kaz: "Kaz" written in cursive with a white quill that is dissolving into (badly drawn in Photoshop) butterflies. (Default)
[personal profile] kaz posting in [community profile] access_fandom
Here is one thing that I find frustrating about fandom: ficathons of the challenge variety.

It seems as if they're a very popular form of fandom participation; Yuletide is probably the best-known example, but I run into them absolutely everywhere. You know the format: person A signs up, receives a prompt and is asked to write a fic for it. Variations exist (e.g. A often writes a prompt they'd like to see filled of their own) but that's the general gist.

Now don't get me wrong, I find these pretty awesome ideas, and I imagine it could be very fun to participate! There is, however, just one eensy problem for me:

I really, honestly, cannot commit to things. I have autistic interest patterns, meaning I can't know when I will suddenly become possessed with the urge to play Morrowind, make jewellery or read Minesweeper fanfic 24/7 for three months straight. (Other people seem capable of still keeping up with their previous interests when a new one catches their attention. I am not.) I also have spoons to think of, and a) writing fiction is pretty spoon-consumptive for me, b) fandom *has* to be my last priority when it comes to spoon allocation. Because, you see, the spoons I spend on filling out a challenge fic might be the ones I needed to make it to university tomorrow. And then there's the awful soul-sucking guilt of not being able to follow through on things I promised, which may easily set off a downwards spiral for me. Fandom is something I do to *relax*, but fic challenges and the like actually contribute so much pain and angst for me that I wind up fleeing back to my day job.

"But if you can't fill your prompt, you should just e-mail the people running the challenge and explain!"

Er, a few problems with that.

Number one. Some people will probably be quite happy to accept "work is killing me" or "my dog died" or "my computer ate my fic nom nom nom" as reasons for dropping out, but may look askance at "so my interests have switched to this mind-numbing Flash game" or "I just don't have the spoons for it" or "I don't know why, I just start crying every time I think about the challenge" or, you know, "my fibromyalgia has flared up again" or other disability-related issues because I am not the only person who has these problems. Some people will demand reasons. I don't know whether the organisers fall into the "some" category ahead of time, and I don't like being forced to explain my disability to a possibly unsympathetic audience.

Number two. I have pretty massive social anxiety related to e-mail; LJ messages are somewhat better but not much. Somehow the act of sitting down and composing a formal message - not an LJ comment - to another person makes me panic about accidentally violating some to-me-unknown social norm and being massively rude without knowing and making the other person hate me. Furthermore, as this is also true for RL my letter and e-mail spoons go to RL things that I desperately have to do or else I'll be kicked out of uni/thrown out of my accommodation/have my bank account closed on me/etc. For me, there is no "just" in "just e-mail..."

Number three. If you have written anything of the "we will be kind of unhappy if you drop out without a good reason >(" variety, in fact if you haven't explicitly made it clear that dropping out is acceptable, I have probably worked myself up into such a state about this that I cannot, actually, think about the challenge without starting to cry. Attempting to communicate that I am dropping out to you, in a format I'm not very comfortable with, will probably end with me huddled in a ball in a corner somewhere before I even reach "Dear XYZ". Hell, I *still* feel miserable whenever I think about [livejournal.com profile] femgenficathon and that was over a year ago.

So. Yeah. This is the reason I am probably never going to participate in a fic challenge again, despite the fact that it seems as if it could be really fun and I'd like to try my hand at some of those prompts and everyone is talking about Yuletide and I would sooo like to participate and it makes me a very sad Kaz. :(

I am not going to demand that people change the format of things entirely just to accommodate me, but. Here are some suggestions of things you could do to make things possible for me, and other disabled people who might have these kinds of problems.

- Allow for people to drop out, even drop out without being able to tell you, and make clear that this is not ZOMG the end of the world in the rules.
- Communicate that you will accept any reason for dropping out and specifically that you are sympathetic to the difficulties people with disabilities might have.
- Have a page specifically on what to do if you feel like you can't continue! Something that would be *very* helpful for me specifically would be to have a post that people can comment on if they feel like they can't continue, with an example comment that you can c&p if you can't manage to say in your own words that you can't make it. If you insist on having it be via e-mail, provide a form e-mail people can simply c&p.
- In addition to the actual challenge, have a group of prompts that people can simply try filling out, or have some prompts you assign to people with no obligation to finish them.
- Have flexible deadlines; this one's less useful for me (because it's filling the prompt *at all* that's the problem) but probably very useful for other disabled people. Have similar clear guidelines and "it's okay if this happens" and pre-formatted e-mails for asking for a deadline extension, or just say that posting late is fine.
- Don't immediately ban someone who doesn't finish and doesn't tell you beforehand.

