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Some changes

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)
Updated:

This has been an interesting day, to put it mildly.

Human nature is really frustrating with regards to rewards and feelings of self-worth. A story can get a thousand 10s, ten thousands 9s and a single '1' and the author will focus all their attention on that 1. A thousand positive and encouraging comments fail miserably to balance out a single negative comment from a troll. Most authors will care disproportionately about that one negative comment.

So today, I woke up to find a flood of messages in my SOL webmaster inbox (48 to be precise). The messages kept coming in and still are at the writing of this post.

It is all about concerns for losing authors and JRyter specifically, and most referencing the previous two incidents with Jay Cantrell and G Younger. Many from premier members threatening to withdraw their financial support if I don't fix this problem for author.

After much thought and contemplation I made few decisions to help with these problems. It's a difficult issue and there are no easy solutions.

To reiterate something that I've said previously, I'm working on an on-site messaging system that would allow authors to block individual readers' messages. It's obviously not done, and it's taking longer than I hoped even considering the magnitude of the project. Let's just say that it's way more complex than this forum. But even when this system is done and deployed, it won't be able to protect authors from the first message they receive from a reader. You would have to do your own blocking as I won't read your messages before I let the system deliver them to you. But the system will block repeat offenders, so there is that.

So, until this upcoming system is finished with its advantages over the current system, I've disabled anonymous feedback for all authors. This means that the messages you will get will all be from verified senders and traceable by me to the account sending them. So from now on, whenever you receive an abusive feedback message, forward it to me at my email address while appending '{abusive email report}' to its subject. I'll see what needs to be done about those readers until the new system is online.

Second, I've removed author blog entries from the home page's stream on SOL to avoid piling on for now, as I need a break. I've given authors a bully pulpit and some recent postings have had a significant effect on the site, way beyond what these posters were trying to accomplish.

Third, I'm working to remove the distribution graph from stories' stats for all authors who start posting today. Existing author will keep seeing the graph for now. Giving authors a view of the raw scores was a mistake that I made over 13 years ago and and I've been avoiding the pain of correcting it ever since.

The graph allowed authors to see the raw scores as they come in, but what it didn't show is the effect of the outliers removal and other protections that the system has in place to mitigate abuse. I get to deal with a lot of author complaints about a necessary system that they don't understand and a system that can never be fully transparent. I've been showing authors some raw data and they've been interpreting it how they understand it without seeing the inner workings of the system that massages this data to come up with the scores. Needless to say that most come to the wrong conclusion. This glimpse of the raw data is confusing most authors and making things worse rather than better. I've already modified the graph to show only the votes that actually go into the score; so you may notice big differences in the graph. So now the exact same query that calculates the score is used to build the graph.

Why remove the whole graph since I can show basically no 1s, 2s, or 3s? Because I've had authors complain that somebody gave their story a 5 so I'm sure that if I remove the 1s and 2s and 3s from the graph, some will find it reasonable to complain about higher values.

After the changes, new authors will only see the final score in the story's stats. This will also affect existing authors if they create new pen names after today as it will work on the pen name's creation date.

I don't usually air stuff in public as such action never has any good outcome, but JRyter took this out of my hands. So for the public record: Yondering Trails by JRyter has 1267 votes. One vote of 1 and Zero votes of 2 and One vote of 3. So, those are the '1-2-3 BOMBS' that the author is talking about. For the record also, the current count of all the votes in the database is 6360884 and the count of all votes that are either 1, 2 or 3 is 176884 or what amounts to 2.78% of all votes are under 4.

The algorithm removes the top 5% and the bottom 5% of votes. So basically, almost ALL the votes below 4 are removed by the system. So seeing those raw votes gives a false impression of what the system does to protect authors from trolls. It gives the impressions that trolls run around willy nilly messing up with authors scores when that's not what's really going on.

Everything I've done over the years has been motivated by my wish to give authors the best experience online. It's my strong belief that a vote-mean scoring system like every other site out there doesn't do authors any good. An unweighed system might feel good in a 'we're-all-winners-everybody-gets-a-trophy' type of way, but it doesn't motivate anybody to get better. I wanted to do better than that. It's my care for authors that compelled me to offer all these tools that sometime backfire in my face. Any author could write an opinion post that ends up on the site's home page for every reader to see for better and for worse. What other site does that?

shinerdrinker

Bravo Laz! Bravo!

I applaud you having to take action because I wanted to talk about it as well but I'll openly admit I was frightened to get these terrible trolls emailing me and trashing my first story on this or any site. Sure I had plenty of the 1-2-3 bombs as well and it "looked" like my scores were brought down on the graph by those troll votes.

But I also realized the method Laz used to calculate the final scores were not affected by the troll bombs. But then again it also meant the 10's I was receiving were also not counting fully to my final score. But I felt better about that because according to the graph, I was getting a majority of 10's by several tens' of votes.

So instead of fixating on the final score, I also paid attention to the number of 8's, 9's and 10's I was getting. That made me fell good. Well that and the almost exclusively positive email for each chapter I was getting. But now the only thing I was worried about was that I was only getting between 10 - 15 emails per chapter and I even turned on the anonymous emails just to see if I got destroyed.

Well... let's see if I get trashed now either in lower scores or in direct emails.

But I digress. Laz... thank you very much for running what is EASILY the best website that is doing what you do. (Sorry, I'm watching wrestling and typing at the same time.)

Thank you, Laz. Thank you.

StarFleet Carl

Nice explanation on what happened to the feedback page. And to be perfectly honest, probably something that needed done because as a new author on here (albeit not a new reader), I didn't quite understand the process myself. And it was disheartening to always see those three low votes on my page that were put there within the first week. I've received several votes since then that make up for it, but yeah, to see a few 5's, then mostly everything else higher than that, yet still having those other three sitting out did sort of bug me. So thank you very much for this.

And I agree with this as well.

Laz... thank you very much for running what is EASILY the best website that is doing what you do.

samuelmichaels

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

I, for one, find the scoring on SOL to be superior to all other fiction posting sites I tried. Combined with other metadata such as tags and story size, it gives me a better prediction of reading experience than any other online archive. Not perfect, naturally, but excellent nonetheless. I really appreciate the effort you put into the system.

And, despite the trolls, I actually appreciate the thousands of readers who take the time to score. Scoring system aside, the fact that the resulting rating *is* a good indicator of quality means most readers score the stories fairly and honestly.

Dominions Son

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

So for the public record: Yondering Trails by JRyter has 1267 votes. One vote of 1 and Zero votes of 2 and One vote of 3. So, those are the '1-2-3 BOMBS' that the author is talking about.


I could be mistaken, but as I read his blog post, he was more upset about the nasty-gram than by the score bombs.

Switch Blayde

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

The only statistics that mean anything to me as an author are:

1. the difference in chapter counts because it should tell me if someone read the story to the end or where they quit. Unfortunately, the counts don't tell that.

2. the raw scores. I don't pay attention to the calculated score. It's a contrived number to me. It's the raw score I'm interested in. I want to know when someone gave me a 10 or a 7 or a 3. So be careful that you don't cause another problem by trying to fix a problem.

I don't think JRyter's problem was the 1-2-3 bombs based on what you showed us. Some bully emails must have set him off.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Ernest Bywater

I feel I must be an oddity here, because the only time I ever look at the scores is when we have discussions about them. I care just as much about my lowest scoring story as my highest scoring story. I realize people score differently because they base the score on how they liked the story, and no two people like everything the same.

Due to the recent bout of cyber bullying of authors I think turning off the anonymous emails is the best thing you can do, and I'll go as far as suggesting you leave it off. If they aren't happy to link a comment to their account, then they needn't make a comment.

Thanks for letting us know what's happening.

docholladay

From a reader, thank you Laz for trying your best to take care of the writers.

I like the removal of the ability of sending feedback of any kind while hiding the sender's identity. I personally believe anytime I send a note even a plan one liner: "Thank you". The writer deserves to know who sent it.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)


I've disabled anonymous feedback for all authors. This means that the messages you will get will all be from verified senders and traceable by me to the account sending them.


I agree with Ernest - I see no reason for turning anonymous feedback back on.

Why bother with a complex change so individual authors can block emails from individual readers? Isn't one (or two after a warning) "abusive email reports" enough to block that reader's emails to all authors?

You would need to set the bar fairly high for what constitutes an "abusive email", but once that is reached I think authors would trust your judgement - and then prefer to not even receive a first email from a reader with a history of abusive emails to other authors.

