Sunday, 22 March 2009

Gamers Break Authonomy

It's a remarkable old world, chaps and chapesses. Really.

Many of you will be all too familiar with my involvement in Harper Collins Publishers' authonomy, the peer-review writers' site that involves thousands of writers clambering up a greasy pole to get their work in front of an HC editor for review. Every month the top 5 books, voted by the 'community' get reviewed by an HC editor (or janitor, we can't quite be sure which sometimes). To date not one top 5 book has moved beyond a read and crit, apart from a suspected 'token full read' given to my mate Simon Forward. The crits have been of variable quality, that afforded my own first book, Space, a good example IMHO of the WTF quality of some of the crits that HC hands out.

(If you would like to read some quality stuff, try my second book Olives, BTW. I ain't 'plugging' that one, though - it's a serious book about the Middle East, while Space was a comedy about chickens and stuff.)

But that hasn't stopped thousands of new writers from posting their work up there and trying to climb that self-same slippery pole. It's hard, folks - you have to chivvy people to go and read your book by participating on the forums, plugging the book and generally shouting a lot. And then they have to like it enough to vote for it - vote enough times for it to beat out everyone else and rise to the top of the begrudging souffle that is the online slushpile. You need hundreds of votes.

But, rather brilliantly, uber-gamer Vineet Bhalla, 'Klazart' to his mates, posted a YouTube video urging fellow gamers to pop over to authonomy, log in and vote for his book. (It's here...)

In a marvellous demonstration of the sheer power of social media, hundreds of gaming fans (possibly thousands) have done just that - garnering Vineet's book over 700 votes in the past 48 hours and launching it up the authonomy charts by some 3,000 places to its current 17 - and rising.

The howls from the authonomy 'community' of writers, bilked by the brash 'gamers' who've suddenly appeared on the site, have been wonderous indeed - suddenly the place has come alive again and started to pop and splutter with action and life - from apopleptic authors ranting pompously about cheats and darn gamers to gamer punks telling them all to piss off as they scrawl on the walls and pour beer on the carpets. The gamers have a point - the authonomy 'rules' make it clear you're welcome to invite friends and family. HC can't have imagined that 'family' could include over 8,000 gaming fans who follow a popular gamer's YouTube space!

Authonomy's forums, which had settled down to a rather sedentary and boring repetition of every topic, from how you deal with POV (Point of View. If you don't know, don't bother. It's not critical to your life, believe me) to whether book titles that contain leopard testicles are saleable in today's market, have suddenly come alive and thrill to the sound of argument, contention and challenge - battle, even.

It's great. It's like an invasion of anarchists at an old people's home. Any half-decent anthropologist would get a thesis and at least two bacon sandwiches out of this lot.

But the influx of new voices has been too much for the site - authonomy has gone down, baby, a mere few thousand new readers has been enough to smack the servers for six and deny access to many, the site's up and down like a tart's knicks. (Well, it is Sunday and sysadmin Rik will be down the pub sinking a few nutty browns before dragging his weary arse into the laughter factory tomorrow morning.)

Meanwhile, I do heartily recommend nipping over and taking a look at the writers vs gamers debate - it takes me back to the late 1970s and, for me, that was a good time.

Oh what larks, Pip!


Lexi said...

Alexander, stop sniping at poor old Authonomy.

You're like some sad guy unable to stop dissing his ex-girlfriend.

So HC didn't appreciate your book (which I, incidentally, really liked - it made me laugh, which gets it top marks). There are other publishers; and there is POD, just about to become a force in publishing.

Move on.

DUBAI JAZZ said...

Alex, for what it's worth, I've read the first chapter of your book before the website went down on me, it's good Alex, I liked it. I liked a lot. The characters are strong and well defined. The setting (a protagonist in troubles in a foreign country) is clear and enticing. I actually felt angry that the website wouldn't load the second chapter. I don't know about authonomy, but if the rest of the book is as good as the beginning, then you OUGHT to get published.

I'll be reading the rest of the book when the site kicks in again.

Keefieboy said...

Larks, indeed. It'll be interesting to see if, and how, HC respond.

alexander... said...

