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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 11:08 am 

Joined: June 12th, 2007, 4:26 pm
Posts: 194
Location: Southern UK
Librivox admins: are we brave and big enough to have a debate here, or is a weekend's thought and an hours typing going to vanish? It would be great if it was the former, because I'm not the only one thinking this....

I came to Librivox about 10 months ago, and since then I've read some stuff, tweaked the wiki, contributed to a podcast, proved that remote book collaberation can be done, and contributed a bit of something different to the fun projects.

Of course, I don't mean "oooh, look at me, look what I've done", as I've contributed a tiny fraction of what some contribute. But when I do it, first of all, I usually do it the same day as I put in for it (if you can't do it, don't say you will), and secondly, I read, I edit, I do my own rec-check, then I put headphones on and listen for buzz, hum, clicks or squelches, I re-record again if needed, then I carefully play with the mp3 encoding to make sure it is "just so", and the end result hasn't needed anyone to do my editing for me.

I don't believe the listener deserves any less than the best I can do. But we have this bizarre "no comments" policy - and yet we also all know the external reviews and the real world is out there, and in almost every case, if we were brave enough to say, for example "ok, but slow it down, pace, and don't eat the mic", it would be great.
Heaven forbid the poor fellow ever sees that external review - he's a big contributor, and he could be great with just a few nudges - but he's an "avoid this reader" in the reviews. What a waste of a great resource.

Point 2 would be this whole public domain thing - it puts people off.
You know, I think it's great that people have the time to do this for free. In a couple of cases, they don't need to worry financially, and I know there are also quite a few house-bound people here, and I think that's really fantastic they they contribute - and I really don't mean that to sound patronising.

I don't begrudge reading at all - although my voice is part of my income, I also volunteer reading the talking newspaper, and do some free audio description for the local theatre. But no-one is going to be bundling up my work and selling it on.
And here's where I think the most needless policy is:
http://librivox.org/wiki/moin.cgi/Copyr ... blicDomain
Quote:
If you volunteer to record for LibriVox, you must agree to release the audio files you make into the public domain. This means that anyone can use those audio files however they wish.

What does "however they wish" mean, exactly? People may use our recordings to profit; Anyone may do all kinds of things that you would prefer them not do - and you have no recourse to change that. For example you might see:
CDs of Romance of Rubber sold as a fundraiser for a charity you don't like;
Origin of the Species as background atmosphere for a pornographic film;
Fables for the Frivolous sampled into a violent rap song;
The summary of Frankenstein used to promote a major motion picture;
our recording clipped apart and rearranged as a ransom note, signed with your name and city.

Why MUST I agree to that? I mean, why is it necessary to have that at all? Sure, it doesn't stop someone doing that, but it provides no deterrent either - it's almost incitement to do something like that.

And no, I'm not down with this whole "intellectual copyright is evil" nonsense - of course, I'm not asking for "copyright" on the recording, but anyone who uses that argument needs to put their welfare cheque down and think about who's paying it! Then pop on a Che Guevara t-shirt and move to Cuba :D

BUT - all of that aside, the thing that got me in the end was the whole fragility of people's egos round here. A while back, I pointed out that I thought that a certain recording was great, I like the voice and reading style, but the audio quality was poor. But we don't do that - my post was corrected.

I also pointed out last year that some of the very long community podcasts could be confusing to newcomers who didn't know what mojomove was (and why would they), and even though there was general agreement that perhaps there was a little tightening of podcasts to be done, it provoked a flurry of PMs...how dare I criticise!

So, I pretty soon learnt not to have an opinion if it wasn't anything but glowing.

And so, I posted this post:
digitaltoast wrote:
Great! The CoriCasts are always good - just the right length, and plenty to keep interested....lack of inane waffle always makes a good podcast!
Simply because I enjoyed it - I listen to a lot of podcasts - not just Librivoxcasts - on the train and cycling to work, and there are some good ones and there are some bad ones. The good ones are generally 10-20 minutes long, and make me want to listen again. The others have me keeping my finger on FF a lot - and if you read the sentence, I don't see how it could be interpreted as an attack on anyone here or certainly not any one person in particular. In fact, can anyone see an attack in that sentence at all?

