muccamukk: Captain America reading a book. Text: "Modly Cap." (Marvel: Modly Cap)
[personal profile] muccamukk
[personal profile] garrideb asked: I'm curious about your experiences running exchanges/fests... anything really: a notable anecdote, a lesson learned, smoothest/least smooth, that kind of thing.

I learned most of my fest modding by starting out as a team mod with the above lovely soul and [personal profile] valtyr on [livejournal.com profile] cap_ironman. We sort of figured out a lot of it together, and I did eventually branched out to leading on projects. I think I did the first RBB? I definitely did the third holiday exchange, but by that point Valtyr had already been lead on the first two, so we had the system pretty well worked out. (In retrospect, a lot of the event-focus on that comm is our fault. We're sorry, current mods. We know it's a lot of work.)

I've also participated in a lot of fests, especially multi-fandom, AO3-based fests, so I haven benefitted hugely by having a lot of templates to copy off of, and seen how well things work, or don't work. Plus I spend a lot of time hanging out on the F_FA exchange threads, and seeing other mods and participants argue endlessly about the virtues of different systems.

Things people want in a fest:
  • Clear communication. It doesn't have to be immediate answers to every question. You can say "I need to consider this (with the other mod)," but answering all comments in a timely fashion, and promptly posting schedule changes is a must. If people don't understand the rules, explain them more clearly. If Team Mod is going to be off line for a couple days, it's good to mention it.

  • Consistant modding. The mod's friends don't get a break, for one, but also the rules have to be universally applied and easy to understand. A default is a default, and it doesn't matter who or why. Fandoms should be treated fairly, without the mod's favourite fandoms getting rules exemptions or more room in the spotlight. Conversely, thine enemies may participate. Don't be an ass to them. (In reality, thine enemies are mostly not likely to touch anything thou moddest with a barge pole, which is nice.)

  • Flexibility. The mods don't actually have to explain why something's a rule, and certainly don't have to change anything, but they should at least know why the rules say what they do, and why the schedule is on certain days. And if someone has a better suggestion, and there's still time, the rules are not graven into stone.

  • Rolling with the punches. Sometimes, disaster strikes. The [community profile] trickortreatex mod's work place was hit by a tree a couple years ago. 15-25% of participants default, and half of those indicate that by vanishing into thin air. People delete their fic two hours before the archive opens. Pinch hitters come down with the flu, your cat gets sick, your internet stops working, and it all happens at exactly the same time. It's good to have contingency plans, and a lot of this can be dealt with built in features like extra time between due dates and reveals, and a robust pinch hitters list, but not everything is covered by that (A TREE!). Public panic is not the answer. Just keep the participants updated as to changes, and they'll be really nice about it.


Things to know before you mod a fest, especially a large one:
  • It's a time sink. There are going to be a couple days where you do nothing but deal with this shit. They are a) right when the fest opens and people want to know about the rules, b) nominations period, especially the first and last day, c) last day of sign ups, but mostly d) the day previous to through the day after the due date, and e) the day of reveals. It's REALLY good to have a co-mod or mods on a big fest, purely to help out with the busy times, and to cover you if you're hit by a tree. Also you will lose most of the due date.

  • AO3 is out to get you. Actually, it's probably not, but the time to work out how to deal with the tag set during nominations is NOT during actual nominations. Set up a practice tag set, and work out how you're going to handle duplicates, jumping tags, idiosyncratic synning, and comicbook fandom. It's not bad once you get the hang of it, but likewise it's not totally intuitive. In the same spirit. Run a practice sign up through when you open sign ups. Not all the ticky boxes mean what you think they mean. I've never used AO3 to hand match, but I understand it can be interesting. Definitely figure that out in advance. AO3 does have a lot of tutorials, but nothing is quite the same as trying it yourself. Also, there will be bugs in the middle of things, and the AO3 help volunteers are really nice. Oh, fun fact, if you do staggered reveals, people don't get email notification until the entire collection is marked as revealed. You may have do the e-mails yourself.

