if a ballot legally has more remaining nominees). Finally, all points from all nomination ballots shall be totaled for each nominee in that category. These two numbers, point total and number of nominations, shall be used in the Selection and Elimination Phases.

Co-signers (all Rot13): Wnzrfba Dhvaa, Pynhqvn Ornpu, Obaavr Jnesbeq, Pngurevar Snore, Naqerj Uvpxrl, Ebtref Pnqraurnq, Qnivq Tbyqsneo, Yrr Rttre, Gnfun Gheare Yraaubss, Fgrira Unygre, Qnivq Jnyynpr.

To Say Nothing of the Dogs; or, How We Confound the Hugos’ Third Slump (Hugo voting proposal discussion 5)

By Jameson Quinn: After 1, 2, 3, 4 threads here, and countless more that are peripherally related and/or on other blogs, discussing how to make the Hugo nomination process more resistant to slate voting and other “griefer” attacks (in other words, protect them from those intent on using the rules to disrupt and provoke), I believe a logical way forward is becoming evident. Below, I outline a set of proposals that could be made and passed at the Business Meeting.

If you count every separate idea below, there are 5 new proposals. That’s a lot. Personally, I support all of them. But I realize that it’s unlikely that the business meeting will pass all 5. That’s why these proposals are designed to be as modular as possible. Sure, they could all be passed together and would work to reinforce each other; but in most cases each one would also be a sensible step forward if passed alone.

Following that, I will answer some obvious questions that these proposals bring up, in FAQ format.

At the end of this post, I’ll present a rough draft of how these proposals might be formalized. This is for illustration purposes only. In the case of 3SV, there is a group of current and future Worldcon Chairs and Hugo Administrators working on formal language, and I expect they’ll do a much better job than I have. But I needed to present an illustrative version of 3SV to make sense of the extra proposals that would modify it.

I will also have some things to say in the comment thread that shouldn’t be here in the main post.

Overall plan outline:

  1. Pass EPH this year. This should at least keep a slate from sweeping any category. (As for 4/6, it is not as important. I personally would support amending it to 5/6 passing it; but the plan does not hinge on this.) Also, remove the 5% threshold this year.
    1. Present a proposal for EPH+, a technical enhancement to the EPH vote-counting system which is projected to give slates about one fewer finalist per category in circumstances like the current ones.
  2. Create a “base 3SV” proposal, which inserts a new qualification ballot between the current nominating and final ballots.
    1. The Hugo Committee would publish a “longlist” of the top 12 or 15 works in each category from the nominating ballot without specifying their voting totals or the order in which they finished.
    2. A second round of voting would then be conducted in which members of the current Worldcon can “preemptively no-award” any of the works on the longlist.
    3. Longlisted works which are rejected by a majority of the voters AND by an absolute minimum number of voters would be excluded from consideration for the final ballot. (The absolute minimum would be a substantial number – potentially 20% of all eligible members – to ensure that a slate-voting minority cannot hijack this round of voting).
    4. The final ballot would then proceed as at present, with finalists being the highest ranked candidates from the nominating (first round) ballot who were not excluded by the subsequent qualification vote.
  3. Create several additional proposals, intended primarily to modify or go alongside the base 3SV proposal above:
    1. First, a “mercy panel”, established by the prior year’s Worldcon, with the power, by unanimous vote, to “spare” any longlist work(s) from the 3SV voting round. Works so “spared” would be able to become finalists without possibility of second-round rejection, but would of course still be subject to being voted below “no award” in the final round.
    2. Second, a “+2 against trolls”  (Hat tip) round of voting, simultaneous with the 3SV round. This would allow any eligible first-round voter to add nominations for 2 works per category, that they had not already nominated, from the longlist. These nominations would be counted in determining the finalists, just as if they had been made in round 1. (Note: most of the discussion on this point has been made on the “+1” version of it; it was first proposed in combination with 3SV as “3SV+1”. But passing +2 this year would allow us to amend that to +1 next year, while the reverse is not true; so +2 is the best way to keep our options open.)
    3. (Note: this is a new proposal which has not been discussed in the prior threads, and as such, it is far more tentative than the rest) Third, a “extend finalists” option in the 3SV voting, whereby voters may choose for each work between the options “Reject”, “Accept with extension”, “Accept”, and “Abstain”. If one or more works that had gotten more than a certain threshold of combined “Reject” and “Accept with extension” votes became a finalist, the target number of finalists in that category would be increased by 1 for each such work, up to a maximum target of 7 finalists. As with rejection votes, the totals for “Accept with extension” votes would be published after the Hugos were awarded, but the names of specific works would be anonymized, to make it clear that the judgment of “Accept with extension” has to do with voting process and not with the quality of a work itself
  4. (optional) Discuss the possibility of a proposal to go back and fix the no-awarded categories from this year and last year using retro Hugos. I do not believe that a proposal to do this should be made this year; the Business Meeting will be plenty busy enough without it. But I think it’s a good idea to begin this discussion and have a proposal like this ready for 2017 or 2018.

FAQ

Overall structure

Q. You say that a way forward is becoming evident. In whose view?

A. Many of the aspects of the plan I’ve outlined have been arrived at collaboratively and have drawn more-or-less broad consensus in the relevant discussion threads (linked at the top of this post). It’s true that other aspects more clearly come from one person: me, Jameson Quinn. But the proposal drafts above are not the end of the road; please comment below, and we will continue to work on them (including discarding ideas, if appropriate).In this thread, even if you have no new arguments to add, it is useful to just say just “I like this part” and/or “I don’t like that part.” Of course, if you’re going to say one of those, please do read through this FAQ, as your concerns may be addressed already.

Q. We can’t make any actual decisions until the Business Meeting, and many people who will be there aren’t even paying attention yet. So why have this discussion now?

A. There is no question that the Business Meeting has the final word. We’re not trying to take over the decision process here, just to smooth the way. That is: the point of the discussion now is to refine the proposals, clarify their advantages and disadvantages, and get consensus on the points that become obvious through that process.

Q. Is this set of proposals too complicated to even work as designed? (joke youtube link)

A. I have several things to say to that. First off, you’re right, they are somewhat complicated; but I’d argue that well-designed voting systems, while they should avoid senseless intricacy, can reasonably be a bit involved. Secondly, each of the the three main parts of this — EPH/EPH+, 3SV, and +2 against trolls, — could stand on its own, helping solve some aspects of the current situation even if the other parts were not present. This partial redundancy means the whole is more robust, not more fragile, than any of the parts.

Q. Are these proposals worth the extra complexity they add?

A. I’ll address this question for each proposal separately. But more generally, it depends on what problem(s) you’re trying to solve. See the next question for more on that.

Q. Out of the 5 new proposals here (plus EPH), what is the least we could do that would address the problem?

A. That depends what you mean by “the problem”. You might think it’s:

  1. Slate sweeps (that is, the possibility that all the Hugo finalists in one or more categories come from a slate) In this case the minimal solution is to Pass EPH. See my paper with Bruce for more details.
  2. Slates nominating works that are intended to defame, harass, offend, or otherwise discredit the Hugos? In this case the minimal solution is to Pass 3SV.
    1. How could we solve the above without causing undue negativity? In this case the minimal solution is to may be 3SV, if social norms are enough to prevent campaigns to reject good-faith works. If not, adding on the Mercy Panel would help.
  3. Multiple categories without a choice between at least 2 organic (non-slate) works: In this case the minimal solution is to Pass EPH+. If you do not like EPH+, then you could get a similar result with a combination of EPH, 3SV and “+2 (or +1) against trolls”.
    1. If you think the problem is even 1 category without such a choice, then the minimal solution with enough of a safety margin is probably combining EPH+ and 3SV+2 (that is, both of the possible solutions just above).
  4. Slates acting as “kingmakers” (that is, supporting some works which already have organic support, merely in order to deny others the chance of becoming finalists)? In this case the minimal solution is either EPH+, 3SV, and +2 (or +1) against trolls; or, alternatively, EPH, 3SV, and extend finalists. For the greatest possible strength against kingmakers, therefore, you’d combine EPH+, 3SV, +2 (or +1) aganst trolls, and extend finalists.
  5. All of the above: to solve all the problems above, you’d probably need all the proposals.

Q. Even if you consolidated all of this, it would still be at least 2 and probably 3 different proposals. Do you really expect all of that to pass through the BM?

A. Well, it’s not impossible. But frankly, no, I wouldn’t expect all of this to pass. But I still think it’s worth comprehensively laying out all the different problems and what it would take to fix them all, so that we can make this decision with our eyes open.

Q. Isn’t there a simpler way? Have you looked for one?

A. We have looked for one, and I believe the proposals above are the best of what we’ve considered. Others may disagree. For now, this FAQ is just a starting point for more discussion.

