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Jae Baeli
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Number of posts : 103
Age : 55
LOCATION : Denver, CO
JOB/HOBBIES : Author, Editor, Artist, Webmaster, Singer-Songwriter
FAVORITE AUTHORS : Dean Koontz, Jeff Lindsey, Laramie Dunaway,Darian North, Richard Dawkins, Raymond Obstfeld
GENRES IN WHICH I WRITE : Novels, Stories, Technical, Business, Academic, Scientific, Copy, Scripts, Journalism, Memoir, Humor, Essay, Blog, Reviews, Poetry, Lyrics
Registration date : 2008-11-22

PostSubject: Quality Control   Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:06 am

On the heels of a debate that once again illustrated the tendency for some writers and those who manage writing sites, to relegate quality-control to some position of apathy, I will share a series of e-mails between myself and one of those writing-site managers. I hope this will provide some illumination on the pervasive disregard for quality writing.

I was a member of the site, Helium for a short time, and recently was invited to be a Steward there, ostensibly because they appreciated my skills, experience, and insight. I discovered this motivation was at best a mask that hid the true intention.

Here is one of the first mails i sent to my immediate supervisor there:

Quote :
I thought the link I submitted for re-rate was bad yesterday...this takes the prize. First, there were at least two that were one and two paragraphs long--they didn't even have enough word count.

I read about 6 of these articles (three or so at the beginning and the last three or so), and they were, without question, the worst writing I have ever seen. My eight year old niece writes better than this. I am horrified at the dreck under this title, and if Helium wants to gain the respect of anyone in the publishing industry, this garbage has to be removed. There is simply no excuse for this childish, error-ridden drivel. I have a hard-won reputation for being a quality writer, and I am also querying agents, trying to get a mainstream publishing contract--The last thing I need is to have my name associated with this hideous crap.

{name withheld}--seriously--there MUST be a way to control quality. There has to be more delegation of authority. When articles are submitted, the channel stewards should have the authority and tools to delete those pieces that are an embarrassment. I was given an unpaid position as a "steward." This implies that the reward for doing it lies in something other than money. That's fine, but what are those things? One of them should be a certain amount of power over content in my channel; but if this is not the nature of that position, it doesn't matter what my capabilities are. I am just a warm body. If someone can't tell me there's something I can do to make this better, then I think I got the wrong impression about this site. This flies in
the face of everything I value about writing.

I cannot pretend that this is okay with me, it's not like a "choice" for me, it's like my SKIN. I am who I am at my core, and I will not compromise my hard work, or ethics just to have a cyberbadge or a title.

Her response:

Quote :
Jae,

I can understand your frustration. It isn't easy to always realize there are limitations to what can be done reasonably. What may help you out a bit is to talk to Rachel DeBratagne, she is my snior stew. (name withheld@yahoo.com

She may be able to help you out with seeing things a bit differently than I can. We discussed some options over the morning and I will let her go over them with you. I would enjoy having you stay on and work with us. If it didn't believe in your abilities I wouldn't have asked you on in the first place, I do feel you have much to contribute.

All I can suggest is to take a break from the sub for a bit, talk to Rachel, and see how you feel about things after that. It's normal to feel as you do, we would all like to see certain things gone but that just isn't how it works. We all have these intial settling in pains. Whatever you decide is best for you and your needs I understand and support.

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Jae Baeli
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Number of posts : 103
Age : 55
LOCATION : Denver, CO
JOB/HOBBIES : Author, Editor, Artist, Webmaster, Singer-Songwriter
FAVORITE AUTHORS : Dean Koontz, Jeff Lindsey, Laramie Dunaway,Darian North, Richard Dawkins, Raymond Obstfeld
GENRES IN WHICH I WRITE : Novels, Stories, Technical, Business, Academic, Scientific, Copy, Scripts, Journalism, Memoir, Humor, Essay, Blog, Reviews, Poetry, Lyrics
Registration date : 2008-11-22

PostSubject: Re: Quality Control   Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:18 am

I heard from her quickly:

Quote :
Hi Jae,

I understand you are suffering frustration with the channel chosen for you and wondered if you would like to do something else instead. The idea of stewards is to try and develop the site and the writers on it, by giving them good example and helping them to become better writers. I read your criticisms to Amanda and she is very concerned that you may not have grasped what we do.

