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  1. 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?
  2. 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: If the Longest Series is not your thing, you can easily adjust it by selecting "Sort By" and choosing a different option: 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: 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: 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.
  3. 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. Use different passwords on all of your accounts. Use Strong passwords( 8+ characters, mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and special characters like $#@!) If this sounds scary to you, use a password manager. I use LastPass personally as it works on all my devices. 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. 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) Gay Authors offers two-factor authentication as well. Either questions or the Google Authenticator App. Or both. 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
  4. 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!
  5. 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: 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. 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. Contrast Mode shows a dark background. This helps to save battery and your eyes on mobile devices. 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.
  6. 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: A private or small group that covers the cost of running the site and everything associated with it. Advertising covers cost of running the site. Donations cover the cost of running the site and everything associated with it. 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/ 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
  7. 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: Click the "eye" icon on the toolbar. Type your spoiler information inside the box that appears. Type the rest of your comment. Submit your comment. and you get this: Also, here is a video that walks you through it:
  8. 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
  9. 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. ​Due to sheer numbers of forums, people don't have the time to look everywhere Due to the sheer numbers of forums, a lot of people are intimidated Sub-forums are harder to notice, and some people don't seem to get them 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
  10. 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
  11. We're back this week! If you have been following along, then you know that the software we use for the forums and everything else on site is getting a major update to the 4.0 version. They have just recently released 4.0 RC 1. In software terms, that means they view the software as ready for the public ie, a release candidate. From now forward, they are just fixing any bugs that appear as larger groups of sites switch to the new version. One of the changes that they made in the software that requires discussion is "Friends". Currently, if you go to your profile, there is a tab on the left side called "Friends" and it lists people on site you've tagged as a friend. Or that have tagged you as a friend if you don't have confirmation on. They have removed this feature from 4.0. They have replaced it with a feature called "Followers". This allows you to follow new content from a member. Members have the ability to turn this on and off. Special Exception: Authors Stories content can be followed even if everything else is turned off. Not allowing someone to follow your writing would be stupid and thus we'll not allow you to turn it off. So there is a special catch during the upgrade process from the current software to the 4.0 software. We have to decide whether we start with a clean slate or convert friends to followers. If we do convert, then by default, this means that any content you post will trigger a notification to all your friends. Chances are pretty good that you have a lot of friends, which means you'd likely be bombarded by notifications until you get things settled. To be clear, this effects only Friends as described above. It has NO EFFECT AT ALL on the Stories you follow. Except, if you are friends with an author you are not currently following, you'd start getting notifications on their stories (and any other content they post) We'll run a poll as we get closer, but what would you prefer now? please answer below.
  12. This week's blog is a quick poll. We are currently planning on adding new controls to the Stories pages, like the font size change you can use now. The first is what I'll call book format. This will indent the first line of a paragraph and reduce the spacing between paragraphs. You'd be able to use either. The second would be I guess contrast mode. you'd be able to swap back and forth between dark text on a light background and light text on a dark background. Please take the poll and let us know what you think! Myr
  13. As I hope everyone is aware, Gay Authors runs because of our volunteers. We have a ton of daily things going on and a ton more we'd like to do, but just don't have the hands to do it. So if you like Gay Authors and the content we provide for you and have some extra time, then we'd like you to step up! Now, we are also looking for some different perspectives, and, as of late, we've had a lack of younger males stepping up to help. I am putting a new team together, and I am hoping for some specific things. If you match one or more of these, then please PM me: Reads a lot of online stories, both on and off Gay Authors with emphasis on gay stories. Reading a lot is key here. Are not currently actively writing stories here or elsewhere. (Too many volunteers get sucked into working here, and they stop writing. A problem I suffer from myself) We'll welcome all perspectives, but we're really interested in the teenage male demographic, and young adult (both male and female) demographic. The ability to either write summaries well or the willingness to learn to write summaries well. To What End? There are a