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Ursa's Major Issue - Confident self-promotion vs humble passionate skill, and a voting system's favoritism

Edited by GreenReaper as of Fri 10 Jun 2022 - 14:42
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UrsaVoting.jpgUrsa, we may have a problem. Or at least so it may seem. Over the past few years the number of people voting in the furry fandom’s popular choice awards appears to be dwindling once again, despite continual growth and booming attendance at our conventions - COVID aside - revealing the growing audience and community beneath this stagnation.

But if less people in proportion are voting, is there a reason for this? One option may be that the system may be lead to some strange victors based on popularity of a franchise or personality rather than other considerations. But is this just a coincidence or could it be how the system was inadvertently crafted?

This article’s goal is to highlight why the current system is so sensitive to favoring artists who self-promote or whose fans rally on their behalf, at the expense of voters that weigh more toward judging the quality of the pieces nominated without authorship considerations. It will then propose a small change to make it more fair to both types of voters and creators, without stifling out those who show up with a passion for their artist.

Be wary, this gets long and technical. But if you’re reading this up to this point, I’m sure you knew that’s what you were in for.

A tale of two creators

This year, a single content creator had a goal to win as many awards as they possibly could, ended up getting nominated in three categories, and after a rigorous campaign of self-promotion won them all. Before we go too deep into this article, let me note that I hold no animosity for them doing so. The rules are simple and self-promotion is always part of life. If you want to win a contest based on popularity, sometimes you need to put yourself out there. If there was a fourth award for most avid fanbase, then Garrison should be proud of them because they clearly have dedicated fans. They worked consistently for a long period on their art, and it's good they were recognized for it.

However, this is not the first year that the impact of an artist’s popularity has over the measure of the artistic content has caused issues. On the other side of the spectrum, Kyell Gold won at least one Ursa Major for writing for six straight years between 2005 and 2011. He didn’t go around promoting himself as avidly as Garrison [though publishers took note]; but he has an avid fanbase, to the point where the author felt that him winning with such frequency was taking oxygen out of the room for other authors. So before voting for the Ursa Major’s began in 2012, he publicly stated that he no longer wished to have his works considered. (One of this year's winners has done something similar for 2022.)

That very same year the Cóyotl Awards were founded that allow only Furry Writers’ Guild members to vote on the best written works for the year. But that's probably a coincidence.

But is this a coincidence that avid fans bring in victories, or is there something further that causes this system to be sensitive to it? To understand this we must break down the voting systems and methods of tally further.

A primer on voting systems

Before we can go over how to fix a system that has a bias, we must prove the system has one. We must also understand that there are many different ways you can collect and tally votes, and that you want the outcome to be the one that fits what the people want the best, rather than whatever gerrymandering is. The best voting systems are tailored for their purpose, but also would require less gamification on the voters’ and nominees’ part.

To go over this there are two systems we need to focus on when it comes to tallying the votes for the Ursa Majors: the first past the post method (FPP) and the alternate vote (also known as Instant Runoff voting).

Fortunately for me, instead of writing out these systems, YouTuber CPGrey goes over both of them in two videos which I have linked above. In short, the FPP method has a nasty little side-effect called the spoiler effect. Once people know that, they tend to create competing blocks that in essence eventually radicalize the nominees and voters into two binary fiefdoms in order to provide an external solution to the flawed voting system.

This is what I was alluding to in the Tweet I made referencing the situation. Though in hindsight saying “all democracies” was a bit short sighted, mostly those with these flawed voting FPP voting systems. To be fair, most tweets tend to be shortsighted, and it’s why I wear glasses.

Now, when we think of the ranked system of the Ursa Majors we may think that because we are voting for three candidates that this is actually akin to the Instant Runoff, and that would prevent spoiler effects. But as we will discuss in the next section, it is actually a First Past the Post method that is modified in such a way that it actually makes the spoiler effect worse.

Current system and its bias

Currently the rank system used in the Ursa gives each voter effectively six points to distribute among three of the five nominees: three to one, two to another, and one to the last. However they do not have to give all their six points. They can give just three to one pick and burn the remaining points. However, this and of itself is a vote: three points to one nominee and three points to nobody. So in truth it’s similar to a winner-take-all system where everyone gets six votes to distribute how they wish within those noted restrictions. The ranking actually doesn’t serve the function of ‘ranking’ but just giving votes more weight of a person’s six votes.

This option of burning three of their votes is how self-promoters and stanning fans can effectively gain an advantage in this system. An avid fan of the artist or property will usually opt out of picking three nominees and just give three points to the one they want to see win and leave all the other four nominees to starve. You can see where this happens thanks to the statistics provided by the volunteers at the Ursa Majors.

