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This Site Desperately Needs An Overhaul

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..and it has for years.

Content compared to other sites is fine if not better, but who knows, because actually locating content on AFF is ridiculous, and I guarantee that alone is pushing away a ton of traffic, and a core contributor to that donations bar seemingly always at $0. I don’t want to seem entitled, this post is an attempt to help you, and all of your users, I just want everyone to be happy. 

PRETTIER Note: Almost all of this can be done in one afternoon

Donation Box

  • The “-” after the “$” in the donations needs to go
  • The currency should be specified, I assume it’s USD, but who knows. Dollars are not worth the same amount around the world.
  • If donations are at zero there should not be green on the bar. 
  • Both amounts should be displayed in the same format (dollars.cents) or (dollars)

General page content box should be centered. It looks like there is meant to be a navbar in that massive void on the left of every page. Fill it or kill it. Personally I would also get rid of the outline, contrast with the background is enough.

Chapters should have a space between the number and the title

Some pages have vertically stacked page number navigation bars, despite having a single page.

The header is another huge void. Make a banner or thin it out.

Navbar Clutter

  • The navbar Facebook and Tumblr can be reduced to logos.
  • The bottom navbar overlaps the top navbars drop down menus.
  • Each navbar item should be center aligned and evenly spaced with CSS
  • Everything in the lower navbar is redundant

EASIER

This might be the only site I have seen without a search bar, even outside of story sites. Other sites can search by keywords, date, author, category, language, all kinds of things.

Filters. It takes forever to find stuff. It can be so tedious that it’s easier to just go to another site. Say you are looking in a popular category, like Harry Potter, and you are straight, enjoy scrolling and clicking through thousands of M/M and Bi stories.

This would also reduce the exponential amount of subcategories for every franchise which can easily be reduced to a tag, and actually specifies what franchises are being crossed over. Likewise categories such as “Gundam Beyblade DBZ FMA” can split and merge into “Anime”.

The ability to choose how many results per page would also be nice.

The story title should be in the HTML title, followed by AFF. The point of the title is so you know what is in that tab(or bookmark), if they all say the exact same thing it’s useless.

Options to change font size, paragraph width. I would also recommend a “dark mode”, bit easier on the eyes at night(I imagine the usual time people visit). I would also suggest optional paragraph indentation, some might find it annoying, but its helpful for others.

An optional autoscroll would probably be pretty useful to a lot of people, particularly amputees, and right handed people.

QUALITY CONTROL

No tags.  Many stories have zero tags, at least one(more like 5) should be required to submit. Many you can’t even tell what franchise it belongs to.

Title consistency. Each word should be capitalized. People are lazy, they wont bother.

Walls of text. This should automatically be checked before or upon submission. No line breaks, no good.

Stupid copyright disclaimers. Just generate a disclaimer using tags. No worry of a user not including one. Consistent format. Trims a bit of fat from each story. Saves a little bit of the submitters dignity.

Abandon the Hall Of Shame. If something is that terrible just don’t host it, have some standards. Additionally it probably intimidates some people from posting in fear of being mocked. Nothing good comes out of it either, it’s really just bullying.

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Hi,

Let me start by thanking you for a very thoughtful post. You’ve put a good bit of time into this, and it’s appreciated.

I’m not a coder, so I can’t respond to the Prettier and Easier suggestions, although I will admit that I miss the left side navigation bar, which was sacrificed in favor of making the site easier for mobile device users. I’m an unrepentant PC user, and don’t read or write on my phone, so the mobile-user adaptations did little for me. I’m also hugely fond of dark mode options myself, but again, since I’m not a coder, I have no idea how easily that could be implemented. I do know our site code is largely proprietary, and that does make certain options available on commercial packages harder to implement.

I am, however, qualified to comment on the Quality Control issues as the lead Archive Moderator. We are governed, in our moderation, by the owner’s decisions as to what is or is not allowed. Sadly, the wall-of-text submissions fall under the owner’s no-censorship guidelines for the staff, so as much as I’d love to reject those, I’m not able to. The same applies to story titles. We’re not permitted to exercise quality control on those, either, although I sigh deeply every time I see a title that’s nothing more than a sentence. I’m a slave to my own prejudices, I’m sure, but titles have an accepted format in my ever so humble opinion, which includes capital letters for more than the first word.

