Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Authonomy Rebuild – Your Questions Answered Part 2


It is time for another blog post in which we answer some of the questions that have been knocking around about the rebuild. We’ve tackled about half of the outstanding questions here and will have a go at the rest very soon.
 
Claire asked:
Any news on a go-live date?
We have been aiming for end of July but there is always the chance things could slip. We are testing the new site at the moment and we won’t launch it until we are happy that it will work. It won’t be perfect from the get go but it will evolve over time as we learn how people use it and what improvements would actually make sense for the community and also for HarperCollins. We’d rather be late and good than on time and not so good.
 
Ruby J. Taylor asked:
Are the forum threads on the preview the only ones that will be available to post on? No more general chat? No more threads unless they focus solely on writing?
 It was just a preview screenshot so didn’t show everything. There will, of course, be general chat and we don’t mind if there are off-topic threads.
 
Anonymous said:
The one commitment I would like to see is that HC reviews will be completed in one month. That way everyone can be sure Authonomy is working. If it is still felt authors have a right as to whether the review is published (I think they don't after all the tactics and skullduggery used to get to the desk) then at least have each reviewed book noted as such with an HC sign off date on-line.
We could easily get all HC reviews complete within a month but that would mean giving the books to people who were not editors. We would much rather that current HC editors read and commented on the work but, as we have said before, these people have day jobs publishing books and much as we’d love them to turn around every review in a couple of weeks we do understand why their authors will take priority (“Sorry George RR Martin, I’ve got this Authonomy manuscript to finish before I can tackle your edits”). If the overwhelming opinion on Authonomy is that speed is more important than having an editor read your work then we can revise our system but we don’t think it is. As for flagging what has been reviewed, we do not intend to do that. It is up to members to share their reviews if they choose to.
 
Lesa Clarke asked:
I would like to know more about whether the ranking system will change. Will there be an app?
The ranking system will change, yes. It will be more suited to finding publishable books rather than purely based on how popular someone is on the site, or how much cheerleading they have done for their work. There will not be an app at this stage, we’ll need more money from HarperCollins for that, but the site will be configured to be easy to access on tablets and smartphones.

Kaychristina asked:
I'm also wondering about the Word template - whether programmes most of us already have will still function, e.g. Word 7. My only gripe with that - or with how it uploads, is the way it shows up, lacking my lovingly deployed indents...Do I need this *new* Word template to fix that? (I do know about going through the entire ms, manually indenting paras... sigh.)
We’ll be perfectly honest, this is likely to be a bit annoying to start with. We want all Authonomy books to be readable on our new on-screen reader and also, if the authors choose, to be downloadable to devices. To do this we will need manuscripts to conform to some rules and templates and it is highly unlikely that all of these will come through the process looking perfect. We think it is worth putting up with some short term pain here as it will, in the long run, make it much easier for users, editors and agents to read the manuscripts.
 
Anonymous asked:
Do you have a checklist of all the specs the programmer is working with? One that compares what improvements you asked for versus what was delivered?
Of course we do. Are we going to share it with you? Nope. There were about ten supplementary questions from this particular ‘Anonymous’ but we won’t be answering them all but will try to cover as many of them as possible in answers to similar questions.
 
Last time Tonia asked:
‘Every month the MOST BACKED works get reviewed by HC editors for possibly publication.’ Most backed? Does this mean that book ranks will no longer exist and there is no ED as such?
We answered with: We will still have an Editor’s Desk chart on the site, based on a new system that we believe will help readers and editors discover the great writing on Authonomy as quickly as possible. We won’t be disclosing the specific workings of the chart, but genuine reviews, rankings and support will be as important as ever.
 
To which Tonia replied:
Didn't really answer my question. Books currently on or near the ED are not always the MOST BACKED. This seems a backward step to me.
To specifically answer your original questions. Book ranks will still exist and there will be an Editor’s Desk. Hope that is clear now. Sorry if it wasn’t before. The mechanics behind the rankings will change somewhat and if, as planned, this leads to more books being published then it will prove to be a forward step.
 
Phil Partington asked:
My apologies if you've already explained this and I missed it, but is the "shelf" algorithm going to be the same or change at all? More importantly, is the rating system going to be fixed or go away? Frankly--and it's kind of common knowledge from everyone I've interacted with on here over the years--the rating system is worthless both for feedback and for determining the quality of a novel. 
We have addressed this before but, to be clear, all of the algorithms are changing and are designed to ensure the best work rises to the top. We don’t think the current system works either.
 
Nicholas Goulding asked:
Minimum word count for upload?
There won’t be one.
 