To note before we get into these examples, this phenomenon happens in all categories in all years to some degree. The examples we are using have to do with the three Garrison nomination in 2021, but if you go back through the data you’ll see it happens all the time. Garrison being so open with their campaign gives us the opportunity to break down how the system gives advantages to those who do self-promote over others. I'm glad they highlighted this flaw in the system then someone with more nefarious intentions.

So let us take the three categories Garrison won for this year as examples. I have added additional information to help illustrate the story the numbers are telling:

Burned Points and their bias

Notice the total number of votes on Published Illustration selected for rank #1 is 275, and for #2 is 187. This means 88 voters in this group decided to burn three of their points instead of giving them to the other artists. In effect, since they are sacrificing those points, it makes their three points more powerful to their chosen person than ones who give them three and then throw points at other artists.

In essence, this gives a leg-up to a voter wanting one item to win, rather than one that takes the time to rank them and use all six of their points.

We can understand this better by simplifying it to a scenario with two voters. Voter A must use all six points distributed by the Ursas’ rules, and voter B must use three points to one candidate and burn the rest. In this scenario whoever voter B picks will win definitively if any of voter A’s points touch their candidate of choice, this has a 60% chance of outcome if done at random. Voter A will only win for their top pick if it agrees with B, a 20% chance that is shared within the 60% above. In the remaining 40% there will be a tie between Voter A’s and B’s top choice. Therefore B’s voting tactic is more powerful in this exchange, they can have their top choice win independent from A’s top choice, but not the other way around.

The decisive victor

We can compare this to a one vote per person system. There will only be a winner if A and B agree on the nominee which will happen 20% if at random. The rest of the time there will be a tie. A and B can win and tie with equal probability, and always at the same time. There is no systemic bias.

The Fair Distribution

Highlighting the Burner’s bias with a Median

The total of votes alone is not enough to dictate which of the nominees benefited from the populist pressures upon the voting system. That’s where the median of the votes can help to further highlight the phenomenon. The lower the number, the higher the probability that the person in question had their fans come in and vote for them as #1 and burning the rest of their votes. Because if a work is competitive in quality, they should have a good proportion of people considering it as their #2 or #3 choices along with those making it their top pick.

This is a bit less reliable when the masses seem to agree upon the order of their votes organically, you can see this in the comic strip votes for this year. Excluding the Garrison entry, voters seemed to definitively rank Foxes in Love for their number one pick, and Freefall as number two. This causes the medians to be much more distinct and not as correlated to the winner by points.

This could also be occurring since comic creators distribute content on a regular basis. Due to this they are more likely to have a fresh presence in the minds of people, so in essence each entry works similar to promoting oneself, which a more static style of content such as an illustration or short dramatic work does not have.

What we see in all three of the Garrison victories is a low median on their work coupled with a high top ranking distribution. As noted before, this happens all the time in the Ursas to an extent. It’s fine that people come to vote to support their senpai. But the person passionate about one person should not have an advantage over those that are analyzing the works on a more personal preference of content level.

Spirit and intent

I do not believe that when this simple system was developed that it was intended to function in this way. More likely the nerd who took it upon themselves to create this voting plan, like most of us nerds, assumed that people voting in this would be as passionate as they are for the arts and would always distribute their three options, thus leading to the best art winning given everyone would use all three of their ranks. They did not think that a person would be passionate for only the artist behind one of the works and only hand out three points to them. However, you can see that this appears to always happen to some extent. From my scan of the data, the number of #1 picks tends to be greater than those who pick a #2 option, is greater than those who pick a #3 option.

I would like to think that the Ursa Majors’ intention was to be awarded to the best content as voted by the fandom as a whole, rather than who make the best content and can run the most effective voting campaign. As GreenReaper responded to my tweet above, not everything is about politics. I would agree, so we need to have a system that does not show favoritism toward being able to art and schmooze. Just the art, thanks.

So what can be done? Luckily for the Ursas I believe how the votes are collected can remain the same, but how they are tallied must change. This is where the Alternative Vote comes into play.

Solution: true Instant Runoff Voting

I believe this was the original intent of the Ursa Majors’ pick-three system, but the way in which it was implemented created the problem mentioned above. It took some ideas of FPP voting and instant runoff voting and bred them together. However instead of mitigating the spoiler effect, it just exacerbated it.

The foundation of this solution is that everyone should have one vote, and one vote only. None of these three votes here, two votes there, etc. This is Highlander, there can be only one. However, the ranks you put in give you an opportunity for your voice to be heard even if your first pick won’t win.

Currently we are saying “I give three votes to A, two votes to B, and one vote to C”. Instead it will change to “I give my vote to A, but if A loses I give it to B, and if they lose I give it to C”.

You could extend this kind of ranking to all five nominees if you wanted to update the way things are tallied, but I think starting off without changing how we collect votes will be the easiest way to change things before changing anything further if desired. Plus I think having a #5 rank may be unnecessarily harsh to the nominees if the results are shared publicly.

