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How's about instituting Quickfic Threads? sort of like monthly challenges but without voting

#1 User is offline   Capella 

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 01:01 PM

So MC has a nice tradition of having had monthly writing challenges. It's been on-again-off-again over the course of our history, and it's been mostly off-again recently thanks to a variety of reasons. I've been missing them recently, especially since while hanging around other fandom-circles I keep seeing people doing commentfic or other short writing memes, so I came up with an idea to bring this kind of tradition back to MC. (For an example of what I'm talking about when I say challenge prompts, see one of my shorts and one of m13's shorts; these both sprung up from drabble challenges of the kind I'm talking about that we gave each other on LiveJournal.)

Traditional challenges have followed a fairly structured format. There's a single topic the challenge is about, there's a set word count limit, there's a strict deadline. Once the challenge is over, the community votes on the challenges to pick out a best one. The winner then picks next month's challenge topic, and the cycle continues. Now, I'm not averse to reviving the challenge tradition again- and we could certainly discuss that in this thread as well- but I also think there's merit in a less-structured framework. What if you have several challenge ideas? What if person A has a very limited idea (I only want to read about Anna and Aitrus after Gehn's birth but before the Fall) while person B's theme is broader (I want to read about Catherine)? I thought about how to keep the system structured but flexible at the same time, and decided a thread where I could gauge interest and we could discuss how we'd like it to work would be a good idea.

Some things to consider:


-What we want the length requirements to be
-Keeping a balance of making the fics easy to find without spamming the writing forums
-Whether or not we care about spamming the forums given that they're pretty dead
-How we want to organize the challenge prompts and the fics themselves
-What other restrictions, if any, should be placed on the replies?


Here's some of my thoughts on the matter:

Length

I'm a fan of long enough to have meat, but short enough to be easy to produce and read without a significant time investment. The term "drabble" is commonly accepted to be exactly 100 words, which I think is too short for my tastes, while a "short short" is up to 1000, but that title sounds weird to say too fast. I think a range of up to 1500 words is pretty good. I'll use the term "quickfic" to refer to these little challenge babies so as not to confuse people familiar with more specific fandom terms.


Organization

I'm a fan of keeping things fairly organized. My original thought was to have a single quickfic thread where they would all be found. The first post in the thread would have a list of the challenge ideas, while each reply post would be a quickfic. There are a few problems I had with this idea that I'd like to get feedback on.

If there are enough replies, it might soon become hard to find each fic.

This could be mitigated by reserving both the first and second post in the thread. The first post would be the fic challenge ideas. The second post would be a quickfic Table of Contents, where the quickfics could be linked to. I imagined this as being sorted by themes, so there might be a section for Challenge Number, where each reply to that challenge gets linked, a section for Character (where each fic using/involving a character would be attached to that name (so you could easily find all Veovis stories)), a section for Timeline (pre-Fall, pre-Myst, during Myst, post-Exile, etc), a section for Author, etc, etc. A variation on this theme would be having the ToC as a separate thread from the challenge-and-fic thread entirely so that each category in the ToC could be a new post.

One thing I really like about the ToC idea is that it allows for more flexible organization via tagging. I've seen challenge communities where they have different threads for each theme- so like we might have a Character thread, where all challenges must revolve around 1 character, or there's a Timeline thread where you can only post fics in one particular time. I don't like the idea of this approach because it's easy to have a quickfic fall into multiple categories and not know where to post it. Having a ToC post or thread means that if I write a pre-Fall alternate universe fic with Anna, Veovis,and Aitrus, I can have it linked under the Characters: Veovis section, the Timeline: Pre-Fall section, and the AU section, rather than being restricted to just one of those things.


How are comments handled?

If the challenge thread is restricted to only the challenges and the replies, then where can people comment? In traditional fic posts here, people post stories and people comment in the same thread. This is also what happens on fic archive places like fanfiction.net, Archive of Our Own, and in people's fandom LiveJournals and things. But in a challenge setting, where there can be dozens of replies, this approach makes it very hard to find just the fic; there might be a page with 3 fic and 22 comments. The Challenges used to have a separate voting thread where people posted their vote, and they tended to leave their comments there. A separate comments thread would have the advantage of keep the comments out of the fic, but would also make it harder to connect the feedback to particular pieces. It would also put the burden of identification on the commenter (like I might post "I really enjoyed mysteria13's entry "Entry5" because" and make the name Entry5 link to that post). That said, to me it seems like the most elegant way of doing it- but I'd like other people's ideas, maybe you know something I don't?


Restrictions

This isn't a restriction per-se, but I would like to see a standardized introduction header for each entry. Title is a given, challenge number should be mandatory so we know which one you're covering, timeline would be helpful, rating is always a good idea, and additional notes for if you want to cover something else (AU notice, warnings, etc) is there if you need it.