Do other authors agree with that?

Argon

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Third, I'm working to remove the distribution graph from stories' stats for all authors who start posting today. Existing author will keep seeing the graph for now. Giving authors a view of the raw scores was a mistake that I made over 13 years ago and and I've been avoiding the pain of correcting it ever since.

Keeping writers in the dark about the development of the raw scores and making the scoring system entirely a black box is not the best strategy to allay discontent and confusion.
The weighted score is influenced by the general voting pattern in a given period and so small changes cannot be attributed to an increase or decrease of reader appreciation, but may also result from, let's say, Jay Cantrall posting one of his hugely popular stories at the same time thereby changing the curve.
To watch a few 5s and 6s popping up after a chapter was always an indicator that some readers were a little bit put off. Never mind the 1s and 2s in an otherwise well received story, but the stuff in the middle range is an important feedback.
Ideally, stories should only be judged (scored) after the last chapter. Since that would mess up some of your tools on the site, how about rolling elimination of old scores after three more chapters are posted? That would help the scores to reflect the the developing appreciation of a story. The scores would only be permament after the story is finished. That may be hard to implement though.
The deletion of anonymous feedback is a good idea. I deactivated it for my own postings because I find it awkward if I am not able to answer to a criticism and thank a reader for a suggestions.
Don't take this whole business too much to heart. However you change the scoring system or the information about it, there will always be people complaining about it.

grandad_rufus

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

docholladay

From a reader, thank you Laz for trying your best to take care of the writers.


@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

I would like to take this opportunity to add my thanks for making this site happen

Regards G_R

Replies:   docholladay  Bondi Beach
docholladay

@Ross at Play

I agree with Ernest - I see no reason for turning anonymous feedback back on.


Maybe I am crazy, but I always felt like if I sent any form of feedback or messages to one of the writers. They had a right to a working email address for me. That is regardless of whether or not they replied to my feedback. Its only right, if I can send them private messages, they should be able to send me the same form of message (in this case email).

Even those sites which default to anonymous feedback I always include my email as part of the message. Its the right thing to do.

docholladay

@grandad_rufus

Trouble is the assholes (bullies/destroyers) actually hurt everyone. Not just the writers. They have made Laz's work load even larger trying to fix the damage they cause. Pity we can't get rid of those users but I guess its the burden we all must bare in order to have the type of site with so many potential genres of stories available for as many tastes in literature as possible. The options here are huge.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
docholladay

Just an idea, but for those abusers when they are found out. How about instead of banning as such, causing any feedback/email they write to actually delete instead of sending (without telling them). A banned user might be able to find a way around the ban so play dirty.

Replies:   Ross at Play  technomage
Bondi Beach

@grandad_rufus

I would like to take this opportunity to add my thanks for making this site happen


Second that.

bb

awnlee jawking

@Ross at Play

Do other authors agree with that?


No, I'm quite happy to receive anonymous feedback and I find it can lead to greater honesty.

I like to see the raw scores too. A couple of my stories have a large number of 1s and I understand why: the stories are not enjoyable to many readers. (Unfortunately that seems to have resulted in a small fan club who 1-bomb my other stories, but that's actually rather amusing.)

As I've said elsewhere, I believe the excessive numbers of 10s given by fanbois present a greater issue for story comparisons than the 1-bombers.

AJ

docholladay

@awnlee jawking

As I've said elsewhere, I believe the excessive numbers of 10s given by fanbois present a greater issue for story comparisons than the 1-bombers.


Heck a 10 is saying something is so perfect it can not be improved in any way. In my life I have never seen anything get to that point. There is always room for improvement.

I do believe in never pointing out any mistakes unless I can also point to an equal number of good things about a story. Mistakes if any are only pointed out in a polite manner, never in a harmful way.

awnlee jawking

@docholladay

I do believe in never pointing out any mistakes unless I can also point to an equal number of good things about a story.


If a story is well-written and the author shows signs of ambition, I'll sometimes send a brief e-mail pointing out typos. Usually I get a 'thank you'. I think that's of more use to an ambitious author than telling them what they did well.

I don't think either approach is necessarily better. I'm sure the authors appreciate the encouragement you give them.

AJ

docholladay

@awnlee jawking

I admit I even have a strange outlook on them answering my feedback or emails. I consider them writing another story or chapter a great response. Its much more important to have them continue to tell their stories than it is for me to get an email from them. I know weird but with a definite ulterior motive, more reading materials.

Switch Blayde

@docholladay

Heck a 10 is saying something is so perfect it can not be improved in any way.


In that case there would never be a 10. A 10 is simply "Most Amazing Story" not "Perfect Story."

btw, Lazeez, "Most" is not needed. A 10 is an amazing story. Technically, there is only one most amazing story on the site.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Switch Blayde

Technically, there is only one most amazing story on the site.


That's one per reader, because they all have different views and values.

Ross at Play

@docholladay

Just an idea, but for those abusers when they are found out. How about instead of banning as such, causing any feedback/email they write to actually delete instead of sending (without telling them).

Totally agree with that.
I repeat I think the standard for what constitutes an abusive email should be high, and readers could be warned, but I think would trust Lazeez's judgement if he deems a reader as abusive, and would not get anything from them. And so they don't just open another user name, don't tell them.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Ross at Play

Totally agree with that.
I repeat I think the standard for what constitutes an abusive email should be high, and readers could be warned, but I think would trust Lazeez's judgement if he deems a reader as abusive, and would not get anything from them. And so they don't just open another user name, don't tell them.


That's the thing. 'Abusive'/'Negative'/'Destructive' feedback is very subjective. JRyter forwarded the message that set him off and I can tell you that even if I read it first, I would have forwarded it to him untouched. That's why blocking has to be very carefully designed. What was considered abusive and a final straw by one author was judged reasonable comment by me nonetheless, let alone other readers.

Again, some of these feedback messages being abusive is so subjective that even another human can't mitigate their effect.

For this, I would probably set the system to auto-block somebody only if 20 or more different authors block him.

docholladay

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

For this, I would probably set the system to auto-block somebody only if 20 or more different authors block him.


Understandable. You have always tried to be extremely fair. It was just a starting point of the idea. No telling how many variables would need to be considered.

richardshagrin

Thank God or gods and goddesses (if your theology includes more than one) you are there to make these decisions. I hope you don't mind conflicting suggestions. Something comes to mind about too many cooks. It is your site. Do what you think is reasonable, taking into account your scarce resources of time, money and energy. It might be possible to make all the authors and readers deliriously happy, but the odds of that don't seem very high. I was happy last year and this year and today. You might make it even better with changes. Or not, you might upset other perfectly happy people who are not concerned about the same situation.

To prove I am a hypocrite about making suggestions, could you do something with a new pen name for authors who are upset about something, and make whatever they want to change, change for just them? I can hear the man-hours flow from just that. Maybe all the changes you plan for apply only to new pen names, and any author who wants what that possibility provides can sign up for one. Or put their stories under anonymous, who already has hundreds of stories. I wonder who gets to read his email?

Jim S

@docholladay

Heck a 10 is saying something is so perfect it can not be improved in any way. In my life I have never seen anything get to that point. There is always room for improvement.


What you say is true but precludes situations where the voter believes 8.5 is warranted but not 9.0. Extending voting to the level of final rating, 2 decimal places, is obviously not an option. But it still leaves a problem for the voter to solve.

I've given one or two 10s in my votes but only because I believe the story is better than 9.5. Not because it is perfect which, as you point out, is nigh near to impossible.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)


What was considered abusive and a final straw by one author was judged reasonable comment by me nonetheless, let alone other readers.


A truer set of words has never been typed on a forum.

I had one reader (also an author with a reasonable output) send me some very abusive emails about one aspect of my style of writing, but get very upset when I suggested they fix a spelling mistake in one of their stories. It was clear they have a much lower tolerance mark than I do. While I responded calmly about my style they blew up about an obvious spelling error. I've had other readers email me about not liking the same aspect of my writing, but the others are never as abusive as that one person.

the usual typo edit

Not_a_ID

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Again, some of these feedback messages being abusive is so subjective that even another human can't mitigate their effect.

For this, I would probably set the system to auto-block somebody only if 20 or more different authors block him.


I'd probably give the author's an adjustable threshold that they could set personally. If they want to be particular thin-skinned, they can go with a really low bar. If they think they're the emotional equivalent of a Main Battle Tank, let them set the bar at 200 or some other insanely high number.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Not_a_ID

I'd probably give the author's an adjustable threshold that they could set personally.


