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Voting in the Hugos, practical issues and a few thoughts - Input Junkie
April 15th, 2015
12:12 pm


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Voting in the Hugos, practical issues and a few thoughts
There are people-- probably a good many of them-- who would enjoy nominating for and voting in the Hugo awards, but they don't know how feasible it is.

Hugos are voted on by members of the World Science Fiction Convention. It isn't an award given by a committee.

All you need to nominate and vote for the Hugos is a supporting membership at Worldcon, which costs $40 this year.

In order to be nominated, a work needs to have come out in the calendar year before the Worldcon that it will be voted on. Sometimes whether a work has come out in a calendar year is a judgement call-- for example, if a different version came out in an earlier year, it has to be different enough for the current version to be eligible.

A lot of people seem to be hesitant about nominating and voting because they don't feel they know enough to identify the best.

At the nominating stage, it impossible (and therefore not obligatory) to be familiar with the whole field. As I see it, the Hugos are the result of a rudimentary group mind-- no individual voter has enough information to truly know the best of the field, but people cooperate to identify what generally turns out to be good work. There's a consensus that it was possible for a dedicated person to keep up with print sf until sometime in the 80s, which was a while ago.

At the voting stage, there are people who believe they need to read all the nominees on the ballot before they vote, though I believe the inclusion of the whole Wheel of Time series last year has discouraged that level of conscientiousness. I say that you should at least start reading everything you vote for, but you have no obligation to keep reading anything that bores or revolts you.

You don't need to fill out the whole ballot. Voting for one nominee in one category is enough to make a ballot valid.

You can put anything you think is not worthy of a Hugo below No Award. If you want to minimize the chances of a work winning at all, don't list it on the ballot.

The Hugos cover both fantasy and science fiction, and whether a work counts as sf is left up to the voters.

Here are the voting opportunities a supporting membership gets you:

If you join a worldcon by January 31 of year before it, you get three years of the right to nominate for the Hugos. Otherwise, you get two years.

You get one year of voting for the Hugos.

There is an additional fee for site selection voting; that fee buys you a supporting membership in whichever Worldcon's location is being voted on. For instance, if you are a member of the 2015 Worldcon, you can pay the site selection fee and become a member of the 2017 Worldcon, regardless of whether your top choice for the 2017 site wins the vote or not.

You get whatever electronic copies of nominees the publishers chose to provide. This varies from one year to another.

Nominations are closed for this year, but here's the information in case you want it for next year. Nominating a work means *you* think it's worthy of a Hugo, and you don't need to be an expert in sf to have that sort of opinion. I believe the group mind works because it's made of independent opinions, so I recommend nominating based on your enthusiasm rather than nominating based on other people's recommendations.

It can be a good idea to keep track of what you've really liked-- you won't necessarily have it come to mind when you doing nominations.

You can nominate anything that meets the qualifications, but I recommend against nominating things you think are vaguely alright because you want to have something in the category.

This entry was posted at http://nancylebov.dreamwidth.org/1064832.html. Comments are welcome here or there. comment count unavailable comments so far on that entry.

(13 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2015 02:01 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure if I have it right, but I have the impression that with the Hugos, No Award is treated simply as one more nominee; that is, its first place votes are counted at the outset, and if it has the fewest first place votes, it's dropped and its votes are reassigned.

In almost every year, No Award drops off the ballot early and has no practical effect on the outcome. Hypothetically, if 10% of the votes put No Award first, and nominee X somewhere lower (obviously), and if 50% of them have No Award lower down on their ballots, and nominee X right after it—No Award will be dropped early, and the fact that 60% of the voters though No Award was better than nominee X, nominee X might still win, and their ballots might help it win. As a result, if you really want not to help a nominee win, the best course is to leave it off your ballot.

Under this system, unless I'm misunderstanding it, the only real meaning of No Award is "This year, nothing should win." It doesn't really work to convey "If this nominee were to be the winner, I'd rather that nothing should win."

