Friday, December 08, 2006

Final Decisions

I want to thank everybody that commented and contributed to the discussions in the three previous blog entries, and who made suggestions. It has been educational.

I've made up my mind on how to proceed next with regards to the voting system.

While I don't like to lose any authors or readers, the current state of the scoring system is pitiful, and if left as it currently is, then it will only get worse over time, which, to me, is unacceptable.

The suggestions by many were interesting to say the least, but a lot of it, while could be useful and helpful, is not feasible to implement. Everybody has to remember that the site is a busy one and I don't have unlimited resources. The site serves millions of pages per day and any change in the page, in the processing, in the data stored can have a huge effect on the site's performance and its ability to cope.

For example, keeping scores indefinitely, in order to allow for dropping a certain percentage of votes, or comparing previous voting patterns for each reader, is not possible. While the data stored could be relatively small, the cumulative numbers are huge. And it's not just about storing the info; processing power needed to handle all that grows exponentially. Searching a database of millions upon millions of data rows is expensive in processing power. Also, backing up the data and shuttling it around the net for off-site backup gets really expensive, really fast.

Also, anything that requires processing of each bit of info on the fly is also a no-no. For example, the suggestion that the story's highlight color changing with the score requires the evaluation of every story's score against the median for each page displayed. That requires multiple IFs for each row of each table. The site serves over a million listings page per day, with each page having 10 rows or 20, that means for each additional IF that I add to the process, the server farm has to execute it 10 or 20 million times per day, that means each listings page would need more than double what it already needs, that means I would need at least double the processing power that the site uses now and that's without taking future growth into consideration.

So, any solution would need to be simple, fast to process, easy on storage and easy on processing repetitions to be acceptable.

I understand what the system needs to do, and I understand what it takes to do the things that needs to be done. And, I'm the only one to know what it costs to do each little additional thing.

So, in order to balance the needs of the authors, with the needs of the readers and the resources available, I've decided to implement the following changes:

1 - A rewording of the current voting form. Not as drastically different as the previous rewording, but something more sensible. The change will be implemented in two stages. First stage the wording will be changed while keeping the number values associated with each description. 90 days later, the numbers will be removed and the voting form will have descriptions only.

2 - The previously noted vote weighing system will be implemented (it is very necessary), however, both scores will be displayed side by side for a whole year. In the first six months, the listings pages ordered by score will use the old score, and then in the next six month it will be sorted by the weighed score. After a year, the average score will not be shown anymore (remember, displaying both scores requires more bandwidth).

3 - The voting form will have two optional variations. The current reworded form will be the default one. Readers will have the option of using a more elaborate form that has three separate criteria to judge: Plot, Quality and Appeal.
Which form to see in the story by default will be an option in each user's preferences and will have a switch in the form itself.

I haven't decided how I'm going to display the scores from the elaborate forms in the listings pages yet, or how it should affect the sorting in the listings pages ordered by score.

Two options in that regard, display the average of each value or have a single combined representation. We'll see.

In the beginning, I will keep all the scores from the elaborate voting forms. Depending on how many people use them, I will decide later if I can afford to keep that data indefinitely or not. Users who choose to use the elaborate voting forms will be able to change their votes as long as the votes are kept.

Authors will be able to view how many of each vote their stories received.

Chapter voting, I'm not sure I'll implement it because of abuse possibilities. To stop abuse, I must track some data from each vote for each chapter. With over a hundred thousands possible users, combined with over 50,000 individual chapters currently on the site, the size of the data can be huge.

On the other hand, individual chapter voting can be done for authors' eyes only and each reader can vote as many times as they like for each chapter, which in return, makes chapter voting almost useless, but if authors really want it, then it can be done and please don't suggest to see vote value distribution, that would require keeping a lot more data.

Eventually, I will implement the capability to allow paying members to vote after the fact. They can download stories to read offline, so they should be able to vote on their next visit to the site for the stories that they downloaded in their previous session.

No mandatory voting. No mandatory comments while voting. No default voting for non voters. Non-voters outnumber voters 20 to 1, no matter how wild the actual voting is, it wouldn't make a blip if non voters were counted as average. Let's say the default vote is a 6, that means no story could score higher than 6.19 (with all 10s) or less than 5.76 (with all 1s).

As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

I now realize that the changes proposed previously were too much too fast. Hopefully, with the new gradual phasing in approach, people, both readers and authors can acclimate to the coming changes.


Update:

Just to give you and idea about the time line of the changes:

Unlike the first attempt, the first thing to be implemented is the score weighing system.

Then the form wording will change. This way, the vote weighing system can compensate for any change in voting patterns created by the wording change.

After that, I'll implement the three criteria voting system.

It will take a while to get done. To implement these changes it will take a lot of updates to the various pages on the site, and that takes time.

We're talking about a month at least. So, patience is required.

56 comments:

Andrew Johns said...

Lazeez,

I really like the sound of what you have proposed. I hope everyone here decides to give it a fair shake. We need to see the results over a period of time before we call it a success or condemn it as a failure.

Speaking for only myself, thank you very much for taking the amount of time you have trying to make things better for the reader, while considering how authors feel about it.

In the end, you can't please everyone. You can do the best you can for the majority, and I think this sounds like the first step.

Thank you!

Andrew Johns

Anonymous said...

OLD FART again.

It's not perfect, but they never are. I can work with it.

The OLD FART

Anonymous said...

Laz,

As I've said before, I understand where you're coming from on all this and know you're doing your best to keep this site working for everyone.

As an author and a reader, this is something I can work with.

Thanks

Stormy Weather

Anonymous said...

Very good Lazeez! Very well reasoned and a nice job of finding the middle ground. I thank you again for all your hard work.

co2

Jean D'Amour said...

Yep, this sounds like it will work fairly well. I have never been too wrapped around the axle about the absolute scores, but it is instructive to see how I'm doing in comparison to other authors. I think your system will give me that sense.