What I had in mind is something specific you may be able to help with which you will find more tasteful.

My response:

Quote :
Hi Rachel.
No, I'm not frustrated by the channel, per se. (Nor by her--she has been friendly, accommodating and helpful). I am frustrated--insulted--by what is allowed to appear. I would feel this way no matter what channel I might be asked to Steward. The issue is that the articles I have come across with regularity, have been far less than sub-par---they have been horrid and embarrassing, the scratchings and meanderings of mentally challenged children, and it sends a message about what Helium's mission statement is. I encourage you to go to the link below and see for yourself.

http://www.helium.com/knowledge/103915-why-breaking-up-can-be-the-best-thing-for-you

Note that Selina J.'s article is now at number one. It was farther down a day or so ago; and that hers was the only one that had only a couple of mechanical mistakes. Yet, even then, I wouldn't grade the quality of her essay overall above a C. Like many of them, she had nothing new to say, no style to speak of, and I don't imagine a publisher reading past the first paragraph. And she was the cream of that crop (if the 6 or 8 I read are any indication).

Understand that I am not suggesting that writers are not worthy of nurturing if they show talent; I'm saying that Helium, which is ostensibly a marketplace for publishers to find material, is not the place to teach them the fundamentals--which it is obvious most of these writers don't possess. There are writing forums for that which aren't meant for the consumption of publishers in the market for writing. It's not even a question of a degree of skill AS a writer; it begs the question, "How did these people even GRADUATE FROM HIGH SCHOOL?" I understand that no one knows me, and I'm new, and no one likes a newbie marching in and sweeping things off tabletops and casting aspersions. But this is NOT about the stewards and the good writers here. This is about the mission statement of Helium (if it has one other than what is implied) and whether or not they want to honor it. Maybe I don't know what that mission is.

I have designed and webmastered many websites; I have created and acted as Admin for forums. I know that Amin Panels can be created so that a multi-tiered content site can be managed for quality and intuitive navigation. I have a whole list of things that I would do, if I wanted to make any part of Helium succeed, but it seems I could never implement those things because of the inherent design of the site and the business model adopted by the CEO/Owner, or whomever is ultimately responsible.

There are other sites that pay daily from a HUGE reservoir of requests from publishers. Writers who work for them can easily make $400 part time per month. You know why? Because they (one in particular) demand that all articles go through the manager/steward for that channel, and adhere to rigorous quality standards. Pieces are often kicked back 4 times before they accept it. Why? Because it's a product they sell, and they gain their business by making that product worth buying. Those who don't measure up are invited to go elsewhere. You know where they tell them to go? Helium. They say "Anyone can get published there. No matter how much they suck." Well, I didn't care much for the personalities of those people, (they aren't as friendly as Helium people) but I have to admit, writing is taken seriously there, and they demanded I turn in something of quality that was up to the standards of the publisher that wanted to buy it. If this conscientiousness is not part of Helium's business model, then, again, I have no interest in having my name associated. I have authored 13 books, and you have access to many of my shorter works here. Make your own assessments about my credibility. But understand that I have to think of my career goals. What if an agent who is considering my query, goes to Helium to find out whether it should be considered a good reference for me, and they come across this:

Quote :
"Also do you want a man that is sensitive or insensitive? Do you want him to be comical and serious? These are things you need to look for in a guy just don't settle because settling is not true love do not settle for what you know you can have strive for the unknown and sometimes that requires a lot of waiting and wasted hours on watching soaps chick flicks and curling up to a good romantic novel and a pint of Ben Jerry's hoping that the man of your dreams will show up on your front step, Hun you need to be looking for him go on dates with men you usually would not date. Think the opposite you know what you want, but sometimes men surprise you"

This entire article was filled with error, run-on sentences, awkward construction, and an author's "voice" that indicated either extreme youth, or an education that could not find purchase is such hard, bland soil.