few reasons we're looking for volunteers here. A primary reason is to help the Author Promotion Team identify authors we'd like to promote. We're also looking for opportunities to assist authors. For example, maybe there is a really good new author out there who nails the plot and characters but has some issues with punctuation. This new team could help us identify these people early and get them the help they need to be truly great (you don't necessarily have to know the rules, but can identify problems). For more established authors, we're always looking for new content for Premium Content, and, as the new software comes into place, we'll be putting a much greater emphasis on eBooks, both free and paid. We'd also really like to have some people who provide feedback to authors. There are a lot of diamonds that go unnoticed out there. Let's find them and highlight them. So, do you want to give back to Gay Authors by doing something as easy as reading a lot? Let me know. Myr
  14. This week I wanted to talk about the new site theme that we are developing. You can view it yourself by going to the bottom of the page and clicking "Change Theme". The new theme is currently called "GA Test Theme". By the end of Tuesday, it will be the default view of the site so that we can do some larger scale testing. If you don't like it currently, then you can manually change back to the current theme by going to Change Theme on the bottom left and choosing "GA IP.Board 3.4.4", which has been the default view of the site for some time. Why Change Themes Now if we are changing Software soon? I'm sure more than a few of you are wondering why I would subject change on you more than once. There are a couple reasons for that. We need to get a reasonable Responsive theme, used by mobile devices, available on the the site as soon as we can. We also need to do some testing of some of our plans for Stories 2.0. As I have mentioned a few times in past blogs, we have no choice about changing how Stories looks purely because the tabular form is much too wide for a responsive theme design. That is, it does not compress well. What is new/different? This list gets most of the big stuff, but there are too many changes to catch them all. The theme is responsive and will work nicely on phones, tablets or desktop/laptop computers. (If you are using an older smaller resolution on desktop/laptop (like 1024x768 or why God? 640x 480, you will get the tablet or even phone version on your desktop. It is way way way past time for you to upgrade.) Contrast. For some reason, the User Interface people at Invision Software like using light grey text on slightly darker gray backgrounds. I've added contrast to a lot of areas to make things sharper. Chapter Notes. It was originally intended that Chapter Notes appear at the top of chapters and NOT in the Table of Contents. This has been corrected. Chapter Notes and Chapter End Notes are also more visually noticeable and labeled as Chapter/Chapter End Notes. Main Stories page and Story Listings in general. Finding the best way to still list all the details of the story, but fit in a Responsive Framework has been the main focus of this effort. The story details are all still there, but they are listed in paragraph format instead of a rigid table structure. Story Detail Page. This page will also be losing its rigid structure, if it hasn't by the time you read this. It will be similar to the story listing page. There are lots of little changes as well. Please let me know what you think. (And remember, we can't have a rigid table. But we can reorganize how the data is displayed in the paragraph format if there is a good reason for it.) Also, if you experience any 'bugs' as you test out the new interface, please let us know what device and browser you're using as well. **As of Tuesday morning, we've found an IE bug, so deployment may be delayed**
  15. Last week I asked what people would like to see in upcoming Tech Tuesday blogs and this being the beginning of a new year, the suggestion regarding statistics struck me as perfect timing. While I won't be doing heatmaps for this post, as they take awhile to run, I will be doing those again in the future. Thanks Gene Splicer for the suggestion! 2014 Traffic Data We track a number of key metrics for traffic: Users - Unique users to visit the site (this would be unique IP addresses, basically.) Pageviews - Number of pages viewed. Bounce rate % - A bounce occurs when you click on a link from a search engine and then click back. The lower the rate, the better. (a more technical definition is a user that visits only 1 page) Avg Session duration - Average time per user spent on site. Higher is better. New sessions % - The amount of new users We had 993,247 users visit in 2014. That is up 7.5% from 2013. We had 20,562,460 pageviews in 2014. That is up 12% from 2013. We had a bounce rate of 39%, which is down 5% from 2013. This is an excellent drop in our bounce rate and indicates that improvements to our front page and other pages have had a positive effect for us. Most sites have a bounce rate in the 55-65% range. Average time spent on site is 11 minutes, 17 seconds. That is unchanged from 2013. This stat is interesting in that it shows GA is what they call "sticky". If you arrive on the site, you end up spending a fair bit of time here. Most sites have an average in seconds. Busy shopping sites like Amazon.com have averages in minutes. So we are considered to be doing very well. Our new sessions was 22.5% which is unchanged from 2013. This means that 22.5% of all visitors were new this last year. Top 15 Countries visiting the site: USA UK Canada Australia Germany Netherlands South Africa India Philippines New Zealand France Sweden Singapore Spain Malaysia Top Operating Systems: Windows iOS Android Macintosh Blackberry Linux Browser Breakdown: Safari (27%) Chrome (26%) IE (15%) Firefox (15%) Android Browser (8%) Mobile Overview: Desktop (49%) Mobile (34%) Tablet (17%) Where do people go? About 70% of traffic goes to stories. 30% for the forums. I hope you find this interesting. Happy New Year everyone! Here's to adding more people for next year!