Tags and disclaimers are something we do strive to enforce. Every new story and update is reviewed, and we require tags for content as defined in our Story Codes list. If tags aren’t included as needed, we will warn the author via email about the missing tags, hide the story if it’s not corrected within the stated time period, and eventually, if the tags still aren’t added, we do delete the story. The same applies to disclaimers, the most common Terms of Service violation. We leave a review board message, email the author upon hiding the story, and we will indeed delete a story that doesn’t have a proper disclaimer. I find some authors don’t even bother to put a story in the proper subcategory, so an auto-generated disclaimer function would still not be a perfect solution. On a personal level, I don’t mind a slightly creative disclaimer, but I appreciate your call for a consistent format. It would certainly make moderating that area easier.

The Hall of Shame was established to highlight not bad content, but to showcase people who have outright plagiarized stories for the most part. We do think those plagiarists need to be called out, if only to alert authors whose stories might have been stolen, and who were unaware of the theft of their intellectual property. It’s not meant to be a bullying tactic. We are one of the only fiction archives in my experience to actually take action when we are alerted to an instance of plagiarism. We have a zero tolerance policy for theft. What we do not so, however, is publicly call out the many people who troll other authors, who flame other members, or who behave in a manner generally unbecoming. Those discussions take place well behind the scenes, as is appropriate.

I’m always very happy when someone takes the time to let us know what can be made better when it comes to AFF. I’ve been moderating here for over ten years now, so I can safely say I love this site, and think of it as my virtual family. I’d love to see some of the changes you’ve outlined be implemented, in all honesty. So again, thank you for a very well written post, and for taking the time to let us know what you think about AFF.

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Much better reply than expected. I anticipated something really negative. I wasn’t aware it was proprietary, that does complicate things, but most of it should still be doable on any decent platform. 

A lot of these functional problems would be solved with tags. What I would do is have several tags required to enable the submit button.

  • A franchise tag to properly organize it. This tag inherits additional tags. For example if it is tagged “Dragon Ball” it will automatically be tagged with “Anime” as well. If a second franchise is tagged it will get tagged with “Crossover”. By doing this you also don’t have to worry about where to put crossovers because the user can find it in multiple places. Because only one is mandatory there’s a chance crossovers will be missed, but one is better than none. This will also save you a ton of time because you wont really have to do much reviewing, even less if you generate tags from keywords. 
  • At least one relationship tag. Includes solo. Massively helpful for filtering, and massively reduces the amount of directory pages.
  • The primary language. English speakers can skip non-English stories, non-English speakers can quickly find something they can actually understand.

A side navbar would actually be more mobile friendly because it is vertical, you just need a button to show/hide it. Horizontal scrolling on a mobile is really annoying. It also would mean you wont have to scroll back to the top to find the navbar, you just tap the button. Faster, easier, cleaner.

I don’t see how detecting a lack of line breaks is censorship. You wouldn’t be preventing anyones words or ideas being posted. 

If missing copyright disclaimers are a problem then surely it would be important to be in control of that. To make sure every story has one, and one that covers all of the necessary bases. And neither you or the user would have to type it, or review it for having a missing or botched disclaimer. All you need is a disclaimer template, and mandatory franchise tags. Then it just needs to insert franchise names into the template, like a madlib.

I still don’t see why publicly shaming those users is needed. If there is blatant plagiarism just delete it, the same way you privately handle trolls. If you want the OP to know just message them, expecting them to regularly check that page for a chance to see one of their stories from years ago show up on the list is about as realistic as winning the lottery. 

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I love the idea of franchise tags, but I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t be able to implement those due to the physical structure of the archive. It’s actually 23 separate databases. Each subdomain is a unique entity. When I’m moderating in a subdomain, I can (and do) move stories to the correct subcategory. I’m not able to move stories from one subdomain to another. We also have a clear rule about not allowing authors to crosspost stories in multiple subdomains, unless the crosspost is a translation. That rule was implemented to conserve bandwidth.

We do actually have a separate subdomain for non-English stories, and that tends to eliminate the issue of English speakers being confronted by stories in another language, and vice versa.  If you want stories in another language, we have subcategories there for French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and the catch-all Misc subcategory. There are further divisions within those subcategories for the more popular fandoms as well as for original works.