or consider this one--

Quote :
by Alisha Brunham
You can't find true love, true love finds you. I found that if you are not looking for something it is more likely to show up on your doorstep. I wrote a poem when I was 13 actually about the man I am married to now. I had revised it so many times because we always happened to cross paths. It is now complete and It reads:
I fell in love
when I was 13
with the most beautiful man
in the world
He taught me to smile
he taught me to laugh
and he loved when my hair
was curled
5 years later
he was by my side
and I was happier than
ever before
It lasted a while
with laughter and love
and all I wanted
was more
I'll never understand
just what happened next
as my world came
crashing down
This love of my life
slipped away
as he claimed to be
leaving town
I died inside
a little that day
but held my head
up high
Because I knew
that all in good time
that Chad would be
my guy
Time has passed
and things sure have changed
we are together again
once more
And now I know
that the best things in life
are definitely worth
waiting for."

That's the complete article.

And finally, have a look at this:

Quote :
by Sean Mouser
"there is no thing as true love.u say you love me,but i saw you with him you kissed him.you said he kissed you.i saw you sleep with him. you said he slept with you girl you blew your chance you lied to me, you said you loved me but you don't care.we haven't kissed we barely hug and here you go banging some other guy I thought was your one and only what happened.I thought you cared luckily I didn't because I would cry right now and id probably kill myself.so you can walk away cause i don't care. girl you weren't ever honest with me you never told the truth. luckily i didn't care cause u would break my heart again.I thought we had love like a man for his hotrod,I guess not.You win I go out with her,but ill never forgive you ill never care for you, and ill never stick up for you.what is true love? there is no true love."

By the way, how did that even make it through the character/word count? This is the entire article.

If Helium wants to nurture writers, that's what writing forums and writing clubs are for. Is that what Helium really is? Because it's certainly not a site for writers to market their quality work. Further, Nurturing is not defined by "ignoring." them.

I can find no confidence in the work ethic with these as examples of what Helium believes is worthy of publication, or worthy to offer to publishers who might come here looking for "The good stuff" and find the hideous examples, especially in positions that often land at the top of the list. I can find no value in having a "Market Premier Writer" badge, when I saw one of those HORRID writers sporting one on HER profile, too. I can find no pride in the title of "Steward" when it seems to me, I will not be able to use that position to encourage good writing and do away with bad, and create a channel that will encourage publishers to buy. It renders those accolades and trusts meaningless.

Here is the bottom line: If Helium believes that it is more important to pander to bad writers and please the teenagers, to remain an "Open Community" to all who would attempt putting words on paper and call it being a "Writer" no matter how artless and incompetent they might be at it---this, at the expense of nurturing and rewarding good writing--then I cannot be affiliated. I worked as an editor for a small press, and I have spent years building my reputation as a writer concerned about the quality of my work, and I am not willing to damage that for Helium.

You think I might not "grasp" what you do, here? I think I am beginning to grasp it very well. I began to post my work believing that the few examples I saw from your more accomplished writers, was indicative of the content. My mistake. Now that I have looked more closely in the capacity of a steward, I see that I was wrong. While there are talented writers here, they are overshadowed by those who are not talented. You might have something for me that's more "tasteful"? Meaning, ignore what is NOT tasteful? Or did you mean palatable? Either way, you might not understand: this isn't about distaste, this is about my ethics, and my professional standards, which I am not willing to compromise. This is a glorified blog site where anyone can write about a title you and they provide, and get some meaningless badge or star to make them feel better about themselves. If I were a publisher, I wouldn't accept this type of work if it was FREE. I'd more likely light a match and set it on fire.

If this is headed in the direction I think it is, and there is no way to insure the quality of what gets posted here, then I would respectfully request you delete my account and remove ALL my work.

Ignorance, and the perpetuation of ignorance through rewarding it, is something I detest at my core. It is the antecedent to many of our society's ills. I will not take part in rewarding it on a daily basis by turning a blind eye to it just because I might get a pat on the head. My self-concept is not that fragile.

