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Myr

Writing reviews is hard.  That's the honest truth.  Writing the first review is even harder.  Humans are social creatures and tend to have a herd mentality.  Most people will wait for others to go first.  It is part of human nature.  However, writing those reviews is important for the same reason.  A lot of people don't like to go and read something unless it's been reviewed.  There are other factors people look to like number of views, number of likes, and number of follows when the reviews aren't there, but we've been trained by the billions of dollars marketing companies spend to look for those stars when we are considering something.  It's completely unconscious for so many of us.   Amazon has this down to an art form.  Every time you buy something, especially if there are not a LOT of reviews, you'll get a follow-up email asking you to review the item.  That's because people look for social proof that others like what they like.  There are entire psychology and marketing courses and books on just this subject alone.  It's mind-boggling, really.

 

Our Stories system is set up so that people can comment on ongoing stories as well as each chapter.  When the story is marked as complete, people can leave a review.  You need to leave a 1 to 5 star rating with 1 being Oh God, Why Did I Read This? and 5 being WOW!  Where can I send you money? I have made a video where you can listen to my non-dulcet tones explain how to do this:

 

If you watch the video, would you mind taking a moment and hitting like?  It would be much appreciated.  Also feel free to subscribe to our channel so you can see when I make these little videos.

 

Important notes on reviews:

  • The more spoiler-free stuff you are able to put in there, the better.  This is especially true the lower you rate the story.  
  • If you really liked the story, "This is Great!" is a positive feel good for the author, certainly.  However, if you can tell the author why you thought it was great, then the author has a great target on what to give you more of.  Did you love the characters?  the plot?  the humor?  the twists? the big cliffhanger? (but don't spoil it!)
  • If you didn't love the story, it's even more important to let the author know what's wrong.  It is imperative you do this constructively! "This Sucks!" is a complete waste of time for you to leave it and for the author to read it.  So DON'T do it.  Some examples approaching constructive feedback:
    • I like the characters in this story, but the plot felt flat and empty. You can use the spoiler tag to give specific examples.
    • I really loved the concept, but I struggled to read through the editing issues.
    • I think the plot was well thought out, but the characters felt interchangeable and flat.

Star Ratings to Me:

  • Stars mean different things to different people.  1 is bad, 5 is best.  But what does that really mean?  This is my own scale of how I view them:
    • 5 Stars - This story is one of the best.  A must read for me.
    • 4 Stars - This story is great.  Well worth a read.  (this is my most common rating)
    • 3 Stars - This story is good.  Decent story that may just be mismatched to my genre/mood/preferences.
    • 2 Stars - Meh.  Not a horrible story, but it has issues.
    • 1 Star - This story is a complete mismatch to my preferences or is horribly written or has one or more fatal flaws.

 

Older Stories

Gay Authors has been going since fall of 2002.  We have a lot of stories, of course.  Some of our early members are no longer with us for one reason or another.  @DomLuka@dkstories@vlista20 @C Jamesto name a few.  They each have some great stories but have low counts in the system.  This is because they had their own hosted sites on Gay Authors and were not in the system when they were getting the most hits and actively posting.  We promote the older stories regularly, but they really need members that love the older stories to review, like, comment on them to bring them to the attention of others.  Hell, @Comicality is active and has a huge back number of stories that you can check out.  @Mark Arbour is another.  Read and Review!  Let everyone know why you like the story.  Reviews, comments, and likes are all fuel for authors.  In many cases, the only fuel. 

 

So, will you--the reader--be willing to take just a few minutes of your time to let the author, who probably spent hours writing what you just read, know what you felt about their story?  Would you mind leaving that review in return for their hard work?

Myr

This week's blog was triggered by the observation that some authors and members seem to be unaware of a built-in feature of our Stories system.  This is the Series function.  First, for the readers, you can find Series easiest by using the right-side menu on the main stories page. See below:

Screenshot showing location of Longest Series Link

 

If the Longest Series is not your thing, you can easily adjust it by selecting "Sort By" and choosing a different option:

Shows Longest Series Page with highlights on how to use Sort link

 

When you click on a Series Title, say "Gone From Daylight", the stories will be listed in Series order.  You'll recognize Series stories in the system because they'll have a Series # followed by Series Title after the Story Title.  For example, on the Gone From Daylight Series page, you can see the highlighted Series # and Series Title:

Shows Gone From Daylight Series page

 

That's all great for Readers, but how to Authors make a Story part of a Series?  Easy!  Edit the Story and right at the top of Step 1 is the Series Title and Series Number:

Where to Add Series Title and Series Number on a story

 

We do ask that Authors not add the Series Title and Series number until there are at least two Stories in the Series posted in the system.

Also note, that is a great way to tie related Anthology stories together.  Although in the case of Anthologies, the staff will have to edit the story for you. 

 

I hope that helps everyone understand our Series function in Stories.

Myr

I thought I'd start off 2018 with a reminder to everyone about computer security.  In the past year, we've seen major security breaches that gave away pretty much everyone's personal financial information and worse.  It was bad, to put it mildly.  So, first, I'm not a security expert but I'm offering some common sense items for everyone.

  1. Use different passwords on all of your accounts.
  2. Use Strong passwords( 8+ characters, mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters like $#@!)
  3. If this sounds scary to you, use a password manager. I use LastPass personally as it works on all my devices.
  4. Use Two-Factor Authentication on your major email addresses and all financial accounts.  This could be an authenticator app, using the option to get codes texted to you, or setting up security questions.
  5. Keep your computer software up to date! 

