There is a specific person to blame for this, and that person is not me. I'm a totally innocent party, here. (As you will see, I fought this whole thing like - well, kind of like a first-level magic user who doesn't know how to cast Magic Missile, but I tried, is my point.) That person (the Party You Should Blame) is Scintilla, aka scintilla72.
See, many moons ago I made a post about anime vids for media fans, and in it, I sort of vaguely implied that you don't need to leave feedback on anime vids, and in fact it might be better not to. Actually, let's just revisit my exact words, okay? They're kind of key to this whole thing. I said:
You don't need to leave feedback. [Ed.'s note: the writer was lying up above when she said she only implied this.] That's kind of a controversial statement, but - anime vidders seem to want, and get, very detailed opinions from other fans, and by "detailed" I mean "you need, at minimum, a master's degree from a reputable film school in order to give them." If you have such a degree, I encourage you to go check out ZeWrestler and Iserlohn's Guide to Opinions. Everyone else, well. My advice is to just use the star ratings on AMV, and concentrate your actual written feedback on live-action vidders. You don't need an eight chapter guide to do that.
Scintilla found this post eight months later, and said: not so.
Scintilla's position statement was, basically:
- AMV makers want to hear from the people watching their vids.
- Yes, even if the opinions are not Guide to Opinions-worthy.
- Yes, even if these viewers do not make vids.
- Yes, even if they are media fans rather than anime fans.
- Yes, even if they just leave "I liked it!" type comments.
- Basically, they want to hear from the people watching their vids whether those people are from the Great Secret Inner Circle of Ceremonial Anime Vidders or from the Outer Reaches of the Fannish Darkness.
But, okay, see - let me confess. I didn't want to leave opinions on AMVs. I found the opinion form intimidating, the community confusing, and then there was the Great Fannish Divide: they're anime vid makers. I'm a fan fiction reader. See? Massive chasm of total difference that cannot be crossed by mere mortals! Also, I've got the visual interpretation skills of naked mole rat. Obviously AMV makers do not want to hear from me.
And then I had a conversation with That Voice. You know, the one that tells you, grimly and firmly, "You'll be sorry later" when you decide one more drink won't hurt you? The one that tells you that yes, you do have to get a wedding present no matter how much you'd rather not? Basically, the voice that tells you stuff that you actually do know but would prefer not to. We had a little three-way chat, in fact, me and the Voice and Scintilla. (For the record, it was basically Scintilla and the Voice working in close concert against me, and they don’t even know each other. Not that I am bitter.)
Voice: That's what you said about live-action vidders. You said, and I quote, "They don't want to hear from me." You were wrong.
Me: Well, but. Anime vidders are very different than live-action vidders!
Voice: ...How could you possibly know that?
Me: You can just tell.
Voice, disapprovingly: Ah. (Yes, sometimes my Voice does sound like Benton Fraser. I don't know what to do about it - I mean, exorcise it? Rent it out to other fangirls? It's a tough call!)
Me: Also, look at the Guide to Opinions. Don't even tell me I could do that.
Scintilla: Actually, no one uses that anymore. I think you're the only person who even knows it's there.
Voice: Any other excuses, wimp girl?
Me, grouchily: Scintilla doesn't speak for everyone. Maybe he wants to hear what I have to say, but that doesn't mean anyone else does. Also, he could be insane. Also, we don't even know for sure that he exists.
Voice: Well, if you aren't willing to take his word for it, possibly you should investigate further.
Me, triumphantly: I can't! There's no cultural norm of response to emailed feedback in AMVs, and thus I can't possibly redo the Vid Feedback Project!
Voice: You know, someone else might believe that you'd never heard of minor adjustments to methodology, but I was there for advanced OChem lab, sweetie. I know better.
Scintilla, possibly intending to be helpful: You could post to the forum! Or you could just leave opinions; creators can respond to those, and I think they mostly do.
Me, bitterly, speaking to Scintilla and the Voice both: I hate you. So much.
So, Scintilla had basically handed me a workable method on a platter. All it meant was - eeep - braving the animemusicvideos.org forums, where I had never spent a second's time. And then - eeep! Eeep! EEEEEEP! - leaving some actual opinions.