In theory what this system would change is that for the first several rounds, the self promoter would win handily. As the other nominees get voted off, though, the secondary votes of those voted off would congeal into nominees that will more than likely not be the self-promoter. We can theorize this due to the median distribution. In the final round, the self-promoter is going to be facing a more humble artist who gathered power from their fallen humble colleagues, and then come out as a much stronger opponent in the final round.

Voters will continue to vote the same way, ranking items 1, 2, and 3. Also like now, the voter can pick one vote they want as their #1 and leave the other options blank. But if said voter has their choice lost in the runoff voting process they simply forfeit their vote being passed on to another choice.

Instead of distributing points, you go through a recursive loop and eliminate the least favorite until only the favorite remains. The loop is as follows:

  1. Take all #1 ranked votes and discover which nominee has the least of them.
  2. Eliminate the nominee found in step one. If tie for bottom eliminate all worst (what if final 2, number of prior top wins in prior rounds?).
  3. For the eliminated nominee. See which voters picked that as their #1 ranked vote.
  4. For these voters, take their Rank #2 votes and transform them into Rank #1.
  5. Repeat the above steps until only one nominee remains (up to 4 times).

Final considerations

Of course one big issue with this is that publishing the results may not be as clean as the currently provided statistics. Basically you’d probably have to show each round of voting in each category, up to the maximum of four rounds, to get an idea as to their ranking and how ‘close’ things were. Also what if there is a tie at any point the process and how that would get resolved, as noted in the list above that may need some additional thought.

But the good news is we wouldn’t need to test this system on live data in a future Ursa. We can use prior Ursa votes as a template to see how utilizing this would impact the results. It would be an excellent way to test how well a system like this would help make things fairer for those not unionizing their votes.

For we should all want a system where we all have a choice and that choice isn’t made with consideration of having to mitigate the possibility of a group of people ganging up prior to the selection process. It should be you, and the vote, without giving an unnecessary edge to artists who can also lead a tribe.

In a system that removes the additional bias toward the confident and self-aggrandizing, the humble may have a chance to breathe, and show a passion for the Ursa’s that may get stifled otherwise. And that is something everyone participating should want, especially since it is about promoting the art.

But if nothing changes, I at least look forward to winning the dramatic short in 2022. Just kidding, fortunately I suck at self promotion.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

It's also kindof hard to vote, as most won't have read/consumed the rest of the media being voted on. That's why I usually abstain from it.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

That kind of hesitancy can also be alleviated with the change proposed, because if you read one book/consumed one piece of media and liked it, you can give it a vote without worrying as much that you're giving it 3 votes simply because it was the only one you read.

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More reason to have the awards, and promote them... discovery.

Also familiarity with one category is all that's needed if you abstain from others... all of the categories will have SOMEONE familiar. I'll bet very few voters are informed on all of them.

You can be the solution and browse/submit new things right now: https://ursamajorawards.org/ReadList.htm

Your rating: None Average: 1.4 (5 votes)

There's nothing better for a DIY fan thing than holding high goals to improve, that said, it's a lot of words for a tiny niche award that's not hooked in to an industry (like the Nebulas, Hugos, etc)... a zine can't compare to the NY Times, and that's just fine. When it's volunteer and personal fan love, keeping it that way has benefits.

Letting promotion have big results is a GOOD thing for every nominee. It tells even the smallest that they too have a chance. In times when one wins that way, you'll probably find that it's mostly because others didn't try to promote. Then it's not so much a prize, as an opportunity to raise discovery.

Now I'm grateful to anyone who felt like tossing any vote to my magazine... on the occasions people picked it I always send a photo with the award back as thanks (which many don't when it's wanted)... and I DON'T PANDER, you'll rarely find messages from me saying "vote for Dogpatch Press", it just links the awards themselves and says to go vote for someone.

This all is why I loved helping in 2014 to spread the Furry Force animation, one of the few (only?) occasions for outside recognition to the award. Secret: it's not as outside as people thought, considering my good old friend directed it... he didn't know I was a furry when it was written and approved and he got the job though, he found out after. Another open secret: a lot of furries are professionals too, and could raise the same notice, there isn't a clean line apart from "the media."

The attention from that is the kind that would sustain the award and encourage other people to promote. Furry Force harnessed a lot of watchers, but now there are furry Youtubers who can compete on a high level. And... it is needed. Promotion may affect the nominees, but also the volunteers who lack support. So perhaps it is not a good idea to think of alternate ways.

About the Ursas needing funding and volunteering... they always have a lack:
https://dogpatch.press/2018/03/16/ursa-major-awards-donations/
https://dogpatch.press/2018/02/23/ursa-major-awards-funding/

Your rating: None Average: 5 (2 votes)

One thing you didn't touch on in the article (but did in the comment to Crissa) was only voting for one choice because it was the only one that is familiar. That's usually how my votes end up (notable exception is Best Illustration because let's face it, there's the option right there to view them while voting).