Q. OK, enough beating around the bush. What do you actually hope passes?

A. I’d like all of it to pass. But I’d be pretty satisfied with EPH+, 3SV, and +1 against trolls. I’m not attached to the mercy panel or extended finalists.

EPH and EPH+

Q. Is EPH+ worth the extra complexity it adds? Why?

A. I think it clearly is; but then again, I (Jameson) may not be the best person to answer this question. The advantages of EPH+ are clear; it helps ensure more of the finalists are determined by organic voters. As for the disadvantages and/or complexity: since I live and breathe voting theory, it actually doesn’t seem any more complex than EPH to me. Though I realize that is probably not true for other people, it’s hard for me to judge how much of a problem that is.

Q. This is complicated. Where can I read more about why it was proposed?

A. Start with Bruce Schneier’s post. If you’re up for some academic jargon, you can supplement that with our paper. Finally, read this post from the previous thread in which I try to explain the reasons for EPH+ in plain language.

 Q. Is EPH or EPH+ still needed if we have 3SV, or if we have 3SV along with some of the related options?

A. I believe that at least EPH is still necessary to prevent a slate from taking over the longlist. Beyond that, see my answer to the “what is the least we can do” question.

Q. I want to look at lots of graphs!

A. I have a bunch. (more to follow on this, in the discussion.)

3SV base

Q. Is this proposal worth the extra complexity it adds? Why?

A. I believe it definitely is. If we want keep offensive and/or harassing works from becoming finalists, we need to empower somebody to do that. And fandom is too broad to entrust that power to a small group, so we need some proposal similar to 3SV. Obviously, we could write the proposal differently, but I believe the version above is a reasonable starting point and sticks to the essentials.

Q. Why 3SV (voting to eliminate finalists) and not just a second round of positive “semi-final” voting to decide finalists?

A. Several reasons:

  1. A semi-final ballot would give voters just a few weeks to assimilate and vote on an extended list of longlisted items. Many of the most careful nominators would barely vote for any; while the most prolific voters would probably be going mostly by kneejerk reactions. This is somewhat true for 3SV, too, but it is less of an issue as explained below.
  2. A semi-final ballot conflates two questions: “Do I like this work and feel it may deserve a Hugo?” with “Do I feel that this work’s presence on the longlist or in the list of finalists would be a legitimate result of honest fan preference?”. In 3SV, those questions are separate, and votes to disqualify a work are based on the second question alone — one which does not require fully reading/reviewing every longlist work.
  3. Unlike a semi-final ballot, 3SV deals decisively with the issue of “troll finalists”: that is, works promoted by slates explicitly in order that their shocking and/or offensive nature might cast discredit on the awards.
  4. 3SV would be similar in spirit to the “no award” option which is already enshrined in the constitution, except that works thus eliminated would not take up space on the list of finalists, and awkward moments at the awards themselves would be minimized.
  5. A semi-final ballot opens up new kinds of attacks on the list of finalists, such as actually increasing slate voter’s capacity to act as “kingmakers” and/or perform “area defense” against certain kinds of works. All they’d have to do was to have enough voting power to reverse the gap between two works which both have significant organic (non-slate) support. But under 3SV, actually eliminating a work would not be possible without a relatively high “quorum”* of voters, and we hope that community pressure would lead to a low background level of organic rejection votes, so a minority of slate voters would be unable to use rejection as a weapon.

Q. Wouldn’t this lead to constant campaigns to eliminate works people just happen not to like, and thereby to hurt feelings?

A. There are several safeguards against this. First and most important is social pressure; it should be clear from the outset that this is a just safeguard against outright bad faith, not a chance to express differences in taste, and I believe that any Worldcon members who promote disqualifying a work just because they don’t like it will not get much support. Second, there’s eligibility. Various rules, discussed below in “open issues”, have been proposed to prevent a campaign to bring in Worldcon outsiders after the longlist is public. Third, there’s the quorum; if participation in the second-round voting is low, it will not be enough to pass the threshold to eliminate any work. Fourth, there’s the relatively short period of the semifinals, also discussed below. And fifth, there’s the possibility that (under some versions of this proposal) elimination votes for a specific work would never be publicized; only anonymized distributions of votes for each category. (In some cases, of course, the identity of which work got a certain vote total would be easy to guess, but that would still be just a guess.)
See also the Mercy Panel FAQs below.

Mercy panel

Q. Is this proposal worth the extra complexity it adds? Why?

A. That’s up to the Business Meeting to decide.Multiple people have expressed concern with 3SV, calling it too negative, and worrying how possible “rejection campaigns” would feel to the authors in question. This proposal would remove the possibility of such campaigns in clear-cut cases, reserving the power of 3SV for the edge cases which need it.It would also simplify the task of voting in round 2. This is a case where a little extra complexity in the rules actually simplifies life for the majority.

Q. Would this proposal let the panel keep something from becoming a finalist? That sounds like a bad idea!

A. No! The only power this panel would have would be to allow the nominations (from round 1 and possibly the “+2 against trolls” round) to stand. In other words, the panel can be a “good cop” by letting a work with strong support become a finalist without passing through a rejection vote, but could not be a “bad cop” by preventing it from becoming a finalist. The only group who could keep something from being a finalist would be the voters at large; exactly the same group that currently has the power to rank something below “no award”.

Q. Would this be too much power to give to a small group?

A. I think not. The only power this panel would have would be to exempt a work from the 3SV process. Even if they overstepped that power, we’d be no worse off than we are currently. In particular, the voters as a whole would still be able to put an offending work below “no award”.

Q. Wouldn’t this just be painting a target on the individuals on the panel, setting them up for harassment?

A. To a certain degree, the answer is yes; if you can’t handle people on the internet saying mean things about you, you probably shouldn’t be on this panel. But I don’t think this is a good reason not to have such a panel. Here’s my reasoning:

First off, there are manifestly people in fandom who can handle being a target, whether it’s because they bear it as a negative, because they actually enjoy the battle, or because they are such towering figures as to be beyond good and evil. I believe that there is a subset of these people who have earned fandom’s trust and could well serve as “your mercy”.

Secondly, I think that a “mercy panel” is designed to minimize such targeting. The question they’re answering is not the fundamentally controversial one, “does this work deserve to be kept from being a finalist?”, but rather, “are there reasonable questions about whether this work should be kept from being a finalist?”. It is at least possible to believe the answer to the first question is an emphatic “no”, and still accept that the answer to the second may be “yes”.

Finally, the fact is, haters gonna hate. There is really nothing we can do to prevent some people from becoming targets in this mess. With a panel, at least the targets will be people who’ve signed up for the job.

+2 against trolls

Q. Is this proposal worth the extra complexity it adds? Why?

A. I feel that it is. Because there are so many eligible works each year, many people nominate without naming even one thing that has any chance of becoming a finalist. This would focus attention on a list of 15 strong works, and give nominators some extra time to review these and add one or two that deserve it. The resulting finalists will have been reviewed by more fans, will have won more support, and thus will almost certainly be higher-quality overall. The fact that this proposal helps resist slate voting is almost just a side-effect.

Q. Why not let people add as many nominations as they want?

A. The 3SV voting round, when +2 is happening, should go by relatively quickly. Voters have limited attention to devote to this issue. Asking them to look at the longlist, do whatever extra reading/watching is necessary, and pick one or two extra nominations per category is probably the limit of what they can do without cutting corners.
Slate voters, on the other hand, are all about cutting corners. They can easily decide to add as many extra nominations as they’re allowed to.

EPH or EPH+ both make the story a little bit more complex, because it’s no longer optimal to add too many extra nominations. Still, there are some cases where adding more than 2 nominations could be a smart move for a slate. Why give slate voters that freedom, even if the cases where it helps them are rare?

Q. OK, so why not allow just +1 instead of +2?

A. That may well be the best course. But if we pass a +2 proposal this year, then changing it to +1 next year during ratification is a valid “lesser change”. So +2 keeps our reasonable options open. (For instance: what if we decide it should be +2 for Best Short Story, but +1 for all other categories? With all the proposals to look at this year, it’s probably not worth getting into details like that now; but next year, things may be clearer.)

Extend finalists

Q. What’s the idea here?

A. This proposal helps 3SV deal with the issue of “hostage” or “kingmaker” works, which have clear merit of their own but which have evidence of mindless support from slate voters. For instance, this year (2016), Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves was supported by a slate and became a finalist. He’s had several books nominated for Hugos, and several that weren’t; without the slate support, it’s impossible to be perfectly sure whether Seveneves would have made it. This option would allow works in this situation to become finalists, as the slate support was not the author’s fault; but to do so without pushing any other work off the list of finalists, because the list would just expand.