I had another idea regarding a scoring system. It would be interesting to see the results of voting done by other authors as a separate score. I'm guessing that such a system is probably over budget in terms of processing time, etc., but if it is possible economically please consider it.

w_newd said...

1st & foremost: Great thanx to the writers!; & my sincere apologies for not making the time out of an insanely bewildering (& just plain insane) life to comment/support anywhere near as much as I should've, I'm sorry & will try to do better. You've brought me much desperately needed enjoyment, intrigue, fun, satisfaction, arousal, distraction, etc...

Next-but-no-less: All hail Lazeez!; sure hope you're getting something out of all this, whether monetary (not likely) or otherwise, it's a huge amount of time & effort, and it's paid off in what is one of a very few premium large story-sites--the best of them from an organizational & presentation perspective. Take a well deserved bow!, (I'd throw money in addition to clapping, whistling, hollering 'bravo' & stomping my feet if I had any).

While my logical persona is glad to see that reality/honesty/weighed-scoring will be implemented, after reading the other commentary I've realized it'll make no difference. In summary, there are several reasons for this, but it primarily comes down to one thing: the behavior of the silent majority. 99.9+% of readers, being 'normal' time-restricted modern-day persons, if they don't like a story, will realize they don't like it before the end, & whether or not they're the sort to vote/score/comment (most aren't), will [click] off to elsewhere without going to the page-bottom & v/s/c-ing. They probably wouldn't even v/s/c if it could be coded to keep the scoring mechanism 'floating' to the side of the page, top mid or end, (though that might help a bit)--the same silent majority will not even vote/score/comment on material they love & follow avidly! (I'm every bit as guilty as most of us--SHAME on me/us!).

Therefore: the ONLY voting/scoring is done by a skewed vocal minority. With the noted resource & psychology restrictions this simply isn't 'fixable'; it's currently impossible to implement any scoring system that isn't mostly, if not entirely, really just 'applause' from a dedicated & appreciative few, with a little troll flaming thrown in for seasoning. For the writer's sake there's nothing wrong with such support!--great stuff if you can earn it!--but for the sake of the would-be reader, to consider such to be 'fair & objective-as-possible review' is blatant foolishness.

So, back to 'as it ever was'. Other than advice from a known & trusted acquaintance, the writer's own story-description & story-codes are the best, & only, indicator of a story's 'read-worthiness'.

One thing that could, but probably won't, come of all this is for a certain few of the writers to sit up & take notice of a few realities. KISS: the better the story--> the more readers--> the larger the tiny % of responders--> the more support (of whatever kind, from ego to edit)--> the better the story--> etc. The wheel goes 'round; the cycle continues. No 'art' exists without an audience--neither does a site. Therefore, KEEP THE READERS HAPPY; that is, the silent majority. The fervent vocal few might keep egos stroked, but they won't keep a large, major site like this alive (cause & effect--or cause & 'Affect'?, rofl!--keep the silent majority happy, else there'll be no place to gain even those treasured few responders/supporters, not to mention a sycophantic coterie), nor will such non-critical fan clubs improve writing. This is applicable to all, even those supposedly 'only writing for themselves': give 'em what they want = better stories = more readers = everyone involved happier. If the readers & webmaster want a scoring system change, then--out of self-interest!--writers shouldn't get in the way (sure, comment, contribute, etc, but no tantrums, please). Those who threatened to go, if you haven't by now seen what idiocy it was to do so, please, don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Again, my deep & sincere thanx to the contributing writers & Lazeez...
w_newd
nonof_urbiz@sbcglobal.net

Anonymous said...

Lazeez,
I like what you've been trying to do. It's a great idea and I believe it will work. I personally think that maybe we should just revote on the entire site. Because it's not like people are voting, but rather, just to revote on ALL stories. That way, the older stories won't have a higher mark. Now although some people might be upset because they already have a 9.86 with 10k votes, I personally beleive that if people truly like the story, the votes would still be just as high.

Thanks,
~yi liu

sourdough said...

Lazeez;
I didn't understand a word you wrote but I'm sure it'll make sense when you put the plan into action.

John Smith said...

Lazeez,

It is good to see the changes. I agree with you that they are very needed. I also suspect (as you have done so in the past) if some part of this needs adjusting along the way, you will do so.

Thanks you for your hard work, that keeps this site runing smoothly. I appriciate it!

John Smith

Mocha1120 said...

Sounds like an interesting compromise. I am particularly interested in the three part evaluation of Plot, Quality, and Appeal. This will give authors a chance to see which part of their story the readers feel needs the most work.

I know that sometimes my readers tell me they would like the story better if the main character was not a male bi-sexual. That is not going to happen; but if I can pull them in with plot and quality, maybe I can figure out a way to dance the fine line of reader appeal.

Klaude said...

Lazeez, thanks for all you do.

True story: some of my favorite reads were discovered by trawling the low scores. Orgiastic Cult (3.83) by Mark Townsend is a gem. Another one I wish I'd bookmarked had a character getting electrocuted by a sadistic Vietnamese call-girl -- not my taste in literature, mind you, but so well-written and so bizarre (to my tastes) that I couldn't stop reading.

My ego is stoked a little by my stories' scores, but email from readers is more important to me, and I'm more curious about the number of people reading my stuff than the number who decide to give it a "10" at the end. 9 should be a pretty good score, yet either of my stories' scores goes down when someone gives me a 9; it doesn't ring true to me. I'm curious to see how the new system works.

cheers,
Klaude Smith

Chrissy Giles said...

Good luck with the changes this time round.
I really hope you find a way to allow re-voting for longer stories. I've given high (and low) votes to stories which I'd have liked to have changed as the story progressed and got better/worse. Now I simply don't vote on unfinished stories which is unfair on the author.

To those who moaned about the authors I'd just like to remind you, it's the authors who write for free and give you your pleasures, so show a little tolerance and maybe respect for those who contribute.
And yes I am an author, but I'm also a reader and I read more than I write.