What the Libertarian Futurist Society has done for some time—and maybe the Hugo Awards work the same way now; I haven't looked at the Locus reports of actual vote counts in a few years—is to say that No Award can't be eliminated. If your current top choice is No Award, it will stay No Award till the end of the vote count; and if at the end No Award has accumulated more votes than the top favored nominee, No Award wins. In other words, if the most favored nominee isn't ranked above No Award by a majority, we don't give an award. This has the effect of allowing targeted No Award votes. Whether that's a superior outcome could be debated; it suits our particular priorities.
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2015 03:31 pm (UTC)
For the Hugos, No Award is treated exactly like a nominee for the main runoffs. But there is also the "no award test" -- the winner is compared against No Award and if No Award wins (ie, more voters voted No Award above the nominee than the reverse) then it doesn't win and No Award does instead.

This lets people express a meaningful preference underneath No Award while still enforcing the rule that something the majority thinks shouldn't beat No Award won't.
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2015 03:34 pm (UTC)
Oh, also: You don't need to leave something off your ballot to minimize its chances of winning.

There are exactly two processes regarding your ballot:

1. Instant Runnoff Voting.
2. The No Award test.

The only special thing about leaving something off your ballot is that it's the only way to not express a preference between things. If there's something you hate -most-, then making sure to list everything else on your ballot (including No Award) makes it least likely to win, but then so does listing everything and then it on your ballot.
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2015 07:55 pm (UTC)
Yes and no. Mneme has already covered "the No Award Test", which the presumptive winner faces before winning: All ballots are recounted with only the presumptive winner and "No Award" counting at all.

re: Libertarian Futurist Society voting: That produces *almost* the same result as the Hugo "No Award" test.

As you've described LFS, your vote will never transfer down below "No Award' and "No Award" will never be eliminated, enabling it to come back from being last in a way that other candidates cannot. In the Hugos, it *can* be eliminated if it's in last place and votes below it *can* transfer to other candidates, but it always comes back at the end for a second shot, head to head, with what would otherwise be the winner.

In practice, the result of both voting systems would be identical except in some edge cases, and in those edge cases it would be the difference between "Counting the ballots LFS-style, No Award beat Work A. Counting the exact same ballots Hugo-style, No Award beat Work B instead."
[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 03:12 am (UTC)
I do think that as described, the Prometheus system will produce some different results in come cases. Consider three candidates, A, B, and C, and foru ballots:

0. A, B, C
1. A, B, C
2. A, B, C
2, C, B, A
3: C, B, A
4: N, C, A
4. N, C, A

In the prometheus system, B will be eliminated, then C, and finally A will emerge triumphant. By putting No Award first, the last two ballots lose the ability to express a meaningful preference between C and A.

But in the Hugo system, B will be eliminated, and then No Award, and then A, making C -- which most voters preferred to A--the winner.
[User Picture]
Date:April 20th, 2015 02:04 am (UTC)
See, that's the other oddity of the Hugo system. You have a point where both C and NA have 2 votes. And yet you eliminate NA first, not C. That seems like an arbitrary choice. Is there a rule that says you do it that way, or is it chosen at random?

Because if it's chosen at random, half the time you'll drop C first. And then you'll have A, A, A, A, A, NA, NA, and A will win.

With the Prometheus, we have a rule that gets C dropped before NA. But if those last two ballots said "D,C, A"—so we were choosing which of two nominees to drop—what we do is to run it both ways, and see what happens. In this case, dropping C would result in A getting the majority, but dropping D would result in C getting the majority. So that would be a tie.

If NA is treated like a nominee, not given special priority, it seems to me that it ought not to be singled out to be dropped first, nor should the choice be made at random. Either is determining the winner, not by the votes that were actually cast, but by imposing an arbitrary decision.
[User Picture]
Date:April 20th, 2015 02:50 am (UTC)
It's not random, I think, but I don't know how ties are broken in the Hugo system. It's not pertinent to my example, which wasn't intended to have ties.

Ah, right.

The only prejudice against No Award is that it cannot win. If in the -final- ballot No Award is tied for first, it doesn't win, but the thing it's tied with does.

In terms of eliminations, the rule is:

Section 6.4: Tallying of Votes. Votes shall first be tallied by the voter’s first choices. If no majority is then obtained, the candidate who places last in the initial tallying shall be eliminated and the ballots listing it as first choice shall be redistributed on the basis of those ballots’ second choices. This process shall be repeated until a majority-vote winner is obtained. If two or more candidates are tied for elimination during this process, the candidate that received fewer first-place votes shall be eliminated. If they are still tied, all the tied candidates shall be eliminated together.