Tonia asked:
You know what? No one has mentioned EMOTICONS! Can we please have some more interesting ones? Dance would be nice, and kiss maybe. And fix the crying one - it's been broken for at least a year.
To be honest, these are not really on our priority list. We’ll check and see what will be available in the forums but we are far more focused on making the site work as intended. We do understand that being able to express yourself through the medium of little faces in the forums is all part of the fun, and we don’t want to spoil that, but do not expect a roll out of radical new smiley faces.
 
Anonymous asked:
From our side of the screen it doesn't seem like you lot are doing very much lately. Why is the upgrade taking so long? Is it an actual improvement in the essentials, or just cosmetic? 
Well, thank you very much! The update is taking so long because the current site is pretty much completely borked and we have been setting up a new site from scratch. It is costing a significant six-figure sum and we are taking time to make sure that it works. If the changes are purely cosmetic then it will be the most expensive facelift outside of Hollywood.

42 comments:

Phil Partington said...

Thanks for all you do Autho staff. I'm a better writer from my experience here and can't wait to see the changes. Amidst all this revamping, I just wanted to make sure that was said.

Kaychristina said...

Just to say thank-you so much for all those answers! I hope, too, that the impending move to the baby Shard isn't a pain... I love the current theatre of dreams, imposing archway with scary guards and all. (I stood outside one time and stared... and, shoulders drooping, walked away. Sob...)

Apart from that, I still need more bling on the Home page.:¬D A Hollywood smile...

With love and thanks again, from Kay xx

packrat said...

Will the rebuild for a more muscular Authonomy involve the use of dumbbells?

RobRow

John D said...

Just want to say it looks to me like it will be worth the wait, and well done on going through such a long process to get there.

And can I also suggest a Forum Area marked 'RobRow'.

JB Wilson said...

ps. I think the Harper Collins Review should be made public, and this made part of the criteria for signing up. Books that make it to the ED are put there by authors who have played a part and have a vested interest by leaving comments and advice, it is only fair they get some feedback too. Just saying.

simon cairnes said...

I find other people's HC reviews really helpful, as they give me an idea of some of the issues that I need to pay attention to in my own writing. They're even better when they are for a book I have already read. I'm in favour of making it compulsory to publish them. It is usually the more critical ones that aren't and they are often the most useful.

Spilota said...

I'm another one awaiting a HC review, and when it comes, I shall make it public. I agree it should be compulsory to do so. Many ED authors have asked for backings; imo they owe it to their backers to show what HC's response has been – good, bad or indifferent.

Anonymous said...

I think what all of us are seeing and gathering from your comments is that Authonomy will have far more control of which books reach the ED than at present.

Beyond that, the changes you talk about are not very interesting. Many suggestions have been advanced that would improve the ease and quality of the user experience -- and you don't seem to want to talk about those, so, perhaps....they aren't being addressed.

Will you say, at least, that every input box, dialog box, etc. will have a limit on the input characters? There is no question that people can, if they wish, cause problems in the forum by posting extremely long messages, even using thousands of emoticons... The fix is child's play, but you refuse to implement it in the current version and won't say if you are fixing it in the improved version....why?

What are you doing on the most important matter of getting everyone who posts a book or piece of one some readers? Thousands of books have been posted here that have never been sampled even once, nor rated, nor commented on. How will you fix that?

Will you, like SDMB, use trusted volunteers to help moderate the forums? People you know are worth listening to instead of the constant flow of junk reports by people like Marchetto who are just using you for their own ends? People who will warn when ad hominem attacks are happening and get you to intervene?

etc. etc.

Faith Gore said...

I'd like to second Phil's comment and thank you for all you do Autho staff. I highly recommend Authonomy everywhere I go. It has been a bottomless pit of wisdom and support that has made me a better writer, and got my arse in gear on more than one occasion.

Scott Pack said...

Dear Anonymous,

Rather than take up most of the next blog post answering your many questions I thought I'd tackle them here right now.

You don't find the changes we have announced interesting and yet you want to discuss character input limitations? I can only assume our definitions of interesting differ somewhat.

With regards forums etc., the new forums will be on a completely different platform so the whole user experience will change. These will be managed by a moderation team to start with but we do have the option to include trusted members as moderators at a future stage if it makes sense for them and us. It may also be possible to enable users to moderate their own threads. Final tweaking will happen once it all goes live.

As for making sure that manuscripts get read, again, the changes we are making should improve that but we will need to watch and learn to ensure we stay on top of this issue.

Hope that helps.

S

Anonymous said...

So, let's discuss character input limits in dialog boxes. Will you do the smart thing and limit the size of such material to, say, 10000 characters? Right now, with no limit in the forum, the program can be stalled for a person attempting to read an exceptionally long post. You do know that, don't you?