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

I will admit that it didn't pass my mind when writing the article.

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This sentiment is shared by others on Cross Time Cafe, though like one person there, I recommend checking out the other categories which have work freely available - if you have the time.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Another suggested voting system for Ursa:
(short summary: variation on current system, but with voting chains).

ie. if voter-A votes for ONLY one nominee in a category:
they give (for example) ONE point to that work.

example 2: if voter-A votes for two works in a category:
work A: preference-1 = TWO points
work B: preference-2 = ONE point

example 3: if voter-A votes for 3 works in a category:
work A: preference-1 = THREE points
work B: preference-2 = TWO points
work C: preference-3 = ONE point

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

That one could also work.

The one tricky part about it would be sharing the voting statistics since there would be three kinds of Rank 1, and two kinds of rank two, so you'd need to make those separate columns.

I think I may have included this in a rough draft somewhere, but then thought of how that system could be gamed.

Like if a person wanted to take advantage of the 3 points they could inform people to vote for them and then try and put their other three points distributed equally amongst the others using some kind of method like "If your Ursa Key ends in X vote for Candidate Y for Rank 2 or and Z for 3." to try and divide their other votes but still focus their 3 point vote.

This would not work on the ranked and run off system since they ranked them as number one, their other votes would not impact anything unless their first pick lost anyway.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (2 votes)

I'm not convinced that "median distribution" is correctly represented here by the selection of the "median" value in the table for first, second, and third rank votes. Yes, out of three "values" for a work, it's the middle one. But if a work "really was the best", you'd expect it to get all first-rank votes. The one way you could try to distinguish that is that no other work would get first-ranked votes, whereas in this case it's mixed. But then, maybe that was simply the bias of their fans?

The value that matters, when representing the distribution of votes for a particular candidate, is the median of the individual votes for that candidate. Which in all three cases, would be one selecting it for first place. Now, you could say it should be the median across the distributions of "people who voted in the category", but that falls down because these works also got the highest number of ballots with a vote for them in their respective categories, as shown by "total votes". I tried taking the "median" ballot by dividing the number of first preference votes by two and then counting down from the highest-ranked ballots for each candidate, but because most works didn't get votes on half the ballots, the only non-Garrison candidate that appeared at all was Freefall - and its median vote was third preference, while Carry On's was second. Foxes in Love did not appear at all, because its voter base was not as wide; less than half of the ballots for that category ranked it.

Garrison's works got 44.7%, 49.8% and 47.8% of first-ranked votes - they were close to being the majority winners. They were probably not condorcet winners - victors of head-to-heads between them and all other candidates - which is one thing this voting system (a form of Borda count) is intended to represent. But nor were the others. The competition was divided and support for Garrison's work too strong, so it won - it probably would have won under most voting systems.

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Thanks for pointing out the voting system name (Borda count), reading through this page I discovered that this flaw already had a name called the Later-no-help Criterion.

Another page on "tactical voting" basically spells out this vulnerability in the Borda in a more succinct matter. There is also this more detailed section here.

Nothing like writing up and analyzing something that already has been thought about and summarized else-where. But that's sometime how discovery happens.

However these examples I linked above basically infer that people are forced to use all their ranked votes and that all candidates are ranked. If the Borda system does force the person to rank all candidates then doing only ranking 3 of the 5 exasperates the tactical issue whether sought or unsought.

In my mind, the fact that good faith people have problems giving a vote because they don't want to give 3 points to just the one they read and enjoyed, along with the vulnerability and susceptibility to just an ounce of tribal fervor solidifies that perhaps the Borda system is not the best to use for the Ursas.

I will note that we cannot determine majority vote in the Borda system based on the statistics given. that allows variable ranking. Because everyone can vote 1 - 3 times. Could they still have won? That's possible, and I'm not saying that avid pushing and campaigning should be eliminated entierly. I think it'd just be more interesting, and more than likely fairer to an democratic system that is trying to find the best artists (and not, say, politicians) to use the instant run-off method instead of Borda.

The only way we would be able to know the effect on the outcome in these examples would be to run it against the votes that were actually made in the way they were actually made. The publicly available stats do not provide the ability to do this.

hey were probably not condorcet winners - victors of head-to-heads between them and all other candidates - which is one thing this voting system (a form of Borda count) is intended to represent.

The chart in the page you link for Borda count you linked is saying that is not true?

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It does not guarantee to select the Condorcet winner, but as noted there:

Simulations show that Borda has a high probability of choosing the Condorcet winner when one exists, in the absence of strategic voting and with all ballots ranking all candidates.