Disclaimers will always be an issue, I fear. We have certain subdomains and subcategories with unique disclaimer requirements. Original works require a much different disclaimer than a fan fiction would, and the disclaimer will also differ for original works of non-fiction. Fan fiction involving celebrities is another unique circumstance, as is fan fiction based on titles in the public domain. There really is no single template that would cover every situation. Now, if we were able to apply the franchise tags concept to the individual databases, that might help, but in the case of the Celebrity subdomain, it would require adding a separate database to cover the names of every possible famous person who might conceivably generate a story. That’s a great deal more bandwidth that would be expended, as opposed to saved, and would require constant tag wrangling as celebrities under 18 came of age (we do not ever allow real-person fiction involving anyone under 18), or new bands/wrestlers/actors/Youtube personalities became popular.

I fear we’ll have to agree to disagree about the Hall of Shame. We don’t expect users to check there all the time to see if their stories were stolen. Far from it, actually. AFF believes fan fiction authors, who write for nothing more than reviews and the joy of writing, deserve some advocacy, much like any published author whose agent, publisher, and lawyer would be quick to pursue anyone plagiarizing the author. What we want is to make public the pen names of the plagiarists. If every fiction archive were to maintain a list of verified plagiarists, it would be far easier to remove stolen works, especially across platforms. And believe me, we do verify any alleged plagiarism before we act. Plagiarism is a serious offense in any form in which it occurs.

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>We also have a clear rule about not allowing authors to crosspost stories in multiple subdomains, unless the crosspost is a translation. That rule was implemented to conserve bandwidth.

Tags would solve this problem, not cause it. Rather than needing to have 2+ copies of a crossover, or only putting it in one category, you will have one copy that is accessed from multiple places.

>There really is no single template that would cover every situation

There can be though, you just make it conditional. You can have all kinds of variants built into it, it’s very basic coding. You can still think of it like a madlib, but it has a few extra steps, like checking if the work is original, checking what franchise it belongs to,  if it contains a celebrity, etc. 

>We do actually have a separate subdomain for non-English stories, and that tends to eliminate the issue of English speakers being confronted by stories in another language, and vice versa.  If you want stories in another language, we have subcategories there for French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and the catch-all Misc subcategory. There are further divisions within those subcategories for the more popular fandoms as well as for original works.

Tags make this easier. No need for all of these divisions, if it is not in the desired language it just doesn’t appear in the list. 

> in the case of the Celebrity subdomain, it would require adding a separate database to cover the names of every possible famous person who might conceivably generate a story. That’s a great deal more bandwidth that would be expended, as opposed to saved, and would require constant tag wrangling as celebrities under 18 came of age (we do not ever allow real-person fiction involving anyone under 18), or new bands/wrestlers/actors/Youtube personalities became popular.

This is far easier than it seems. Cross reference an input name to a list of names and birth dates. If the difference between today and their birthday is <18 years, or unlisted, the tag cannot be created. If their name does not appear in the list the tag can’t be created(because they clearly are not a celebrity)

New bands and personalities appear regardless, at some point you will have to add more names to reference list, but you won’t need to create a new category for each one, and the tag wont need to exist until someone tries to submit it. The same goes for older celebrities, unless someone actually tries to submit a story about Charlie Chaplin the tag wont be created. 

By the way it would also prevent duplicate categories like  “My Chemical Romance” “My Cemical Romance” “my chemical romance” “MyChemicalRomance” “My Chemical Romance (band)” etc.

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Much of what you propose is indeed coding issues, and therefore well outside my area of expertise. I will clarify that subcategories within subdomains are added by my admin, and not by members, which eliminates the issue of duplicate categories. Members do not have the ability to create a category on their own, and I don’t anticipate that will change at any point in the near future. Having seen the mess that can be created by allowing members to create tags on their own, and the subsequent need for a dedicated team of tag wranglers to clean up the mess in other fiction archives, we won’t be doing that here. We’re an all-volunteer staff, and I for one would rather not deal with user-created tag insanity. I don’t think I’d have any staff left, honestly. 

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You’re not really understanding what I am saying. The users would not actually create their own brand new tags, they just type them in, like a search bar. 

Let me try again. I will make a scenario.

A user goes to submit a story, but the submit button is grayed out. “Franchise tags, line breaks, and language tags are missing”.

