To move or close, that's the question

Hi everyone,

As some of you know, WFG is a modified WordPress site. Back in June, my web host ( forced an upgrade to WordPress 5 from WordPress 4, which broke a number of things about the site. This is not the first time such forced upgrades have broken things, but this time it has broken some of the admin tools.

I am now faced with a decision: to move the site to AWS (with hopes of returning to WordPress 4), to make the site read-only, or to close it outright. Sadly, I don't have the time to continue sinking hours into debugging new incompatibilities every time WordPress changes its code, nor into rewriting it to run without WordPress.

So, does WFG still have a use? Do any of you rely on it? If so, for what?


So I may be getting ahead of myself a little bit here, but I'm a web developer writing a web serial of my own that is posted on a website that I built and maintain. I just recently was approved on here and could see some of the issues even as a new user. I was already thinking that it wouldn't be too hard to recreate the functionality of this site from scratch and also add a lot of features to make approval and such a lot simpler and quicker.

If I did do it, I would write it in Flask (a Python framework), and I would make it open source. It would be on Github so others could contribute to it as well. I'd also add tabs to filter web fiction lists by their hosting site like mentioned in another recent thread about RoyalRoad and Wattpad being allowed on WFG. The forum might take a little longer to get set up, but I'm pretty confident I can replicate all of the things this site currently does, and I think I'd be able to improve a lot of the site's usability along the way.

This site seems to get a decent amount of traffic, and I think web fiction needs an unbiased hub like this in order to grow the community. We have plenty of sites that host fiction, but this is the go-to site for listing fiction posted all over the web. It would be a shame to see WFG die away entirely.

I don't want to hijack your thread or anything, I just thought I'd throw this idea out there to see if it seems like a good option. Thanks for all the work you've done on it so far!

I'm a grossly incompetent coder in every language so I can't offer to help, but I'd say there's plenty of "market" for this beast. It's just hard to support in its current format. If nothing else, without WFG the TWF rankings (which definitely see use) would eventually ossify into "what stories from a decade ago are currently most popular?" I'd be cool with taking it down and rejiggering things a bit if it meant a clean and improved site after a month of work by actually skilled volunteers. It'd be a crying shame to sacrifice all this.

If the site is too busted to function properly, and fighting with upgrades is just going to lead to future breaks, than I think realistically the smartest thing to do would be to scrap it and rebuild, or kill it and let someone else build the replacement if that isn't viable.

Personally, I don't really rely on this site, and the forums have been pretty close to dead for a while. There are alternative outlets to advertise web fiction. It would be tragic to see WFG go belly up, but it's not like this is the only lifeline.

It would be great if an alternative site or new WFG headquarters could be made, however, I don't think it would be the death knell of any given serial if it went away. If Houston, or someone else, can make a proper alternative, that would be great.

WFG is maybe the only place on the Internet for online fiction that isn't buried under the big web fiction trends like LitRPG, xianxia, and/or whatever flavor of isekai is hot this month. If it dies, it'll be the final nail in the coffin for anything but trend-chasing for Patreon dollars. At the same time, shuffling forward in a state of half-death isn't exactly conducive to much good either. I wouldn't want WFG to close, but I also can't say I'm fond of it just kind of... staggering along refusing to die at this point. I like Houston's suggestion of something new.

Something new, reached via the WFG and TWF addresses. Please do not set years of name recognition on fire, whatever you do.

Yeah, if it would be feasible to transfer the WFG name to a new hosting site, that would be a boon.

Yes, it still have a use. There are still a lot of writers who would benefit from this place. If anything, this place helps those of us who don't write the favored genres in web-fiction. If not for finding readers but connecting to other writers.

In all honestly, trying to keep fixing this place to limp along isn't going to work forever. Really, it's probably time for an upgrade. I would rather see this place rebuild than for it to go to read only or close down.

A modern, integrated, Social Media-savvy WFG would not only go a long way towards broadening the audience of webfiction, it would also, I believe, broaden the scope of webfiction itself.

Actually achieving such an evolution would require a concentrated community effort, however, and possibly even some form of crowdfunding to cover areas where volunteers are lacking. It's certainly not something one person could - or should - shoulder.

I think that Web Fiction Guide has been in dire need of upgrading for a long time, to something more accessible for readers, not just writers, because I believe that the web fiction community's largest growth comes from giving readers easier access to the stories, but that this site has been very clunky in regards to that (just because it's old). Surely this can be crowdfunded; I don't know exactly how many writers actively utilize the website, but I'm sure that there are hundreds of active stories that benefit highly from WFG listings, and thousands more that still benefit from it, not to mention the countless people who use Top Web Fiction to find new stories and would highly enjoy having it around. Crowdfunding seems like a no-brainer to me with how successful the TVTropes one was a few years back, though there may be hidden factors I don't know about.