Interesting (to me anyway) I wrote a short true story and posted it here under another name. Those who knew I'd written it told me they really liked it, but it scored very badly 8.25 here.
Personally I don't think much on scoring. One of my better-written stories about which I received the most positive feedback received one of the lower scores while another which I think was weaker received far higher scores.
The scores seem to reflect titilation value more than how good a story is.

When looking through latest updates/new stories I go ONLY by description and I've never chosen a story by the votes.
I HAVE, however, been led to wonderful stories I would never have read by reviews, so here's a big hand from me to the reviewers. Thank you.

And also to the editors, who make my work more readable and I am sure do the same for many other authors.

One final comment I can't resist. I love the person in the last thread who began "I must go on record as saying..." signed Anonymous

.B said...

Lazeez, it's your site and if you end up being pleased with the results and if it brings the scores down out of the stratosphere, that will be WONDERFUL. If it also pleases MOST of the regular 'customers,' then it will be MARVELOUS!

For me, I'm just happy to be able to check the downloads once a week.

.B

Timm said...

Well this sounds a lot better then before. More important the multi category voting for me as an author is the only category I will pay any attention to once its in-place. It will help me far more then an overall score because the readers that take the time to use it, will be doing so with thought to areas not whimsical abstract issues that would take a mind reader to understand. Well maybe understand.

Thank you for listening.

Timm

Alan said...

Hi Lazeez,
Thank you for taking the time to lay out your reasoning about what is, after all's said and done, your site.
My take on the whole subject is similar to that of others, in that I pay little attention to the scores except as a 'wonder what others are saying?' type of indication. My primary means of identifying stories I'd like to read, unless they're by an author whose work I've already read and enjoyed, is via the story codes and, usually more importantly, the description of the story. If I can make one comment to any authors or would-be authors reading these comments, it would be to please, please take the time to write a concise and accurate description. It would also be helpful to have it be correct in both spelling and grammar, because a few errors in the description may well be an indicator to a potential reader (voter!) on what they can expect of the story itself. that's not to say that a badly-written description full of errors 'will' mean a similarly written story, but it may give that impression. Apologies for wandering slightly off-topic here, but it just seems to me that my, and probably other's, method of deciding what stories to read, depends more on the story description than the score, except as a secondary means of confirming interest/approval.
Again, thanks for running the site Lazeez.

argon-3 said...

I think your plans are sensible. The proposed changes will not change the relative ranking by score, and it will put older, equally good stories into the limelight again.
Would it be possible to extend the All Time Classics list to 100, at least for premium users, and with the new, weighted scores? This would expose older work now buried deep in the archives, a treasure for novices to this site.
Thanks for all your work!
Argon

esteban henderson said...

just to let you know that alot of readers do appreciate you and all the authors efforts...if one feels the need to make adjustments...go fo it...after all...even in a grerat place or spot..there will always be some nay sayers huh ??
catch ya later...and again you have my and my families thanks...
esteban henderson & family

Robar said...

Lazeez

I have held my tongue until now. I almost posted a comment the other day, but it was pretty scorching to those writers that threatened to withdraw their stories. I decided not to post it as I didn't want singe their dainty sensibilities.

I will now post and say I think what you are implementing is a great idea. I have enjoyed this site for a long time. It is this very site that finally pushed me into writing my own stories. While I would hate to see any of my favorite authors leave, YOU have to do what is right for YOUR site. I believe this is a much-needed overhaul to the voting system. As trivial as it may be, you have my support. - Lord Robar

Anonymous said...

Sugjestion:

Use a +5 to -5 system so people are more inclined to use a wider range of numbers. (I don't know why but it's a standard thing in stats.) You can add an optional second clicky for +0.5 to – 0.5 for more granularity. (I don't vote on stores where I agree with it's score because I can only drag it up / down and I like it where it is.)

Keep a running total of scores for each month aka 65 points (int) out of 400 possible (int) in a table that also has it's old ranking as score (float) and number of votes (int) so you can 6.5 * 40 for this month and 7.1 * 700 prior to that so they get (65 + 7.1 * 700) / (40 + 700) = 7.045 = 7.0.

You might want to do something to normalize each months data when you do on the fly calculations.

Aka 64 / 100 is really 6.1 so you do (6.1 * 40 +7.1 *700) / (40 + 700) = 7.0 or +2 well above average.

At the end of the month copy the scores to a new table, do off line preprocessing to nominalized the scores, and reset the months data. (Each month's pre processed scores should only be about 500k worth of data so you can keep that around to mess with if you want to.)

Anonymous said...

PS: I love the site.

Dark Pen said...

Once again, thanks for your efforts to improve the site. I think it's the best out there, and, as I said before, while I wasn't looking forward to the lowering of my scores, my entire identity isn't wrapped up in those scores.

I think these new changes will be good. Mostly, I just want to know if people enjoyed the story, and this will no doubt give me a better gauge of that.

You're awesome, and as an author (and reader) here, I really appreciate the time and effort you put into this site.

Dark Pen

cmsix said...

I'm sorry, I just don't feel comfortable on StoriesOnline any longer. Please remove my account and all my work.

Hate mail may be directed to:

cmsix@hotmail.com

cmsix

Anonymous said...

Knight Ranger here,

I agree that doing the changes will allow everyone to gradually get accustomed to the changes.

KR

Anonymous said...

Well, I won't be missing anything when cmsix leaves.

Looking forward to the new changes.

Thanks for a great site.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm not sure that the average score system is capable of being fixed.

Here's the inherent flaw: I generally only read stories with a score above 9.0. On such stories, voting anything other than a 10 will lower the story's average score, which, if I liked the story, runs counter to the idea of expressing my enjoyment.

Janna Leonard said...

Dear Lazeez,
Sounds to me like a wonderful compromise! As I've noted before, I don't care about scores on a story - the description does it best to tell me whether I want to read the story. And, since I write for a niche market anyway,(how many readers are genuinely interested in FF stories?) the scores are weighted by reader preference...
You've done a marvelous job with the site and your attempt to please as many people as possible, and I for one won't miss cmsix at all.

