Absolute Chaos Discussion Boards

Fic Talk => General Discussion => Topic started by: Sin on July 30, 2020, 09:31:49 AM

Title: Reviews and this Website
Post by: Sin on July 30, 2020, 09:31:49 AM
Hey, so I wanted to write something about the things I was thinking about yesterday.

You might consider me new and I kind of am, even though I have been here in 2014 already, but I hope you still can listen to my thoughts. So when I left this page 2014 you could still review other peoples stories, that feature is now gone. I know why it is gone, but without it I can see this pages User and Activity count dwindling. The reason for that is, that Feedback is like the bread and butter for writers. You write stories for yourself, but if you decide to share it with the world you also want to know what people think about it.

What I'm wondering now is, what is your plan about this? Do you want to keep Reviews deactivated forever or are you working on a way to bring them back?

I know spam(-bots) is the problem, but aren't there ways to prevent them from coming? (Like a proper Captcha while registering) I have no idea, but I'm sure someone with technical expertise could figure that out. Even if that wouldn't happen there would still be the option to delete those comments. A dedicated mod team could do that.

I don't know how much interests you guys running this page still have for this passion project and I understand if you don't want to pay money to have an IT person look at the page, but I know there are plenty of people who still enjoy BSB fiction. I think you might find volunteers willing to help you to keep this page secure. If that is what you want at least.

I hope you guys don't take this as an attack. I just would find it sad if this site dies or fades into irrelevance just because of things like this. Fanfiction is something I love and others do too. So I think if we could work together we can work something out.
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: RokofAges75 on July 30, 2020, 11:14:04 AM
I just would find it sad if this site dies or fades into irrelevance just because of things like this. Fanfiction is something I love and others do too. So I think if we could work together we can work something out.

I totally agree with this.  I feel like I've been watching what was once the most active BSB fanfic site on the web die a slow death over the past few years, and I think the lack of reviews is a large part of that.  Like you said, when you write for free, feedback is like gold.  I know there are still other ways to give it, like here on the forum or through email or other websites, but let's be honest - only the most dedicated readers (or fellow writers who understand the value of feedback) are going to jump through hoops to do that.  One of the wonderful things about AC and the eFiction script it uses was how easy it was to give feedback right there at the bottom of the story.

Unfortunately, from what I understand, the eFiction script is outdated and no longer being updated or supported, which is part of the reason for the spam problem.  The site has been more glitchy lately; I've heard other users complain about their accounts or stories being randomly deleted.  That said, I haven't had anything like that happen to me personally and have continued to post my stories here without any problem.  I'll continue to do so as long as the site is around.  Judging by the read count, there are still people who come here to read.

I've done some research on this issue to try to help the mods find a solution to the spam problem, and it looks like there are several options:

This thread from the eFiction forum has several possible solutions, involving changing settings on the registration form and installing new "mods."
Edit:  I think this is the same link I shared here before; Julilly said most of this was already in place and hasn't stopped the spammers.

This fanfic site's solution was to disable registration on the main site and set up a Google Form users fill out to request an account, which the mods must then set up manually.  For a fanfic site that's not getting inundated with new users every day, that seems doable with a small team of dedicated mods.

This site also disabled registration and just has an email address set up for people to request an account.

My point is that it seems like every fanfic archive that uses eFiction is having these issues, but there are sites out there that are still active and have found ways around it without just turning off reviews.  It doesn't seem like the owner, Ash/Chaos, is really involved anymore beyond apparently still paying for the domain and site hosting (thanks for that, Ash!), and although the mods both still check in here, neither are writing fanfic anymore.  I wonder if they would consider adding new mods to help with deleting spam accounts and trying out some of these solutions.  I would be willing to help, and it sounds like you would too, Sin.  AC's been around a long time, and there are a lot of great stories here.  I would rather do something to try to save it than watch it die.
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: RokofAges75 on July 30, 2020, 01:35:18 PM
Yikes, and now the main site is showing this error message:

A fatal MySQL error was encountered.
ERROR: Failed to connect to the database!