But oh no, the PMs came in - apparently, my comments were "hurtful" and my "slams" at other podcasters "unnecessary". Wow - I'd love to see what a psychiatrist could read into THAT interpretation! Certainly a whole lot more than was being meant. And then I had another PM from hugh, who had obviously been contacted by the aggrieved, with a more rational and diplomatic response, but basically saying egos are like glass round here, tread carefully. (hugh can publish his pm if he wants - it's not up to me).

You know, it all feels a bit Stepford Wives - on the surface, everything is shiny and lovely and controlled, but scratch the skin and it's all a bit septic underneath - if you don't give people enough oxygen to breath, they become stifled and start flailing about.

In summary, on it's own, fragile egos might almost be amusing and cope-able with (is that even a word?!), but add the enforced public domain policy, the no-improvement of readers policy, and an upset PM guaranteed whether I praise or comment, and you know...I just can't be bothered!

If the PD policy changes, I'll probably come back, but at the moment, if I've got any spare time, I think I'll read a book to myself, thank you.

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Last edited by digitaltoast on March 26th, 2008, 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 11:57 am 

Joined: April 30th, 2006, 2:17 pm
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You will be missed. You added some humour here.

Esther

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 12:04 pm 

Joined: February 21st, 2007, 11:23 am
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I don't know you very well, but thank you, digitaltoast, for making your point forcefully but not disparagingly. I definitely see where you're coming from, but I'm sorry to hear that it's enough to make you want to leave LibriVox.

I don't really like the wording for our Public Domain policy either - is that your main problem with that, or do you not want your recordings to be in the public domain at all?

And I think we Admins do get trigger-happy with the edit button. We're on the lookout for truly offensive posts, and that makes it easy to read into comments that are innocent. But what would you recommend we do? I don't mean that in a patronizing way. What should we do if someone comes along and says something like, "I hated your recording of [x]. You are so f***ing stupid.. if you're not gonna do it right don't do it all." I'm not suggesting that your comments about Cori's podcasts fall in that category, but where should we draw the line? You've obviously given this some thought, and I'd like to help improve things around here.

Your thoughts are definitely welcome.

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 12:31 pm 

Joined: September 23rd, 2007, 11:02 am
Posts: 870
Location: Manchester, NH, America
I agree with you, digitaltoast, that there does seem to be a culture of walking on egg shells here. But I understand why. The goal of LibriVox is to record audiobooks, not form a community. In order to meet that goal, LV needs volunteers.

The vast majority of LV volunteer readers do a very fine job---not professional, but definitely good enough. But most people hate their voices and are a bit shy about recording. So trying to get people to overcome that fear and join in the project is a bit like trying to sneak up on a startle-prone chihuahua.

Recording our voices is a very personal thing. Radio hosts know this well, that spoken audio content is an intimate medium compared to video and text.

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 1:28 pm 
I can see that this could be a difficult debate. I'll contribute just one point to it (for now, no promises about the day after tomorrow :-) )

The public domain thing is, I think, a practical response to a potentially enormous problem. If you are going to impose conditions, then you must police them, or they were imposed pointlessly. If we used the most liberal non-PD Creative Commons license, CC-BY* (attribution) I believe, we should still have to look out for people using without attribution the works we create. That is a significant burden. It would not be acceptable to say to ourselves "We'll license it that way, and if we ever find out by chance that someone is using our stuff without attributing us, then we'll pursue them," for even in that case it would cost money, time, or effort, all of which might be spent on producing more content. If we pursued transgressors half-heartedly, and gave up when we could no longer be bothered, then the content is effectively in the public domain. When all's said and done, it's much easier to put our stuff into the PD and let it go. Once there, it will never go away, and no-one needs to look out for it any more, from a legal standpoint anyway.

* CC-BY allows commercial use, and derivative works with no further conditions imposed on the derived work.


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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 1:34 pm 
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good debate, comments coming!