  16. Once again, ignore the name on the blog post as I bring you the following message from Myr! LOL Sorry for the late blog today. With the holiday and me fighting off a cold, I've been pretty tied up. This slipped my mind until just now. Oops! Since I'm late with this week and still haven't completed the work I wanted to write about, I think today is a great day to solicit some feedback from all of you. What technical topics would you like to see more about? They can be about anything. The new software, the old software, etc... What other topics would you like to see covered on the blog? We have a lot of things planned and other ideas hanging around on our list of future stuff, but what would you like to see? What would help you? Thanks for helping make Gay Authors a better place! And Happy New Year!!
  17. For those of you celebrating the Festival of Lights, Happy Hanukkah! For those of you celebrating the birth of the Savior, Merry Christmas! For those of you are celebrating the start of winter, Happy Winter Solstice! For those of you celebrating some time off from work because of some pesky religious holiday, Happy Holidays! For those of you whining and complaining about all these happy wishes, Bah Humbug! You Damned Grinch! I'm writing this on Saturday, and I have just finished upgrading a copy of GA on our test server. The new software is coming along nicely, and I wanted to show off what the new eBook section is going to look like. I did a rough GA theme for colors. We'll be doing a lot of tweaking before stuff goes live. The image on this post is a snap shot of the eBook section as it will look with the new software. We do know there is still no cart feature on the new system, though I think it's coming in the revision that comes after this one. Or we might be able to get a custom piece of software to fix that for us. That's still an open question. In the meantime though, the presentation of the eBooks is much nicer and will go a ways to promote them visually. We will also have a more prominent listing of eBooks on the main forum pages: See you next week!
  18. Welcome to week 3! This week's blog is a joint venture between A.J. and I. It's about our Author pages. For some time now, we've had a bit of a problem when you tried to view the list of All Authors. It would take around thirty seconds to build that page. Way too long. We've finally had a chance to investigate it and A.J. has developed and implemented a solution. I'll turn this over to A.J. to explain what the problem was and how he was able to fix it. (--Myr) http://www.gayauthors.org/stories/browse/author/ The easiest way for me to explain both the problem and the solution is to provide a real-world example most of us can relate to. Let's pretend we have 10 books and we want to organize them on our shelf by author's name. This example can be related to our list of story authors. In this example, book author corresponds to story author, book name corresponds to story name, book chapter names correspond to story chapter names, and finally the total words per book corresponds to the total words per story. With 10 books, it wouldn't be hard for us to hand sort them by author's name and place them on our shelf, but what if we had one hundred or even a thousand books? What if we also wanted to be able to sort them by most to least favorite, or by total number of books by author? Databases allow us to store datasets and retrieve results by any number of sorting methods. The problem with shelves is they are only so long, and databases that run entire websites serving hundreds of requests also have practical limits. Solutions that worked efficiently for Gay Authors when we had 500 authors and 2000 stories in 2011 no longer work with 900 authors and 3500 stories in 2014. The solution was simple. Rather than compile statistics and sort authors each time someone clicks on the all authors page, we will now collect the statistics hourly. This reduced the time needed to query the database for the all authors page from thirty seconds to less than one second. When you consider that multiple people click on that page each minute, this has greatly reduced the total load on our database and made the site more responsive to other requests. (-- A.J.) As we move forward with the software updates, we're going to try to make the site as easy to use and fast as possible. As new technologies and programming methods come along, we'll try to implement them to keep GA fast and fresh for our members and to attract new members. (--Myr)
