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The Importance of being Ernest About Feedback


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There is no criticism intended here, just an observation that many authors and writers need feedback to feel like they are not wasting their time, talents and efforts.

Fortunately I haven't written enough yet to feel the full impact of the dreaded "nothing in the mailbox" syndrome, despite my comic poem on the subject. (Poetic Psychosis). <---Shameless plug. :omg:

I can say that at times my long and rambling posts on many subjects do seem ignored but hey, I'm pragmatic about that. And I am older enough to know that my every utterance is not a world shaking event. :icon1::icon6:

I am surprised after some time that my poetry posts duplicated at Codey's World have suddenly been viewed by quite a few people. Indeed to me the numbers have jumped quite high. Correspondingly only a small rise in number of views has occurred at AwesomeDude. Again no criticism intended here. My AwesomeDude posts are much older and therefore not as easy for a browsing guest to find. This is exactly as I would expect. I emphasise this is not a concern.

What I deduce from all this has left me wondering if there was a way that the number of views of stories can be counted and displayed.

If authors knew for instance that their story posts had been seen by say 200 or more viewers/readers as happens with posts in the poetry and other forums, then the lack of direct feedback may have less of an impact because the author would know that at least his story or chapter was being read by a certain number of people.

I do not know the mechanics of putting a web page counter or access counter on a site or even if it is feasible for such a purpose as I suggest. Ideally I can see a number in brackets alongside story titles or chapters representing the number of visits by guests and members. Others may have a better solution.

I do think it is important that as much as we can we also support each other with even brief posts of acknowledgement. These forums are invaluable to authors and emerging writers as well as being entertaining in themselves. If they are to grow we should encourage their use and membership of AwesomeDude wherever possible.

:omg:

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I understand what you're saying, Des.

My very first piece of online writing was posted in the forums at DeweyWriter. Each day I would check the number of views and calculate how many people had looked at it since I last put up a chapter.... I was a sad individual, but, as I said, it was the first thing I wrote.

View counts for web pages are not very difficult to do. I'm not sure of the mechanics, but I believe it involves linking to a third-party site to maintain the counts.

Whether or not to do them is a philosophical decision, but I can appreciate that a new author may like the idea. I'm personally ambivalent -- I know enough people are reading what I write to make me happy. I'm not interested in 'mine's bigger than yours' comparisons, which is one of the potential downsides of view counts.

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Replies, feedback, counters, and what does it all mean?

Writers are very divided about this.

Most writers are nice, normal people. (Normal? Writers? Yes.) They love intelligent feedback or even a simple attaboy. "I loved your story, please write more." Or, "I liked this and that, but didn't like thus and so. Here's why...." If writers got that kind of feedback in forum posts or in email, they'd love it.

They write because they love to write. They want to share their imagination or what they've learned with others. They want to entertain or make their readers think; preferably both.

Most would love feedback.

Some get very discouraged not to get any kind of response by email or forum post -- and I mean any kind, good, bad, or indifferent. Nada, zippo, goose egg -- even though they are good, popular writers.

Some want counters. "How many people have read my story?"

Some would only get more discouraged: "You mean, hundreds of people read my story, and only NN people replied? WTF do I bother? My writing's good."

Some don't want replies. They've already seen too many flames. Or they've gotten tired of "fans" wanting to tell the author what (and what not) to write, and to write more this instant. "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Huh, huh?" Or they've gotten tired of fans who want to get way too familiar, as in the creepy-nutjob or overly-horny fans. Or they've gotten homophobic crap. -- This is exactly why some great authors do not participate on forums or email, or have left the net. -- Or they simply don't feel they need the ego-boost.

From the readers' point of view, most readers, even if they loved it, won't reply, because they're busy, or they don't think they have anything useful to say, or they think they're not worthy (!) of the writer. I kid you not. "I'd never know what to say to that writer, because I could never write a story. That writer's so good. Why would he want to hear from me?" Common misconception, that; see my first few sentences about what kinds of feedback writers like.

The other issue is that many readers are understandably cautious about replying to someone they don't know. So are many authors. I can't blame them; I'm cautious too. Unfortunately, that tends to cut down on the number of good, honest replies. -- Hey, this is gay fiction, and some of the readers and writers are taking a risk with the stories and visiting sites. I wish it weren't so, but it is. -- I was awfully nervous when I began visiting gay-friendly sites and reading gay-friendly stories. But it let me see a world where people felt the same as I do and where I could belong. Online, like offline, the good (or the OK) far outweighs the bad.

Now, something from the technical perspective. Please bear with me, it's helpful and I'll try to make sense.

