I have done some updates on the underlying server software today. If you were around while I was doing this, the site was going up and down like a yo-yo. A reboot and a couple of services restart later and I think we are up and running. Everything I tested seems to be working and all the big red warning flags I was getting have cleared.
(for the technically inclined, we went from PHP 7.0 end of life version to PHP7.1. I had to get the extensions right and update the caching system. bleh. I hate command line linux)
In theory, we should be good. If you bump into a hairball, be sure to post below with as many details as you can so I can reproduce the issue.
As mentioned in previous announcements, we are undergoing clean up and consolidation.
As part of this, some of the temporary links that were on the forums have been removed and placed in the newly streamlined "Help" menu.
Help -FAQ = a list of common questions with links to the answers.
Help Topics = a database of common questions and answers
Step-by-Step Guide to Authors = How to become an Author on the site.
Support = Open a support ticket if you need help related to your account or other private site related issue
Staff = list of staff on the site with contact information
Guidelines = site rules
Writing Resources = a page full of links to handy writing tools, guides, and articles
About Gay Authors = a bit of history of the site.
A reminder that we encourage you to have your account set to receive news email from the site:
We have made a minor bug fixing Stories software patch. It corrected a number of minor issues.
If you spot any bugs, please provide a link to the area you saw them (Where possible) and explain the issue you encountered.
We have consolidated and removed two different forums that were dedicated to Writing Resources. We have instead replaced them with a single Writing Resources page.
This page will be a constant work in progress as we update and make better ways to organize it. There are already a ton of resources linked on the page. If you're writing and stuck on something, there is probably a resource there for you.
First of all,
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Over the next few weeks, we will be doing a number of things around the site to simplify and streamline things. We have a very large sprawl of forums at this point that are semi-active or less. We are working on consolidating those so that only what we need is around. The Announcement forum is the first thing that is highly visible that is getting removed. We will post Announcements in the most appropriate blog going forward. When we do so, we'll use the Announcement function to display it across the site.
We are looking to spend 2019 focusing on Gay Authors core purpose: Great Stories and Great Community.
I, personally, have rediscovered my joy in writing. It has been buried for a long time in the focus on running the site. I am planning on being very active in the Anthologies this year and I encourage others to do the same!
We will be making more use of the built in email system to contact specific groups about items of interest. (For example, we'll email authors reminding them about Anthologies and how they are open to everyone and when the due dates are for submission). But we can only use the system if you have your account set to receive site news:
Please make sure that this box is checked so that you can receive the occasional email from the site. We will not use this for marketing or such things. This will be for letting you know what's going on at Gay Authors.
All the best to everyone in this New Year and the best wishes for many more!
This week I'd like to talk about two of the new features coming to the site soon. I've shared this a bit with the authors, but I wanted to share them a little wider. This is a more focused view for readers.
We currently have one way for authors to group their stories: Series links. They work, but I've wanted them to be more obvious. So, with the new version, we're giving a bit more depth to our Series.
Series now has a description. We can also add a series banner and special enhanced displays for series that have special circumstances. Authors should take note of the red Xs on the side. We can now very easily remove stories from a series (and yes, it asks to confirm the delete, so no accidents) or reorder the stories by simply pressing the up and down arrows.
But a series of stories isn't the only way to group stories in the next update. As anyone who has ever read Tom Clancy, Mercedes Lackey, J.K. Rowling, or Rick Riodan knows, you can have a whole bunch of different series featuring different aspects or couples that all take place, along with stand-alone stories, in the same world. And hence, the next new feature: Worlds.
Worlds function almost exactly like Series, except that there is no order like in a series and you can add Series to your world. For the sharp-eyed readers here, you will spot "Contributors". For the purpose of this demonstration, I added dkstories' Dreams of Humanity Series to my Psionic Corp world. Series listing also allows contributors, though I didn't show it in the example above. Also in the picture, you can see that Series has one highlight color (black currently) and Worlds another (Violet, currently). Also, Dreams is tagged with Premium, so that is also listed. I see this feature getting used for authors who share the same writing world or for authors like @Comicalityand I who write stand-alone stories that share the same area. In the example, you see two of my Anthology entries which are stand-alone entries in my Psionic Corp world.