Q. Is this proposal worth the extra complexity it adds? Why?

A. Perhaps; it’s worth at least considering, though for simplicity in the business meeting it may be better to fold it into 3SV rather than taking it up separately. This proposal helps 3SV deal with the issue of “hostage” or “kingmaker” works, where a slate throws support behind things that have clear merit of their own, so that those things gets some votes from people who read them and some from people who didn’t.

Q. Would this make authors feel bad?

A. It shouldn’t. A vote of “accept with extension” is in no way a judgement on the work itself, just a judgement that there is reason to doubt the motive of some significant fracion of the work’s supporters.

Proposal Texts (rough drafts, for discussion purposes only):

A proposal for 3SV is currently being prepared by a group of highly experienced Worldcon runners led by Colin Harris (2005 Worldcon Chair) and also including former Worldcon Chairs Kevin Standlee and Vince Docherty and former NASFiC Chair Warren Buff. They expect to have a draft proposal published within two weeks (by 12 June), and if this were just about 3SV, I would rather have waited for them and not written something myself. But the other proposals following 3SV relate to it closely. So in order to write those other proposals in a form clear enough for further discussion, I needed to first write an illustrative text for a 3SV proposal.

EPH+

Moved, to amend Section 3.A.1 (1) of the E Pluribus Hugo proposal, as follows:

(1) Calculation Phase: First, the total number of nominations (the number of ballots on which each nominee appears) from all eligible ballots shall be tallied for each remaining nominee. Next, a single “point” shall be assigned to each nomination ballot. That point shall be divided equally among all remaining nominees on that ballot. each nomination ballot shall give a point or fraction thereof to each remaining nominee on that ballot, according to the number of such remaining nominees, using the following pattern: 1 point for 1 remaining nominee, 1/3 of a point each for 2 remaining nominees, 1/5 of a point each for 3 remaining nominees, 1/7 of a point each for 4 remaining nominees, and 1/9 of a point each for 5 remaining nominees (extending this pattern as needed if a ballot legally has more remaining nominees).  Finally, all points from all nomination ballots shall be totaled for each nominee in that category. These two numbers, point total and number of nominations, shall be used in the Selection and Elimination Phases.

3SV base (for reference only; to be superseded by the text from Colin Harris’s group)

Moved, to amend Section 3.7.1 (Tallying of Nominations), Section 3.9 (Notification and Acceptance), and Section 3.11.4 (Tallying of Votes) as follows:

Section 3.7: Nominations.

3.7.1: The Worldcon Committee shall conduct a poll to select begin the process of selecting the nominees finalists for the final Award voting. Each member of the administering Worldcon, the immediately preceding Worldcon, or the immediately following Worldcon as of January 31 of the current calendar year shall be allowed to make up to five (5) equally weighted nominations in every category.

Insert new sections 3.B and 3.C after section 3.8 and, if appropriate, 3.A from the E Pluribus Hugo proposal.

Section 3.B: Longlist publication.

3.B.1: In each category, the “longlist” shall consist of the top 15 nominees, as selected by the process detailed in section 3.8 [if EPH has passed] and section 3.A[end conditional]), but changing the number of desired nominees to 15 as appropriate. Any numbers involving limits on individual ballots shall not be changed.

3.B.2: In order to foment quick and accurate publication of each category’s longlist, the Worldcon Committee may exercise reasonable discretion in increasing the number of nominees on the longlist up to a maximum size of 18 nominees. Possible examples of situations that would call for such discretion are given in sections 3.B.3.1 and 3.B.3.2 below:

3.B.2.1: If eligibility cannot be quickly determined for a nominees, but it is thought to be ineligible, both it and an extra nominee may be included in case it is not eligible.

3.B.2.2: If the 15th-place nominee is nearly tied with the 16th-place one, and it is thought that a recount might show that their proper positions had been reversed, both may be included.

3.B.3: The names of the nominees on each category’s longlist, but not their order or vote totals, shall be made public with all due haste after the nominations poll is closed.

3.B.3.1 “Made public” means that the information should be conveyed to all eligible voters through some direct, personal means such as email and/asor postal mail, and also made generally accessible in some medium or media such as a web page.

3.B.4: Nominees on the longlist shall not be referred to as “semifinalists” or otherwise given any honorary status unless and until they have passed the eligibility voting described in section 3.C without elimination.

Section 3.C: Nominee eligibility voting.

3.C.1: After the longlist is published, each member of the administering Worldcon who had been eligible to vote in the nominations poll as described in 3.7.1 may vote on the eligibility of the longlist members.

3.C.2: At the discretion of the Worldcon committee, and with reasonable prior notice, the set of persons eligible to vote on nominee eligibility may be frozen before the close of voting, in order to ease calculation of the vote thresholds in 3.C.7 below.

3.C.3: The ballot for this round of voting shall present the voter with the following options for each longlist nominee: “Accept”, “Reject”, and “Abstain”.

3.C.4: Any voter who does not submit a ballot will be considered to have voted “Abstain” on all nominees.

3.C.5: Any voter who does submit a ballot but does not explicitly choose one of the three options for a given nominee will be considered to have voted “Accept” on that nominee. This default choice should be made clear on the ballot insofar as practical.

3.C.6: Postal mail ballots should be accepted insofar as it is practical given the schedule, but the Worldcon committee may if it chooses schedule this voting round in such a way that some members may not have ample time to submit such physical ballots.

3.C.7: A nominee shall be eliminated and considered ineligible if it meets the following two criteria: the number of “Reject” votes it receives is greater than 20% of the pool of voters eligible under 3.C.1 and 3.C.2; and the number of “Reject” votes it receives is also greater than the number of “Accept” votes it receives.

3.C.6: At the end of this voting round, the 5 finalists shall be chosen as follows:

3.C.6.1 The process described in section 3.8 [if EPH has passed]and section 3.A[end conditional] shall be used to put the entire set of nominees (eligible or not) in as strict an order as possible (that is, if the process is one of elimination, it shall continue until all nominees have been eliminated).

3.C.6.2 The finalists shall be the top 5 eligible nominees on this list.

Section 3.9: Notification and Acceptance.

3.9.1: Worldcon Committees shall use reasonable efforts to attempt to notify all of the nominees on the longlist, or in the case of deceased or incapacitated persons, their heirs, assigns, or legal guardians, in each category prior to simultaneous with the release of such information. Each nominee shall be asked reminded at that time to either accept or decline the nomination. If the nominee declines nomination, that nominee shall not appear on the final ballot.

3.9.A: [after 3.9.1]Since the longlist will be public information, members of the public may also help contact the responsible persons. Any nominee on the longlist which has not explicitly withdrawn by the end of the second round of voting shall be assumed to accept becoming a finalist.

3.9.2: In the Best Professional Artist category, the acceptance should include citations of at least three (3) works first published in the eligible year.

3.9.3: Each nominee in the categories of Best Fanzine and Best Semiprozine shall be required to provide information confirming that they meet the qualifications of their category.

3.11.4: The complete numerical vote totals, including all preliminary tallies for first, second, … places, shall be made public by the Worldcon Committee within ninety (90) days after the Worldcon. During the same period the nomination voting totals shall also be published, including in each category the vote counts [if EPH has passed] and points tallies as of elimination [end conditional] for at least the fifteen highest vote-getters and any other candidate receiving a number of votes equal to at least five percent (5%) of the nomination ballots cast in that category, but not including any candidate receiving fewer than five votes. 3.11.A This information shall also include eligibility and reason (if any) for ineligibility for each member of the longlist.

3.11.B In addition, for each category, the list of numbers of “reject” and “accept” votes for each work shall be published in descending order of number “reject” votes. The names of each work shall NOT be published alongside this list.

Mercy panel

Moved, to add Section 3.BA (Mercy panel) after section 3.B, and to amend Section 3.C.1 (Nominee eligibility voting) as follows:

Section 3.BA: Mercy panel

3.BA.1 Each Worldcon Committee shall appoint at least 3 natural persons and 2 alternates, and no more than 6 of each, to serve as a Mercy Panel for the following Worldcon. Presence on the Mercy Panel shall not necessarily preclude assuming other functions for any Worldcon. The procedure for such appointment shall be at the discretion of the Committee, and may or may not include voting.

3.BA.2 If for any reason there are not at least the minimum number of members and alternates from the prior year, the current Worldcon Committee shall appoint any which are lacking, using the same degree of discretion.

3.BA.3 The Worldcon Committee and the Mercy Panel shall remain in contact during the first round of voting, and the WorldCon Committee may elect to share preliminary voting counts as appropriate and practical. This information shall be treated as private, maintained with reasonable security precautions, and erased as soon as practical by the Mercy Panel.

