The Writeoff Association 926 members · 662 stories
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RogerDodger
Group Admin

I did a poll a month or so ago on whether to do an art writeoff, and I got 30 responses when I wanted 50. I may have overestimated what ought to constitute a quorum. In case you didn't answer it, the poll is here.

Despite getting less voters than I expected, the overwhelming majority of votes were "yes" or "abstain", so unless I see a huge spike in "no" votes it'll go ahead. The next FiM Short Story event is 3 writeoffs away, so that's enough time to sort out the following questions:

How ought art entries be voted on?

We could just use the same system, however since the art entries are supposed to act as prompts, I would like the number of associated stories to be considered a measure of success.

Previously, the art entries were voted on a 0-10 scale, and their final score was the average of these plus 1 for every associated story. This is pretty inelegant and is too dependent on the fic/art ratio being just right.

We could have the fic entries be considered the "prelim" for art entries, where only art entries with 1/2/3 or more fic entries go to finals, which uses the current voting system.

(I am thinking that perhaps this is not necessary, and "how well this works as a prompt" can be factored into voters votes.)

How should this be scheduled?

Writeoffs are currently scheduled in a way to try and put as much of the writing time over the weekend as possible. Of course, since the drawing and writing times will be sequential, it isn't possible to get them both over a weekend.

With that consideration, previous art writeoffs allotted more time for drawing, giving them 5 days (12:00 UTC Sun–Fri). I'm not sure if this is sensible, since I'm not even sure if 3 weekend days is correct, and 5 days seems like a long time.

Fuzzyfurvert
Group Contributor

I must have missed this when originally posted, but now my responses have been noted!

I didn't participate in the WriteOff back in the ol' days when the art part was still a part of it, so I'm not sure how we would grade visual entries on their suitability as prompts. Five days feel like plenty of time to produce something, but would be aiming for something "finished" or are we talking simpler sketches? Black and white? Color?

GroaningGreyAgony
Group Contributor

5773724

On scheduling, could the art prompts be completed and submitted on one weekend, but not revealed as prompts until the next? Or does that give the artists too much advantage, assuming they are permitted to compose stories on their own prompts?

ETA, along with 5773789 , I would like to see a summation of the prior art round rules so I’m not tossing out suggestions based on bad assumptions.

RogerDodger
Group Admin

5773861
I think having a period of time where nothing is happening would be pointless (could just have more drawing time?) and make things feel dragged out.

The rules for art contests can be seen for example at https://writeoff.me/event/4-Deal-with-the-Devil/rules

Much like the fic voting there isn't really anything specified about what is or isn't appropriate.

Not_A_Hat
Group Contributor

For voting, perhaps you could make a ballot based on the amount of stories each art gets, and then use that to weight alongside the voting ballots? So, like, if the amount-of-stories-prompted is equally important to how people voted, rank them by the amount of stories prompted as if it were a ballot, and give that half the weighting or something.

Or maybe after people vote, give each art they use as a prompt a weighting boost on their ballot? So, like, after they rank art, if they use one as a prompt, it would be counted as being one higher on their ballot than they ranked it or something. Maybe even just a placeholder object, 'wrote a story about this' that appeared below it and boosted it's relative ranking, would be enough?

As for scheduling, I'm not really sure. I feel like most people can be expected to have one free evening a week, at least; if they want to dedicate that to arting, they can probably get something done, even without it being over a weekend. But, since I don't really draw, I'm not really sure how long 'good art' takes. Perhaps change it around a bit and see if you get significantly more entries of a significantly higher quality with it being a few days longer?

horizon
Group Admin

I'm a little confused as to what art voting is supposed to measure? Personally, my view on the quality of a piece of art is generally orthogonal to what sorts of ideas that art inspires in me.

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

Hmm, there's three merits I can imagine for a piece of artwork here.
1. How good it is.
2. How many authors/stories it inspires
3. If any story it inspires makes it into the top three.

