Plaza Forum

General Category => General Discussion => Topic started by: jakbird on May 02, 2022, 05:12:53 am

Title: The Grass Is NOT Greener (A Rant)
Post by: jakbird on May 02, 2022, 05:12:53 am
After a brief foray to another story site, which shall remain nameless but starts with 'L', I've come to the conclusion Gromet isn't all that bad despite a few things I find irritating as an author.  As an experiment I posted a few, old stories at that other site.  Out of four submitted, three were accepted ('Whispers in the Ear' was somehow regarded as being primarily about murder, no idea why).  There were some good points but one seriously bad one.

First the good points, and ones I miss on Gromet.  There is a view counter for the number of times the story page is opened.  The old BdsmLibrary site also had this feature.  Reality is virtually no one posts feedback on the stories.  At least with a view counter (and discounting about 10% for search engines and site scraping bots) this is a way to evaluate the story's reception.  It's not ideal; there's a misplaced temptation to compare counters with other stories, but that doesn't take into account the length of time a story has been available.  And it doesn't indicate how many actually read the story, rather than moving on after the first paragraph (TL;DNR, too long; did not read), or what percentage were returns from the same reader.

The other site also has a rating system, averaged over the number of readers who post a rating (again, similar to the BdsmLibrary site).  Nice but doesn't always reflect true opinions.  Don't like the author?  Mark every story with one star.  Along with ratings there's a 'Like' counter but no "Dislike", which I think is a good idea since it filters out the problems with ratings.

By the way, I found the view counter increment rate falls off a cliff after about a week. At the same time the rating average went up, what we mathematicians like to call 'inversely proportional'.  I attribute that to fewer but more discerning readers.

The one serious problem?  It's the subject matter of many of the stories, which overflows into the forum and chat room.  Gromet has excellent policies in this regard.  That other place?  My first impression was 'a sewer'.  It went downhill from there.  I lasted about ten days before pulling all the stories and heading for the nearest exit.  Ironically, almost anything goes for story content except for somewhat arbitrary restrictions (very odd given what is accepted) which would ban most of my stories.

My complaints about the Gromet format?  The first one is the way longer stories are posted compared to a series of related but independent stories.  Sequels are not additional chapters in some kind of serial format, but that's how it comes out looking at a summary of an author's catalog.  Sure, long stories can have separate pages, but the links should be off the first story page, not a chapter list on the site home page.  Keep the home site and author story lists uncluttered, with only one entry per story.  Looking at my own listings, how do I tell the difference between chapters in a novel, as opposed to a series of related (by location or characters) but primarily standalone short stories?  Now when it comes to the serialized story, one chapter a week for example, I can see where there has to be a way to know if the latest installment is available, in which case post first and most recent chapters as separate links in the home page, with the first page used as the table of contents links.  I never use the serial format (personal opinion: installments are either a sign there's no coherent plot or it's a cheap trick to gather eyeballs, but that's just me).

The other complaint?  Add page counters, give us some way to measure feedback.  Writing a story takes considerable effort; it would be nice to know more than two people read it.

One line summary: the grass is greener on this side of the hill.  The other side is full of loco weed (Jimson weed for those outside the central U.S., a nasty hallucinogenic for cattle and the occasional idiot who tries it out).
Title: Re: The Grass Is NOT Greener (A Rant)
Post by: jackierabbit1 on May 02, 2022, 10:29:46 am
I have read stories on "that" site, some very good, at least by humble standards and tastes. I was a member for like a week and got my email bombed with stuff, so out the door they went. I still read there, and I like to leave anonymous comments, almost exclusively positive, as in "thank you for sharing, this is what I liked" kinds of feedback. Some of the other comments are horrific though, this is an erotic story site for Pete's sake, what did one expect when she first started reading?

Anyway, a read counter would be wonderful here at the Plaza, but that being said I really like the small-town sense of community here, the shared kink and all of that. I wouldn't trade the one for the other, but maybe in the future one could be added here, although to be clear I don't know the technical hurdles to get over in that regard. GP seems a lean operation, where that other place may well have a large team of paid employees, or outside contractors even. GP has adds to pay for things on the first page, but that other place has adds on the top margin of EVERY page, and down the right as well. It also takes time for a small operation like GP to make changes, when just getting the proverbial product on the shelf is sometimes a challenge, especially if you're stocking the shelves yourself.

