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Feb. 22nd, 2007

I have been doing a lot of thinking about fandom (in general) and feedback (in particular) lately. I've made a couple of posts about both subjects, but I guess the horse isn't quite as dead as I wish it was, because I'm still thinking, and thinking means posting. So, I'm getting out the shovel, exhuming the corpse, and having another go at the thing.



I keep coming back to something I said months ago (it's here if you're feeling particularly interested) about feedback being the way a reader lets the writer know they have an audience - supply and demand, if you will. It doesn't have to be feedback of any particular sort - squeeing, false praise, or con-crit. Every comment that gets left is a way of letting not just the author, but everyone who comes across that fic that there is an audience for _________.

When I wrote my original post I was talking specifically about rare fandoms - the complaint (or even question) as to why no one is writing in their fandom of choice. I did some brief expounding in places and included rarer pairings and themes in my theory that if you want more of something written you have to let people know that there is an audience for it - that means leaving feedback for what's already there. Even if the only honest feedback you can leave is "Man, it was great to see someone doing this (whatever this is)."

With all the discussion lately about feedback, I find myself more and more including it into this loop.

It's about supply and demand. You encourage behavior you want to see repeated. If you want to encourage something, you make your approval (demand) known. If you want someone to write more - you give them encouragement and let them know there's a reading audience. If you want them to change something, you tell them how and what you think would/could/should be changed.

If you want feedback you need to let people know you appreciate it when you get it.

That's still not me saying that you have to reply to every piece of feedback you get - maybe the feedback you want more of is the thoughtful stuff, maybe you don't care about feedback at all, or maybe you do a catch all post in your next fic thanking people. There are a billion and two ways to go about this, but if you want feedback, you need to tell the people who leave it you appreciate them/it/their time.

I know it's not a popular comparison, and I understand why (really I do) but this is fandom and the only currency we have is our gratitude, appreciation, and attention. I really don't want the people leaving me feedback, or the people I leave feedback for, going out of business.

Don't get me wrong, it's not about sucking up and kissing ass - the people I like, I really like - but I also really like what they're doing (writing, vidding, reccing, meta posts, leaving feedback) and want them to keep doing it so I (and fandom) can benefit.

As a random aside - and hopefully a short one - I'm really skeeved out by the idea of demanding/soliciting for feedback. That just seems sketchy, to me, and my point isn't that feedback *or* replies to feedback are 'owed', in any way shape or form. I mean, simply, that both are means of communicating appreciation for a voluntary act, with the hope that it's repeated.

Comments

( 27 comments — Leave a comment )
fajrdrako
Feb. 23rd, 2007 08:36 pm (UTC)
Interesting comments. I do reply to every piece of feedback I get, even if just with "thanks". And if/when I write in rare fandoms, I don't usually get much, and don't expect any, and whatever feedback I get is all the more valued.
fandom_me
Feb. 23rd, 2007 08:52 pm (UTC)
I reply, too - (obviously) and I'm sure part of it's my intense love of discussion and meta. If I can manage to not sound like an idiot and *engage* in discussion that makes me think, or teaches me something, then I'm all the happier.

Rare fandoms - I obviously expect less than I do when I write for something like Torchwood which is active and huge. But getting feedback on something rare is, somehow, really really happy inducing in a way that the bigger fandoms just aren't. It makes me feel like I made *someone* happy, rather than producing something a bit more generic.

Which is a bad explanation, but the only one I have.
fajrdrako
Feb. 23rd, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC)
Torchwood which is active and huge

It amazes me. I stepped into Smallville fandom, and X-Files, and Horatio Hornblower - all my old fandoms, really - when they were already huge: I typically find fandoms really late. But I saw Torchwood go from a glint in Russell T. Davies' eye to this prolific fandom it is now in what appeared to be faster than the speed of light. It's quite exciting - when it isn't frustrating.