I have never run a ficathon so I don't know how realistic these are, but if a challenge did all of these I might actually be able to participate.

ETA because this is not clear: I totally understand that not all of these are reasonable for every challenge, that in fact some of them are very unrealistic for strictly exchange-based challenges, and that changing *existing* challenges is a rather different beast from making new challenges more accessible. I suppose this post is partially "I would like you to keep this in mind if you are thinking of creating a challenge" (e.g. either getting away from strict exchange-based format entirely or adding in options for people who probably can't commit to that) and partially "If you are currently running any kind of challenge, it would be really really cool if you'd do this" (form letters for drop-outs. This is actually the #1 thing I'd like to see, because I honestly have trouble describing just how difficult writing a simple e-mail can be.) Sorry for any confusion!
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(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-24 01:10 pm (UTC)
princessofgeeks: (Default)
From: [personal profile] princessofgeeks
I have watched, year in and year out, yuletide go by with a sort of dazed amazement, mostly because I can't imagine knowing enough about that many fandoms to write fic for them, or even READ fic for them.

but I know very well that feeling of "there goes a bright shiny thing that people in fandom love and I don't" and the "I'm left out" feeling that follows on its heels.

I have had to relentlessly prioritize what I can and cannot do in fandom, for reasons quite different from yours, but I so relate to the need to know what works and what doesn't for an individual and to try to let go of what doesn't work.

but it is hard -- that "left out" feeling.

Thank you for posting about your issues with email. I had no idea and that's good information for me.

*hugs*

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-24 01:10 pm (UTC)
sasha_feather: dolphin and zebra gazing at each other across glass (dolphin and zebra)
From: [personal profile] sasha_feather
This is a really excellent post. Thank you. I'm going to chew on it a while.

Some things that were helpful for me in a recent challenge I participated in:

--The mods allowed in things like art, icons, podfic recordings, rec lists, meta analyses, and vids; so that people who are not writers or who have writing anxiety can also participate in the challenge

--There is a long amnesty period

--The participation threshold is pretty low

--They allow co-authors/co-participants, so people can participate together, which I think is a strategy people use for lessening anxiety about accomplishing tasks and making it more fun.

--The mods do a good job of making a safer space for participants in the community

--The rules are clear and easy to find, there is a clear tagging system, there is a wiki for learning about the prompts

All of these are so rightly Access issues, and yet I hadn't framed it quite in that way before. Brava to you, Kaz.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-24 02:00 pm (UTC)
thingswithwings: these books won't read themselves! probably. (gen - these books won't read themselves!)
From: [personal profile] thingswithwings
thanks very much for this. I co-mod [community profile] kink_bingo, which is pretty low stress as far as fandom challenges go, but reading your post makes me realise that there's room for improvement in terms of making our challenge more accessible. Having a page, linked off of the profile or something, that tells folks what to do if they can't finish, is an excellent idea, to start with, and I'm taking the rest of your advice to heart as well. Thanks for using up some spoons to write this post and help us mods understand the community's needs a little better!

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-24 02:20 pm (UTC)
dhobikikutti: earthen diya (Default)
From: [personal profile] dhobikikutti
Thank you for posting about this. I look at people who for various reasons have told me they are not comfortable with participating in Yuletide, and I wonder how it could be made more accessible for them.

I think your suggestion of alternate ways of participation is excellent. I know Yuletide has the pinch-hitters system, and the Yuletide madness, but it is not open for people not already signed up and in the data base. Perhaps we could suggest that there be a mechanism for people who wish to only sign up for that, without penalty of default?

I would also like to point out for selfish reasons [community profile] eid_ka_chand, which runs an entirely voluntary ficathon, with no penalty for not posting even if you said you might, and where we are happy to have fiction posted at any time.
Edited Date: 2009-10-24 02:21 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-24 02:57 pm (UTC)
were_duck: silhouette of a tree against a perfect rainbow (Tree rainbow)
From: [personal profile] were_duck
I don't think it'd be possible to run Yuletide in particular under the terms you suggest, just because it's a gift exchange based around the holiday season. It's not an easy-going type of challenge, you know? And some of us need that kind of hard line to give the kick in the pants we need to work through our writer's block.