I hope you understand my stance, though I'm sure that will translate into the position of me as Pariah. I'm there frequently, because my standards are high, and that's not true of the many in the masses.

Sincerely,
Jae Baeli

_________________
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Jae Baeli
Admin
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Number of posts : 103
Age : 55
LOCATION : Denver, CO
JOB/HOBBIES : Author, Editor, Artist, Webmaster, Singer-Songwriter
FAVORITE AUTHORS : Dean Koontz, Jeff Lindsey, Laramie Dunaway,Darian North, Richard Dawkins, Raymond Obstfeld
GENRES IN WHICH I WRITE : Novels, Stories, Technical, Business, Academic, Scientific, Copy, Scripts, Journalism, Memoir, Humor, Essay, Blog, Reviews, Poetry, Lyrics
Registration date : 2008-11-22

PostSubject: Re: Quality Control   Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:40 am

Her response:

Quote :
Hi there,

You are wrong about the way the stewarding system works. At the moment, we are constantly working on the quality of the site, though in smaller steps than you would like. For example, had I had the link to the very substandard article using "u" instead of you, it would be deleted under today's standards. I would personally delete it.

As a Senior Steward, I have the capacity to delete, though this is for really substandard work. If you saw what the site guidelines were a year ago and what they are now, you may understand better what the site is all about and the direction in which it is heading.

We try to foster stewards who can reach out to members, rather than stamp all over them, and little by little the work that we are doing is making a vast amount of difference. People are learning magazine style all of the time, and the job I had in mind for you was approaching people in a certain section of the site who had written testimony style articles to help them to approach writing articles using their experience in life to produce good quality magazine style. I used the word "tasteful" as it is just the sort of person like you who can make a difference to the site, if they are that way inclined, and I thought this would present you with a challenge you would enjoy.

Little by little, we are sorting items which come onto the Helium platform, and you will see the difference if you decide to stick around, whether as a steward or a member.

My response:

Quote :
Rachel, First understand this: I am not criticizing you or any Stewards, necessarily, for the conditions at Helium. I would be happy to talk to any upper-level manager or CEO about these concerns, if that's where the implementation of change has to come from.

I may be wrong about how the stewarding system works, but I notice that you didn't offer that information either, except to say that there's some kind of underlying process going on. I make only informed decisions, and my time is valuable to me. I have no desire to spend my energies on something that will serve no purpose other than to provide another set of hands to Helium, especially when it's a volunteer position. I am fully within reason and rights to insure that this position is worth sacrificing my time, and endangering my name. If I want to merely nurture the talent in emerging writers, I can do that on my own forum, created for that purpose.

Is there a reason why you did not thoroughly address my points? --and more importantly, my main concern?

*My decision will be based on whether or not I will be able to control the quality in the channel I'm supposed to Steward.* I believe I have fully explained what I mean by that. This only requires a direct answer, and skirting it does not help me to make this decision.

If you simply don't have time to address it fully, what does that say about Helium and its organization as a business? This is part of my point, you see. Volunteering my time, skills and work ethic to an organization should garner me at least the ability to do my job well.

The ability to instantly remove something of poor quality is my MAIN CONCERN. In addition, it would be A NATURAL EXTENSION OF THAT GOAL to have all articles posted, go through a submission process BEFORE becoming live on Helium, as this would be treating the cause rather than the symptom. The process should BEGIN with that remove-power among Stewards. If this is not in place, then the process becomes a protracted obstacle that requires large blocks of time by stewards, and downgrades quality and the reputation of all involved (including Helium as a business entity). This could be alleviated by instituting instant removal. Or is it that Helium has no real standards? Helium says it does, yet does not enforce those standards at the front-end. Stewards may as well be trying to mow the lawn with scissors.

My point is that you shouldn't have to "sort thorough little by little"--this should be an instant process, with all incoming articles, and then all the cleanup of what's been there previous to this, should be a situation where stewards can remove articles in their own channels instantly--this is as simple as creating a code attached to a remove button and an automated message that will tell the writer the article is not up to Helium standards, and to refer to a special forum for help. Does Helium believe that it is "nurturing" writers by patting them on the head and giving them stars and badges and PUBLICATION when they have not met the most fundamental standard of simple sentence structure, spelling, punctuation and grammar? How does this help "Nurture" a writer?