  • The user goes to the input box named “Franchise”. They type “har” and one of the suggested tags is “Harry Potter”. They click that. 
  • The story is a cross over so they also type “Pokemon” and click that tag.
  • In another section they type in “Charlie Chaplin” and click that option. The option is available because he is well over 18.
  • The user uses a drop down menu named “Language” and choose one(English).
  • They put a single(or however many you decide) line break in their story which turns off the wallOfText flag

Submit is now an available option, they click it.

  • The title of the story is correctly capitalized
  • The previously hypothetical tag of “Charlie Chaplin” now appears in the celebrity category.
  • It is tagged as “Pokemon” “Charlie Chaplin” “English” and “Harry Potter”. It is automatically tagged with “Anime”, “Books”, “Historical Figure”, “Celebrity”. “Crossover”, etc
  • The story is now loaded with tags and either goes public or goes to the mods. Or both.

The one and only copy of the story can now be found in

  • Anime( → Pokemon)
  • Books(→ Harry Potter)
  • Celebrities(→ Historical Figures)
  • Typing any of the franchise names in the search bar
  • Performing a tag filtered search

When you view the story(or any other)

  • a copyright disclaimer is generated that applies to all available tags. Of the thousands of stories only a single disclaimer needs to exist.
  • The browser tab reads “Name Of The Story – AFF”

 

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I’m going to take off my moderator hat and butt in, because this is rubbing me the wrong way. 

As BronxWench has already stated, we are a volunteer staff, we are a not for profit archive, which means that we don’t make any money. As far as I know, we have one coder, and the administrator does pay her when we need her to do major overhauls of the site. As far as I can understand all the stuff you guys have been talking about, everything that you are suggesting requires a major overhaul of the the coding of the entire archive, which as BronxWench already mentioned, is sprawled across 23 databases. Only one administrator has access to the database now, because the rest of us are not coders. 

So, I doubt that any of the suggestions you are making are do-able, unless we somehow gain a shitload of money all of a sudden, or you’re offering to do it for free. 

 

*huffs off to the time out corner for being a mouthy Neko*

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I actually am following what you’re saying. The only and only copy of the story cannot be found in Anime, Books, AND Celebrity as your scenario states. It can be found in exactly ONE of those subdomains/discrete databases. We do not allow a story to be posted in three subdomains, which is what would have to happen to make your scenario work. I’ll also point out that, due to the sheer volume of content, Harry Potter has its own subdomain, and does not get included in Books.

Creating all those input lists is also a great deal of work, and would require continuous updating as new fandoms emerge, new celebrities become of interest, and new pairings catch the attention of authors. And yes, pairings are of paramount importance in certain fandoms, based on the flame wars that can erupt if a story appears in the wrong pairing category. And I will continue to beg to differ on the validity of a single disclaimer format. Fandom-based stories require a far different disclaimer than Original works, which should have something akin to what you see at the beginning of a published novel. Original works CAN be written for profit, do NOT require and copyright demurral, and must clearly state that they are a work of fiction, whereas a fandom-based work must clearly state that the author does not own the copyright of the fandom, and therefore cannot make any profit from the work. Celebrity fiction must clearly state that the work is fiction, that the author does not KNOW the celebrity or celebrities, who must be named in the disclaimer, and that no profit is made. Stories based on titles in the public domain must use the name of the book in the disclaimer, but otherwise use the same disclaimer as Original fiction. There is no one-size-fits-all disclaimer for all of AFF.  

I don’t have enough staff to preview stories before they are posted. So, in essence, under the scenario you’ve proposed, stories will appear based on tags that have to be continuously moderated to answer calls for new fandoms, in subdomains multiple times since I am assuming the Franchise tag(s) would replace the existing choice of subdomain and subcategory, and we still have to review the story after it’s published for content tags, which are of more importance to me than the disclaimer, to be honest. The author will get sued for copyright infringement. I get the hysterical emails from readers who are blindsided by untagged content that they would have preferred not to encounter.

As a personal illustration, I do not read for pleasure stories tagged with Minor1, Scat, WS, FF, or ABDL. As a moderator, I am required to review those stories, but when I read for my own enjoyment, I will skip anything with those tags. I also avoid certain subdomains altogether, either because I have no interest in the fandom or, in the case of Celebrity Fiction, I find the entire genre unpleasant since I tend to think about the families and friends of the real persons being depicted, and it quite puts me off. (My apologies to the authors who write for Celebrity, but I’ve never been reticent about my distaste for real person fiction.)