Janna :)

Anonymous said...

Kudos to you, Lazeez, for making the change.

Sorry, cmsix, but you are just going to have to face the reality that most of the readers from this site aren't going to help your little war. We want to see these changes happen. We want a more viable scoring system. And we don't care that you don't like it. This isn't all about you. It's about having something that works, not having something that inflates your ego.

Yet you think it is, even going as far as to post your email address.

Since you are from BFNowhere, TX, you are surely familiar with the saying: Don't let the door hit ya where the good lord split ya!

So, who here wants to start a pool on when cmsix comes crawling back for his adulation fix?

Anonymous said...

ElSol here...

All I can says is

"God, Lazeez... sometimes you make me feel like I'm just a lazy turd!"

Massive change here... massive change there... authors being wankers (or at least I've been a wanker a time or two or ten!).

And I can barely get out of bed on Saturday to finish a chapter!

*sigh*

Biggy323 said...

I'm glad that you are going forward with the revamping of the scoring system. I think in the long run it will help the better writers because the rating will really mean something.

Like others, I've noted that good stories were always in the "nines" and poor (in my opinion) were always very low, but worthwhile work was hard to find as the middle ground really did not seem to be a good indicator as to story quality.

It's too bad that some really good writers are asking to have their work removed. I browse a LOT of story sites and SOL premium is by far the best of all that I've seen.

I hope that those who choose to leave will reconsider as I will miss reading their work and it is unlikely that I'll chase them around the internet to find them.

SOL is a great central location for a lot of really good work.

Again, thanks for going to the trouble to make the ratings more valuable as a tool.

Bigguy

Darkniciad said...

So long as everything is applied equally across the board, the actual number of the score is irrelevant to me. I judge how my story is doing by how it does compared to other stories, not the hard number, which will always be flawed.

At least at first, readership will probably drop a bit, because people aren't going to catch on to the change, no matter how much you emphasize it. They'll still be in the same mindset, and skip stories that don't meet the old high scores ( all of them ). Eventually, this will level out as people adjust.

In the end, I think it's simply six of one - half a dozen of another. The raw scoring is flawed by trolls, cheerleaders, and the fact that most people who do vote only vote for things they like. The new system spreads these scores out, but displays numbers which aren't the actual votes, and it's still flawed by the same unchangeable factors.

You run a great site, with lots of thoughtful readers, and far fewer trolls than other places I could mention. The worst of them aren't literate enough to figure out the sign-up it seems, which keeps the most vitriolic and mindless ones off an author's back - which is a good thing. You get more constructive feedback here, and far less garbage.

It'll take a while for things to settle, but I don't see any harm coming from the changes. Some things mentioned, like the option for readers to break down a vote into specific categories sounds quite useful to authors too.

Anonymous said...

RE: CMSIX

Good riddance to bad rubbish. It's good to know that Texans are a bunch of cryin'-ass quitters when they don't get their way. Maybe you can pop in every so often under your new pen name when you get tired of COMPLETE obscurity and tell us all of what a big loser feels like.

Little Blue said...

I think that it will work out OK. I am glad to see that you decided to accept my suggestion of multiple scores, but I do have another suggestion about that. Add a 4th score for overall. That would be the equivalent to the single score and then you do not have to worry about how to compute a single score.

Anonymous said...

Lazeez,

I thought you had to be over 18 to be come to SOL. Nice to see the level of imaturity of some people writting comments here.

Klaude Smith said...

I for one will miss reading CMSIX's stuff. I might not have agreed with him on this subject, but I'm sorry to see him go.

Best wishes, CM6.

ks

Connard Wellingham said...

Lazeez,
Being a lazy bastard like El-Sol, I haven't been paying attention to the proposed voting changes. So I emerge, blinking, from my cave like Rip Van Winkle to find that a storm of controversy has been raging while I slept.

Personally, I have no problem with whatever voting system you choose, other than to say, if it's too complicated, people won't use it. Whatever sytem is chosen, it will be 'biased' in that it will reflect the voter's opinions rather than any abstract absolute merit a story might have. It's inherent in any populist system. People vote for what they like whether it's well-written or not. So what? That's life. It's the same in the 'real' world of book publishing, politics, pop music, anywhere success is measured by popularity.

That certain authors have taken the hump fills me with astonishment. We should all be on our knees daily expressing our gratitude to you for the hours of effort you put in to making SoL the most user-friendly and professionally-designed site there is. I, for one, am eternally grateful to you.

You have my heartfelt thanks.

Anonymous said...

I won't begin to understand the math behind the changes. I suppose that's why I drive truck part-time.

For the last two plus years I have found SoL to be a wonderful site to read and post to. I will continue to do so.

Well Done.

Allen Wilson

Lord Robar said...

Lazeez

Thanks for all you do to make this a great site.

Six

You are such a pudZ! You're crying because this site has always been your personal roost to crow from. I have seen you admit you posted skinny chapters of J&A just to drive up the number of downloads.

Well you won't be the download king here anymore. Crawl your sniveling ass back to the Lonely Crybaby state.

PS. Sorry all you fine Texans out there have to share a state with this whine-ass. - Robar

Krazycarnie said...

First I would like to than Lazeez for the site, I have had many years of enjoyable entertainment from it.
A couple of thoughts on this, first how many of you actually wait to see the "scores" on a storey before you read it?
I check the New Stories section at least daily, where more than half the stories have no score.
I pick what I want to read by story codes, or the author if I happen to know the name (.B, Frank Downey, Gina Marie... you get the picture). If the story codes are so-so I may click on the autor's name and see what other stories (if any) they have written. Then I have at it, and read the story.
As I mentioned in a previous post I am one the 95% that rarely votes, not because I am lazy (well I am, but that is not the reason I don't vote often), but I have always felt that a 10 point system was just to course a grid. In my mind there is a world of difference between a 9.0 story and a 9.5 story. I would still like the option of 1 - 100.
Now as to cmsix... I have enjoyed your stories, however if you do not surface on any of the sites that I visit regularily I guess I will never find out what happens in your sagas. Or to put it more bluntly - Grow Up!
The Carnie

Anonymous said...