My intended meaning was something along the line of "even though they came close to being majority winners, the Borda system might have picked a Condorcet winner instead, if it existed". As noted, the ability to "burn" votes reduces this feature.

I like score/range voting; it permits people to express a view on all candidates, and also if they have an equal preference (above zero). However, if people are not willing to evaluate alternatives - or choose to vote strategically, rather than honestly - it will not help.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

"with all ballots ranking all candidates", which isn't something we do in the Ursas as we only vote on 1,2, or 3 of the 5. So, yeah.

Man, who knew just changing such small things can do so much damage to a voting system?

Democracy truly can be a fragile system.

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Yes, but again that's primarily on the voter turnout. For example, if we assumed - which is almost certainly not the case - that every "burned vote" was by the winning nominee's supporters, and we allocated them to other candidates in proportion to their score, it would've made no difference to the outcome, other than to be closer.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

You have no way to determine this.

You need to look at two things when analyzing this, the total of #1 votes ONLY for the winner, and the TOTAL votes for everyone else.

Given this I believe that, for the Dramatic Short you would be correct that they would have won because because Nobody Does It Better recieved 147 #1 ranks and Fueled received 114 votes total, so even if all of them went to #1 for Fueled it would be Nobody at 147 and Fueled at 114.

For the other 2 categories it is more up in the air.

A World of our own got 123 votes for #1, but Ruxa got 129 total votes. If all the items shifted to #1 in the final it would beat a world of our own. This would be very unlikely.

The most interesting one would be the comics. Carry On got 227 #1 votes. Two other nominees total more than Carry On: Foxes in Lover @ 235 and FreeFall at 279.

279 is pretty significantly higher than 227. So in this category it could be much more likely there would have been a different winner based on this method. If you were to choose one category to test it on with the actual data, the comic one for 2021 would be pretty interesting. For the other 2, you may get the same results.

So yes, self promotion still does work, and still would work either way. And I never argued that it should be eliminated entirely, it should just be less effective than it currently is.

People do need to be more aware that they would need to get their vote heard if they want to see a piece win. And one way to get more people to the polls may be putting in a system that people would be willing to vote if they could vote for one candidate and not worry about "ballot stuffing" 3 points and do more damage to the other pieces they didn't give the time of day, as at least two commenters seem to have abstained for this reason.

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I was thinking more just "if everyone was forced to use all votes in the Borda count" - but yes, you're right, a complely different system might be more likely to have a different result.

I note, however, that if Carry On had 227 first-preference votes just from promotion, it'd be a little odd that the other two categories do not also have 227 such votes - instead they are little more than half that. I figure either fans missed out that there were two other works nominated, or a number of "uninterested" voters rated Carry On the best (which might be expected to happen under other systems, too).

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

I did notice that. Garrison has been making a comic for awhile so I think their some of their fans focused on that and had misgivings about voting for them in the other categories.

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (2 votes)

Personally I'd like to see a situation where if a creator wins, they're not eligible to be nominated for another three or four years. And each creator is limited to a single nomination during a year when they're eligible. This is so that we don't keep getting people stacking the vote in favor of a specific creator, and to get new names showing up, because part of the philosophy behind all of this was try to expose the variety of talent that's out there.

Unfortunately this would be completely unworkable. Setting a single-nomination limit would mean some categories would end up short; and there'd be extra work involved in having to contact the creator ("You've been nominated in four slots; choose one of them.") Then people would argue the rules, they'd create under multiple aliases, they'd co-create with someone else, or would stuff the nominations with not-so-great stuff by other people, so that their work would stand out in comparison. Or we'd get the same creators being nominated every year and they'd take turns winning in that category. I don't know; I like the spirit behind the awards but I don't know how to make them more relevant and interesting for the fanbase.

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Simple solution for complaints: send the Space Marines! 🐻

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In b4 FlashGitz

Your rating: None Average: 1 (3 votes)

That seems very silly to me. If they're the best at something, then they're the best at it. Why shouldn't they keep winning? At that point you need to decide if you want to show the best of something (or at least the most voted for) or whether you want to show new things. If you just want to show new things then you can stop at the recommended lists or just randomly select from them.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 2.3 (3 votes)

If you wanted me to vote for the Ursa Major awards you should've nominated The Suicide Squad.

Your rating: None Average: 4.3 (7 votes)

I stopped voting for the Ursa Major awards when Andrew Callaghan's report about the Midwest FurFest wasn't even nominated for Best Non-Fiction Work 2020. That was the most faithful & entertaining documentary about a furry convention done to date. But it seems very few people knew about it. The awards are a popularity contest.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3RFun58Gt7A

Andrew Callaghan is an absolutely amazing journalist that joins humor, transparency and commitment into his work. He shows people and events as they are: he's gone to conventions of every kind, he'll interview both big shots and social outcasts, he's travelled to Ukraine to show the war.