These are my thoughts for now, what do y'all think?


tl;dr: considering a more flexible, multi-topic, variation of our past challenge threads which doesn't have an expiration date and seeking input on interest and structure.
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#2 User is offline   Lostthyme 

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Posted 09 April 2011 - 02:24 PM

I would love to do this!
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#3 User is offline   luna 

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 04:30 AM

I'm not really into writing fanfiction but it sounds like fun!
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#4 User is offline   Talashar 

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 05:55 AM

I like the idea. :)
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#5 User is offline   Capella 

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 02:02 PM

I'm glad there's enthusiasm! Any ideas on the structure thoughts I laid out? Three threads (prompts/fic; ToC; comments) sound reasonable to everyone? Header thoughts?

Also, start coming up with prompts and PM them to me, that way we have a collection to start with when we decide on the structure. They can be as broad or as specific as you want, although leaving wiggle room for the responders to be creative is always a good idea.
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#6 User is offline   Lostthyme 

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Posted 11 April 2011 - 02:58 PM

I sent some prompt ideas!
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#7 User is offline   Topher Bear 

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 03:01 PM

I was thinking only yesterday that I regret not spending more time in the creative forums when they were active.

I'd like to have a go, but can the word limit not have a lower limit? I don't think i'd have time to write longish pieces.

Organisation. So many options and possibilities. Don't mind, as long as its not too complicated.
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#8 User is offline   Kaelri 

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 05:37 PM

Sounds like fun. I've been missing the old writing challenges myself, and I'll definitely be participating in this.

Thoughts:

- I favor the longer word count - all things being equal, I think it's better to include as many possibilities as we can. 1500 sounds like a good number to do that without weighing it down. In response to Topher, I'd also recommend against a lower bound. I don't think it's necessary, and most people who write in this format have a sense of what's long enough to count as substantive.

- I like the three-thread approach. Particularly because it eliminates the need to separate and categorize our content, which tends to be more of a hindrance than a help, and because it will make things easier to find if we minimize the number of threads and forums that the whole operation is spread across.

- We basically have three kinds of indefinitely-expanding content: prompts, submissions (with ToC), and comments. I favor separate threads for each of these. I do see the logic of combining prompts and submissions into one thread; however, to keep it organized, you'd have to separate both types of content by putting one of them - presumably the prompts - in the first post(s) of the thread. Which is fine, until we run into the character limit. And it still creates an obstacle for people who just want to read the submissions; the prompts are only really useful to the fic writers. So I think we'll save ourselves a lot of trouble and confusion if we just keep prompts and submissions separate.

- We probably want at least the submissions threat stickied. Probably the prompts thread as well, and I wouldn't oppose stickying all three. In any case, though, we should make sure that the first post of each thread links to the other two.

- Finally, a suggestion: each time a new prompt or submission is added, the author should also make a post in the Comments thread with a link. Other members can then simply quote-reply to the link post in order to indicate what they're commenting on. This would also make the Comments thread useful as a complete timeline of the challenge history.
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#9 User is offline   Capella 

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Posted 13 April 2011 - 06:11 PM

I like the four thread idea: One for prompts, one for fic, one for comments, one for ToC. I did originally favor the prompts and fics in the same thread, so you could easily cross-reference, but Kaelri is right about the unless you pre-reserve a few follow-up posts, the character limit will one day bite you on the tail. So, unless anyone has any serious objections to this structure- in which case you should voice them now- the 4-thread structure is likely what's going to stand.

Note that there's now a new Challenges subforum. Prior monthly challenges will be moved into this subforum over the next few days as I have time have been moved. The new quickfic material will also be placed in there. This allows for easy organization.

There is not going to be a minimum requirement, but the maximum will stand at 1500 unless anyone objects.

The standardized header that Kaelri and I roughed out looks like this:

Title: Fic Title
Author: Your name here
Challenge: insert number here
Timeline Era: Rough approximation of when it's set- see the ToC when we implement it for options
Length: Word Count
Other Notes: for warnings about content, ratings, notice that it's an AU, etc, etc

Look good? Any objections?

Also, I'd like more submitted prompts please! Even if it's only one or two, I'd love to hear them. Can't start challenges without prompts!
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#10 User is offline   luna 

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 12:24 AM

uh Just to make sure I get it, there is a thread with /all/ the submissions and one with /all/ the comments. Wouldn't it be easier to have a thread for each submission with a tag like "prompt challenge 1" or so? I think it is going to be very confusion with having to read the comments without being able to go back easily to the story.
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#11 User is offline   Kaelri 

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 04:35 AM

Well, I was hoping my suggestion (about posting links to new submissions in the comment thread) would solve that problem by making it easy to reference a specific piece with your comment, and for others to follow it back to the piece in one click. I think the worry about separate threads is that they would start feeling very spammy and difficult to navigate, given the volume of submissions that we're trying to encourage. (Kind of like if FQ&A spawned a new thread with each GM post; the content doesn't justify the mess.)