That's what Lazeez has already said he'll do. The system would, I gather, work at two levels.

Level 1: - I, the author, get an abusive email, I can choose to just ignore it or block the writer of the email. I'd probably try to reason with the person, but after a certain number of abusive emails from the one person I can choose to block all emails from that person sent through SoL via the process Lazeez is going to put in place.

Level 2: - 20 different authors block emails from Mr Brainless Bully, an alert is triggered within the SoL system. Lazeez reviews the situation, and then acts, with the likely result being no email sent through SoL by Mr Brainless Bully ever reaches an author due to it being dumped by SoL.

Argon

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

I expect that the problem with 'abusive' emails will be mostly solved with the blocking of anonymous feedback.
I don't allow anonymous feedback, and I cannot recall ever having abusive mails. There was one instance where a reader sent me an angry email because I had not yet implemented a correction he had suggested. There were a number of instances where readers let me know that they hated the direction of the story plot. Never something personally insulting though.

Ernest Bywater

@Argon

I expect that the problem with 'abusive' emails will be mostly solved with the blocking of anonymous feedback.


I suspect you're right. however, I never blocked anonymous emails, and I've been lucky in not getting any anonymous abusive emails, just anonymous emails with questions and thank yous. The only abusive emails I've received have all been from people with identified email addresses, thus I send them a reasoned reply.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
Lugh

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Lazeez, much of this makes sense.

May I ask -- have the scoring algorithms been reviewed, possibly at a code level, by people with formal statistical or perhaps survey research backgrounds? I've had just enough experience there to see some of the nuances. In polling, for example, the most common method, the Likert scale, is "flat" 1 to N (strongly like-strongly dislike) model. Others, however, use different assumptions, such as expecting the responses to follow a normal (Gaussian, bell curve) distribution. It sounds like you are trying to do something closer to the latter. Some of my attempts to do things like that, expressed to a statistics professor, caused facial pain and a pat on the shoulder saying "I'm glad you tried."

I fully recognize the problem of changing underlying models in a way that could invalidate past scoring.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@Argon

I expect that the problem with 'abusive' emails will be mostly solved with the blocking of anonymous feedback.
I don't allow anonymous feedback, and I cannot recall ever having abusive mails.


See, you'd think it'd be enough, but no.

1 - JRyter was already blocking anonymous email and he replied to the offender.
2 - I saw the email and I didn't find it abusive at all.
3 - Regardless of 1 and 2, the message rubbed JRyter the wrong way enough to compel him to act the way he did.

Nothing could have prevented this one. No one could ever expect what a message could trigger in its recipient.

I've been there before myself. I'm diabetic, and if my blood sugar goes too high, I get irritated by the most mundane things. I admit to few times being highly irritated by the most reasonable of user complaints. I've learned to handle my irritation because it's bad for any kind of relationship; whether with my wife and kids or with authors and readers.

When it's a public forum like SOL and a well-followed author makes such a public statement, it affects a lot of people.

Ernest Bywater

@Lugh

As an author and a reader I'd rather there be no further changes to the scoring system, it's taken to long to get used to and understand the current one.

awnlee jawking

@Ernest Bywater

I've been lucky in not getting any anonymous abusive emails


I've had some that people might consider abusive. I find them a mixture of funny and sad. But that's the way I am.

AJ

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)
Updated:

@Lugh


May I ask -- have the scoring algorithms been reviewed, possibly at a code level, by people with formal statistical or perhaps survey research backgrounds?


The current scoring system will have its tenth anniversary this coming November 15th. After 10 years of seeing the results and refining the algorithm, I can see for myself that it's doing its job exactly as intended. After 18 years of running SOL (and personally writing every single line of its underlying ~450,000 lines of code), I would hope that authors would trust that I know what I'm doing to a certain extent.

I will repeat that, at this point, the only thing wrong with scoring system is that authors saw the raw votes and couldn't reconcile them with the resulting score.

After yesterday's change the distribution graph will align better with the score. It's not a perfect match (no calculation other than counting), but at least it doesn't show votes that have no effect on the score.

Dominions Son

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

I will repeat that, at this point, the only thing wrong with scoring system is that authors saw the raw votes and couldn't reconciliate them with the resulting score.


I'm not complaining, I know the composite score algorithm is complex and I don't expect to be able to working it out in my head.

That said, changing the histograms to only show the votes used to calculate the composite score hasn't helped. In fact, for my stories at least, It makes it harder to reconcile the vote histogram with the composite score.

Take my story Son of Chronos: Book 1 Origin for example.

The histogram shows 149 10s, almost as many 8s, around 112 9s, 74 7s and a small number of sixes.

Yet the composite score is only 7.84

Again, I'm not complaining, just saying that the change to the histogram doesn't make comparing the histogram to the score any easier.

Since you are planning to get rid of the histogram anyway, it probably doesn't matter that much.

Crumbly Writer

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

I understand your frustration, and agree with your analysis. Even though I've got several steady readers who continue to 1-bomb me (though they always read the latest chapter), I've never attempted to either restrict them or view it as a failure of the system.

However, I can understand removing a display of raw scores entirely, as it's clearly a headache you (Lazeez) don't need. What's more, the endless discussions about it don't seem to benefit anyone.

I'm not sure restricting communication will help much, but then most people complaining stop once you make it clear you won't change your policy (at which point they switch over to 1-bombing). I've also argued for years that 1-bombing is counter-productive, as if your last vote is the lowest score, you can't protest if the author does something worse. Instead, I recommend the 1-bombers switch over to 3s (which most of mine have).

There's really little reason to restricting voting, but Amazon has suffered very public fight over a few trolls who rate everything they review (thousands of books and/or products) as only 1 star, with nothing higher. But, aside from a limit on the lowest scores, I'm not sure there's anything else you can do to counter that trend. It's also not enough of a problem to justify the effort to curtail it.

As you (Lazeez) say, the scores don't really benefit/motivate authors. The feedback does provide encouragement, especially to improve their work (I get plenty of corrections via feedback, as well as many volunteer editors), while 1-bombs and 10-votes do little to motivate improvement.

By the way, I agree with ShrineDrinker. You're doing a wonderful job with the site, continually adding new features while most story sites have long ago abandoned improving their sites. I'm always amazed at the amount of effort you dedicate to improving the functionality of the site.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I don't pay attention to the calculated score. It's a contrived number to me. It's the raw score I'm interested in. I want to know when someone gave me a 10 or a 7 or a 3. So be careful that you don't cause another problem by trying to fix a problem.

From now on, you'll have to do that yourself, comparing the earlier score with the final score after you post each chapter, and comparing changing to the final score. It won't tell you as much, but you should notice whether people approve or disapprove of the most recent chapter.

What it won't tell you, if whether you pissed off a subset of your readers (like one sex, minorities or political parties), which will often affect how your stories are processed. That information will be sorely missed, as it's important for authors to know their weaknesses, as well as their strengths.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

I can understand removing a display of raw scores entirely


Those are the only scores important to me. Take them away and I have nothing.

Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

From now on, you'll have to do that yourself, comparing the earlier score with the final score after you post each chapter,


I'll never do that. Like Ernest, I rarely look at scores. But I sometimes do look at the raw scores in the histogram to see how a particular story was received. And when I do look at the stats page, I sort it by the "VA Scor" because that's the only score that has meaning to me. It's what the reader gave me, not the system.

sejintenej

Good for you, Lazeez.

My puzzle is that I regularly am asked to prove my ID via an email - TO WHICH I DO NOT OBJECT.

Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

Trouble is the assholes (bullies/destroyers) actually hurt everyone. Not just the writers. They have made Laz's work load even larger trying to fix the damage they cause. Pity we can't get rid of those users but I guess its the burden we all must bare in order to have the type of site with so many potential genres of stories available for as many tastes in literature as possible.

Again, though trolls are an issue across a wide variety of sites, I'm not sure how much of an issue it is here, where users have to log-in using a specific address. True, a few cast a bad pall on the site (especially those who trash new, minority or alternative voices), but if the problem isn't extensive (i.e. no more than 5% of any authors' votes), then it's hardly worth the effort trying to eliminate them.

If we ever need to restrict trolls on the site, then we're ahead of most sites, which allow anonymous log-ins (i.e. we can eventually ban anyone causing specific problems). However, until it becomes an issues, I'd urge caution than assuming the worst.