So in effect I agree with you, the grass is green and wonderful right here, thanks for sharing your rant, Jackie.   
Title: Re: The Grass Is NOT Greener (A Rant)
Post by: teanndaorsa on May 02, 2022, 09:45:32 pm
As Jackie says, thanks for sharing!

I am definitely interested in page views as a rough measure of story popularity, certainly. Because we all care about which stories are popular and which aren't. The CDN we use has that information (or it does, now I actually turned on the tracking), but it's one thing for me as an administrator to be able to go look up an individual page, quite another to actually get that information to anyone else.

All of the other natty per-story features mentioned (user ratings, page views, etc.) are things that fall out of the system almost naturally, if the website is serving up the stories from a database; because you can just store that extra information in the database record. The Plaza doesn't work like that - the story pages don't come from a database, they are static files on the server. The reason the Plaza can operate on the tiny cheap server that it does, is because the only part of the site that really uses the database are the index pages and the search functionality. Up until a few years ago (when webnik helped update the site), it didn't even do that much, there was no database, Gromet was updating the index pages manually with every submission!

That's not to say that won't ever change, or there aren't other options, but having each story display its own page views, let alone some sort of rating system where votes are counted, would be a big, structural change to how the site is maintained. And the more dynamic each page is, the more the site costs to run.

There's also no easy option for sharing the information just with authors, or at least not with all authors anyway. It's not like we have a login system where authors can go to a page and see information about their stories. All of the bodges or short term fixes I can imagine to get the information for just a few authors are likely not workable, because really you want to be able to get the information over time and see how it changes.

But that's all the negatives, and maybe there is a way of making this happen for the Plaza in the future. I'm curious, for the authors: would it be just your own stories you'd be interested in stats for? I.e. to measure which stories do better than others? Or would it be more about comparing with other authors / stories to see whether your work is popular in terms of the site as a whole? Part of me worries a little about encouraging unhealthy competition between authors, or discouraging authors whose work is super-niche. I wonder if there's value in feedback that's a little more vague, like telling you if your story is in the top 5% or 10% or 25% of stories this month. Or what the merits are in showing all-time statistics rather than just the last month and/or last year.
Title: Re: The Grass Is NOT Greener (A Rant)
Post by: jakbird on May 03, 2022, 12:30:52 am
I'm only interested in stats for my own stories.  Showing a percentage has little value because there's no frame of reference with it.  25% of what, 4 readers?  That means only one reader liked it.  I'd rather know four people read it.  Competition?  I learned long ago my particular style of story will never generate large numbers, so I'm used to coming in last on a leader board (an aside: I'm registered as a Libertarian for voting in US elections.  That means my candidate of choice will never win, but I vote my conscience anyway).

A view count needn't be real time.  A weekly or monthly update of the cumulative total per story would be sufficient.  Ratings and likes, purely window dressing, I'd just as soon do without.

Here's a little anecdote illustrating how useful view count can be.  Longtime denizens of the Internet may remember the old BDSMLibrary website.  Updates to it ended in 2009, so it's essentially a long dead site but someone keeps the server alive.  I posted an early story there back in 2005.  It did moderately well, positive comments and decent view count.  When the site fell into disuse, I wrote it off.

Out of curiosity I did a search last year, only to discover the site was still up and my story still there.  The view count was substantially higher, but I assumed that was due to intervening years.  How wrong I was.  I checked back later, only to discover the count was increasing by an astonishing 100 or so views per week.  A year later and now it's up to about 1000 a week.  Either someone has a bot constantly downloading from the site or there's some link pointing to that story.  How or where I have no idea.  So yeah, a running count can reveal an army of ghost readers.
Title: Re: The Grass Is NOT Greener (A Rant)
Post by: MaxRoper on May 05, 2022, 09:51:39 pm
I'm happy with this site as it is. The main things I've always appreciated here is the small town feel to the place, and the knowledge that it's basically a labor of love - first for Gromet, now for Teanndaorsa. Knowing how many people read my stories is of little importance to me, especially when less than 1% of those people bother leaving a comment.