That said, I could possibly be convinced otherwise now that we have a fairly segregated subforum for it.
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#12 User is offline   Topher Bear 

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 06:44 AM

Quick question on tags. What does AU mean?

Prompt ideas.
Yeesha's first linking.
Alternate universe: Riven stableised.
Atrus introduces catherine to the places of protection.
Alternate universe: Atrus follows Saavedro to J'nanin.
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#13 User is offline   Capella 

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 06:55 AM

The problem with multiple threads with comments and submissions both, like Kaelri said, is the spam. Keep in mind that the prompts should ideally be coming in forever. So if one day we have 105 prompts, that's 105 individual threads in the subforum. Plus, the problem with comments and fics in the same thread is the fact that it gets muddled between fic and nonfic comment, and if you're only looking for one of them it will eventually drive you nuts. Sure, the person who posts fic #1 has the first comments being for them, but everyone down the line has to deal with comments that may be separated from the original fic by a new fic in the middle, and eventually it muddles.

Since this is hard to explain verbally, let me give you an example of what a hypothetical one thread for one prompt with all comments in it would look like:

Post Number: Author: Type of Post

#1: Capella: Prompt
#2: mysteria13: Fic #1
#3: luna: Comment for Fic #1
#4: Allatwan: Comment for Fic #1
#5: Gloa: Comment for Fic #1
#6: Capella: Fic #2
#7: Kaelri: Comment for Fic #2
#8: luna: Comment for Fic #2
#9: Cactus Wren: Comment for Fic #1
#10: uberlutra: Comment for Fic #1
#11: Kaelri: Fic #3
#12: mysteria13: Comment for Fic #2
#13: Capella: Explanation of something in Fic #2
#14: Topher Bear: Comment for Fic #1 and 2
#15: Gloa: Comment for Fic #3
#16: luna: Comment for Fic #3
#17: mysteria13: Comment for Fic #3
#18: Allatwan: Comment for Fic #2
#19: Cactus Wren: Comment for Fic #2 and 3
#20: KatrAnna: Comment for Fic #1


See how all of a sudden you have a ton of comments interweaving the actual fics, and the thread of conversation gets harder to follow? Basically, it's the same reason as having a separate OOC/IC thread for FQ&A. The way I see it is that some people are only going to want to read the fics, and having all the fics in a fic-only thread is going to make that easy, without the chaos that over 100 individual threads would induce.

Some people want both fics and comments, and that's where Kaelri's suggestion of authors posting in the comment thread "Hey I wrote a piece for prompt 5, Catherine on Prison Island, it's called this and it's here." and then the 'here' is a link. Then people can use the reply button to that comment to quote it and make clear which fic they're talking about.

A way to compromise between dozens of individual threads and all the fic in one thread which will eventually become huge could be prompt limits. Say we say that each prompt thread is limited to 25 prompts. Then you could have Fic Thread For Prompts #1-25, Comment Thread For Prompts #1-25, and when 25 prompts have been hit, you create thread #26-50. Now, that doesn't mean that only 25 fics can go in each of the thread- multiple authors will hopefully pounce the same prompt, and the same author could even do the same prompt multiple times. It just means that if we had 100 prompts, there are only 4 fic threads, instead of 100. See how that takes up less space? Basically, we're just trying to keep the overload managable.

ETA: If you look back at the writing challenges in the new subforum, I think that you can see why comments in the same thread is a problem. A Writing Challenge thread might have 18 total replies, only 2 or 3 of which are actual stories. IMHO, that's distracting from what's really important- the fic- and should therefore be discouraged.

This post has been edited by Capella: 14 April 2011 - 07:24 AM
Reason for edit: added another comment

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#14 User is offline   luna 

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 07:33 AM

I didn't mean like that I meant like:

Thread 1:
"Prompt challenge 1"title story
story

comments on this story

Thread 2:
"Prompt challenge 1"title story
story

comments on this story

Thread 3:
"Prompt challenge 14"title story
story

comments on this story

etc.etc.

so every story its own thread/topic.A separate thread with a list of the prompts so you can look up the original challenge.
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#15 User is offline   Kaelri 

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 08:08 AM

Right... the problem there is that we end up with dozens, or even hundreds of threads with only 2-3 paragraphs of content, many of which (let's be honest) won't even have replies. That's not very conducive to reading, organization or navigation. It also makes it harder for writers and commenters to feed off each other's ideas if they're so rigidly segregated, which I think would be a lost opportunity. The only advantage I can see is, as you say, making it easier to identify the target of a comment. But in practice (again, c.f. For Queen & Age) I think you'd be pleasantly surprised.