With freedom comes criticism, which is worthwhile. If you're willing to try something new, you've got to expect pushback. Change is never easy. If you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, then write basic hetero stroke stories. Otherwise, quit whining and get back to writing better stories! ;D

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

Unfortunately that seems to have resulted in a small fan club who 1-bomb my other stories, but that's actually rather amusing.

I've always taken the same approach. The actions of the few protestors, registering protests no one else heeds, are more amusing than threatening. I'm always willing to listen to any argument anyone wants to make. What I object to, is when they make unreasonable demands, seeking to dictate the types of story I write, rather than merely sticking to suggestions. Unfortunately (for them), that's when I double-down. If they press the issue, I simply include additional story elements just to piss 'em off, rather than conceding to their demands.

If they have a specific agenda, they'd do better encouraging authors who agree with them, rather than belittling those who don't. Basically, no one likes a bully, and any author who quits the site because of a few stray bullies does nothing but encourage them to continue their abuse, rather than restrict their abusive behavior. :(

Crumbly Writer

@docholladay

Heck a 10 is saying something is so perfect it can not be improved in any way. In my life I have never seen anything get to that point. There is always room for improvement.

Only because you're equating an Olympic rating system to literary events. Instead, readers are encouraged to vote how "how much [they] enjoyed the story". Thus if an author addresses a topic commonly avoided by most authors, or tackles an original topic, many readers will award a 10, regardless of minor flaws (like typos or European spellings). They're rewarding the effort, rather than the formal training they received as teenagers. Otherwise, the only authors we'd have on SOL would be retired journalists, and we'd all suffer then. Can you imagine the story's written by old CNN & FOX News reporters? They may be "Fair and Balanced", but they aren't likely to be enjoyable. (P.S. That criticism is not political, it's merely an observation that creative literature is a far cry from dry academic works.)

No one wants political screeds, but neither do we want dry details without emotional impact.

Crumbly Writer

@awnlee jawking

If a story is well-written and the author shows signs of ambition, I'll sometimes send a brief e-mail pointing out typos. Usually I get a 'thank you'. I think that's of more use to an ambitious author than telling them what they did well.

Typically I'll do both. I'll start the email by telling them what I admire (as they may not be sure how effective it is, then I'll counter it by suggesting an item or two they might want to address. By offering the first, I'm encouraging them to take the later points more seriously. Doing nothing but criticizing makes it less likely authors will heed your advice.

Even with that approach, if they respond, I temper my criticism, offering only an item or two at a time until we (the author and I) establish an understanding of how much advice they desire.

Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

Level 1: - I, the author, get an abusive email, I can choose to just ignore it or block the writer of the email. I'd probably try to reason with the person, but after a certain number of abusive emails from the one person I can choose to block all emails from that person sent through SoL via the process Lazeez is going to put in place.

Again, I've never encountered that on SOL. Instead, someone will write, suggesting I change something about my stories. I'll seriously consider it, no matter what the suggestion is, and then respond with what changes I'll make, or why I'm unable to modify the story (i.e. it affects the rest of the story). I won't make blanket changes, but I'm willing to listen to reasoned complaints, and my readers respect that by offering sensible suggestions.

The only issue is, in a few cases, that's NOT enough for the reader, at which point they'll make some idle threats (I'll NEVER read another of your stories again!), and then will then skulk off, only to begin a 1-bombing campaign, bringing in a couple friends.

In NO case have they EVER continued to harass me, and if few cases have they EVER quit reading my stories. Instead, they vote with their fingers, registering their disapproval of how I approach my stories: which is a valid opinion.

Crumbly Writer

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

After 18 years of running SOL (and personally writing every single line of its underlying ~450,000 lines of code), I would hope that authors would trust that I know what I'm doing to a certain extent.

We do trust you, though I dare say, we're all nervous what might happen if you keel over from a heart attack due to the stresses involved in managing the site. Having a couple other developers, familiar with the site, provides a future succession, in case you're ever unable to continue maintaining the site.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Penguintopia

This is NOT a complaint, simply an observation from someone who read and digested the scoring system.

I got a rush when I saw that the few 1's, 2's, and 3's had disappeared. The rush went away when I read the forum. :-)

Personally, I prefer more information, not less, but again, this is just me. I don't have the headaches that our esteemed site owner/webmaster does.

I would encourage returning the blogs to the main page as soon as possible. Many readers may not read the forum and may not know that the blogs have been disabled...

Thanks, Laz, for all your hard work. It's appreciated.

Dominions Son

@Crumbly Writer

We do trust you, though I dare say, we're all nervous what might happen if you keel over from a heart attack due to the stresses involved in managing the site. Having a couple other developers, familiar with the site, provides a future succession, in case you're ever unable to continue maintaining the site.


I second that motion.

REP

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Thank you for caring.

I agree with your turning Anonymous feedback off, and personally, I hope you never turn it back on. Readers should be held accountable for what they say to authors. Hiding behind Anonymous is nothing more than avoiding responsibility for what you say.

I noticed something the other day that I found odd. I understand why the download count of the first chapter is inflated. From that point on one would expect the download count to decrease with each succeeding chapter as readers drop out. I extracted the following chapter download count from my Opening Earth story:

4 – 19357
5 – 16751
6 – 18105
7 – 15802
8 – 16003
9 – 14732
10 – 14282
11 – 12630
12 – 14195
13 – 12385

Do you have any idea why the download count of Chapters 6, 8, and 12 are higher than that of the preceding chapters? Especially the significant difference for Chapters 6 and 12.

Thanks again.

Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

@REP

Do you have any idea why the download count of Chapters 6, 8, and 12 are higher than that of the preceding chapters? Especially the significant difference for Chapters 6 and 12.


Honestly, I have no real explanation.

People reload a chapter, people go back to a chapter to reference something or reread something. Who knows. The system doesn't make sure that each user gets counted once per chapter download like stories, so any reload gets counted, no matter how often the same user reloads a chapter.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

Do you have any idea why the download count of Chapters 6, 8, and 12 are higher than that of the preceding chapters? Especially the significant difference for Chapters 6 and 12.

Chances are, readers are choosing to read on specific days, reading multiple chapters at a time rather than a single chapter at a time. Thus, you'll get larger numbers for the one chapter they start with, and lower numbers for any additional chapters they finish at the same time.

I don't know your current posting schedule, but you may want to review it. You're either rushing chapters, not giving readers enough time to appreciate each chapter, or the stories aren't compelling enough (i.e. not enough cliffhangers). Spacing them out with longer single chapters might produce more consistent numbers, but that's just a guess.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater  REP
Ernest Bywater

@REP

Do you have any idea why the download count of Chapters 6, 8, and 12 are higher than that of the preceding chapters? Especially the significant difference for Chapters 6 and 12.


Many things affect the chapter download count. The more obvious ones are the chapter size, how long since the last chapter was posted, the time of the posting relative to the readers reading times, and what devices the readers are using. Two basic situations that occur with me.

Long chapter is split into two pages. I read one page on the desktop, then get in the bath and read the second page on the tablet.

I read late into the night and finish a chapter, I load the next chapter, feel too tired, close the browser, and go to bed. The next day I open the browser, it reloads the chapter, and I read it.

Another I know of from a reader. They start the chapter on their computer, leave it, get on the bus to work, then switch to the train. While waiting at the station they access wi-fi with the tablet and get the chapter to finish reading it on the way to work.

Time between chapters often has people going back to read part of the previous chapter when the new one comes out, if it's been a longer than usual interval.

Just some of the things that happen.

Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


(i.e. not enough cliffhangers).


The second cliffhanger in a story results in me leaving the story at that point. I may come back after it's finished, but I may not. If you need to use a lot of cliffhangers to keep people interested in the story, then something is very wrong and weak in the story or your writing, in my opinion.

typo edit.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ernest Bywater

The second cliffhanger in a story results in me leaving the story at that point. I may come back after it's finished, but I may not. If you need to use a lot of cliffhangers to keep people interested in the story, then something is very wrong and weak in the story or your writing, in my opninion.

I didn't mean the traditional cliffhanger of a beautiful girl tied to the railroad track as the train approaches, but rather a build up to a conflict, so readers are more eager to dive immediately into the sequel, rather than putting off reading the next chapter.

I list ingredients, not how to apply the seasonings. :)

Otherwise, Ernest's review of download count variables is spot-on.

REP

@Crumbly Writer


I don't know your current posting schedule


One chapter per week.

Some chapters are long, so the reader may be reloading it multiple times to finish the chapter. Plus going back to check something, or some other reason.