Good news too, current existing stories in a series will import in as is. The Author or staff members will just need to go and add a description to the series page, and it'll be good. (if one isn't added, it'll just look as it does now)
The browse menu will now have a "Browse by Series" and "Browse by Worlds", as you can see in the right-side menu in the above image.
There are other things coming as well. But as you can see from the screenshots, the test server already has these features working
For those of you that don't know, Gay Authors stays open and improving through the combination of Premium Membership subscribers and advertising. This pays the bills and allows to maintain and improve the site. In the last version of the forum software, they introduced a simplified Subscription Management tool. The most important thing it does is fixes that stupid error "You have already purchased... etc". The catch, of course, is that any time the software changes like this, there are hiccups. I've waited sometime now for them to have plenty of time to fix bugs. I'm hoping we don't see any.
We'll be switching to the new system soon. In theory, all current and past subscribers should be switched over and there will be a new simple interface for you to use to renew or change renewal times.
I'm also putting a link to Premium directly on the Main Menu.
This is how it will look, basically. @Cia is still finalizing the graphics as I write this.
Once you have subscribed, the interface is MUCH better than the old system. It is very clear as to what you are subscribed to, when it expires/renews:
Expect this change to hit this week!
We have just posted a new version of Stories. In theory, this finally corrects the notification bugs. If you Follow a Story, you should now get your notifications every time. If you Follow an Author (on the author page) you should be alerted when they post a new story.
A "Part of Series" toggle has been added to filters:
The quick search links now properly activate existing filters and you should be able to change them or remove them with the minus sign.
Example, Series stories by dkstories:
There is now a reminder on "Add New Chapter" box that reminds you about the posting rules:
Moderation Queue Important Note:
The moderation queue is now based on Story/Chapter reputation only! We are working on a method of displaying an author's current story/chapter reputation if they're under the limit. So if you suddenly find yourself in the Story Moderation Queue, where you were not before, this is why.
Reply to Review should be working properly now.
The filterbox on the Series page is now working properly. The Quick Search on Series page is now correct as well. Searching by Series word count is also working:
For those of you that have not yet watched the video on how the new search filters work, please watch it now:
Back? Good... Now to add a few things. Since the new search system uses the URL to add filters, you can now bookmark your search. Or copy it for others. For example, this is all the Sci-Fi stories by dkstories:
Or maybe your thing is complete Long Fantasy stories?
Or, how about you want to see the newest in progress romance stories that have exceeded 20,000 words?
Now you can set what you want to find and bookmark it. Easy. You can do any combination of things. Like adding some tags to the above search.
Does this help you find stuff?
If this blog was helpful to you, be sure to like this post and follow the blog!
Today we are going to talk about how Follow works. In the forum software, Follow works by notifying you to new content in the item you wish to follow. So, if you follow a blog, you get notified of new blog posts. If you follow a blog post, you get notified of comments to that blog post. If you follow a Forum, you are notified of new topics to the forum. If you follow a topic, you're notified of new replies to the topic.
When you click the follow button, you get these options:
The default is "A Notification when new content is posted". Right below that is "change how the notification is sent". You can choose Inline (default) or email or both.
You can also choose a daily digest of updates (good on busy topics/blogs you follow) or a Weekly digest. You can also choose to follow something and then not get notifications. This is handy if you want to support the author without getting the alerts.
Since following at multiple levels can be confusing, I'd thought I'd use this blog as an example. If you were one of the members following the blog "Anthology News", then you got a notification this Anthology Flashback blog was posted:
There are only 11 people following the blog at the moment... so this is a great time to click Follow (it changes to Following once you've done so)!
If you wanted to be alerted to comments on this blog post, you'd need to follow the blog post. In the example above, you can see 5 people are following that blog post.