 

You can change your password in your Account Settings. It shows you how strong your password is as you type it.  Go for green! (a password Strength indicator shows up when you start typing)

image.png

 

 

Gay Authors offers two-factor authentication as well.  Either questions or the Google Authenticator App.  Or both.

image.png

 

Further resources from MIT:

https://ist.mit.edu/security/tips

 

I also use Secunia PSI for making sure all the programs on my machine are updated.  It's free for home use:

http://learn.flexerasoftware.com/SVM-EVAL-Personal-Software-Inspector

 

Myr

There seems to be an unwritten rule out there for websites and publications everywhere that the last week of the year is the time to do a year in review wrap-up sort of post.  This is the one for Gay Authors.

2017.  What a year!  This was the year we jumped 50 versions of software to finally break free of the 3.4 version of the forum software and break into the world of 4.1 and then 4.2 versions of the software.  We've had hundreds of Stories archive software updates in the same timeframe as we've worked through all the bugs from going through a complete software rewrite and carrying a ton of existing data along.  The good news?  The biggest part is behind us for now.  It took considerably longer than we wanted to get where we are, but the system is mostly working as intended.  There are some outstanding notification bugs and quirky language that will be the target of a patch sometime soon.   The important thing here is that we made it!  We had a much smoother transition this time around.

 

It's time to look ahead at 2018.  Just what is coming?

Blogs and Newsletters:

  • Sunday Weekly Wrap-ups Blogs - These will continue.
  • Sunday Newsletter -This will continue
  • Monday - No change
  • Tech Tuesday Blogs - I'm hoping to keep this going as a weekly feature to highlight features on the site and new features that will be coming.
  • Wed Blogs - No change
  • Thursday Anthology Blogs - We will be featuring a previous anthology (or two) on a weekly basis.  We will also be reminding authors about new anthologies and contests coming up.
  • Friday Prompts - This will continue
  • Saturday - Writing Tips.  We will be wrapping up the previously posted tips next week and then we start with new content provided by Comicality, a (20 year!) veteran of writing on the web.   We'll also feature other author's tips along the way. 

 

Tech updates

  • We are testing the bug fixes for notifications and wonky notification wording now and hope to patch that soon.
  • This version is also going to streamline the story pages so we have a standard listing everywhere instead of the odd front page we have now.  Very large advanced search improvements will be added as well to make it much easier to sort and filter stories in the system.  This will include being able to do so by author.  Example, if you want to look at all of Comicality's Fantasy Stories, the filter bar on his author page will let you do that with a couple of clicks.  It will look similar to the filters you see on the Activity Streams.
  • The major update after that will be Reading Lists.  This will allow you to have "Favorite Stories", "Favorite Authors", "Reading History", "To Read", "Recommended" and custom lists of stories and authors.  The intention is to make things clear and easy for you.  The Reading History list, which will be private unless you choose to share, will include the chapter you were last reading to help make finding things easier.  We'll go into more details when we get closer.
  • The major update after that will be aimed at authors.  We are working to provide far more robust stats on what people are reading so an author can see how they are doing.  We'll also be working to provide more stats for authors on what readers are looking for.  This will appeal to authors who like writing for the market and challenging themselves to appeal to that market will differentiate themselves.  We'll go into more details when we get closer to this one as well.
  • The final currently planned update for Stories is to improve the Story Queue.  This will automate some of the rules and let us do mass updates.  For example, the plan is for you to be able to post all your chapters at once so they are in the queue, and then you can just click a couple of buttons saying to post weekly on Friday at 9 am.  Stuff like that.  We know it is a bit tedious posting multiple chapters currently.  We'll get a lot more into this later in 2018.
  • The forum software 4.3 updates is also expected earlier in the new year.  The only announced features we are aware of right now are Improved search, Emojis support and Club enhancements to make them more visible when they have activity.  We'll post more as we know about it in our Tech Tuesday posts.

 

My personal 2018 Stuff:

  • I am planning on writing an entry for the anthologies and novella contest for this year.
  • I am hoping to complete my Harry Potter and the Parliament of Dreams story finally.  16 years is really procrastinating.
  • I am also hoping to spend more time writing in general.
  • And I'm making an active effort to be posting on the site regularly.  A good portion of that will be with the various writer clubs.

 

Thanks to everyone for making 2017 so great for us!  Here is to all of us having an even better 2018!

Myr

One of the most important aspects to our Stories software is allowing members to make the reading window fit their need for reading.  Whether that is to adjust the text size, the contrast, the indents or the width of the text window.  Here are the controls:

Chapter Text Controls Diagram

 

Text size should be obvious here.  The green highlight, as shown here, means that the current text is larger than the default text.  If you have no highlight, then you have default text size.  If you have A- highlighted, then your text size is set smaller than default.

 

Chapter Indent Control Diagram

 

Text Window Width is whether the entire window is filled or not.  This is mostly used on the desktop with a wide screen.  There is no need on smaller screens.

Chapter Text Width Diagram

 

Contrast Mode shows a dark background.  This helps to save battery and your eyes on mobile devices.

Contrast Mode Example

 

I hope this blog helps you understand the power of our text controls.  You can have any combination of the controls and it is stored on your device so you just need to set it once and it'll remember.

 

 

Myr

Greetings everyone!  It occurred to me that since this is the gift-giving season, we should share with you that GA does have a built-in Gift Card system that you can use to gift Premium Content (or credit for eBooks).  

 

But first, let me get to the why Premium?

 

Everyone who has been on the Internet for awhile and is familiar with the other story sites like Gay Authors knows that there are basically 4 business options out there:

  1. A private or small group that covers the cost of running the site and everything associated with it.
  2. Advertising covers cost of running the site.
  3. Donations cover the cost of running the site and everything associated with it.
  4. Freemium Model (GA), where there are tiered membership and advertising with most content being free.