So, answer the question I asked. Will the new program eliminate the problem of overly long inputs and multiple posting of inputs?

Just saying there will be a whole new program doesn't answer the question. If my question is unclear, I apologize.

Anonymous said...

I'd also suggest that since you (and your helpers) will be far more involved in determining which books will reach the ED, that you and your helpers write the reviews, and pass along to the regular editors in their genre, only those books with exceptional merit, ones that could be commercial if the editor can talk sense to the author.

Waiting 6 months or more for a review, sometimes unavoidable if all books go to genre editors, just isn't right for this site.

Anonymous said...

Your comments about moderation make a lot of sense. Just be sure that no 'user-moderator' can, on their own accord, ban someone. Make them present their case to you. Let them also delete posts that are off topic, or move them to another thread. Let them give warnings, privately, then publicly, then escalate to you.

Phil Partington said...

Oh I should add, personally I never minded the time it took to receive a HC review for reaching the ED. I wouldn't want the quality of the review compromised simply to make it come faster.

The HC review I received was a huge assist in helping me find direction with my writing.

Claire said...

Thanks for all your work, and answering our many questions. I'm really looking forward to seeing the results!

Scott Pack said...

Hello again, anonymous.

I don't know the precise character limit in the new forum but am asking someone who does and shall report back.

The key difference is that the current forum was purpose built for this site and is clunky and easy to break if you are that way inclined (although why people insist on trying to do so is beyond me). The new forum uses a popular platform which is far more robust.

S

Rebecca Brown said...

I agree with the comments above, Authonomy is hugely helpful and anyone ranting about the time it takes to get the new site up and running has clearly never had to deal with the launch of a new project. Keep up the good work, we know that anything worth having is worth waiting for!

Diane said...

BORKED!!!! that's a new word. Thanks for the feedback, looking forward to the grand opening, will there be champagne - I hope there's champagne.

Anonymous said...

<>

No one is trying to 'break the site'. Pointing out flaws so you can fix them is the way to improve the site, not to break it. Nothing I've ever done has broken anything, and, in fact, you have responded without making a big deal about it to have certain flaws fixed, such as the problem with page access when a member is banished.

I've known authors who gave cash awards to people who found typos and other mistakes in their books, so they might be fixed in the next edition. It seems to be some sort of odd Brit thing that one isn't supposed to point out programming flaws, that it is somehow impolite.

Your thinking that some people try to break the site is indicative of your being snowed by people who think that kissing up to authonomy editors is the way to get positive notice.

Scott Pack said...

Hey, Anonymous, I've done my best to answer your questions. Not sure why you are so uppity. No one has accused you of anything.

I am confident that the new Authonomy will be a great place for all members.

Anonymous said...

you've done your best to avoid actually answering my questions and comments. Uppity describes one of the two folks in this dialog, and I am not the one.

Scott Pack said...

As far as I can tell I have answered every one of your questions, or offered to get back with more detail.

I tell you what. Send me a message to my profile on here with a list of questions and I will answer them directly in my response. More than happy to do that.

I can never be sure if people who comment on here as 'Anonymous' actually have accounts on Authonomy and, to be honest, I am not going to waste my time answering loads of questions from people who aren't members or have been banned.

So pop me a message and I'll personally address any questions.

Anonymous said...

That is really a cop out. Yes, I could send you a message, but the discussion is going on here.

why would a question from a banned user be less worth answering than one from someone like say, 'Verse', a retired user? Or, any one of the dozens who have given you suggestions and now want to know if you have even considered them?

Anonymous said...

I revealed my identity for you in a private message. Now, please answer with details -- what sort of ignore user button will be available in the new version?

Will we, when we search for a term, be able to go directly to the post on the thread where the term occurs, or will be be dumped onto the first page as we are now?

Will users who post their efforts be able to see how many people read any given page of their work?

Will backings only be possible if you leave a comment? Will comments be rated?

Let's see how you do with those.

Cas Meadowfield said...

It has been pointed out that at present when a book gets six stars it registers as four! Little wonder a lot of the best books don't get to the desk. Will this change on the new site?

Scott Pack said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for taking the time to message me. I shall confess that, while I am happy to answer pretty much any question fired my way I would rather focus on questions from people actually using the site for its main intention. Nothing against the others, it is just that I need to prioritise which I am sure most people would understand.

I was expecting a list of questions I had supposedly failed to answer on here, instead I get a new list. Fine, but do let me know what questions you feel I have avoided as I am happy to address them too.

You do post some interesting new questions though so I will make sure they are answered in a forthcoming blog post so that more members can see the answers (not everyone hangs around the comments area).