I realize that I am not too bright, but why would trying to develop a voting system that means anything cause readers and authors to leave? What is there in change that so frightens the likes of cmsix? I have enjoyed some of his writings and emailed my appreciation to him.

I do not understand all the new changes taking effect, but I believe that I can learn.

Will the stories not still represent varying degrees of talent, technical ability, and modes of presentation? Are some authors not better at their hobby than others? Do readers not have interests that cover a broad spectrum? All that the new situation is doing is to help improve communication among readers and authors as to what is thought of the work.

It sounds to me like a great deal of thought has gone into the new evaluations. If there was no concern in keeping this the best website of this nature that I have found, then we would not be enjoying what we have.

I do not understand how an effort to improve the site could cause discomfort and hostility for anyone.

nebish said...

Lazeez,

I'll keep this short, as pretty much everything I wanted to say has already been said (cf. alan, old fart, stormy weather, john smith, mocha1120, et al....).

If you can *stand* any more advice, I think jean d'amour's suggestion would be wonderful if it's practical -- sort of like a StoriesOnLine equivelent of the Nebula. Maybe after the dust has settled?

As for cmsix (and presumably a relatively few others as well):
I hope that once these authors have some time to reflect on what's happened, they will conclude that their own reaction to take offence and "take their ball and go home" doesn't really accord with the actions, values and attitudes portrayed so well by their own protagonists. Hopefully they will then be big enough to follow the positive example of their own characters that we so much enjoy reading about.

In the meantime, I'd like to say to cmsix that some notably immature jeering, directed his way by certain loudmouthed commentators from the safety of their electronic anonymity, is quite unlikely to represent the vast majority of the SOL readership, regardless of how we may disagree with or be disappointed by his departure. I for one look forward to eventually reading the conclusion of "Depression" an "Dealer, I'm All In" when they return to the site.

Anonymous said...

As a suggestion for the wording change on the voting forms... drop 'Fair' from the list, shift every description down by one (so Average becomes five, and Excellent 9) and 10 can be Perfect. or Best Story Ever.

Certainly, there will still be both trolls and cheerleaders, but if the median score drops by less than one, at least it'll become obvious which group is more of a problem.

Gina Marie said...

Any voting system where you change a readers vote is, to me, unacceptable. Please -- imagine how the average American would feel if you told him that their vote was "whatever" enough and even though they'd voted Democrat, you were going to award the vote to a Republican. Ouch!

Unacceptable, however is no reason for me to change. I've never liked the voting system, and, to be candid, your wording change killed my most recent post, dropping it off the list of high scores.

So what? It was arbitrary before and it's more arbitrary now.

Just don't expect cheers. You've changed the rules on all stories, where some, by virtue of longevity, are immune and others, by virtue of their more recent posting and fewer votes, aren't immune. You make no provision for stories like that, and, in fact, don't even mention them.

You are, of course, free to do whatever you wish, but as a courtesy to those of us smashed by the changes -- couldn't you at least keep the old ratings?

Gina Marie

Anonymous said...

Pleasure Boy 1 says:

The general consensus seems to be thumbs up for the new system. Though it'll take time to adjust to, in the long run things will be more even, balanced, and accurate.

cmsix and Gina are having some difficulty with it. All I can say to them and anyone else is, keep writing top quality stuff and the cream will rise to the top no matter what the scoring system is. Old vs. new? All stories will be old eventually. Forego the immediate gratification of seeing your story on a top list, and just write for your own personal sense of excellence. Most writers on here never see their name on a top list but they still keep going because it keeps them amused and stimulated. I remember the days before I even discovered SOL when I used to just write and write and write entire novels worth of stuff just to get it out of my head, even though no one ever even saw a word of it except me. I just wrote because I loved writing. I never got any scores of feedback and I still loved it. Now I love it a little bit more, knowing someone out there is touched by a particular scene I've written, a particular line a character said, a simple phrase. It's an awesome feeling. Makes the world seem a lot less cold and distant.

cmsix, I encourage you to come back. Write under a new name if you must, but just keep sharing your work. Life is shitty enough most of the time; you need the outlet for your stress. I'm sure it helps to keep you sane to some degree.

As for the changes themselves, my only other suggestion is, make sure you're very specific about what the extra categories mean. Plot, quality, and appeal are just vague enough to allow people to arbitrarily assign tens to them by default every time. Let's face it, if you really like a story, you're sitting there with trembling hands feeling like your brain just had six orgasms, plot, quality, and appeal will be meaningless words, blank canvases on which to spray all sorts of mindless praise. Narrow these terms down to some very specific phrases for which there can be no doubt as to what you mean. If possible word the scoring choices for these things as well.

On the plus side, these new categories will offer opportunities for new top lists for people to appear on. Top "Quality" stories in the last 30 days. Top "Appeal" stories... etc. If possible, you might also add extra lists for some golden clitoride type categories. Top 20 stories by new authors. Top 20 humor stories, etc. Maybe rotate the extra categories from month-to-month, to save on expensive top-of-page real estate.

On a side note, I noticed one particular chapter on one of my stories was getting three times as many downloads as others were, and I wasn't sure why. I had to navigate over to the story to find out what that chapter specifically was about. Is it possible to add a quick link to the chapters and stories in the stats pages? That would be cool. (Ps. Turns out it was a very hot girl-on-girl shower scene that was bringing them back over and over. Go figure.)

Thanks for everything.

-PB1

Anonymous said...

Lazeez,

First of all thanks for maintaining SOL, in spite of all the headaches that it brings.

