Ellen Million (ellenmillion) wrote,
Ellen Million
ellenmillion

Sidetracked...

So... I'm working on this not-so-secret project, and I'm today, I'm thinking about quality control.

Very basic background: it will be a shared-world, collaborative project. Members can create and control characters, write stories, make artwork, etc. There will be a subscription system, and people will be able to use their original work commercially. Membership is open to everyone.

What I don't want: to be glutted with poor and mediocre quality work. That's a very real risk with open membership. (I'm sure we can all think of several examples...)



I have already decided that there will be Canon and Non-canon material. Canon work is... well, canon. It's accepted as the basis for further work - storylines portray events that actually "happen" in our continuity, artwork is accurate to the creatures and characters. Canon work also meets basic quality control - only artwork that is finished will be available in these galleries, only stories that have been well-edited and have good use of language, character and plot. Only Canon work will be public at the site. Members will also have access to non-canon material - sketches, stories that might even be good, but just don't fit into the timeline as it's been established - including cross-overs, or characters in our own modern day setting, etc.

The question I keep coming back to: how to sift the Canon from the Non-Canon.

Editing

Now, the experiences I have come mostly from these fanclubs: Kadanzer and River Twine (and it's predecessor, Rushwater). In both places, there is a story review board that edits and reviews all stories to make sure that they fit into continuity. They go back and forth with the author until the story is 'right'. In both places, being fanclubs, they try not to be too harsh on the quality issue, but they do shoulder all of the editing responsibility, they 'force' every story to conform to the setting, and it's a lot of work. I'm allergic to that much work. I veto this.

I've also observed that the first person to edit a story usually does the largest chunk of the work - it's very frequent that if you have a decent editorial staff, the first one picks up the bulk of the grammatical problems and typos, and points out sticky places. The second set of eyes (and up) tend to also catch a few, as well as add valuable input about those sticky issues, but I think that probably 85%+ of the errors are picked up by the first editor, if they're paying attention.

I am a big fan of editors. I think they are invaluable, and really deserve greater spotlight. So, I've already decided that editors will get billing on stories. And that their attribution will be chosen by the collaborators who submit the stories. Editors, as far as I'm concerned, are part of the story-writing team. Writers will choose the editors THEY want to use. Or none, if they're that good (or think they are...). I've already coded this in and have even made sure that someone can show up as both writer and editor on a story, since sometimes you do end up playing both roles.

So, without a storyboard doing the editing, how do we control what gets filtered to the Canon areas of the site? How does storyline and NPC character use approval occur? For that matter, how does owned character use occur?

Character Use

Okay, for owned characters, I'm getting comfortable enough with the coding end of things to think that I can actually MAKE an approval system. Owners of characters would be able to review the story and approve the character use through the site.

Tentative flowchart: The story is submitted, linked to characters involved from the database. That story, unapproved at the site, is available only to the owners of those linked characters (and admins). Ideally, the site alerts those owners that there is material to review. Story cannot go online until those character uses are approved. And it's approved by admins. (No hate-stories, check the rating, verify that yes, it is a Torn World story, not a shopping list, etc.) This can be made to work for artwork, too.

Something similar could also be done with NPC use. Some member of a story review board would have to approve those uses. Would each member of this board have independent ability to do this? Is this something that multiple board members should agree on? I am inclined to say that 1 member is enough - that anyone on the board would have the ability to okay NPC use in a non-canon fashion. (Even non-canon should not allow character 'abuse' or use without approval.)

Canon nominations

So, with character approvals, and very basic checks for rating and categories, etc, pretty much any story or piece of artwork can be approved to the site in a non-canon fashion.

From there, to get to canon, I am thinking that pieces must be nominated by the story board. (I am thinking of making 1 board for story AND art, and calling them the continuity board.) Pieces of excellent quality and suitability are elected from non-canon to canon. I'm thinking a board of five or six people, and 3 'votes' are required to move something to Canon. You could probably get one or two softies to vote for something borderline, but convincing 3 independent people that something is worth being part of our shared world... that will take some goodness, I think. Note that this does not require the entire board to be active at the same time. Fantastic Portfolios has taught me the value of this!


Question - should members of the board be able to see if something has already been voted on? It could be kind of freeing to have to make every one of those decisions blind - will your vote bump it to canon? Will you be the only one voting on it? Who knows! (The Continuity board would have a private thread at the forums where they could discuss things if they had questions.)

Question - how do editors and writers 'hook up?' In the forum, probably? Editors could also volunteer, if they see something in non-canon that is *this close* to being canon? That connection should probably be made on a personal level, not a management level. I see non-canon as almost being 'works in progress', with potential for being polished into canon, though not all of it will be. There should be a good, non-threatening way for people to express interest in editing or being edited...

Question - Who should be able to view non-canon? ONLY folks signed up as contributors? Or all registered readers? Should their be an optional step between registered readers and contributors? Should it be a setting in a person's account whether they wish to see that or not?

Those are enough thoughts for now. I've got some tea to work on!
Tags: torn world
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