 

The biggest site out there is, of course, Nifty.  They have advertising, but they mostly run on donations.

 

When Gay Authors started 15 years ago, we also ran on the good graces of others.  I found that trying to juggle grad school and never knowing if the bills were going to be covered month to month on Gay Authors was just too stressful.  I decided early on that we were going to hitch our wagon to the advertising wagon, and, when we started making enough to cover the cost of the bills, we stopped taking donations.  Now, advertising tends to fluctuate a lot day to day and month to month.  For a long time, we were able to keep our growing costs under the curve of the fluctuating ad revenues.  However, we eventually hit the point where the costs of running the server were exceeding the revenue we could get to cover it.  At that point we faced a situation where we had to decide whether to go back to a mixed advertising/donation model.  From the beginning, and to this day, I'm not comfortable with that model.  I want to provide value to our members with an explicit promise, that if you pay for premium, I'll keep the doors open.  We'll provide you with additional content AND we won't show you ads.  This has worked very well over the years.

 

What you get for Premium:

  • You keep Gay Authors Open for Everyone.
  • You get to browse the site ad-free without hurting the site like Ad Blockers do.
  • You get additional stories that aren't available elsewhere.  Or, they might be available as paid eBooks.
  • You help authors that are involved in Premium.  We compensate authors via different options like buying rights to use the story for Premium, by advertising for the author, helping the author with self-publishing through services.  We also are an honest to goodness publisher with our own block of ISBN numbers that we can assign to eBooks or other options.

 

You can also use the Gift Card system to purchase a membership for your friends who might not be able to cover the cost of a subscription.

The Gift card option is right on the front page of the store:  https://www.gayauthors.org/store/

Screenshot of Gift Card location in Store

 

 

image.png

  • To get one, just click the Buy Button.
  • Then, select the color for your gift card. 
  • Fill in the card.
  • Select the amount.  (The prices correspond to the various subscription options for Premium)
  • Choose to send via email or print it out.
  • Add to cart.
  • Select your payment method and checkout.
  • If you used email, you're done.  If you printed, you have a redemption code for the gift card amount.  Share that with the person you wish to gift it.

 

Redeeming the code is easy.  "Redeem" is right next to "Buy" in the picture above.

Click redeem and enter the code.  It will put credit in your account which will be visible in the store, and you can go make your purchase.  The system uses account credits before billing anything else.

 

Thank you all for supporting Gay Authors through the years! 

Myr

Myr

As I mentioned last week, it is my plan to post short feature highlights as well as other tech-related items here each Tuesday.  This week it is about our Letter format and IM/texting formatting.

This feature is available across the site, and the buttons are displayed in desktop/laptop-sized windows and tablet-sized windows.  The buttons are not in the mobile browser due to space limitations.

image.png

 

There are two ways you can use this feature:

  1. You can type everything you want to format (or paste it), highlight it and then press the format button.
  2. Or you can press the format button and then type everything you want (or paste it) in the box.

 

This is an example of the Letter formatting. image.png

This is an example of the IM/text formatting. image.png

The formatting will appear as it does when you post, right in the editor.  If you are typing in the box and want to get out of it, just hit enter twice and you'll be back into the normal editor.

 

Please note that the formatting does vary from browser to browser and from operating system to operating system.  The Letter format is more script based to imply handwriting, while the IM/Text formatting uses monospace (Courier) to imply computerized text.  In both cases, the text is indented and put into its own box.

 

If you have stories that need this format, I suggest going back and editing your story accordingly.  This method does work properly with our chapter text control and won't later run afoul of formatting problems.  (it is just putting this in a format box and we then could tweak the formatting for everything tagged this way all at once, thus providing improvements to ALL stories that are properly tagged in one go.)  As time permits, the staff will clean up older stories by authors no longer with us for one reason or another.

 

Please let me know what you think in the comments below.  Was this feature helpful?  Did you have something else you wanted to see?  I have a list of topics I'm planning to share but I will shuffle dates around if people show a strong desire for a topic.

Myr

Tech Tuesday - Spoiler Tags

Hello!  Welcome back to Tech Tuesdays!   Starting today, we are planning on bringing this feature back for you every Tuesday.  Most of them will be short but will highlight either existing features or coming features.  

 

Today, we will be going over the use of the spoiler tags.  These are built right into the editor and should be used to hide information that would otherwise spoil someone's enjoyment.  This often applies to the big twists you see in books, movies, tv shows, games, etc.  It is considered rude and obnoxious by many to let out a big secret before others have had a chance to get to it themselves.  On GA, you can hide text in many places like Stories, Forums, or Clubs. It's a good way to hide sensitive material such as reader reviews as well as large blocks of text that you want to share but don't want always visible, such as a story or chapter sample for feedback. 

 

It is especially important for Gay Authors to use Spoiler tags because the activity stream shows content out of context.  For example, the latest reviews and latest story/chapter comments can be seen in the stream, and it's very easy for someone to read a comment on a story they haven't had a chance to read yet.  The information inside Spoiler tags is NOT shown in that stream.

How to use:

  1. Click the "eye" icon on the toolbar. image.png
  2. Type your spoiler information inside the box that appears. image.png
  3. Type the rest of your comment.
  4. Submit your comment.

and you get this:

image.png

 

Also, here is a video that walks you through it:

 

Myr

Sorry About That

Well, first right off the bat, I want to apologize for the upgrade taking so long to get all the bugs worked out.  I did not expect nearly 3 months to track all these bugs down.  That said, there was 5 forum software updates and a server change in that same time frame.  Each one of those updates caused unexpected surprises.

 

So where are we now?