I started with the forum post, on the grounds that it was the less scary of two scary options. For further safety, I excised all my personality from the post, on the grounds that if you start acting like a human and not a robot there's no telling what will happen. People might talk to you, and then what excuse will you have for not proceding with the project? (As it turns out, they talked to me anyway; the robotic tone was perhaps a miscalculation on my part, since anime vidders are nothing if not exceedingly comfortable with robots.) My question, summed up in non-robot language: Hey! Um, folks? What do you want? From, you know, viewers? When it comes to feedback?
The answers, in rough order of popularity:
- A reaction. Any reaction, really. I'm not picky.
- Anything that helps me make better vids. Like, even an emotional response or two. Or you can be negative, if you give good reasons. Just...you know...something. Constructive stuff.
- Anything I don't have to ask for. (This needs explaining. In the AMV world, there's a thing called "opinion exchange" - you leave an opinion on mine, I'll leave one on yours. There are also sometimes forum threads where people offer opinions to whoever asks.)
Voice: I guess you'll be starting to leave opinions now, huh?
Voice: You had palpitations the first time you sent email feedback to a live-action vidder. I swear I heard you muttering about probable cannibalism. That turned out okay, as I recall. Nice people! No one got eaten! At least not in any bad way.
Me: Anime vidders are different.
Voice: You know what? You don't get to say that anymore unless you have actual proof.
Me: Also, I have no idea what to say.
Voice, grimly: Oh, trust me. Once you start typing, you'll come up with something. You always do.
[Best Beloved emerges from the living room just as Voice and I enter our fortieth round of mental fisticuffs, and sums up the situation with a single disgusted look.]
Best Beloved: Oh my god. Just do it already.
Me: EVERYONE IS AGAINST ME. This is very unfair.
BB: I'm just telling you to do what you actually want to do.
Me: EVERYONE IS AGAINST ME AND WILL NOT LET ME MAINTAIN MY DELUSIONS.
BB: ...You know, some people would call that being for you.
Me, resentfully: Fine. I'll do it. And I'll start with Scintilla. If I do it wrong, well, it's all his fault anyway, so he'll be in no position to complain.
And that is what I did.
But I couldn't stop with Scintilla, since he's only one person (that I am aware of, anyway). So I was faced with the question: how do I pick my subjects?
The obvious answer was "Click the "random AMV" button 30 times."
As is so often the case in this life, the obvious answer was also a massively fucking stupid one. I mean - 30 random AMVs. I have a delicate constitution. It might very well kill me. Plus, the odds were good that I'd end up watching at least 15 Naruto and Evangelion vids. Of those, 5 would be set to Linkin Park. This kind of thing makes me cranky and despairing.
So, in the end, I assembled a subject group not selected even remotely at random. They consisted of:
- Forum Folk. In other words, everyone who responded to the forum thread I posted. Presumably these people were interested feedback, or why would they have commented? Plus, if they were in the forums, they were still in the fandom, which meant they'd be more likely to see the actual feedback. (As far as I know, you only find out about opinions left when you log in; you aren't sent email or anything. So those folks I left opinions for who haven't logged in since then haven't seen them.)
In this category, I tried to pick the latest AMV people had made. If there were several recent ones, I chose the one I thought I'd like best, based on the source, song, theme, whatever. (Or I watched all the recent ones and then picked the one I liked best or had the most to say about.) And I didn't use any multi-editor projects or sequences from MEPs released as separate vids. In my opinion, people edit differently in those than in their main AMV projects, and I didn't want to muddy the waters.
Exceptions: people who said, in the forum thread, that they wanted feedback I couldn't provide. I mean, I have it on reasonably good authority that I give awesome blowjobs, but I think Best Beloved would have voted against the "oral sex as feedback" route. Also, my jaw would've been pretty pissed at me after a while. Or, as another example - one person said he wanted opinions that were short, and I have never in my whole life been known to write anything short. (Okay, I wrote a drabble once, but it nearly killed me. I can still feel the ache in cold weather.) My style, such as it is, can pretty much be summed up as "meandering and loquacious." Short was right out.
Otherwise, I think I got everyone in this category; it would've been wise to make a spreadsheet and check people off, but I didn't, because it would have made excellent evidence against me during the committal hearings.