However, if crowdfunding isn't an option, and upgrading the site isn't an option, then... I don't really see the point in keeping it alive but watching the community shrivel up into zero. There have only been like 8 reviews on the entire site since July and the forum has been dead for years. Archiving the data and turning it into some wiki or another seems like a throwaway way to do it, but if the site can't be upgraded, that's probably the only option worth considering.

An idea I floated on the extremely unofficial WF Discord: start a subreddit, redirect traffic there, and link that to TWF somehow. It's the lazy lifehack solution!

As someone who only recently began my serial and who hasn't yet been approved on the site, I would be very upset to see it close down. I've put a lot of work into my story, and so far, this site seems to be the best way to reach a reader-base that isn't primarily interested in "trendier" things. While outright shutting down the site or changing it to read-only might not hurt established serials, I think it would really hurt those of us who are just starting out.

On the other hand, the site clearly has a lot of issues. If upgrading it isn't an option... I don't know what the easy answer would be.

(I barely slept last night, so I apologize if this post is incoherent at all.)

Revised suggestion: create r/topwebfiction. New entries for the queue are posted to it by authors. Moderators index the posts as entries on topwebfiction--meaning that, when you click the info button next to The Wandering Inn on topwebfiction, it takes you to its original submission post on r/twf. Anything but index submissions as top-level posts on the reddit would be deleted by moderation. Reviews are posted as comments. Possibly a secondary subreddit would be needed for update announcements and ongoing discussion of the stories in progress.

This is an extremely hacky solution, but uses in-place architecture that requires no maintenance and minimal pay (just to maintain topwebfiction's domain), and will avoid the annoyance, disruption, and debugging involved in a custom coding effort. The big disadvantage would be a period of anarchy as we transition from the old site to the subreddit, but once the dust settled we'd have a perfectly functional system that will last until Reddit goes bust.

Regardless of what happens, do you have a backup of the WFG databases?

There are number of obscure serials listed here and perhaps nowhere else. We have them all in one place right now (as hard as they can be to exhume), and it would be unfortunate if the database was lost with WFG.

if moving or closing are the only choices i would say move...... this is a great place for both a reader and a writer, from my point of view.

I'm not overly known but i get people thanks to here and i found great reads thanks to here.

just my two bits.

Okay, after talking it over with a few people, I'm coming to think this is a belling-the-cat scenario. All the mice agree it would be wonderful to put a bell on kitty, but nobody wants to go up and do it himself. I have too many obligations and no technical skills. The people who are helped most by what remains of WFG/TWF are mostly big enough that they don't need the little boost; Wildbow et al won't notice the drop in pageviews. I will, unless and until I can find another way to get word out, but I'm in a smallish group of regular TWF bottom-rankers who don't do Royal Road. For everybody else, losing this would be enough of a shame to feel bad about, but not enough to take primary responsibility for preventing it.

So, most important question: who's volunteering to bell this cat, one way or another? We've got the first reply. Anybody else?

I'm not sure what i could do to help bell the can beyond donate some funds. I'm not good at site design.....

I'm either about to say something that needs to be said, or really show my ass in public. Apologies if it winds up being the latter. :-)

Chris, I think you're using the wrong standard to decide whether or not to close it. Don't get me wrong - I love WFG and I like being able to rub shoulders with other writers doing this mad thing called webfiction. But the problem I see is that people are constantly pushing you for WFG to be more, and you don't have the cycles to devote to doing more.

I've seen people hitch themselves to projects that make them miserable because they feel guilty about not doing it due to a feeling of responsibility for what they've created. It happens a lot on the Internet, and it almost always ends with the site going away eventually, but it lingers for years in a very unhealthy state. The person running it is miserable, and the people using it are dissatisfied. I may be completely wrong (because I frequently misread people) but I've felt like you're at that point with this site. And if you are then I think the options you should focus on are:

- close it down

- transfer it completely to someone willing to take it on

You'll note that I didn't include any options where you continue to try to make it work. That's because -- again, assuming I'm right about where you are -- there is no scenario where continuing to do this is <i>good</i> for you, and there's no scenario where doing the minimum to keep the lights on is good for WFG.

If WFG continues, it does need to change in order to grow, and from a purely end user perspective I want it to grow because a growing potentially exposes me to more new readers. A static site exposes me to the same group of readers who have already decided not to read my serials. :-) I mean, that's a purely mercenary assessment on my part, but I think it's an accurate read on how sites evolve online over time. But you're not the same guy you were when you started WFG and your energies and focus aren't in the same place, and you shouldn't feel compelled to keep it going based on what we want out of it.

Sounds about right to me. The most interested parties are going to be the ones with skin in the game, even if there are plenty of people who regret losing a fun place to read reviews, etc. And no, current moderation is not up to doing the work involved. He's asking who wants to run this circus.