Lexi, this post wasn't a snipe at authonomy.

I don't care that HC didn't like my book. I care that they haven't liked ANY top five book since the site launched, but that's not the point of this post, which was a laugh at the po-faced writers on authonomy who can't take the gamers appearing in their hallowed halls.

Sorry, kid - I think you missed the point...

Vineet said...

The problem is that some of the "regulars" committed the cardinal sin of berating and stereotyping gamers.

Apart from simply being rude, you just don't want to start a war with gamers, because, 1) They outnumber you, VASTLY, 2) They are relentless and will not stop 3) They are used to these kind of forum wars as they happen every day on many gaming forums.

It's now gotten to the point, where Random people, who have nothing to do with me, or have no interest in helping me or my novel are going over to "troll" (create havoc) simply for their own perverse entertainment. Because they see a group of people who they consider uptight, who've slighted them(through generalisation), without provocation.

These problems are easy to fix.

All you need is.. a better server that can handle a decent number of users.

24/7 moderators, can be community members, who cost nothing, to keep the trolls and generally ill-mannered people in check.

Obviously HC weren't prepared for a site with REAL popularity, because these are very obvious problems.

alexander... said...

Fun, isn't it????


Vineet said...

I feel bad, because this isn't what I expected OR intended.

I'm prolly going to get blamed for it though, and can see my book being deleted sooner rather than latter.

Looks like the site has actually died now. It's no longer just slow, but down permanently, and I'm guessing will remain so till HC come to work tomorrow.

alexander... said...

Wow. Current authonomy log-in screen:

Server Error in '/' Application.
Runtime Error
Description: An application error occurred on the server. The current custom error settings for this application prevent the details of the application error from being viewed remotely (for security reasons). It could, however, be viewed by browsers running on the local server machine.

Details: To enable the details of this specific error message to be viewable on remote machines, please create a [customErrors] tag within a "web.config" configuration file located in the root directory of the current web application. This [customErrors] tag should then have its "mode" attribute set to "Off".

alexander... said...

Vineet - it's not your fault, you did nothing wrong, don't go worrying about it.

DO spend some time on editing the MS, particularly with comments like NickP's in mind, IMHO...

Vineet said...

Well, i've had a lot of useful feedback, amongst the storm. The prelude is now cut. I do know it needs some editing, tightening, not my greatest strength. There are still some other things later on in the MS that I need to fix before I can focus on that though.

Guess, I'll just have to wait for the dust to settle by tomorrow afternoon and see what's left.

Lexi said...


I did indeed get the point; and you're chumming up to Vineet now because he's broken Authonomy.

He's the guy who dumped the girl who dumped you.

What bringing in 700 people (who have not read his book) to vote for him accomplishes is not clear.

And I doubt he'd welcome hordes of newbs with their own agenda to Starcraft.

Keefieboy said...

Yep, Authonomy has more or less fallen over. It always was slow though, but I guess the server's struggling to cope.

Marion said...

I first got on Authonomy on 22/2 and have struggling with my addiction to it ever since. It did help me realize where I needed to tighten my book and brought home the reality that the publishing industry is a mess and not getting a book "sold" has nothing to do with the book's quality. I met people like Lexi who are working on other ways to promote and get their books out. I felt like part of a community. I never thought HC-Uk was going to buy my book. I liked having it read and commented on. I feel like I've lost this outlet. I don't think Klazart or the other gamers understood that it was never a "contest," it was a haven. It wasn't perfect, but it was comfortable, and now it's gone.

Vineet said...


I am a writer, first and a gamer second. I thought the purpose of the site by HC was to discover new writers. That was my goal for going their. I think if people are honest, that's why any writer signs up to that site, at least to begin with.

Lexi said...

Yes, Vineet, but the whole idea is that people on the site READ the books there, then vote for the ones they think are good.

So the best books rise to the top.

Your sort of escapade (and you are not the first to game the system) means random books get to the top. This does not help anyone.

Agents trawl the site, looking for new authors. Will they do this if less good books get to the top of the chart?

Nope. Why would they?

Vineet said...