  19. Tech Tuesday 2 One of our ongoing challenges here at GA is responding to changing technology. We made a decision some time ago that we'd wait until the new forum software, IP.Community 4.0, was released before updating the look and feel of the site. At the time that decision was made, we expected the 4.0 software to be available within six months. Over a year and a half has passed since we made that decision and our best guess is we are still three months away from being able to switch to the new forum software. Where does that leave us? Well, GA works fine if you are using a laptop or desktop computer. As the screen size decreases, the site becomes less usable. When you get down to a smartphone size, the site switches to a mobile theme which is ugly and has limited functionality. For example, following a story or leaving a review is impossible using the mobile theme. The problem is that more and more people use the site from mobile devices. In fact, 50% of all new traffic is mobile in nature. A solution to this problem is called Responsive Design. We've talked about it before and the 4.0 software uses this method to handle all types of visitors. The issue we have is how to get our story software from its current rigid table design built for desktop computers to a responsive fluid design that works for all visitors regardless of screen size. We need to drop the rigid tables. While they display the information neatly, it uses a lot of screen space. It also does not fold down well when we have to do resizing of items for smaller screen sizes. You can now view our work in progress. Go to the bottom of the page and choose "Change Theme" select the "GA Test Theme" and you'll get to see the differences on Stories. You'll also notice that the font sizes are a bit bigger as well. This is definitely a work in process and you can leave feedback in our help forum here: http://www.gayauthors.org/forums/forum/236-help-questions-and-answers/ The theme is currently optional, but over the next few weeks it'll become the site’s default. The new theme will help everyone prepare for the changes to the Stories section, and mass use by all visitors will help us to finalize the new Stories 2.0 design.
  20. Tech Tuesday

    Starting this week and for the next few months, we are going to do weekly Tech Tuesday posts. For those that have been following, IP.Board 3.4.7 is being replaced by IP.Community 4.0. The software is currently in Beta 2 and I have upgraded a copy of GA that is running on our test server. It is still very much in progress since both IP.Pages and IP.Commerce are not yet in public beta. Pages handles website pages like our front page. (Home). Commerce handles the ads, store, premium content and support requests. That software is expected soon, probably about the time this blog comes out. I am also happy to announce that our Stories 2.0 software module specifications have been written. Stories 2.0 is the module that will power the story archive on our site. Like the IP.Community 4.0 is a complete rewrite, Stories 2.0 will be a complete rewrite of the current software. As we mentioned on many occasions, the new software is focusing on making things easier for everyone, faster and more useful. One of the things that the specifications doesn't actually cover is the look of the new stories archive. Over the next few weeks, we are going to modify the current site to find the optimal general layout for the new system. This will give everyone the chance to weigh in and help us work out the system before the software is actually built. This means that if there are problems, ideas, proposed changes, etc, we can evaluate those and include them in the design requirements. We ask that you help us help you! The UI team currently has access with this but next week when we post the new Tech Tuesday Blog, we'll be switching so everyone gets a go. We will also leave on the current design for those that don't want to experience the changing world, but you'll have to explicitly switch to it. And as we noted in the last blog, the change is coming one way or another. We're leaving this option open during development, but when we get the design locked down, everyone will be changed to it and you'll no longer be able to access the old design. If you want to check out the test server, please check here: http://www.unyhosting.com/ips40/login/ You must log in using your GA email and password. The site will be turned on and off as needed for testing. The site is pretty much default currently. We'll be adjusting the color them and options as time goes forward and various bugs are fixed. This is NOT the final but it should give you an idea. They are past the point where they are taking suggestions. So we are largely stuck with the features as they are.