His latest project is "Channel 5 with Andrew Callaghan" on YouTube.

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In fairness, they say what it is on the front page:

Anyone may nominate and vote for candidates […] These Awards are decided by the fans, not by a committee.

As for the video, it's something of a curate's egg - just what you might expect if you interviewed the guys standing outside the front doors and next to the alien ovipositor manufacturer's table. Sure, it's not negative - at least, not more than some of the interviewees made it, perhaps aided by a few cuts - but it strikes me as a frat boy's overview of MFF; a big party with a few dildo dealers. Maybe things have changed a bit since I visited in 2005 and the next year, but I can't shake the feeling that this coverage largely misses the point.

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That's been my experience with conventions so far, it's a bunch of looneys having somewhat odd uncompromised fun who in the process find friendship and fulfillment.

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Yes, "Fulfilment" is what I call my favorite novelty sex toy, too.

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One it the nature of the beast when awards based on popularity or a culture as what happened to the Hugo Awards. A lot times I might burn my vote simply I am not familiar with the nomination, so some promotion of the work is helpful. Also, I may not be interested like Kevin Gold. In fact, it was the year of the Kevin Gold sweep when I lost my interest in the Ursa Major awards.

Thanks for sharing the inter mechanics of the voting; this flaw is way I do oppose multiple vote primary system even as a member of a third party.

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Who or what is "Kevin Gold" and why do you have awful opinions about them

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He means Kyell Gold, who as mentioned earlier withdrew fron the UMAs after winning too much.

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i stand corrected I meant Kyell Gold.

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So... you want a voting system set up so that the most popular candidate is less likely to win?

I get what your issue is but I'm not sure it's an issue worth making a complicated voting system for. This is a fairly inconsequential competition with ~1000 votes per year. You may be taking it a little too seriously.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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I'm saying people should get one vote, and not six which will do better at giving each person a more equal say.

And it's not all that complicated, that's probably me over-explaining and not using more technical writing techniques that's making it seem more so than it is.

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The confusing thing is ... how does this effect the outcome of the vote?

In the current system, Garrison won (obviously). In your system, Garrison would also win. In alternative alternative systems proposed by Green Reaper and earthfurst, Garrison would also win. So I'm not sure what this accomplishes.

The only category that might have been impacted by a different vote counting method was movie.

Second, I'm not sure what the correlation is between the voting system and the voter turnout is. Of the two actual comments from people saying they abstained from voting, it's basically anons bitching their favorite didn't win, which, fair enough, I bitched about that all the time back in the day, but my point is they don't seem to be complaining about how votes are counted

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My voting method cannot be determined using the current statistics. There is only one category in my method that I think we could say Garrison would have won which was dramatic shorts. The others do have a possibility of a loss if the votes of those ranked off congeal so they overcome those that ranked Garrison's as #1 in these examples.

I think it's just an opportunity to talk about voting systems and their impacts on outcomes. I mean, yeah, the Ursas are some small things "no one cares about", which I would hope is not true. But I guess it comes down to, if we can't change the way that we vote for the Ursa's for the better, what snowball's chance in hell do large democratic institutions have?

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But it's not "for the better" it's just different.

Like you call the Ursas "the furry fandom’s popular choice awards" but then worry about things winning due to "popularity of a franchise or personality." Something winning a popular choice award due to popularity seems like it's working correctly. So it seems like you don't want it to be a popular choice award, you want it more to be "weigh more toward judging the quality of the pieces."

If that's what you want then opening it up to public voting is the real problem. The general viewing audience votes according to what they like based on content/connections rather than trying to evaluate it by quality. (Don't feel bad, I tilted at that particular window myself, see https://www.flayrah.com/4301/opinion-we-need-more-criticism-furry-fandom and https://www.sofurry.com/view/523530). But if your goal is an award that is based on judging the quality of the piece then scrap the voting and have a select committee of people that are capable and willing to judge on the technical criteria.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Ironically you wouldn't even need to scrap the voting system to insert a vote by committee into the Ursas. In fact the current system can be used in quite easily to self-insert one.

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Sorry, I mistyped. I meant just scrap the public voting, the committee would still vote but it would be votes that are based on quality, not popularity. Or they could deliberate. It doesn't really matter too much, I think.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Look, my second point is really the main thing, here.

I don't think you understand why the voter turnout being low is a problem. You do realize the point of the ALAA is not the Ursa Majors, any more than the Oscars are not actually the point of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (a.k.a. AMPAS a.k.a. the Academy)? It's a case of the tail wagging the dog. The point of the Academy is to incentivize studio employees to not unionize to advance the art of motion pictures and preserve their history. The Oscars are just a fun thing they do annually to help inspire its members and promote it's message. Likewise, the important part of the Ursa Majors site is not the awards, it's the Recommended List. The awards are a fun little annual thing to help promote the list and encourage furries to use and contribute to it.