Hope we didn't jinx it! LOL

Assuming this is just a temporary error that can be fixed, I highly recommend all authors and readers here save your own stories and your favorites somewhere else so you have a copy for if and when the site goes down for good.  I just went through my favorites list a few weeks ago and saved all the stories I didn't already have and wanted to keep.  AC makes it fairly easy to do; I just clicked on the printer icon at the top of the story, but instead of printing the page that popped up, I copied and pasted the text into a Google Doc instead.  There is also an option to download stories as Microsoft Word docs, but it didn't work for me - it just downloaded a blank document.
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: mare on July 30, 2020, 01:45:41 PM
This message appears with regularity for me, so I’m hoping it’ll be fine, but I agree with what Julie said, if you get the chance, copy your stories and move them. As far as what you were both talking about, we’ll see what we can do. If I can figure out how to turn in the reviews I will but as far as any other technical stuff, I’m sure will be over my head. I’ll try though. It’s all I can do.
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: RokofAges75 on July 30, 2020, 02:02:07 PM
Thanks for trying, Mare!  We appreciate the effort you all put into maintaining the site.  I don't think either of us are suggesting you turn reviews back on without first taking steps to solve the spambot problem because if you do, the site will probably get flooded with spam reviews again.  No one wants that.

If Julilly has already tried all the suggestions in the first link I shared above (the eFiction forum post), I think disabling automatic registration would probably be the best course of action.  Thinking about this more, that's probably why AO3 makes you request an invitation before you can create your account.  They don't use the same platform, but they don't have open registration and don't have a spam problem.  Maybe that's why.

I don't know what it looks like from your end, but I'm assuming it's a setting that could be changed.  Once registration was closed, the mods could delete all existing spam accounts and then turn reviews back on.  Then allow new writers/readers to request an account that one of the mods would set up manually.  I realize that is a lot of work, and I'm not suggesting you and Julilly do it all yourselves unless you want to.  I would be happy to help, and I'm sure there are other regulars here with some web design/coding experience that would help too.
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: Sin on July 30, 2020, 05:36:50 PM
I had a talk with a friend of mine who knows a bit about this stuff. She suggested that you make a site backup look for a new database/hosting software, where you can import the old database.

However I know nothing about all that. I still would offer my help. If we work together perhaps we could read ourselves into these things.

That registration only per invite seems like a great idea to me as well. Like perhaps people could create invite links that last for a certain amount of time and only are for one person... a little bit like discord but different. Or something simpler.

In general, perhaps a few more people helping you with the page and stuff could also increase the Community Interaction. Like make new contests and stuff like that. :)
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: julilly on July 31, 2020, 09:05:42 AM
Since 2013, I’ve been working to try and solve the problem with efiction dying and the solutions that once worked just don’t anymore. The script is incredibly defunct, there is no level of security possible that can work within this script to fix the spambot problems and even if there was, thats only on the front end of the site. Fixing that issue doesn’t fix the overall issue that efiction, the script the entire site is being held up by, is incredibly vulnerable to attack on the backend due to the horrifically outdated code.

Front end fixes just won’t fix the major issues anymore. I’ve tried, Karen has tried, Saka-Steph and her husband (who are both professional developers) have tried. The suggestions from those with far more IT experience than me was that the only fix was to custom build a platform. This would ultimately take thousands of dollars, we’re talking $50k++ and months of development time to build something, which is exactly what Ao3 did. They never used efiction, they fundraised and still do to this day to pay professional developers to maintain and upgrade the site. It’s not the volunteer board of directors doing that work, they have an agency.

The other point, which I think is ultimately the biggest, is that Mare and I do not own this website. We don’t own the server, we don’t own the database and any of the data contained in it. Ash (who is also an IT person) legally  owns all of it, so there is no possibility to save the data and move to a different platform. Even if said platform existed, it’s not our data to do anything with. I have broached the subject of Mare and I taking over the site in full, and the offer was not accepted.

Turning off registrations may be possible but I’ll have to report back once the server is back up and I can get in the admin panel again! But again, the spam problem is not the main problem it’s just one of many issues.
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: RokofAges75 on July 31, 2020, 11:41:18 AM
Thanks for the info and all the work you've done to try to fix the problem!
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: RokofAges75 on August 03, 2020, 10:49:45 AM
Glad to see the site is back up!
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: elleinad on August 15, 2020, 05:05:55 PM
I love this site and I too would hate to see it go! I know technology can be so fickle and annoying. I dont have any suggestions just wanted to say thanks for continuing to moderate and maintain it :)
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: Kyrie on November 22, 2020, 11:59:31 AM
I am just coming back after a few months away and can't access the site. Is it permanently down?
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: mare on November 23, 2020, 08:16:21 AM
It’s probably having the same issue as before .
Title: Re: Reviews and this Website
Post by: RokofAges75 on November 23, 2020, 06:38:22 PM
That's what I figured too.  It's been down for over a week; I noticed it last Saturday.  But hopefully it will be back again...