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 1:35 pm 

Joined: June 12th, 2007, 4:26 pm
Posts: 194
Location: Southern UK
LeonMire wrote:
I don't know you very well, but thank you, digitaltoast, for making your point forcefully but not disparagingly. I definitely see where you're coming from, but I'm sorry to hear that it's enough to make you want to leave LibriVox.

I don't really like the wording for our Public Domain policy either - is that your main problem with that, or do you not want your recordings to be in the public domain at all?
Not at all - I don't mind recording for free, and I don't mind how far and wide it gets distributed. But I think my point is that the PD rules, as they are here, explain that my efort is anyones, to the length that (thinking back about what I've recorded), someone could quite easily glue together me saying "I enjoy touching small boys", turn it into a rap, go double platinum with it, make a mint, and he'd be totally within his rights.

Real world example - when I was involved in the pi project here, I was really getting into it, and managed to make contact (at great length!) with the producer of this song: http://pi.ytmnd.com/
Yes, he would be OK with donating the song to the pi project, would be happy to add the intro and outro...but not if it had to be PD. I checked back here - one rule for all...we lost out, and who can blame him?
Fact is, how does this PD rule actually help the listeners, or Librivox, or indeed anyone or thing or cause?
LeonMire wrote:
What should we do if someone comes along and says something like, "I hated your recording of [x]. You are so f***ing stupid.. if you're not gonna do it right don't do it all." I'm not suggesting that your comments about Cori's podcasts fall in that category, but where should we draw the line?
But has that REALLY happened? There's a difference between saying that, and saying "I really liked the read, but the audio quality let it down a bit". Incidentally, just in case you got the wrong end of the stick, I was saying I liked Cori's podcast. I have a few favourite readers, namely Cori, Carl, Joy (not Brit-biased, honestly!) Kayray* etc - only because it's hard to find a voice you like, and once you've found that, it's just easier to listen to a book like that!
LeonMire wrote:
You've obviously given this some thought, and I'd like to help improve things around here.
Well, looking back, I do sound like a bit of a flouncing drama queen.
I'd just love someone to either explain a solid reasoning for the PD policy, or drop it.

EDIT: Exactly like the point icyjumbo made while I was typing this :)

*Readers I haven't mentioned should not infer I don't like them - I just haven't discovered them yet! PM's with hints appreciated! :)

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 1:53 pm 
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defense of public domain on the way,... in the mean time, re: criticisms, here is my favourite bit of fan mail I have received:
Quote:
subject: Fuck Huuuuuuuuugh,

I just got done listening to your "performance" of the last chapter of Frankenstein on librivox. Jesus fucking Christ Hugh, I know it's only a free service, but if you aren't going to do it right, don't fucking do it at all. What were you high when you read that? The volume was too low, every other sentence is a jumble, one second i can barely hear you, the next you are breaking my eardrums. There are tons of repeat loops on there, do you or does anyone fucking edit or listen to it before they throw it up on that site? I've listened to a few books on librivox, and for the most part the narration was ok, there was one chick who stuttered but I think she can't help that. You could have at least reviewed your work and taken some pride in it. You probably won't get the Larry David reference, but Fuck Hugh

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 1:59 pm 
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oh and by the way, it occurs that it might seem as if the "no crit" policy is to protect my fragile ego from such emails ... in fact, i thought that was very funny, and i really don't mind getting bad reviews myselfl but I do know of a number of people who have quit making recordings for LV because of bad reviews (often the complainers seek out their emails and send their notes directly). and I get constant emails complaining about this or that recording (outnumbered by the positive ones, of course!).

but anyway, in some sense that's an aside, there is deeper philosophical reason for the no crit policy, that is coupled with its pragmatic benefits (again, coming soon - but can't write right now).

