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Status update June 14

Jun. 14th, 2015 | 05:50 pm
posted by: tienriu in skyehawke

Hi all

Apologies for the lag in updates: three reasons (beyond the usual work, life, rent, family etc):

1) I wanted to wait and see if there were any other responses to the poll and
2) I was surprised by the responses I got "Release it to a small group of testers" but
3) Because the vote for that option was the highest I had to set up a way for testers to well, test.

As it turns out, setting up a test environment needed me to ramp up my knowledge of Amazon's AWS services quite a bit. Lets just say server infrastructure, security and LAMP stacks beyond development and maintenance is not my cup of tea. At all.

In any case, ramp up done, I need volunteers for testing the new version of the archive.

Please bear in mind, the testing for this version covers the following ONLY:
- smart URLs (i.e. 'http://archive.skyehawke.com/stories/this-is-a-story-title/1234/)
- responsive to mobile and tablet users (this means that when you're on a smaller screen, everything will resize so you don't need to zoom in to view certain sections of the screen - well, as much anyway)
- view story in full (all chapters)
- download story as epub
- smarter spam catcher so reviewers (and those with accessibility requirements) don't have to enter a CAPTCHA

This version is not complete (in fact, had I released this to everybody, the entire user interface would have remained in place. Since we're going the longer (but much better!) testing route, I'm going to take the opportunity to actually do proper development releases.

I need testers that are READERS falling in one of the following vague categories:
- fandoms that mix languages (i.e. in the anime fandoms it's normal to occasionally throw in Japanese speech alongside English)
- using mobile devices (i.e. mobile phones or tablets)
- able to read a non-English language (and knowledge of a story in the archive that uses that language) - this is to check that the language is actually readable (i.e. that it hasn't been scrambled)
- have access to an epub reader (and regularly uses an epub reader - this is so we can determine if there's something wrong with the epub generated files)
- have accessibility needs (i.e. need text to be a certain size, require specific software to run in conjunction with site) and/or familiarity with the WCAG standards and their application

Volunteers will be given access to the testing site. The testing site will be password locked so it won't be widely available - though rather than enforcing (through tracking) this I'll ask testers to please not share access.

If you fall into one of those vague categories (or if you don't - general testers are also welcome) please comment below with where you think you fall and your email address. Comments are screened so nobody's email address will be displayed.

And for the rest of you, another poll - this time regarding whether or not the archive should automatically allow all stories to be downloaded as epubs.

Poll #2013955 epub_downloads

Should the archive allow stories be downloaded as epubs by default?

No, the authors should have to explicitly allow it
Yes, but the authors should have the option to turn it off
Yes, but only logged in users should be able to access it

If other, please indicate what you think should be the option

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Status update January 2015

Jan. 17th, 2015 | 04:20 pm
posted by: tienriu in skyehawke

Hi all,

The new archive has reached beta status - this means that the new functionality in place should be ready for use but that it is not complete.

For example the following are ready for testers to preview:

- smart URLs (i.e. 'http://archive.skyehawke.com/stories/this-is-a-story-title/1234/)
- responsive to mobile and tablet users (this means that when you're on a smaller screen, everything will resize so you don't need to zoom in to view certain sections of the screen - well, as much anyway)
- view story in full (all chapters)
- download story as epub
- smarter spam catcher so reviewers (and those with accessibility requirements) don't have to enter a CAPTCHA

The following is an example of what has not been completed as yet (is not in beta):
- administration interface (this includes login, ability to upload stories, manage communities etc)

Note, this phase of the upgrade constitutes a rebuild of existing functionality (with the exception of the ability to download a story in epub format).

The next phase of the upgrade (so after the new archive interface replaces the old one) will include a raft of functionality changes including the long mentioned expansion of users, smarter ways to follow favourite writers/stories/genres/categories/tags, community management (i.e. running fic festivals), bookmarking (keeping a running list of stories you liked - hopefully across not just skyehawke but also the other fandom resources available) and so forth.

