Last week’s #WebFicWed mentions:
Refuge of Delayed Souls, Footprints, Unknown Transmission, The Apocalypse Blog, The Night Before The Christmas Before I Was Married & other festive tales, & Independence Day
It is sometimes said that every person has at least one book in them. For some people, those books are written in code.
Last week, I interviewed Chris and Rose, founders of the webfiction directory Muse’s Success.
There are already a couple interviews and posts discussing the origins WFG, and how Chris initially developed the idea. So in this interview, I decided to take a look at how things have progressed, examine the current structure of WFG, and learn about Chris’ plans for the future.
Tea? Check. Redbreast for Chris? Check. Time to talk!
AMH: A little about yourself, first. What do you think of the webfiction community, and what is your role within it? Would you call yourself a webfiction crusador?
CP: Perhaps I’m hedging, here, but I’m not sure how much of a “webfiction community” there is. I mean, lots of us writers are friends and talk to each other, but I’m not sure it extends beyond that. If that’s what you mean by “community”, then fine — but I kind of think there needs to be a lot more, something readers feel a part of. At the moment, every web fiction site has its own fans, and there doesn’t seem to be an awful lot of connection between those various groups.
No, I wouldn’t call myself a web fiction crusader. I don’t generally have an opinion on whether web fiction is the wave of the future or just a blip. I self-publish online because I want to, and for no other reason. It’s nice to have some regular readers, but, beyond that, I write for myself, and don’t really need much more reason to keep doing it.
I built WFG because I could, and because I thought it would be useful. I’m still at it because the problem of building an effective social site interests me, and I’m too far in now to walk away. That said — especially recently, with all the whining that goes on about WFG, in public and in email — I’ve been seriously tempted to do just that — walk away from WFG and go back to writing my own stuff in obscurity. I suspect I’d be happier, if nothing else. But, Eli’s convinced me we can still do something good, so we’re taking another stab at it.
AMH: We already know that WFG started because you’re a bit of an attention hound. Did you ever think it’d become this big?
CP: Big in terms of listing count, no. Big in terms of readers, well, I had hoped we’d be quite a bit bigger, by now. At the moment, I’d say WFG has largely not returned on the investment of time.
AMH: Without giving away your secret formula, can you tell us how the rankings on WFG are calculated?
CP:At the moment, the editorial rating and recommendations form the baseline for the ranking. Member ratings, reviews, and bookmarks can then push it up to two points up from that baseline. However, the member part is a competitive system — the most popular listing sets the scale, and other listings are measured against it.
AMH: How would you argue that the role of editors on WFG is not only useful, but necessary?
CP: It’s necessary to have some “fixed” opinions in the mix. Rating is a self-selecting activity — the people who rate a particular listing are more likely to be fans of that listing than not. When we offered a listing sorted by average member rating, it was pretty funny — there was page after page of listings showing 4 stars — nearly the whole catalogue. The editors provide a (relatively) fixed viewpoint, and ensure listings are measured against each other. Without that, everything turns into a contest to see who has the most loyal fans.
AMH: A massive re-haul of WFG is in the works. Can you give us an idea of the kinds of changes to expect?
CP: There are two goals: we want to make the site easier to browse, and more appealing to interact with. Right now, browsing is done mostly in terms of the ranking algorithm. It means you tend to see the same portions of the database over and over again. We want to see if we can do a better job of helping people find new stuff to read. And, in terms of interaction, we want to encourage our readers to talk to each other more. At the moment, the site encourages statements, not conversations. We’d like to change that.
AMH: You’ve recently created topwebfiction. Why did you create it, and what hopes do you have for the site?
CP: If you count something down, people will watch. The point of TWF is to get more people interacting with web fiction on a daily basis. It generates buzz, and that attracts people who wouldn’t otherwise look. And, on the other side of the equation, it encourages authors to share their readers — by providing them an incentive to do so. That sharing is good for everyone. It’s the beginnings of an actual community.
AMH: Do you sometimes feel that your creativity is poured into creating and maintaining these sites, leaving you with little inspiration to actually write?
CP: My writing and my programming projects draw on mostly separate sources, I think. Well, other than time. Mostly, WFG time comes at the expense of other programming projects. Fortunately, with this rewrite, I’m using it as an excuse to make progress on an unrelated project — two birds with one stone.
In terms of inspiration for writing, I’ve never been prolific. Winter Rain represents more writing than I have produced in the rest of my life. So, I’m not sure I had that much “inspiration” to start with.
AMH: Last question: do you have any words of advice for… well, for just about anyone?
CP: Yes. Don’t run with scissors. And never get Crazy Glue in your eyes.
Thoughts on the interview, anyone?