The third seems a bit unfair, since it's outside the control of the artist. That leaves two and three, which is what people are already discussing. My suggestion is, instead of find a way to combine them, why not ignore art quality and focus solely on inspiration? It's a writeoff after all, and this would keep the focus on writing. The best artwork is the one that inspired the most stories (or authors). It might also lend more courage to the less artistically inclined to draw something.

hazeyhooves
Group Contributor

since they're used as prompts, I think they shouldn't be voted by ballot at all. have the writers "vote" on them through the act of writing their stories.
otherwise most people will vote for whichever looks shiniest, regardless of how many ideas it inspired. (there's a time and place for that type of contest, but then art should be the final product instead of stories)

I like scoring them by # of stories written, but also extra points for being linked to a medalist. That may seem "outside the control of the artist" as Axis says, but hear me out. It won't simply be a case where Top_Tier_Author arbitrarily picked someone's picture and carried it to victory. The relevance between an art prompt and story is much less subjective than with the usual text prompts, and I think we'll see that reflected in readers' judging/reviewing. Most people condone vague prompt-iness, but when it's based on a picture it should be much clearer what to look for, and reward/punish based on that. I predict the medalists won't get there through writing quality alone, but also by creative use of the chosen prompt. Art that provides such inspiration deserves some credit.

For the schedule.... that's hard to predict. I think better give the extra days to be safe, since the art submissions are the bottleneck. and it's kinda volunteer work. Will we get too few? Too many?

Winston
Group Contributor

5773724 There shouldn't just be an "art writeoff." There are different types and mediums of art requiring different levels of invested effort and time. Comparing sketches to fully rendered paintings is apples to oranges and there's no fair way to ask people to rank totally dissimilar things.

If there's an art writeoff, it should really be a sketch writeoff or a painting writeoff or a cel-shade writeoff or some other more narrowly defined category allowing entries to be created and compared on equal footings.

What kind of art writeoff it is would then probably dictate the allotted time to work on entries.

RogerDodger
Group Admin

5774705
I'm interested in everyone's thoughts on this exact question. I'm as confused as you. :twilightsheepish:

5774740
My memory is a bit hazy on the specifics and I didn't archive the threads, but the first art writeoff did that and the next two had the combined system. So I presume people found the results of the first contest unsatisfying. Possibly because of it results in a lot of ties?

RogerDodger
Group Admin

5775241
Which do you think would be most appropriate?

Aside from sketching (pencil on paper no colours), a specific medium/style seems too prohibitive for people without the requisite tools/skillset. And sketching still requires you to have a scanner, though I think most libraries have one. (People still use libraries right?)

Winston
Group Contributor

5775284 It could be digital rather than on-paper sketches, paintings, etc.

I don't think there's a most appropriate type of visual artwork, the point is more that artwork entries should be able to be meaningfully compared and ranked rather than being too dissimilar for that to make any sense.

CoffeeMinion
Group Admin

5773724 I'm going to raise my hand and admit my confusion here: does having an art component mean that the writing has to follow one of the artworks, or do the artworks get drawn after the stories get written? If the former, it seems like that would constrain what kind of stories are possible, or it would at least limit the set of available characters to those who appeared in the art.

RogerDodger
Group Admin

5775597
Rule 2(c) is changed to "Submitted written works must be based on at least one of the submitted artworks to a reasonable and discernible degree [...]"

Not_A_Hat
Group Contributor

5775262, With regards to - 5774705...

I feel like the question is: do the people who voted want an art contest more for feedback on their art, or more to change up how they get writing prompts? If the former, I think ranking art by 'goodness' (whatever that means - like with stories) is important, but if the latter, I'd suggest some sort of positive feedback based on number of stories inspired is needed, so people are motivated to produce more inspiring art.

Now... this is wild guesstimation, but... I would guess that there are more writers than artists in the writeoff. That might mean, since the poll feedback was nearly unanimous on 'yes' for an art writeoff, that the majority of the people who voted yes aren't artists - and so they're probably more interested in switching things up with prompts than being ranked on their art.