I was one of those followers so I could respond to comments and use reactions. If you comment on a blog post and want to see what others think of your comment or if they reply, then following the blog post would alert you to any additional comments.
Now, we have a whole bunch of site news blogs I think are worth following that are intended to highlight writing tips, ideas, and stories. Be sure to follow them here:
I hope this helps! Let me know what you think in the comments below. And be sure to like and follow those blogs.
P.S. The process described in following works in theory for Stories as well. There are still some odd quirks with the system we are working to correct. The proper advice here is to be sure to both follow and like a story. You can also follow an author. When you follow an author, you get notifications when they post new stories. (Follow the Author to get notifications to new Stories. Follow a Story to get notifications to new Chapters). We are actively trying to address the issue where you are not getting notified of new stories/chapters properly. It is a very stubborn and persistent bug.
So I shared a sneak peek of this post in our Writer's Circle. I encourage authors to join the club if you haven't yet because there are a ton of great posts in there, and sometimes early information about upcoming features for authors.
So, we've got the new Stories user interface worked out, and we're fixing the bugs. Here's a sneak peek at it:
The quick Title search will now be on every page. The previously empty search field now has "Search stories..." to give a clear indication of what it is. The filter bar replaces the advanced search functions... and it is a live filter. This means if you select "Follow" and then select Stories I Follow, you get this:
The search is applied instantly, and you can see it dropped from 883 pages of results to 2.
Or how about Complete Fantasy Stories sorted by word count:
We've updated the Authors' pages as well:
We are hoping to be able to upgrade this week. There will be some bugs to work out, but we need to test on the live server with more people to finally squash them all. When we upgrade, there will be a topic posted for with more information and for bugs like we've done before with directions of what to do if you encounter one and what information you need to share.
I thought I would swing around to Clubs again for this Tech Tuesday. Clubs are semi-private groups here on Gay Authors. We have a few different clubs available currently, and you can find them under the Club Link on the main red menu.
I strongly encourage our authors to join the Writer's Circle. There are a lot of ongoing discussions in there, and our friend @BHopper2 has been nice enough to start his own ongoing topic discussions each Tuesday which have brought forth some great discussions on writing and interacting in the community.
The Pit, of course, is where you can talk about politics. For the Fantasy Writers out there, there is a fantasy writing group. Same for Sci-Fi and Poetry. If you are just a general tech and science geek, there is a club of that. There is also a health group where folks are discussing health and fitness stuff.
Getting into a club is easy. Just hit the Join Club button and someone will approve you within a day, typically.
When you've joined a club, and you go to the Club page, you can see which clubs you are a member of and the latest updated topics.
When you're in a club, theres a button on the home page of the club that allows you to follow the entire club and see the latest activity with notifications.
If you are on the Main Forums page and you scroll to the bottom, you can see all of your Club Forums in one place.
If you haven't jumped into a club yet, now is a great time!
Since we live in the age of social media and Google ranks websites on those sorts of things, I'd like to remind everyone from time to time that we have other channels of social media where you can follow the happenings on GA. There are links to everything but the newsletter on the bottom of every page. It looks like this:
Newsletter sign up: http://eepurl.com/cqQPIz
I've promoted our Pinterest account primarily amongst the Author Clubs as there are a lot of images pinned to boards there that could be used for inspiration purposes. Be sure to check it out.... if you have time because once you start looking at all the *ahem* inspiration, it tends to be hard to stop looking.
I'd like to remind everyone again to sign up for our Newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/cqQPIz
Cia puts together a great wrap up and highlights for the week, as well as writing/editing tips, story features, plus games and contests.
I've just enjoyed, and I use the term loosely, an Internet free weekend. This was not my desire in the least. The several-year-old network interface board for Verizon FiOS decided to die Friday afternoon. The tech was able to replace it fairly quickly, thankfully. Unfortunately, it wasn't until Monday morning that they got around to getting here to do it. The only internet access I had over the weekend was through my phone. That means that time I would normally have for taking care of stuff around here was totally zapped. This includes being able to write one of the more detailed blogs that show up here on Tuesdays. I'm writing this as I'm overdue for bed because like Winter is Coming, so does Work.