Now that I think about it, I almost always reload the last chapter I read and read the last part to refresh my memory of what has happened before going to the next chapter.

Crumbly Writer

@REP

Some chapters are long, so the reader may be reloading it multiple times to finish the chapter. Plus going back to check something, or some other reason.

In that case, it's probably rereading of previous chapters (as you surmised), though it's more likely to check details, rather than to review the story (i.e. they're going back to refresh their memories of specific events, rather than merely backing up to the previous chapter, which would be harder to notice).

Ross at Play

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

I can tell you that even if I read it first, I would have forwarded it to him untouched. That's why blocking has to be very carefully designed.

I understand your point. In a similar situation, I may have told the author to turn off their emails if they were unwilling to receive that type of criticism.
You, however, have a very tough balancing act to perform.
The new system sounded to me like more work than was needed. I find it admirable you willing to go to such lengths to cater for the sensitivities of authors.

Ross at Play

@Ernest Bywater

Level 2: - 20 different authors block emails from Mr Brainless Bully, an alert is triggered within the SoL system. Lazeez reviews the situation, and then acts, with the likely result being no email sent through SoL by Mr Brainless Bully ever reaches an author due to it being dumped by SoL.

This was the basis for my earlier suggestion.
I think the solution is for authors to simply trust Lazeez will do something whenever he detects a serially abusive reader.
The new system Lazeez is putting in place is a substantial programming project. It will solve almost all of our wishes.
Let us give the man a break. There will be a very small number of abusive readers it cannot cope with. Let him deal with those on a case-by-case basis, without us harassing him about what he will do.
Hasn't he done enough already to prove he has protecting our legitimate interests in his heart?

Ross at Play

To Lazeez:
There has been one point raised here which I think is relevant.
If you do decide for whatever reason to block all emails from a particular reader to any author - you should not tell them you are doing so.
If you tell them, they'll just create a new account.
I assume it already exists there, but if not you should change the terms of use for the site so readers have agreed you may do that without telling them.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

I assume it already exists there, but if not you should change the terms of use for the site so readers have agreed you may do that without telling them.

Though discussing it online is warning everyone what's likely to occur. The other object not being discussed, can you imagine what the original poster is feeling, watching all this unfold? Either he's cackling with glee in his little cave, or more likely he's wondering what the hell he did to set off this firestorm.

As abusive as some people can be, especially when something sets them off, I suggest we dial it back and stop calling people names. Lazeez has already declared he didn't consider the initial letter than offensive, so I suggest we give the guy--whoever he is--a break.

Hopefully he's learned his lesson and will be walking on tenterhooks for some time. It's time for everyone to play nice and deescalate the situation. If he doesn't relent, and continues over-the-top behaviors, then Lazeez already knows what to do.

I think now is the time to dial the rhetoric down.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Capt Zapp

@REP

... I almost always reload the last chapter I read ...


I reload the previous chapter to see if there have been any updates. If there have, I will check previous chapters as well.

Replies:   Not_a_ID
Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

I think now is the time to dial the rhetoric down.

I agree with that. That's basically why my point was the new system will effectively deal with almost all of authors' concerns, and we can trust Lazeez to act appropriately for the few extremes which slip through its net.

Daydreamz
Updated:

@Lazeez Jiddan (Webmaster)

Thanks for all this thought and care Lazeez.

My thought is this: what are the 1 and 2 scores for? As far as I can tell they are mostly abused, to express disapproval of something other than the quality of the story.

I can see they can be effective at voting down a really unpleasant story, but as far as that goes a reader looking for themes others find disgusting can't tell if it's well-written but vile, or just poor.

Rather than have a system that elaborately gets rid of them, why not have them not register in the first place?

Their best use IMO would be to get rid of negative members who give a lot of them.

Anyway my wish would be for a voting system that reflects the number of votes in the score. My modest efforts tend to score in the low 7's, so when some kind reader votes a story 'very good' they actually, and inadvertently I suspect, vote it down, making me sad instead of glad.

Also, how about inline comments, with the member identified? Authors could have a separate ID, to prevent revenge voting.

Anyway this current system is effective for helping me get better as you say. I keep editing, and over time the ratings do tend to creep up. I revisit a low-score story and often see why it has that low score.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Daydreamz

My modest efforts tend to score in the low 7's, so when some kind reader votes a story 'very good' they actually, and inadvertently I suspect, vote it down, making me sad instead of glad.


Why do you think that?

Replies:   Daydreamz  Slutsinger
Daydreamz

@Switch Blayde

Well I make an effort to be pleased and grateful for the extra vote, but at the same time "the score" for the story has gone down, a fraction, because the reader liked it.

So it'a a bit counter-intuitive in that way, even though obviously it is still a valid average. And sometimes, joy of joys, it gets voted up :)

Slutsinger

@Switch Blayde

Why do you think that?

Speaking for myself, I've seen a new vote, and the score go down on a story with relatively small numbers of votes, and looked at the raw scores, and seen that someone voted very good and reduced the score.
Honestly, this is one case where the raw scores help me have a positive reaction. Someone thinks my story is "very good." That's great!
Someone voted and the score went down... I wonder what they didn't like.
Human emotions are hard:-)
I'm not complaining about anything, just confirming I've experienced the same effect.

Crumbly Writer

@Daydreamz

Well I make an effort to be pleased and grateful for the extra vote, but at the same time "the score" for the story has gone down, a fraction, because the reader liked it.

So it'a a bit counter-intuitive in that way, even though obviously it is still a valid average. And sometimes, joy of joys, it gets voted up :)

As many have observed over the years, you can't get too wrapped up in the scores. If you focus on the numbers, you'll always be disappointed, no matter how good they are.

Replies:   Daydreamz
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Daydreamz


the extra vote, but at the same time "the score" for the story has gone down, a fraction, because the reader liked it.


Oh, that's what you mean.

Every time a new vote is cast, SOL recalculates the story's score. There's a factor in the score calculation algorithm that's a variable, meaning it's not the same each time your story's score is calculated. It's related to the other stories' scores given during some time period.

So if your story gets a higher vote than your score, BUT other stories' scores are higher during that period than when your story was calculated last, your score can actually go down. I once received a 10 that caused my story's score to go down.

Replies:   Daydreamz
Daydreamz

@Crumbly Writer

I know what you mean, but I am a total addict! And as I say I do find the scores for my stories respond to improvements, so they are useful as Lazeez intends.

I'm not a natural talent and so storytelling is something I have to work at, and the scores are feedback, however imperfect as we know. Not that I would write a story for a score, but they do help me find where, for example, a story wanders off and loses momentum or (my main weakness) credibility.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Daydreamz

@Switch Blayde

Every time a new vote is cast, SOL recalculates the story's score

Yes okay I understand. My point is that the kind reader is giving me a positive vote, but the system means that the score can get worse. This is because the number of votes is a separate figure from the rating. Anyway I meant that as an aside really.

On the 1-votes that we all hate, the problem is that they exist, it seems to me. A story that actually deserved a 1- or 2-vote wouldn't get past the moderation, I assume. So rather than eliminated them later, why not just not register them in the first place? They are troll votes.

The second problem of troll comments can be reduced by using the troll votes to identify trolls and ban them.

Inline comments would help too, and encourage discussion.

Just my thoughts anyway. I appreciate it's a tricky area. Publishing one's writing IS exposing, and a lot of us aren't that experienced or that great at it, and don't have the confidence to brush things off even knowing we ought to.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Wheezer

I may be a cranky old bastard, (ok, that's a given) but I am of the opinion that if I want to have my story scored and compared to other writers, I'll enter a fucking competition! I would prefer my scores reflect how my readers like my stories all on their own, not skewed by some hidden comparison to other stories.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer  joyR
Ernest Bywater

@Daydreamz

A story that actually deserved a 1- or 2-vote wouldn't get past the moderation,

Moderators only check for violations of the posting rules, not the story quality or content within the rules.

I've only given one vote of 1 in all the years here, and the author earned it because in about chapter 20 they included a significant squick item they never included in the codes or any warnings and it had no lead up. The result was an instantaneous shift from I like the story to I hate this crap - the 1 votes level is very good for handling that as it shows how much the story didn't appeal to me now.

Replies:   Daydreamz
Daydreamz

@Ernest Bywater

the 1 votes level is very good for handling that as it shows how much the story didn't appeal to me now

Fair enough but under the current system your vote would become a 4 or 5 or whatever the 5.1% level is. Also the writer wouldn't know why, unless you messaged them too. And if Lazeez goes ahead and hides raw votes they'd have even less idea.

