I just noticed one more empty "pending" slot in the Beta catagory at the Running With Scissors Awards, which seems odd to me. Thousands of fandom writers (theoretically) = thousands of betas (theoretically) = unable to fill six slots? Granted a good beta is hard to find - or rather, a successful author-beta partnership based on complete trust and respect for the other person may just be harder to find than a good marriage. The author needs to be able to choose someone who can offer objective, constructive criticism, not flames or insults; who can judge the work based upon what the writer is trying to achieve in the piece and how much it fails or succeeds in that goal; and the beta needs to be someone who can offer help but then detach themselves and always remember it is the author's story, not their own.
On the other side of the page, nothing is more frustrating as a beta (I speak from experience, of course) than dealing with an author who says they want feedback when what they really want is praise. And this is true of 99% percent of the writers I've dealt with, who say they want "feedback" when what they're really after is ego strokes. Of course every writer wants that, but when an author is entering a relationship with a beta partner they need to be clear as to what, exactly they are looking for: an editor? A cheerleader? A teacher or taskmaster? Someone to brainstorm with? Line by line analysis of plot, structure, etc? Hugs and puppies? I'm not a beta for any writers in this fandom currently but I'm a "Muse" for one of my closest friend's novels (we prefer the title "Muse" to "beta"), and I've always been more than willing to give the writers I've working with the feedback they need, if they are willing to listen to what I have to say. (Why ask a beta for their opinion if you don't want to actually hear it?)
One thing I noticed since I've been a part of this fandom: betas are considered essential to fanfiction, to the point that authors actually apologize for not having a beta; why is it then that "meta" (nonfiction writing) posts very rarely mention the feedback of a beta? The exceptions I've seen have tended to be the more intellectual or academic fan essays and analysis. The other day I asked someone to beta a fanfic I'm working on but it's never occured to me to request feedback on a nonfiction fan essay before posting it. Is it custom? Habit? Lack of interest in nonfiction writing in relation to fiction?
(ETA paragraph breaks, hyperlinks, and screencap. Clearly, this post needed a beta of it's own.)