3.BA.4 As soon as the longlist is published, the Mercy Panel shall proceed with all reasonable haste to rule on whether each nominee on the longlist should be subject to an eligibility vote as described in section 3.C.

3.BA.5 Any member of the Mercy Panel who has a conflict of interest regarding a given work shall allow an alternate to vote in their stead on that work. Any work which for this reason cannot be reviewed by at least 3 members of the Mercy Panel shall be subject to an eligibility vote.

3.BA.6 Nominees that should be subject to eligibility votes include any in the following categories:

3.BA.6.1 Those for which there is a reasonable argument that they contain harassment or libel against a living person or any past member of WSFS.

3.BA.6.2 Those which any member of the Mercy Panel considers to be likely to be offensive to the standards of at least 20% of WSFS members.

3.BA.6.3 Those for which there is some clearly-defined credible reason(s) to suppose that over 20% of the nominations were made based more on outside influences than on the nominator’s judgment of the nominee’s merit.

3.BA.7 Any nominees which are unanimously considered by the Mercy Panel not to fall in any of the categories enumerated in 3.BA.6 shall not be subject to an eligibility vote.

3.C.1: After the longlist is published, and after the Mercy Panel has ruled on all members of a category, each member of the administering Worldcon who had been eligible to vote in the nominations poll as described in 3.7.1 may vote on the eligibility of any of the longlist members not exempt under section 3.BA.

+2 against trolls

Moved, to amend Section 3.7.1 (Tallying of Nominations), Section 3.9 (Notification and Acceptance), and Section 3.11.4 (Tallying of Votes) as shown above in “3SV Base”; and also to add section 3.D as follows:

Section 3.D Addition of nominations during round 2

3.D.1 During the second round of voting (that is, simultaneous with the process described in 3.C, if present), all persons who were eligible to nominate in the first round of voting may add nominations as follows.

3.D.2 Each voter may add up to two (2) nominations per category.

3.D.3 Any additional nominations for the same nominee a voter has already nominated in the same category shall be ignored.

3.D.4 All new nominations must be for nominees that are on the longlist in the same category.

3.D.5 Postal mail ballots should be accepted insofar as it is practical given the schedule, but the Worldcon committee may if it chooses schedule this voting round in such a way that some members may not have ample time to submit such physical ballots.

3.D.6 All nominations added during this period shall be treated in all ways as if they had come during the first round of voting, except that they shall not be counted as violating the allowed number of nominations per category.

Extend finalists

Moved, to amend Section 3.C.3 and 3.C.7 of the 3SV proposal above, and to add section 3.C.A after 3.C.7, as follows:

3.C.3: The ballot for this round of voting shall present the voter with the following options for each longlist nominee: “Accept”, “Accept with extension”, “Reject”, and “Abstain”.

3.C.4: Any voter who does not submit a ballot will be considered to have voted “Abstain” on all nominees.

3.C.5: Any voter who does submit a ballot but does not explicitly choose one of the three options for a given nominee will be considered to have voted “Accept” on that nominee. This default choice should be made clear on the ballot insofar as practical.

3.C.6: Postal mail ballots should be accepted insofar as it is practical given the schedule, but the Worldcon committee may if it chooses schedule this voting round in such a way that some members may not have ample time to submit such physical ballots.

3.C.7: A nominee shall be eliminated and considered ineligible if it meets the following two criteria: the number of “Reject” votes it receives is greater than 20% of the pool of voters eligible under 3.C.1 and 3.C.2; and the number of “Reject” votes it receives is also greater than the number of “Accept” votes or “Accept with extension” votes it receives.

3.C.A: If the number of “Reject” votes and “Accept with extension” votes a nominee receives is greater than 10% of the number of voters eligible under 3.C.1 and 3.C.2; and the number of “Reject” votes and “Accept with extension” votes the nominee receives is also greater than the number of “Accept” votes it receives; and if the nominee is selected as a finalist; then the number of finalists in that category shall be increased by 1, up to a maximum of 7.

Three Possible Hugo Voting Alternatives

By Kevin Standlee: In light of the revelation that modeling of E Pluribus Hugo does not result in quite the “magic bullet” that some may have hoped for, we may need to consider other changes to the Hugo Award voting system to deal with bad actors deliberately setting themselves against the wishes of the majority of the voting members of the World Science Fiction Society. Over the past few weeks, I have written up descriptions of three different proposals that attempt to deal with bad actors in different ways, and to make it more likely that the results of the Hugo Awards represent the wishes of the majority of the participating members, without the members having to resort to the 16-ton anvil that is No Award.

All of the proposals below are compatible with either of the proposals up for ratification this year (EPH and 4/6). They are not necessarily compatible with each other. None of them require a Very Strong Administrator picking and choosing individual members’ ballots or disqualifying individual finalists on what I call “ideological” grounds. All of them aim to give the majority of the members a strong voice in picking the Hugo Awards.

In this overview, try not to get too deeply bogged down in specific details. For example, all three proposal refer to the “Top 15.” This is a reference to the “long list” currently defined in the WSFS constitution thusly:

3.11.4: The complete numerical vote totals, including all preliminary tallies for first, second, . . . places, shall be made public by the Worldcon Committee within ninety (90) days after the Worldcon. During the same period the nomination voting totals shall also be published, including in each category the vote counts for at least the fifteen highest vote-getters and any other candidate receiving a number of votes equal to at least five percent (5%) of the nomination ballots cast in that category, but not including any candidate receiving fewer than five votes.

Therefore, the “top 15” can be defined in different ways, and there’s a reasonable argument to be made for many of them. Don’t get too tangled up in specifics. These proposals have general principles, and if you’re agreeable to the general idea of any of them, then we can discuss the specific values for some of the blank spots in them.

In the list below, the links lead to my LiveJournal where each proposal is listed in more detail.

Proposal 1: 3-Stage Voting

3-Stage Voting (3SV) adds a new round of voting to the Hugo Award process, called “semi-finals,” between the existing nominating ballot and the existing final ballot. In 3SV, the top 15 nominees (including any ties, and see the warning about specifics above) are listed in a way that doesn’t show how many nominations they received. The members (supporting and attending) of the current Worldcon (not the previous and following Worldcons) are presented with this list, with a question on each of the fifteen semi-finalists in each category: “Is this work worthy of being on the Final Hugo Award Ballot?” with the choices being YES, NO, and ABSTAIN.

If a sufficient quorum (which is why counting explicit abstentions is important) votes, and if a sufficient number vote NO, that semi-finalist is disqualified from further consideration. As currently proposed, the necessary NO vote is “more NO than YES votes,” but the exact amount needed to disqualify is negotiable. Remember, even if every vote is NO, if a quorum (minimum number of voters) doesn’t participate, the work cannot be disqualified. (This makes it difficult for a small group to campaign against a work.)

At the end of the semi-final round, any works disqualified by the members, withdrawn by the nominees, or disqualified by the Committee on technical grounds is out of the running. From among the remaining semi-finalists, the five that got the most votes in the nominating phase become the finalists, and the final ballot continues as it currently does. Note that in this case it doesn’t matter how many YES votes a semi-finalist got, only that it didn’t get a negative majority.

3SV effectively moves the votes on NO AWARD to the semi-finals, although it would remain a candidate on the final ballot. It allows the members of the current Worldcon (the ones who will be voting on the final ballot) to decide in advance which works they think deserve to be on the final ballot. It does this at a price, however, and that price is to carve 6-8 weeks out of an already relatively crowded schedule. The proposal moves the deadline by which you have to be a member in order to nominate up by a month, and in practice would require the nominating deadline to be earlier in the year.

Another drawback of 3SV is that it triples the number of nominees that the Worldcon Committee (the Hugo Award Administrators) need to vet and contact. However, as a trade-off, it gives the administrator roughly three times as much time to do this contact work, and makes the vetting and contacting process public. That is because the Administrator would not need to contact semi-finalists in advance of announcing the “longlist” of semi-finalists. While the semi-final ballot runs, the Administrator would be contacting semi-finalists to give them an opportunity to withdraw from consideration in the final ballot. Administrators could put out a public appeal if they are unable to contact a given semi-finalist. In addition, the Administrator can do eligibility confirmation in public, with the help of the many other people who will undoubtedly be checking over the list and asking questions. Should a semi-finalist be disqualified on technical grounds, the semi-finalist would not be replaced on the semi-final ballot. Ineligible works show up on the existing Top 15 lists now, and the semi-final round would be too short to allow for replacing longlist slots.