When a web page gets viewed, there's a request to the server. That request could be from Jack or from XYZ Corp. or from a search engine (google, yahoo, msn, etc.), or from other programs. The file is usually cached at a server along the way and at the viewer's own computer. When another request to view the page occurs, your computer, and the servers in between that relay the request, will check if the file has been updated. If not, they'll send their local copy from their cache.

Now, a web page consists of separate items. Any images, stylesheets, scripts, or other goodies that are on the web page are also loaded with the request for that page. So viewing one web page asks for many items on the page, and each of those gets a count too.

Did Jack read the story or did he move on to something else? Did he reread the story later, and if he did, did he go to the site, or read the copy in his computer's cache? Did someone else read the story from Jack's computer? -- What constitutes a unique, different visitor and what constitutes a repeat visitor? Keep in mind, most web page info is sent anonymously.

What if the numbers are low? That means the story needs to be easier to find on the site and better advertised and marketed. Yes, it could mean people don't like it or it's poorly written. That would be a shame, but it does happen. -- But if there's a new, promising author, I don't want him to be discouraged from writing, especially if I and others think what he's written is really good or important. -- Gay-friendly sites don't get the same numbers, because we're a minority. True but uncomfortable.

What if the page counter has A% unique visitors, B% repeats, C% hits from searches, and so on? That inflates the total somewhat. -- The repeats aren't bad, by the way. It's better news if someone's reread the story or shared it with others.

Yes, there are web site statistics programs. Those are for the site as a whole, and naturally, for detailed info, the provider is going to charge the webmaster money. Heh, free information, eh? Yes, it's irritating.

That's the problem with trying to count how many times a page has been visited. You can count the number of times, but you are not getting as complete a picture as you'd like. If it helps the author know his story's popular, that's wonderful. If it discourages the author because he doesn't get feedback, that's not so wonderful.

Having said all that, I wish readers would reply to writers more often, to let them know what they do is appreciated. I also wish I could convince a few fantastic writers that the numbers don't matter; what they write is great, and I wish everyone would read their stories.

To the writers: Don't give up. Don't give in to the small number of people who sometimes make this not so enjoyable, even unintentionally. Write good stories -- by that, I mean well-written, entertaining, and thoughtful stories. Many writers will never know how much their story reached people and made their lives a little better, either for a few minutes or for a lifetime. That makes any of the nonsense worth it. Keep writing.

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Whoa! Graeme, blue,

I am almost tempted to say a simple "no it doesn't work" would have been sufficient, but I know that is not what you mean. :icon1:

I feel I have stepped on the giant's foot and woken him from a deep sleep.

I did not mean to cause any anxiety here.

In hindsight I should have realised such a thing was probably something that had already been considered and not done for a variety of reasons. sorry.

On the other-hand in my defence I was just extending what I saw happening in the forums which by their nature are obviously able to count and report number of views per topic.

I have often wondered how many authors might in fact visit their own posts to boost the count, but kind of dismissed this as that form of cheating which is in itself only fooling the cheater. The rest of us don't care if some one gets more views than the next fellow or ourselves. Playing the "mine is bigger than yours" game was not the aim of my suggestion.

Overall if some authors are getting high counts of being viewed it at least means that there is interest by readers in all our work simply because those numbers are high, no matter who is getting them.

Therein lay the crux of the suggestion, that the authors at least know there is someone reading something.

In this regard I don't think of this an ego boost as much as I think it is just feedback that the work is being accessed. Likewise if the count is inaccurate for any or all of the reasons stated, then this inaccuracy is somewhat common to all the posts. Again the object is not who gets more but that some access activity is apparent.

Is revealing this activity necessary? It seems from what you say that some want it and some do not, and even some don't care.

I haven't been flamed or been contacted by the homophobe brigade ...yet. That is not an invitation either by the way.

So in admitting the very valid arguments both for and against the counters, I would add in conclusion, that in making the suggestion I was trying to find a way of stimulating and recognising reader participation so that authors and readers would have some measure of contact in addition to direct feedback.

In the spirit of that feedback I am most grateful to you, blue and Graeme for your illuminating and thoughtful replies.

I was just trying to help with a suggestion. :omg:

I will now go and lay down and have a good rest. :icon6:

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Ack! Des, don't feel you've wakened the giant. What Graeme and I gave were our own opinions, not any official party line. (Hey, where's my party hat?) I'm not the big cheese around here. I help out from time to time and do various "stuff" and check on the forums.

You raised a good question, and it is an item for debate/discussion. -- In fact, we want people asking things like this, so that we know what site visitors want to see and what we can do to improve the site. Please keep it up!