If that's right, how inspiring a piece of art is should result in sort of positive feedback. If it's the only criterion, then ranking based on goodness can be ignored completely. But these aren't really mutually exclusive. It could be combined with a voting ballot in some way, like I suggested in my last post. But... if people don't want this messing with their voting, an award might work well. Perhaps something like gold, silver, bronze, but for number of stories produced?

This has some advantages. If 'inspiring' is the only thing that you're specifically trying to encourage and that's done along a different vector, there's no need to have 'voting guidelines'; people can vote however they feel, just like in the writing phase. I kinda do like the idea of ranking art, although I'm not much of an artist. It would fit nicely into the prompt voting section and probably wouldn't take too long to vote, because visual art is a lot higher bandwidth than written art. People can use the art part of the contest for whatever they want and 'winning' would mean whatever they make it mean.

Oh, here's a question though: have you considered adding comment threads to artwork, so people can discuss them?

Not_A_Hat
Group Contributor

5775241 Though I kinda agree with what you're saying here, I feel like this runs the risk of specializing so far very few people would enter. What if we don't have enough interested painters or cell shaders or what?

And... I also kinda don't agree with what you're saying here. Perhaps I'm completely off base, but... Although writing isn't, perhaps, quite as stylistically demarcated as visual art, we don't subdivide the current writeoffs by genre. (Except fanfiction/original, but that's more about laws than styles.)

Despite that, we still get people competing and voting, even though we rank stories that are from wildly disparate styles. This round 'The Masquerade' and 'Snowpocalypse' were about as different as two pieces of writing can be, but I didn't have a problem putting one above the other.

In short, I'm not sure worrying about art being comparable or voting objectively is worth it. We've never bothered with it before, why should we start now?

Sure, some people are going to do very technically impressive things that tank in voting. And someone will spend days and lose to a piece that's dashed off quickly. And the highest rank might not inspire a single story. But... this sort of thing already happens in the writeoff, and I think it's mostly worked alright so far.

In the end, I guess I can't say you're wrong. I just don't feel like being extra restrictive is actually worth it.

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

5775262
Ah yeah, ties, didnt think of that, good point. Hrm.
This is hard.

5775065

It won't simply be a case where Top_Tier_Author arbitrarily picked someone's picture and carried it to victory.

This is true. I'll change my stance: If a picture inspires a gold medalist story, both artist and author are responsible for that. To what degree though I guess is up for debate.

5776448

I feel like the question is: do the people who voted want an art contest more for feedback on their art, or more to change up how they get writing prompts?

This is a good question. I agree it's the latter. But as Roger pointed out, basing things solely on inspiration power will likely result in ties.

What if we scrapped voting on art quality altogether, since this is a story contest and not an art one, and rate the art pieces based on number of stories inspired, and the quality of those stories? So that a picture that inspired three mid-place stories gets a lower score than one which inspired three upper-place stories.

I dont know maybe someone already suggested this idea?

RogerDodger
Group Admin

5776448

Oh, here's a question though: have you considered adding comment threads to artwork, so people can discuss them?

Yeah, it will work much like the fic comments. I also plan to change the art gallery slightly.

5776675
I don't really like using the fic performances to grade the artworks.

"What type of imagery would inspire a story?" is a better question than "What type of imagery would inspire a story by good authors?"

We could use them for tiebreakers though.

5776472
Yeah, we do already do this for fics.

When I read, "Comparing these things just isn't possible," I hear, "It can't be done perfectly." But it doesn't have to be perfect, just good enough.

horizon
Group Admin

5776812 5776448 5775065 5774740
After a day for reflection, it seems to me like there's a lot of energy being poured into whether it's better to score by quality or inspiringness ...

It's not like we don't have precedent for multiple types of awards — we've got Most Controversial already, along with the new mortarboard, and historically have had the Wooden Spoon (even if that was later deemed a bad idea). So I'm not seeing any real reason we can't both have traditional voting on the art, AND an award based on which pic prompts the most stories (with or without accompanying tiebreaker). Honestly that seems more productive to me than algorithmically trying to find the optimal balance of the two just to give a single arbitrary score which reflects both and neither.