As has been true since the first week or so, the major features work.  Some of the integration features act unexpectedly on occasion.  (This is especially true of the Activity Stream system).

Are there still bugs?  Yes.  There is nothing show-stopping left though.  Now that the Author Follow is working properly you should be seeing more consistent notifications of new stuff.

 

Where are we going now?

I am still working with the programmer to eliminate the remaining bugs.  Most of the bugs currently left are not generally visible to everyone.  As I'm sure you noticed by now, some of the integration is pretty sensitive and fragile so fixing something over here, might break something over there.  I think we have moved beyond the worst of it though.  The next big thing on our agenda is Forum software 4.2 and Stories 2.1.

 

What is Forum Software 4.2?

While we have not been idol with our stories software updating, the forum software has also been going through a major overhaul.  So, I'm sorry that you just got used to this set up and we're making more changes soon.  The price of security and keeping software up-to-date is that we are at the mercy of the programmers and the changes they make.  There are some really nice new features in the software we'll be using though, so it will be worth it.  The two big ones are Clubs and Social Media Promotion.  (Though I also like the new free Fluid forum where it takes all topics and shoves them into one giant list you can filter.  It's pretty handy).  You can see the same forum here, if you're interested: https://invisioncommunity.com/forums/

There is also a quick video flashing some stuff:

 

More information on Clubs:

https://invisioncommunity.com/news/new-clubs-r1017

 

What is in Stories 2.1?

Stories 2.1 is a vastly smaller upgrade then what we just went through.  It is focusing on one core feature which I am calling Reading Lists.  It will allow you to create two types of lists... people and stories.  There are some default lists I'm planning... Favorite Authors (public), Favorite Stories(public), Reading History (defaults to private unless you choose to share), and To Read list (defaults to private).  You'll be able to add your own lists. 

Tying in with Clubs, there will also be, "recommended by club members" list.  We will also have clubs like a writing circle where you can post a story like it was in the system, but be available only to the club members

 

The plan is to have Forums 4.2 and Stories 2.1 this summer.

 

Thanks everyone for the patience and understanding you've shown as we've gone through these upgrades.

Myr

Myr

Updated 10:15 PM  EDT Wed Jun 7, 2017

 

We've gone on for quite awhile since the upgrade.  We still have a few odd bugs that we are working on, but for the most part, things are working now or we have a useful enough work around.  We've gone through several software updates of the forum also in this timeframe which added to the difficulty of properly troubleshooting the issues.  We are sorry it is taking so long, but it is only one developer who also has another job.

 

You can always find the latest stories by clicking the Newest Stories link on the side menu after you select "Stories" on the main menu.

https://www.gayauthors.org/stories/browse/date/

 

You can adjust your notifications here:

https://www.gayauthors.org/forums/notifications/options/

 

You can see all the content you follow here:
https://www.gayauthors.org/forums/followed/

 

There are How To videos for various aspects of how to use the site on our YouTube Channel. 

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC24R2wGvfokple9CobsusIQ

We will add more over time.  We are also working on Closed Captioning for new videos and ones we've posted.

 

This is a list of open bugs and their status:

  • Advanced Story Search should now be working. Please alert us if you find some combination that is not working. Fixed
  • Story Related Activity Streams are functioning except for the "My content" filter.   This is still being worked on.  Fix: Friday
  • Favorite Authors and Favorite Stories mechanism is being replaced.  Currently, it is based on "Likes" of Story on story detail page and author author listing page.  We have a much better method we are working on.  Fix: Stories 2.1
  • Notification of comments on stories I like. Fixed
  • Notification of comments on chapters I like. Fix: Friday
  • Notification of comments on stories I authored. Fixed
  • Notification of comments on chapters I authored. Fix: Friday
  • Manage Followed Content - Story Authors Database error. The link has been disabled for now to reduce confusion.  Fix: Friday
  • Stories RSS feed is not working as intended.  Please see link above for latest stories. Fixed
  • Notifications are now working for stories if you follow the author.   Fixed
  • Add story and Add Chapter now pop-up confirm prompts.  However, they do not save when expected.  after you confirm the prompt, you must click save again. Fixed
  • Notification of comments should link straight to the comments now.  Fixed
  • When deleting a chapter, the chapters will be properly renumbered.  Now if you have staff delete a chapter, the chapter count is corrected. Fixed
  • Underlying story meta data for search engines as been fixed to improve search engines finding your story and knowing that it is a story. (schema.org) Fixed
  • Guest teaser box for both story and chapter comment form areas. Fixed
  • Last updated and follow code added to story listings as well. Fixed
  • Next chapter title automatically added when adding new chapter. Fixed
  • Latest Stories Widget no longer shows unpublished stories. Fixed
  • The "child" tags issue should now be fixed.

 Updates will be ongoing until everything is working.

 

 

Myr

I quickly threw this together to help out a member that messaged me.  Please forgive the mumbling of the word author. lol.  I have not have my caffeine at all yet and it's not even 6 am.

 

This video will show you how to use the quick search features built into the new Stories system.  @Carlos Hazday, thanks for being the random author selected for this demonstration :)

 

 

 

I hope this helps show some of the power behind the system and why it is worth the patience as we work through these bugs.

Myr

Myr

The Site will be offline starting at 3pm Eastern Daylight Time on Friday March 17.

 

The site will be completely offline for a handful of hours and will slowly come back online after that.
More details here:
https://www.gayauthors.org/forums/blog/633/entry-16734-site-software-update-coming-soon/

 

We will also be posting updates on our social media pages as well as our newsletter. (especially if we experience any surprises)
If you have not already done so, please follow us on all or any of the following:

 


You can post questions here:
https://www.gayauthors.org/forums/forum/262-software-upgrade-questions-and-answers/

 

Incidentally, I've been posting short YouTube videos into that forum that give some handy demonstrations of the new software.
https://www.gayauthors.org/forums/forum/262-software-upgrade-questions-and-answers/

 

I will post updates as they become available.

