Feature discussion, 2012

Responses

  1. G.S. Williams (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    @Alice -- to some extent you're right -- when I describe WFG to people, I tend to call it the Web Fiction Library -- a place with lots of free stuff to read on its shelves, where there's something for everybody. And @Jim, you're right, it succeeds at that.

    But some of the comments in this thread seem to be subtly implying (and maybe I'm reading too much into it) that there's a general unease about the fact that there's not a lot of new reviews, and that seems like a lack of participation. My suggestion would (ideally) solve the problem of a lack of reviews. When this site was conceived, way back in 2008, it was set up with every story being reviewed by an editor -- that way there would be some sense of objective, unbiased fairness to counteract crowd popularity. So reviews were always up there in importance with the listings, it wasn't just a library. If an author wants to use it as one, that makes sense -- but then they won't complain about the lack of reviews.

    People who want reviews should give them -- that's mutual and non-parasitic in the sense that you're not asking for something for nothing. An author who doesn't want reviews isn't asking for anything, hence they're not a parasite -- I'm not using it in an accusatory sense but rather in a "you get what you give" kind of analogy where I can't think of a better word. I didn't mean any offense by it, is what I'm trying to say.

    For those who don't think reviews are important or a problem, it doesn't apply to them. One solution for the lack of reviews is to get writers to participate, as an exchange for listing. I don't think that's asking a lot when Chris recommended it as a one-time thing -- it's the solution that occurred to my over-heated mind today. That doesn't mean there aren't others, but not much else has been suggested.

    The byline idea is good because it's a subtle reward for participation, I agree with Jim on the "soft" push.

  2. Alice (Blocked)

    Posted 7 years ago

    See, it almost sounds like you're contradicting yourself here. You say:

    "For those who don't think reviews are important or a problem, it doesn't apply to them."

    Which seems to suggest that people such as myself, who don't care about getting reviews for their work, shouldn't have to leave reviews for other work. Which is fine.

    But you contradict yourself with this:

    "I think WFG would help itself a lot if it required a new writer to review three stories before theirs got posted"

    And then this:

    "One solution for the lack of reviews is to get writers to participate, as an exchange for listing."

    In other words what you seem to be saying, as far as I understand it, is this:

    "If you want your story listed you have to leave reviews."

    Which, if that is the case, makes what you are saying a contradiction. You claim that people who don't want or care about getting reviews don't need to worry about reviewing other people's work, yet you also say that anyone who wants to list a story/serial on WFG MUST leave reviews before they can do so.

    Which is it? If authors MUST leave reviews to get their work listed on WFG, then how does that NOT affect people like myself, who don't care about whether they get reviews or not?

    I mean if I started a new web serial and wanted to list it here, would I be allowed to do so? Or would you insist that under this new scheme I must first leave three reviews for existing stories? If so then that means your proposed system DOES cause problems for and affect people like me, who don't care about reviews.

    I might have read what you're saying wrongly, in which case I apologise. But could you please clarify what your suggestion actually is? Because at the moment it sounds contradictory, and I'm still strongly opposed to it. I'm fine with "Leave a review if you want a review", but I'm really not okay with "Leave a review if you want to be allowed to list your fiction here on this site". That one is not a good idea IMO.

  3. SgL (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    Er. I feel badly that we have hijacked MCA's thread. (SHould we move to another thread MCA?)

    WFG does work for others. I used to snoop Project Wonderful stats and can see that some folks are getting dozens of hits a day from WFG. However my observation is that the folks who benefit more are those in the "recently updated" feed or have reviews left on the front page (which in turn get fed through Twitter in both Ergofiction and WFG's stream.)

    It just doesn't work for me because I don't have a means to take advantage of those two mechanisms or am not submitting a new listing. (That said, I could , just haven't.) Topwebfiction (it's subsidiary site) does work for me, though. Not in huge numbers, but decently and usually those readers are hanging out for a while on my site (which is good, IMHO) unlike readers from some of the scattershot approaches I"ve taken with advertising on fantasy webcomics.

    But the larger issue is that "webfiction" in itself is a name that only people "in the know" will query. Finding this site is tough when there is no agreed upon "term" for what we do (unlike webcomics which have settled upon on that term.)

    We're definitely fragmenting readers as such --

    Currently I'm following various people all trying to essentially do something with online fiction, everyone from "Tuesday Serials," "Project Fiction," and a whole host of for-profit entities like "Eat Your SErial" and publishers who use everything from "weblit," Webfic, "webfiction," "serial," "ebook" in reference to what they're doing. This makes it impossible to market a concept or interest to the public. It makes it quite challenging to get any forward momentum on the online fiction front as well.

