Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

About Voting No Award

I've been asked once again to explain how No Award works in the Hugo Awards.

No Award is a real option with real consequences. If No Award wins the election, no Hugo Award is presented in that category. It's not the pretend "None of these Candidates" option that some US states like Nevada have, where the second-place finisher wins.

No Award is not theoretical. The last time it won was the 1977 Hugo Awards, where there was no Hugo Award presented for Best Dramatic Presentation.

How should I mark my ballot if I don't like any of the candidates at all? Well, if you dislike them all equally, just put a 1 by No Award and leave the rest of your ballot in that category blank.

I like some of the candidates, but not all of them and don't want any of the others to win. How should I vote? Rank the candidates that you do want to win in preference order, then No Award. If you dislike all of the remaining candidates equally, leave them all off your ballot.

What happens when I rank things below No Award? This is where people seem to get the most confused. In the initial counting of ballots, we count No Award like any other candidate. That means it can be eliminated like any other candidate. (Most years, it drops off first, as it gets fewer votes than any of the other candidates.) As with the item above, when you've ranked every candidate you liked and reach the point where you'd rather have nothing win than what's left, mark No Award. Then comes the tricky part:
  1. If you dislike all of the remaining candidates equally, leave them all off your ballot. You've just voted against all of them identically. Anything you leave off your ballot is (in effect) tied for last place.

  2. If there are candidates that you nominally prefer over others below No Award, rank them in the order you prefer them. This is saying that "I'd rather X, Y, and Z not win at all, but if one of them must win, I'd prefer X over Y over Z." You've still voted against all of them, but you've said that one of them winning is slightly less obnoxious than the others.

ETA: Unranked Choices after No Award if you ranked anything after no award: Because there is a person in the comments below who won't stop nagging about this, I add one other caveat: If you vote No Award in any place, and then rank some works, and then leave other works off your ballot entirely, you're ranking the ones you did choose (even behind No Award) ahead of the works you left off the ballot. Any work you ranked might collect your vote to come in ahead of the works you left unranked, even to the point of being declared the Preliminary Winner. This means that if you vote No Award, you no longer have a meaningful "No opinion" option. If you want to keep it simple, either leave everything blank after No Award or rank every possible choice after No Award.

Ranking any choice below No Award means you've still voted against it winning. This is something that people seem to have a difficult time understanding, but there are two reasons for it:
  1. In the preliminary vote counting, your vote for No Award counts until it's eliminated. Your vote for further preferences never count until No Award is eliminated.

  2. After the preliminary winner is determined (assuming it's not No Award), your vote for No Award gets a "second chance" to knock out the winner in a head-to-head showdown.

The No Award Showdown gives No Award two chances to win. After the regular instant-runoff voting result returns a Preliminary Winner (other than No Award), there is one more test, where we count only those ballots where the PW is marked or NA is marked (or both, of course). We now count the ballots again, ignoring anything except the PW or NA. This amounts to a straight head-to-head vote on the question, "Shall we elect the Preliminary Winner as the Hugo Award winner?" We examine each ballot and ask these questions:
  • If the Preliminary Winner ranks higher than No Award (or the PW is ranked and NA isn't mentioned), count this as a YES vote for the Preliminary Winner.

  • If No Award ranks higher than the Preliminary Winner (or NA is ranked and the PW isn't mentioned), count this as a NO vote against the Preliminary Winner.

  • If neither the Preliminary Winner nor No Award is listed, this is a blank ballot and doesn't count at all.
Total the YES and NO votes. If YES wins, the Preliminary Winner is confirmed. If NO wins, then No Award wins.

Again, No Award gets multiple chances to knock out works on the ballot. However, in fairness, I want to point out that no work has ever been eliminated on a No Award Showdown.

Summary:
  1. If you dislike everything on the ballot equally, vote No Award 1 and leave the rest blank.

  2. If you like some and dislike everything else equally, rank your favorites in preference order, then No Award, then leave the rest blank.

  3. If you like some candidates, dislike the others, but want to influence the relative placement of the works you dislike, then mark the candidates you like, then No Award, then the ones you dislike.

I really hope this helps. I see so much nonsense posted about No Award and people trying to tease out some sort of Hidden Meaning from the rules, when in fact WSFS doesn't hide elephants in mouseholes.

If you still have questions, post them here and I'll try to answer them.
Tags: hugo awards, worldcon, wsfs
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Thank you Kevin. I find this to be a clear explanation of how "No Award" works.
Thank you. By the way, I keep seeing comments that the Hugos were somehow broken before this assault, but honestly seeing your explanations of how it's worked so far, it seems to me that it is not a broken system: it's just not magically invulnerable and it's also not perfect. But seriously, it looks healthy enough to withstand this in the long run.
Yeah, I don't see the system as broken at all, I see the fandom as divided and that being reflected in the nominations. But fandom is always at war in one way or another.

jorhett

April 6 2015, 00:06:27 UTC 3 years ago Edited:  April 6 2015, 00:07:50 UTC

WSFS doesn't hide elephants in mouseholes.

