The New WFG and Labels for Writers

Chris, Fiona and I were chatting on another site, and we were discussing the topic of what labels would fit for various types of writers on WFG.

The idea would be that writers would be tagged with a label that roughly fit their degree of experience and consistency of posting.

My initial suggestion was to have something like:

'Committed Updater', 'Regular Updater', 'Casual Updater', 'Intermittent Updater', 'On Hiatus', 'New Writer'. Each tag would have a short byline to explain it. Committed Updaters for those who've gone a year or more with a 95% or better consistency level, etc, etc.

Chris' feedback was that yes, tags would have bylines, but he wouldn't want to segment things quite that much, and that he didn't want to stigmatize new writers. His suggestion was to use the term 'Vanguard', in the sense that the homepage might feature '5 new vanguard stories'.

I felt it was awkward, and asked if Chris would be okay opening the discussion up to you guys here on the forum, and he gave the okay.

Also, while I was typing this post, the thought struck me, what if there were badges or tags for degree of experience? Writers might be tagged with '4 Years' for writing on WFG for that many years. The search for authors might allow for searching of those who've been around for 3 or more years. My personal page might read '4 Years' 'Committed Updater'. This covers experience and consistency by two separate tracks.

Anyway, what do you guys think would work?

Finisher: for those with a complete serial under their belt.

Both new and vanguard are kinda awkward. New, because it implies a level of inexperience. Vanguard, because it is a bit vague. Might be worth not giving a tag to new. Just until the shiny has worn off a bit.

Maybe something a bit more quirky, like "Fresh?" If you're gonna have a tag for new things.

It's worth mentioning that Chris and I were talking, and there's a lot of authors who will stop updating shortly after their work goes live on WFG. I found the same thing when I was linking to fan's stories on Worm's sidebar. I set a requirement, people met it, they stopped shortly after.

We don't want to drive off or discourage new writers, but at the same time, if there was a badge or flair/tag progression that came with sticking things out, with a perceived benefit to doing so, that might be a way to incentivize continuing.

Having a 'Casual serialist' tag might appeal to someone like Miladysa, who has a fair bit of experience but believes more in being free to start/finish/go on hiatus as they please or need. A way of differentiating mindsets for fans who are looking for a specific kind of work.

I had also considered "fresh meat", but thought it a bit colourful. ;)

A 3 month pip on their record. Might help. Far shorter in term than making it a whole year. Most can manage a month or three.

I suggested something similar on another thread, so yes, I think it's a great idea!

For new writers, I suggest 'New Voice' - this is often used in art circles, and is a lot more positive than most newbie classifications. I don't think it has the negative connotations that some of the other terms do. 'Fresh Voice' might also work for similar reasons.

I like the idea of having multiple types of badge/label: posting reliability, length of 'service', and finishing stories.

I suggest the 'On Hiatus' label might be better against a specific serial rather than a writer, and this might be something best manipulated by the writer rather than WFG-managed? I do like the idea of having it, though (I've been pondering it myself).

If the RSS feed was made obligatory to get certain features, it could theoretically be set up so that the site looked at the expected posting rate vs. the existing posting rate (tracking the RSS feed output) and automatically adjusted the label for a serial. Would probably get mixed up by people making new posts to say "Hey guys, I know, I know, this is my third time posting to tell you this, but I'm not going to be around this week either, I'm just not in the mood to write lately..."

I think that instead of having a "fresh" or a "new" tag, there should just be experience tags. Then feature "experienced" serials on the front page, with the rest the same as always.

I think a badge/tag system would be great. Badges would probably be more fun, but you'd want them to be searchable like tags, so that new readers could find the sort of writing they were looking for.

It also might be nice to have genre badges. I know that the serials themselves already have genre tags, but genre tags for serialists might be cool because it'd allow non-superhero serialists a little more visibility. And sometimes a crime writer may be answering a question on the forums differently than a romance writer might, you know?

I think all new writers should be given a "Danger Zone" badge, because they're in the 'danger zone' where they're most likely to give up. It singles them out, but does so in a very cool way that doesn't feel mean. Also, "Danger Zone" will get stuck in my head every time I see the badge, and let's be real: that can't be a bad thing.

Okay, the "danger zone" things started as a bad joke, veered into a real idea, and then became a bad joke again? The serious takeaway: I wonder if there's a cool title we can give to serialists who are most likely to drop out. Like, make the badge sound fun even though it's not something you want to have.

