The jury’s still out on Authonomy
The pixies at Harper Collins have rejigged their Authonomy website. Having said sceptical words in an earlier post, The State of Authonomy it’s only fair that I should consider the changes they’ve made and what sort of difference I think they’ll make. Changes were made to the algorithm for determining both a book’s position and the TSR (talent spotter rank) of individual readers.
For those who don’t know, the better one’s TSR the more impact a reader has on the votes for a book. The reason this mechanism exists is to lessen the impact of people who join the site for the express purpose of backing their friend’s/lover’s/boss’s etc book and for no other reason. HC doesn’t prevent authors from getting mates to back their book (quite the reverse) but they don’t want that support to completely skew the voting as it has in the past. In the past, a book accumulated votes almost as soon as it was backed. This led to people backing every book in sight as early as possible and garnering the increase in their TSR as the book inevitably rose up the ranks. People didn’t even read the book. Now, a book must stay on a shelf for 24 hours to change its ranking or the TSR of the voter. They’ve also introduced a ‘star’ rating (rather like the one on Amazon). A reader can award a book stars but they don’t have to have read the book to do so and the stars don’t have much impact on the overall rating.
So what difference will all this make? This jury is out until the dust settles and we’ve had a few month-ends.
Sure, it’s an improvement. Sure, it means less one-line comments and inevitable backing. But the star thing is an obvious candidate for mean-spirited people to denigrate the competition. Star ratings are anonymous and how easy is it to award somebody’s book 1 star just to drag down the average? And already the forum is crackling with plots to rort the new system using sock puppets and collusion. But to give them their due, the administrators have made a genuine attempt to combat schemers. For instance, where people award 6 stars to every book their vote is reduced to the average score. They seem to be doing their best to prevent sock-puppets, too, but there is a limit to what is possible.I’ve said before that I don’t envy the site designers in the monumental task of devising a system that is fair, equitable and ‘gamer-proof’.
Do I think the site is better because of the changes? Yes, I do – if getting to the desk is what you want. The struggle will be fairer, I suppose – but the end prize isn’t any different. You may as well get back to submitting to agents.
I’d love to know what others think. Is the site better, would you/have you gone back?