So for that circumstance, which could be seriously unwanted as you say, I'd suggest a flag report.

I'm only guessing about whether a genuine 1-quality story would make it onto the site. I've never seen one, and the posting rules say stories can be rejected for any reason. You'll know better than me of course, but my instinct is that 1 and 2 are pretty much redundant for readers with any respect.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@Daydreamz


I'm only guessing about whether a genuine 1-quality story would make it onto the site.


Well, the score is supposed to be about appeal, not just how well it is or isn't written. Setting aside how much the quality of the writing adds to or removes from the appeal, people usually only read stories they think will appeal to them. However, there are times when the author misleads people as to what is or isn't in the story, and thus people end up reading a story that doesn't appeal to them, and they vote it down because of the unappealing story they were tricked into reading.

I see the authors who add codes as they go as tricking the reader, because the decision to read is based on the information when you start the story, and if the author doesn't reveal the full codes at the start they give the impression they're trying to trick the readers.

Replies:   Daydreamz  AmigaClone
Crumbly Writer

@Daydreamz

I know what you mean, but I am a total addict! And as I say I do find the scores for my stories respond to improvements, so they are useful as Lazeez intends.

I'm not a natural talent and so storytelling is something I have to work at, and the scores are feedback, however imperfect as we know. Not that I would write a story for a score, but they do help me find where, for example, a story wanders off and loses momentum or (my main weakness) credibility.

Trust me, we're all learning how to tell stories, and I understand your position. I feel the same way, but rather than focusing on the score itself, I instead look at the change in score from chapter to chapter. That will alert you to unexpected negative (or positive) reactions, though you also have to qualify it because it's also affected by what other stories are posting at the same time (i.e. it's hardly a clear-cut evaluation of what readers feel about your work).

Replies:   Daydreamz
Crumbly Writer

@Wheezer

I may be a cranky old bastard, (ok, that's a given) but I am of the opinion that if I want to have my story scored and compared to other writers, I'll enter a fucking competition! I would prefer my scores reflect how my readers like my stories all on their own, not skewed by some hidden comparison to other stories.

We're forgetting a very important point: scores weren't designed for the authors benefit! They don't provide an objection standard of one's work. Instead, it's a service for the reader, and allow readers to vote on stories however they wish, while automatically comparing the works to every other story posted at the same time. Trying to attribute meaning to such scores inevitably leads to disappointment. A better measure of writing success is your author feedback, and that's best served by reminding readers that you take their letters seriously, and are open to suggestions and criticisms (though not blindly controlled by it).

Replies:   Wheezer
Daydreamz

@Ernest Bywater

Well, the score is supposed to be about appeal, not just how well it is or isn't written.
I see the authors who add codes as they go as tricking the reader,

The labels for the scores are a bit each way on the appeal/quality front aren't they. They go
"Call this a story" (Quality)
"Hated it" (Appeal)
"Pretty bad" (Quality)
then good/bad up to "Amazing" which is Appeal again.

But by 'quality' I mean the storytelling as much as the prose. I'll navigate tricky prose if the story itself is appealing.

I get you on the codes, but it has to be quite severe to merit a 1 or 2 doncha think? I find sometimes a code would be counterproductive, for example if the tension in the story depends on NOT knowing in advance that Daddy finally gets seduced [tho having coded everybody else in the family:) ] I guess you're thinking snuff or something, in which case I 100% agree, but that needs a flag I'd say.

joyR
Updated:

@Wheezer

Wheezer

I may be a cranky old bastard, (ok, that's a given) but I am of the opinion that if I want to have my story scored and compared to other writers, I'll enter a fucking competition! I would prefer my scores reflect how my readers like my stories all on their own, not skewed by some hidden comparison to other stories.


Switch Blayde

Those are the only scores important to me. Take them away and I have nothing.


Agreed, if it's not possible to access the raw votes I might as well turn off voting altogether. Yes, doing so has consequences, most if not all really wouldn't have any real effect on me personally.

Crumbly Writer

We're forgetting a very important point: scores weren't designed for the authors benefit! They don't provide an objection standard of one's work. Instead, it's a service for the reader,


If they "don't provide an objective standard" then how exactly are they of any real use to a reader in acurately choosing a story to read...???

And, if "scores weren't designed for the authors benefit!" Then why go to the trouble of "cooking" the scores to "help" writers...???

You can't have it both ways. (Ok, you can if it's marked "stroke".)

Daydreamz

@Crumbly Writer

I instead look at the change in score from chapter to chapter.

The period while I'm posting a story is relatively short I suppose, also I'm drifting towards finishing a story before I post any of it, to try and make it a bit more coherent. Anyway in that phase I seem to get a mix: of low scores from readers who inhabit the front page and vote low on everything that doesn't suit them, and my regular readers who vote high because they share my dubious proclivities. I am just guessing, but it seems very noisy.

Once that dust has settled I have a sample of 15 stories with a range of votes, and so I can look at them and wonder why that one is only a 7.0, kind of thing. So I read it again with that in mind and fix it up, and more often than not the score creeps up thereafter.

Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Daydreamz


But by 'quality' I mean the storytelling as much as the prose. I'll navigate tricky prose if the story itself is appealing.


You sort of contradicted yourself.

Or do you mean a story that would be rated (in your scale) a 1 or 3 because of quality would all of a sudden move up because of appeal?

Replies:   Daydreamz
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Daydreamz


I get you on the codes, but it has to be quite severe to merit a 1 or 2 doncha think?


I figure extreme torture and BDSM in the middle of a story without any of those codes, prior warning, or indications of any sort to be a very severe and justifies a 1. If he'd coded for it at the start I've of not bothered with it at all. I know some people are claim it's OK to code as you go, but when you start reading a story and you use bookmarks or your the SoL Library features to go to the new update you don't get to see the page with the codes again, thus there is no warning at all.

typo edit

Replies:   Dominions Son  Daydreamz
Dominions Son

@Ernest Bywater

SoL Library features to go to the new update you don't get to see the page with the codes again


The active serials page would send you to the index page for a multi-chapter story, which does have the codes on it, though they are collapsed out. Use the Show details and you will see the codes.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Daydreamz


I find sometimes a code would be counterproductive


I agree 100%. I love stories with twists. I guess that's because I'm a short story writer at heart.

I have a story that makes the reader believe the guy picks up a girl hitchhiker. She seduces him and it's not until they stop to fuck in a cornfield and she wants it in the ass that he finds out she's a guy when he goes to finger her. A MM code would totally ruin the surprise. That's why it's not on SOL.

I honestly don't understand some SOL readers. If I did my job right, they would be aroused the whole story. Then at the end there might be an "ewwww," but also a "Wow! I didn't see that coming."

So for 99.9% of the story, in the reader's mind it's a MF story.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Dominions Son

@Switch Blayde

So for 99.9% of the story, in the reader's mind it's a MF story.


And that's exactly why they find unexpected plot twists like that so upsetting.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde

@Dominions Son

And that's exactly why they find unexpected plot twists like that so upsetting.


Which is what I don't understand. They got to enjoy the fantasy (and that's what fiction is) for almost the entire story. And then they get a surprise ending which I think the best short stories have.

Replies:   Dominions Son
Ernest Bywater
Updated:

@Dominions Son


The active serials page would send you to the index page for a multi-chapter story,


Except most people either book mark the page or put the author in their favourites, in which case the link by pass the display with the blurb and codes while taking you to the story's current chapter in a single click from either page. So why waste time and download (which I pay for every MB) by going through another page to check something that should need to be checked again?

typo edit

Dominions Son
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


Which is what I don't understand. They got to enjoy the fantasy (and that's what fiction is) for almost the entire story. And then they get a surprise ending which I think the best short stories have.


You give them a surprise ending that takes them from aroused to feeling sick to their stomachs and you don't understand why it upsets them?

Yes, a lot of good short stories end with a surprise ending, but it can't be a surprise that is severely negative from the reader's viewpoint.

Daydreamz

@Ernest Bywater

I figure extreme torture and BDSM in the middle of a story without any of those codes, prior warning, or indications of any sort to be a very severe and justifies a 1.

Ah, yes I agree that's severe, totally. I don't see a vote as the solution, is all I'm saying. A 1-vote disappears, by design. Or mutates into a 4 or 5, more accurately. A flag to get the story tagged appropriately would be better.

So my original thought remains: are there any valid 1- or 2- scores, for stories that get published?

Daydreamz
Updated:

@Switch Blayde


You sort of contradicted yourself.