Now, the Academy originally did at least a little depend on money from Oscar ceremony broadcasting rights and advertisement sales, but it has since invested it's profits so that it doesn't really matter if only people who really want watch the show watch the show, it can afford to throw it's party for itself (and even fund a massively expensive museum that almost certainly will be a black hole for money). I mean, ABC is kind of screwed, but they hopefully didn't think of it as an investment when they bought the broadcast rights, and hopefully thought of it as their contribution to a worthy cause they could afford to throw money at. Hopefully.

The ALAA, on the other hand, is a small, amateur organization run by volunteers. The worrying thing about no one showing up to the "fun stuff" is that if they're not showing up for that, they're probably not showing up for the hard parts of actually maintaining the list, either as volunteers, contributors or through donations. Now, yes, our two non-voters in this comment section did complain about their favorites not winning or even being nominated, but the Suicide Squad fan doesn't seem to realize they can vote for nominees as well as winners, while the random YouTube guy fan didn't even get their choice on the Recommended List, so they kind of missed the point.

And that's the problem. Nobody fucking knows what's going on here. I'm repeating myself from the comment section on the actual Ursa Major announcement article, but it's a lot of complaining that nobody showed up to the party that nobody sent invitations out for. Now, this isn't entirely the ALAA's fault; the furry fandom has an aversion to self promotion which isn't entirely a bad thing, either. Modesty is a virtue. But, like, yeah, Sonious, you wrote a whole paragraph explaining you're really not upset Garrison won, but that was one paragraph in an article that can be (a bit unfairly) summarized as "Okay, guys, here's my plan to make sure Garrison NEVER WINS AGAIN!" (Also, just like to point out, it's beside the point, but still not convinced your plan would accomplish that, but whatever.) I mean, the problem is less that Garrison did anything underhanded or out of line, it's that nobody else did. Like, dronon doesn't even take credit for the Newsbyte archives he does. I mean, there's humility, and there's ... being invisible. Need to find a middle ground, here.

Also, it's also just kind of hard to self promote to such a fragmented group as the furry fandom. I mean, remember all those articles you guys did about what website was going to be the next FurAffinity, i.e. the website all furries were required to be a member of, and I was all like "guys, it's probably not going to be just another artsite" and you were all like "no, FurAffinity is losing ground because it sucks" and I was all like "yes, it is not a great site, but the truth is that you're looking for a better version of the same thing instead of what furries are actually looking for" and fast forward to now and I WAS RIGHT or at least more correct because furry was not looking for another artsite, and the truth is there is no longer "one" furry site to rule them all. You can just be a furry wherever, up to and including Twitter/YouTube/FaceBook/fucking Truth Social/plenty of other non-furry sites. (Also, let's be real, FurAffinity is still pretty big fish in the furry pond, if no longer the only fish.) The downside for the ALAA is, of course, holy shit, if you're a small organization with a small to non-existent self promotion budget (never mind your target audience, as already noted, kind of hates self promotion), where the fuck do you start? I don't know? You could go to conventions and press the flesh (you know what I mean), but, once again, which one? Because you don't have the manpower to go to all of them, or even the "big" ones (because, like FurAffinity, it's no longer just "well, Anthrocon's the ONE", it's just another big fish among a school).

And it's not like you can count on the media, because, well, we're it. And we do promote the Ursas. But the two major "furry media outlets" of Flayrah and Dogpatch aren't even that "big" of fish. Once again, most people are just learning about new stuff on social media algorithms and shit like that. You could possibly game that, if you knew how, but I hope nobody feels I'm judging them by saying I don't think most of the membership of the ALAA is really up on that. (I mean, I'm not.) And, going back to us, us and Patch, I mean, as Patch correctly pointed out, we're basically annual nominees thanks to the Magazine category, so any promotion of the Ursas in general has to be curtailed before it seems like a biased campaign for our organizations.

So, anyway, my point is changing the method of vote counting, if you'll forgive me a trite aphorism (I'm leading up to a punchline!) is a bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. I mean, the Ursa Majors aren't a disaster, but the I think you're missing the real problem with your solution, and, in any case, the only assured winner is James Cameron, OH SNAP!

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I mean, given how furries will generally pay attention to something if someone nerdily lays out an issue rather than just posting general "everything is normal and fine and here's how you vote" article, perhaps part of the point of an article like this is to draw some attention to the Ursas?

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Fair, but in that case, maybe save it a while, as a better strategy? So people actually get reminded of it when they can do something?

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If anyone were going to change the voting system, they'd need to start now to get it done in time. I don't expect to see changes next year, and I'd suggest any development effort go on improving turnout for nominations and voting (by e.g. emailing people about both of them).