    Anyways, that won't get fixed by the writers alone.

    As for reviewers -- could we remove one barrier to leaving reviews if the WFG signup is linked into Twitter/Facebook authentication? Noticed a lot of sites are allowing OpenID, Twitter, Facebook or G+ authentication for leaving comments/feedback. Wordpress itself does have that available as well. (Have yet to experiment though)

  4. M.C.A. Hogarth (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    I don't mind the hijack, I think it's a fascinating discussion. :)

    I think it's worth asking what the goal of the website is. If it's to exist as a listing for webfiction, then it does its job already. If what people want is interactivity, reviews are probably not the way to do it.

  5. G.S. Williams (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    @Alice -- I'm pretty sure the ones you're quoting that contradict my last post are from a previous post, in which case the most recent post is a revision of my ideas as I read what other people are writing and adjust to their point of view. I said three at first as an idea, and then thought Chris's idea of just one seemed pretty fair. That's what I call listening and learning, because I don't have an adamant, invested position. I'm making suggestions, because I like brainstorming.

    I'm not insisting on anything, because it's not my site and I'm not in a position to insist. I'm suggesting a possible solution to what I perceived as the problem other people were identifying. It's not even my problem. Just seems logical that if writers hang out here more, and we don't have enough reviews, then writers could review more. They're more "invested" in the site because they list here -- readers get free content, and there's nothing for them to exchange. There's no means of control and we don't want control when we want a free library. But if writers themselves want reviews, the only way to get them is to do some themselves and hope it encourages others.

  6. Alice (Blocked)

    Posted 7 years ago

    "@Alice -- I'm pretty sure the ones you're quoting that contradict my last post are from a previous post, in which case the most recent post is a revision of my ideas as I read what other people are writing and adjust to their point of view."

    My second quote was from this:

    Gavin Williams
    Post Number 26 - http://forums.webfictionguide.com/topic/black-blossom-done-and-marketing-issues/page/2#post-8084

    "One solution for the lack of reviews is to get writers to participate, as an exchange for listing."

    You posted that^ in your most recent post prior to the one I am now responding to. Certainly this:

    "I think WFG would help itself a lot if it required a new writer to review three stories before theirs got posted"

    Was in an earlier post, but not this:

    "One solution for the lack of reviews is to get writers to participate, as an exchange for listing." (Post 26)

    Hence my claim towards contradiction, as it appeared that you were still maintaining your suggestion that new authors/writers should leave reviews before being allowed to list their fiction here on WFG. Yes, the later post you made dropped the 3 Reviews number, but as the quote from Post 26 shows, you still seemed to be saying that writers should 'participate' in 'exchange' for being permitted to list their fiction on the site. Given that immediately before 'participate' you said you were trying to tackle the issue of lack of reviews, it was not unreasonable of me to conclude that by 'participate' you meant 'leave reviews'. If that was a mistaken assumption then I'm sorry, though I still don't think writers should have to 'participate' just to get their web fiction listed on a web fiction archive.

    "Just seems logical that if writers hang out here more, and we don't have enough reviews, then writers could review more."

    Except that reviewing requires a writer to read through a web serial, many of which are quite long, in order to have a solid enough understanding to be able to leave a decent review. Which is fine if the writer in question has the time for that, but not all do. And really, the gist of your suggestion as I understood it boiled down to:

    "Participate by leaving reviews or you wont get your own work listed."

    Which just seems unfair, for a lot of reasons.

    "There's no means of control and we don't want control when we want a free library. But if writers themselves want reviews, the only way to get them is to do some themselves and hope it encourages others."

    That's what I'm saying. I'm fine with "Leave a review if you want a review", but I am NOT fine with "Leave a review if you want listed". As long as WFG doesn't implement something like that, then I'm happy and will quit my whining.

  7. Chris Poirier (Moderator)

    Posted 7 years ago

    Okay, let's take a step back from particular ideas (other than adding a listing link to review bylines, which I'm doing regardless).

    Here are the problems, the way I see them. WFG is a largely static site. Largely static sites don't get much traffic. To put this in concrete terms, WFG gets twice as much traffic if there are consistently new listings or reviews than when there aren't. Ie. if i get backlogged with real life and don't post any new listings or advance any new reviews to the home page, our traffic falls off over a period of about a week to about half our normal levels. It stays low for up to a month after I start posting stuff again. That's in spite of the fact that the RSS feeds keep updating. And that's all bad for everyone: if we have fewer visitors, we pass fewer visitors along to our listings.