So in my example, I'd have needed a bit more cooking to get things to come out as I wanted, but not that much.

The only real oddity with No Award in the Hugos is that your votes under No Award can count for people over stuff you left off. This is a natural result of the rules, though--if we wanted to allow "no preference" for the stuff left off your ballot over what you ranked below No Award, that could be done, but it would be a different rule. (the problem there is that it doesn't let a ballot that places No Award last to work as intended).

Edited at 2015-04-20 10:00 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:April 15th, 2015 03:44 pm (UTC)
Also, re:

"You don't need to fill out the whole ballot. Voting for one nominee in one category is enough to make a ballot valid.

You can put anything you think is not worthy of a Hugo below No Award. If you want to minimize the chances of a work winning at all, don't list it on the ballot."

It seems too easy to draw the No Award fallacy from this, although it's ambiguous.

Basically, if you list No Award, you should list everything you do think is worthy of the award above it, even the ones you don't have a preference about. Anything you leave off your ballot in this case will also be placed under No Award -- and also placed under the things you put on your ballot and under No Award. Basically, a thing not to do:

My Favorite Category I Didn't have time to read
1. Thing I love
2. No Award
3. Thing I hate
4. Other thing I hate.

(off your ballot: Thing I didn't read; Other Unread Thing).

In this case, your ballot is very likely to increase the chance of Thing You Hate and Other Hated Thing winning unless they fail the No Award test -- because you're increasing the chance that they'll beat the unread things.

It you really have a bunch of things you have no preference about and don't think it's better to give out no award than to give them one, just leave them off your ballot; they'll be placed under what you voted for, but it won't affect their rankings.

If there's a bunch of things you have no preference about, but you don't want the award going to any of them, then rank No Award (even last) and leave them off your ballot--you won't affect their relative ranking, but you will potentially cause them to fail the No Award test and be more likely to lose to No Award.

If There are some things you like(or not), some things you have no preference about, and some things you hate, then rank the things you like in order, then rank the things you have no preference about (in random order), then rank no award (and optionally also rank the things you hate in order of least hated to most hated).
Date:April 15th, 2015 09:01 pm (UTC)
I asked exactly this question below, sorry.
Date:April 16th, 2015 02:15 am (UTC)
One more comment: If you don't vote for Thing I Hate and Other thing I hate at all, aren't you making it more likely they will fail the No Award instant runoff? So does voting for things below no award increase their chances of surviving the second round runoff?
[User Picture]
Date:April 16th, 2015 02:57 am (UTC)
Not particularly, no.

The N/A test is straight up/down, so as long as something is below No Award (and you ranked No Award), it will fail your section of the No Award test.

The only way for something below No Award on your ballot to help something win is if you leave something else off or rank it below that thing--and even then, it will only help it with respect to that thing.

One collarary, btw, is that the last thing on your ballot, if you rank everything including No Award, is always redundant. If the candidates are A, B, C, D, E, and N for No Award, ABDCN is handled exactly like ABDCNE. What leaving more than one thing off your ballot does is fail to express a preference between them (except that leaving No Award off your ballot functionally means it will come last, even after other things you didn't rank).
Date:April 15th, 2015 09:01 pm (UTC)
I got into a really long discussion with someone about voting preferences, and this was my conclusion:
If you vote for No Award, anything you vote for below that has a better chance of winning than something you don't rank at all. So if the candidate are
Worthy 1
Worthy 2

if your ballot lists:
Worthy 1
Worthy 2
No award

you are actually voting for Hateful ahead of Unworthy. If you don't care which of Hateful and Unworthy win, leave them both off the ballot. If you think neither should win, but if one of them does win you care which one, be sure to list Unworthy above Hateful but both below No award. Does this seem correct to people?
[User Picture]
Date:April 17th, 2015 12:08 am (UTC)
Cool! I didn't know about any of this. I thought the Hugos were the product of a dark, hooded cabal, like most other rewards.
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