Before beginning the submissions period for a full edition, I want to conduct at least one small scale trial of decentre to test how the software and the idea in general works. The aim is for them to be small enough that even if various things go wrong, I'll be able to respond promptly to them (in addition to working, living, etc.)We're looking for people to submit for these trails; if you're interested, read the below, then the guidelines on the next page, and then and send an email. There's a lot of reading, but decentre is, as far as I know, a unique project, so it's necessary. UPDATE: We'll also be accepting poems. See below.
Here is how it will work. We will run two trials (initially, my plan was just to trial it with stories, but feedback from a would-be participant convinced me to run one for poems, too.) 20 people will submit either a 3-5k word short story or, in a single file, a batch of up to three poems. Hereafter, let's call either a 3-5k word story or a single file containing a batch of up to three poems a submission. These submissions are divided into two groups of 10, call them groups s1 and s2. And the submitters are divided into two groups, and let's call them g1 and g2. Submission groups are allocated to submitter groups; no one is assigned to a group to which their submission belongs. So, let's say g1 will get s2 and g1 s2, so if you're in g1, your submission will be in s1, so you won't read it, or anything that competes with it.
In the trial, making a submission commits you to reading most likely 5 (possibly 4) other submissions (that is, if you submit a story, to reading 5(/4) other submissions and if you submit a poem, to reading 5(/4) batches of poems), in return. Each submission gets allocated to 3 submitters as readers, initially. Each reader scores the submissions out of 20, giving the highest number to the one they most like; we tot up the scores, and the top three submissions in each group go to the second round (I haven't quite worked out the best way to do this in the case of poem batches--do we have readers chose their favourite poem from each batch and assign it a score, and send most the highly scoring poems through? Or do we have them choose their favourite batch, and winnow individual poems from batches at some later stage? Opinions on this from would-be poetry submitters are welcome). At this stage, each submission receives 3 new readers. This means each person gets a new submission to read, and one person, instead of reading, manages the preceding stage. We tot up the scores again, and the winning submissions from each group goes to the final against the winners from the other group, which has been operating in exactly the same way. At this final stage, each reader in g1 reads the finalist in s2, and vice versa, so the two finalists end up being read by 15 people each, which isn't bad. The votes are then taken again, a winner is announced, and the winner and runner up are published on this site.
The timeframe for this is intended to be quick. We allow for the initial stage two weeks, and for the two subsequent stages one week each, so that the winner will be determined and promoted one month after the final submission is received. I hope the timeframe is enough that even people working full time jobs or otherwise time-poor won't be dissuaded from participating (it amounts to one hour a week); if it's too onerous, please let me know.
One thing: if you win, and don't want your story (or poems) to be published yet, that is, for this trial, perfectly acceptable. It's up to you, because, as I've said, this is an experiment, and frequently magazines refuse to accept papers which have been published anywhere, and I don't want your participation in this experiment to hinder your future writing career. If you do wish to do this, then simultaneous submissions are acccepted. What is not allowed is the following: submitting a story (batth of poems) with the intention of publishing it if it wins, and withdrawing it because it has been accepted elsewhere. That would mess with our allocations of submissions to readers.
If you are interested in taking part in this trial, email here, saying so, and which trial (story or poem) you're interested in (maybe mention whether you prefer the publish-if-win option or not). No need for bios or anything; and if you have any comments for improvements or issues you find either with the site or the logic of the magazine, please mention them too. Once I have twenty people for a given trial (story/poetry), I will give instructions as to how to login to the site, upload your stories, and download other people's stories.
One thing to note: during this trial, things won't be as decentralised as I intend the fully operational system to be. There's bound to be problems I haven't considered, or a policy which I'll have to make up during the trial (for example, what happens if, at a given stage when n stories progress, n+1 stories have exactly the same score?) Moreover, the above email address will be monitored and responded to from by me, Matt, and because I don't fully trust the automatic email service my webhosting provider offers, I will send personalised updates and reminders to people. Also, I will store a local database of stories, scores, and allocations so that if something goes wrong with the site, nothing need go wrong with the trial. My hope is that eventually, once I'm confident things run smoothly, I will have nothing to do with the process.