  • Not everything has to be on AO3. It's great for hosting and matching multi-fandom stuff, but small fests may be better off doing sign ups elsewhere, or matching elsewhere, or everything elsewhere. It's not a one-size fits all solution. Sometimes a livejournal comment fest is what the situation calls for. Look at what other fests have done, see how it worked.

  • You're probably going to have to maintain at least a couple platforms, say AO3, Tumblr, Dreamwidth and/or e-mail, even if it's just a feed or crossposting. You don't always need all of those plus an imzy comm and a twitter and an LJ and an... whatever kids use these days, but there should be more than one way to get in touch with the mods, and the mods should check all of them regularly.

  • Some people are going to be dicks who try to rules lawyer their way through the fest, put up thinly-vailed place holders and ask for extensions when you catch them. Some people genuinely are just having an unexpectedly shitty week and just need a couple hours to get their submission together. You can usually sort of tell which is which, and it's fine to give people a break, but I would err on the side of strictness. Think about what will happen down the road if they don't come through.

  • If you are modding a fest that covers X-group (rarepairs, small fandoms, a certain gender, a certain kink), make really clear what the boundaries are, and make sure they make sense across various fandoms. There's a reason this is a perennial source of yuletide wank, and it's often good to get a friend to check it out, or put of a draft somewhere and ask people how it will work in fandoms you don't know. Also, make sure your rules aren't actively offensive to the group you're pitching to, with knowledge that people don't always agree in group (I had something unintentionally transphobic in the original femslashex rules. I changed it pretty damn fast, but I wish I'd put more thought into it). I tend to err on the side of generous definitions, because mostly people act in good faith in this area, in my experience.

  • No matter what choices you make, someone is not going to like them, and they are not unlikely to tell you to your face. They're extremely likely to complain about you by name in their own spaces and/or anon spaces. There is nothing you can do about that, except know that arguing with people in anon spaces is not usually a good look. It's probably best just not to go on _coal at all.

  • Don't make critical decisions about the whole fest when stressed out. It doesn't end well.

  • Since public panic is never the answer, do have someone who's willing to listen to you complain about how ALL your participants suck and you never want to do this ever again.


Smoothest fest I've modded was probably the rolling remix last year, mostly because it was small, and had the work of modding spread out over a few months. Roughest has been [community profile] femslashex every year, because it's fucking huge, and the crunch around the due date is awful.

Whew. That got long, and I realise it didn't have much about modding smaller fests. I did a pretty good run down of Rolling Remix and how that worked here. Please comment with your own experiences, everyone.

Date: 2017-01-16 08:38 pm (UTC)
rachelmanija: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rachelmanija
These are all excellent points. Most also work for running things which are not fests but also involve groups of people doing stuff. I think the key points are consistency, clear communication, and the willingness to put your foot down and say NOPE if necessary.

Date: 2017-01-16 11:52 pm (UTC)
rachelmanija: (Default)
From: [personal profile] rachelmanija
Oh, yeah, I definitely didn't mean "name and shame." I meant stuff like, "Reveals will be delayed for [x reasons]. As soon as we fix that, you will all get a [x-length of time] warning before the collection opens."

Date: 2017-01-16 10:04 pm (UTC)
garrideb: Ms. Marvel flying over New York (ms. marvel flying)
From: [personal profile] garrideb
Wow, I love how extensively this answer covers fest-running! Also, that poor mod whose house was hit by a tree, yikes!

I especially love the point about AO3 not being one-size-fits-all, because although I haven't participated in all that many fests and exchanges in my time, they all have been pretty different in scope and size and style, and that really speaks to the variety inherent in fandom.

Date: 2017-01-17 01:36 am (UTC)
umadoshi: (fangirl (bisty_icons))
From: [personal profile] umadoshi
This was really interesting!

Would it be okay to link it?

