Coming change to the scoring system

After following many discussions on the forum about the scoring system, it became evident that everybody notices that serial stories tend to score higher than single shot stories for various reasons. The most obvious reason for this trend is that those who do follow serial stories tend to be those who like them to begin with, so they will definitely score them higher.

Due to this fundamental difference in reader behaviour, it makes it unfair to compare single stories’ scores to serial stories’ scores when weighing each story’s score.

The change that I’ve decided to make to the weighing formula is to make it aware of the story’s serial status.

So the system will have two separate medians for the each scoring period. One for single shot stories and one for serial stories last updated in this time period.

I’ve tested this change already in the development environment and one thing became clear: serial stories’ scores will drop after this change and single shot stories’ scores will rise after the change.

I believe this change will make for a weighing forumla that is more fair for single shot stories that don’t benefit from inherent reader bias.

Although my mind is kind of set on making this change, I thought I would get your opinion about it first.

Please use the form below to voice your opinion.

Update: Before you post telling me that longer stories are better, this algorithm change isn’t about Long vs. Short. This is Serially posted stories vs stories (long and short) posted in a single shot. This isn’t about giving advantage to short stories, this is about removing formula bias against stories (Long and Short) posted in one shot. The change in algorithm does not look at the story’s length, it only looks at whether the story is posted in one shot or over time.

Update 2: Since most replies were negative, I cancelled the change.

Storiesonline.net’s Author Listings Have Changed

Recently, I redesigned the authors’ listings on the site. It was a necessary change, but some are very unhappy with it.

In one way, they are a little bit less convenient to some now. But it was a necessary change.

What are the changes? Not much, I added paging to the listings, so now instead of each letter being displayed all at the same time, it gets displayed in chunks of 30 authors. Also, it’s better looking for desktop browsers.

This change made it difficult for somebody going for a certain author to get to their target quickly if the target happen to be on page Eighteen of a certain letter. For those browsing for discovery, it shouldn’t really matter.

The new display has a solution for those who are seeking a specific author. The page has a ‘Jump To’ field at the top. Just type the first few letters (up to 5) of the author you want and the page will jump directly to it. In a way, this is actually faster than scrolling through up to 500 authors on one list.

The reasons for change are:

  1. Mobile: Scrolling down 200-500 names on a phone is very tedious. The new listings are way better for phone users.

  2. Search engine indexing: Google and other search engines on the internet have limits on the number of links per page that they follow. The limit is around 100-150. Which means, when served with a list of 500 authors with each author having an average of 3 links, the indexing bots drop a lot of links and many authors don’t show up in search engines’ indexes. That’s isn’t good nor fair for those authors at the bottom of those lists.

Update 2014-08-04: Due to popular demand, and since this redesign didn’t really benefit the site from a performance view, I’ve implemented some code modifications that removed the listings limits for logged in users on non-mobile devices.

Scoring and Voting System’s Upcoming Changes

As I announced back in 2012, changes are coming to the site’s voting system. Since work on the updates has progressed enough to make things clear, I guess it’s time to update you all on the coming changes.

1 – The TPA system is going away. The system never lived up to its potential. The members that could use it effectively and correctly are very few and those who used it tended to ruin the results. So it became a waste of resources that delivered very little value for everyone. The existing votes will be converted to normal votes (what used to be basic).

2 – The updated system now keeps individual votes and that means new useful stuff and less drawbacks.

3 – Due to the way the updated system works, there will be no display of the old bScore. Only the weighed score (the bScore was already hidden from new authors).

So what useful stuff will result from #2? Well, now we can calculate a story’s score while dropping the top 5% and the bottom 5% of votes; thus eliminating outliers and minimizing the effects of vindictive/manipulative/destructive votes. This top and bottom drop will kick in once the story reaches 20 votes. So, I don’t want to hear anything anymore about votes of ‘1’. Those are taken care of with this change.

I’ve been keeping individual basic votes since 2009, so those, with the individual votes from the TPA, will make up the source for the scores in the updated system (millions of votes already). I’ll be dropping the old vote results completely. Theoretically, all the scores displayed for all the stories on the site will now reflect the same voting conditions. What that means is that the old stories’ scores most likely will change drastically. I haven’t completed enough work to make a comparison between the old scores and the new scores for the top performing classic stories, so I don’t really know what will happen yet.

The updated system will allow readers to change their votes. So no more “where is the voting form” except when authors turn off voting. And readers will be able to update their votes on serials as chapters get posted.

Update 2013-05-21: All the changes have been implemented.

iOS 6 and the non-working random story display

Anybody who upgraded to iOS 6 on the iPhone soon found the random story display on the home page to be broken. It took two days to track the problem to excessively aggressive page caching on the part of Safari.

I finally worked around the problem by varying the URL where the random story is fetched for each request. It’s now working on iPhones with iOS6.

You may need to force reload the site’s home page and javascripts by clearing all sites’ data on your iPhone.

To clear all sites’ data, go to: Settings -> Safari -> Advanced -> Website Data and clear the data.

Recent move followup

As you all know, the sites moved to a new location and even onto a new platform. During the move the platform changed and that led to some unexpected issues.

  1. Temporary SSL Certificate issue: Some people, namely those on IE7 and IE8 and a few on Android phones were getting an error about untrusted security certificate when they try to log into the site or use any secure pages. It turned out to be a configuration problem and it’s fixed (needed to configure and specify unique IP addresses for each secure domain).
  2. Kindle eBooks didn’t work: Due to the platform change new updated binaries for the kindlegen software from amazon were needed.
  3. Zip files issue: Some members reported inability to expand zipped archives generated on the new servers. I couldn’t duplicate the issue, but nonetheless, changed the zip archive generation algorithm to use my own hand-rolled zipping solution. Hopefully that solves it. I haven’t heard any complaints since the change.
  4. Slow site during peak time: The new set up doesn’t handle text search well. I’m not sure if it’s a hardware problem (not enough processor bandwidth) or a software configuration problem. Whatever it is, I couldn’t find a solution quickly. I’ve moved text search to a small server that I had lying around. It’s slow but for now it does the job and now text search works without affecting the main database server.
    I’m still working on this one. I will be installing a different indexing software (something more efficient than MySQL’s own built in full text index) and rewriting the text search scripts to use the new software. Hopefully that would solve it.

If there are any outstanding issues that you’ve encountered, let me know. You can leave a comment here or send me a message directly through one of the sites’ webmaster forms.

We’ve moved!

Alright, Storiesonline is now at home on it’s new server farm.

The whole move between stopping the site on the old servers, backing up the files, dumping the database, uploading the files to the new farm, build the database, create the content index, Changing DNS entries and seeing hits come to the new servers, took roughly an hour and a half. More than 45 minutes were simply spent waiting for DNS change to propagate.

Let me know of any issues with the new site, especially performance.

Time to go to bed for me. It’s been a long day.