And yes, I know what you mean - in a rare fandom, you get more of a one-on-one feeling between writer and reader, because you both know you are not part of a large crowd.



fandom_me
Feb. 23rd, 2007 09:17 pm (UTC)
The only other fandom I stepped into while it was really full swing was Harry Potter. The rest I've come to fairly late - or they're just so tiny there are three and a half people who care anyway.

Torchwood must be pretty incredible - it qualified as a rare fandom for yuletide this year, and it certainly is not rare now.
rigel_7
Feb. 25th, 2007 08:12 am (UTC)
here via metafandom *waves*

To me, replying to feedback is a way of saying thank you to people for taking the time to leave you a response - it's being polite! If someone mailed you a thank you card, it would be the height of bad manners to completely ignore it! (in my opinion anyways :P)

It also keeps fandom alive: reading the comments after a story is always fun - I like to see other people's reactions to the fic, and if the author replies to feedback, you often get insights into why the fic was written or what they were trying to get across.

Soliciting for feedback is a bit tacky - I completely agree with you there. As an fanfic author you have to cultivate a relationship with your potential audience, it's not like you're starting with a clean slate and a world and characters of your own - you're playing around with something already established with a ready built in following (most of the time at least.) And part of attracting people into reading your fic is being accessible - being a part of wider fandom whether its through communities or message boards or mailing lists or whatever.

If you're a part of creating a positive environment for fic and fandom, then it can only get better.

That's my 2 cents anyway :D

*grins*
fandom_me
Feb. 25th, 2007 08:19 am (UTC)
t also keeps fandom alive: reading the comments after a story is always fun - I like to see other people's reactions to the fic, and if the author replies to feedback, you often get insights into why the fic was written or what they were trying to get across.

YES.

I was reading the other metafandom post that was dealing with feedback, and the differences between meta and fic, and I get the idea that sometimes author's don't want, or expect, to have dialog with their readers. This baffles me, because to me fic is one of the best opportunities out there for discussion and exploration. There is some truly *great* discussion that happens in fic comments, especially when the author is willing to not only reply, but continue discussing and dismember both the canon material and their work.

I guess ultimately it's really about more than an issue of politeness, or even my own example up there with the supply and demand - though I do understand and (obviously, I hope) believe both have a lot of validity in the general mechanics and principal of the things.

I don't, actually, see fic as a gift. I see it as an opening for interaction. It's the writer saying "Hey, I've got THIS idea and I think THIS and see THIS character THAT way" and other people having the opportunity to either go 'Huh. Never thought about that", "Yes! Exactly like that", or to disagree and pick apart the reasons why.

I. I'm not sure I have clear enough lines between meta and fic, now that I'm thinking about it

*G*
galadhir
Feb. 25th, 2007 10:43 am (UTC)
here from metafandom
Yes, I agree not only with you but also with linnet_101. Not only is it mere politeness to say thank you when someone gives you something nice, but also (from the other end) I know what it feels like to get no reply or a brusque, dismissive reply for a comment. It certainly doesn't make me more eager to comment again.

Also, yes, about the interaction. If (for example) you reply to a comment that says 'I love how you did x' with 'oh, yes, x is my favourite because of y', you often find yourself involved in a great conversation and getting to know new, interesting people you didn't know before. It's a win win situation.
fandom_me
Feb. 25th, 2007 10:46 am (UTC)
Re: here from metafandom
you often find yourself involved in a great conversation and getting to know new, interesting people

That's the very heart of fandom, for me. It's why I participate. It's not just that I've got stories in my head - they'd be in my head or on my computer, anyway. I participate because fandom's a group of people and I want to play with their brains *G* - (Or just share and discuss).
galadhir
Feb. 26th, 2007 09:41 am (UTC)
Re: here from metafandom
Yes, and the way LJ is set up, the comments are the only place you have to do that. On something like a egroup you could just randomly start up a conversation, but in LJ you either have to do a story or a piece of meta and then hope for comments. And I tend to find that I'm better at writing meta in the form of stories. So my stories tend to be a response to what's going on in fandom and a hope to spark a discussion in the first place.
paradise_city
Feb. 26th, 2007 12:07 am (UTC)
Feedbacking
If (for example) you reply to a comment that says 'I love how you did x' with 'oh, yes, x is my favourite because of y', you often find yourself involved in a great conversation...