An incidental feature of 3SV is that the finalists would not know they’d made the final ballot until the shortlist was announced. They’d know they were semi-finalists, and during the semi-finals they would have had time to decline if they so choose, but it would be impossible for them to leak being a finalist because they would not know it themselves.

Additional drawbacks to 3SV include the fact that it is explicitly negative. It is a place where you vote against things. Some people are philosophically opposed to “down-voting” works. Furthermore, should the known bad actors stop trying to game the system, there is little need for this semi-final round, and you might find people not even bothering to participate in it, which might result in complaints that we’d added complexity and expense for no obvious reason.

3SV is a “vote against stuff” system. An alternative to it was the second proposal.

Proposal 2: Double Nominations with Approval Voting

Double Nominations with Approval Voting (DN/AV, sometimes just DN) is similar to 3-Stage Voting, in that there would be a semi-final round with the Top 15 (see warning at the beginning of the article) nominees listed in an order that would not reveal how many nominations they received. Only members (attending and supporting) of the current Worldcon would vote at this stage. But instead of voting against semi-finalists as you do in 3SV, you would vote for those semi-finalists who you think deserve to be on the final ballot. You could vote for one or all of the semi-finalists. The version as currently proposed included a single write-in slot as well, primarily as a safety valve. In this case, the number of votes a semi-finalist gets here is critical, because only the top five would continue to the finals.

In 3SV, the number of YES votes doesn’t matter as long as there are fewer NO votes (or insufficient ballots cast to qualify the election at all). The relative number of YES votes doesn’t matter as long as the semi-finalist isn’t disqualified, because it’s the original nominating ballot count that sends works on to the final round if they survive the weeding-out process of 3SV’s downvotes. However, in DN/AV, the five works with the most votes in the semi-final round go on to the final ballot, and the number of nominating ballots cast to get the works onto the longlist is irrelevant. Some have called for nominating counts to be used as a tie-breaker, as they envision a 15-way tie for the final ballot. I personally think this unlikely, and there have been as many as eight finalists on a Hugo ballot due to ties for the final position, so I think we could live without a tie-breaker.

All of the extra administrative issues of 3SV are shared by DN/AV, so I won’t go over them again here.

DN/AV eliminates the “negative” aspect of 3SV, in that you vote for semi-finalists, not against them.

Some have suggested that there’s an implication that “you need to have read all of the semi-finalists in order to vote on this ballot,” although I don’t think that is true in either case. DN/AV is a second nominating round. Just as the current nominating ballot makes no pretense that you should have read everything published last year, DN/AV doesn’t expect voters to have read all fifteen semi-finalists, but instead to pick those that the voters think worth considering on the final ballot, knowing that only the top five will appear there.

The biggest advantage to either 3SV or DN/AV is that they put the decision of “what to have on the final ballot” in the hand of the members who will be voting on that final ballot, and that the majority will of those voters will prevail. Neither system is particularly susceptible to gaming by small minorities. The biggest drawback to either of the first two proposals is that they add an additional round of voting, with administrative overhead and complexity.

Some people have asserted, with various degrees of strength, that the Committee (Hugo Award Administrators) should simply ignore “slate voters” or disqualify “obvious slate-generated finalists.” In my opinion, such proposals are hugely problematical, in that they give Administrators authority they have never had in the entire history of the Hugo Awards. However, there is one historical precedent to which we can look when a group of bad actors appears to have forced a work onto the ballot, and the Worldcon Committee tried to ameliorate the action without actually disqualifying anyone. We’ll consider this in the final proposal.

Proposal 3: Plus Two

In 1989, the Hugo Award Administrator noticed an odd situation, where a set of nominating ballots arrived in close order with a single nomination cast in a single category. This was enough to place a finalist on the ballot that seemed unusual to anyone who had been watching the kinds of things that had made the shortlist in recent years. The ballots all having included membership payments in the form of consecutively numbered money orders further raised suspicions. According to the coverage of the situation in File 770 at the time, the 1989 Worldcon committee said in a statement at the time that they didn’t do any investigation, but that one person wrote to the committee to inquire why he had a membership when he hadn’t paid for it. (After they made a public statement, some fans contacted the committee claiming to have cast these votes with innocent intent.) In any event, there has always been a strong ethos in the Hugo Awards to allow the membership to speak, not a small committee. On the other hand, this case seemed to be doing someone out of a Hugo Award finalist slot unfairly. The Committee took the unprecedented step of adding the sixth-place nominee to the shortlist. Not too long thereafter, one of the six finalists (the one that seemed to be odd compared to the others) withdrew. There is no evidence or suggestion that the finalist who withdrew had anything to do with the string of bullet-voted ballots. At most, this was a case of enthusiasts with more money than common sense or ethics.

The final proposal that I’ve written up would explicitly authorize the Worldcon Committee (in practice, the Hugo Award Administration Subcommittee set up by the Worldcon Committee) to take the action that the 1989 Worldcon did whenever they think that there was a pattern of unethical voting in the nominating round. The Committee would be authorized to add up to two additional finalists from among the Top 15. They would not reveal which finalists they added until after the Hugo Awards ceremony, when it would be included in the post-ceremony detailed results.

I have no expectation that the current people who have typically been part of the Hugo Administration Subcommittee would be the ones who would make the actual Plus 2 decisions. I expect that any sensible Worldcon Committee would recruit additional Administrators for their literary judgement, just as the World Fantasy Award does. Any Administrator, no matter whether they were recruited for computer skills, literary skills, or public relations skills, would be ineligible for that year’s Award just as the current Administrators are.

Should the Administrators determine that there was no need to do so, they could choose to not add additional finalists. Thus, if known Bad Actors desist from their wrecking ways, the Administrators could simply continue running things as we have done in the past, leaving it up to the five highest pluralities of nominations. This would simplify administration and require relatively little change.

This proposal allows the Committee to pull from the Top 15, rather than simply the next two finishers in the nominations, to minimize multiple-slating attacks on the system that would try to dominate the top seven rather than the top five positions. While 20% of the electorate has been able to dominate the first five positions relatively easily, it seems unlikely that such a small group could dominate the top fifteen unless their voting power grew to a majority of the entire electorate. Inasmuch as solutions that represent a majority of the electorate (even if you personally dislike the result) are not contrary to democratic process, there is nothing in this proposal that tries to “defend against it.” As I’ve said above and will continue to say, if you can command a majority of the voters, you get your way, even if I don’t like it. It is minorities dominating the process that troubles me.

Note that there’s nothing magic about adding two additional works. It could be one or more. The exact value is debatable. However, consider that we do hope that most people read all or most of the finalists, and therefore making the shortlist too long works against any good you might get from adding (say) five extra works to the ballot.

Broadly speaking, Plus Two is compatible with either (but not both) 3SV and DN/AV. That is, this proposal can be considered separately from either 3SV or DN/AV, whereas the first two proposals above are antithetical to each other, and only one of them could be reasonably considered at a time.

The biggest advantage of Plus Two is that it’s relatively simple, does not add a lot of administrative overhead, and allows the existing two-stage process to stay in place, with only a relatively minor change of adding works to the final ballot. It also adds the “human judgement element” that it appears that many people seem to think is necessary to combat bad-faith efforts to sabotage the Awards.

The biggest disadvantage is that it gives Administrators an authority that they’ve never actually had before, and that they have used only once before, without any explicit sanction. Administrators may be reluctant to serve on the Hugo Award Administration Subcommittee if they know that they may be responsible in some way for adding works to the Hugo Award ballot.

Conclusions

There are no “magic bullets” when it comes to tinkering with the Hugo Award rules. None of the proposals here is a perfect fix. Indeed, per Arrow’s Theorem, there is no such thing as a perfect voting system. However, we can try to move things around and minimize unfairness, usually at the expense of additional complexity. The political question then is how much complexity we can tolerate to improve perceived fairness.

The Instant Runoff Voting system that we use on the final ballot is a case of trading complexity (IRV boggles the minds of people who reject anything other than First Past the Post voting) for fairness (IRV usually returns the least-disliked candidate in an election, rather than the one with the largest plurality; in a field of more than two candidates like the Hugo Awards, it usually returns a consensus winner, not just a strong front-runner). Should we decide that the changes we’ve started with E Pluribus Hugo and 4/6 that are up for ratification this year are insufficient to tilt the field back toward perceived fairness, it behooves the members of WSFS meeting in Kansas City this summer to consider additional changes now, not later.

WSFS rules are intentionally complicated to change, in order to prevent concerns of a day or even of a single year to overwhelm the process. However, that doesn’t mean that we cannot start queuing up additional changes now while we continue to monitor how things proceed, in order to protect our own longer term interests.

