A Quick Word on Community Standards

I’ve asked THX, our regular blogger, to write a post about this, but I’m not sure it can wait. I’ve updated the Community Standards with a new bullet point, and added a bit to another. Ficly is a bustling place nowadays and there are a lot of new folks around. I’ve seen some comment threads today that bother me. Basically, it boils down to a clash of cultures. We have the folks who originally started on ficlets (RIP), a ton of new folks who found us through friends or just stumbled into us, and a bunch of new folks that came over from a forum on the Penny Arcade site. I don’t know how many or what the “balance” is. I don’t really care. All I care about is that people have fun here and that I don’t have to spend a lot of time being community cop. I have too little spare time as it is.

Before this goes any farther, I’m going to ask everyone to do me one favor. Before you post another comment on another story, please read the Community Standards and ask yourself if you can follow them. If you can’t, then you probably shouldn’t stick around. If you can, please be a part of Ficly and enjoy yourself. Be creative. Write stories. Share constructive criticism. Use the site – that’s why we built it.

If you have any questions about the standards or are unclear on what’s expected, please let me know.


  • Mighty-Joe Young (A.K.A Strong Coffee)(LoA)

    Hey i like the standards. Look my life sucks without ficly so don’t mess this up for me i will find you.

  • ALRO613 (LoA)


  • Skull Man

    Loud and clear. I appologize for any hurt feelings. Henceforth I’ll only offer the tough criticism to people who I know want it.

  • Mighty-Joe Young (A.K.A Strong Coffee)(LoA)

    oh skully were you causing trouble again? that turrets gets me everytime, ###T %%$###$ dang it happened again.

  • Skull Man

    Not “trouble”. Just a conflict of ideas about how frank criticism should be, and some feelings got hurt. It won’t happen again.

  • OrangeOreos (LoA)

    Man, I just wrote a note to you about this. Hopefully, this will start to bring us together as a writing community again! Thanks, Kevin.

  • John Perkins

    I think part of the problem is that sometimes even constructive criticism can be interpreted as mean-spirited when the intention is quite the opposite. Not saying that’s always the case, but it can be difficult to convey a genuine interest in helping someone via short comment.

    As the site, and therefore community, is fairly young (the many folks from Ficlets notwithstanding), it may take a while to build up a relationship with other people on here. Once the relationships between authors grows I think we’ll see less conflict. Right now Ficly is in the terrible two’s stage. Soon we’ll level off and be much more civilized until we hit the teen stage. Eventually we’ll be a bunch of old fogeys yelling at kids to get off our damn lawns.

  • vivixenne

    You know, to be fair, the more constructive and unembellished the criticism, the more likely the key message is going to get through to the writer and the more likely he or she will improve. Just because someone sees something a different way doesn’t mean their way is wrong or worse, and you should not accept something as good just because it’s all “subjective.”

    Just like someone is going to like what you write, someone else is going to hate it. You’re going to have to live with that whenever you put yourself out there.

    No one here is a prodigy. Everyone has room for improvement. Everyone can use the practice. Everyone is here for self-expression. Everyone is putting themselves out there for critique. It wouldn’t hurt to remember that, whether as a critic or the writer.

  • Spiderj

    I think just like the blog entry about different kinds of comment, there are also different kinds of story. And they all suit a certain type of feedback.

    Stories range from the experimental (where the author knows it is rough around the edges and will appreciate feedback) to the light hearted joke (may be messy but it’s not necessarily looking to be improved, just to entertain).

    I tend to make sure I read a few stories by someone before I comment at all, unless I’m completely blown away. Basically constructive criticism doesn’t seem much use unless it’s tailored to be helpful to the author and I’m not a good enough critic to do that unless I have first got a feel for how what makes that author tick.

    One final point: for writers like me who are more interested in playing with words in an intellectual sense than expressing something personal, it’s easy to forget that some people have a deep emotional attachment to their stories. Intellectual pride heals much faster than a writer’s self confidence.

  • these are your nuts, sir

    That’s well and good but with this sort of structuring there is a lot of room for somebody to abuse the good nature of the people running this place.

  • Marli

    Kevin you are on the ball as usual. Its nice to know we have a big bro out there.(no pun intended) If people want more than constructive critiques and a rating they should try some of the other sites that allow verbal bullying. I have never experienced it on this site and so love all my fellow men…women… (metaphorically speaking )on this site. Ficly rules! (are to be obeyed)

  • YaYa

    I’m sorry, Marli, you’re asking us to not rate or critique stories on a website that offers a rating function and a comment box? Verbal bullying and constructive critiques are so far apart that I genuinely am curious how you think they’re connected at all.

    I’ll try and pick which stories I critique with a more discerning eye, but to just say “keep critiques off Ficly and play nice forever” is frankly ridiculous.