That's a great point, and one I don't think I've ever seen made explicit before. My favorite responses to feedback are those that take that form. It's a bit like a director's cut of the fic, which I find fascinating because I'm as interested in process as content. And while any thank you to feedback I leave is great, a response that sparks a conversation is a treat.
galadhir
Feb. 26th, 2007 09:54 am (UTC)
Re: Feedbacking
Most of the people I'd consider to be my particular friends in my fandom I originally met because we got into conversation either through their comments on my fic or my comments on theirs. I'm not sure how it would work, otherwise :)
In fact, I have had people say that they generally read through the comments to my stories too because of the amount of interesting discussion and meta that goes on in them. So yes, it's like instant commentary and adds a bit of extra entertainment value for everyone, I'd hope.
wolfens
Feb. 25th, 2007 01:51 pm (UTC)
here via metafandom

I'm with it being a politeness and common courtesy issue. I explained it this was to a friend

tl:dr:D

If there is a pot luck dinner and you find a particular dish you loved and you tell the chef of that dish how much you loved it. Even if you don't go into great detail, if that chef brushes you off or doesn't say thank you for taking the time to comment, then I am inclined to not do so the next time. Because, apparently, they know it is good and don't need or want to be told it is.

Maybe because as a writer, I never received tons of feedback, but I always responded to each and every one deciding that if they had the time to write it, then I had the time to respond.

I can understand the writers that receive overwhelming amounts of feedback thinking they are too busy to respond to all of it and again I, as a reader am therefore too busy reading to give feedback to all the stories I read.

I know this seems like a snobbish way to be, but I've never hidden my snobbish tendences :D

As far as participation in fandom. Most of my closest fandom friends are ones that responded and it opened up dialog between us. My BFF I met through fandom and feedback three years ago. We are now writing partners and I have become a better writer because of her.

Okay, done now. Just my small take on things.
fandom_me
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:17 am (UTC)
That I'm behind replying to comments on a post about replying to comments is almost funny.

I understand both sides of this - I definitely understand that if someone doesn't have time to reply to comments they're not going to. But by that same token maybe if they've got 200 comments they don't really want to encourage more? I don't know. I'm a moderately decent writer, I get moderate amounts of feedback, and I'm happy.

And yep, fandom friends for me actually came from meta discussions and then gaming. It's nice making friends gosh darn it, though I understand that's not exactly what everyone's looking for.
angiepen
Feb. 25th, 2007 03:42 pm (UTC)
[Here from metafandom. [wave]]

I respond to every story comment too, and most other comments as well. [nod] And I agree with most of the reasons mentioned here.

Yes, it's simple politeness. Occasionally when LJ decides to sit on comments for a few days or weeks, or just eat them all together, I'll miss comments and only notices much later that they've been sitting there unanswered and I always feel terrible about it.

Yes, it encourages more comments. I love comments as much as anyone and I don't want anyone getting the idea that I don't value them. As a reader, if I come across a story and see that there are a bunch of comments that've been sitting unanswered for a week or longer, I'm less likely to comment myself because to me that says the writer doesn't much care one way or the other. Or if I'd been thinking of doing a multi-screen line-by-line comment, I'm more likely to just say, "Hey, cool story," and leave it at that. Interestingly enough, as a reader I don't particularly care whether my comments get an answer, once I've left them, but the exception is the long and detailed ones; having those ignored is definitely disappointing and if I see that a writer isn't responding to comments I'm much less likely to spend an hour or more rambling on about their fic and all the cool things I found when I dissected it.

Yes, it's an offer to open up a dialogue. I love talking about writing -- yours, mine, writing in general, whatever -- and don't get the chance to do so anywhere near often enough. Every time someone leaves even a slightly detailed or specific comment and I reply in kind, I have a set of mental fingers crossed hoping we'll get into a discussion about whatever. Usually we don't :( but every now and then we do and that's incredibly cool.