Myr

It has been a couple of weeks since our last update here, but we have been working hard behind the scenes to get our story software ready for the site. We're down to a handful of bugs that are preventing an upgrade here. Hopefully those get taken care of this week and our test upgrade goes smoothly. If that is the case, then we'll probably aim to be upgrading around 3/18. We'll post updates both here and on our social media outlets as we know them.

 

What to expect
There is going to be some chaos when we do this. We're doing everything we can to minimize it, but there is just too much to do, in a specific order, to have this go as smooth as we would desire.

  1. When we run the software update, the site will be completely inaccessible for two to three hours.
  2. If there are no nightmarish upgrade issues, you'll then see the site upgrading message and everything will still be offline.
  3. While things are offline, we'll be scrambling around behind the scenes in updating settings and creating the site menu and color scheme. These have to be done on the live site and, though I know what they look like, it will take time to get there.
  4. When we come back online, not everything is going to be turned on. Priority will be Forums and Stories. Chat may be turned on, but the entire chat service is dying off on April 30th. It will only be temporary, and we'll evaluate more when the upgrade has settled.
  5. Site search will be offline for about 48 hours. Well, it would be more accurate to say that site search will return few to no results until after about 48 hours. The system will be building the search index in the background.
  6. Things are going to be different. While everything should look similar, they will be different. The new software has been redesigned from the ground up based on a modern platform, including mobile devices. Keep in mind that the 3.X software we are currently running is older than Facebook... Everything that looks modern here is grafted on and it is creaking under the weight. The new software fixes a lot of the oddities. For example, you'll be able to edit comments and reviews on stories, which you can't do now.
  7. It's going to take a while, probably weeks, to get everything dialed in and tweaked to where we want it. We'll experiment and make adjustments based on needs.


Help
We are doing a number of things to try to ease this transition:

  1. We have our Beta Testing Team who have poked around with the software and have had some one-on-one time with us and will hopefully be able to lend some advice based on their experiences.
  2. We will be updating our FAQ very regularly with updated methods to use with the new software.
  3. I have procured a decent microphone and software, and I'll be recording help videos on how to do certain tasks that we'll post to YouTube and link directly into the FAQs. I'm really hoping that this method helps the most people as I can make these videos fairly quickly now that I've practiced a few times.
  4. We have opened a new Site Upgrade Questions and Answers forum which is the top forum on the site. https://www.gayauthors.org/forums/forum/262-software-upgrade-questions-and-answers/


We are doing our very best to keep people informed and up-to-date on what's going on.

 


I'll ask everyone to please remember that the entire staff here are volunteers and that this upgrade is going to be stressful for all of us. If you are feeling frustrated during the transition, I can't recommend strongly enough that you take a short break from the site and give us a few days to get the worst of the transition behind us. We understand that people do not like change. But in technology, you change or you die. Google is forcing sites to be as mobile friendly as possible, and this software just isn't it. We have to upgrade as soon as we can or risk further slipping in the Google search results.

 

To be explicitly clear, the staff is going to be extremely overworked, stressed and pulling their hair out when we upgrade. Having a dramatic moment in that time frame will result in an involuntary break from the site because we will not have the time to deal with the drama.

Myr

This week I wanted to talk about the reading formats we are providing for everyone. This is a work in progress as we continue to fix bugs and tweak how the final version will look.

First up, this is the default of what you'll see the first time you go to read a story (though with slightly larger font then default):
reading1a.JPG

There are 4 things members can control here, and the system will remember your settings on the PC.

  1. Font Size. You can go up and down a nonsensical amount. Default size is indicated by white background on both + and -. If the background is green then you are either larger or smaller than default.
  2. Indent style. You can choose between internet style with no indent and old fashion book style with indents.
  3. Text width. You can choose to have the width of the text appear 100%, 75% or 50% of your browser window. (handy if you maximize a browser on a wide screen)
  4. Contrast. You can toggle contrast on and off.


The nice thing is that you can mix and match to get the settings you like.
3/4 Width:
reading1.JPG

Indents:
reading2.JPG

Contrast (Yes, we are still working on the format here...):
reading3.JPG

Big Font for those that want it:
reading4.JPG

No idea why you'd want ant size print... but it is currently an option:
reading5.JPG

The whole purpose of this is to allow members to read our content in the way that is most comfortable for them. We've tried to provide the tools in this build so you can customize things to your liking.

What do you think?
Myr

Myr

One of the most noticeable new features in the forum software update is called Activity Streams. It completely replaces "new content" and is far more powerful. Activity Streams track every activity that occurs on the site, and you can set up your own custom streams.

  • As an author, want to track all the comments and reviews on your stories? Easy.
  • As a reader, want to have an update stream for all the authors you love? Easy.
  • Want to track Your reviews? No problem.
  • Want to see status updates of your friends? Easy.
  • Stalking someone? That's kinda creepy... But it is like Facebook.

activity1.JPG
All Activity is just that. It shows everything that is going on. New posts, comments, stories, reviews, status updates, gallery pictures, blogs, whatever. It is built in and will be right on the menu where it is easy to find.

 

activity2.JPG
Latest Stories will be the default Activity Stream and there will be a link to it near the top right of every page. But if latest stories isn't your favorite, you can change your default to what you want. For example... status updates. Lots of people love those :)
Another note here is that you have a LOT of filtering options of what to show and how to show it. Want only new story updates since your last visit? Make the change. You can then save that stream so you can view it whenever.