I'm not sure what I think about genre tags. What about people who have serials in multiple genres? To me, someone without a genre tag would be viewed as less of an "expert" than someone with, and I'm not sure that that aligns with reality.

Genre tags already exist to a degree. Serials are searchable by the tags we assign them as we submit them for the listing.

I'm trying to think of this from the POV of a reader relatively new to serials. If all I know is that a work is ongoing, the idea of consistency is going to be a really abstract concern. WE all know that there might be a 'danger zone' type of writer who's more likely to jump ship than others, but as someone who doesn't get that subtlety, that a writer needs to prove themselves as a dedicated updater, a tag like 'New Voice' or 'Fresh Meat' or anything like that just signals, 'Don't maste your time reading this one. It's just gonna stop in a week.'

I want to compare that to tagging the story with something like 'So many chapters/posts/updates in'. Right now, I have to click on a serial to find out whether, holy crap, these people have been updating forever, or oh, they're new. Add it to 'Average Update Length', and you've given me one hell of a look into what I should expect: yes, so-and-so takes forever between each instalment, but they've been here for four years, or no, they haven't been updating longer than two months, but they're a daily serial and are this many updates in.

Yeah, okay, each writer can have a friendly 'I've been writing for eight months!' badge, but as a reader, I really don't care about you (yet). I care about the serial you've presented me. What's the situation on that specific one? Oh, it's your second serial? Wow, I can tell by your 'Also Writes' info that you're really consistent, but maybe you get hit by a train tomorrow and the consistency you had during your other work is now AWOL for what I'm trying to read today.

So... in other words, my vote is for tags tied specifically to the serial's progress and consistency, not the writer's. If it's tied to the writers, then it seems like a lot of readers who can't appreciate what it means to be 'casual' versus whatever else are gonna give us their own, more subjective, more wishy-washy labels, which is gonna confuse folks and penalize the newbies in the process.

Okay, I've had my nap, so I'll provide some more details on what I'm thinking. First, some background. Over the last 36 hours, I reviewed 420 RSS feeds. Some of the things I learned are that a *lot* of serials die within weeks of being listed (I probably marked more than 100 listings abandoned), lots more disappear entirely (another 100, maybe), and that "on hiatus" is a mostly a synonym for abandoned.

Here are the notes I jotted down while working, based on stuff we've discussed here, tempered with my experience reviewing the feeds. Note: it's a bit messy.

  • Separate best bets (ie. long-term ongoing) from new stuff, on the assumption the new stuff won't last

    • maybe a "Fragments" section for unfinished stuff that was popular

  • Status:

    • ongoing

    • complete

    • abandoned

    • offline

  • Sections:

    • primary ongoing & complete works (featured?)

    • hobbyists (vanguard?)

      • maybe readers have to vote listings from here onto the main site?

      • maybe bad navigation and other basics keep you from moving into the main group?

    • abandoned (fragments?)

    • NOTE: we don't want URLs changing, so figure out something that will work

    • Maybe labels and policies, not sections?

  • Feeds:

    • auto-disable on abandoned, gone or complete

    • give author ability to set the filter

    • allow comments (and email to author) when disabled for bad content

    • auto-throttle a feed that appears abandoned, possibly auto-updating the status?

    • failures should probably flag the listing for review?

  • Listings "Help us!"

    • Is this story complete?

    • Is this story abandoned?

    • Is this story offline?

  • Forums:

    • permissions (based on reputation?):

      • prevent new users from starting a thread until they've posted a bit

      • prevent new users from posting links

  • Submissions:

    • discover the RSS feed automatically

    • question/answer format, with detailed questions and discussion

    • ability to re-discover the RSS feed from the admin panel

    • field-by-field updates

  • Vanguard:

    • new listings by new authors or authors with a low reputation

    • doesn't show on home page directly, either when listed or when updated

    • not indexable by search engines

    • vanguard page shows new listing and updates

    • home page shows weekly summary of new vanguard action

    • new reviews go to home page?