And yes, it's definitely neat to get comments about a story in some tiny little fandom, or even a tiny little niche area in a much larger fandom. I wrote a Fantastic Four story recently, short and funny, but only got four comments. My main fandom is LOTRiPS and general RPS, and there's hardly anyone on my Flist who's a comics fan. The only FF community I found to link it to had only had a couple of stories posted in the last year, so I guess it qualifies as a rare fandom but every comment I did get made me very happy. I also wrote a humorous giant squid story for oxoniensis's porn battle recently. Linking the story to three humor-and/or-squidlike HP communities got me only one more comment. Linking it to a tentacle-porn community I found later got me three more. But the story's so whacked out, despite being technically within one of THE largest fandoms, that every time I get one I'm all bouncy because I wasn't expecting it.

Oh, and yes, soliciting comments in the headers (Please comment on this!!!) or worse, trying to blackmail comments out of people (I won't post the next chapter until I get at least ten comments!!) is just totally classless. [eyeroll] Same with a trick some LJ posters use -- setting up their header so that clicking on the link puts you automatically in mode=reply, so you get to the bottom of the story and there's this comment box all waiting for you. That's way too much elbow-nudging for me and it's a good way for a writer to pretty much guarantee that I won't comment on their story. I comment a lot, as much as anyone and when a story inspires me to ramble I leave longer and more detailed comments than anyone else I've seen anywhere, but I don't like being railroaded or whined at or arm-twisted. :/ Tacky. That's definitely not behavior I want to reinforce.

Angie
yourlibrarian
Feb. 25th, 2007 11:44 pm (UTC)
Here from Metafandom
As a reader, if I come across a story and see that there are a bunch of comments that've been sitting unanswered for a week or longer, I'm less likely to ... doing a multi-screen line-by-line comment, I'm more likely to just say, "Hey, cool story," and leave it at that. Interestingly enough, as a reader I don't particularly care whether my comments get an answer, but the exception is the long and detailed ones

I'd have to say this sums up my own behavior exactly. I comment a lot, at least 70% of the fic or meta I read I leave at least a brief comment. If I see the person doesn't answer comments, then my comments are generally more of the "I read and liked this" variety than anything specific. And if I didn't get answers to half my comments it wouldn't matter because I wouldn't even remember I left it. I actually am more interested in getting a response to a meta comment than a fic one as I'm more likely to have been responding specifically to something the person wrote. I also don't mind if the person occasionally doesn't reply or takes a long time to reply. But it's usually obvious who the people are who really appreciate their comments and I will generally make the effort to leave them one.
fandom_me
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:19 am (UTC)
Re: Here from Metafandom
As a reader, if I come across a story and see that there are a bunch of comments that've been sitting unanswered for a week or longer, I'm less likely to ... doing a multi-screen line-by-line comment, I'm more likely to just say, "Hey, cool story," and leave it at that. Interestingly enough, as a reader I don't particularly care whether my comments get an answer, but the exception is the long and detailed ones

Like the previous commenter, this is pretty much exactly my experience. I'm not offended, I'm just legitimately responding to what I perceive the author's wishes and intent to be.
angiepen
Feb. 27th, 2007 07:41 am (UTC)
Re: Here from Metafandom
For me it's partially that [nod] but also partially the fact that I'm less willing to invest an hour or more of my time and the effort it takes to write three or four screens of commentary for someone who's less likely to appreciate it. I mean, sure, if a story inspires me to that kind of ramble then I enjoy doing it, but it's disappointing to put in that much time and effort and then throw it down a well and get no response whatsoever, you know? I don't so much mind tossing, "Hey, cool story!" down a well -- that's like a penny or a nickel as opposed to a twenty dollar bill. [rueful smile]

Angie
iamrosalita
Feb. 25th, 2007 04:05 pm (UTC)
Here via metafandom. Yes, soliciting feedback is tacky, tacky, tacky. And so is not responding to feedback. I've been in online fandom for ll years, and I've heard every excuse in the book for not responding, from I don't have time to I don't want to get into a conversation with other fans (this one boggles me every time. What are you fandom for if not to communicate with other fans?).

