Reenvisioning our Technology

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jafib
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Reenvisioning our Technology

Post by jafib »

Hey techies and tuggers, first of all I want to express my gratitude for the hard work on keeping this site running and what has grown on it. I have yet to find a space in real life to talk about my interests as liberally as here. This is not meant as a criticism to anyone.

Yet as a Software Engineer and System Administrator myself, I can’ help but wonder if there is a different way to use technology to foster this community. Here are a few issues that frustrate me:
• lacklustered search (see <https://tugstories.com/viewtopic.php?f=34&t=13460>)
• When I want to just read a multi-part story, I often have to scroll through lots of comments - not saying these comments are bad, but they are in the way sometimes, depending on whether I want to read or to interact.
• Since this board is built on technology that has been pieced together over the years, it does not feel modern - almost every button reloads the page, which I find especially annoying in my profile and private messages, all themes seem dated, and the structure is rather rigid, too.
• As no standard protocols are used in phpBB, there is no mobile app to access the board, neither is the sit reponsive
• When it comes to roleplaying, people use other software that is better suited to messaging, creating a disconnect which could be prevented with open protocols like XMPP (see Snikket).
• We created a story directory to circumvent the shortcomings of the system, not allowing stories to be tagged and filtered meaningfully.

This is not about complaining. I am making this list to start brainstorming how to improve the status quo. Feel free to add your own qualms - as said, this is not about criticism but about imagining a bright future.

So far, my idea has been to build on something like <https://movim.eu> to create a forum-like experience on XMPP, which, as internet standard, has many native apps on any system and integrations. Since XMPP is inherently a messaging protocol, roleplaying could easily be done via it, too, preventing a split of identities.

I thought a bit more and stumbled upon <https://writefreely.org> which could be used with <https://pleroma.social> to interact. One would go on WriteFreely for distraction-free writing and reading, and provide feedback and community interactions via Pleroma, which is a free federating social network similar to Facebook and Twitter but without the spying and loss of control due to centralization.
Meet Jessica in the Garage, Alica the baby-sitter, Phillip tieing up teen girls
Adult Stories: Naughty Tamara, Josefine the Model (all M/F)

Feedback motivates me to write more and continue a story :)
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FelixSH
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Post by FelixSH »

Honestly, what you suggest is pretty much counter to how I like the forum. The one point I agree with, is the search function, but in the thread you linked, it was already made clear that with this forum, there isn't much to be done about that. Granted, tags within a story would be nice, but it is somewhat circumvented. I guess this is a part where newer software would help, but I also think it works well enough.

Many of the things you suggest necessitate a lot of work, getting used to new technology, which, to be honest, I am not motivated, not even as a user. Especially when I have a forum, which is pretty much the very thing I want. The things I agree on have this problem too, and considering that the admins do the work here for free, and have probably already enough to do with it as it is, I really can't blame them for doing more than we have. It is, as mentioned, pretty much perfect for someone like me.

Like, comments are such an integral part of this, because it is the only form of payment one gets as a writer here. And I really don't understand how it is a problem to just scroll through them. I mean, yeah, I get it, they are small distractions, but such a small one that I simply couldn't care any less. Again, it's the authors only currency here, when I write a story, I WANT comments to be there. The stories here are not just for the users.

The forum might not feel modern, but to me, someone who started to use the internet around 2000, I consider that a plus. I always loved forums, and am still sad to see them go away more and more. Please understand that this is a matter of taste, and I (as well as some others here, I assume) have a different one than you, that fits perfectly with how this place looks and feels. It isn't straight-up inferior, like you seem to suggest.

I have no idea why you would need a mobile app for this forum. I never had problems, just using chrome on my phone. No idea, what an app would even be useful her, to be honest.

WRT roleplaying - this is first and foremost a place for stories, so it isn't perfect for roleplaying. It simply isn't a priority here.

movim.eu seems like it is mainly there for messaging. I only looked into it shortly, but seems mainly like an alternative for whatsapp, certainly very different from a forum. I get that this should only be the basis, but that immediately smells like "ton of work". Considering that you added the thought that this could be used for roleplaying suggests to me, that it would change the nature of this place, from story- to roleplaying-focused, which is something I certainly don't care about.

pleroma.social seems to be mainly a social media app, which, honestly, makes me want to puke. I want to have social media as far away from a place like this as possible. Simply the comparison with facebook and twitter makes me want to never interact with it.

writefreely.org seems nice, but I don't get the point. I can simply write in OpenOffice, save my work there, and upload when I'm done. There is honestly not a single thing that I could think of, that I miss here.

Look, I might come of as grumpy here, taking apart point after point of your post, but that is not my intention. I just want to make clear, that your suggested changes either don't seem useful for me, or might change the nature of this place to something I simply would enjoy less.