I have been to numerous meetings where old-guard WSFS members went to great lengths to pull elephants out of mouseholes, not always unsuccessfully.

I agree that the current rules are intended to be very clear, but the way some members prevaricate around the original meaning...

Anonymous

April 7 2015, 00:33:04 UTC 3 years ago

Last year one of the nominees for best novel was the Wheel of Time which is 14 books published over 23 years by two different authors. That's definitely an elephant squeezed into a mousehole.
Thank you Kevin.

I have been trying to explain to people that stuff you place below No Award doesn't help decide what wins anymore--it only helps decide what loses.

But I only know that because I have seen your explanations.
That's a good way to put it: Voting something below no award doesn't decide who wins; it decides what loses last. This is similar to what I've often said about Instant Runoff Voting (the technical name for our voting system): It doesn't choose the most-favored candidate; it chooses the least-disliked one.

tully01

3 years ago

robot_culinaire

3 years ago

kevin_standlee

3 years ago

Thanks, Kev! This is invaluable!
Thanks Kevin. And be sure to keep the link up in FB. As frequently it is easier to just refer to my friend Kevin Standlee from my phone rather than set up a specific link to LJ.
Thank you for this. It's really helpful and very good of you to take the time to write it.
"No Award" always makes me think of the '71 snafu with Asimov announcing Gene Wolfe as winner on accident. Mostly because I'm glad for the back-handed inspiration for more Wolfe.
May we link this on metanews? We also post on DreamWidth and Tumblr.
You, or anyone else reading this, can link to or quote this (with attribution) anywhere and in any medium you like. I wrote it so I'd have a convenient place to point the next time someone asks the technical questions.

brad_templeton

April 7 2015, 00:39:04 UTC 3 years ago Edited:  April 7 2015, 01:26:54 UTC

Kevin, I am afraid your advice, which some are describing as authoritative, is incomplete and to some degree incorrect.

This leaves out the common situation where I have not read/evaluated a work, and I do the normal action in this case, which is to leave it off the ballot. I believe a large fraction of ballots do not list all candidates. In this very common situation, it is important you do not rank unworthy works below No Award.

To demonstrate why, consider a race between works you consider Great, Unread and Unworthy. Following your advice, your ballot would read: "Great, No Award, Unworthy"

During the process, if it's like almost every Hugo ballot ever summed, No Award will be eliminated. However if the work Great is then eliminated, the ballot may come down to a contest between Unread and Unworthy. Your vote will now get counted as a vote for Unworthy, and in the case of a tie, your ballot could give it a Hugo award tie or solo win it would not otherwise have.

So no, the advice that ranking works below no award only helps decide the losers is incorrect. Voting below No Award can give the unworthy work a Hugo.

It is still true that the 2nd chance applies, you will contribute to that tally as a vote for No Award even if it's eliminated (as it essentially always is eliminated.) But the situation above can still happen so long as the Unworthy work had more supporters than detractors.

It is OK to rank works below No Award IF AND ONLY IF you rank all nominees on your ballot, including ones you did not read. So you have the option of listing unread works on the ballot after your choices and before No Award. This has other consequences, you will end up expressing a random preference among unread works (If you didn't read more than one) which is somewhat capricious. On the other hand, it does mean that in a contest between Unread and Unworthy, you do always tip the scales for the Unread work.

There is no perfect answer, of course. But normally the right answer is, "Rank worthy works in order. If there are any unworthy works, next rank No Award. Do not rank unworthy or unread works."

The solution would be to have an option on the ballot that means "No opinion" The Hugo ballot does not have this. In that case, your ballot would be counted for No Opinion works over Unworthy works, but would not be counted in a contest strictly among No Opinion works. This added complexity is generally been viewed, before this year, as not worth the trouble.
Another poster had an even simpler explanation. In the Hugo system, not ranking a nominee means "Tied for last place." There is no lower ranking than not being ranked. Even "ranked lower than No Award" is a higher ranking than unranked. This makes it much clearer that the best way to show disdain for a work is to not rank it, particularly if you rank No Award anywhere on your ballot. It may be emotionally satisfying to give it a rank worse than "no award" but it's misleading.

Unranked works are all tied for last place, so if you have "unread" (no opinion) works you can choose to leave them unranked (ie. below all others, including No Award if you used it) or you can put them on the ballot below No Award (still higher than the unranked nominees) or on the ballot above No Award but below the ones you approve of.

Because unranked works are in last place, they also lose the second chance contest with No Award when that is applied. The only thing they don't lose to is other unranked works, in those competitions you give no input.