- Favorites. These were the people who made the AMVs I had listed in my favorite vids list. After all, these are the AMVs I love the most. I should remark upon that fact, yes?
Exceptions: AMVs three or more years old. AMVs with more than 100 opinions. This was based on things I'd been told in the forum:
- Don't review older vids. (I also learned this with live action, actually - I mean, you can, but it's generally preferable to pick a more recent one.)
- Don’t participate in a deluge. (This is a strictly AMV rule, as far as I can tell; I've never heard anyone complain about a deluge in live-action vidding.) Some people get flooded with opinions on a single vid. (Oddly, most of my favorite vids aren't in that category, which bewildered me. I expected all the ones I had on there when I started to have 100+ opinions; in reality, only 3 of them hit that. Or, technically, four; one was just at 100 when I reviewed it, I think, but I went ahead anyway.)
In practice, the two exceptions ended up eliminating more than half my favorite vids, mostly for reasons of being too old. What can I say? I love the classics.
- Don't review older vids. (I also learned this with live action, actually - I mean, you can, but it's generally preferable to pick a more recent one.)
- Hikaru no Go Vidders. I admit it. I am a slut for Hikaru no Go; anything to do with it at all makes me happy. If I was going to be doing a lot of re-watching for reviewing purposes, well, I figured, why not pick footage that comes with a built-in happiness kick?
Exceptions: There weren't really any. If there was a Hikaru no Go vid on my hard drive, I opinionated on it, even to the extent of hitting one vidder twice, which I otherwise didn't do.
How the Vidders Responded
Here's what you need to know about animemusicvideos.org: it is awesome for doing studies of this kind. It's like they just want you to. Or else like the site was designed by someone as obsessed with numbers and tabulated data as I am. Whichever.
See, when you do opinions, you get a list of everything you've done, sorted by your score or how recently you gave the opinion. And opinions the creator responded to are in pink. And you get your average score in each category and the global average in each category over on one side.
Seriously, these people are obsessed. With. Numbers. It is awesome.
Well. Except for how it kind of leads to the Numbers Game. But we'll get to that.
|Hikaru no Go||7||3||43||4*||57|
*Some vids qualified for multiple categories, and some vids from the forum section made my favorites list after I'd seen them. In each case, I counted multiple qualifiers with the category that comes first - so a forum vid that was also a favorite would only be counted in the forum category.
So. I was leaving fairly harsh opinions - mixed reviews, constructive criticism, lower numbers than people were used to seeing on their vids. Out of all of my responses, I got precisely three that were neutral or mixed - i.e., people seemed confused, people seemed unhappy with the score but still pleased that I'd left an opinion, whatever. Otherwise, it was all positive; even people whose vids I ranked, um, really low - they still thanked me, still seemed happy to hear from me.
Also note this weird thing: I lowered virtually everyone's averages; I think there are three vids in this whole list whose averages I mostly improved. (Not counting the ones where mine is the only opinion.) Almost everyone still thanked me.
Conclusion? The opinion itself - the contact with an audience member - is more important than the content of the opinion, as long as you follow the basic rules of internet manners. (So, don't say, "This sucked ass." Say, "You know, I had a really hard time following this because of the visual quality, and also I think your decision to use only clips entirely composed of noses in profile kind of undermined your overall theme of the angst of losing your true love to a man-eating space troll.") This was especially true for people who didn't have very many responses to their vids; in fact, the people I scored lowest gave me some of the nicest responses, probably because I was taking the time to say something.
What I Learned
A lot of what I learned was a repeat of what I found out in the live-action vid feedback project. Like, I need to watch a vid several times to be able to review it coherently, and I will only be able to review coherently if I know ahead of time that I'm going to. And vidders are not actually all that scary, no matter how many fangs and claws they have. [Ed.'s note: fangs and claws may be entirely apocryphal and exist solely in the writer's much-deluded mind.] And it takes a project to make me send feedback - I did 30 opinions in 7 days. Previously, I had done 0 opinions in three years. I leave the math to you.
So instead of recapitulating old lessons learned, I'm going to focus on the stuff I learned that was new.
The Numbers Game; Or, I Do Not Think These Numbers Mean What You Think They Mean.