It just seems, like you want the focus to shift to roleplaying, which, again, isn't the focus here and has never been - and I hope, it never will be. I assume there are other places that work better for this, so there is no need to make this forum into something it isn't.

Simply put, I think the status quo is pretty much exactly how I want this place to be (I honestly would make it even more minimalistic, but that's just me). There is simply no need for the admins to jump through all the hoops of switching - if I know something, than that it is ALWAYS more work than one expects, and I just don't see how it would be worth it.

As a suggestion, maybe we could look into XenForo, a more modern forum technology. Another forum switched to that, two years or so ago, and it is still very much a classic internetforum, where you can turn off all the nonsense like infinite scrolling, and keep the design minimalistic like here. It does have a tag system, and the search function is fine, so that might be an alternative that might address the two problems I actually agree with.

That said, a transition even there would probably be quite a lot of work, and the problems I mentioned aren't big enough to warant that work. Just saying, if we switch to something new, I only would want it to be a more modern version of an internet forum, and not something that incorporates more social media. Seriously, leave me alone with that stuff.
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Post by Shotrow »

I agree that the forum software could be better, but I also question if it's really worth the effort of upgrading for such a small and niche community. The software may be out of date, but in the way so is the very idea of having an independent forum. The "modern" solution would be to make a discussion group on a larger social media platform, which would mean we'd be subject to the whims of their content policy. I maintain hope that there will be decentralized social media in the future, but for now this forum's independence means that it will always have a niche audience.

However, one modern feature that I would like to see added is "likes". It would be really nice for people who don't want to make a post to be able to show approval of stories in a less conspicuous way.
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Post by Volobond »

@Shotrow I can see what you're saying about likes, but as a writer, likes aren't exactly helpful, you know? I want to know WHAT you liked about the story, what you didn't like, characters that were enjoyable, scenarios that are liked, even discussion about the story between readers. A like tells me very little except that someone saw it. People can even tend to just click the like button without even reading the post, which defeats the whole purpose. I don't necessarily want approval, but engagement. It's already hard enough to get inspiration to write when you don't get a whole lot of comments, and adding a like button might just remove any incentive for people to comment, and then lead to a dwindling amount of content.
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Post by Shotrow »

@Volobond I hear you, and I agree that comments are always preferable to likes. But I feel like you're thinking about this the wrong way.

Comments are rare because they take effort to make and so the reader has to be very motivated to want to leave a comment. The absence of a "like" function does not cause unmotivated readers to become motivated. "Likes" are simply a way for the readers who are not motivated to comment to show approval. The alternative is that they stay silent.

I know I'm someone who does not like to draw attention to myself, especially in a community that I haven't had much engagement with, so I rarely comment on stories on this site. For people like me, likes are not only a more comfortable alternative to commenting, they also provide a way to gauge out what kind of comments are and are not welcome in the community, making the process of making a comment that much less intimidating.
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Post by bondagefreak »

Shotrow wrote: 3 months ago @Volobond I hear you, and I agree that comments are always preferable to likes. But I feel like you're thinking about this the wrong way.
No, he's not. Look, we've had this discussion at least two dozen times over the past decade and we - as a community - very intentionally chose to exclude the "like" feature precisely for the reasons @Volobond mentions above.

You only need to ask those of us who also write/post stories on Deviant Art and Tumblr. Both those sites offer the "like/favourite" feature. The result is almost always the same: hundreds of "likes/favourites" and little/no comments.

Most prolific authors here would much rather have a half dozen comments than a hundred useless "likes/favourites". We're not going the Deviant Art/Tumblr route. I know these suggestions are well-intentioned, but newer members need to realise that the "like" system was popularised in the mid-2000s and that innumerable forum discussions on the subject have already dawned since then. We didn't just spontaneously forget about adding a "like" system. We chose not to. Same for the chat. We took the chat down and the forum has been more active ever since. Best decision ever.
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Post by Rtj65 »

Shotrow wrote: 3 months ago @Volobond I hear you, and I agree that comments are always preferable to likes. But I feel like you're thinking about this the wrong way.

Comments are rare because they take effort to make and so the reader has to be very motivated to want to leave a comment. The absence of a "like" function does not cause unmotivated readers to become motivated. "Likes" are simply a way for the readers who are not motivated to comment to show approval. The alternative is that they stay silent.

I know I'm someone who does not like to draw attention to myself, especially in a community that I haven't had much engagement with, so I rarely comment on stories on this site. For people like me, likes are not only a more comfortable alternative to commenting, they also provide a way to gauge out what kind of comments are and are not welcome in the community, making the process of making a comment that much less intimidating.
Just to weigh in here, but I respectfully disagree with you on a couple of things. Comments don't need to require extraordinary amounts of effort - a brief comment on a story that just says, "Good job, thanks!" takes less than a minute to post. If there are users who are on the fence about commenting on something, then a like function is just going to dissuade them from commenting, because there's an easier option, as others have said.