    We should refrain from personal attacks, I agree, but perhaps some writers should make it clearer when they want critiques?

  • YaYa

    Annnnd I wish this had an edit button. Sorry, Marli, I misread your second sentence. I agree, verbal bullying isn’t what should be encouraged, but I don’t think people want to be verbally bullied at all. Some Ficly writers are just better equipped to deal with harsher criticism and the ones that aren’t can sometimes take offense to insults that aren’t there.

  • g²LaPianistaIrlandesa

    Well put, Jefe. As tough as it may be to accept it sometimes, I for one don’t mind a bit of frank criticism. But I will not stand for comments along the lines of “you stink” without any explanation as to why I happen to be rotten. You (whoever that may be) may hate my stuff, and I’m okay with that, but you have to back it up with reasons.
    I also accept Skull Man’s apology. Hopefully we can all improve our writing, but also our reception and delivery of good, solid comments.

  • Skull Man

    glad you accept my appology, g2

    of course, you must also admit that at no point did I tell anyone “you stink” and the only thing I gave were reasons. I realize now that Lone Writer does not want criticism, and sadly, from now on my method is going to be to just leave a story alone unless it’s from someone I know or someone who has expressly stated that they want frank criticism.

  • jesteram

    Some of the problem, perhaps, could stem from critique distribution. Not to get into too many specifics, but it seems odd to me that a random multi-part epic fantasy that could use work or a poem from a high schooler attracts not just one or two sharp critiques, but a whole string from a increasingly regular cast of critics. It can start to look a touch like groupthink, or like a coordinated ganging up.

    That’s not necessarily a bad thing, and such efforts have also produced strings of positive reviews, but compare that with—allow me a moment of self pity—regular writers and commenters like myself or others who would be happy to get such attention, good or bad, but who don’t seem to be on the awareness circuit. Recent writers who protest what some call “harsh” criticism may, in some way, be saying, “What did I do to get chosen as the focus of this group?”

    Obviously, there are far too many stories here to get lines of critiques from any one person or coalition. I’m just throwing this theory out there.

  • Jape Prophets

    All of these stories come from us, regardless of the level of soul we put into them. None is completely without merit. As formulaic and forced as it may seem, offering praise one for one with each criticism will probably be even more effective for all involved. The writer will be less likely to dismiss the criticism as an insult, therefore taking it into consideration, and you will be forced to exercise empathy, which will be appreciated in all aspects of your life.

    Jape Prophets

  • falconesse

    I wonder if it would be useful to add one more bullet point below “Be free, supportive, courteous and constructive with your criticism.” It’s a great reminder for the people commenting on the critiques, but perhaps it would be worthwhile to add something for the people on the receving end of them, too. Something along the lines of “Authors, be gracious in your responses to constructive criticism.”

    I suggest this because I’ve seen a few stories where someone gave an honest, polite, and well-meaning critique, and the author of the piece has not only perceived it as an attack, but proceeded to respond with vitriol.

    It’s hard to accept criticism on something you feel is a good story, but that’s part of becoming a better writer. The beauty of this community is that the participants here are helping one another to improve and grow in their writing. I’d hate to see that suffer.

    Courtesy and graciousness should be key in all aspects, whether one is on the giving or receiving end of the criticism.

  • falconesse

    “It’s a great reminder for the people commenting on the critiques…”

    By which, of course, I meant people commenting on the stories. I blame lack of caffeine.

  • Lone Writer

    I apologize to everyone for over reacting.

  • Mighty-Joe Young (A.K.A Strong Coffee)(LoA)

    viv i disagree Mask by the Moon is a prodigy. Not that she doesnt need improvement but prodigies aren’t perfect just precocious.

  • orikae

    there’s no such thing as a writing prodigy. you might be more advanced than your peers with comparatively little practice, but that doesn’t really mean anything. the only way you get good at anything is with practice – beethoven might have been composing at 5, but his stuff was derivative until he got established. ditto with writing.

  • Laine Grey

    Yeah, it’s like g2 said; if you give a low rating or say you “don’t like it”, have the courtesy to say why.

  • THX 0477

    Well, don’t I feel sheepish. I was going to dash something off, but now I’ll have to write something really eloquent on the topic now that it’s already been put out there and discussed. Then someone will probably rip it to shreds, and I’ll have to cry for a while.

    All kidding aside, I’m glad to see at least some resolution and a lot of discussion. I’ll try to stay up on this thread and at some point over the weekend consolidate it into a blog post. That may not go well, but it’s all part of the experiment, right? Seeing all the comments, I really wish I had the all-seeing eye to see which version of reality being expressed is closest to reality. Then again, I suppose it’s a bit like therapy, where abject reality is not so important as individual perception.

    Rambling now, so shutting up. Will write more later. Thanks for jumping on it and putting the pressure on me to write something really lovely, Kevin.