Which leads me to another concern you did not fully address: *Is Helium a site that panders to writers and children, or is it a site that seeks to be a reservoir of talent for publishers?* It seems to me that Helium needs to make up its mind what it wants to be, because being both is neither effective nor profitable. This is Business Management 101--you first have to settle on WHAT your business IS. I see no clarity about this on Helium. I mentioned the other sites like Helium to make the point that their business model IS effective, IS profitable, DOES allow writers to earn substantial income, and MEETS the standards of publishers who wish to purchase articles. They leave the "writer schooling" to other sites. Helium needs to get rid of the sales to publishers feature if it's going to allow writers to use Helium as a teething ring. Otherwise, the quality writing that IS here won't matter. As I've said, the issue is that my name will be associated with this site and with a particular channel, and I CARE about that.

I will never apologize for having ethics and integrity.

If you would please be so kind as to address at least those two questions directly, with an answer, then I will know how to make this decision, as my decision pivots upon these few points. So, again, here are the main concerns:

1. *My decision will be based on whether or not I will be able to control the quality in the channel I'm supposed to Steward.* The ability to instantly remove something of poor quality is my MAIN CONCERN.

2. *Is Helium a site that panders to writers and children, or is it a site that seeks to be a reservoir of talent for publishers?*

IF the answer to the first one is NO, I am not interested in staying, nor having my work published here.
IF the answer to the second is "panders to children and writers" or "both" then I am not interested in staying, nor having my work published here.

I implore you to answer these questions so I will know how to proceed.

_________________
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Jae Baeli
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Number of posts : 103
Age : 55
LOCATION : Denver, CO
JOB/HOBBIES : Author, Editor, Artist, Webmaster, Singer-Songwriter
FAVORITE AUTHORS : Dean Koontz, Jeff Lindsey, Laramie Dunaway,Darian North, Richard Dawkins, Raymond Obstfeld
GENRES IN WHICH I WRITE : Novels, Stories, Technical, Business, Academic, Scientific, Copy, Scripts, Journalism, Memoir, Humor, Essay, Blog, Reviews, Poetry, Lyrics
Registration date : 2008-11-22

PostSubject: Re: Quality Control   Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:43 am

Quote :
Dear Jae,

While I understand your concerns, I feel that the honest answers to both questions are these:

My decision will be based on whether or not I will be able to control the quality in the channel I'm supposed to Steward

You could not control the content in your channel. You could however help to mold that channel in the right direction. There is a subtle difference. Let me show you what I mean by giving you a personal demonstration.

Your article on character and object placement on Helium could be considered as not addressing the topic. Should I be able to delete it on those grounds? How would you, as a writer, feel if the article was deleted, simply because I had some kind of perogative to delete at will. Even I do not have that power. What we do is encourage and teach writers to present their knowledge in a more presentable way.

Does that mean pandering?

I don't believe I pander. I don't believe my stewards do. What I believe they do is give feedback without being rude. Members write because they choose to and can be honed into good writers if the feedback they get is directed in the right manner. I do feel, after reading several of your emails, that you would not be right for this job since subtlety is not one of your best skills - if the emails I have had are an example of how you feel.

I am sorry if I seem negative towards you. I am not. I am trying to get you to understand what the concept of Helium is, and this is more than just a site full of writers. It is a site full of knowledge at all levels, and each level is considered as important as the next. What we do is hone writers to present facts in a way which addresses topics in a fluent manner.

I wish that I had had an opportunity to get to know you as a steward, though do not feel that this is suitable for you until perhaps you get to know the site better, and see that the purpose of the site is not just about perfection. It is about Community and this is the benchmark by which we work as stewards.

To which I responded:

Quote :
{name}! Gads. You continue to miss the deeper point. And you continue to attribute things to me I did not say. I never said this site was about perfection. I said it's a site for writers who sell their work to publishers, and as such, there are certain standards to be expected.