However, I think even Yuletide does try to be open to other levels of participation. You can fill NYR requests from January through the rest of the year, and that doesn't require you to commit to anything, you just browse the prompts and upload sometime before the next round starts. If you don't finish the story for whatever reason, no worries.

I've seen lots of communities do prompt fests and things like that that might meet most if not all of your conditions.

These are good things to keep in mind to make challenges more accessible for a lot of participants, so I'm glad you posted about this, thank you.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-24 04:49 pm (UTC)
elf: Emily the Strange: Misery loves company (Misery Loves Company)
From: [personal profile] elf
Much nifty to think about.

I'm participating in Yuletide this year for the first time, because I have been enticed by the shiny. But I'm terrified. The whole signup and deadline thing is hectic and scary for me--and I have a full allotment of spoons; as long as I don't get stupid with my scheduling, I don't run out of energy in ways that'd make fic-fests hard to complete. (I run out of muse sometimes, but that's very different.)

I have been thinking about running fests for fandoms I love, and want very much to do something different from the "exchange prompts, assign deadlines, produce fic!" pattern. I want something that will encourage more participation from people who don't post as much fic, which means more dropout options, or less deadline strictures, or more open structure, or some combination of those things. You've given me a great list of starting ideas for different ways to arrange a fest. (If "fest" is the right word.)

I'd like more participation in smaller fandoms, where there aren't 50 well-known authors who will produce novel-length fic at the drop of a prompt. And that means more open fests, more variety of types of fests.

I'm pondering something like "if you drop out, it's okay to post your starting notes & outline instead of a whole story, if you'd like that." A way to share part of the shiny & fun, even if it didn't gel into a completed story, or you ran out of spoons. Because sometimes, it's fun to discuss the story ideas and plotbunnies, too.

Also considering somehow making space for "I started writing for Prompt X, but the story shifted somehow and it no longer fits into Prompt X at all, but damn, now I have 5,000 words of nifty fic that doesn't belong in this fest." Allowing those to be posted doesn't relate directly to disability issues, but is one more way of saying, "YES WE WANT YOU TO PLAY." And also, I like tangling disability access with not-disability-related options, to make it more obvious that "accessibility" doesn't mean "let's help out the damaged people" but "let's make this work for as many people as possible."

I like the idea of very specific notes about what to do if you have to drop out. I suspect that just having those would prevent some dropouts--there's less pressure if you know what the options are and how they work, and "less pressure" means "more likely finished fic."

(Re: Yuletide--the no-pressure way to participate is to pick one of the unfilled requests, and write it on your own schedule.)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-24 11:00 pm (UTC)
sqbr: I lay on the couch, suffering an out of spoons error (spoons)
From: [personal profile] sqbr
I don't write fic quickly or easily enough to do any sort of challenge anyway, but I had considered how even if I get faster and more prolific I would still probably never be able to do Yuletide.

I'm not sure why I do better with art exchanges, I seem to be able to chuck something halfway decent together in a day or so which means I know I have *something* to hand in if I have a sudden spoon shortage. But I'm not working at all any more so don't really have any higher priorities to worry about, I would never have volunteered while I was struggling through work.

Anyway, this is a good post.

And I think your suggestions would improve challenges for everyone: people who drop out unexpectedly for whatever reason feel really bad and make life difficult for the mods, so anything that makes the process of dropping out early easier, and gives people who think they might drop out other options, is a Good Thing for everyone. (Not that accessibility isn't a Good Thing in and of itself)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-25 02:47 am (UTC)
amadi: Black and white speech bubbles on a red background with the legend Talk Bingo (Talk Bingo)
From: [personal profile] amadi
I run [community profile] talk_bingo which is largely modeled after [personal profile] thingswithwings fabulous kink version, and this has given me things to think about as well. My nod to accessibility thus far has been to make it clear that people who can't use .gif bingo cards can have a text only version, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. I'll be working on some further explication of how the challenge can be approached by people (like myself) with limited spoons.