So, to leave feedback on an AMV, you go to the "submit opinion" page. This is what one looks like. (That's a real page. Um, don't leave feedback there unless you've seen the vid.)
You will notice that there are sets of radio buttons that allow you to rate each of a series of elements - originality, capture, sound, etc. - on a scale of 1 to 10. Then there's three text boxes: good points, bad points, general comments.
You have to rank the vids on the number scales. (You also have to put in some text, but I've seen cut-and-pasted text from random Wikipedia entries in there, so.) The scales are defined as 1 being worst ever, 5 being average, and 10 being best ever.
Anyone who has ever graded papers (or given personnel evaluations) is right now cringing, knowing exactly what this means. Yup. Grade inflation.
See, in my book, a 7 is a good score. You're above average! That's a good thing! (You are, I suspect, starting to see why I was so very, very bad at grading papers, at least if the goal of grading is to make people happy. [Ed.'s note: it isn't.]) You're better than 70% of the scored population at this particular thing. In other words, my mental score starts at 5. I add or subtract points based on the vid itself to arrive at the final score. (And, because I am just that nerdy, I have mental examples of my 10-earning vids. So before I click that "10" button, I ask myself, "Is it as original as X? Is it as well-edited as Y?" I don't click 10 all that often.)
But to the person getting the numerical score, 10 is often the only good score. A nine means you took points away for something. A seven means you hated the vid OMG.
So those neutral/mixed responses were all pretty much responding to this, with a kind of bewildered, "I...guess you liked the vid? But then why did you score me so low?" When my scores were, you know, in the 7-8 range.
So that's an aspect of the opinions section: an unhealthy focus on numbers. (For the record, my average scores given aren't that low, as compared to the scores everyone is giving. You can see my averages given - and the global averages - here.)
There are other elements to the numbers game - like you can trade, not just opinions, but 10s across the board. And if you give someone's vid a score he doesn't like, he can come on over and give your vids all ones.
Well. Except he can't do that to me. I don't make vids.
So the numbers game might cause some problems for the org members, but my point is: if you're a media fan, you have nothing to lose by playing the game. You have nothing to lose by leaving opinions, except a few minutes of your time. (Or, in other words, roughly .001% of the time the vidder spent making the vid.)
Another interesting aspect of the numbers game is who pays attention to the numbers and who pays attention to the comments. Some of the responses I got indicated pretty clearly that creator focused entirely on the numbers I left; one of the creators said he didn't even notice what numbers I left him.
In conclusion: numbers = interesting. But oh I am glad we don't have this kind of rating system for fan fiction or live-action vids.
The Language Barriers. Yes, There Are Two of Them.
The first barrier is one of, well, actual language. AMVs are truly international. Before you leave a lengthy opinion, check the vidder's profile or somewhere to make sure the vidder will be able to read your comments; otherwise, he'll just have your numerical scores to go on, so you might as well keep it short.
The second barrier is more - um, like the language barrier between Brits and Americans. Remember how I said above that anime video fans aren't our kind, dears? Well, I was right. They are different. Although not in the they-likely-eat-babies way (although baby eating is an entirely valid lifestyle choice, of course - I don't mean to denigrate baby eaters!) I initially feared; it's more of a jargon deal. Talking to people from the AMV world has proved endlessly fascinating to me, because they have almost all the same concepts (Big name fans! Wank! Generation gaps! Thirteen-year-olds with a very limited grasp of the use of nouns and way too much time!), but they don't necessarily use the same words for those things. So, like, I had the following conversation with an AMV maker (no direct quotes or names 'cause I don't have his permission, although it's not like it would be hard for you to find this one if for some unimagineable reason you wanted to):
Me: But you don't seem to do meta much, though.
Him: Well, we do. [Inserts links to vids - excellent vids, and definitely meta, but...well, not what I meant.]
Me: Meta vids, yup, you have those in plenty. But when I say "meta," I mean essays. You know, in writing.
[Later, he links me to one of his own LJ posts about the history of AMVs.]
Me: THAT's what I mean when I say "meta."
Him: Oh. That.
This keeps right on happening to me. I've found myself footnoting all my terms lately, just in case, because it's either that or sort it out at great length by negotiation later on.