The reason for confusion? People often leave works unranked, and it doesn't matter when they are not ranking no award. There is, however, no way to declare a tie, except for your last place choices.

kevin_standlee

3 years ago

brad_templeton

3 years ago

kevin_standlee

3 years ago

brad_templeton

3 years ago

kevin_standlee

3 years ago

brad_templeton

3 years ago

kevin_standlee

3 years ago

brad_templeton

3 years ago

Thank you. I kept searching for a term to replace what people THOUGHT they were talking about when they said "rank below No Award" when they were really meaning "leave the rest of the ballot blank." Thanks for clarification, and I'm sharing this everywhere, even in the comments of my own explanatory post!

Anonymous

April 7 2015, 14:57:44 UTC 3 years ago

A nit: I would contend that a work that gets zero first-preference votes means it is sufficiently disliked that it would leave everyone dissatisfied if it were to win, and thus fails the "least-disliked" test. That's just my opinion, though. ISTM that this depends on levels of dissatisfaction and how people rank them -- which is probably beyond what any practicable voting system can measure. Does putting an item in 2nd place mean the voter would be dissatisfied, or merely less satisfied? I don't see a simple ranking measuring this, even with IRV; I would expect some voters to be passionate partisans of one work, and others to agonise over every relative ranking.

Consider that virtually every Hugo decision has required stepwise elimination of all but one of the candidates (in order to get to the state where one candidate has a majority of the surviving ballots); any guess on what this means for the average (arithmetic mean) position of the victor on all the ballots together? I suspect that average is often two-point-something; compare the dissatisfaction that could produce with the dissatisfaction of the winner being \everybody/'s 2nd-place choice.

I remember an author dismissing their Hugo (nomination? win chance?) with "The Hugo goes to everyone's second choice." As noted, this is certainly not true, because such a work would be eliminated in the first round. (Yes, I hear you muttering about Condorcet. Let's keep this to the current system.) The author in question did win, but I'm not sure they ever understood that their statement was incorrect.

Short form: sometimes compromise (nobody gets everything, everybody(?) gets something) can be satisfactory. (Sometimes not -- but winning a prize is different from (e.g.) minority rights.)

/CHip
There is a theorem that proves that all voting systems have failure modes, though that theorem is not necessarily true for a literary award, because the theorem only applies when there can be only one winner -- ie. things like Presidential elections. Still, it is mostly true even for votes that can have ties. My friend Ping has a great page showing visual representations of many of these flaws at http://zesty.ca/voting/sim/

I personally think Condorcet does very well when you allow ties, because Condorcet's main failure mode is A beats B, B beats C and C beats A. This can be resolved as a 3 way tie, and I think that is the right resolution. I like Condorcet as well because it is easier to explain than STV, and explaining STV has always been a bane of the Hugos. And in reality that failure mode is very rare. One thing that is true about Condorcet is that it would give the award to "everybody's 2nd choice" even if that 2nd choice got zero first choice votes, while STV always eliminates it. It's a matter of taste to decide which is the better result.

I am also becoming a bit of a fan of Approval for the reasons Ping is. Approval has its flaws but it is damn simple to understand. However, Approval can end up giving the award simply to the work that most people read.

brad_templeton

3 years ago

Kind of random... but just why did the 1977 Dramatic Presentation get No Award? Google tells me nothing, but it's hard to imagine what there was about CARRIE that failed to impress a significant portion of those who voted.
I have no idea what killed the '77 BDP Hugo. I started attending in 1984. (The icon photo is of me at ConAdian holding one of the 1994 Hugo trophies whose base I co-designed.) I've never heard a story behind that year's Hugo voting. And it was a weird final ballot, with several categories having only four finalists.

k6rfm

3 years ago

Anonymous

3 years ago

scott_sanford

3 years ago

Thanks for adding the bit about not ranking being the same as ranking last. Brad is right, and I hadn't figured it out on my own. I wish you'd let that influence the summary somehow, though I can't suggest clearer words.
Kevin, thank you for the explanation. I guess one thing that surprised me is that someone you mention in your post is part of this, what to call it, "conspiracy" to ensure that some good stuff never got nominated or that someone else is trying to destroy the Hugos by acting like a spoiled child.

You also explained something with which I've been familiar for about 20 years, that WotF is a hype by a destructive cult (funny thing is, one of its biggest supporters is a part of another destructive cult - no names, please).
someone you mention in your post

The only person I even indirectly mention in this article is the person who niggled me about one of the edge cases until I included a paragraph to satisfy him. Care to elaborate?
You also explained something with which I've been familiar for about 20 years

I am not talking about WotF or anything other than the Hugo Awards in this article. Are you responding to he same LJ post I wrote?

sffilk

3 years ago

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