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I mean, that may be another article entirely of something I had thought of a year back but never followed up on. Like, why do we have a furry writer's guild but no furry reader's guild/club?

Our fandom gets a little focused on creators, but what's the point of creating if there is like... no engaged audience?

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What? That seems a bit odd. You might want a group of creators because there's a real need to help with issues and exchange skills. But you don't need American Film Watching Association because anyone can watch a film.

You might have groups that form (like the furry fandom) around specific material but in that case, they already exist. SoFurry groups, Telegram chat rooms on certain topics. That's all there.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

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Okay, "you just invented furry fandom." is pretty good.

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Well, the point of the awards is in part is to engage them. Like 2cross says, the Ursa Majors are a means to an end - getting people to look at all the cool stuff out there, and encourage more of it to be created. The ALAA has done pretty well at making the awards part work consistently over two decades, but it may have insufficient technical and organisational resources to maximise the benefit from them by e.g. creating a dedicated body of nominators and voters that they keep in touch with throughout the year.

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Wasn't asking the ALAA to do any fan discussion groups or any of that, I think Rauken's point is stronger in here and that those more than likely exist already in some form and I'm just blind to it.

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Precisely my point for a long time: We DON'T have those. We NEED those. We most CERTAINLY need to have a bigger ALAA committee that is engaged, discussing, debating, and voting more often. Currently the few of us left that are regularly active are (quite frankly, speaking for myself at least) old and tired, and (speaking for others) thinking of retiring. Without a robust membership of ALAA, all of this is just "wouldn't it be great if".

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Second that one - if I don't find someone else willing to help with, and eventually take over the Recommended List in the next few years it's going to become academic because there won't BE one.

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With respect to the aside on Newsbytes, one of the reasons I added editor credits on the byline when viewing a story was to show who was responsible for collective works, such as the 2020-21 COVID cancellations and delays roundup. Since the content of Newsbytes roundups are, strictly speaking, not authored by the editor, aside from the formulaic opening and any individual posts, it's fair enough not to list them as the author. Instead they get an editor credit there and on the recent contributors section.

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I'm not saying it's the wrong choice, I'm just saying it is a choice. One that I didn't make, you never pressured me into making a different choice, and that I'm fairly certain you didn't pressure dronon into making, either. Likewise, the more generalized furry aversion to self promotion (both personally and in others) is not entirely good nor bad, but is a thing that effects other things.

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I guess the one issue I take is that: you say yourself that it's a "people's choice" thing - and hence it's a popularity contest by default, whichever way the voting system goes - and as an Australian who loves our instant-runoff voting - I'd wonder whether asking for full preferences etc would discourage people voting further*. But it wouldn't change a landslide of people voting for a fave.

(*Unless they only asked for three preferences I guess - which'd make it no more confusing than the current 3-2-1 probably.)

IRV's not without precedent in award voting, the Oscars use it for Best Picture - but they're drawing from a fixed and known academy membership there. If there was a "most outstanding" as opposed to "most popular" that was voted on by ALAA members, IRV might be suitable - but I think that would take away from the point of the recommended list, to promote and get people to actually read/watch 15, 20 or so good pieces of furry literature and other things, rather than focusing on one winner and seeing the rest get inevitably shunned by many - and I could imagine the "drama" that we are well known for. So the Ursas are in a bind there.

If one has to accept that the awards themselves, like any other online public votes, is going to be a popularity contest and not always a true indication of "best" - I don't see why 3-2-1 (or I'll be totally heretic, even just one vote) is any less suitable for that? All I'll say though is, I'd agree that 3-2-1 only works if everyone actually uses all three votes. Hmm.

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It is a popularity contest. There are few enough voting at this point that it doesn't take a very large voting block to win. The question then becomes "Why are so few voting?" My take is that the vast majority in the fandom just don't see the Ursa Major Awards as important or relevant. It's bad enough to have categories outside the fandom that the winners will never even know they won or care if they did. Worse, there are fandom categories where the winners in the fandom often wouldn't give a crap if they won or acknowledge it. As much as as the ones running this want these awards to have the same level of prestige as say a Hugo award, they don't. Many of the winners don't care, most of the fans don't care. It's like a yearly ego circle jerk with the results being about as important as what ended up on a certain famous pizza.

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Most awards are circle jerks yes, I mean, you're literally praising people who won.

Just in a more plutonic way.

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My reaction to "people don't care about these awards" arguments has always been -- okay, but why do people care about ANY awards? If we DO want them to be like the Hugo Awards, what would that look like? It's terribly easy to slip into circular logic: "People don't care about these awards because they don't matter." "Well how do you make them matter?" "People have to care about them."

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About the author

Sonious (Tantroo McNally)read storiescontact (login required)

a project coordinator and Kangaroo from CheektRoowaga, NY, interested in video games, current events, politics, writing and finance