Perhaps a compromise would be to allow comments in the submission thread, but require them to be in spoiler tags so that they don't inhibit reading? (Just an idea. I'm not sold on it myself.)
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#16 User is offline   luna 

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 12:46 PM

I'm not sure, do you really think there will be that much interest? And then FQAA is something very different, I think it would be confusing to separate comments from the stories in this case.
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#17 User is offline   Zenoc2 

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 04:30 PM

I like Kaelri's idea of spoilered comments. Also, you could temporarily sticky the thread for the current prompt, and once that challenge is over, simply lock or delete that thread.
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#18 User is offline   Capella 

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Posted 14 April 2011 - 05:21 PM

View Postluna, on 14 April 2011 - 12:46 PM, said:

I'm not sure, do you really think there will be that much interest? And then FQAA is something very different, I think it would be confusing to separate comments from the stories in this case.


Here's some rough numbers. Assume that interest is fairly low and the same people pretty much reply each time, and that we only get 5 new fics based off of these prompts a month. That's 60 fics, and consequently 60 threads, per year. Now assume that we bring back the monthly challenges (3 threads each) but make them only bimonthly. That's 18 extra threads (and would be 36 if we did do them every month). That's 78 new threads a year in a single subforum. Notice that our old challenges have been moved into the subforum, and there's already 70+ in there, despite the fact that a.) the challenges weren't every single month and b.) there were really long hiatus periods. So having a ton of threads with not that much content is going to fill up the subforum very quickly. This is more work for the staff than monitoring just two threads.

View PostZenoc2, on 14 April 2011 - 04:30 PM, said:

I like Kaelri's idea of spoilered comments. Also, you could temporarily sticky the thread for the current prompt, and once that challenge is over, simply lock or delete that thread.


See, that's fine for the regular monthly challenges, which have a single prompt, a concrete end date, and do get locked when done, and that's how we've run those in the fast. But the prompt challenge style that's been being discussed in this thread is not the monthlies; they're designed to be casual and informal, and they don't have deadlines, ever. In other words, a thread that will just keep getting posted to with no planned expiry date. A prompt posted now, in April 2011, may get a fic for it in July 2012. Since the challenge will never be over, the thread can never be locked. That would run counter to the entire design.

That's why having all the fics in one thread together is nice. If LostThyme writes a response to challenge 13 that inspires me to take on 13, I can post my version of the same challenge right below hers, rather than in a different thread. This makes it easier for the people who just want to be readers to go from fic to fic without having to open more than one tab, and even those who want to comment would only have to open two tabs. The problem I have with comments in spoilers is that again, it shifts the burden onto the staff to check, make sure every comment has been spoilered, and fix every one that isn't. We have the ability to link to a specific post in a thread, and the suggestion to use that to clear up confusion also works and doesn't place extra burden on the staff. And while it reduces the clutter that members who just want to read a fic and not want to comment on it have to move through by eliminating the text of the, it doesn't eliminate it entirely, because there's still the trappings of around post content (the signature, the whole sidebar, etc) to move through.

Basically, we're trying to strike a balance between usability and maintenance time. One fic per thread might be the most usable way of doing things, but it also correspondingly requires the most amount of effort by staff. Not allowing comments at all would reduce the load on staff to almost nil, but would frustrate the users. Then there's the users who just want to read and not comment at all, who may have a third perspective. So it comes down to spoilered comments versus totally separate comments as middle grounds, and personally I fall on the side of separate because I do only have so much time in a day.
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#19 User is offline   luna 

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 01:41 AM

*shrugs*

I just know already that I am not going to comment a lot or read the comments a lot , not because I wouldn't want to but because I would think it too confusing. Same goes for readings fics probably since I'm used to stories in the same thread belonging to the same person and plot.

But that is just my two cents.
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#20 User is offline   Topher Bear 

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Posted 15 April 2011 - 01:27 PM

Don't like idea of spoilers for the simple fact that most of the time I can't read them! :)
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#21 User is offline   Kaelri 

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Posted 17 April 2011 - 06:08 PM

So we've got a working version of our Quickfic challenge up and running in the new forum! There've been some good points made here, so consider this a working draft; we'll make changes as they're needed, and evolve to make it work as well as we can. :) In the meantime, I encourage all of our creative minds to grab a prompt and start writing!
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