So. We're all fans, but we don't necessarily speak the same language. And even when we do, dialects may vary. Important to remember.
The Audience Problem. Yes, It's the Old, Old Story.
In general, AMV makers seem to be in search of an audience. Or - well, I mean, the audience is out there, but they don't seem to have much contact with that audience, at least not compared to the levels I'm used to in the fan fiction world. For every maker of a great AMV who has several hundred opinions per AMV and is widely acknowledged to turn every clip he touches into gold, there are at least a hundred who don't have much of an audience at all. When I started leaving opinions, I was leaving the first, second, or third opinion on some of these vids. (You need three opinions for people to be able to see an average score.) This surprised me.
And, see, I understand how people become part of the live-action vidding community. (This doesn't mean I myself am part of said community, no, but I hook up new vidders with betas sometimes, and I managed to meet vidders despite my initial fear of them. And so on. I could probably write at least a reasonably accurate piece on How to Meet Live-Action Vidders and Find Betas, although it could be summed up as "leave feedback on vids" and "ask someone," so probably I don’t need to.) For AMVs, I have no clue. Possibly they exchange secret handshakes or something.
But I did get the impression, from various conversations, comments, and exchanges, that a lot of AMV makers are in search of an audience.
Of course, we're all in search of an audience; it's why we're here, right?
My point is: one of the reasons to leave opinions is to remind creators that the audience exists. If you watch a vid, and you like it, and there are no opinions, the creator probably has no way of knowing what people thought. It's worth a few minutes of your time to demonstrate the actual presence of a real, live audience member.
- Giving opinions on AMVs is safe. Remember, I was not leaving all-ten opinions, or even close. In every case, my reviews contained negatives; I even found critical things to say about my favorite vid of all time, people. (Favorite does not mean perfect, although in this case it does mean awesome.) And in all but a few cases, I scored the vids below their average. And in a lot of cases, I left a lot of (neutrally worded, helpful, as constructive as I knew how to be - that goes without saying, I hope) criticism. I got only three confused responses, and no one at all got mad or upset.
- If you watch AMVs, you're part of the audience. Speak up. This is the argument I used on myself for a long time: anime vidders don't make their vids for me, for people like me; they make them for each other. So why would they want to hear from me?
But I've come to the conclusion that it doesn't matter who the creators had in mind when the vid was made. I'm in the audience. I have an opinion. I might as well say what I think.
And according to the AMV makers themselves, they do, overall, want to hear from their audience. Which includes me. And you.
- If you watch AMVs and have the use of most of the lobes of your brain, you know enough to leave an opinion. You don't need to be visually skilled, or deeply knowledgeable of anime (or even vaguely aware of the plot of the source of a given vid), or able to conduct rational discourse at great length about the inherent significance of color filters. You need the same thing you need to leave feedback for any fanwork: a reaction. And, optionally, a few reasons for your reaction.
And if you're watching fanworks and you have no reactions at all, ever, you might want to find a new hobby.
(Also, after you leave an opinion, you can click through to see all the opinions on that vid. This will reassure you that your reviews are not substandard; yes, you'll probably see some Deep Thoughts, but you will also see a lot of "AWSUM LOLZ!111" (This is especially confusing on AMVs that aren't meant to be funny.) My point is: you may not give the best opinion ever, but I promise you, you won't leave the worst. Probably not even if you're trying to.)
- Leaving opinions on AMVs is fun. Okay, the Number Problem is annoying, but - you get a list! A table of your opinions! You get assorted data! Really, it's very compelling. Okay, maybe this point only applies to those of us with a minor numbers fetish. (Still, it really is fun to see the ever-growing list of Opinions You Left. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, and when is that not good?)
- Leaving opinions on AMVs is good practice for feedback in general. Feedback shy? Well, here's a place you can test your wings. If you can't face leaving a comment in an LJ or sending an email (and, yes, I am looking at a few specific people out there in a very pointed fashion), try this. Because it isn't starting a conversation. It can't be. It isn't forcing anyone, including yourself, into an interaction. It's the lowest-impact means of leaving feedback that ever there was, especially for the socially reclusive among us.
Oh my god, TFV, screw the meta. Just take me straight to the AMV recs, please.