I respond to each and every piece of feedback I get. How long does it take to type out Thank You and hit send? Let's face it, most feedback is short and can be handled with a thank you. Longer feedback takes a longer time to answer, but still, does it really take that long?

It really is simple courtesy. I read a lot of fanfic. A lot. I respond to only a fraction of what I read. A story has to really mean something to me to elicit feedback. I assume most other readers are the same way. So if someone takes the time to tell me that my story meant something to them, I can certainly spare a few seconds to a few minutes to respond.

Didn't mean to go on and on, but nonresponsiveness to feedback is a real pet peeve of mine.
enderwiggin24
Feb. 25th, 2007 09:49 pm (UTC)
What are you fandom for if not to communicate with other fans?).
here via metafandom.

actually, there are many ways to be in fandom and to want to communicate with other fans.
I have one author on my flist, who has now disabled all comments to her fic posts, while enabling them in all her other posts.
she said, she did it to get rid of all the need to constantly comparing herself with the numbers of comments that other authors got.
and that she wanted only for the joy of writing, and that if others enjoy it, that would be great, but no need to tell her anymore.

but otherwise, you are right of course, mostly we are in fandom to communicate through fics.
miladyhawke
Feb. 26th, 2007 02:05 am (UTC)
It really is simple courtesy. I read a lot of fanfic. A lot. I respond to only a fraction of what I read. A story has to really mean something to me to elicit feedback. I assume most other readers are the same way. So if someone takes the time to tell me that my story meant something to them, I can certainly spare a few seconds to a few minutes to respond.

Yes, yes! Absolutely. I also respond to all the feedback I get for this reason (and for all the other reasons people have listed above, politeness being foremost in my mind). I always feel very honored by the feedback I receive, even if it's a simple "Cool!" It's extremely touching to know that I've gotten to somebody on some level, and a bit humbling too, so it only seems polite to acknowledge that. And why wouldn't I want to share the delight with the readers? Part of sharing one's writing is wanting to reach out and commune with other fans, so it seems weird to cut off the communication after a fic is posted.

Hmm, the other reason I do respond to feedback (that I don't think I've seen talked about in too much detail here yet, bit of an elephant in the room) is that I do indeed thrive on feedback. Not everybody's blessed with natural confidence or talent, and sometimes one just needs somebody else to believe in their writing. It does encourage, and one really should be grateful for that, I think, so once again, it's polite to acknowledge it.
fandom_me
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:21 am (UTC)
I read a lot of fanfic. A lot. I respond to only a fraction of what I read. A story has to really mean something to me to elicit feedback.

Interestingly enough this isn't something I had thought of, and it makes a lot of sense. It's also something that makes me feel better about my general reading and feedbacking habits. Not to mention my writing and the feedback I get.

Thanks for pointing it out.
moonmip
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:00 am (UTC)
I recently had few mutterings on the same subject (here and here, if you're interested) and one thing that really strikes me is the level of expectation here.

I'm not quite sure how to elucidate this thought, so bear with me here, but I find it striking how many apply their own opinions on commenting/response to other peoples work. I find that if I don't respond to comments I get for fanfics, I feel guilt. It's not something I can fully explain, but it's there. I don't, however, expect people to respond to my comments. It's nice and can build great dialogue, but I don't see them as being obliged to respond to me. I will point out that I only feel this obligation in regards to comments on my fic - comments on anything else I respond to or not based on what is said and whether I have a meaningful response.

I completely agree that if you want feedback, you need to encourage it. And I am sure that most author's want some sort of response to their work, or they would not have posted it publically.

I noticed someone liken it to receiving a thankyou card - that person said you should respond to that. I can see where they are coming from, but I also wonder at what point do you draw the line? It's like you saying 'thank you' and then someone says 'you're welcome' and you thanks them for their thanks and they thank you for your thanks and you could go on forever. I think there does have to be a point where expectation cuts off.