Comments are (and always have been) what's missing. I've posted on several other sites, and while none of them boast much of an involved readership, this one for some reason consistently has the least amount of reader feedback (at least for my stories).
Title: Re: The Grass Is NOT Greener (A Rant)
Post by: taurired on May 09, 2022, 03:53:21 pm
Plaza looks more like community that 'other site'.
There are working and usuable forums (even while not everybody uses them).
'other site''s comments almost unusable for readers(!), same applies for their forums.
Title: Re: The Grass Is NOT Greener (A Rant)
Post by: Zephyr on May 15, 2022, 08:42:52 am
I'll chime in as also being happy with the site the way it is. As a professional geek I've had a few tastes of just how much work it takes to run a site like the Plaza, and I am continually impressed at how fortunate we are to have had Gromet and to have Teann. They don't get paid for this, and it's not a small effort needed to keep it as good and active as it is.

On the high number of sequels and "part 5 part 6 part 7" stuff (guilty as h*ll of that myself) I do see them as chapters in  a story. I have one in review now that is itself a complete, almost 30k word story, broken into 3 parts to make it more manageable. I've noticed that the site tends towards stories of 8-10,000 words and anything longer than that is just in my opinion too long, in the same way one would want to break up and reformat a run-on sentence. Generally I will take a premise and if warranted go in about eight different directions with the situation and characters, and that tends to come out on paper as different chapters or parts in the same series. Agreed, the entries in the list are sometimes hard to read, but I have no better suggestion and it works. I keep in mind I am grateful for the Plaza being here and any way Teann and Gromet  see/have seen fit to do it I am fine with. It's not like they are making a living being admins here, and if they were to charge I would happily pay it now but earlier in my life if I had and my SO had discovered that I did it's likely they would never discover all of my body parts.

It's true, comments here are microscopic. It's the nature of the beast here. Lots of views, a desert of comments with a few bright drinks of water (here's looking at you, Jackie, among others! Thank you!). I wish I could offer more hope but for me it's been about a decade of submitting stories and this has been true. But one's work does get *seen* here, and I'm happy and grateful for that.

I wrote one story specifically to see if I could generate some comments and discussion in the forum ("Consent", about where the line between consensuality and non-consensuality lies). Crickets. Sigh.

Let me ask for feedback from everyone. If I have a story, 30k words, that is one complete story, should I break it into 10k or so sections or post one mammoth 30k entry? What would each of you prefer to see?

Another beautiful thing about the Plaza is that rants like yours get discussed, not cancelled or deleted. I'm grateful for your opinion, it's almost a given you are far from the only person that feels this way about these things. Thank you for speaking up and working to make it better

Title: Re: The Grass Is NOT Greener (A Rant)
Post by: jakbird on May 15, 2022, 11:44:53 am
should I break it into 10k or so sections or post one mammoth 30k entry?

What I'd like to see is a compromise: a single entry on the website main page to link to the start of the story, and within that first story page place links to subsequent parts.  It has the advantage of keeping the story together but formatted into palatable chunks for those who don't download the whole story at once.

I have several series where there's an original story followed by related sequels.  The sequels are stories in their own right and mostly stand on their own merits though they may reference the overall backdrop.  What I don't want to see is a website format that implies they are an ongoing serial.  Yeah I know that's a popular format but not for me.  I only post completed stories, no "tune in next  week, same bat-time, same bat-channel".

I'm aware I'm tilting at the proverbial windmill in my preference for longer stories rather than the TL;DR short attention span so prevalent today.  A steady diet of fast food short stories is fine, but once in a while it's nice to sit down to the seven course meal of a full sized novel.  In depth character development ain't happening in 10K words.

beautiful thing about the Plaza is that rants like yours get discussed

That's why circus freak shows were so popular.  Everyone gets a chance to gawk at the Man Without A Brain.......