JukePop Serials rolled out a new feature a few weeks ago: reviews, which allow readers to leave star ratings and a critique of their favorite web serials’ chapters.
The feature is sort of a no-brainer as far as implementing a means for author feedback goes. With the star ratings, readers express their overall feelings on the chapter, and with the comment attached to the rating, they tell the author why. The site uses a voting feature to determine the top serials–but with ratings, JP seems to be aiming for a means of separating highly voted serials (popular serials) with highly-rated serials (critically acclaimed).
Now, for those who don’t know, rating systems have a history of becoming skewed by fans of the work being rated on. Fans tend to overlook the flaws and drop 5 stars, a “That was awesome!” comment, and leave. Crowd mentality. Rare is the actual critique in which a (in this case) reader tells the author what they thought while reading, what they liked, what they disliked, and what they wish would be changed. Newgrounds is full of people like this.
Some authors are okay with that. I’m not.
These reviews are in no way helpful to the author, except as a means for boosting their confidence. I’m all for boosting confidence, but what price is paid when the work actually needs significant improvement, and no one is willing to tell the author? It is, in a word, a form of dishonesty. Dishonest praise leads to false confidence, which is nothing but a slap in the face to the hard-working writer who mustered up the courage to put their work out in the first place.
It’s a bigger slap in the face than a negative review.
I find myself in a precarious position when leaving reviews on JukePop. I’m an author myself–these people are my competitors for a $500 cash prize. The strategic thing to do would be to leave low star ratings on other people’s work, wouldn’t it? Or at the very least, not leave five-star ratings. I’ve already turned off auto-vote and stopped voting up other serials, though I still share my fellow authors’ chapter releases in the interest of promoting the site itself, which is relatively new. Why not go the whole way and leave bad reviews?
This is the impression my fellow authors probably get every time I do leave a bad review. That I’m gaming them. Sometimes I wish JP would disable the reviewing option for authors altogether, just to tie my hands together and stop me from committing presentational suicide.
And yet… Who benefits when I refuse to tell an author when their work needs improvement? No one benefits. Who is hurt by the serial’s low quality? JukePop itself.
Imagine a site full of ambition but equally full of mediocre content. Low grammar standards. Poor pacing. Plot holes and punctuation errors galore. Would you like to go there? Me neither.
Look, I come from the forum scene, where people are blunt about what they think of your work and unapologetic about it. I remember when The Super Police first took off on my old writing forum; it quickly became the most popular serial there, but in the beginning, everyone had something bad to say about it.
So is it a comet, or a meteor?
Who the hell takes a phone call from aliens seriously?
Why are the main characters moving on from their parents’ deaths so quickly?
Why isn’t he testing out his super powers?
What’s with the character dump in that last chapter?
Why is the government talking about bullshit?
The author took the blows. He listened to the feedback, defended himself as much as possible, then moved on to the next chapter. And the next. And the next. (To be fair, he had already written the entire story in his native language, and was only releasing them on the board just to get the English translation out there.)
You know what happened? Everyone kept reading. Everyone started to like it. And in the end, we could look past the flaws and say with certainty that this serial had some solid damn high potential. The craze died down, we all scattered, disinterested in the next couple of serials, and then… The author cranked out another season of the serial.
And wow. The Super Police: The X-Mafia, was a thrill ride.
Still with flaws, sure. We gladly pointed them out. But not nearly as many as the first season–because the author had done something different: he’d shifted focus from the things we didn’t like to the things we did.
I want everyone on JukePop to be like that. To understand that it’s okay to put out sub-par work, but to expect criticism. Lots of criticism. And then keep putting out their work, making it better along the way. I’d like to instill those values by leaving those dirty, uncompromising reviews myself, whatever backlash I may receive from other authors socially or whichever hearts may get broken.
I want to stop here and point out that the quality of most of the serials on the site is actually pretty high! There are gems EVERYWHERE, which is exactly what JP needs as a new site and a new reading experience. We authors, the JP pioneers, have to set the bar high for those who will follow and establish the site as the number one place on the web for genre fiction and web serials from the offset. Thus, reviewing is our responsibility.
So that’s my reason for leaving reviews on JukePop. What’s yours?