Thank you for a new vista of thought.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-26 04:23 am (UTC)
torachan: anime-style me ver. 2.0 (Default)
From: [personal profile] torachan
I do understand why mods are so tough on drop-outs, because in an exchange, it can be really hard to find pinch hitters (Yuletide seems to have plenty, but most fests have to scramble to find people).

I have noticed that a lot more fests these days seem to be moving away from exchanges, at least during the rest of the year (exchanges still seem to be the way it's done at Christmas), which I like. But sometimes non-exchange fests still have rules about dropping out, which I don't really understand. For example, Kink Bingo is pretty laid back, but they do still have a rule that you must write at least one fic during the month of the fest or the grace period before the next round starts (which gives you a year) or else you can't participate the next year. Sure, in a year most people should be able to write at least one fic. But I don't understand why they need that rule to begin with, since dropping out doesn't cause any trouble for the mods or other participants.

I personally like writing more than receiving fics, so I would be just as happy if all fests did away with the exchange model and moved to something that allowed for more leeway if you had to drop out.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-26 09:21 am (UTC)
true_statement: Harry Potter (goggles)
From: [personal profile] true_statement
I don't know how possible it would be for a huge exchange like [community profile] yuletide, but for smaller challenges I'd like to see an option on the sign-up form like "If your assigned writer/artist drops out, do you need a pinch hitter?" I know some people get upset if they don't receive a gift fic/art, but I'm not one of them; I am in fact upset only by the thought that the need to provide my gift is causing my writer/mod/pinch hitter trouble and stress.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-26 11:32 am (UTC)
liviapenn: miss piggy bends jail bars (remains sexy while doing so) (f. leverage. hardison saw it coming)
From: [personal profile] liviapenn
- Allow for people to drop out, even drop out without being able to tell you, and make clear that this is not ZOMG the end of the world in the rules.

I don't think a lot of mods are going to be fans of telling people it's okay to drop out without any indication at *all*, because then as a mod, you don't know you need to find pinch hitters until the deadline has already passed, and you either have to delay the entire ficathon, or go live and tell some people they still have to wait a day or two.

However, in the case of small or medium-sized fandoms, one thing that I've found to be helpful (as a mod) is sending out reminder e-mails, say, a week before the due date, usually with reminders of the deadline/details of how stories are to be posted, and asking people to confirm either that they're dropping out or that they're still planning on posting. Would this feel like it was overly pressuring/pushy to you, or helpful?

I really, really like the idea, btw, of a form letter for people who need to drop out of a challenge. It never would have occurred to me before, but it just seems so obvious that it would be *really* helpful. I think some mods might worry that it would encourage dropping out (sort of the "if we give teenagers condoms it'll encourage them to have sex" argument, I guess *G*) but if I were to run a challenge again, I would definitely do this.

- In addition to the actual challenge, have a group of prompts that people can simply try filling out, or have some prompts you assign to people with no obligation to finish them.

I love this idea too! I know there are definitely people who enjoy ficathons purely for the writing and don't really care about getting stories. Having a pool of no-obligation prompts-- obviously it couldn't possibly hurt, and if it does work out, hey: more stories! Again, totally not something I ever would have thought of, but a really neat idea.

- Don't immediately ban someone who doesn't finish and doesn't tell you beforehand.

I don't really understand why non-exchange-based ficathons do this in the first place, really. :/

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-26 04:00 pm (UTC)
mhari: (fangirl)
From: [personal profile] mhari
The one time I tried Yuletide, I fell down on it miserably -- exacerbated by family crises, but it didn't help that I too have that kind of dicey temperament -- if I was the kind of person who is good at deadlines I might have made it, but as it was I had to bow out. So I know exactly where you're coming from.

I do like that Yuletide has instituted the "New Year's Resolution" thing, where you can pick up requests that didn't get filled at any time. I haven't actually done one yet, partly because of my residual guilt, but I think it's great to have the opportunity out there.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-27 01:03 am (UTC)
rodo: chuck on a roof in winter (Default)
From: [personal profile] rodo
I really like your idea of form mails and comments that you can use to drop out. While it's not so bad for me when it comes to relatively informal mails and comments, I do understand what it feels like. I'm terrified of having conversations via phone, which is a big deal when it comes to accessability. Having an easy step-by-step walkthough on how to do things that is absolutely (or nearly) foolproof really helps with this type of anxiety. Clear and friendly FAQs on this would also be a great help.