I expect at least one of the proposals outlined here to be on the agenda of this year’s WSFS Business Meeting. We might even have all three of them.

Pixel Scroll 5/16/16 Pixel McScrollface

(1) AGENT OF TERRA? Brad Templeton confesses, “I was investigated by the feds for taking a picture of the sun”.

A week ago, a rather strange event took place. No, I’m not talking about just the Transit of Mercury in front of the sun on May 9, but an odd result of it.

That morning I was staying at the Westin Waterfront in Boston. I like astrophotography, and have shot several transits…

I did not have my top lenses with me but I decided to photograph it anyway with my small size Sony 210mm zoom and a welding glass I brought along. I shot the transit, holding the welding glass over the lens, with all mounted on my super-light “3 legged thing” portable tripod….

At 10am I got a frantic call from the organizer of the Exponential Manufacturing conference I would be speaking at the next day. “You need to talk to the FBI!” he declared. Did they want my advice on privacy and security? “No,” he said, “They saw you taking photos of the federal building with a tripod from your hotel window and want to talk to you.”

(2) SHINING EXAMPLE. Ann Leckie discovered someone’s named a nail polish after her.

There’s a Jemisin and Le Guin too. In fact, Nerdlacquer has named its products after all kinds of sf/f references, from Octarine to General Effing Leia.

(3) #STARWARSFORJJ. Not our JJ. An Irish kid — “Star Wars hero Mark Hamill stuns brave Northern Ireland cancer teen Jamie Harkin”

Star Wars hero Luke Skywalker was reduced to tears when he felt the remarkable force of a brave Northern Irish teen who has fought off cancer twice.

Actor Mark Hamill, who plays the famous Jedi Knight , met up with super fan Jamie Harkin.

The brave 17-year-old has raised more than £15,000 for other children battling the disease….

And on Monday the Derry lad joined his idol for breakfast during a break in filming for the latest instalment of the sci-fi saga in Donegal.

“People say that you should never meet your idols, because you build them up in your head so much that when you do meet them, they are a let down, and to that, I say, ‘you’re wrong’,” he said.

(4) SLACKEROO BANZAI. Birth. Movies. Death. is not enamored of reports that Kevin Smith might get to make a Buckaroo Banzai TV series.

Dear fans of The Adventure Of Buckaroo Banzai,

We regret to inform you that, on a recent episode of his podcast, Tusk director Kevin Smith revealed that he has been approached by MGM about possibly adapting The Adventures Of Buckaroo Bonzai for television.

In situations like these, it is natural to look for someone to blame for your grief. In this case, it appears that you have The CW’s The Flash to thank (or, rather, Smith’s recent episode of The Flash).

According to i09, the studio was impressed with Smith’s work on that single episode (the studio is apparently unaware of Tusk, Red State, the porch sequence from Tusk, the trailer for Yoga Hosers, Mallrats, Smith’s intention to make a movie called Moose Jaws, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back, most of Dogma, Clerks 2, and Cop Out), so much so that they invited him over to pitch ideas….

(5) KALDON CLARION SCHOLARSHIP. SF author Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon passed away on April 20. A GoFundMe campaign has been started to create a Dr. Phil Memorial Scholarship for the Clarion workshop.

Janiece Murphy says, “Dr. Phil was a kind and generous man, and we’d like to memorialize him in a way that reflects these qualities.”

Murphy explains there are two ways to give money.

Folks can donate to the GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/drphilclarion , or they can donate directly to Clarion in Dr. Phil’s name at http://imagination.ucsd.edu/support.html . If they choose the latter, I would ask that they ensure the gift is designated for the Dr. Phil Clarion Scholarship, otherwise it will go to the general fund.

The GoFundMe appeal has raised $1,045 of its $5,000 goal as of this writing.

(6) WHAT’S IMPORTANT. Joe Sherry makes a great point in “My Favorite Stories Sometimes Win: A Nebula Love Story” at Nerds of a Feather.

First, it should be noted that two of my favorite stories from 2015 did, in fact, win Nebula Awards on Saturday night. I adored both Nnedi Okorafor’s Binti as well as Sarah Pinsker’s “Our Lady of the Open Road“. Both are wonderful stories and I am so happy both Okorafor and Pinsker were recognized as being excellent pieces of fiction…

This leads into my second thing I’d like to talk about. So much of the conversation about awards, whether it is the Nebula or the Hugo or the any other award you’d like to mention, is about the winner. Don’t get me wrong, of course I want my favorite stories to be recognized as the “best” novel or short story or whatever other category. Of course I do. I not only get emotionally invested in the story, I sometimes also become emotionally invested in the success of the author. Of course I want my favorite author to win all the awards and sell all the books. Of course I do.

That’s okay, but let’s not lose sight of the fact that just receiving a nomination is a significant recognition and is difficult enough to do in any given year, let alone a single time in a career. Publish your best work in the wrong year and it may still miss the ballot for any number of reasons. The recognition of a nomination is important, both for the work as well as for the field itself. The nomination says “yes, this story was excellent and we value it”….

(7) KAGAN BOOKS AVAILABLE. To capture a news item seen the other day in comments: Baen has republished several long-out-of-print Janet Kagan works as ebooks – Mirabile, Hellspark, and The Collected Kagan.

(8) SFWA ELECTIONS. SF Site News covered this weekend’s SFWA officer elections.

Last year saw some officers elected for two year terms and others elected for one year terms. This year, elections were only held for positions which were elected for one year terms last year. Erin M. Hartshorn, Justina Ireland, and Lawrence M. Schoen ran for two open Director-at-Large positions.

  • Vice President: M.C.A. Hogarth, re-elected, unopposed
  • CFO: Bud Sparhawk, re-elected, unopposed
  • Director at Large: Justina Ireland
  • Director at Large: Lawrence M. Schoen

(9) NEBULA DIVERSITY. K. Tempest Bradford reported on the Nebula Awards for NPR.

…This weekend’s winners reflect many different types of diversity beyond gender. Half are women of color, half are self-identified queer women – which mirrors the overall diversity of the ballot. 24 out of the 34 works nominated for the award were written by women from multiple racial and cultural backgrounds and a spectrum of sexual orientations. Of the 10 works by men, five of them were written by people of color and queer authors.

“The Nebula ballot is everything a ballot should be in this community,” said Brooke Bolander, author of the nominated story “And You Shall Know Her by the Trail of Dead.” “It’s diverse, it’s wide-ranging, and it includes amazing stories by amazing authors.”

That’s an important point, given the ongoing conversation about diversity happening now in speculative fiction circles. The Hugos — the other major awards in the genre — are nominated by fans. Last year and again this year, Hugo nominations have been affected by the Sad and Rabid Puppies groups, who campaign against what they see as affirmative action-based nominating and voting in the Hugo and Nebula awards.

But “people want these stories,” says Alyssa Wong. She was the first Filipino author to be nominated for the Nebula award last year and is now the first to win it for her 2015 short story “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers.” Though she says she’s seen some Puppy-style criticism of her success, most of the reaction has been positive.

Readers “want to read stories from the points of view of people who have been historically been locked out of the genre,” Wong says. “‘Hungry Daughters’ is about a group of women who are all Asian-American and all from very different backgrounds, all of whom feel isolated in some way … But clearly this is not just Asian-American audiences who this is resonating with. I’m appreciative that people are reading more widely now. It means more opportunities — not just to be published, but to be seen.”

(10) SITE PICKED FOR 2019 COSTUME-CON. Over Mother’s Day weekend at Costume-Con 34 in Madison, WI, the site for Costume-Con 37 in 2019 was chosen.  It will be run under the auspices of MCFI with Aurora Celeste and Sharon Sbarsky as co-chairs. Social media still to come.

Costume-Con 37
Salem, MA
March 22-25, 2019
DoubleTree Boston North Shore
(actually Danvers, MA)
$129 Hotel Rate including Free WiFi, Free Parking, and Free Cookies!
$60 ($45 for those that voted) through at least December 31, 2016

(11) HUGO FIX. Damien Walter takes a math-lite approach to fighting slates, where Yobs = Ø

(12) DARLEY OBIT. Dick Darley, who directed Space Patrol, died April 21 at the age of 92. He also directed the first season of The Mickey Mouse Club.

Born in Los Angeles, he served as a fighter pilot in the United States Navy during World War II, then studied radio production and writing at USC. First working at San Diego’s KFMB, he later joined L.A.’s KECA where in 1950 he became director on the channel’s new series Space Patrol.