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 2:19 pm 

Joined: September 23rd, 2007, 11:02 am
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hugh wrote:
defense of public domain on the way,... in the mean time, re: criticisms, here is my favourite bit of fan mail I have received:
Quote:
subject: Fuck Huuuuuuuuugh,

I just got done listening to your "performance" of the last chapter of Frankenstein on librivox. Jesus fucking Christ Hugh, I know it's only a free service, but if you aren't going to do it right, don't fucking do it at all. What were you high when you read that? The volume was too low, every other sentence is a jumble, one second i can barely hear you, the next you are breaking my eardrums. There are tons of repeat loops on there, do you or does anyone fucking edit or listen to it before they throw it up on that site? I've listened to a few books on librivox, and for the most part the narration was ok, there was one chick who stuttered but I think she can't help that. You could have at least reviewed your work and taken some pride in it. You probably won't get the Larry David reference, but Fuck Hugh


:shock:

There is a difference between criticism and abuse. That's just BS. I hope you don't have a lot of that flooding your inbox.

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 2:28 pm 
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no no of course not ... it's my favourite for a reason!

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 2:48 pm 

Joined: May 22nd, 2007, 10:25 pm
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hugh wrote:
defense of public domain on the way,... in the mean time, re: criticisms, here is my favourite bit of fan mail I have received:
Quote:
subject: Fuck Huuuuuuuuugh,

I just got done listening to your "performance" of the last chapter of Frankenstein on librivox. Jesus fucking Christ Hugh, I know it's only a free service, but if you aren't going to do it right, don't fucking do it at all. What were you high when you read that? The volume was too low, every other sentence is a jumble, one second i can barely hear you, the next you are breaking my eardrums. There are tons of repeat loops on there, do you or does anyone fucking edit or listen to it before they throw it up on that site? I've listened to a few books on librivox, and for the most part the narration was ok, there was one chick who stuttered but I think she can't help that. You could have at least reviewed your work and taken some pride in it. You probably won't get the Larry David reference, but Fuck Hugh
That guy needs an upgrade in the vocabulary department...

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 3:32 pm 
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1. the "no criticism" policy - general case
This comes up pretty often. Someone listens to a LV recording, doesn't like reader X - solo or part of a group - and comes to the forum. Posts "gee, book Z was really great, except for reader X, who has a terrible voice/an accent I don't like/mispronounces words/should never be let near a microphone/is american/is british/is a girl/is a boy" ... etc etc. What is the result of such a post? Well, in the case of many, it's enough of a deterrent to turn them off recording. It's happened - because although such criticisms are edited out of the forum postings, sometimes these people find the email of the reader, and send an email to tell the reader what crap they are. And on a few occasions that I know of, and probably more occasions that I don't know of, the reader quits.

Is the criticism legitimate? It depends what legitimate means. The whole point of LibriVox is that anyone can participate - you do not have to be trained, experienced or even good at reading. We do not have auditions, we do not say no, by design. We aren't trying to make the best recordings, we aren't trying to make BBC-quality recordings, we are trying to fulfill our objective, which is:
Quote:
To make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet.


And the question is, what is the best way to do that? With auditions? With barriers to entry? With open season on criticizing people who make recordings you don't like? Or by doing as we have done: saying: anyone can and should feel free to record, no one should worry about peers in LibriVox cutting up their efforts to contribute, we take anyone and everyone. Your efforts to record the text and in and of themselves proof of their worth; you've made a text available that was not available before, kudos and on to the next one (if you choose).

The results are in the catalog - we are now among the most prolific publishers of audiobooks (maybe the most prolific) in the world. And the catalog is certainly idiosyncratic, but there is an enormous amount truly wonderful work there -- wonderful in the objective, professional recording-quality sort of way; many :"good" by those standards, and some that are probably hard for many people to listen to. But no one is forcing anyone to listen, and when you assess what we've done you have to look at the whole result, which again, I find pretty impressive.

And if you just can't abide by a recording you don't like, please please make us a new one.

Other groups take a different tack, see: www.spokenalex.org and www.literalsystems.org, and numerous other projects out there with a different standard of quality control. They all do wonderful stuff, to a more "professional" standard. They have a different approach, which is good - there is an enormous amount of room for all sorts of audio projects on the web, we are just one corner. (incidentally, their stuff is CC, not PD).

As for feedback to improve recordings, it seems to me the best thing would be to have a better system for "people who want feedback." In that case, feedback is asked for and expected.

But for the unsolicited kind, it often does more harm than good to our objective, and that's why the policy looks as it does.