I understand your hesitation to engage on here - I was reluctant to at first as well, but things are more enjoyable when you become more active. Every single user on this board had to start somewhere and leave their first comment. The more you engage, the more you'll feel like part of a community. Liking stories/comments wouldn't make any difference to that. As for your point about gauging what's welcome - I think the rules and guidelines make it pretty clear, and taking a look through some story threads should give you more of an idea. If you're worried about what someone might think of your comment before you post, just ask yourself two things: 1 - does it follow the rules? and 2 - if I was the author/original poster, would I be happy to receive this comment?

Basically, I think this board works well as it is, it just needs an active user base to thrive.
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Post by Solarbeast »

Like @bondagefreak has said, we have already discussed this a multitude of times, and we have come to the decision to not have a likes or favorites button on this site. We also have tried different ways to incorporate a chat feature on this site, only for it to be either not used or used only to promote offsite chat sites. Thus we have gotten rid of it. This site has been and will continue to be a predominantly story-focused site with a couple of sections for the people who enjoy tug talks, photos, or roleplays to participate on this site. There have been many discussions throughout the years within the mods to get rid of both the photos/videos section and the roleplay, how would you sections because some mods still think it takes away from the main point of the board, and because of troubles controlling certain members and situations within those sections. Thus we continuously alter the rules of this site to be able to maintain and keep those sections on this site because we know that those sections are now crucial to this site. And lastly, there is no want for this site to become an app due to the fact that we mods do this for free during our free time, as well our founder wants the least amount of paperwork linked back to him because this is still considered a very frowned upon thing to do in many parts of the world. And thus many of us are not very open with this side of ourselves to the general public.

If you have small changes that you have found either on the Phbb site that our site doesn't have or potential tug additions, then please let us know so we can potentially add them, as we are still trying to make this site the best it can be. But the large changes are not going to happen on this site, and if you still think it's a good idea, then I would say that you should then create your own site and see how it goes for you.
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Post by jafib »

Shotrow wrote: 3 months ago I agree that the forum software could be better, but I also question if it's really worth the effort of upgrading for such a small and niche community.
That's the beauty of open source software - build it well once, and infinitely many communities can make use of it ;)
Shotrow wrote: 3 months ago The "modern" solution would be to make a discussion group on a larger social media platform, which would mean we'd be subject to the whims of their content policy.
No thanks ^^
Shotrow wrote: 3 months ago I maintain hope that there will be decentralized social media in the future, but for now this forum's independence means that it will always have a niche audience.
There already is, and I think forums could have a resurgence by becoming part of it.
https://fediverse.party/

One thing I also now realized is that you can't properly respond to early posts of a story due to the linear nature of forum threads, which would be easy with ActivityPub.
FelixSH wrote: 3 months ago Many of the things you suggest necessitate a lot of work, getting used to new technology, which, to be honest, I am not motivated, not even as a user.
The great thing about something like Pleroma is that you don't have to learn much new - its interface is very similar to something like Twitter, but without the centralization and addictive algorithms.
FelixSH wrote: 3 months ago writefreely.org seems nice, but I don't get the point. I can simply write in OpenOffice, save my work there, and upload when I'm done. There is honestly not a single thing that I could think of, that I miss here.
It is not only about doing the writing, but about the fact that it publishes via ActivityPub, enabling you to read with different clients (including the form), so you don't have to publish on another platform if you want your story visible outside the forum context.
Btw, OO is essentially dead for years, I highly recommend to switch to its derivative LO: https://www.libreoffice.org/
FelixSH wrote: 3 months ago It just seems, like you want the focus to shift to roleplaying, which, again, isn't the focus here and has never been - and I hope, it never will be.
No, but I feel we have a rather tight community here, for which personal interaction matters, so I would like to make that easier, without removing the main focus.
FelixSH wrote: 3 months ago Just saying, if we switch to something new, I only would want it to be a more modern version of an internet forum, and not something that incorporates more social media. Seriously, leave me alone with that stuff.
Totally agree with your sentiment - however ActivityPub only gives you the essence of social media - social interaction, without all the crap you probably associate with that for now. And it can be presented in traditional forum-style, too, because a flexible backend means a flexible frontend :)
See also https://android.izzysoft.de/articles/named/fediverse-1
Meet Jessica in the Garage, Alica the baby-sitter, Phillip tieing up teen girls
Adult Stories: Naughty Tamara, Josefine the Model (all M/F)

Feedback motivates me to write more and continue a story :)
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