To our authors, if you've noticed the "Respond to Review" option now showing up on reviews... don't use it. Stories doesn't know what to do with it yet so, you'll just get an error when you submit whatever you write. I've reported it to our programmer, so it should be included when we roll the next version out. It's currently going through bug squashing. The weekend without internet, when I actually had time to work on it, didn't help. Anyway, I will hopefully have more a more helpful blog next week
As we roll ever closer to Armeggedon... er.. the go date for GDPR, Invision, the software company for the forum software is releasing another update to specifically address the ongoing concerns of pretty much anyone running anything on the Internet. We will be rolling the update ASAP. It is set to release Tuesday (Today).
Some features in it:
Downloading personal data. One of the requirements of GDPR is to be able to provide what personal data is tracked. They've added a feature to create an export file of personal data.
Deleting Members. We now have the option to anonymize data when we delete a member. As a reminder, in most cases where users have content posted, we delete your account and leave the content per the Terms of Service you Agreed to upon joining and re-agreed to if you are logged in and reading this. As a general rule, deleting content causes community disruption and we avoid that wherever possible. But we can now easily strip said content of anything the EU considers to be personal data.
We are also working through the bugs on the new story update as well. This is the update that will put all the sorting and filtering right at your fingertips. I leave you with a current image:
As you can see, we have the theme working on the test server. This shows Stories I follow sorted by word count (most)
A few weeks back, our tech guru extraordinaire, A.J., compiled the reading stats to date for me. I poked them around to see what I could see and I made a little pie chart for everyone.
Now, any math person will tell you that you need context to understand what that means. So here are the relevant details:
Data is compiled based on "reads" from Jan-April 2018. This is about one quarter of the year.
The data shown here represents 2.89 million views, which compromised the top 717 stories. The cut off for that number was 1000 views in the time period.
Stories can (and do) have more than one genre listed on them.
The displayed data was compiled this way:
Stories were ranked by most views Jan-April
All stories with more than 1000 views were left in.
We counted up the number of times a genre was tagged in those stories.
The pie shows the proportion of stories so tagged.
As you can see, people are reading Romance and Drama in high numbers. Though, to be honest, many of the stories on the site are tagged with Romance in addition to whatever else someone wanted to be listed. Western is not shown but is half the size of Paranormal.
Enhanced story stats will be part of a future update to Stories.
There has been a lot of news lately about Privacy and information breaches all over the place. Combine that with the new EU law, GDPR, going into effect on May 26th, and every internet company on Earth has been bombarding you with alerts, messages, and requests for re-agreements. The amount of regulation that you have to deal with as a small business is frankly crushing. As the laws were written by technical half-wits (and I'm being generous), the law is written in such a way as that everyone is in violation of the law in some way or another unless you have a large team of well-paid lawyers making everything more complicated and messy. The USA wasn't to be outdone and passed a moronic Anti-Sex Trafficking Bill... that basically puts every company that operates on the Internet in harm's way....unless you have an army of lawyers. Expect more changes as we make adjustments to make sure we are well inside what's allowed by these laws.
You can find the Rules/Terms of Service/Guidelines for the site under the Help Menu as Guidelines:
The Terms of Service Short form is here: https://www.gayauthors.org/terms/
It links to the full Guidelines as well.
Opt-in for Site News
We have the capability of emailing members from time to time via the system. This is a strictly opt-in system and we had people cycle that some time ago. If you wish to change your current status for on-site email contact, you can go to your Notification settings here: https://www.gayauthors.org/notifications/options/
For people that Subscribe to the Read! Write! Enjoy! site newsletter, there will be a new opt-in going out soon so that we comply with the new EU GDPR law. Keep an eye out for that.