Date: 2017-01-17 09:24 pm (UTC)
nenya_kanadka: Spock says "srsly" (@ Spock srsly)
From: [personal profile] nenya_kanadka
I was just thinking that this post could be a great resource for future fest mods.

Date: 2017-01-17 01:40 am (UTC)
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
From: [personal profile] sholio
I really appreciated your help with modding SSR Confidential. It was incredibly helpful to have someone to ask questions/commiserate with, since prior to this past year I'd never modded an AO3 exchange, and rarely participated in them either. And the above looks comprehensive and super useful!

I am pretty sure in retrospect that I was a rather poor mod of the first couple of fests I modded (a decade ago now). I mean, I tried, obviously, but I made SO many rookie mistakes. I still feel a little bad about the year that I went total hardass with SGA Genficathon and didn't grant extensions because so many people had taken advantage of that and turned into no-shows the previous year. I had someone email me literally in tears because it was minutes to the deadline and she wasn't able to get her fic finished in time ... and, no, I don't want to be that mod. It took me awhile to find a reasonable happy medium between letting the participants walk all over me, and being a tyrant.

The one thing I did do right the first time, and still do, and am really surprised when mods of new fests DON'T, is pitch the rules out to the community and let people look at them and give me feedback on them (which is one of your suggestions above, I notice). I've watched fests unfold where that didn't happen, where it's just BAM, sudden fest + rules, and ... it can work? But I've also seen it degenerate into wank that could've been so easily avoided if they'd just ASKED a few of the people participating in the fest whether the rules were going to work for them or not.

Date: 2017-01-17 05:55 am (UTC)
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
From: [personal profile] sholio
That fest was a pleasure to participate in all around. Are you running again this year?

Thank you! And yes, I am planning on it. I'll probably do a similar schedule to last year, since that seemed to do a good job of avoiding other fest commitments, so sometime at the end of this month/beginning of February I'll start soliciting input at the community on this year's rules and due dates. The main rule change I'm kicking around is a ban for non-commenters on participating in the next year's fest, since we seemed to have a problem with that last year; I know several people complained about not hearing from their recipient.
Edited Date: 2017-01-17 05:56 am (UTC)

Date: 2017-01-17 09:39 pm (UTC)
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
From: [personal profile] sholio
and is presumably now banned.

Ha, well, not at present, because I didn't want to drop a rule like that on everyone's heads without at least soliciting input, as I didn't mention anything about it last year. There's also a possibility it won't be a problem if none of the known non-commenters show up for the second round. If I do it, it'll probably go into effect as a rule this year and affect next year's fest rather than this one. But I want to see how other people feel about it, because for a small fest there was an unusually high number of non-commenters, and that's frustrating.

Date: 2017-01-17 10:04 pm (UTC)
sholio: sun on winter trees (Default)
From: [personal profile] sholio
Oh, woops! I misread the comment and thought you were still talking about SSR Confidential. Yeah, if I do it, it would go into effect for next year's fest, but you already knew that.

Date: 2017-01-17 03:35 am (UTC)
likeadeuce: (oldfriends)
From: [personal profile] likeadeuce
Great post -- nothing really jumps out for me to comment on, I just wanted to say that the amount of thought you've put into this stuff really shows in your work.

Date: 2017-01-17 03:55 am (UTC)
st_aurafina: Rainbow DNA (Default)
From: [personal profile] st_aurafina
I think you guys do a great job with [community profile] femslashex and this is a great look behind the curtain. (At the wizards!)

I think the most important thing (and the thing you do really well) is maintain this professionalism about the whole thing, which is an odd thing to admire about something that is basically a hobby? But at the same time, when you're formalising events like this, they have to be run with that little bit of distance between you and us, and you do it well.

Omg, a tree. Just, one of those horrible things you can't see coming. That poor mod.

Date: 2017-01-17 10:02 pm (UTC)
dhampyresa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhampyresa
This is great and fits with my experience.
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