Hey, I'm all for authors and readers seeing that something is popular. I also want to make sure everyone gets a fair shake and doesn't get left out. -- What's new? What's popular, recommended, a favorite? What's a random pick, so I try something different?

I gave the impression that writers get a lot of negatives. Really, they get a lot of mixed responses or they don't get much. Negatives are rare, but irksome. The recycle bin or delete button can be quite handy, though.

You raised another point in your reply: How do forum posts and views differ from what happens on a story page? A visitor is specifically logged in as a guest or a member, on a forum. In the case of a member, it's known to be that unique member by his/her username and password (or someone who's using it). So when a visitor clicks to view a topic thread or posts a reply, the software counts it specifically as a view or a post. It's a known quantity without "what-ifs."

Typically, a popular topic will be viewed about 10 times more than it is replied to. A portion of that difference is simply that everyone who liked the topic is checking back to read the new replies. That will include the people who posted and various others.

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Thanks blue, I feel better now.

Perhaps then other members will give their opinion.

Maybe even some of our guests will feel sufficiently moved to register so they can contribute to the forums.

I know that some people have very good reasons to not become members or do feel uneasy about joining any site on the net. I did myself at first, but now I am so glad I did. Either way guest or member I am glad they are visiting. But that is a another subject.

:icon1:

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I agree with Blue's views, but there's nothing new there. I almost always do.

And I agree with Des.

I like feedback. I like it a lot. If I get none, I feel it reflects on the quality of writing I'm putting out, and I feel I've spent a huge amount of time and effort rather futilely. I get discouraged and disappointed.

I was surprised in the response I got from my Celebration series. I got some mail, but very, very little, especially when compared to the response of my stories at Nifty. There, it was typical for me to get at least a hundred pieces of mail per story. For long stories, even more. So when I get one or two responses per story here, I have to wonder. What am I doing wrong? And because no one seems to be reading what I write, is this really the site to be posting at? Perhaps another site would be more suitable.

Having a counter in place so I could see that people are reading what I write would help. The way it is now, I just don't know if anyone is bothering to read my work. If they are, and not bothering to write, that's a lot easier to take. I can accept people don't want to write authors; Blue's explanations were right on the money. If no one is reading the stories, however, that's something else again. I don't want to take the time to write and have no one read it. I don't know about you guys, but I find trying to do this well is hard work.

I will say something in defense of those who do take the time to write. The quality of the responses I get here is much higher than the ones I got at Nifty. Those ran the gamut, and Blue touched on some. Some were funny, some dull, but most all were sincere. With all the mail I've gotten, there was only one flame. Someone didn't like the way I ended Josh, Evolving. I thought the ending was perfect. This guy thought I was the devil incarnate. After calming down, I took his comments to mean he was really involved in the story and disappointed with the way I finished it. So, on reflection, I took what he said as a compliment. I also couldn't think of a better way to avenge myself on him. Screw him!<g> But back to the quality issue. What I like best in mail from readers is well-considered comments about the story, what they liked or thought weak, and why. I get this in the responses I get from what?s posted at AD, making me feel the people who do read stories on this site are a very high caliber people indeed, insightful, intelligent and just the sort of people I?m writing for. Well, to some extent. I?m writing mostly for teens. I wish more of them would write to me.

I don't care a whit if more people are reading my stories, or fewer people, than those of some other author. I would just like to know my work is being read.

One final comment. I have a pet peeve. I very frequently write other authors to compliment them when I find something they've written enjoyable, and especially when I find the writing top notch and compelling. I don't always get responses from the authors when I do this. I usually do. But sometimes I don't. That bothers me. If someone is good enough to take the time to write us, we should write back to thank them. It takes about 15 seconds to do so, and all you have to do is hit the reply button, so not much work or thought is required. There are authors at this site who could use this reminder. I?m no exemplar and don?t mean to suggest I am, but I always thank every person who writes me about my stories. They deserve it.

Thanks for bringing this up, Des.

Cole

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Alright, here's my two cents. I promised Ernest I'd answer. (bad joke. Sorry.)

I think a free counter site would be great. Dude could set it up, give every one the password, and we could make our own counters. Then dude could install them on the stories we made counters for. Authors who don't want counters, wouldn't make any. The author could also configure the counter to visible/not visible etc.

As for me, I'd put a counter on all my stories. I'd like to know that 2% of my readers write. We could even get an average for the site.

I have answered every single original email from a reader, and that includes the (few) outright "shite writing" flames. I even politely answer hate mail once.

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