This year is probably going to be the first time I do Yuletide (not 100% sure yet), and I'm thankful for everything that makes it easier for me. I'm going to be under a lot of stress, because while I generally can gauge if I'll be able to do something, I really can't say with certainty how I will feel in a week or a month. And while I generally do finish what I start, it would relieve some of the pressure to have a way out should it be necessary. I'm already mentally preparing myself for writing a story in a foreign language (=English) and looking for a beta, which is always a big deal/cause of anxiety for me.

An exchange that worked really well for me was the Christmas fic exchange on [livejournal.com profile] ficathon_de last year. You could sign up by writing a comment with max. five prompts, at least one of them had to be for a mainstream fandom/pairing or for a canon that could easily be watched/read. The prompts would be posted anonymously and other people would anonymously reply with comment-sized fic until the deadline. The only rule was that the first prompt you wrote for was by someone who hadn't yet received a gift-fic (or art). In the end, some people wrote multiple fics and others didn't write anything at all. Miraculously, everybody did end up with a fic.

It was very improvised, but I liked how informal it was and that everybody was free to do what they wanted. This was in part due to the fact that the organisers anticipated that the participants would also be busy with Yuletide, Christmas presents and whatnot. With more preparation, it would probably work even better. Pity it probably wouldn't do for many English fandoms because it would be too complicated with 200 participants.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-27 08:32 pm (UTC)
elspethdixon: (Default)
From: [personal profile] elspethdixon
form letters for drop-outs. This is actually the #1 thing I'd like to see, because I honestly have trouble describing just how difficult writing a simple e-mail can be

This. I don't have the problems with emails and letters that I do with phone calls, but form letters or comments that can be copied and pasted are still welcome stress-reducers (phone calls are the devil - I have avery hard time making a phone call to anyone in a non-calling-my-family-or-close-friends context without a written script to look at or at least a written list of the information I might need or a a print invoice or yellow page listing or some form of written material about the person I'm calling so that I can *feel* like I'm looking at a script).

(no subject)

Date: 2009-10-28 01:22 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sidewinder.livejournal.com
I run a small holiday-themed challenge, so thanks for the idea about the form-letter for drop-outs. I will definitely create one for this year once assignments have gone out so that hopefully it makes it less stressful for people who do need to drop out to do so. Because, really, I'd much rather hear from someone to just say "I can't make the deadline" (and hear it early enough to easily find a substitute writer) than not hear anything at all or only at the very last minute.

Because it is, strictly, a gift-based exchange based around the winter holiday season, it's not an exchange I can open up to remove deadlines completely. I've tried in the past to encourage people to submit "unfulfilled request" stories throughout the year after the official challenge is over, a la yuletide, but so far that's never happened :-/ Needless to say, I'll try it again this time around so that if folks would like to try to write a story to a request/challenge/prompt, they can do so all year without deadline stress.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-01 03:51 am (UTC)
redsnake05: Art by Audrey Kawasaki (Default)
From: [personal profile] redsnake05
Over on lj, I'm co-modding a fest that we have deliberately tried to make accessible to people who wouldn't ordinarily participate. This post helped us firm up a couple of things in our processes. It never occured to us that we needed to clarify the dropping out process to minimise stress, for example. Thanks for posting this, it was thought-provoking, and that's always awesome.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-01 04:08 am (UTC)
From: [personal profile] portraitofagirl
Thank you.

For the first time I'm getting involved in helping to run something similar this time and despite my own problems and my history with having to drop out of an exchange due to health issues I still hadn't really considered how to make things more accessible. I'll definitely be sending the other mod over here to read and hopefully we can at least implement some of the things you suggest and maybe build on others to make them work for us :)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-01 05:25 am (UTC)
jaaaarne: Photo of a sailing ship "Nadezhda" in the roads of Vladivostok. (home)
From: [personal profile] jaaaarne
It has been already pointed out that the conditions you proposed would be quite impossible in an exchange ficathon, but I immensely liked your idea of no-obligations prompts where people could just try their hand at doing something without actually signing up for the challenge.