Personally, if I had gotten the type of public feedback you have with the changes you planned to try to make this a better site I would likely have saved the stats under the old scoring system on Dec 31, 2006 (maybe temporarily pulling the site off-line to get all the stats saved.) Then on Jan 1st, all the stories would show 0 votes (until someone voted on them that day.) There would be a way to see the older scores, but it would not be easy.

The stats that concern me the most is number of downloads per chapter, followed by feedback emails and number of premier members/authors who have added that story to their library.

Me

Anonymous said...

Well, well, well. So there will be some changes.

I don't think it will do much. I think Gina's observation is correct and very relevant. Old stories in the old system will weather the changes much easily than the new stories will.

There's no real improvement per se. The core problems aren't addressed. Scores are still useless as an indicator of material that's worth the time. Oh, yes, I saw so many comments about how this reader or that reader (and even some authors) say that something that's not above x.x (say 9.0) is not worth reading, and I can't but help laugh at it. When scores are so inflated, I'm curious how they seem to figure out what story is worth reading and what is not. Since I do not look at scores (burnt too many times by useless trivia), when I have the time, I go through the codes, descriptions, and lastly through the download stats (even though the download stats aren't much of a indicator, because it is usually influenced by the score, but I try to make an allowance for negative influence of scores), and try to browse through as much of the interesting sounding stories. A chapter or two gives me some indication if it is worth reading. I have found that there are hidden gems in the below 8.5 range, although difficult to find, unless you're patiently searching.

So, it's back to hard work of going through story descriptions and codes. It's unfortunate that some authors don't put something that's descriptive or indicative of what the story is, and in that respect they get the chop, unless there are other indicators (such as a mention of the author or the particular story as a recommendation, or familiarity with the author and his works).

What I really don't like about the scoring system is not just its uselessness, whether you word it this way or that way, whether you manipulate it up or down by some algorithm, but how it affects other things. First of all, the inflated high scores cause a lot of worthless stories to be bunched up at the higher end of the scale, together with the quality stuff. Don't tell me that's not happening.
I would like to see a show of hands here about some of the stories from authors like Frank Downey or Nick Scipio and similar, where the stories scored around 9.5-9.6, (or sometimes a little lower than that) compared to other stories which has no plot, no story telling technique, no proper grammar, and has nothing more than a bunch of people screwing each other silly. Heck, I've even posted a story or two at SOL, and I know I'm nowhere near the caliber of the aforementioned authors. No, I don't write scene after scene of sexual activity, nor do I go for what seems to be gratuitous lolita stories without any plot or even a theme. I try for something with plot, something with character development, etc... So, when I see that what I wrote has scored 9.5-9.6, like some of my favorite stories from my favorite authors, (whom I know are much better at writing than I am), I can't help but laugh at the absurdity of the situation.

Another negative influence is that the inflated scoring pushes some really readable material to the middle or lower, because they don't seem to be able to make a break. And once the scores seem below a certain level, it sets up a negative trend. The downloads go down, because new readers automatically skip because the score is below the reader's cut-off point. In turn, gaining new readership for some stories becomes a serious issue. What's worse, since the scores are useless, the weekly top score listings are almost impossible most stories to break into. That leaves only the weekly top downloads list to get some visibility, and perhaps gain some new readers. However, if the story is being posted middle of the week, forget about making the list. Add to it the negative trend set up by the inflated scores pushing a story below the high median we seem to have, sometimes there's hardly any chance for the story to gain new readership. Interestingly, they might be able to retain their readership, but it's usually the readers that they have garnered during the first few chapters. But if it's a long story, during its posting, they may not be able to gain more readers, because of the cumulative effects that are set in motion by the way the worthless scoring system which results in a cascading effect that reaches to other areas.

No. I don't think the new system will do anything to help readers to find good reading material, and it's not going to help authors to get a true measure of their efforts.

What has worked for me, and quite many of my friends that I met in the online community (in various author forums, chat rooms and such), are recommendations, lists made by other authors or readers, the word of mouth advertisements. For a while I used to vote, and even tried to help the authors by voting for their stories, and didn't vote for stories that I couldn't go past a few chapters. I've stopped from engaging in the voting, because it doesn't do anything. Worse, I was tempted to manipulate voting; vote the lowest for stories which were in my subjective opinion not good enough and yet scored higher than other stories which were (in my opinion) much better but scored slightly lower, and then vote the highest for those better stories. Hey! That's the kind of thing that messed up the system, and to find myself tempted to resort to that was very disturbing. So, I decline from taking part in the voting process.

Nowadays, I just send feedback mail, and prioritized my responses mostly to the new authors if I like their stuff, because they at least need a leg up and the encouragement.

For my reading, I rely on mostly recommendations, reviews, and when I have the time, I browse through the story list and look at descriptions, codes, and try to figure out how to interpret the useless stats such as downloads and scores, but use them very sparingly, if at all. After all, a few chapters of reading usually tell me if I'm wasting my time or not.

I wish, there are more reviewers at SOL, and more stories were reviewed and scored by reviewers. I wish, any scores given by reviewers would be shown next to other scores --based on what Lazeez explained about how resources are needed to process the data, I'm wondering how difficult it would be to compile the votes from reviewers and display the results next to other scores. I doubt it's going to require too many resources, because the amount of data is orders of magnitude less than general user voting and scoring requires!

And here's an idea to consider... Most of the authors have their favorites list. They like certain stories and may revisit them more than once. Then they have their current reading list, which story they are following. We also heard from various authors their complaints about the scoring and votes. So, why don't they (well, include me in that list, too, because this is something I would like to join as an author), get a separate place at the site where they can vote and score the stories they've read, they've enjoyed.