We would need to rewrite the entire code, or purchase a prewritten package to set up what you’re suggesting, and I don’t see that happening in the near future, if ever. Would I like to work with a more up to date archive? Absolutely. I’d be lying if I said things were perfect. But I’m not capable of writing the code we would need, and I don’t have the wherewithal to purchase it for the site as a donation. Trust me, if I could buy a package, I would. It would be lovely to have the ability to have the updates written for us as the software evolves. I do think, despite our limitations, we are still a viable site. All things considered, we’re nearly 20 years old, which is quite an achievement for a fiction archive.

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I’ll disagree to the auto-fill disclaimer too.  Simply because the authors should THINK about it, that it’s fanfiction (or not), and what the copyright position is in their work.  (Not sure if the field enforces a minimum length, but it ought to… say, at least 16 characters?)

Second, I concur some distinction on the tags would be nice, whether the tag is considered more of a warning (ie scat CYA) vs an advertisement (ie exhibition tag due to persistent nudity).  Custom tags would be nice, from an author’s POV.  However, it’s also a bit frustrating on AO3 to know if I’ve got *EVERY* applicable tag for my story, so I clicked the “author chooses not to use tags” and proceeded to tag the heck out of it, along with “maybe I missed some?”.

Databases – combining them might be advantageous, along with a single (new) URL; though you’d have to preserve old URLs for a while, if not forever.  If combined, then it’s resolve the category issue for crossovers, letting them show up under both, without having duplicates in the database.

Other improvements could also be had, but even switching to another software (commercial or otherwise) requires having people & time to execute it.  Volunteering?

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Sorry but you really are misunderstanding. I never said anything about custom tags, that's the exact opposite, I hate all of the ironic tags on other sites like AO3. The point is that a story without tags becomes an impossibility, core tags missing becomes impossible, tagging anyone underage becomes impossible, and you wont have 8 different sub directories for every single franchise and celebrity.

>which means that we don’t make any money.


Neither do I, but I am still trying to help improve the site.

>we have one coder, and the administrator does pay her when we need her to do major overhauls of the site

Well I don’t know what to say about that without sounding rude, but she can’t seem to even align HTML elements, so I wouldn’t expect any coding. 

> doubt that any of the suggestions you are making are do-able, unless we somehow gain a shitload of money all of a sudden, or you’re offering to do it for free.

For me to do it would require giving me access, I am acting under the presumption that this would not be possible, particularly since I’m just a guest user. It shouldn’t cost anything, like I said a good chunk of it can be done in an afternoon.

>We do not allow a story to be posted in three subdomains, which is what would have to happen to make your scenario work

This is where you misunderstand. It would not have to be in multiple places. One of the benefits is that you will have less directories, another is that only a single copy of each document would need to exist and be found in different ways. Think of it like multiple paths that all lead to one location.

>and would require continuous updating as new fandoms emerge

But you will have to do this anyway, unless you wanted to take risk of giving users carte blanche on tagging and/or creating directories. Though there is a way to automate this too.

>single disclaimer format

You need to understand what I mean by this. A variable template can be used so that the content of the disclaimer changes. 

Scenario: A conversation

  • You can fill in substitute words for instance their name “Hello JANE” or “Hello JOHN”. Or where they work, “So are you still working at workplace_ ?”
  • You can also also add additional factors such as if you have met them prior. “Nice to meet you” or “Nice to see you again”
  • And if the impression the person has given you is good or bad. “You again?..” or a blunt “Hi.”

And that is only the opening line, you can still vary discussion topics, farewells, and many other factors if you wish to include them. 

If you can provide a perfect example of each type of disclaimer I will be able to show you a bit more directly.

>As a personal illustration, I do not read for pleasure stories tagged with Minor1, Scat, WS, FF, or ABDL

So tags would be perfect for you, you just filter those tags out. It’s also a different type of tag you are talking about here, it could be easy to miss a few when submitting, or even reviewing, but franchise is extremely important to the structure of the site. With certain tags being taken care of immediately upon submission you have more time to check content tags, and/or you could have users flag it for missing a tag

>I’ll disagree to the auto-fill disclaimer too.  Simply because the authors should THINK about it, that it’s fanfiction (or not), and what the copyright position is in their work.  (Not sure if the field enforces a minimum length, but it ought to… say, at least 16 characters?)

