Travels in Cyberspace
Posted on September 29, 2011
I thought I might share my experiences with writing sites to begin with. The first I joined (for free) was called Urbis.com. I don’t know if you know it. It was created by a fellow called Steve Spargo (who actually got to the cover of Esquire Magazine) and run by he and his sister. It was New York based. He called it a `creative democracy’. It continued to develop over the number of years I was a member. It is no longer, which is a shame because it came closest to achieving a balance between writing and reviewing. The problem is as you stated it – reviewers are less populous on the ground, and good reviewers even more so. Urbis was based on an economy of `credits’ – reviews gain credits – you pay to open reviews with credits. Longer reviews attract more credits – so much per word following a minimum limit. Reviews for longer pieces gain more credits – a 2,000 word story or poem compared to a 5,000 word chapter segment – there was a sliding rate of three categories. In the beginning there was little attempt to encourage reviewers, though that is essentially the driver. A reviewer wants to be rewarded (or some do – all I wanted was good reviews of what I posted – which required credits). Of course, the problem then is – if it is going to cost you hundreds of credits to open a review, you want it to be a good one. A Quality Reviewer rating % algorithm was incorporated, so before you opened a review you could check out the reviewer, and previous reviews they had completed (copy and paste bandits beware). On opening the review you would rate the reviewer. If the review was unsatisfactory according to site guidelines to be constructive, not over quote, trivial etc – be polite etc, then you could apply for a refund on the review – Steve’s sister assessed this. The site had several useful tools, including three text analysis items. It was possible to analysis text for recurring words and phrases – they would be listed in order and number of occurrence. At first there was little advertising except for a Google Ad strip and line links to topics assumed associated with the text of your piece. Premium paid membership was introduced after about three years – analysis tools and discounts on credits required to open reviews – storage more items. There were problems as any site experiences, and posting chapters as I was consumed a lot of time, as I would have to complete three reviews of smaller items to be able to open one of my own. It had forums, and groups and an internal message service (could copy and paste to). Another attractive feature was a java program running the home page which would scroll recent activity on the site i.e. Review completed By – Work Submitted etc Comment:
A group frustrated with the inability to use a comment feature such as in Word formed a group in Yahoo Groups and called themselves Urbis Whores. Members would post work to folders and reviews of those pieces. Then I came on Writers Cafe which although great looking, was just that a shop window. No one I came across was interested in doing a review and it was hard to get anyone to look at my work. I left them. I began to use Writing.com – they have a voluntary economy based upon Gift Points – which can be purchased. It also has a lot of useful information for the writer, as well as groups (including review groups). They have several mechanisms for requesting reviews. Then I came across Damian’s site Vicious Writers, which made steps to embrace other media besides the written.
I understand that this is the modern world, and social media sites have the lead, but to me a writing site should be about writing primarily. There are social media sites to post videos and pictures. Even Writing.com which might be considered staid or conservative in approach is full of distractions. Urbis had the intention of moving into that area before it disappeared, taking with it the over 600 reviews I did with it, and my reviewer rating built up over years – never mind the contacts with several friends through the site. So there is always that prospect.
I suppose the trouble is, people who have become successful, or good writers have no need to review and comment on others work (and as you know it is hard to be constructive, helpful and not get beat up by some over-sensitive precious soul).
The other use of a website is to store and display your writing i.e. it is not published yet there is a place where others can ready and enjoy your writing – some people have no desire for criticism.
I am also a member of the Autonomy website, which is a Harper Collins invention – an active slush pile. I have a novel posted there called Future Crime. The idea is to get your book onto as many members’ bookshelves as possible – the five books who are at the top for the month (The Editors Desk) are reviewed by Harper Collins editors. The problem is how to get your book on over 250+ bookshelves without constantly spamming ( a quirk the site allows), or by commenting on others works (various responses to helpful comments – they want to promote their book through comments (displayed below book info – not criticism – though there is a means to cherry-pick comments and move them to the top. So you have a pile of 5,000 odd wannabes with books in various stages of completion and quality scrambling over one another to get to the top, chiefly by means of begging, spamming or other devious means – fake users as supporters. Oh, they also have a Commenter Rating mechanism which the other day saw me drop from 73 to 6075 inexplicably, though through the forum I noted this has happened before – and it relates to the algorithm of books backed and time backed and rank etc. One of the book I backed dropped from position 3 to 4 – and somehow that was the cause for the decimation of my rating (the rating did help attract new members to ask for comment or back my book). After two years, my book rating has been up to 700 and now recently has plunged to 1174 or something. I am on 6 bookshelves.
Then I found Writers Harbor, and I am interested to see what develops. Good luck with your venture. May I wish you smooth sailing in cyberspace.
Last edited by Brian Armour on September 29, 2011, 5:49 am