How to Make the Cut
Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the shoutout review process, from Ari at IMVU :
Many people have asked us about the current review process for accepting or rejecting shoutouts. Here is a little overview that I hope will explain how this works, as well as some of the problems we have run into.
WHAT ARE SHOUTOUTS?
Shoutouts are friendly messages that anyone using IMVU can send to other members of the community. They will appear on a ticker-tape scroll bar at the bottom of the 3D window and at the top of your IMVU homepage. Shoutout messages may include links to your homepage or to other sites of interest in the IMVU program. You can submit shoutouts by clicking on the "shoutout" category listing located on the catalog page. A nominal fee (of credits only) is charged for each shoutout submitted.
HOW ARE THEY SCREEN ED? Any shoutout you submit is first reviewed by members of the IMVU Staff who screen for violations of IMVU's Terms of Service as well as for inappropriate content.
This includes but is not limited to the following: -- inappropriate or profane language -- inappropriate sexual innuendo or solicitation -- proselytizing -- complaints, criticism, contentious opinion, negative labeling, gossip, insinuation, accusatory statements, hearsay, etc -- statements that would provoke an argumentative response -- announcements for contests or for reward opportunities that appear to be scams (ie, promising rewards when you have none to give; promising people credits when you do not have a registered name and can clearly not give credits out, etc) or that otherwise violate IMVU's TOS. -- anything that contains links that are broken -- anything that credits contains links to non-IMVU sites. Please note, this rule does not apply to pro-developers. (You may include links to non-IMVU sites on your own homepage, but not in shoutouts. All links on your own homepage must still be compliant with IMVU's TOS)
This criteria was designed to emphasize what we believe to be the fundamental purpose of shoutouts, namely that they be available for anyone in the IMVU community to send friendly messages to one another and to allow developers to advertise their items or get contests going. They are not meant to be used in order to make contentious or inflammatory statements, to criticize others, to voice opinions or complaints, or to provoke credits argumentative responses. Click here for more information on this.
WHY DO SOME SHOUTOUTS THAT SEEM OKAY GET REJECTED? Shoutouts are a really fun way to make public announcements or to message people, and I would venture to say that greater than 95% of the shoutouts submitted to us get published. Most of the rejected submissions are turned away because they simply don't comply with the guidelines mentioned above, but at times, some seemingly fine shoutouts get rejected as well, and this has evoked some questions from our users about the review process.
To date, as far as rejected shoutouts go, the two major problems we have run into include:
1) Seeming inconsistencies by the review staff in credits adjudicating admissions that fall into the gray areas of acceptability. Now, when something clearly breaches the rules (ie, shoutouts that contain links to non-IMVU sites. shoutouts that contain profane language, etc) it's an easy call to make, and our reviewers have done an excellent job recently in identifying and rejecting these submissions. However, the trouble comes with the stuff that falls into the more ambiguous gray area of message content -- meaning, a submission containing a
phrase or reference that may or may not be deemed unacceptable depending on how it is interpreted by the individual reviewer. If you've ever seen referees or line judges arguing over the outcome of a close play in a sports event, you can certainly understand how different reviewers in IMVU, using the exact same rules and standards, can often times come to different conclusions about the merits of a submission. Ultimately, when it comes to this kind of judgment, it's not an exact science and each reviewer has to make the call. When questions arise, we do discuss these issues and share our credits opinions, and in this way try to better understand the nuances that go into our decision-making. Hopefully, using this approach, we will continue to achieve a more uniform understanding of what should or shouldn't commonly make the cut, but this also takes time, and it doesn't change the bottom line: "it's NOT an exact science" and on a case by case basis, it's up to the individual reviewer to make the call. As a person submitting a shoutout for review, one of the best things you can do to ensure that your message or submission will be consistently accepted is to follow the guidelines for message content (see above), and don't stray into the fuzzy ambiguous gray zones.
2) Shoutouts that contain broken credits links. You should know that there are often items submitted that appear to be perfectly fine, but aren't. And you wouldn't know this just by looking at them. For example, I have had to reject a number of perfectly fine-sounding shoutouts simply because they had a broken link (ie, the person-didn't actually provide a url, but just put their name in that field, etc). Because the actual url for the link is not shown in the publicly displayed shoutout (the public just sees "click here" in the message) you may not realize that the link was submitted inappropriately. When someone looking at the ticker tape on the website clicks on a broken link and sees a page with a default error message, it reflects badly on IMVU and suggests to the user that the program is broken. So, unfortunately, we have to dis-allow these perfectly 'good' messages. I'm very sorry about this, but this is actually a common mistake. IT'S GETTING BETTER! I want to reiterate a very important point about the shoutout feature: It's not finished yet! As with everything else we do in IMVU, we are continually experimenting with it and trying to find ways to make it better -- which is where your input is invaluable! Already we have made or planned to make a number of important changes based solely on your feedback. For example, we have created a special status for pro-developers that will allow them to both bypass the review process and to provide links to outside sites. Other things we are currently working on are: automatically refunding rejected submissions (currently no refund is given), and notifying users whose submissions have been rejected with specific information letting them know why. We still have to build the tools to enable these options and that will take some time (as well as some juggling of priorities by the engineers who are already overbooked on features, maintenance, bugs, etc), but until then, hang in there. The changes are coming. I hope this helps to answer some of your questions about shoutouts. Thank you all again for your feedback and suggestions. If you have anything further to add or any ideas to share, please let us know. -Ari, IMVU