"Yes, Vineet, but the whole idea is that people on the site READ the books there, then vote for the ones they think are good.

So the best books rise to the top."

That's obviously not the case. If the best books are rising, why have NONE of the top 5 ever been picked by HC? The books rise not because of quality but because of back scratching and networking and endless schmoozing, which is exactly what I did, only on a bigger scale.

"Your sort of escapade (and you are not the first to game the system) means random books get to the top. This does not help anyone."

Random books sell a lot in bookstores, because random people buy them. But then I guess it should be only up to a small circle of unpublished writers to decide what books "deserve" to be published and "deserve" to sell.

"Agents trawl the site, looking for new authors. Will they do this if less good books get to the top of the chart?

Nope. Why would they"

It's good agents trawl the site. The more people that visit the site, the more exposure and hype and opportunity to be read everyone on the site will get.
While not every one of my backers will stick around to participate actively, even if a small percentage do, that grows the userbase considerably, which is important to prevent stagnation on any kind of creative outlet such as Authonomy.

Lexi said...

Vineet, my book, Catch a Falling Star, is in the top five, and it did not get there by back scratching, networking and endless schmoozing. I have never asked a friend or relative to back it, nor do I go in for swap reads or multiple backings each day. You know as much about Authonomy as I do about Starcraft.

Do you really think that Harper Collins will publish a book just because it gets to the top five? Of course not. They will look at it, and if it meets their requirements, buy it. Nothing has so far, but Authonomy has not been going many months. Give it a chance. It will happen.

Agents won’t bother to come to the site, however many people are on it, if the books are just like the ones they get every morning in the slush pile on their desks – i.e. not much good.

And if your backers haven’t even read your book, what makes you think they will read anyone else’s?

Michelle said...

Wow, Alex. The comments on your post are more interesting (or inflammatory?) than the post itself. I guess since Autho broke down, you can bring the fight here.

Debra Kemp said...

I'm just sad that authonomy crashed today and I can't use it. I enjoyed the networking. More power to you, Vineet, that you have a fan base. I just wish you had thought the consequences through a little more. You said in your video that authonomy was already slow. Did you think a huge influx of people wouldn't somehow mess things up just a little?

Nick Poole said...

I tend to agree wit Alexander.

For a long time the self styled community have issued manifestos, etiquette guides and often insulted or ignored people who didn't agree with them.

Well now most of the forum users have insulted a local gang and you don't like getting your heads kicked in.

If everybody concentrated on writing better books instead of lying to each other about how great they already are, this would never have got out of hand.

Lexi is an honourable exception by the way...

MacDibble said...

I like how Vineet blames the system. It's not me and my flashmob, it's the system. Authonomy didn't know him from a bar of soap before, but he wades in to save those poor writers from the system anyway?
"Help, Help! I'm being oppressed! Come and see the violence inherent in the system!"
At first he said he was working the system to get to the editor's desk legitimately and quickly. Now he's figured out there's no point, there is no publishing contract at the end of it, and a chance he'll be deleted, he's there to show up the faulty system, and help them out, whether they want him to or not. Truth, justice and the Klazza way.
Is he a Hero? Or a fool? The funny thing is Harper Collins gets to decide that on Monday. I think they'll like him. They love publicity.

waterfall said...

Wow, this has been surreal to watch from the sidelines.

Frankly, Authonomy's structure itself is the problem. Asking people online to vote for something is BEGGING for poll rigging. It happens all the time, which is why online voting is a horrible way to decide anything of consequence.

While it may seem cold, this is how the internet works. If Klazart didn't do it, another person would have.

Kerotan said...

Wow, I was really expecting to flame this post, but no. Normally I wouldn't be interested in this whole fiasco, but as the clash between two internet communities is a fascinating, I could write a rather large essay on this encounter in a anthropological manner, and I might.

But that's not why I'm here.

I think gamers have got a bad rape generally, and I see it in some/many of the posts on the Authonomy forum.

It paints us as near animalistic beasts who circulate the wider internet, and to a certain extent this is true, there have been certain people who have been so amazed about the anti-gamer feeling expressed when Klazart's rallying call came, and the surge along with it, that they had to course some mischief in a web community which is different from their own.