This is not a solution. This means people can have no disclaimer at all, and the only way to know is to go through every single submission, and then type one out for them. This leaves the user and the website vulnerable legally, and gives mods a lot more work to do. Just because a user types it out does not make it an appropriate legal statement either, it needs to include specific details, and rather than trying to teach everyone how to do that you just automate it so literally nobody has to worry about it. Ever.

> “maybe I missed some?”

A bit more complicated, but a partial solution to this would be suggesting tags based on key words found in the text. The tags would not automatically be attached(to avoid error) but could simplify the users ability to put them all in, or for a mod to quickly review it. So for instance the word “beheading” or “corpse” is located so it suggests “Gore”. “Shit” could suggest “Scat” but because the word has so many definitions it would be wrong to automatically tag any story that simply uses the word, but it is also quite extreme so missing it would be bad. Would help users that don’t have the vocabulary too, you can write about something without knowing there is a name for it.

Gets trickier if you wanted to do the same with character pairings, but not impossible, and made dramatically simpler with franchise tags. Following that also makes gender pairings far easier to detect, among other things. The more vague it gets the harder it becomes, like “Romance”, it’s hard to define what it is so it’s hard to tell a computer to recognize it .

 

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2 hours ago, Guest guestGuestguest said:

Sorry but you really are misunderstanding

Maybe some misunderstanding, but also a disagreement, when it comes to disclaimers.  It’s authors posting stories, ones they’ve (presumably) written, so asking that they write a (short) disclaimer shouldn’t be a tall task, especially if there’s some examples for them.  When I took the GRE ages ago, they wanted me to hand-write (in cursive) the anti-cheating pledge… annoyed because that’s a skill I hadn’t really used; however, the point there, like here, is the author understands the disclaimer.  Mods currently flag/hide a story caught without one, and make the author fix it.  A few suitable examples would let them copy-n-paste, but that’s the author’s decision there.

To tags, you can technically add in custom ones today in AFF, because its a simple list tacked onto the end of the description.  And once it’s free form into the top of the story/chapter, it’s unlimited.  Having a table of available tags, a table that links tags to stories, along with suggestions, auto-suggest, etc, would be lovely to have, TBH.  I mean, if it sees “Hogwarts” in a story, having a harry potter automatically added would be great, and more lexical analysis would be wonderful additions too.  However, I wouldn’t make the pursuit of the perfect automated tag system get into the way of doing any overhaul.

>  For me to do it would require giving me access, I am acting under the presumption that this would not be possible, particularly since I’m just a guest user. It shouldn’t cost anything, like I said a good chunk of it can be done in an afternoon.

I’ve heard that before, and days/weeks later you realize that “small” task had some unexpected glitch.  I actually did ask, years ago, but nothing ever really came of it; thus I’ve turned my spare-time coding efforts toward other things.  My expertise is more in the backend, less in the frontends, and I prefer C++ over HTML/Javascript so mileage would vary.  A first task should be to make sure the website’s code is in some form of source control, to make sure “rolling” back and collaboration is easy; second task being to verify a separate test & development setup so things can be prototyped out before making the actual switch.

Still, at the end of this,  we can have as many ideas as we want, but without volunteers, no overhaul is really feasible.

 

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We have 23 separate databases. There is no way, at present, to have a franchise tag option that would search across the databases. The search function only works within the database you are visiting, otherwise known as the subdomain. So, if you are looking in the Anime subdomain, and search for Harry Potter, you will not get any results. That’s because Harry Potter has its own subdomain, or database. Similarly, searching in Anime for Inuyasha won’t return anything UNLESS the story in question is a crossover with the primary setting in Death Note. Crossovers are placed in the subdomain/subcategory where the story is primarily set. If Naruto visits Hogwarts, and all the content revolves around Hogwarts, the story does not belong in the Naruto subdomain. Rather, it is placed in Harry Potter, in the Crossovers subcategory.