    When we started, we had two goals: 1) to be comprehensive in our listings; and 2) to be in a position to call attention to the good stuff that is going on out there. Over time, those goals got modified with a dose of reality (we don't list things with bad navigation, for instance; and we simply couldn't keep up reviewing everything we listed), but they are still the things I have in mind when I think about how well or poorly the site is doing. On point one, we're doing as well as I have an interest in doing (ie. at a workload I'm willing to tolerate). On point two, however, I think the site has largely failed. We never gained the critical mass of readers to be able to make a new writer's serial a success. Which means authors still have to spend their precious time and money doing marketing to try to attract readers—instead of working on their stories.

    Some of the failures were due to bad design. The site name was descriptive, but not a natural search. The site itself made interaction too complicated—by requiring signup, by having unclear user interface elements (like ratings versus recommendations), by not giving the site a real social aspect. Frankly, the site looks and feels like it was designed by a programmer, and that's a problem. Lots of things about the design are wrong—and lots of them are wrong in ways I *still* don't know how to fix.

    As for where things stand now, well, in the last few months I've actually had an ongoing debate with myself about just closing the site. It's a lot of work, and I wasn't really convinced that it made much difference to anyone else. At the very least, this thread has got me remembering why I cared in the first place.

    Going forward, any changes I make to the site should be about making the site more useful to our readers. It should encourage them to visit more often, to read more widely, and to engage more with the "community" (whatever that means). My instinct is that means encouraging more reviews, and doing something more social with rating and collecting, but I've been wrong about these things before.

    I'm open to any ideas you all have. I'm not saying any particular one of them will get implemented (even a brilliant idea might prove too much work), but I'd like to hear them anyway.

    Chris

  8. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    Ideas, just brainstorming:
    ■  Kind of heavyhanded, and similar to what you were talking about, Chris, but something like a small part of the sidebar on the front page noting the past month's top three reviewers? Not necessarily the most reviews, but the most 'was this review useful to you' confirmations? With the reviewer noted as something like Gavin Williams (Author: Trepidation of the Spheres) and a link to the author page and the site, respectively, that's sort of a motivation to sit down and punch out one review that someone otherwise wouldn't.

    ■  Touching on what me, Jim and a few others were talking about, perhaps some other draw that could pull people in? Something like a webfictionguide blog where a bunch of the local authors & regular forum goers could take turns posting? It might have a tendency to pull in more writers than readers, though.

    ■  This would be complicated to put together (and I understand you're already overworked, Chris), but I'm thinking of something like an advanced search. Picture a grid with a list of possible genres and corresponding checkboxes:

    ◘ Action
    ◘ Adult
    ◘ Adventure
    ◘ Comedy
    ◘ Drama
    ◘ Horror
    ◘ Fantasy
    ◘ Martial Arts
    ◘ Historical
    ◘ Mystery
    ◘ Short (<50 chapters)
    ◘ Epic (>200 chapters)
    ◘ Psychological
    ◘ Teenagers
    ◘ Sci-Fi
    ◘ Romance
    ◘ Supernatural
    ◘ Gay
    ◘ Lesbian
    ◘ Superhero

    And then:

    ◘ Rating is [At least/More than] [#] Stars
    ◘ Released [on/before/after] [year]
    ◘ Series is [complete/not complete]
    This would whittle down searches to what the reader wanted.

    Also, I wanted to pause and give a huge thank you to Chris. You work your ass off and you don't get appreciated nearly enough. Thank you, man. I have to say that writing Worm has been a kick-ass experience, and it wouldn't have happened nearly the same way if Webfictionguide didn't exist. Through it I've gained innumerable readers, I've met other authors, and (digging through the forum) I learned a lot about what to do and what not to do, in getting started. I don't think my conception of what a web serial is would even be the same if Webfictionguide wasn't around to give me a sense of the broader picture. One good review, just speaking for myself, can make my day, grinning like an idiot and/or have me pumping my fist in the air at my computer, and that's possible because you have this place for us. So thank you, Chris.

  9. SgL (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    Some random ideas,.. no worries if none appeal to you Chris. I'm aware of the history of this site and how it came together to fill a large gap after a predecessor site disappeared. I know you have other things to tend to and some of what I list below does take some investment on part of someone (and not to say it should be you but someone you'd have to work with and trust would do it well)...