Demanding feedback really irks me - it's almost the reverse of people expecting comments on their comments, in that you think your work is good enough to merit some sort of automatic response. But hopefully discussions like this will open people's minds a little more on why people do/don't respond to comments the way they do.
fandom_me
Feb. 27th, 2007 05:14 am (UTC)
It's appropriately ironic that I am horribly behind replying to comments on this entry. I'm sure there's someone or something mocking me for it, at least as hard as I'm mocking myself.

I agree with you entirely, and I'll wander over and read your posts as soon as I'm done. You're right though, there's a lot of applying personal expectations to other people. It's something that came up in a non-fandom related light recently. The golden rule may be 'treat others as you would like to be treated', but in reality real politeness and consideration is treating others the way they'd like to be treated. If you know what that is, frankly that's what you should be doing. (Provided you're aiming for polite and considerate, of course)

I don't, ever, expect the author to reply to me and it doesn't bother me if they do or don't. I'm not offended or upset, but their replying or not does affect my *leaving* it. It's not a fit, and it's not retalition or punishment. It's not even something I'd noticed until I started reading other meta and really thought about it. Then it did occur to me that. Well, yeah, if there's a lot of feedback there already and the author's not responding I tend to assume they're no longer interested in that story and move on. It won't impact my leaving or not the next time, or anything, but my impulse to tell them what I thought is impacted by the demonstrated behaviour toward that individual piece.

Agree to that, too. I have an almost compulsive need to reply, but I still reach a point where what needs to be said has been said and there's just nothing new to add. That added to my general tendency toward feeling like an idiot when someone's praising me and my inability to take a compliment gracefully, and well. Unless conversation's sparked I'm more than willing to say "thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it" and crawl back in my cave.

moonmip
Feb. 27th, 2007 06:06 am (UTC)
It won't impact my leaving or not the next time, or anything, but my impulse to tell them what I thought is impacted by the demonstrated behaviour toward that individual piece.

Exactly. How an author respond to my feedback is irrelevant to my enjoyment of their work - I'm not here to pass judgement on their personality, just to leave my two cents worth on their fic. I don't care if they're an asshole, if I like their stuff, I'll say so.

That added to my general tendency toward feeling like an idiot when someone's praising me and my inability to take a compliment gracefully, and well.

I understand how you feel - it's hard scraping together a meaningful response sometimes and that much harder when you feel your own work doesn't deserve the praise. Do they have therapy for writers with self-loathing? *g*

Unless conversation's sparked I'm more than willing to say "thanks, I'm glad you enjoyed it" and crawl back in my cave.

Perhaps part of the problem is that some people assume every comment should evolve into a conversation? Often, comments do, but I have noticed that those people who get the most meaningful responses to their feedback tend to be friends of the writer anyway, so they have more to discuss. As much as we all want to be validated individuals, at some point we have to realise that not everyone has the time (or inclination) to pander to us.
mark_clark
Mar. 3rd, 2007 02:21 pm (UTC)
I believe you hit the nail on the head with your comments here. Everyone likes feedback, me included, to what they've produced. This feedback can then be used to improve the story that it was posted to or help the writer to improve his/her skills in a future one.

I try to reply to every review I get and thank them for their feedback. Because of that, I feel like a can get better as a writer and produce quality stories out of the particular fandom I choose to write.
fandom_me
Mar. 3rd, 2007 02:25 pm (UTC)
Thanks. I really can't imagine that there's anyone who doesn't like feedback, but I do think sometimes the value of it's a bit overlooked. It's more than an ego stroke - it builds a relationship between the reader and writer. That's important when there are readers out there who are (justifiably) scared of leaving con-crit for unknown writers because they're afraid of a smack down or a flip out.

Develop the relationship, thank them for their time and the odds of getting *Good* constructive criticism goes up. Not to mention just plain getting more feedback.

And it's early, and I babble.
mark_clark
Mar. 3rd, 2007 02:29 pm (UTC)
I think the best thing about feedback is that you can draw the same readers from one fandom to another just because your the author. That definitely makes you feel good.
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