  21. Time for the October Tech Blog. This month we'll be talking about the progress of the software development for the new forum software and our plans and rough schedule going forward. The forum software company, Invision, released IP.Board 4.0.0 Beta 1 today. They included the Forums, Blog, Gallery, and Downloads (which we use for our eBooks). The missing Store, Chat, and web pages modules are due some time this week or next. What does this mean for us? Not too much right now. There will probably be 3 or 4 beta releases over the next month or so before they release a final version. When are we going to upgrade GA? We won't be able to upgrade GA until we have Stories 2.0 developed and tested. We can't start that until the 4.0.0 software is released and no longer in beta. We are going to do the upgrades all at once. What needs to happen before we see the upgrade? All of the IP.Community 4.0.0 software needs to be released to beta 1. We need to complete the software specifications for Stories 2.0. IP.Community 4.0.0 needs to be released. We need to upgrade our test installation to 4.0.0. The programmer needs to develop Stories 2.0, which will be a complete software rewrite. We'll need to create the new GA theme... ie, the look of the site. We'll need to do extensive testing of the Stories 2.0 software. I foresee 3-5 betas here. When everything is stable on the test side, we'll upgrade GA. We'll have to go through several weeks of live bug fixing on GA. How can we help? IP.Community 4.0 is a MAJOR software revision. It is going to change pretty much everything at least a little. While we expect life to be easier for the staff after the change has settled, we know from past experience that people hate change. They are going to complain about it. The staff are going to be pretty short-tempered because while things might look pretty simple to you as members of the site, a change this large is going to be VERY stressful. Adding to that stress by kvetching about some change or another is going to see you muted. So what you can do to help: Understand that change is occurring, and as we don't control the IP.Community forum software, many of theses changes are out of our control. The change has to occur because of the radical changes in technology from both a programming and a browser perspective due to the heavy use of mobile and tablet devices. We must change the software to keep up with modern times. Currently, 50% of all new site members are using mobile devices, and our mobile skin sucks. Help out! We will start displaying blogs and links to the test site so you can see the changes before we roll them out on the site. Try out the upcoming features now! Last, but most important, if there is something you do not like and you have an urge to post a complaint/whine/other type of kvetching, please stop and take a deep breath. We are changing whether you make that post or not. If something is broke, we are going to fix it as soon as we can. If you are reporting a bug, then we'll need to know browser, screensize, device used, (phone? tablet? PC?) and a way to reproduce it. There are a lot of changes coming in the next few months. When they are all done, we'll all be in a better place. Please be patient while we work and help out when you can. It can only make our community stronger and better.
  22. As we roll into the Fall season, we have started testing the Forum 4.0 software betas. This is the first major step into upgrading GA. The software is still being developed and we're getting a chance to test it. We are also using this time to refine the Stories 2.0 software specifications so that we can make sure everything is fully integrated. At the current pace, I hope to have GA updated in the December timeframe. We'll be posting tech blogs at an accelerated pace as we get closer. In case you missed it, we are taking volunteers again for the User Interface Development Team. They will be the ones that will test with us on our test server. If you have time to come by and make test posts and give us feedback, please let me know. We'll add you to the group. The other item I wanted to talk about today is how the new software promotes quality interactions with the site. Currently, we use post count and reputation to award badges. This will continue in the new software, but they've added a new dimensions. They have a new widget called "Top Contributors" It tracks things by Week, Month, Year, and All Time. The cool thing is that it is not showing people based on post count or anything like that. It is showing the number of likes you've gotten in the timeframe. Hopefully, this will help show off people that are contributing quality content to the site. There are many other changes coming with the new software and not all of them are additions. They are also removing or changing some features. One thing that is being replaced is "Friends". Going forward, "Friends" has been replaced with "Follow This Member". This ties into some of the quirkiness we've been seeing with notifications. We'll follow on with more details later. Or, if you're interesting in test driving things, join the UI team! One feature being removed is the Memberlist. The software company has determined that the feature is used very little for it's real purpose and is most often used as a vector for Spam. So this feature has been removed. Most people don't use it at all any way. If you were one of the ones who does use it, we'll be following up with some methods to get around the change. It is our hope to have our UI team help us develop a FAQ before we roll out to full site. We're making every effort to make the transition as painless as possible. As always, any questions or comments, please post here. If you are interested in joining the UI Team, please PM me.