    1) So I see networks like Rampage/inkoutbreak all the time for webcomics. They don't bring in new readers per se into a "network" but they drive traffic around a lot and help retain within the network. THese are code heavy, server heavy, and require funds. Its low-tech predecessor was WebRing and that died kind of . But the principle itself was interesting. How do you get "listed sites" to list back/refer to the larger "hub" and try to benefit everyone within that listing?

    A couple of offshoot ideas.
    a) WFG should have banners of all sizes that current authors in the directory can borrow to use on their sites. These would link back to WFG.
    b) WFG could require or promote that these are included in listed/member sites by saying that the link on site would bump the story higher up on the submission queue. (DOn't want to make it a requirement because then folks publishing through fictionpress.com or wattpad.com may be disadvantaged since they can only customize their author profiles. In truth, the presence/absence of the link does little to alter real time additions, but it's a motivator to mentioning WFG on a website.)

    2) Ally/Partner with or Advertise on other sites like the Webcast Beacon Network (Webfiction world), Tuesday SErials or EpiGuide . Essentially look for creative ways to have link exchanges between similar scope sites if possible (and prefer exchanges vs. paid exchanges) These other sites are far more engage din the social marketing aspect of the net and they bring benefit back to WFG while WFG maintains a neutral space because it seems as if WFG is more interested in curation than competition. (I picked these three because they are still open free resources to the public. There are disturbingly a few paid-models appearing as of late that are very unclear in their intent and almost appear predatory. Won't name them, but they're out there!)

    Or if you need a carrot -- those sites could benefit by becoming a featured "partner" and be rotated through with a standard image size ad and a bit of a blurb/link back to their site on the front page somewhere.

    3) Motivate the community by changing the front page landscape a bit and diversifying the real estate.

    As reviews become rarer, you could take 2 spots away from "Selected Reviews" and give 2 back to something random or less random like random "completed works". To a certain degree this promotes a good message about highlighting finished works and promoting the attached authors.

    Variations on the above idea could include making "Featured This month" instead which focuses on genre . Like HOrror for Halloween.

  10. Alice (Blocked)

    Posted 7 years ago

    Maybe we could encourage a news website - like yahoo or someone - to do a piece on the existence and growth of online fiction, describing what it is and mentioning some of the places on the web where people can find free web fiction to read - like this place. Someone mentioned earlier that one problem is that a lot of people don't even realise things like online stories/fiction/serials even exist, and that would help a lot of people find out about it. I mean, if the news is willing to do articles on the success of the latest ebook on Amazon, then maybe they'd be willing to talk about web fiction.

    Besides, these are free stories for people to read. I think there'd be a lot more traffic for the site if more people just knew about it. Getting mentioned in the news, even the online news, would surely give the site a major boost. Some publicity wouldn't be a bad thing.

  11. M.C.A. Hogarth (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    I think my suggestions would be to have OpenID handle the logins. I love the blog idea, but filling the blog would be a big deal (maybe the blog can automatically generate posts about some of the webfiction in the database, and then you can fill in the space around that with guest blogs from webfiction authors?).

  12. Senna Black (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    Serial lurker here, just wanting to say that I think the Webfiction Guide is phenomenal. I get a few hits from the listing myself (mostly when it's reviewed or I get myself in gear and review something I've been reading), but mostly I use it to browse for other things I'd like to read. Noting your concerns, Chris, with the design, it feels like a very comfortable and friendly site to me, and the combination of tags, ratings and reviews mean I am able to find things I want to read and make an assessment of whether they're any good. So in that sense it works perfectly for me.

    That said, I don't enjoy great work/life balance, so I wouldn't even make the radar as a frequent user; more just a very positively desposed one.

    I defintitely second the suggestion to allow rating/reviewing using OpenID or similar, though. A (hopefully easy) change that would reduce the barriers to participation for people who are suffering from sign-up fatigue.

    I was looking for link-back buttons the other day, too, so I think they would be great.

    Finally, even though it's based on arrant self-interest, it sounds like having a self-promo incentive for reviews (like one's own serial in the byline as is planned) would be effective at raising incentives to review, and hence the new content washing through the system (with reduced onus on Chris), and hence website hits, which means everyone wins.

  13. Chris Poirier (Moderator)

    Posted 7 years ago

    Thanks everyone for your ideas and comments. I appreciate them. :-) I'm looking into OpenID this weekend, and am working on some wireframes for an improved site. I'll post them when they are worth looking at.

    @Wildbow: There is a top reviewers list already (http://webfictionguide.com/about/). I'll see about integrating it into the home page. As for the searching, I'm curious about how badly the existing UI has failed: are you asking because you don't like the existing functionality that does that stuff, or because you've never used it? As for the blog, what kind of articles are you thinking it would have?