 

activity3.JPG
Showing off some versatilty... I want the latest story updates, but only from the authors I select. A few quick clicks and done. A custom stream for the authors I want to follow.

 

This system is really powerful and pretty easy to use. We'll set up a bunch of lists and you can customize them for yourself.

 

We are currently waiting on Stories Beta 18. This beta should address all current outstanding bugs and we'll do one more thorough bug hunt through the software making double sure that the stuff that matters most is working. We'll then look to upgrade the site. We're down to weeks, barring any major surprises.

 

Let us know what you think!

Myr

Hi all! I hope Santa was nice to you, if he happened to swing by your pad.

 

As promised, I am starting to post weekly blogs to bring everyone up to speed on what's going on with the coming changes to the site and our Stories software. Today I am going to talk about the big change to reviews.

 

We are changing the nomenclature on what counts as a review. Today, the system allows you to leave a single comment on a story and on each chapter. We label this a 'review', though most are just comments.

 

In the new system, everything that exists on the site today will become a "comment". Then, going forward, there is a new thing called "review". A review, as defined in the new system, occurs on the story only. They consist of a star rating of 1 to 5 stars and a required comment. Other readers will then be able to then choose "yes" or "no" on the question "was this review helpful?". The default order of reviews will be "most helpful". Also, reviews can only occur on completed stories.

 

The whole thing looks like this:
stories-2- review-comments.JPG

 

The reviews actually cause the star rating to update and it shows how many reviews were made, what the average is, and what you rated the story:
review.JPG

 

Reviews and comments can be edited.

 

Comments will appear at both story level and on the chapters. They are unlimited, meaning that a chapter-related thread back and forth between authors and readers can be done right at the bottom of the chapter. We will still have forums for authors for deeper discussions, so this doesn't mean they are going away. But it will allow you to make a quick comment on the chapter as you complete it as well as easily read what others have said.

 

I know this is a pretty big change and leaves everyone with no reviews, per se. But it brings the author/reader conversation right to the story and gives us an opportunity to have a real review of a story written that others can vote on so the most helpful story review rises to the top.

Myr

Wow! Has it really been four months since I last updated everyone on this blog?
We are very close to updating our test server to Beta 16 of the new Stories software. As you can tell from the sheer number of betas, we are going through the software a lot to try to minimize bugs and issues.

 

We are very close to having all the features in and doing final bug squashing before upgrading Gay Authors. Nothing about this process is going to be subtle. This is going to be a major, major update. The software that runs the forums is going from 3.4.9 to 4.1.18. That is almost 2 years of updates and something like 30 versions. We will be making that in one jump. Unfortunately, this means there is going to be some downtime for the site as we go through this process. We will keep this as small as possible, but some functions will take a couple of days to be working properly. (Search is one example, as it has to build the search index, which in testing took over 20 hours)

 

All of this will be coming to you early in 2017. I'm going to aim at having far more frequent updates in this blog to keep everyone up to date. Starting next week, I'll start posting some images and the like so you can get an idea of what is coming.

 

Some changes are coming here before we upgrade. If you saw the announcement in Sunday's blog, we have upped the like limit to unlimited for almost everyone. We are also reviewing emoticons to decide what we want to keep. With the update, the forums will accept Emojji, which are common on mobile devices and even Windows has built in now.

 

Keep an eye out, lots of stuff is coming soon!

Myr

Greetings everyone! It has been a while since I've done a blog, and this one will be a bit of a potpourri of items. We're going to chat about premium content, advertising, new software, and a call for volunteers. Also I'd like to give another shout out to one of our authors, so congrats again to Albert Nothlit! If you are aware of any of our authors getting an award, be sure to let us know, because we'd like to give recognition when we can. :)

 

Premium Content / Premium Member
GA is owned and run by a small LLC and operated by volunteers. Like all businesses, we try to make money to meet our bills, save for a rainy day and develop new things. We do this through two things: advertising and special access with our Premium program. For those of you that don't know, Premium Membership, previously Premium Content, provides access to over 50 additional stories, several of which are paid eBooks on Amazon and other places. In addition to this great content, GA is presented ad-free. I know that there are those of you that use ad blocking software, and I use it in a limited fashion myself. But for the sites I use most, I buy their ad-free package. The ads we use on GA are not of the obnoxious variety, so it would be nice if you use an ad blocker that you turn it off or white-list GA. Also, for anonymity that some members need, the charge for this membership does not appear under the site name, but as CDEJR Web Services, LLC.

 

Premium Member can be found here: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/store/category/2-premium-membership/

 

*If you get an error saying you have an expired invoice or any other error, please click here and let us know. We can reset the error, but can't see it until you let us know. (Or click "Contact Us" at bottom of any page) It is a software bug that has been corrected in the new software that we will be moving to soon.

 

Advertising
Ads on GA come in a number of forms. We have Google ads, our internal ads and eBook ads. Google Ads display in various places but not on any mature-rated stories. We display internal ads and some eBook ads on the mature-rated stories. The eBook ads are us selling advertising directly, usually to an author on site, who wants to promote their eBook in a very visual way. If you are interested in advertising with us, then click here: http://www.gayauthors.org/advertise.html

 

New Software
This has been quite the journey. We are finally getting to the point where we have a beta version of Stories 2.0. This has been the delay keeping us from updating to the new forum software, IP.Community 4.0. In fact, the delay has been so long that the forum software is now on version 4.1.14. Stories 2.0 will have the same functionality of the current Story software. We are not adding any new features beyond the software change until the next version. This was to prevent delaying the upgrade even longer.