Set in the 30th century, the series followed the adventures of Commander-in-Chief Buzz Corry of the United Planets Space Patrol, who along with his sidekick Cadet Happy faced off against a rogues gallery of villains inspired by then-current Cold War. For its first 10 months, the show aired as 15 minute episodes Monday through Friday. In December, 1950, ABC commissioned a half hour version that ran on Saturdays, concurrently with the 15-minute version. Aimed at children, the show picked up a following of adult viewers and would go on to make history when it became the first regular live West Coast morning show to be beamed to the East Coast.

(13) A THREAT TO DEMOCRACY. Norman Spinrad has some strong opinions about Facebook.

Well my attempt to split my so-called Facebook “Timeline” into several different forums has been a dismal failure. Didn’t work, and more recent news (and I mean real news, not Facebook’s so-called “News Feed”) about Facebook begins not only to explain why, but begins to illuminate far larger issues about what Facebook is doing and trying to do.

Facebook has been accused of using both secret algorithms and human “editors” to control and even censor its so-called News Feed and “Trending topics” feed to suit the political agenda of Mark Zuckerberg &Co. But not to worry, Zuckerberg himself has appointed a committee to investigate.

Facebook had generously offered to finance free Internet service to third world countries, notably India. Well not exactly. The Facebook “free Internet service” would only connect to web sites approved and chosen by Facebook. India at least being a sophisticated democracy said no thanks. And other so-called “developing countries” have likewise gotten the point.

The point being that Facebook is becoming a threat to democracy itself, nowhere more so than in the United States, where a majority of people are getting their “news” from Facebook already and Facebook is expanding the process exponentially, as witness how it has weaseled itself into most of the televised presidential primary debates and now is funneling selected news stories from legitimate journalistic news channels through “News Feed” and “Trending” to far larger demographics than they can possibly reach by themselves.

And now it has been revealed that Facebook is in effect filtering and editing these feeds according Mark Zuckerberg’s political agenda. But not to worry, Zuckerberg has appointed a committee of his own minions to investigate himself.

Why is this a threat to democracy? Because it is already a huge threat to professional and politically neutral journalism itself, the commons cornerstone of any democracy….

(14) PROTECTION OR THEATRE? Recently the Society for Promotion of Japanese Animation, which runs Anime Expo in Los Angeles, announced a new Youth Protection program that requires all employees, volunteers, vendors and panelists to submit to a criminal background check and take online courses. Christopher Macdonald argues in an Anime News Network editorial that “The SPJA Needs to Change Its Youth Protection Policy”.

On the surface the new policy seems like a great idea. Who isn’t in favor of protecting children from predators? This policy isn’t unwarranted either, as with every similarly large event, bad things happen… and have happened. Unfortunately the SPJA’s new policy has many unintended consequences. Here are but a few:

  • Cost: It isn’t entirely clear who has to pay for the background checks, but these checks could be very expensive for people who have to pay for them. While a typical background checks costs as little as $50, the actual price can be prohibitively expensive for some vendors. For example, some background checks cost an extra $50 for every country a subject has visited in the past 5 years, and an extra $200 if they have lived outside the USA. With those prices, my background check would cost over $1,000 (note: AX has stated on Twitter “No artist, volunteer, guest, staff is being asked to pay for own bg check,“ however it seems that vendors and exhibitors do have to pay for the background checks).
  • Privacy & Security: The new SPJA policy requires that all vendors register with their real names & info. Many people in our industry, particularly professional and semi-professional cosplayers, have problems with stalkers. They do not want to be forced to wear badges with their real names, and they do not want their home address in the SPJA’s database. It may even be illegal to force employees of California based vendors to undergo background checks. There is a very limited number of cases in which an employer can mandate a background check, and this is not one of those cases. Therefore, it may be illegal for companies like Aniplex of America, Bandai, Crunchyroll, NIS America and Viz Media to ask their employees to undergo the background check.
  • Good People will fail the background check: I won’t go into too much detail about this here, there is plenty of information online about it, but many people often have significant trouble with background checks. Here are but a few of the reasons you can fail a background check: a name change, a minor violent arrest (got into a fight in a bar back in your college days), visiting an “undesirable” country (have you been to Iran or Cuba? I have), sharing your name with an actual criminal, etc…
  • It’s Insulting: Picture this, “Hi, you’re one of the top manga artists in Japan, and we’d really like to have you as a guest of honor at our show, but first we need to make sure you aren’t a child molester.” This is straight up offensive; you should expect that people will be insulted by this. And they are; I can say with absolute certainty that some of AX’s potential guests have pulled out because of this, and in at least one case an artist is disturbed enough that it is having an effect on their work. Have you noticed that we’re less than 2 months out, and almost no guests of honor have been announced? Guest contracts are in limbo while they wait for this issue to be resolved. For some guests it is already too late for them to commit to the event, their schedules are made more than 2 months in advance.

(15) TESTING FOR HUMANITY. The Futility Closet blog describes a proposed replacement for the Turing Test.

The original test, in which a computer program tries to fool a human judge into thinking it’s human during a five-minute text-only conversation, has been criticized because the central task of devising a false identity is not part of intelligence, and because some conversations may require relatively little intelligent reasoning.

The new test would be based on so-called Winograd schemas, devised by Stanford computer scientist Terry Winograd in 1972. Here’s the classic example:

The city councilmen refused the demonstrators a permit because they [feared/advocated] violence.

If the word feared is used, to whom does they refer, the councilmen or the demonstrators? What if we change feared to advocated? You know the answers to these questions because you have a practical understanding of anxious councilmen. Computers find the task more difficult because it requires not only natural language processing and commonsense reasoning but a working knowledge of the real world….

In July 2014 Nuance Communications announced that it will sponsor an annual Winograd Schema Challenge, with a prize of $25,000 for the computer that best matches human performance. The first competition will be held at the 2016 International Joint Conference on Artificial Intelligence, July 9-15 in New York City.

(16) SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED. George R.R. Martin weighs in on the EPH discussion with “All the King’s Horses…” at Not A Blog.

I can hear the proponents of EPH and 4/6 saying their reforms were never meant to be a cure all. Yes, I know that, I never believed otherwise, and I applaud your efforts to help. I just wish these reforms helped more. Neither EPH nor 4/6 is going to prevent us from having VD on the Best Editor shortlist from now until the heat death of the universe.

And I also know that there are now other proposals out there, proposals that call for three-stage voting, for negative votes and blackballing, for juries. Some of these cures, I fear, might be even worse than the disease. We have plenty of juried awards; we don’t need another. Three-stage voting, with fifteen semi-finalists that get boiled down to five finalists and one winner? Maybe, but that considerably increases the workload of the Hugo administrators, whose job is hard enough already… and I fear it would actually ratchet up campaigning, as friends and fans of those on the List of Fifteen rallied around their favorites to get them on the List of Five. And a blackball round, voting things off the ballot? Is that really a can of worms we want to open, in this present climate? That would dial the ugliness up to eleven, I fear… or higher.

Sadly, I don’t think there is an answer here. No magic bullet is going to fix this. And I fear that the people saying, “pretty soon the assholes will get bored and go away,” are being hopelessly naive. The assholes are having far too much fun.

(17) BABELFISH NOW REALITY? Here’s the pitch.

Although the Indiegogo did not reach its goal, Waverly Labs appeas to be going ahead with production — the preorder campaign is scheduled to launch May 25.

1. How much will it cost? Retail is expected to be $249-$299
2. How much is the early bird? Early bird will be first come first serve. A limited quantity will go for $129, then another round for $149, and then a few more Late Early Bird options for $179+. Signup here: www.waverlylabs.com/launch
3. When can I preorder the Pilot? The preorder campaign is scheduled to launch on May 25th. We will keep everyone updated via email. As long as you have signed up for the launch then you will be alerted.
4. When will they be delivered? We are releasing a translation app this summer for basic translation. This is included in your purchase. However, the earpieces require much more testing, manufacturing and production time. Therefore, we anticipate the earliest will be in late fall/early winter, although fulfilling all orders could take until next spring. Again, it is first come first serve.
5. What’s included? The full package includes the Pilot and secondary earpiece (2 earpieces total), 1 portable charger, and an accompanying app. The app is where the languages are downloaded for the earpiece.

The rest of the FAQ is here.

[Thanks to Rick Kovalcik, JJ, Will R., Mark-kitteh, Lola McCrary, and John King Tarpinian for some of these stories. Title credit goes to File 770 contributing editor of the day Soon Lee.]

Analyzing EPH

By Bruce Schneier: Jameson Quinn and I analyzed the E Pluribus Hugo (EPH) voting system, proposed as a replacement for the current Approval Voting system for the Hugo nominations ballot. (This is an academic paper; the Hugo administrators will be publishing their own analysis, more targeted to the WSFS Business Meeting, in the coming weeks.) We analyzed EPH with both actual and simulated voting data, and this is what we found.