Lol yes I did. I meant the quality of the storytelling, separately from the quality of the prose. So yes I wouldn't vote a 2 if the story was fair, more or less whatever state the grammar was in.

So my view is that pretty much the only effect of registering those 1 & 2 votes is upsetting us delicate flowers the writers, and feeding trolls, so why not let them be merely ghost votes and troll-trackers?

That would be better than hiding them IMO, when we won't know if a story has dropped because of a genuine reader or someone we can safely ignore.

Not_a_ID

@Capt Zapp

I reload the previous chapter to see if there have been any updates. If there have, I will check previous chapters as well.


At least for Premier users, when you're on the title page for a serial there is a "More Info" link on the bottom of the page. Giving chapter number, title, size of the chapter, an option to download just that chapter(premier), date chapter was first posted, and if applicable, date the chapter was last updated.

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

@joyR


You can't have it both ways. (Ok, you can if it's marked "stroke".)

No, you can have it both ways if you code it "Bi".

Not_a_ID

@joyR

And, if "scores weren't designed for the authors benefit!" Then why go to the trouble of "cooking" the scores to "help" writers...???


They're not "cooked" for the writers. They're "cooked" to provide a more meaningful end result for the readers. That also happens to have some meta-level utility for the authors.

The recent changes were a result of author behaviors regarding information they had access to. For which the solution that now stands is that authors have lost access to some of the raw data that they previously enjoyed.

Wheezer

@Crumbly Writer

We're forgetting a very important point: scores weren't designed for the authors benefit! They don't provide an objection standard of one's work. Instead, it's a service for the reader, and allow readers to vote on stories however they wish, while automatically comparing the works to every other story posted at the same time.


I really do not see how this benefits the readers either. I read a hell of a lot more than I write on SOL. As a reader, scores that tell me how other readers liked that particular story is the only thing that is important to me. How it compares to other stories is irrelevant. I've passed over plenty of high-scoring stories on SOL because the subject matter did not interest me and a lower scoring story was right up my alley. I would not score Jim Butcher's latest Dresden novel compared to Jacques Pepin's latest cookbook because they were released at the same time.

Replies:   Ernest Bywater
Ernest Bywater

@joyR

If they "don't provide an objective standard" then how exactly are they of any real use to a reader in acurately choosing a story to read


There's plenty of past discussion and even SoL Blog posts on the scores. They were never intended to be anything except an indicator to readers about how appealing other readers found the story.

Now there is a mention of the scores being adjusted for a mean of 6 for a period. The thing to keep in mind is the length of the period involved. I'm not sure of the exact number, but each time there was a change in how the scoring was calculated that was set as a period, thus each period is years long. The current period is since a few years ago when the last significant change to the scoring system was made. The mean process was introduced to make scores on stories from ten years ago relevant to scores on stories from last year.

The key aspects of the scoring system is to remember it affects every author in the same way, and the scores stay relative to each other. So who gives a damn about them, I don't, although I've got to be one of the top ten to have study how it's worked over the years - as part of discussions on them.

Another point is the biggest thing to alter a score is the casting of a vote that eliminates the 'hang over values.' By that I mean the scores are calculated to two decimal places, but are truncated instead of being rounded. Add in the 5% cut from top and bottom, and a single vote can affect two important aspect of the voting. The truncation means 7.2201 shows as 7.22, so does 7.2299. Cut 5% of votes at each end means 10% aren't used in the calculation, thus 80 votes means 8 votes are cut with 4 from each end. But 99 votes still only has 4 votes off each end so 91 votes are used in the calculation, while the 100th vote means 5 votes are cut from each end and only 90 votes get used in the calculation. It's when these two factors change you see any real movement in the scores.

Ernest Bywater

@Wheezer

I really do not see how this benefits the readers either.


the Theory as used by many readers and applied at most sites, is you can be looking at two stories of the same genre with similar blurbs and by authors you don't know - how do you decide which to read? You look at the scores to see past readers have voted on as 7.5 and the other as 3.2, so you go with the higher score first. This assumes there are no other factors to sway your decision like known author, better blurb etc.

Grant

@joyR

And, if "scores weren't designed for the authors benefit!" Then why go to the trouble of "cooking" the scores to "help" writers...???

Because too many authors get way too worked up over what scores they do or don't receive.

Crumbly Writer

I must say, over time, I've become more inured to scores than I used to be. At the moment, my highest rating story (on SOL) is one which never received a single review and which was, for a long time, one of my lowest scorers (it was the last of a series that many found disappointing because the hero doesn't make it in the end). The story with the greatest number of online reviews (reviews by fans, that is), is one of my lowest scoring stories. My most recent stories are almost universally my lowest scores, and the one story that's currently scoring low on SOL is scoring high on FS (probably because I wrote a blog about how the story references incest as a story theme, although it doesn't deal with it explicitly. I'm guessing everyone spared explicit sex is probably eager for something gritty to sink their teeth into. :) In short, there's little relation between reader satisfaction and the story's scores.

Still, in my early days, scores seemed to make sense. Each story would generally go up as more people got to know me, and the stories with the most feedback got the greatest scores. Now, that dynamic no longer seems to exist, so I'm not overly concerned with the value of scores anymore.

However, when readers rate stories highly on sites like Amazon, Apple, goodreads, etc., and go to the effort of writing effusive reviews for each, it means much more than a number which doesn't seem to jibe with the feedback I receive.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Switch Blayde
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer


I must say, over time, I've become more inured to scores than I used to be.


The scores are meaningless to me. That's why I don't check them. Your examples reflect that (e.g., the same story on SOL and FS).

The raw scores tell me something, but even that is losing its worth with the changes. And the something it tells me isn't about the quality of the story.

I think you're wrong to adjust your writing based on scores. And you may even be coming up with invalid assumptions.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I think you're wrong to adjust your writing based on scores. And you may even be coming up with invalid assumptions.

I don't make changes based on scores. I mostly focus on what my feedback, and 'authorized reviews' tell me. However, I also use the change in scores to alert me to things I didn't anticipate about my stories. Often, there will be some minor issue which will really set readers off, and it makes sense to identify those as soon as possible, so you can adapt to them. Aside to my infamous Fox News reference, there's also the case where a major characters ends up dragging the entire story down because they're seen as 'unsympathetic'. If you recognize and acknowledge those issues, you can often recover the story before it finishes.

AmigaClone
Updated:

@Ernest Bywater

I see the authors who add codes as they go as tricking the reader, because the decision to read is based on the information when you start the story, and if the author doesn't reveal the full codes at the start they give the impression they're trying to trick the readers.


I would agree with that completely in the case of those authors who only post completed works. Even those I can see two situations where the author might add a code or two without being accused of misleading the reader (new codes available that were not available when the story started posting, or codes that several readers comment that fit the story as well.) In that case they might want to mention the reason in the blog.

Those authors that do the "write a bit then post" bit without any form of an outline might end up with scenes that require a new code. Again, an explanation would be nice in the blog (and maybe in the story as well.)

Granted I would consider even those cases to be tricking the reader if the new code was a common major squirk.

sejintenej

To totally change the subject, as I have written before a chapter can deserve a 10 and the next chapter a 5 simply because of the way a story progresses.
What are the hypothetical views about having dual scores:
1 The story to date as a whole kicking in after say 8 chapters or at the end if the story is shorter
2 a score for the individual chapter which would not affect the story to date score.
That way an author can judge whether the story is becoming boring or badly written or perhaps that deliberately there was nothing of great interest in that particular chapter.

I am keeping out of the " forget the 1s, 2s and 3s" etc. arguments; the conclusion could apply equally to this concept

Switch Blayde

@sejintenej

What are the hypothetical views about having dual scores:


I score the story, not a chapter. Now I don't read unfinished stories and don't post a chapter until I've completed the story so I may be different than the normal SOL reader/author.

I think it's unfair for the reader to score a chapter to influence what the next chapter will be like. Unless the author is writing by the seat of his pants, there's a reason for the chapter even if the reader doesn't see it yet.

ustourist

@Switch Blayde

My approach is slightly different to yours, as I do read unfinished stories, but only vote on completed ones. Incomplete ones may eventually be finished and if it is abandoned then the score is largely irrelevant anyway.
I would never try and influence a story with a vote (or even a message) since I have no idea what is in the authors mind and, as you say, there may be a reason. If a writer can be that easily influenced, then it suggests there isn't really a plot or story plan in existence.