I just wanted to give you a quick update this week on our pending forum upgrade. We've got the theme updated and worked out, so we're just waiting on some final checks with the programmer to make sure the under-the-hood changes on the forums won't break the current version of Stories. (The updated version is not quite ready yet).
There are some visual changes to the system I think you'll appreciate.
First up, Gallery:
There is a much more Facebook-like approach where the image stays still and the comments scroll along the side.
For Members with no cover photo set, there is now a random color mosaic:
Say Hello to the Emoji:
Don't panic! The emoticons of old are in there too. Just use the search box... Hug for example:
And since Emojii are actually fonts... you can resize them.
We better not be seeing this one:
There are also new Announcement features, as shown here:
We'll be updating as soon as we can, with the new streamlined Stories following as soon as that is working properly.
And, if you like reading updates like this, be sure to like this post, follow this blog, and comment below!
We are actively developing a change to the story system that will go with our forum software upgrade. There are a lot of things going on under the hood, but there is a fairly sizable visual change coming as well.
Clicking on Newest Stories currently shows you this:
Our still-in-development software update shows you this:
A couple of notes here on the image:
This is a work in progress and subject to change
This is in the default color scheme and has not been updated to GA colors yet
The idea with the interface is to put all the story sorting options right in front of you and have the listing update as you make changes.
For example, if I wanted to list all the stories by either @Cia or me, I can do this:
Or maybe I want to see the Premium Stories?
We are working hard to make things easier for everyone. The Stories Archive software offers some really powerful features, but they are a bit fidgety and in out of the way places. The idea of the new update is to put the power right in front of you.
Like... show me just the stories that I follow:
Do you think this sorting method will be easier for you? Do you think it will be helpful to find specific stories?
Now is a great time for feedback!
This week is all about help. We have a pretty extensive help system here on-site where we've taken the time to write up the answers to the most frequently asked questions. We've also made videos for some of the features on site to make it that much easier. So first things first, help your fellow members with a quick link to the appropriate help section. Help is on the red menu on every single page of the site. Don't be afraid to click the menu.
Help -FAQ - Brings you to the list of common questions. You can search for the what you are having issues with the "find on page" or "Search" function of your browser. (Ctrl-F in Windows) Or you can just read through the list. Links bring you to the proper topic in the FAQ database.
You can open a Support Request by clicking "Support". We prefer you don't do this for simple things, as it'll take awhile to get to you. You'll probably get a faster response to a topic on the forums. The only exception is Premium Content issues. Those you should use the Support Request for so that we can see your account information and can troubleshoot your issue easier.
Staff - Shows the list of our volunteer staff on-site.
Guidelines - These are the rules.
About Gay Authors - This gives you a bit of a history of the site.
15th Anniversary - This was the page we ran to celebrate our official 15th birthday.
Extras - Not everything fits where we'd want it and, to avoid scaring people, we hid some of the links here for those who wanted them.
Editors - List of Editors on Site. (These are people listed as an Editor on a story in the Stories archive.)
Beta Readers - List of Beta Readers (These are people listed as a Beta Reader on a story in the Stories archive)
Categories - List of Categories in Stories. Also available in side menu on the Stories Archive homepage.
Online users - List of members currently on the site.
If you wish to jump straight to the help topics, you can go here: https://www.gayauthors.org/faq/
As an example, here is a Step by Step guide to posting a story on the site:
Be sure to let us know if a help topic needs to be updated. Also, let us know if we need to do a video on a specific subject to make it easier to understand.
I've started my new job and I'm getting settled in. I'm hoping my schedule settles down soon as I've been going a bit bonkers. lol.
Anyway, we stealth upgraded the site a few days ago and since no one complained, things appear to be working well. We also updated the rules on the site on Sunday which triggered a request that you agree to the rules again. This rule updates and your agreement with them is now recorded so that we comply with the upcoming EU debacle, the GDPR. (General Data Protection Regulation)
This update has also put in place a new function in stories that I mentioned a couple weeks ago about allowing us to put the posting rules for Stories right there where you are posting your stories. I'll be updating those this week, so keep an eye out.