2. the "no criticism" policy, Digital Toast's recent experience
As I mentioned to you and to the writer of the PMs you refer to, I think your post was fine. And I too worry about the stepfordian dimensions some of the policies seem to take on on occasion, but it's a risk of a big and getting-bigger project, that in order to keep it clicking along smoothly there is a need for policies, and that introduces a certain amount of inflexibility. But complaints about the "nice police" have been around since the beginning, and once again, while I believe in the general principle as an ideal, the ideal has been borne out in the results. A big community busily productive doing something wonderful, in a mostly positive, fun atmosphere.

One of the successes of LibriVox is the general good nature of the forum. We are unlike many other places online, and we have a really low tolerance for the usual forum combat that happens elsewhere. Again, when trying to figure things out, I always refer to the mission:
Quote:
To make all books in the public domain available, for free, in audio format on the internet.

So, does our sometimes overzealously-enforced "be nice" policy help or hinder? I think it helps. It helps many people (who are not used to forums) feel comfortable in the community which is essential if we want to keep doing what we're doing. I, for one, get so turned off by flame wars. They are unpleasant and stressful and when they happen, rarely, here, they make LirbiVox a chore. Flamewars are so far from helping our mission that it's a no brainer... and we have a nip em in the bud approach (generally, while leaving, as much as possible, space for interesting debate etc), which touches the no criticism rules as well.

The downside is the stepfordianism... but you can't make an omelette without breaking an egg. And I'll take a bit of forced cheer over nastiness on the web any day, and its not as if there aren't plenty of places for harsh criticism on the web.

One thing I do worry about, referred to in your subheadding line, is that it occasionally appears that some discussions are off limits. And, for me anyway, that's wrong. I love debating and discussing this stuff, and the more of it the better actually. We do have a line about personal attacks and the like, but that's just the general "be nice" policy and is not related to the content.

What does happen occasionally is something along the lines of: "librivox policy is so-and-so, please see this forum thread for more info." Thats unfortunate... but on the other hand, when some of these issues seem to get hashed out over and over and often out of laziness (i speak for myself) it's easier to point at the piles of existing texts rather than writing a new one again.

But one weekend's writing deserves another!


3. public domain
This one will have to wait till later... but it's coming. It's the really important one.

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 3:54 pm 

Joined: June 12th, 2007, 4:26 pm
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digitaltoast wrote:
LeonMire wrote:
What should we do if someone comes along and says something like, "I hated your recording of [x]. You are so f***ing stupid.. if you're not gonna do it right don't do it all."
But has that REALLY happened?

hugh wrote:
here is my favourite bit of fan mail I have received:
Quote:
Jesus fucking Christ Hugh, I know it's only a free service, but if you aren't going to do it right, don't fucking do it at all.

Aaaaaarggggh! OK, I well and truly got caught out there - that's EXACTLY what happened! Obviously, this has come up before - or LeonMire was taking a darn good guess :) :roll:

That showed me :oops:

EDIT: Was just going to sleep, when I had what may almost be close to a good idea - what about a mentoring sub-forum? (I'm not suggesting I do it - I seem to have a habit of not quite getting across what I mean!) I know we've got "new here?" and "need advice?" forums, but what about a place where a newbie could upload something somewhere private (possibly using the current upload system), with the expectation that someone would listen to it and say "good read, but you have a little mains noise there, you can cure that by" .... "great sound, just try moving back from the mic a little" .... "There's no need to rush it" ... "Think about talking to someone way behind the mic, not just at it" (that one really does help project, oddly enough!). I don't think I've heard anyone with "problems" that couldn't be improved with basic, gentle mentoring. If you can make a sound, you can change that sound. If you can speak fast, you can speak slow. And the fact is, there's a really excellent guide and associated podcast about this subject here: http://librivox.org/wiki/moin.cgi/HelpWhatIfISuck - the info is there, with a bit of 1-to-1 it's really not that tricky :)

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Post Posted:: March 26th, 2008, 4:54 pm 
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i like this idea - making a more visible space for people who do want coaching to get it.... i think we have a bit of that in the "listeners wanted" thread - but it's kind of hidden.

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