Lazeez, how about it? It's not going to be that much resource hungry process, is it? If you look at the number of authors versus the users, there's a huge difference. Then, among the authors, not everybody is going to join in. It might be as simple as:
1. Allowing the author to click on a check box at his favorite lists and currently reading lists to indicate his lists are available for voting which will be polled and put in a database.
2. Allowing slider bars (hopefully instead of one general score, a categorization such as content, stroke, technicality, and similar) for each story in their lists where the author could quickly mark his votes. I also think that the point system should not be more than 4 or 5 levels (perhaps coinciding with the 5 to 10 range instead of 1-10 range). Why? Because the authors' lists would consist of stories he's enjoyed or enjoying, thus by its nature, it would be those that he thinks are worth reading, and consequently the range of votes would be in the upper half or upper quarter of 1-10 range. However, you might want to poll the authors to get feedback for what kind of system they might want to go for (or use your own judgment, since you know resources you'll need to use, and what might work and what might not). It could be any one of: a strict 5-10 range without finer control or with finer control, or perhaps a more narrow range such as 8, 9, 10 with finer control for decimal points???
3. Processing would be a weekly one time thing, when the story list pages of the authors would be polled to collect their votes, perhaps on Sunday, before you ZERO the various top-XXXX lists that you keep updating frequently beginning with the start of a new week. You don't need to poll the author scores for a whole week until the next Sunday to use the new polled data for the new Top-XXXX lists. And since the scores would be compiled prior to beginning of a week and stay a constant throughout the week, you only need to display "'fixed' author scores" for stories that have such votes from authors, next to the usuall user scores. You might even, for readers' convenience, post a separate "top-50 (or 100) author's choices" list since the scores from authors will be fixed for the whole week!

Item-3 should really not be such a resource hungry system, and it would, I expect, be of more value than other scores. Besides, the way it might be set up, it would be easier to change your vote any time you want!

What's more, it would also address the issue of crappy voting systems, and such, and the more authors join in in the effort of casting votes, the better the system would be. Besides, they would have no more reason to whine about this or that aspect of the current user voting systems!

Come on people [authors!]. You don't like the voting systems (old or new). I certainly don't like it, and have decided long time ago that I will not take part in the voting system, which is so obviously useless, but this author-based voting won't require too much effort on our part. You can even do it gradually, over a period of time. You can even choose to vote only a certain number of stories in your own lists, and not vote on every story you are reading or have read before. And in less than 6 months (or perhaps as low as 3 months), I'm sure we should see some serious improvement. So what do you say?
What do you think?

Lazeez, what about you? Do you still think it would be too resource hungry to poll a limited number of pages and collect such data once a week? You should be able to run a batch process to do it. I can think of several ways to improve the system and cut down on the processing.

Until you poll the page, the authors can make changes to the stories in their lists as much as they like, because eventually it would be one vote for one story in their list (or one categorical vote on each category for one story), or no vote for some stories if the author wishes. You can opt for letting the authors submit their votes via submit button so that the results could be sent to a database for collection, if you don't want to do a poll, but I think this might cause problems, unless you can cull the old votes submitted by the author (say, because the author had changed his mind and vote on some stories), and the submitted votes stay in effect until author click submit again, but I think polling at a set time might be more effective, and stories that got voted stay in a database, even if later, the author removes a story from one of his lists when he's compiling his story list, to allow for vote tracking and such.

So what do you ladies and gents say, or think. Let's hear it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the scoring changes will make things different for everyone. But the runaway scores have become a joke on the readers, and worthless.

So what if your score plummets? Was it ever a true indication of how a story was? Stories have a 9.8 score after the first chapter has been posted, with nothing done other than possibly whetting our appetite. How could any reasonable person decide that the story was worth a 10? It isn't done!

As someone pointed out, cmsix is all about his scores/downloads. He once posted in his blog that the secret to high scores was using MC, some incest, sex in every chapter, posting every 2-3 days, and writing shorter chapters to have more of them. There's a reason some of his stories won't end. It's because every time he sees his download count for a story not be way up there, he suddenly is inspired to add onto the story, just to make people download something.

He doesn't care about you, the reader. He cares about himself, and being #1.

As for you, Gina Marie, so what if your story dropped out of the top scoring list? After creating a very nice haven of sorts for authors to help each other, I would have thought you were beyond the pep-rally that is the current scoring system. You are a gifted storyteller, able to create interesting characters with interesting lives, and make them come alive on our digital pages. You have a nice community that you get plenty of well deserved pats on the back from. Is having a story not be on a top list really such a problem?

We readers think about the author a whole heck of a lot. We care about your writing, and feel blessed when a new story/chapter gets posted. Some of us write you frequently with feedback. For once, many of us are pushing for something FOR us, the reader. We want something done so that the scores mean something again. Right now, they could change all the scores to a 9.99 (except cmsix... He'd have to have a 10.00) and it wouldn't make much of a difference.

I used to love the fact that any story over an 8 was usually quite good, and there were some stories hidden in the 7's that were great finds. Now, you are busy looking through the 9.5+ scores. Any story that has less than a 9.00 that was published in the last year is total crap.

I would think you authors would want a more realistic view of how your stories are doing.

Anonymous said...

For the reviewers idea, look at how most of the reviwers score stories. Most of them don't have the balls to say anything negative.

The #1 reviewer has reviewed 129 stories to date. 86% of the scores they has give out for "appeal to reviewer" were 10's.

The #2 reviwer has done 112 reviews. Only on 46% of their reviews did they give a 10.

The #3 reviwer has been retired for quite some time, so I won't use her numbers, but Celeste was always considered good.

The #4 reviewer, with 58 reviews gave out a 10 95% of the time.

The #5 reviwer, with 50 reviews gave out a 10 78% of the time.

Those are the only 5 reviewers to have at least 50 stories reviewed.

How many reviewers actually review a story every 2 weeks or more? Not many. Why? I suspect because it is a lot of work. Also, they have to come across as literate to be of any value. Some of them fail that requirement at times.

If more reviewers would have some brass balls (or bras), things might be better. As it stands, most of them tend to be cheerleaders, just like the voters.

Besides, how many people actually look at the reviews page, besides the reviwers and the authors? I wonder if the webmaster has numbers on that?