I keep thinking back to a Christmas challenge I participated in a couple of years ago. There was a master post from the mods, and people signed up there by leaving a comment regarding what they can do and what they wish to get in return. Now I'm thinking that since all these prompts had been public, it would've been quite possible to allow people choose one themselves without signing up and being assigned something. In such case, people could participate without taking obligations. Sure, they wouldn't be receiving anything back, either, but it would be fair, I think.

The more I think about it, the more I like this idea. :) If I ran a ficathon, I would definitely try something like that.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-01 09:46 am (UTC)
midnitemarauder: (Default)
From: [personal profile] midnitemarauder
I mod [community profile] hp_springsmut, which is a rare pare exchange, and I also co-modded [community profile] bigbangblackout and [community profile] snarry_games.

Snarry Games is not an exchange, and for bigbangblackout - which was a Sirius Black themed Big Bang, if you didn't submit a complete draft by the first deadline, you wouldn't get an artist to draw art for your fic, but if you finished by the final deadline, we would have posted it in the archive. But those aren't exchanges. We did have 2 artists drop for BBB, but we were able to get pinch hitters.

But for a fest that is an exchange fest, where you sign up, agreeing to write or draw for the person you get assigned to, your request:

Allow for people to drop out, even drop out without being able to tell you, and make clear that this is not ZOMG the end of the world in the rules.

is simply not feasible. The whole point of an exchange is that you write/draw for someone, and someone writes/draws for you. When you sign up, this is the "contract" you're agreeing to. If you drop out, not only do we not have a fic/art for the person you were assigned to, but now we have a fic/art that someone else created for you, and no recipient to give it to, which is not fair to the person who worked hard on their contribution for 'you'. And particularly in a fest like Springsmut, which is a rare pairs fest, and includes slash and het, it's not easy to find pinch hitters because some of the requested pairings are pretty obscure.

Things happen, and there are always dropouts. From my own experience, there tends to be a 10% dropout rate on average in most fests, and we do a separate post after assignments go out asking for PHs and what they're willing to write/draw. As far as dropouts go, we don't ban someone who drops out and notifies us in a timely manner. When we do ban someone, it's because they lied to us, dropped out after the deadline passed and we had to spend significant time trying to contact them, they dropped at the last minute after being granted extensions, or if they disappear and don't respond to mod attempts to get in touch with them. And we HAVE to know if someone can't complete their assignment, because we can't just randomly assign the fic/art written for your request to someone else. Only very rarely does it match with your intended recipient's request.

You seem to have this impression that mods are these huge, intimidating figures. We're really not. In fact some of us have had to drop out of other fests for varying reasons. We're fellow fans like yourself, and we also write and participate in other fests.

For me personally, if people need to drop or require an extension, I don't want a list of reasons why, and certainly not anything exotic. It's rather astounding how many computer crashes happen around fic fest deadlines. Now, some people really DO have crashes. But some think we need a better excuse than, "I need more time to finish, can I get a few days please?" I don't want or need excuses - I much prefer when people are straightforward about it.

If you were in my fest and emailed me and said, "I tried, but I just couldn't/I'm not going to be able to complete my assignment. I ran out of spoons." I would never hold that against you, and I really don't know many fest mods who would. Part of our job as mod is to help our participants whenever possible. And we want to help and encourage them. But if I emailed you saying, "Hey, the deadline was yesterday, are you going to be able to complete your assignment or do you need an extension?" and you ignore my email, I'm not going to think very highly of you because to me, it's a matter of courtesy and respect.

Yes, it's "just" fandom, but as mod, I'm in a position of responsibility for the fest I'm running, and I'm responsible for making sure all the participants get something in return. I don't have time to chase people for weeks on end and hope I'll get a contribution from them. I just can't. It's not personal, it's that my first responsibility as a mod is to the fest itself.

So if you really can't commit to the exchange format - and it's perfectly okay if you can't; exchanges just aren't for everyone, and there's nothing wrong with that - then both you and the mods would be better off if you looked for a non-exchange, prompt-based fest. Less pressure for you to 'perform' under conditions that make you uncomfortable, and less pressure for the mods to have to find a pinch hitter.