Users have no ability to create subcategories, which helps avoid the issue of misspelled categories appearing alongside correctly spelled categories. We would not allow users to create tags for any reference table, either. AO3 is a prime example of what happens when you let people loose with tags. We have a dropdown table of content tags, which can be added at the time a story is published. Thereafter, users have the ability to add tags manually via the Control Panel in their profile.

Disclaimers… we actually have an excellent FAQ on the topic, but I’ll provide examples of what we look for in a disclaimer.

Single Fandom:  I do not own Harry Potter and I make no profit/money from this story. (Optional: I do not make any profit/money from this story.)
Crossover:  I do not own Harry Potter, Twilight, or Naruto and I make no profit/money from this story. (Optional: I do not make any profit/money from this story.)
Work in the public domain:  This is a work of fiction based on Bram Stoker’s’s Dracula. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is unintentional.
Original fiction:  This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, in unintentional. (Optional: All rights are reserved by the author, and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.)
Original Poetry: This is a work of poetry. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, in unintentional. (Optional: All rights are reserved by the author, and unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.)
Original nonfiction: This is a work of non-fiction. Where possible, permission has been obtained from all persons named in this story.  
Celebrity fiction:  This is a work of fiction. I do not know or own Asuka or Alexa Bliss or Mickie James. I make no profit/money from this story. (Optional: I do not make any profit/money from this story.)

As you can see, there isn’t really a single format that will work for every situation.

I scan the content tags in the summary page, actually. It’s sort of like browsing bookshelves in a bookstore for me.  It’s also easier than having to input a lengthy list of tags to filter out, since in a single-database scenario, I’d wind up having to filter in the one fandom I do want to read at the moment, and THEN filter out all the content I don’t want to see, and finally skim past the stories I’ve already read which pop up in the results, since filtering by date might mean I’d miss an update I might not have seen.

Or, when I think about it and have time, I just add a story to my Currently Reading portion of my profile, so I can find it quickly.

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As a professional programmer I would say that it close to impossible to say how much effort a new feature would take without looking at the actual codebase. You can make an effort to stay current with the latest tech so that it is easy to do overhauls, but that require continuous development and the typical case is thatthe effort to do a overhaul depends a lot on details of the codebase. AFF runs on PHP and I think it is fairly certain that it is more of the fix-things-when-they-break kind of site than a site that play catch up with latest technology.

The top priorities from me to overhaul would be:

  • Adding more allowed bytes to the disclaimer field and the description fields so authors can write something more than the required sentences would be great. There is bound to be authors that decide against using AFF because the limits of bytes that is very annoying. The limits presented look like reasonable limits back in the days when screens/webbrowsers could not show as much text. In a modern webbrowser that can show a lot more text the limits does not make sense anymore.
  • More allowed bytes for the tags field might be worth to consider so the authors can get the option not use the hard-to-understand acronyms if they don’t want to.
  • The sidebar that the Guest complain is empty space has a lot uses when logged in onthe author page. When just browsing stories it is empty...why not duplicate the search control there when it is not used for the author components? If it has the option to remember search terms the user like it would save a lot of clicks when searching for interesting materials. Possibly it could work as a filter so the user can remove stories with unwanted tags on permanent basis without having to do a search click on each visit to AFF
  • When reading a story the left sidebar could offer quick links to other works by the same author
  • Password limitations and implementation updated forthe modern age.
  • Fixing the bug that means I don’t get messages when reviews are posted on my stories would be great….at least for me. :-)

I am not saying the above is reasonable to implement since I don’t know the state of the codebase, but it sounds to me like much more useful improvements than the proposal from the guest.

Edited by Thundercloud

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If we did this properly, then we’d need to

  1. Collect requirements/desires as we examine the codebase. 
  2. Review the existing codebase, figuring out what we want to change
  3. Determine if an overhaul vs rewrite is more appropriate, with long term maintainability and reliability and performance in mind. 
  4. Create a rough conceptual design
  5. Setup source control and a prototype-dev-beta server (maybe even a task-issue-manager/bugzilla),
  6. Iterate with some sort of sprint style, where we’d prototype/refine, and have a predefined target for switching the website over (upon approval from the mods/admin).

A key question would be whether to combine databases, such that a story could be cross-listed, BUT also maintain backward compatibility with existing URLs.   Categories would remain, but could be implemented as, the original poster mentioned, tags, or another mechanism.