I guess what I want to say is, we aren't all bad, we didn't all revert to trolling, but alot admittedly, it was the low hanging fruit, and we are young and easily tempted.

On the whole, we are bunch of nice guys, where I hail from gets in proverbial squabbles with and other websites filling a similar niche, but at the end of the day, we all try to get along.

Now I'm not saying that you should go register right now, unless your interested in topics on how to improve your starcraft game, and the viewing of quite frankly homoerotic pictures of pro-gamers at times.

At the end of the day, if you have a book voting system where the masses get to vote for their favourite, they will usually vote for something by Jordan, and this is the risk you run when you try and compare and rank something incomparable as books.

Thank you.

samuraisam said...

This isn't really something that can be pinned on any group of people (gamers in this instance); voting on the internet has always been flawed (just look at any movie on IMDB and see if the ratings seem fair). Unfortunately there isn't much anyone can do about it.

Kerotan said...

Well its not internet voting, voting by populous will cause the thing that is popular winning rather than the thing that should win on its own merits.

This isn't always the case, but it is the risk that is run by any vote.

Marion said...

Some Freudian slip, Kerotan, "rape" for "rap". It does seem that Authonomy was pillaged at the least. Clearly, Klazart didn't come in with that intention. But, from an anthropological viewpoint, he did enter a community whose rules and mores he knew nothing about. There was a lot of judgment and sniping going on and much rallying about the use of sock puppets.
I've noticed on some of the gamers' sites a real glee about bringing Authonomy down. I don't think you are all bullies. I've heard about racist remarks made by Authonomy members in retaliation. And I agree with those who've said this was inevitable.

Kerotan said...

I believe its called a typo, since rape doesn't actually make an sense in that sentence, but if you take it out of the sentence and use it to make a point, then its okay.

"I've noticed on some of the gamers' sites a real glee about bringing Authonomy down"

Its only because your so backward compared to the rest of the internet, that you don't understand the concept of trolling. And if its about the fact that the already weak severs died to the surge of hits, I think they have at least a mandate to be gleeful, such an act is a demonstration of the popularity of the fiasco, and how they as viewers to the site have earned 15 minutes of fame, simply by viewing it.

You have to understand the concepts at work here, I'm only here, because I found what where quite frankly the most am-dram, insulting, pieces of generalising whiny bullshit I've read in a while, from many community members who need a scapegoat other than the poorly thought out scheme of peer review.

The only reason why I haven't created an account on anthology and started spamming threads with Pi to variable numbers of digits, and then laugh at the resulting confusion, is because if I do that, I can't prove you wrong.

As I said, generally we "gamers" scum of the earth, lifeless reprobates whatever, are nice people, and don't actively seeking disruptive activity, that's what 4chan is for.

There is a point where my live and live and let live instinct stops and I feel that I have to defend the media, I and many others are involved in, lest people start actually paying attention to the tripe that is spouted by some but not all.

Debra Kemp said...

"As I said, generally we "gamers" scum of the earth, lifeless reprobates whatever, are nice people, and don't actively seeking disruptive activity, that's what 4chan is for."

But Kerotan, what did anyone on authomony do to gamers prior to Vineet's scheme? Did you even know authomoy existed? Again, I think it's cool he has so many backers. (I should be so blessed.) I don't blame people for being hurt by negative and gerneralized comments--I don't know what they were-the system froze by the time I was to to try to log on today. I don't want to know. I feel it's wrong on both sides. I just get the sense that someone was out to get authonomy from the beginning. And again, I'm sad that I didn't have a chance to chat with my friends there today. I hope things are fixed tomorrow.

I do agree that it does show the fatal flaw in the sytem that I saw from the beginning.

But I would like to see HC fix things.

Vineet said...


I am no hero or crusader, nor do I claim to be.

My goal has always been and still is to try and get feedback from the HC editors. If it works, great, if it doesn't, I can live with that.

I don't think I did anything wrong, though I might have made a few mistakes. I certainly wasn't looking to hurt people.

anyway my hands are starting to hurt from all the internet debating so i'm gonna stop now and let HC do what it will.