And don't be afraid of mods. We don't bite. Honest! And when we're strict, it's because, as I said, our first responsibility is to the fest itself, and modding is a lot more work (and takes up a lot more time) than it sometimes appears from the outside. As a participant, you have one person - the person you're writing/drawing for - to focus on. Mods have to worry about everyone, including readers, and in some fests, that's a lot of people. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-01 02:23 pm (UTC)
shopfront: Source: Dark Angel. Alec, standing. Text: genetically empowered. (DA - we prefer genetically empowered)
From: [personal profile] shopfront
Thank you for making this post, it's really interesting and helpful to read about accessibility problems from a POV that's both similar and different. I have bipolar, and while it hasn't stopped me from participating in many of the challenges/fests/exchanges that I'd love to do, it does stop me from doing all of the ones I'd like. I'm lucky and still manage to complete quite a few though and I have a pretty low drop out rate, so I've learnt the best way to manage my spoons, but I understand your frustration at having to consider whether I'm capable of doing something I'm really excited about, when sometimes small tweaks would make it considerably easier for me. I sometimes function best of very short deadlines, and sometimes even the more generous writing deadlines aren't enough. I think your point about email stress is also a really good one. I usually get there in the end, but any sort of communication along those lines whether on or offline tends to take me a long while to get around to because first I have to struggle to push down the feeling of being shamed by my inability to keep up with my more able peers.

I think it's hard to accommodate some of these issues within the currently popular challenge/exchange format though. There are lots of smaller tweaks that can be used, like your suggestion about clearer drop out policies and email forms, to ease problems, but I think assigned exchanges in particular are very difficult to make any large changes to, given the requirements of getting everyone a gift. Maybe the answer is really less about changing aspects to the current format(s) - well aside from increasing awareness among mods about accessibility for the less abled so that the smaller changes are made more regularly - and more about a need for people to be more creative with these sorts of projects. Maybe less able people finding it difficult to participate somewhere despite the large range of fandom events that happen each year should tell us there's a bit of a rut going on here, and challenge us to diversify the way we run things.

And I must say, I went away and pondered the issue for a while before coming back to comment, and I've had just as much fun brainstorming ways to keep the elements I love most about the current general template used, while leaving behind some of the biggest obstacles to participating, as I do brainstorming for a new fic assignment.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-01 04:59 pm (UTC)
dirty_diana: old-fashioned typewriter (typewriter)
From: [personal profile] dirty_diana
This is kind of interesting, because I both run a yearly exchange challenge and have spoon issues (I don't have social anxiety, so stuff to think about there.) FWIW, when I've needed to drop out I just say "i have an illness that's bothering me right now", and no one has ever asked me to provide details or produce a doctor's note. Really they just need to know whether or not to expect a story so they know what to do next. That's the only thing truly important to them.

And IMO the wording of the rules is more for the people who...forget they signed up, or lose interest in the whole concept. Not to terrify people making an honest effort.

On the flip side, I do find there are a couple things I can do to make the odds of my finishing better.

1) Be realistic about how many challenges I can take on. If any. In other words, count my spoons. It *is* hard to resist when your whole reading list is squeeing happily, but I just try to remind myself how much worse it will feel the week before the deadline when my chronic everything is kicking in and I have this unwritten story hanging over my head. Also that whether I participate or not, other people will request things I want to read. And I can read them, stress-free.

And as you point out, if you need those spoons for work or school or making dinner then that's more important.

(A side note to this is, I try be realistic about whether I'm really going to finish. I've experienced, from both sides of the fence, the steady stream of emails going, "I'm almost done, really!" before both mod and author realise it's not true. I know that permanent optimism of really *believing* you'll feel better tomorrow, but some challenges do have a "no penalty if you drop out before" date. Yuletide definitely does.)

2) Sign up for fandoms or pairings that require less spoons for me to write, in the first place. People tend to look at the Yuletide form and want to be helpful and generous, but those fandoms I've never written in before, or recently, are almost always more work.

3) Pace myself. I can't leave the story till the last week. It's tough for me personally because I *used* to be able to write a story in a week. But I now have to grab those moments I feel well enough to work on it from the moment the assignment arrives in my inbox.

(And this sort of returns us to the spoon-counting thing. I better be sure that this challenge is *worth* all my spare spoons, because I'll be using them.)

4) Is there anything you can do to make the *act* of writing require less spoons? I have friends who have offered to type from my written pages for me because that's what gives me the most trouble. (Sitting at a computer makes me dizzy and then pretty soon it's lights out.) So that helps me, but obviously that's going to vary for everyone.