Anonymous said...

I tend to read slow so I down load all the stories I read. If the voting box at the end of the stories would connect back into the site I would vote on most all of the stories.

Thanks

Anonymous said...

As a relatively new author, this scoring change doesn't bother me.

One of my longer stories will get affected. One of my current stories will get affected.

As long as everyone's affected (older stories less so, as noted) I don't mind, and it's not really my say, is it? It's Laz'.

I like a high score, I'm competitive by nature. I like high download counts. I would NEVER post a short chapter to boost downloads. I would post short chapters if there were a thematic end to the chapter, but the awareness that people have abused this in the past (cmsix, others) instead makes me choose a chapter size in wordcount and find the next good 'breaking point' after that. So, Sparks has 5,000 word chapters (mostly), and the current one (Assumed Inheritance) gets 8,000 word chapters.

Why bring that up? Because it's not my site, and I try to work within the rules and spirit of the site. Why would I do that? Because I like to write, I like feedback, and I like to give the reader what I hope they'll enjoy - because I'm a reader too. So - I work within the framework that Laz provides.

I like Laz' framework enough that I have been exclusively posting here on SOL. Someday (soon, since my current story is in a shared universe) I'll post other places too, but I'll organize the stories as I do for SOL. This site has that much influence.

So, it's his site. We keep coming back to that...

I'll just write the best stories I can. Some will be popular, others not so (but probably explore some writing-technique thing that crossed my mind and I probably shouldn't post those), and the popular ones can be highly-scored.

The new scoring system cost my current story three-tenths of a point, and I wasn't stressed. See, it was still well above a Nine, and that, in the new system, is likely going to be the metric of "Worthiness".

The rules change, so what? It'll only take us a short period of time to adjust, just as long as we don't take our ball and go home.


black_coffee

Anonymous said...

This happened to me yesterday, and I think it shows why the scores get inflated.

I finished reading a story that had been on my "to read eventually" list for a long time. I very much liked the story, but it was not without its flaws. It had a fair amount of grammatical errors, and the plot was a bit too "over the top". However, the sex was very hot, the characterization was good, and the storyline was unique.

If someone asked me, I would say "Yes, you should read it, it's good."

Then it came time to vote. I think a fair vote would have been an 8. However, it's current score was 9.2. This means that unless I gave it a 10 (which was certainly not deserved), I would be lowering the story's score (effectively giving it a "thumbs-down").

Even giving it a 9 would mean that I'd be hurting a story that I was trying to endorse. So in this case I simply did not vote at all, which I perceived to be the lesser of several evils.

This is why I would prefer (as I've mentioned before) a simpler system. A thumbs-up/thumbs-down appraoch would be better in my opinion. It would reduce the effect that the trolls and cheerleaders have (a single up or down vote can't distort a score as much as a 1 or a 10 can), and it would greatly reduce the trend to score inflate.

In any case, I applaud the hard work that goes into this site and the desire to improve things.

As to cmsix's choice, I find it rather silly. I would think that the propsed changes would be to his delight. Doesn't he realize that future stories will have little chance of beating his scores (since future stories will be "graded harder" than his have been)?

Anonymous said...

I looked through the authors' favorite stories. To me, it's a validation of the longer term worth of a story. A story scored above 9.5 that didn't make on a number of favorite lists, probably shouldn't be 9.5

None of my stories are listed or deserve to be. It's kind of incredible to see all the scores above the classics like Aftermath, or Downey's etc.

I understand cmsix. I don't criticize him because he needs certain things to reward him for writing.

It took me a long time to get to 9.0 and I had to see something that drops us below that psychological level.

At least cmsix signed his opinion. I have no respect for anonymous critical people. SOL isn't his site and he seems to respect Lazeez can run it like he thinks best. cmsix can only vote with his feet.

I really missed some people when they stopped posting here. I hate to lose the really good ones. I hope this doesn't discourage the best to leave.

rougher63

Anonymous said...

"No respect for anonymous critical people.." ?

Signing "rougher63" doesn't really make you any less anonymous.

But if it makes you feel any better, I should have signed the previous post as "LordGarth" (as if it makes any difference).

LordGarth :)

cmsix said...

Hey, as long as your here, could a few of you go vote on "John and Argent" before Lazeez gets it taken down. I don't care if you give it a 1 or a minus 10, I'd just like to see it get five thousand votes before it leaves.

cmsix

Anonymous said...

cmsix said:
zfnievzb"No respect for anonymous critical people.." ?


If that's the case, and a nym isn't good enough for Lord Whatsit.

-------

Riigght... and give the trolls a target and be cannon fodder, especially when they are being encouraged with "I'm going to quit writing[/posting/...] if I don't see you vote" kind of notes from some of the writers, or when we see tactics designed to increase download counts, votes, and such...

Thank you, but no thank you!

It's enough of a hassle to deal with trolls as they are, while trying to write and ignore their attempts which can get at times rather tiring.

And since you're quiting the site, what does it matter to you? Let me make this crystal clear. Or do you wish the trolls to have a list of targets to attack?
I didn't tell you to quit the site. You announced your intentions and reasons. That's fine! Most anonymous responses here, didn't tell you to quit, but some of them called you on your decision! So, I'll be damned if I let you twist my words and turn this into a flame war. Based on what I've read and seen of this whole saga, and past history (which is not even open to debate because what's happened is crystal clear, as your own words had been in response to criticism directed at you), forgive me if I don't bite your bait so you can provide scapegoats and targets for the trolls! Call me suspicious, but hey, it wasn't me who tried "vote or I stop continuing this story," the kind of messages that is a blatant blackmail to readers, and encouragement for trolls!

ANON

cmsix said...

Well, you've really got me there ANON. No sense in trying to pull the wool over your eyes. You're way too smart to fall for my tricks.

cmsix aka Chessley Grogan Jr or just Chess if you'd prefer.

Lazeez said...

This discussion is getting silly. I'm locking out comments.