 

The new software looks very different. It works really well on all devices and unlike currently, the basic look of the site will be the same no matter which device you use to access the site. For Stories, the functionality will be the same, but the way we do things is a little different to fit the new software framework. I just tested this yesterday, and you can post stories from your mobile device, even with the beta version. So for those of you who have that need, you will be able to make use of it.

 

Premium Stories Call
Speaking of getting more content for Premium Members: Attention all authors! We are looking for more stories for Premium! This is an ongoing story call, as we like to have a long pipeline of stories. We will be paying you for the accepted stories in the form of Premium Membership access on site, Amazon gift cards or cash payout, eBook services, and on-site promotion, depending on length of story. For more, please see this topic: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/42023-premium-short-story-submissions-call/

 

Graphic Artists
For those of you with an artistic bent, we are looking for help for making author graphics. For more details, please check out this topic: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/topic/42025-looking-for-graphic-artists/

 

Wrap Up
We are going to have a lot of stuff going on for the next few months. We ask for your help and support to get through the transition. If you like the site, and it doesn't create a hardship, please become a Premium Member. That will give you more stories to read, no ads and some other some benefits. It will give us more funds to focus on improving the site, including getting more content for Premium Members.

Myr

Look at that, another blog! We have started working on the 4.1 software version of the site. What this means for you is that we copied a full version of GA over to our test server and it will serve as our development site moving forward.

 

This is our first call out for people who want to help. The change is going to be pretty big for everyone since we're jumping two major versions instead of the usual one. The only thing we'll have control over is our Stories module and even that will have to fit within the software framework of the new system.

 

So who are we looking for? Anyone who wants to see the new system and get a chance to weigh in before we roll it out here. No technical experience required! In fact, we need a few people specifically who do NOT have technical experience. We also need people who mostly use the site with iPads, phones, and other tablet devices. We're going to do everything we can to make sure GA is easy to use, and we want to use the feedback and questions from our testers to make FAQs that will help others when the new system launches.

 

Everyone who wants to help is welcome to join up. The only thing we ask is that you participate in the polling we do and provide feedback on what you think. What is an improvement? What features are not intuitive and need a comprehensive FAQ update? This is the time for you to really voice your opinions on the changes that are coming. We will do what we can to address and respond to feedback from our testers to make the upgrade easier for everyone involved. Please remember when you do provide feedback or have questions to give comprehensive info (device used, browser, problem, screenshot if possible/relevant) so we can review and duplicate your experience.

 

As I said in the last blog, I'm going to remind everyone in each site technology blog that when we transition GA to the new software it is going to be very stressful for the staff. And I'm sure the members are going to be anxious about the change as well. So this is your opportunity to join in and learn about the changes before they happen. It is your chance to help us decide how some things are laid out. When we start testing the Stories module, you'll be able to provide feedback there as well.

 

So, if you want to help out and test the new site format before it go lives, then just click the link below.
http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/store/product/33-user-interface-team/

Myr

It has been quite a while, hasn't it? I wanted to write to update everyone on where we are.

We have been in a holding pattern for over a year now regarding upgrading our forum software to the newest version (4.1.x). In many ways this has benefited us, as they have discovered many issues that have been resolved. However it has been a real pain in other regards. This is especially true for mobile browser support as well as our text editor. The good news is that once we switch to the new forum software, we will be set. They have made the new software far less reliant on custom code for the text editor, so it gets updated frequently with bug fixes and features. The new software is also responsive, meaning that it utilizes the same interface no matter what device you use and will automatically resize to fit your device.

The good news is programming has finally started on our Stories 2.0 software that will work with the new forum software mentioned above. This will effectively be a conversion, though it is actually rewritten from the ground up. What this means is that we’ll have the same functionally as we have currently, just on the new forum software. This means a better text editor, better support for mobile devices, as well as other cool, new features.

We'll be in development and testing for the next 3 months or so. When the Stories 2.0 software works and is ready to go live, our developer will begin development on Stories 2.1 adding several new features. Development and testing of these features will take an additional 2-3 months.

 

We will, of course, have a test site up and running for everyone to look at as we got closer to release. We'll be asking for feedback and involving the members as much as we can. Our long-term members will remember the pain of transitioning to the current Stories software. There were a lot of changes to the site at that time, and members were really unhappy.

I will continue updating everyone, using this blog, as we make progress towards transitioning to the new forum software. This will be an extremely stressful time for site staff. We will all be working hard to test the new software, find and fix bugs, plus support our members and authors at the same time. As such, each site technology blog will feature a reminder that while we encourage constructive feedback and reporting bugs, getting angry at site staff about changes outside of their control will not be allowed. If we say that we are stuck with a particular change because of the new forum software, then that means we are stuck with it.

We encourage members to step up and help us beta test the new forum and stories software when it is ready. With your help, we can find solutions to issues members may encounter before the upgrade goes live. We want to do everything we can to make this transition as smooth as possible. We ask for your help and your patience during this process.

Myr

Welcome to another blog about new features. I'm throwing this one in now because it seems to have some tentacles and shows up in a few places. It is, in part, one of the reasons we've changed "likes" to unlimited.

 

The Leaderboard.

 

This feature is designed to help surface popular content based on likes. The leaderboard consists of members who have the most likes on their content during a given timeframe. For example, on our test server, this is what the leaderboard looks like:
leader1.JPG
You'll also notice on the bottom that the content with the most likes during the time frame is right below the leaders.