Also, I explained what pandering to writers means: it means rewarding bad writing. Period.

You said, "How would you, as a writer, feel if the article was deleted, simply because I had some kind of perogative to delete at will." }}}}} I NEVER SAID delete an article on a whim--I assumed if a person has that authority, they are also qualified to make a reasonable assessment and act accordingly. And I NEVER said delete an article because of some title agreement problem--(again, you attribute things to me I never said). A title agreement problem would have nothing to do with the quality of the writing, now would it? The articles that are mis-categorized should, of course, be re-categorized. But if the title agreement in this case was a problem, why was I told to change the title that I originally suggested? How is this my doing?

Further, my article was not inundated with spelling, composition, structure, content, and grammar issues, was it? This is what I mean by maintaining quality. If you don't understand this, then there's nothing I can do to make you understand, as you seem determined to interpret what I say through your own filters.


You said:
"Your article on character and object placement on Helium could be considered as not addressing the topic." Funny, because that very title was created FOR THAT ARTICLE. Please refer to the above--this was not my original title suggestion and I made it clear what article was going there and was asked to change that title into what it is. So I fail to see how it didn't address the topic that was created for it, and if it did, I had nothing to do with it.

But *Now* we get to the prime example of why I would not lend my name or my skills to Helium--when cogent points are made that screws up someone's paradigm, they slip into pettiness...

...Like you did by insinuating some hypocrisy on my part. Now, you're using some passive aggressive techniques, I suspect because what I have been saying has merit and you don't want to deal with that honestly (it's not hard to be petty--I could have pointed out your spelling errors, but didn't. See? How did that feel? You claim to deal with writers using more subtlety--is this what you mean? Passive Aggressive insult? And you say subtlety is not my forté, but I will choose directness and honesty over unclear communication any day. If writers cannot take constructive criticism and also the truth about horrid writing, they have no business being a writer as they are neither qualified, show promise, nor are they suited to that vocation. Subtlety is not defined by vagueness, nor passive aggression, nor false reward.

On one thing, we agree: I am not right for this site. I believe we should all strive to meet our potential, and I don't believe that pandering in any way creates good writers. I've been doing this for 25 years, have been an editor in several different capacities, and thus have some credibility to stand on. I was thankful along the way when more accomplished writers and editors pointed out my flaws. It made me a much better writer. They did me a favor. And I continue to take advise and counsel from writers who are still more accomplished than I am.

Thank you for making this clear to me. I am now able to make a decision.

Please delete my account, and delete all my articles. I'll check back in a few days to see if they are gone.

I wish you and everyone else there the best of luck, but Helium is not the place for me.
Jae

_________________
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Jae Baeli
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Number of posts : 103
Age : 55
LOCATION : Denver, CO
JOB/HOBBIES : Author, Editor, Artist, Webmaster, Singer-Songwriter
FAVORITE AUTHORS : Dean Koontz, Jeff Lindsey, Laramie Dunaway,Darian North, Richard Dawkins, Raymond Obstfeld
GENRES IN WHICH I WRITE : Novels, Stories, Technical, Business, Academic, Scientific, Copy, Scripts, Journalism, Memoir, Humor, Essay, Blog, Reviews, Poetry, Lyrics
Registration date : 2008-11-22

PostSubject: Re: Quality Control   Thu Dec 04, 2008 11:55 am

This is not a new experience for me...whether the issue is writing or simply the development of personal ethics or character, there seems to be this pervasive denial that causes people to turn and point a finger at you, to deflect attention from what the real issues are. If your goal is to be the best writer you can be, you MUST resist the urge to accept this kind of pandering, and instead look for constructive criticism from knowledgeable sources which will serve your goal of becoming the best writer you can be. This goes for all those "publishers" out there that profess to be things they are not, like "A traditional publisher." Or those that use the Pat-Pat method: pat you on the head, and offer pat answers for things that should be seriously addressed.

You must decide whether you will err on the side of ethics and integrity, or you will get sucked into the void of artificial praise.

_________________
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