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If the crew like some suggestions in this thread they can look into if it economical to implement the changes, but just to be clear, I am not volunteering since I do programming for a living. Neither am I suggesting that is reasonable for some other external programmers to setup a group to doing the actual overhaul  of AFF.

If anything should change is must the be owner of AFF and its crew that initiate the work. My reasons for posting in this thread is mostly that I don’t agree with original posters assumption that it is easy solve his suggestions, but I also wanted to describe my preferred changes in case by luck some of them happen to be reasonable to implement. Like I said before it much depends on the codebase if things will take hours or weeks to fix.

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54 minutes ago, Thundercloud said:

If anything should change is must the be owner of AFF and its crew that initiate the work. My reasons for posting in this thread is mostly that I don’t agree with original posters assumption that it is easy solve his suggestions, but I also wanted to describe my preferred changes in case by luck some of them happen to be reasonable to implement. Like I said before it much depends on the codebase if things will take hours or weeks to fix.

That's the crux of all this.  For any website overhaul, “AFF and its crew" is DG & Manta.  DG’s work is near murder on her, and Manta’s really busy too.  Like you, I program professionally too, so I’m very picky in what I do with my free time; at the moment, that's my story writing and it’s related software.  (An hour or two per month might be acceptable, maybe, but that's not enough for this proposal.)

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22 hours ago, Desiderius Price said:

That's the crux of all this.  For any website overhaul, “AFF and its crew" is DG & Manta.  DG’s work is near murder on her, and Manta’s really busy too.  Like you, I program professionally too, so I’m very picky in what I do with my free time; at the moment, that's my story writing and it’s related software.  (An hour or two per month might be acceptable, maybe, but that's not enough for this proposal.)

As a reference at my job I am currently bringing in a new programmer in one of the projects. I expect him to spend 100 hours before he get proficient enough with the codebase to make design choice on his own. Until then I devote hours each week just to answer questions and say yes/no to ideas. It takes serious effort to vet a new programmer for serious work.

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I’m not even remotely qualified to comment on what it would take to modify the current code, although I suspect it would be a major undertaking. My usefulness comes when it’s time to beta-test the updates, since I know what will work, and what will create issues for our members based on the troubleshooting inquiries I get.

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54 minutes ago, BronxWench said:

I’m not even remotely qualified to comment on what it would take to modify the current code, although I suspect it would be a major undertaking. My usefulness comes when it’s time to beta-test the updates, since I know what will work, and what will create issues for our members based on the troubleshooting inquiries I get.

I’ve never had a good knack for making decent “ballpark” estimates except in the simplest of cases.  And in this case, I don’t know the state of the current codebase, the state of the database, which features would actually be desired, or the modifications/rewrites needed to make that happen, so any estimate aside from “possibly major” is deceptive IMO.  

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1 hour ago, Thundercloud said:

As a reference at my job I am currently bringing in a new programmer in one of the projects. I expect him to spend 100 hours before he get proficient enough with the codebase to make design choice on his own. Until then I devote hours each week just to answer questions and say yes/no to ideas. It takes serious effort to vet a new programmer for serious work.

I initially misread that (or at least I hope) of 100 hours/week.  I’m lucky to be in a gig where overtime is frowned upon and requires prior approval/justification; this lends itself to be very friendly to writing and other hobbies. 

And, as an aside, you might enjoy:
https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/01/microsoft-pimps-it-old-school-with-a-pricey-text-adventure-game/

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19 hours ago, Desiderius Price said:

I initially misread that (or at least I hope) of 100 hours/week.  I’m lucky to be in a gig where overtime is frowned upon and requires prior approval/justification; this lends itself to be very friendly to writing and other hobbies. 

Correct...I don’t expect his first assignment to take 100 hours. If it does then I need to have a talk with my boss. As for overtime, we at my work have the rule that you have to explain yourself if you have too much overtime collected.

19 hours ago, Desiderius Price said:

And, as an aside, you might enjoy:
https://arstechnica.com/information-technology/2012/01/microsoft-pimps-it-old-school-with-a-pricey-text-adventure-game/ 

We laughed quite a lot about that at work back in the days. Regional Manager was the award that collected most laughs. The actual hunt was to find a consult work we had that done not merit the achievement...it was tricky. Thanks for the reminder.

In return I give you an XKCD about Bad Code
https://xkcd.com/1926/

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