 

You can filter the leaders by content. For example, I'd like to see the authors with the most likes on stories for All time:
leader3.JPG

 

You can also see who all the past daily leaders were:
leader2.JPG

 

Anyone who gets ranked on the leader board will have a flag on their profile saying the last time they won the day:
leader4.JPG

 

Another feature is listing the top leaders by a variety of different options. Reputation is the default. This makes it easier to follow people and find more content.
leader5.JPG

 

This feature is built into the forum software as of version 4.1.17 and its main intention is to help promote engagement with members. The idea being, that if you post quality content, people will click the like button. The Leader board feature kind of makes it a game to see who can gain the most likes in a day, hopefully by the quality of their post.

 

We hope people find this another useful way to surface new content. It should certainly be another method of find stories that have a large amount of likes.

Myr

This week I wanted to talk about the power of the Tag in the forum software. It has been a feature in the software for a long time now. Although we use them slightly differently in our Stories Archive, they function the same with our search system.

 

What is a tag?
It is a descriptive word that you can attach to a topic, blog, gallery image, ebook, story, etc. This word is that searchable. The system is set up so you can group like-tagged items together.
For example, anything tagged "Renee Stevens" would show up if you click here: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/tags/forums/Renee+Stevens/

 

What is a prefix tag?
On the forums in particular, the tag section has a check box next to it that says 'use first tag as prefix'. What this does is put the first tag as a highlighted word preceding the Topic Title in the forum index.

 

Why do we want to use prefix's?
As part of our cleaning up of the forums, we are combining some forums and would like to use the prefixes as a way to still keep things sortable. For example, we already use common forums for our author groups. When we use tags, say 'myr' for any topics relating to my stories, it allows us to group like topics together when we click on the tag. So if you click the 'myr' tag, you'd get all the topics that have that tag. We could do the same with "humor" or "gamer" or "sports" for example.

 

How do I use tags?
Tags are pretty simple. If you want to use a prefix, then write that tag first and then hit comma. each time you hit comma, the word will solidify into a tag with a little 'x' next to it. If you're using the prefix, just tap the check box. If you'd like to add more tags, just write the tag and follow it with a comma. It's that easy.

 

Hey, why isn't my new topic showing up in search?
The search system is slightly delayed and updates about every 15 min. It will be after that that your topic should show up under the tag search.

 

Why can I only select certain tags?
Some areas of the site have the tag listed in order to control sorting. Stories Archive is a great example. You cannot type your own tag there, you must select from what is available. In some forums, we have prepopulated tags as well. This is done to make things easier. For example: domluka, dom luka mean the same thing, but would be two different tags in the system.

 

I encourage everyone to start using tags. They are there to make your lives easier after all :boy:

Myr

Wow, two weeks in a row. I'm still crazy busy along with the rest of our support team, but as I started to lay the ground work last week on a problem we've noticed. In case you missed last week's blog, the staff and members here at GA have noticed a larger than usual drop off in forum activity. It is completely normal for us to have this drop off during the North American summer months, as everyone tends to get busy during that time. However, it is a bit larger than usual.

 

It has been clear for some time for that that follow the online trends that community forums are becoming more niche as more and more people devote their time to general purpose sites (Facebook) or the sound-byte world in something like Twitter.

 

That really leaves us in a place where we are riding the down wave of an Internet trend. We currently have a LOT of forums. We think, but are not sure, that this poses a few problems.

  1. Due to sheer numbers of forums, people don't have the time to look everywhere
  2. Due to the sheer numbers of forums, a lot of people are intimidated
  3. Sub-forums are harder to notice, and some people don't seem to get them
  4. At a time when we had a ton of active posts, it made sense to split them off to keep them together.(example Video Gamer forum separate from Lounge. Sports too)


Our current thinking is that if we consolidate the number of forums and actually make use of some cool features that are already built in (tags), we can simplify the forums. This would make the ones we keep more active. And they would be easier to find, as we'd be looking to consolidate the forums in such a way as to keep the important active forums 'above the fold' as they call it.

 


However, the argument could be made that we need to keep the forums as they are and find another way to address these issues. We are genuinely mixed on this, and we'd like your thoughts.

 

What do you think we should do and why?
Please, if you don't like an idea, explain why.

 

Myr

Myr

Hi everyone. Cia asked me to write a quick update on what's going on with the software. The answer to that is kind of complicated and it ties both personal and business stuff together. So I figured I'd just lay it out there for you. :)

 

As some of you may recall, my father passed away suddenly in February. Since that time I have been pretty busy getting my mother sorted out. We've also been going through Dad's stuff and taking care of things so Mom can go on. The big thing is that I've been coordinating with her brother to convert her porch into a three season room. We've been working hard so that it is fully enclosed by next winter. And in upstate New York, the snow arrives a bit earlier than in most places. What this means is that I've been putting a lot of miles on the truck going back and forth from home to Mom's every weekend. We are making good progress, but I'm working a full week then heading to Mom's and working a full weekend. That's left no time to do anything with the site. As such, I haven't been chasing our programmer, who has had a similarly insane summer. I'm hoping Mid July to settle in my life and hoping the timing works out for him as well.

 

Needless to say, I suspect we'll be into Fall before we get things settled with the software.

 

When the programming starts up again, I'll start doing more regular updates. Thanks everyone for your patience.

 

On another topic, we have noticed a larger than normal posting drop off on the forums. It is normal for traffic to dip as the USA goes into summer. However, there has been a significant drop off in people posting topics and such in the forums. Has anyone else noticed this? What do you think we should do?
One option we thought of was consolidating some of the forums. (Putting video gamer topics back into the lounge. Putting sports topics back in the lounge) The general idea would be to minimize sub-forums as they tend to be more ignored than the main ones listed on the forum index page. Do you think that would help? Do you think there are other options? If so, what?

 

As I mentioned before, we're all busy, so this is just a starting point for longer term fixing. Thoughts and comments, as always, are welcome.
Myr

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