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

5776880
I admit, Scootaloo is a good argument...:rainbowkiss:

RogerDodger
Group Admin

5776880
If we did this, would it be sensible for people when voting to take into consideration "How well this works as a prompt"?

A real big thing I want is to discourage are character portraits with no background. The vast, vast majority of artwork out there (searching through derpibooru anyway) is exactly that, presumably because it's quicker and easier. They're not actually doing anything. There's no scene, so it doesn't really work as a prompt at all.

My main concern is that someone might decide, "I'm not going to win that award, so I'll just aim for making a real pretty picture."

But maybe that's fine. They do still have to follow the prompt. Portraits have no chance on that angle. And previous art contests seem to agree.

Also, I feel like there should be a rule against multi-panel comics. But nobody submitted any of those before either, so again maybe me worrying about nothing.

horizon
Group Admin

5777271

If we did this, would it be sensible for people when voting to take into consideration "How well this works as a prompt"?

The idea is (at least in my head), that authors are already voting on that separately from their actual "votes" on picture ranking. "How well does this work as a prompt?" is directly measured by, and homeomorphic to, the number of stories a pic inspires.

That said, if we're stipulating from the start/in the rules that the goal of submitted art should be to

1) reflect the prompt, and
2) offer inspiration to authors,

...then voting should take into account both of those goals, so you've got a point.

Frankly, I still like the idea of a separate award for most inspirational art, even if that's taken into consideration already in the overall voting. Side awards are signposts to what we value in submissions. "Most Controversial", for example, tells authors that it's worthwhile to take chances even if it doesn't send you to the top, and I love the fact that the Writeoffs consistently produce works where authors push boundaries. "Most Inspirational" tells artists that we want art that encourages add-on creativity. Which we do!

Not_A_Hat
Group Contributor

5777271
5777458

I like horizon's idea (since it's about the same as mine :P ) so I'm going to propose the creation of a new award here - the Lightbulb. It would be awarded to the piece of art which inspired the most stories that have the highest aggregate score. That ought to give a clear winner most every time, but maybe art ranking could be factored in for tiebreakers?

And because I like 5775065 and 5776950 ideas of rewarding people who inspire medalists, I'm also going to suggest gold, silver, and bronze stars - You Participated! - for artists who inspire a medaling story without getting the Lightbulb. Maybe these would work like the mortarboard, in that you could only get one? Anyways, I think awards are cool, and if I was running the writeoff there'd probably be a dozen more because why not.

As for the idea that a 'very pretty picture' could out-compete something that works well as a prompt... I'm no expert, but in my experience, art that suggests a story or generates though is more appreciated in general, as well as being a better prompt. I don't think this is something that we need to worry about much, because as long as artists of similar technical skill are competing, the one who's picture has more depth to it is probably going to win - and suggesting a bit of narrative is a really good way to add some depth. It might be a problem if a very skilled artist with no depth was competeing against artists with depth but no skill, but... I'm not sure if this is something we should adjust the rules to guard against.

I don't think you need to be too worried about comics, Roger. But if you want to be sure, maybe add a rule that restricts the amount of text usable in the art. (Can't have more than ten words? Can only use text for flavor or emphasis? Can't have any dialogue as text?) So people who wanted to do comics would have to do silent ones, which I think might actually make great prompts.

As for schedule, I'll also throw a suggestion out there - how about five days for drawing, and two days for art voting, before writing begins? The two art voting days would fall over the current /prompt days, which would push the five drawing days back far enough they'd overlap with the previous weekend. Maybe minific rounds would get an extra day of voting to smooth out the starting times.

EDIT: After a moment of thought I realized this is a really dumb idea and wouldn't work at all - it would basically be equivalent to expanding the writing time. Which, actually, you could consider doing - but yeah, I done derp't.

Axis of Rotation
Group Contributor

5777979
Oo, a lightbulb? I like it :D Fits perfectly with the idea of inspiration.

RogerDodger
Group Admin

Current plan is:

- 4 days drawing time
- Voting is same as for fics with intentionally vague guidelines on how to vote, except only 1 round
- Lightbulb award to artwork with most associated fics

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