Please discuss. And show your work. ;)


I think as a reader consistency is an issue. I think of when I check out a new fanfiction, I look at consistency before trying a story. Which is why I like both Archive of Our Own and They both have 'date published' 'date last updated' and the length of the story. Based on those three things I can make a guess about the reliability of the author. Yes, even authors who are really, really good for months about updating sometimes sputter out. Heck I nearly sputtered out over the last couple of months. I've been pretty good over the last two years in updating my web serial, only taking a week or two off here or there, and barring illness, it was always announced, and yet I gave very serious thought last month to going on permanent hiatus, because personal stuff was just messing with my writing. Ultimately, I didn't do it because I really didn't want to fail in completing my story and when I mentioned to my readers I was suffering some writer's block they were awesome in giving feedback that help me get back on track and now I'm really, really excited about writing this last book in the series.

But my point is that I get that even reliable writers will sometimes stop being reliable. But as a reader, I still like to see if they have a good track record with the story. So it would be helpful to have a more useful way to spot that.

And like Tartra suggests I would find that information more useful connected to the serials rather than the writers. If it is connected with the writers, I think some consideration should be given to the tags only changing if the writer has an active serial. For instance if the writer is a 'Committed Updater' and completes their story, and then does not begin a new one, their tag should not be changed. They were still a 'Committed Updater' during their period of commitment, so they should not lose that status because they are not immediately starting a new story.

Something I didn't write in my notes but should mention is that I'm thinking the RSS feeds will replace the stated update frequency entirely. We no longer make decisions based on what you say you will do, only what you do. Posting drives placement on the site and after x number of months without any updates on the RSS feed, the listing is marked abandoned and drops off the face of the planet. Or into the Fragments section. Whichever.

I'm thinking that reviews appearing on the home page show the "section" badge, so that we can still feature reviews from any listing, but that readers get that additional information at a glance so they can better decide on whether or not they want to take a risk on the story.

Forums:<br />
permissions (based on reputation?):<br />
prevent new users from starting a thread until they've posted a bit<br />
prevent new users from posting links
```<br />
<p>As far as this goes...</p><br />
<p>I feel like supporting this is mean, like it's building a fence around a special club, but... I do support it. From what I've seen, the threads that new users start themselves try to sell their serial to us. Which... yeah, I can appreciate that thinking, but this doesn't seem like a place to self-promote. I'd prefer that it isn't.</p><br />
<p>So yes, but I feel guilty. Do with that guilt what you will.<br />
</p><br />

I don't think it's a "special club" thing. If a stranger just inserts themselves into an established chat forum and starts talking about something random, chances are they won't be very welcome. You listen for a bit, say hi, and join a conversation already going on. Maybe I'm showing my age, but that's just basic online chat etiquette.

More generally, the policy also helps reduce spam, as spammers tend to be impatient.

Do we have a problem with spammers? If we do, I've never noticed it. I support the forum permissions changes in principle, I'm just not sure it's worth the effort given that I haven't seen anyone being a problem. I like that we're supportive of new writers coming in and posting about their shiny new thing. Maybe a change to make if we start get random other stuff being posted? Or is this just something I'm not seeing?

On the serial vs writer labelling: I think readers are interested in a writer's track record, and I think writers should take kudos from previous projects through to their new ones. As a reader looking at new serials, I want some way of knowing that the writer is someone I can trust to not abandon the story just when I'm falling in love with it. I don't want to have to wait until each serial has proven itself, because by then I'm so far behind I might not bother trying to catch up, or I might simply forget about it.

And let's face it, if a writer gets hit by a bus or our lives go suddenly sideways, it doesn't really matter how we're tracking progress/reliability.

It could be argued that it would be useful to track reliability against the writer and individual serials. That way, a really good, long track record wouldn't overwhelm recent reliability issues, and recent reliability issues can be put into perspective against a long track record. A more accurate picture is available. I don't know how confusing that would be to readers, though I'd err on the side of 'more information is better', personally.

I'm also curious about how we're going to track reliability. If we're removing the indication of how often a serial /should/ be updating, and using the RSS feeds to represent it instead, how can we tell if a writer is meeting his/her targets? Frequency of updates isn't enough to indicate reliability. Is this going to be a manual process? (Because that sounds like a big job.)

Chris, you mentioned feed filtering. Does this mean we'll be able to filter out non-story updates, so they don't pollute the feed and the stats? (I put all my author updates into their own category, but I have no idea if other writers do this.)

Also, I just noticed that my listing for Starwalker has been marked as 'completed'. I recently went on hiatus with it, but it's not done yet... was this part of the feed update thing?