  • uselessness

    Great discussion, and some great points made. I’d like to recommend a feature: a set of flags that can be set on every author’s profile. They would appear as a series of checkboxes for marking which kinds of feedback authors want on their stories (discussion, encouragement, heavy critique, etc.). People would be able to see an author’s flags on his or her profile, and in the sidebar next to every story written by that person.

    Then, on the comment form, a drop-down menu would allow commenters to select what kind of comment they are leaving. If it conflicts with the author’s flags, the comment box changes colors, the “submit” button disables itself, and a friendly notice appears that the author would prefer not to receive that kind of feedback. I suppose if the author hadn’t checked any of the flags, all comments would be disabled. Just an idea. Seems like it might be valuable for authors and commenters alike.

  • Ana Cristina

    I second uselessness’s (soo many s’s…) suggestion. I think that would be a good idea. While I think this kind of community is absolutely conducive to giving (and taking) feedback, I respect that not everyone is themselves.

  • Textual Phoenix

    While I have no idea how much trouble it would or wouldn’t be (I have decades of experience with computers, but programming isn’t my thing), I have to agree that usselesssnesss’ss (see what I did there, Ana Cristina? ;-) ) idea is really a good one. Some people want heavy duty, hardcore critiquing of what they write, some just want little tips and hints, some want their egos stroked (though they may not admit it), and some just flat don’t care.

    And some (like me) have no clue what-so-ever where they fall in that list. :-)

  • vivixenne

    To add to what uselessness suggested, maybe instead of adding that “feedback” feature per author, perhaps let people set that per story. Some stories are experimental, others are heart-felt, some are emotional releases. Even if they are written by the same author, that person may or may not be as open to critique on one piece as they would be to another. Just a thought.

  • uselessness

    Great idea, vivixenne! Although it might be tiresome to set flags on every story. What if you had a default set attached to your profile, but could override it as needed for a particular story?

    I always hesitate to offer idea suggestions to sites like this one. I know Ficly is a labor of love that gets improved upon “when we have time.” This feature would probably take a bit of effort for Kevin to implement. But software ideas are like stories — when I get them, I just have to share. Can’t keep ’em bottled up inside.

    Also, sorry about all the S’s. My papa was a Swiss-Sicilian silversmith with seven siblings and severe astigmatism.

  • Kevin Lawver

    Seriously sensitive suggestions, uselessness. I like where it comes from, but I’d hate to clutter up your profile or a story with options that should be fairly apparently just by reading someone’s bio or a story. I don’t think there’s a technological solution for what is basically a “human” interaction problem. I could be wrong (it happens more often than I’d like). I do think we could implement some comment options per story, like only allowing your friends to comment or closing comments altogether (anyone would still be able to rate it). It would pretty much guarantee that your story would never show up on the Active list, but we could do it.

    And that’s not to say I’m going to go implement that tomorrow. Jason and I need to talk it over. I think we have more pressing problems like discoverability, friending and search, but we’ll keep thinking it over and see what we can come up with.

  • Spiderj

    I stumbled across a story today by someone I hadn’t read anything by and the author had left a comment on his own story basically saying: “I know there’s not much story here but I wanted to play around with dialogue. Feedback appreciated.”

    I think, as Kevin says, it’s not necessarily wise or indeed simple to find technical solutions to problems of human interaction (unless the problem is distance, in which case I direct you to a telephone). If people are after a certain kind of feedback though, or feel a particular story is of a certain sort (personal, experimental, rough around the edges), it makes sense for them to point that out in a comment.

    I like it when people comment on their own story as a kind of intro or post-mortem. Helps me to understand what might help them if they’re looking to improve.

  • AccidentalRob|LoA|

    Being new to this whole thing, I’m not sure that I’d want to see my page cluttered with more options. I really do like the clean interface.

    That being said, there may be some writers people would love to block, so their stories cannot be seen. I’ve noticed in the last day or so that there’s been some pretty ridiculous stories being posted that I would rather not show up in my home page.

  • John Perkins

    I agree with Spiderj’s comment on the author leaving a note regarding their own story. I do this quite often with my stories, and like to see others do it as well. It’s a great way to set the stage for the type of commentary you’re looking for. Or to apologize for it being so crappy, which is usually the gist of my comments on my own stories.

  • Marli

    Its o.k. ya ya. I am here to glean some of the expertise you guys are about. I appreciate comments,ratings, critiques, I must learn to make my comments clearer .

  • April Raines

    I missed all the hullabullo, so I was confused when I first read this. Sounds like common sense to me. :)

    I second jesteram’s comment about making it easier to find non already commented on stuff. I only recently found the ‘Random Story’ link at the bottom, and am liking it. Perhaps putting it somewhere more prominent would help spread the love around a little?