Cheers,

S

Anonymous said...

Scott, if no one pays attention to the site blog, part of the reason is that you and Rachel and company don't ever advertise it, or even ask for users to check it out.

The many times I've gone to the forum to spotlight something on the site blog, the most likely outcome is for my account to immediately disappear.

Richard Maitland said...

Scott, save your breath to cool your porridge. The 'uppity Anonymous' is FLOXY, banned from this site at least two years ago, and responsible for literally thousands of false IDs and for clogging up the system with his emoticon-bombing of threads and PMs.

However, arising from one of his questions, I should like to ask that you do NOT put a word limit on Forum posts, as otherwise the work on the Faux Agents thread will have to stop--frequently our responses and advice run into 2,000-word posts.

As for myself, I'd like to know if there is any possibility that trolls and former members who have been banned, stay banned. At the moment, any retired account can post in the Forum and, being retired, can't--apparently--be removed by Admin.

Anonymous said...

Any text can be in more than one input. And, of course, stuff can be posted where it "belongs" and comments. , too.

Emoticon bombs should be reserved for spammer threads, esp since authonomy now sponsors spammers...

Darren A said...

Thanks Authonomy people. Personally I'm very grateful for the free site and all the great stuff you do. It's helped my writing no-end and has given me confidence from all the feedback and friendly people on here.

I think the new site looks great, can't wait. I agree with you that I would much rather wait for my work to be reviewed by an actual editor than have it returned quicker.
As for the comments about 'looks like you're not doing much', as a software developer myself, my heart goes out to you. People seldom see past the shiny front end into the foundations of what you do. I shudder at the thought of how complex some of your sorting/ranking routines must be.
Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I guess you don't like me saying you snuck a couple of your favorite books onto authonomy so you could say you 'discovered' them there. I'll stop saying it since we caught you at it and you stopped.

And, I don't really think you are in cahoots with the remaining spammer accounts you refuse to delete. You just don't want me barking at you about them, so you leave them hanging around, ready to start up again, just to spite me.

Childish response to criticism, just the same as always.

Are you prepared to not include all the improvements and fixes that users have pointed out, just to spite all of us? Or just me?

Anonymous said...

tinyurl.com/lvytza4

Anonymous said...

Would it be possible to include "Mystery" as a genre?
This type of book does not easily fit into other genres.

Scott Pack said...

Anonymous, I officially give up. Your 'childish response' comment doesn't appear to relate to anything I have posted here.

I did try to reply to your personal message but it appears your profile has been deleted.

I shall stick to answering questions by people who a) are members of the site and b) post questions here that are not from anonymous profiles.

Feel free to moan all you want about it though.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, I will. You are a good sport. I think you should select two or three books each month for review. Users could vote each month, including their pitch to you why the book they like should be selected. You are under no obligation to abide by the voting, but the voting will give you some possible direction. Votes would not carry over one month to the next

Joshua Roebuck said...

How will the old ranking system hand over to the new? Is it worth the effort of posting the considerably updated version of my (long 'private') book now or should I wait for the new site?

Anonymous said...

Joshua, the best course for you would be to go find Scott's motorbyke in the parking lot of HC, give it a full new Turtle Wax, fill the tank, check the oil, give the tires a pinch,

then leave a note asking him to check you new book.

Scott will decide, in future, which books reach the ED.

Right? or Wrong?

Can't tell from his ambiguous comments.

Joshua Roebuck said...

The arrival of the new site won't affect my decision to upload my book after all, as any feedback is always useful.

However, I haven't seen in either 'Rebuild' Blogs very much about the logistics of the launch. How will it work?

Will the accounts, books et al be there when the new site launches, or will members have to rejoin and start over?
How will current book ratings or comments be affected?
Will the old site still be accessible for reference for a while?
How much notice will be given of the launch?

casounds said...

Will the stars ratings be linked to the comments? I think his would stop so much abuse of the rating system.
I'm looking forward to the new site, so, thank you Scot and Authonomy for all your hard work.

casounds said...

Will the stars ratings be linked to the comments? I think this could stop a lot of abuse of the rating system.


I'm looking forward to the new site, so, thank you Scot and Authonomy for all your hard work.

Cas Meadowfield

Kabiba said...

Hello Scott,

I just wanted to check if all my 292 reviews will be deleted when the site is relaunched? Do I need to back them up? Thanks for your help,

Kate Murdoch

Eftborin said...

Wonder will these be addressed:
Will the books hold on to their comments?
Will the star system actually help boost a book's rating?
Will books retain their present status or will they drop/rise dramatically?
Will Arsenal's success last season blossom further this season?
Will books keep their covers?