  23. Where has the summer gone? It is already time for the August 2014 Tech Blog. This month I am going to talk about something that the User Interface Team has been chewing on for the last few weeks. Comments Vs Reviews and those stars... In our current story system, we have something called reviews. They can be made for each chapter and for each story. The reviewer can only post once per chapter and once per story. The author can reply once to each review. Reviews cannot be edited. Reviews are almost exclusively comments and not a formal review. There are stars displayed on the story and on the chapters but they are kind of free floating and don't have any readily understood meaning. What we are looking at for the future. The new forum software has been redesigned from scratch with a focus on modernization and supporting software modules. Stories Archive here on GA is one such module. They have created a software type called 'reviews' which gives you an Amazon style review option. You have a 5 star rating and a place to write a review. See images below. The new system also supports comments as you can see on the second tab in the images above. Comments are like a post in the forums. You'll be allowed to post back and forth as many times as you want, and you'll be able to edit your comments. You'll also be able to edit your reviews. What we are currently planning on doing, based on feedback from the User Interface Team, is to start making a distinction between comments and reviews. Comments are going to be feedback to the author and a public conversation, hopefully, with that author. Reviews will be more formal and only available on the story level. What this means to you: All story reviews currently in the system will be renamed to Comments Authors will NOT be losing this feedback. We are just changing the name. Comments will be the informal feedback while reviews will be a more formal approach. We will have track top story commentators and top story reviewers as we do now with the current reviews. We will, at a future point, have a team dedicated to formal reviews. As you can see in the pictures, people can say "yes" or "no" on whether a review was helpful. Reviews will list the most helpful first, by default, though you can change the way they sort to list them by date as well. To reiterate, do not panic. We are adding to the system, not taking anything away. We're going to have the current method of reviewing, which we'll call comments, and a formal method of reviewing more in line with the blog reviews, which we'll call Reviews. You'll be able to comment unlimited times on both chapters and stories. You'll be able to make edits of your comment posts. (Editing and having a conversation are the two most requested features on our current review system) Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, please post them. As we get closer to beta and we have our own software running, we'll be able to show you how things will work. As always, comments and concerns, questions, etc are welcome
  24. Wow! Time is flying. It's time for another tech blog. I am happy to report the forum software is currently in private beta testing and will soon be released for public beta testing. This is important to us because the software has been completely rewritten from the ground up. This rewrite has taken advantage of all the software improvements that have occurred in the last few years from a developmental perspective. When this is released publicly for beta, we will be focusing on developing Stories 2.0 as more than just concept. All this time, we've only had ideas of the things we wanted changed or added in our system. Now that we are getting to look at how the new software handles things, we are working on properly integrating our Story archive software into the new forum software. One of the many changes for Stories 2.0 is that there will be a common profile for the forums and stories. Below is a preview version of the profile. It is subject to change, but I doubt it will change much. This is using the default skin. When we deploy it on GA, we'll be using our own coloring. Note this has a 'cover image' on the top of the page. I set it to Godzilla for this example, but we will be working with our authors to get a decent author banner up that helps promote the author. When we click on the link "Browse my Content", it dynamically updates the page with all a person's content. One of those will be a list of stories on our site. I'm showing "Profile Comments" in the space below. We are not changing the direct link for authors. So the link that you give out today, will be the same link that you'll use tomorrow for viewing your list of stories. We will be setting up a test site as soon as the software is released. We'll be working with our User Interface Team first and then inviting everyone in to check out the new site look. We are not upgrading until we've gotten the new Stories 2.0 software written and debugged. I'm looking forward to comments. Thanks for reading!
  25. It's that time again. This month is probably going to be a little more boring than usual. We have updated our Privacy Policy, which can be found linked at the bottom of every page on the site. The important note here is that we are going to soon be using Demographic information from Google Analytics. For those not up on the technobabble, that means age, gender, race etc. This will be used to help create more targeted ads as we move towards launching a large advertising campaign. Also included on the privacy page is a way to opt out of providing us any information. It should be noted that none of this information can be tied to your account or identifying information by Google. We do not share membership data with them. The other major item I wanted to discuss this month was our Help system. We have been working on identifying the most common problems members of the site report and trying to correct them or make them easier. There are many things in Stories 2.0 that are being done towards this end. The new forum software, from what we've been shown so far, also has this as a major focus. But that's not quite enough. Right now, help is scattered across several different areas. We are making an effort to address this. We are hoping to roll out a new FAQ page that compiles all our help topics in one easy to use location and reducing the number of clicks you have to go through to get something. Renee has been great and pulled together and updated all of our help information. We'll be opening things up and adding more questions and explanations as required as well. In addition to the FAQ page, we will make our Help Forum and Support Request system more obvious for everyone. As we go into beta testing on our new software, we will be looking to the User Interface Development Team to help us do the initial testing. Prior to rolling out everywhere, we'll be inviting the whole site to try the new software. We will continue to focus on making GA as easy and fast to use as possible. Also, just to note, we will be doing a number of software updates over the next few weeks in order to help us prep for coming updates. Except for the times we have to shutdown the site to run the updates, we do not expect any interruptions. There should be no visible change with these updates as well. They are database related and help to prepare us for the upgrades that are coming. As always, comments and suggestions are welcome.

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