Kerotan said...

Well, I found out about authonomy, from, and I saw what Klazart had done, so I checked out the forum, and found peoples confusion over trolls posting mathmatics articles from wikipedia. And I laughed for a bit, as the OP said, it was more interesting than funny to see how a community that had never seen a troll cope.

But I continued on looking through various posts on the forum. I found some bile about we gamers are ruining it for the rest of us.

I laughed again, aww people hate us, how cute, but as I continued, I found more posts like these, spewing bile and hate from every port against a group I associate with.

I felt that I had to defend myself and try persuade forum members that we are nice people and don't want to cause downfall of a community, and perhaps they should stop spewing bile about a group of people they know little about and making large overbearing generalisations.

I will admit that my vision of the forumites there is most likely tainted by the ones that shout the loudest, but alot seemed to come off a grade A pricks who had already made their mind up on every issue known to man.

Comments in the ilk of "you haven't been very welcoming." where met with things similar to "well grow a pair princess."

Neather the less, I'm determined not to generalise potential authors, since I believe that there are many who haven't treated the surge of people who such overwhelming hostility and bile.

As I said many times on the forum, my primary reason for being their was to defend myself and others who are generally awesome.

Anonymous said...

This is really funny.
No way of not noticing this, so I must comment.

Online voting and all kind of voting for that matter is about people, I generally disagree with voting by automation having not read/seen/heard about something, but its a fact that it happens all the time, everywhere.

But in the end its not about just quality in this case of the book, its about much more than that. Each person is distinct and what he thinks is quality may not be same for the other person.

In the end the more popular book in one way or another is going to win. Publishers want that kind of book, since they are publishing the book to be bought by more people and not just sit on the shelfs on a book store for all eternity.

To make things simple I don't see anything wrong in having people go vote for a book, although you can't say how many people actually read the book that voted in this case Klararts book, you can't really tell anyways, since its all about as the OP said, who is the loudest and most noticeable in the forums or whatever and the all too common vote for me i vote for you exists everywhere and I'm 100% sure it existed in Authonomy even before the influx of new people Klarart brought.
Klarart just came and did it on a much bigger scale.

And yes you can't win against gamers, I'm a gamer and sometimes I just can't stand arguing with some fellow gamers where nothing you say no matter if its correct or even if you have diploma on it, you just can't convince the other one that what you are saying it correct.
It will just spawn endless, pointless posting spree. Best thing is to not engage or if you've already have, just stop posting and go on with you daily normal routine.

alexander... said...

Golly... this has rather taken off, hasn't it?

Lexi, you're painting a much more bitter Alexander than exists - I live where I do precisely because I have a finely tuned nose for anarchy. I thought this whole event brought a massive surge of life to authonomy and it has been very amusing indeed to watch it from the sidelines.

So no, I'm not 'chumming up to Vineet because he broke authonomy'.

I'm not interested in anyone breaking authonomy. I'm definitely interested in anyone making it on authonomy - which hasn't happened yet, apart from Miranda, who wasn't in the top five.

I am also interested in the exposure of the back end of the technology adoption life cycle to the front end of it.

Punk gamers vs crusty publishers/authors. Oh my, but that's turning out to be really fun to watch.

So. I'm highly amused, you think I'm bitter and rejected. Could we ever reconcile those views?

Possibly, if you'd only stop wiggling your finger at me!

Haarlson Phillipps said...

To insist that everyone who chooses to back a book on Authonomy must first read the book in its entireity is, surely, akin to insisting everyone should be obliged to read political parties' manifestoes before voting in an election?

Good post. I contributed two posts to the debate over at Authonomy - one was lost when the originator (of possibly the most instructive thread ever to appear on Authonomy) deleted the thread. In brief, I really don't see what's wrong (ethically and/or morally) with what Klazart did. As he's said himself, he's just taken what was already going on to another level.

Jobo Pooks said...

Hey banana man my old mate...What happened in the late 70s?

Are you talking about electrons or Amstrads?

Jobo Pooks said...

I bet you got a sad on because you got sand in your butties....

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