It seems to me that different stakeholders have different preferences in what high-level skating competitions should reward. When the scoring system and the judges reward things that the fans (or skaters) consider less important, or fail to reward things they consider most important, people get outraged.
Even judges may be outraged if the rest of the panel disagrees with them or if the scoring system sets the numerical values in such a way that they can't use the numbers honestly in such a way as to produce the results that their holistic expert judgment tells them is correct.
Clearly not all members of each category below will value the same aspects to the same degree, and some of them are contradictory within categories. So it will never be possible to please all fans or all skaters or all officials at the same time, let alone all the categories.
I think everyone wants the final results to match their gut sense of who they think skated best over the course of the competition. (Except the most controversy-loving journalists or conspiracy-theory-minded fans who get the most pleasure out of disagreeing with the results.) It's just that stakeholders with different emphases in what they think makes for a good performance will often disagree about who was the best.
And individual skaters and supporters of specific skaters (family, friends, fans, federations) tend to be biased in their perceptions when it comes to that skater even if they can be completely objective when their skater is not involved.
Casual fans/general public tend to like
*Cutting edge jump difficulty
*Skaters showing personality through facial expression, movement to music, etc.
*Attractive body line
*Big jumps, fast spins, flashy highlight moves
*Accessible music (specific preferences will vary among individuals)
*Program themes that are understandable from costume, music, gestures, etc.
*Long careers that allow them to follow the same skaters from year to year and to bond with their favorites
*Underdogs -- including newcomers -- triumphing when they skate cleanest, most confidently, with the highest difficulty, and/or with the highest artistry
*Come-from-behind stories (winners moving up in the free skate, and also larger-scale triumph over adversity stories involving off-ice aspects of the skaters' lives)
*Final results matching long program results, although they will understand a skater who bombed the earlier round (short program) not being able to pull up all the way to the top even by winning the free skate
*Human drama in the scoring that allows them to feel validated when results agree with their own opinions and to enjoy outrage at specific officials with human faces when they disagree
*Scores that are meaningful and understandable at first glance
Media tend to like all of the above, especially
*Controversy over results -- especially when it can be framed in terms of good guys (skaters who deserved better scores) and bad guys (corrupt officials, overmarked skaters)
*Hometown/home country winners
Serious fans tend to like all of the above and also
*Good technique and good technical content that can be appreciated by knowing the elements and rules more than can be communicated within a single TV broadcast, but not necessarily nitpicky fine points of technique
*Turnover among the medalists
*Perennial also-rans with appealing qualities finally putting together good performances at important events to win medals
*Watching skaters improve over the course of a season or from one year to the next and be rewarded for that improvement
*Ability to identify specific decisions by specific officials -- to analyze the results in detail and also to identify "good" and "bad" judges/tech specialists
*Signature moves, original moves and variations, resurrection of formerly popular moves from in a modern context
*More challenging music selections and sophisticated whole-body choreography
*Scores that they can understand and predict or come up with on their own based on knowledge of the sport
Skaters tend to like
*Difficulty being rewarded -- including difficulties of program construction, connections in and out of elements and the details of the skating between the elements
*Quality being rewarded -- including fine points of technique that the general public can't appreciate (e.g., many will take more pride in a fall on a rotated jump than landing a severely cheated jump on one foot), including speed and edge quality
*Significant penalties for significant errors
*Detailed explanations for the scores -- knowing where they gained and lost points and where they can earn more next time
*Being rewarded for good short programs as well as good free skates
*Being rewarded for what they actually do during the performance at hand, not based on reputation (previous events, practices, etc.) or politics
*Freedom to showcase their own best skills
*Freedom to make up for mistakes by adding missed elements later
Technical panels tend to like
*Clear elements that leave no question as to what was attempted, either successfully or not, including clear edges and positions
*Knowing exactly where each element starts and ends
Judges tend to like
*Good technique in the basic skating, especially fluid, steady, deep edges with effortless power and flow
*Good technique on elements, including fine points
*Good carriage and body line including core strength/upper body control
*Skating with confidence and "attack"
*Amplitude, speed, ice coverage on elements (or centering/lack of ice coverage in the case of spins)
*Use of the full ice surface with variety of element placement, travel patterns curving and turning in both directions
*Use of advanced turns
*Movement that matches the music in style and also in beat-to-beat rhythm
*Originality in the use of edges, creative entries and exits of elements, creative body positions in connection with correct edges
*Hometown/home country skaters doing well (but if they're honest they won't let familiarity and personal connection with the skater influence their scores)
*Veterans with good skills finally putting all the pieces together with a good skate in an important event (ditto)
*Freedom to call it as they see it without political pressure
*Feeling that their decisions count, not that the tech panel calls completely determine the results
I've probably left out a few important points somewhere. Feel free to add.
What I'm wondering is whether it is possible to adjust the rules in such a way that will more often meet the needs of all these groups.
And where the needs of different groups conflict, whose should take priority?
Should the ISU change the rules to encourage results and narratives that will be most appealing to fans?
Which fans? Sports fans or arts fans or casual fans looking for casual entertainment? US fans or Canadian fans or Russian or French or Japanese or Korean fans?
Should there be different rules for the important televised championships than for the developmental and qualifying events that all skaters have to go through to identify the best who will make it to the championships?
If the rules are designed primarily to reward good technical skating as a sport, can the ISU do anything to help casual viewers understand the technique without relying on TV networks to focus on fundamental but less TV-friendly skills?