I loved this rant Emily! And I agree with most of it.
I've been around since before the Alpha too, and I agree the patterns in participation and voting since the early days have been fascinating! I'm loving, in particular, that the latest wave of niche writing has been really good (and I attribute that in part to the strictness of our voting: when standards are too lax, people just don't try as hard).
Subjectivity: yes, it is inevitable, and perfectly acceptable to have our own standards for voting. As long as they are using the guidelines as a starting point, we're squarely in the green.
So I suppose all I can do, as @Drixx Madison has done, is to respond with an approximation of what my voting style is, in all its subjectivity.
WILL PEOPLE BE CONFUSED
This is my most important guiding principle. If there is a difference in scope between the niche name and the description, for instance, people will be left doubting whether their content belongs there if it satisfies the broader scope, but not the narrower one. An example: a niche called Sleep Disorders, with a description of "All about sleep apnea" would leave people wondering whether their content about sleep walking belongs there or not. This is not acceptable to me: the prerogative is for users to proceed with confidence, because if they don't, Narrative suffers as a whole.
Beyond scope, if a niche is so poorly written that I feel a substantial amount of people won't be sure what belongs there, I'll down vote it too. People who write in this way are free to contribute content, but getting a niche accepted is a very different proposition to being a contributor of content, for reasons already discussed elsewhere. If someone feels hurt their niche was rejected, and wants to leave the platform as a result, should we be chasing them? All we can do is message clearly that all content can be submitted, but niches, as part of the infrastructure of the platform, have to serve their function well. In the physical world, I would not expect to be hired for a writing position, if my writing is incoherent, obtuse, or riddled with mistakes. My German is not so great - I would not dream of being butt hurt if I were told my niche suggestions for German Narrative don't meet the grade (when Narrative expands to German in the future).
DID THE PERSON TRY
If there are multiple typos, or glaring ones, I will downvote as well.
We have a problem right now, that I wish the @Narrative Network Team would acknowledge and address: we are unaware of any mechanism that will make sure these mistakes get corrected.
So not only will I downvote because we are currently the only enforcement mechanism in existence: I'll downvote because people are getting reputation points for approved niches, and a system that rewards people when they don't try leads to mediocrity. If someone isn't willing to reread their one sentence description two or three times to check for errors, why should we cater to their egos by accepting the niche, rewarding them with better reputation? It makes no sense. No endeavor thrives on rewarding actions that shifts the burden to others to do more work.
We should keep in mind that people with poor writing skills can get help before they submit a niche: all they have to do is ask for it. Everyone knows someone who writes well, and even if they don't, right here on the forums there are people willing to help.
Writing a blog post, or a comment online, with imperfect writing: no problem. Submitting a grant proposal with imperfect writing? Expect a poor outcome. That's just the way the world works, and rightly so. There are types of writing where more effort is mandatory - niche writing is one of them.
I agree that people will be posting to niches they know the meaning of. People who want to write about the band Tool will already know they are a band, so the niche description consisting of only the band member names will work just fine for them.
But those people are only one side of the equation. What about the people subscribing to niches so that they can receive the content? If half the niches they read descriptions for don't tell them anything they can relate to about what the content is - do you think that might be off-putting? Many people consume content to discover new things, and discovery is generally only enjoyable if the entry point to it is somewhat accessible. Tell them Tool is a band, and you've satisfied that need for accessibility. They can then make an informed decision on whether they want to learn more.
A description is meant to be.... descriptive. Aren't we failing in a very basic way, if we fail to use the word 'music' or 'band' when describing a music band? The only exception to this is when the object of the niche is so famous, either everyone knows what it is, or the few people who don't can infer from the lack of description that this is something so famous, they probably should make the effort to discover it either by searching or sampling the niche's content. The Beatles are a household name, and are literally the definition of musical success. We tend to accept that such entities need less introduction, and if we haven't heard of such entities, we accept the cue that perhaps we need to crawl out from under our rock, rather than expect the world to crawl under it with us.
INTENT TO PURCHASE
If the suggester intends to purchase the niche, says so in the comments, and says they will improve the definition based on comments received - even though this is not a guarantee the problems will be fixed, I will upvote.
This is the x-factor for me. My final question to myself about a niche is, despite typos and strange phrasing: would this niche function as is? If nobody corrected the issues? This is where @David Dreezer's 'consider the audience' comes in. Will gamers be turned off by a description that says "Come share your hiscores and have some lolz at epic game fails'? Probably not.
But the same types of liberties with spelling on a niche about Sobriety just doesn't fly. The target audience is much broader, and much of it would get the wrong impression about the niche, and about Narrative.
An example from the 'real world'.
Anyone who has worked at a company has to accept that they won't get to participate in every aspect of the company's operations.
I'll take my best corporate employment as an example (since we want Narrative to be comparably awesome). I worked at Weta Digital on the visual effects team for The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Avatar and others.
I was good at some things, average at others, and completely inexperienced at yet others. Did I, for one second, expect my coding skills to become part of the lasting infrastructure of the company? I was moderately proficient at coding pipeline and artist tools, but there were people who were far better than me at doing both. Did I expect the company to pay me to do that aspect of the work, or them?
This is a concrete example. I worked in four different capacities/departments during the 5 years I was there, and I greatly enjoyed the mobility. But when a job came up to code for the character animation department, and I was denied by the head of the department for the job - the only sane response was for me to recognize that there were almost certainly better people on hand than me. And I wanted Weta to do its best work. That's why Weta is Weta. It is why they win Oscars, and are considered one of the best VFX companies in the world - because they hire the right people for the job.
If a leading company discovers in their midst a person who wants to leave the company because, though their skills are in lighting, they are upset that their bad character animation is not making it into the movie - should the company fight to retain them? Not if lighters are lining up to take their place. We have to have the confidence to know that if we do good work here, the way Weta does good work, quality contributors will be in no shortage on Narrative. In fact the best way to guarantee a shortage of good contributors here, is if what we produce is not good. Skilled people don't strive to work at places that output low grade work. That's just the way of the world.
Let's output excellent niches. The people who can't help us do that are free to try harder, to get help doing so, or to contribute in other ways more suited to their abilities.