On a more interesting note, I got an update image from our programmer that deals with the User Interface improvement for sorting and filtering the story data.
The system we are working eliminates the need for "advanced search" as you'll be able to build your search live right on the page and have the page update automatically. There will also be a few preset search options (like latest completed stories or most reviewed or newest stories under the Quick Search menu). This is a work in process, so there will be variation. We are working hard to make the system easier to use, but having it just as powerful in being able to find the stories you want.
I've mentioned in a previous blog that we have started tracking reading statistics on stories over time. We'll be adding stats features so authors can know how many people are reading their stories and if it varies by time. (right now, the system only shows totals). I'm happy to report that we now have over 3.3 million story views in less than 90 days. The data is still collecting, so when we roll out the new feature, it'll cover back to the start of 2018. We are working hard to make things better for everyone.
I've completed my move, but my life is in boxes and I'm actively digging out. I am keeping it short this week and hoping to resume longer posts next week.
If you have not already signed up for our weekly newsletter, you should. Cia likes to sneak surprises in from time to time.
You can find it here: http://eepurl.com/cqQPIz
We also have a YouTube Channel, which I have placed a number of "How To" videos. Check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/user/GayAuthors
If you have something you'd like to see a video on how to do, please let me know. I should have time very soon to record them again.
We also have a Google+ page, which is just because Google favors it for search results. You can find it here: https://plus.google.com/+GayAuthorsOrg
We do update it pretty much daily with blog links and occasional posts.
We have a Pinterest page. Be sure to follow us here. I've been pinning things for writing inspiration. https://www.pinterest.com/gayauthors/boards/
I try to pin a few things a day.
We are currently testing a bug fix update to Stories, 2.2.4, that also contains a minor, but important feature. Site rules at the source when posting new Stories and new chapters and when editing them.
This is just a sample of the test code in process:
One of the issues we have at Gay Authors is that we have a lot of rules and standards that authors are expected to follow, but they are not always easy to get to. This update will place rule boxes right at the point of use so that authors will no longer have to search for the rules for a specific area.
This will help us keep to the site's visual standard and help authors stay within the rules. The ones listed above are samples and we'll be putting them in place when we update the site.
On a different note, my move will finally be wrapped up on Saturday and I'll have a week to settle in before work starts up again. This will let me spend some time writing and working on the site again instead of bouncing around like a madman.
This week's blog is going to be a little light. I'm extremely busy with my move. I will be relaxing this time in two weeks, I hope!
Now, I think everyone has bumped into some weird spacing issues or weird formatting issues when reading stories on the site. This is especially true of older stories that were brought in from the days when we hosted stories as webpages. @A.J. has been working hard to clean up visually, by having the system fix the code on the fly. We are working on a way for you to report a formatting issue or hit a button saying the formatting was just fine. This will be coming. In the meantime, keep an eye on the Announcement forum as we ask for volunteers to test the display filter. It is our goal to prevent poorly formatted stories from going into the system in the future and clean up all the stories posted in the past as well. With almost 35,000 chapters posted on the site, this will take time, of course.
If you come across any severely broken story chapters, please read this topic and follow instructions:
We are all busy right now dealing with real life, so it might take a bit of time to get to them. However, having sample stories of bad formats will also help us know what to filter and fix for.
Thanks for your help!
You can find "Notification Settings" under your name in the upper right menu.
The first batch of settings is about how things work:
"Send me news and information" - Everyone should keep this checked so that we can email you.
"Automatically follow conent" - This allows you to automatically follow things so you get alerts to things that you involve yourself in.
"Method to use for content I follow Automatically" - Select how you wish to follow stuff.
Notification preferences - This allows you set how much alerting you get.
On the right side is the Browser Notification which allows Gay Authors to alert you even if you aren't on the site. They can be pretty intrusive. If you wish to change them, it is at the browser level.
If you want to change your browser notification, here is a how to video:
The rest of the notification page allows you to set what you get as inline notifications or emails:
Hope this helps!