Unfortunately this is going to mean worrying about it, some. I can't think of a way around that in an exchange situation.

Sorry this is so long! But it actually took me a lot of trial and error to figure this stuff out. Still working on mastering #1. :)

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-01 10:17 pm (UTC)
ranalore: (rana name)
From: [personal profile] ranalore
This is really some food for thought. I run an exchange-based challenge (alone), so on the one hand I come at this from the modly angle. On the other hand, I have a cluster disorder that includes migraine headaches, Fibro, Celiac, endometriosis, IBS, and social anxiety, and that definitely affects my participation in fandom. I have managed to harness it for Yuletide the past several years, since I have trained myself to trigger a productive panic cycle upon receiving my assignment, and tend to finish my first draft within the first three days of getting the assignment (this almost backfired last year, when the Yuletide system mismatched some people and assignments had to be redone). However, one reason I learned that harness is because there was a year I took on several challenges and then crashed really, really badly, dropping out of nearly all of them. And while I have found a system that works for me for Yuletide, Remix, and my own exchange, I have resigned myself to really not being able to officially participate in any other fannish challenge, which was a hard transition to make.

At any rate, I say all of that to say that a diversity of challenge formats is a very good idea for allowing more people to play, although I have tried running low-impact, non-exchange, soft-deadline challenges before with little success. It sounds like the concept is coming more into fashion, though. I hope so. Also, I really like the idea of a c&p form if a dropout is necessary. Despite my own social anxiety, I never would have thought of that, and it's such a simple thing.

Thanks for using the spoons to lay out that and other suggestions! I realize they're not all feasible for all challenges, but the ability to incorporate even just one of them would make a lot of challenges a lot more accessible, I think.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-10 06:38 am (UTC)
rian_aphasia: Lyn-Z; Mindless Self Indulgence (Default)
From: [personal profile] rian_aphasia
I like the idea of making it clear in the rules or intro post or whatever that dropping out is okay, because for some of us being given that permission helps us deal with stress levels a lot. Also the form letter thing; I have a pretty firm belief that if you are at all in a space where you are able to let people know you can't do something you said you would/wanted to, you should try to let someone know you can't. But I realize that, for many of us, actually putting the words down, or having to deal with any possible confrontation, or dealing with the idea of "letting people down" is really fucking difficult at the best of times. For me at least, it'd be really helpful if the people running something challenges and stuff thought to put down little form letters we can copy-paste, like "I'm having a flare-up of something and I can't finish my piece" or "I'm having a disability-related issue that's screwing with my ability to put the words in my head down on a page or word document and might need to drop out" or something like that.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-11-11 04:47 am (UTC)
originalpuck: Uhura and Rand are Smiling (uhura and rand)
From: [personal profile] originalpuck
I just saw this over at metafandom, so I know I'm running a bit late, but I'm so very glad you made this post. I can't even explain, really, other than that it brings tears to my eyes with how dead-on it is. I have social anxiety, depression, congestive heart failure, and generalized anxiety disorder.

I can't always anticipate when those things will act up, but when they do, they make participating in challenges of the format you mentioned nearly impossible. And the part about the 'just' e-mailing is so true, too.

I remember having to bail on a Harry Potter ficathon a few years ago, due to anxiety and depression-related issues, and was so stressed out, ashamed, and afraid of being banned from any other groups (or looked at askance) that I left the fandom for a year.

It's still what prevents me from participating in many of these things, and what makes me want to curl-up and cry because so many of my other fandom friends are chatting about how great these things are, how they're one of the few ways to get your fic noticed in big fandoms, and yet they're simply not something I can really do, no matter how hard I try.

And I do try. I had this problem just recently, in fact, with having to whittle down my challenges because of disability reasons (and spoons, oh the spoons). I ended up lying to some people about the problem, because I was too nervous that they would be unsympathetic towards my disabilities.

I - just -- yes. Again, thank you so much for this.

(no subject)

Date: 2009-12-22 01:56 am (UTC)
karayan: Amatsuki: Bonten (A different kind of salvation army.)
From: [personal profile] karayan
I see a lot of myself in this post, being someone with generalized anxiety and similar interest patterns. So, basically, thanks for posting this. ♥
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