Opinion of the storyline probably does sway my vote unconsciously, but I try to base my vote on what I consider to be the quality of the writing and the way the author managed to get it over to me, not on whether I disapproved of some of the content. Good writing should always be encouraged.
Probably the only time the content has a deliberate impact on my score is when it is preachy, grossly inaccurate on detail, or too far fetched - in which case it would get marked down by using the suggested grades for the scores anyway. My disliking the content doesn't mean something isn't a good story and a low score for that reason says more about me than the author.

Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

To totally change the subject, as I have written before a chapter can deserve a 10 and the next chapter a 5 simply because of the way a story progresses.
What are the hypothetical views about having dual scores:
1 The story to date as a whole kicking in after say 8 chapters or at the end if the story is shorter
2 a score for the individual chapter which would not affect the story to date score.
That way an author can judge whether the story is becoming boring or badly written or perhaps that deliberately there was nothing of great interest in that particular chapter.

The problem with that proposal, is your arbitrary cut-off. What happens to 3 or 5 chapter stories? And if someone votes the entire story a 5 in chapter 7, based on the quality of writing, you're then simply throwing his one vote away, in favor of the people who can't make up their mind and vote frequently.

Also, what happens to the author if his story 'becomes boring' after chapter 8? He'd never know he's potentially losing readers.

Just as an aside, I've discovered that it's often those 'boring' chapters that really allow your character's to shine, and which truly flesh out stories as the characters reflect on life and their conditions. Don't be so terrified of 'becoming boring' that your story never becomes what it might otherwise.

There's a time for action, but it loses it's impact if every chapter is ALL Action. Likewise, a story loses capital if it's pace NEVER changes. Slow chapters are generally more reflective, and are necessary even though they'll reflect lower per-chapter votes. The key is to anticipate those votes, and to NOT overreact when you see them.

Replies:   sejintenej
Ernest Bywater

@sejintenej

What are the hypothetical views about having dual scores:


Too much hard work and too expensive to do - would need a lot of server space.

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

I think it's unfair for the reader to score a chapter to influence what the next chapter will be like. Unless the author is writing by the seat of his pants, there's a reason for the chapter even if the reader doesn't see it yet.

The point of reviewing scores by chapter isn't because readers 'don't see the point' to a chapter, it's because that's often the ONLY way the author will know there's an unanticipated problem with a story. Readers will often react badly to changes in a character, so something the author sees as 'developing the character' may put the readers off. If that occurs, the reader should rewrite the entire story, but at least acknowledging the issue and addressing it is often enough to buy them enough time to win the readers back (by making the problematic character more sympathetic).

The key here, is to identify problem issues from minor chapter fluctuations. The answer to that, is either feedback, or if demanded, polling readers over what's impacting them (a problematic approach in itself). However, a better response is to turn to beta-readers.

joyR

@sejintenej

What are the hypothetical views about having dual scores:


The last thing we need is even more scores to cook.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@joyR

The last thing we need is even more scores to cook.

It that because too much broth spoils the cooks? They are sounding like a pretty spoilt bunch here already.

Replies:   joyR
sejintenej

@Crumbly Writer

The problem with that proposal, is your arbitrary cut-off. What happens to 3 or 5 chapter stories?

I did write that an end of story vote comes in "at the end of the story if shorter"

And if someone votes the entire story a 5 in chapter 7, based on the quality of writing, you're then simply throwing his one vote away,

No; there are two votes - if he votes a 5 at the end of say chapter 7 he could reassess at the end of chapter 8, 9 etc.
Is he going to vote at the end of chapter 7 and never vote again? Remember that this vote is on the entire story to date with all its ups and downs

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Grant

People couldn't deal with voting for Plot, Technical quality & Appeal to reader; I can't see them doing any better with votes per chapter & one for the overall story.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@sejintenej

Is he going to vote at the end of chapter 7 and never vote again? Remember that this vote is on the entire story to date with all its ups and downs

My suggestion was, someone starts the story, thinks it's poorly executed, votes once and never returns. If you maintain two ones, one temporary and one permanent (but only entered at the end of the story), then that persons vote essentially gets erased. Thus, the only people who get ANY vote are those who slog through the entire story, and if the story ends up being abandoned, you're left with another open question as to which vote to 'keep'.

With the current system, you can vote either once or 532 times, with only the last vote counting (ever other vote was subsequently changed). Thus the last vote is always the final count. That sounds like the current system already incorporates what you're suggesting. Whereas adding separate votes adds a level of complexity no one needs and Lazeez who have trouble implementing.

Crumbly Writer

@Grant

People couldn't deal with voting for Plot, Technical quality & Appeal to reader; I can't see them doing any better with votes per chapter & one for the overall story.

Some people did fine with the 3 separate votes, some just voted one score for all three. It was Lazeez who finally decided the 3-separate votes was a mistake. Likewise, I suspect there's only a small cadre of people who vote for each chapter, but many (several?) authors here pay attention to those votes, as they provide information we can't get from anywhere else. That's not a 'bug', it's a feature. ;-D

technomage

@docholladay

Better yet, post the user's name on the wall of shame page. Let everyone know that this person is nothing but a putz.

As far as the scores go, I'm too new as a writer to worry about it. Of the two poems I've published thus far, one of them received the complimentary '1' vote, but as there hasn't been any feedback so I just chalked it up that the story wasn't for them.

graybyrd

The upshot of it all is the scoring situation has been significantly simplified (for me, at least):

Don't bother voting at the end of any chapter in a serial story; maybe vote at the end of the story... or not. Simple.

Crumbly Writer

@graybyrd

The upshot of it all is the scoring situation has been significantly simplified (for me, at least):

Don't bother voting at the end of any chapter in a serial story; maybe vote at the end of the story... or not. Simple.

The scoring system was never designed for per-chapter voting. It was designed so readers could change their scores. What started as readers taking advantage of a bug (when it was based on cookies which expired, allowing multiple votes), ended up as a common practice.

Replies:   graybyrd
awnlee jawking

@graybyrd

I maintain an ongoing star rating for serials I'm following. Particularly good or particularly poor chapters can result in my rating being bumped up or down.

After a reader has voted for a story, perhaps the site should remind the reader of that score each time they pay the story another visit.

AJ

Replies:   Capt Zapp
Capt Zapp

@awnlee jawking

After a reader has voted for a story, perhaps the site should remind the reader of that score each time they pay the story another visit.


The site already displays the reader's current vote in the drop-down for voting to remind the reader of their current vote. Or were you recommending a reminder on the title page?

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Capt Zapp

Or were you recommending a reminder on the title page?


I think that would be more likely to prompt a reader to change a score they were no longer happy with.

AJ

graybyrd

@Crumbly Writer

The scoring system was never designed for per-chapter voting.


Then perhaps you can explain why there is a voting box at the end of each chapter? And if one votes that chapter, the next chapter will present another scoring box at the end of that chapter? With a reminder of the last voted score? That seems a pretty direct encouragement to vote each chapter. And there's nothing posted anywhere to explain the situation?

Again... the simples approach is to ignore it all, and maybe bother to cast a vote at the end of the story. Or not.

Replies:   Not_a_ID  Crumbly Writer
Not_a_ID

@graybyrd

The voting box is at the end of the currently posted story. So whenever a new chapter goes up, it becomes the new last chapter, and thus gets the voting box. If you go back and review earlier chapters, you won't have a voting option present.

Replies:   REP
REP

@Not_a_ID

The voting box is at the end of the currently posted story


Yes, and that voting box allows the reader to change their overall vote for the story.

Crumbly Writer

@graybyrd

Then perhaps you can explain why there is a voting box at the end of each chapter? And if one votes that chapter, the next chapter will present another scoring box at the end of that chapter?

Readers have the option to vote at the end of the story (wherever that happens to be at the time), but it's hardly a 'suggestion' they vote each time they see the box. Readers, over time, decided to start voting each chapter--probably because they wanted to reward authors for 'exciting action', while voting down 'boring developmental stuff'. But that doesn't change that the 'vote per chapter' was something that developed on it's own, rather than being a system design feature.

joyR
Updated:

@Ross at Play



It that because too much broth spoils the cooks? They are sounding like a pretty spoilt bunch here already.


Actually I don't think it's fair to label anyone here as "spoilt".

Despite the various clashes of opinion between contributors, bear in mind that every writer here freely offers up their stories for others to read and hopefully, enjoy.

Oh, and if you think the scoring topic is vicious, just wait for the storm when it is suggested that any story that even hints at underage sex should be deleted...

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