If EPH had been used last year in the 2015 Hugo nominations process, then…

The number of slate nominees would have been reduced by 1 in 6 categories, and by 2  in 2 categories, leaving no category without at least one non-slate nominee.

That doesn’t seem like very much. A reasonable question to ask is why doesn’t it reduce the number more. The answer is simply that the slate was powerful last year.

The data demonstrates the power of the Puppies. The category Best Novelette provides a good example. This category had 1044 voters, distributed over 149 different works with 3 or more votes. Of these voters, around 300 (29%) voted for more Puppy-slate works than non-Puppy ones, and about half of those (14%) voted for only Puppy-slate works. These numbers are also roughly typical. The other 71% of the ballots included under 3% with votes for any Puppy work (this is relatively low, but not anomalously so, compared to other categories).

Despite being a majority, the non-Puppy voters spread their votes more thinly; only 24% of them voted for any of the top 5 non-Puppy works. This meant that 4 of the 5 nominees would have been from the Puppy slate under SDV-LPE or SDV.

(SDV-LPE stands for “Single Divisible Vote – Least Popular Elimination,” the academic name for this voting system. SDV is “Single Divisible Vote,” a long-standing and well-understood voting system.)

To further explore this, we took the actual 2014 Hugo nominations data from Loncon 3 and created a fake slate, then analyzed how it affected the outcome at different percentages of the vote totals:

In Figure 1, we assume perfectly correlated bloc voters. They vote in lockstep (with minimal exceptions to prevent ties), and their five nominations are completely disjoint from the other nominations. As you can see, both SDV-LPE and SDV reduce the power of the bloc voters considerably. Under AV, the voting bloc reliably nominates 3 candidates when they make up 10.5% of the voters, 4 candidates when they make up 12.5%, and 5 when they make up 19%. Under SDV-LPE, they need to be 26% of voters to reliably nominate 3 candidates, 36.5% to reliably nominate 4, and 54% to reliably nominate 5….

Figure 2 simulates a more realistic voting bloc. We sample the actual behavior of the bloc voters in the 2015 Hugo nominations election, and add them to the actual 2014 nominations data. For the purposes of this simulation, we define bloc voters as people who voted for more Puppy candidates than non-Puppy candidates. In this case, the actual bloc voters did not vote in lockstep: some voted for a few members of the slate, and some combined slate nominations with non-slate nominations. For the purposes of the simulation, when they voted for the nth most popular non-Puppy candidate in 2015, we imputed that into a vote for the nth most popular non-Puppy candidate in 2014. In this case, SDV-LPE and SDV reduce the power of those voting blocs even further. Under AV, the voting bloc reliably nominates 3 candidates with 14% of the voters, 4 candidates with 17% of the voters, and 5 with 39%. Under SDV-LPE, they need to make up 27.5% to nominate 3 candidates, 38% to nominate 4, and 69.5% to nominate 5….

The upshot of all this is that EPH cannot save the Hugos from slate voting. It reduces the power of slates by about one candidate. To reduce the power of slates further, it needs to be augmented with increased voting by non-slate voters.

There is one further change in the voting system that we could make, and we discuss it in the paper. This is a modification of EPH, but would — for the slate percentages we’ve been seeing — reduce their power by about one additional candidate. So if a slate would get 5 candidates under the current system and 4 under SDV-LPE (aka EPH), it would get 3 under what we’ve called SDV-LPE-SL. Yes, we know it’s another change that would require another vote and another year to ratify. Yes, we know we should have proposed this last year. But we had to work with the actual data before optimizing that particular parameter.

Basically, we use a system of weighing divisible votes named after the French mathematician André Sainte-Laguë, who introduced it in France in 1910. In EPH, your single vote is divided among the surviving nominees. So if you have two nominees who have not yet been eliminated, each gets half of your vote. If three of your nominees have not yet been eliminated, each gets 1/3 of your vote. And so on. The Sainte-Laguë system has larger divisors. If you have two nominees who have not yet been eliminated, each gets 1/3 of your vote. If three of your nominees have not yet been eliminated, each gets 1/5 of your vote. Each of four get 1/7; each of five get 1/9. This may sound arbitrary, but there’s well over a hundred years of voting theory supporting these weights and the results are still proportional.

Implementing SDV-LPE-SL using the actual 2015 Hugo data:

SDV-LPE-SL comes even closer to giving slate voters a proportional share, with 7 fewer slate nominees overall, and only 1 category without a choice between at least 2 non-slate nominees.

For the perfectly correlated voting bloc simulation:

Under SDV-LPE, they need to be 26% of voters to reliably nominate 3 candidates, 36.5% to reliably nominate 4, and 54% to reliably nominate 5. Under SDV-LPE-SL, they need to be 35% for 3, 49% for 4, and 66% for 5.

And for the more realistic voting bloc simulation:

Under SDV-LPE-SL, they need 36% for 3, 49% for 4, and over 70% for 5.

That’s a big difference.

Here’s our paper. It’s academic, so it refers to the voting system by its academic name. It spends a lot of time discussing the motivation behind the new voting system, and puts it in context with other voting systems. Then it describes and analyzes both SDV-LPE and SDV-LPE-SL.

MAC II Statement on Data Release for EPH Testing

The Sasquan and MidAmeriCon II committees responded to File 770’s query about the transfer of anonymized raw 2015 Hugo nominating ballot data for use in testing the proposed E Pluribus Hugo vote tallying method.

Linda Deneroff, Sasquan’s WSFS (World Science Fiction Society) Division Head, wrote:

Sasquan passed its nominating data to MidAmeriCon II for analysis in the EPH process. Neither Glenn [Glazer], John [Lorentz], Ruth [Lorentz] nor I were involved in the analysis.

Tammy Coxen. MidAmeriCon II WSFS Division Head, explained what was done with the data:

After EPH passed at Sasquan, the MidAmeriCon II Hugo Administration team publicly committed to testing the system so that real data about its efficacy could be made available to WSFS members before the business meeting where ratification would take place. As part of that testing, MidAmeriCon II was collaborating with two researchers (Bruce Schneier and Jameson Quinn) in evaluating the system. As previously announced, it was determined that the data was unable to be sufficiently anonymized for a general release, so the researchers were provided data under a non-disclosure agreement.

There was to have been a coordinated release of the research findings between MidAmeriCon II and the researchers, which would have made clear the circumstances under which the data had been shared. Planning was already underway regarding that release, but as noted, analysis is still occurring. Our intention is to jointly share the research findings when they are complete, which will be well in advance of the business meeting at MidAmeriCon II.

The previously announced concerns that Coxen refers to were discussed here in a September 2015 post, “Hitch in Sasquan Nominating Data Turnover”.

E Pluribus Hugo Tested With Anonymized 2015 Data

By Jameson Quinn: [Originally left as a comment.] So, Bruce Schneier and I are working on an academic paper about the E Pluribus Hugo (EPH) proposed voting system. We’ve been given a data set of anonymized votes from 2015. I don’t want to give all the results away but here are a few, now that people are actually voting for this year’s Hugos:

  • A typical category had around 300 ballots which voted for more puppies than non-puppies, and about half of those ballots were for puppies exclusively. There were few ballots which voted for half or fewer puppies (typically only a few dozen). The average number of works per ballot per category was around 3.
  • There were some weak correlations among non-puppies, but nothing that remotely rivals the puppies’ coherence. In particular, correlations were low enough that even if voting patterns remained basically dispersed, raising the average works per ballot per category from 3 to 4 (33% more votes total) would probably have been as powerful in terms of promoting diverse finalists (that is, not all puppies) as adding over 25% more voters. In other words: if you want things you vote for to be finalists, vote for more things — vote for all the things you think may be worthy.
  • EPH would have resulted in 10 more non-puppy finalists overall; at least 1 non-puppy in each category (before accounting for eligibility and withdrawals).
  • SDV(*) would have resulted in 13 more non-puppy finalists overall.
  • Most other proportional systems would probably have resulted in 13 or 14 more.
  • The above numbers are based on assuming the same ballot set; that is, that voters would not have reacted to the different voting system by strategizing. If strategizing is not used unless it is likely to be rational, that is a pretty safe assumption with EPH; less so with other proportional systems. Thus, other systems could in theory actually lead to fewer non-puppy nominees / less diversity than EPH.

Feel free to promote this to a front page post if you want. Disclaimer: EPH is not intended to shut the puppies out, but merely to help ensure that the diversity of the nominees better reflects the diversity of taste of the voters.

(*) Editor’s note: I believe SDV refers to Single Divisible Vote.

Update 02/08/2016: Added to end of second bullet missing phrase, supplied by author. Corrected footnote, based on author’s comment.