    @SgL: We used to have banners for people to use, way back when we first opened. I guess people did use them, but I lacked the ability to create new ones when the site graphics changed, so eventually removed them from the site. As for the other stuff, well, marketing ideas scare me, but I'll give them some thought. ;-) Would you be willing to help out with site promotion?

    @Alice: I agree, some publicity would be helpful. Unfortunately, I have no idea about how to make that happen. Is that something you'd be willing to take on?

    @MCA: we could do something about better re-using existing content directly on the site. The listings already show a couple of randomly-selected (on-topic) reviews at the bottom of each page, but maybe something more prominent?

    @Suz: Hopefully I can get at least one or two things done this weekend. :-)

    Chris

  14. SgL (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    @Chris - Yes of course. Even willing to help put graphics together and such.
    I have no problem approaching Anna and Greg about WebCast Beacon once you feel like you're ready for people to look at the site again. As they re-ramp up their podcast I can think of several ways to engage that audience.

    One thing I did notice last night while looking for something to read is the tag system seems to have gotten a bit messy. I noticed that once you click on "more" at http://webfictionguide.com/listings/ it becomes really scary. As a reader familiar with other sites that collect fiction I found this overwhelming to sort through. I definitely advocate authors having the ability to come up with new tags, but I wish they would try very hard to pick one of the primary tags that seem to be commonly used in fictionpress/fanfiction/wattpad/goodreads. I wonder if we should write a FAQ or "helpful hints" to writing a good entry because this was one major problem I had in trying to decide what to read.

    Also, the relative lack of complete stories kind of worried me. As a reader, I want a complete experience if possible, followed by a serial that is updating actively.

    I understand a lot of serials are going to die out just like a lot of webcomics do. It comes with the territory. As a reader I would like a little less time wasted to the "dead with no chance of revival pile."

    A couple more random ideas related to curation/maintenance:

    1) I wonder if there's a sneaky way to hint at activity, thus encouraging writers coming back to the site to adjust their entries. For example: adding code in that flags the last update to the profile a la --? "Story listing last updated XXX date" .

    2) Is there a database of email addresses you have so that once a year the WFG can do an email blast to the listed authors to remind them to update their story listing (refresh) as well as double check the links. I found at least one broken story link and after some digging found the new location within the author's site. I'll probably write up a review and point that out but wish the author would check her entry and maintain it.

    3) Definitely think Complete works should be featured more. If you want to lower that barrier to entry into serial fiction, I think we have to understand that most readers that are out there (rare as they are) are still used to a promise of an ending. If you want to educate the public about the serial work and create some trust with them about this delivery method, better to highlight those examples.

    Okay, that's enough of my morning rambling folks. I'm really looking forward to the OpenID component. Let us know when it's up because I think this aspect is newsworthy and should be flagged for both EpiGuide and WFW.

  15. Wildbow (Member)

    Posted 7 years ago

    Chris Poirier wrote:
    As for the searching, I'm curious about how badly the existing UI has failed: are you asking because you don't like the existing functionality that does that stuff, or because you've never used it?

    Cue forehead slap on my part.

    To be entirely honest, I've tried searching before, but I wasn't aware of the existing functionality's ability to search for multiple things until you said it already exists. So that's neat. It's just not very apparent/obvious at first glance - but that may just be me being an airhead.

    Throwing it out there, but what if you had a 'search' (regular) and an 'advanced search (which would redirect to a page where you can pick out the attributes you wanted in a story)?

    Chris Poirier wrote:
    As for the blog, what kind of articles are you thinking it would have?

    Just throwing it out there:
    * The Well Read Author - A popular Webfictionguide author discusses how what they read influences their writing, works that gave them inspiration, fear about copying other works and how important it is to read if you're a writer.
    * Someone that's getting self published talks about their experiences at various stages.
    * Maybe an established author in one genre writes a short or two in another, then shares their thoughts?
    * Top 10 Best stories you've probably never read that aren't books/web serials.

    SgL wrote:
    I wonder if there's a sneaky way to hint at activity, thus encouraging writers coming back to the site to adjust their entries. For example: adding code in that flags the last update to the profile a la --? "Story listing last updated XXX date" .

    Problem with this is that, as far as I'm aware, is that when you submit a change to your listing, it takes some time to go through, and I believe that that's because someone (Chris?) has to manually affect the change. If this is true, we wouldn't want to burden him with making inconsequential updates to listings just to keep them more 'live'.

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