Now, at this stage, I'd like to know if it's worthwhile to users if I release a preview of the new archive (it'd be hooked up to the same database the current live site uses) so users can give feedback on what is and isn't working, what needs to be changed and what's confusing.

Poll #1995745 Preview the new archive

Should I release a preview version of the new archive?

Yes release it
No don't release it
Release it to a small group of testers

Sound off in the comments if you think the poll doesn't cover enough options or you need additional information.

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Downloading stories

Aug. 16th, 2014 | 11:50 pm
posted by: tienriu in skyehawke

Ladies and gentlement, I am proud to announce that the upgrade for the archive has now achieved epub downloads of stories.

Please see below for pictorial proof*.

As you can see from some of the odd character encoding marks, there is still a bit of work to do but we're definitely closer than we were earlier this year.


*With apologies to Vulgarweed whose story 'Brag it out with a Card' was amongst those I used to test this functionality (other stories included 'Domestic Bliss' by serendip, 'A Year Like None Other' by the inimitable Aspeninthesunlight and Kaci JaBeth's 'Twin Scars') but of all the rest, was the one which I used (without permission) to create the images above.

Vulgarweed, if you would like me to remove those images or recreate them with a different story, please drop a comment below and I will do so.

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Request for comment: complaints process (and the Illiterati)

Jun. 14th, 2014 | 12:39 am
posted by: tienriu in skyehawke

Hi all,

As we are still some way from final deployment, I would like to request community feedback regarding the complaints and reporting system - particularly the Illiterati.

Note, complaints in this case are strictly related to things that break the code of conduct and the terms and conditions of use (see here http://archive.skyehawke.com/info.php).  This includes such things as plagiarism but also covers real world crimes such as pedophilia, discrimination and incitement  to bigotry.  It was this particular portion that caused the kerfuffle, a whole lot of work and the entire complaints process to be put into place.

For those of you who weren't here for the kerfuffle, the Illiterati (which, silly name) is a group comprised of three account holders (i.e. non administrative staff and thus considered to be neutral) in good stead (i.e. widely considered to be level headed and fair) who would be in charge of investigating complaints made against any piece of fiction or non fiction in the archive.  They would discuss the complaint, decide if it had merit (i.e. proof) and put forward a 'ruling' (i.e. does the complaint have merit, if so what should be done - what does the author say, what does the complainant say, and what should now be done).

Note, in the entirety of the archive's existence, there has been two complaints - one of which was withdrawn as a misunderstanding and the second which was a test case.    So, this has pretty much been a non issue.

That being said, despite this being a very, very rarely used function of the site, we have to:
1) follow the law (regardless of what we think of it - civil disobedience is one thing, criminal disobedience is another)
2) provide an avenue for users to have their legitimate, valid complaints heard and answered (and dealt with)

So even though this process has been used twice, there still needs to be a complaints process in place and one that is independent of administrators.

So, that being said, I would like to request discussion from the community regarding the complaints procedure.  Should we keep it as it is - and if so, what process should be used to find three account holders to act as the Illiterati, should there be a vote (popularity contest), should people nominate others or themselves (possibly a popularity contest), should there be a list of volunteers that are vetted then three are programmatically randomly picked?

Or should we change the complaints process completely? And if so what should that complaints process be? (The answer to this, by the way, is not 'remove it completely' because as little used as this function is, not having one has, historically, lead to abuse of power or privilege).

So please, come forward with suggestions and comments.  This, obviously, isn't going to produce the solution - but a start would be good.

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Status Update: 1 June 2014

Jun. 1st, 2014 | 12:42 am
posted by: tienriu in skyehawke

Hi all,

Just an update for the community regarding the following points:

  • Domain registrars

  • Software update to site

Domain registrar
With much jumping through hoops, the domain is now firmly in place for a minimum of 3 years.  The test, of course, will be next year in March when I hope we can all miss the annual 'site down/domain lost' party.  I am looking to move the entire site onto AWS (Amazon cloud servers), but that won't be happening till after the software update.

Software update
As I mentioned in my last post, this is the year skyehawke will be receiving upgrades.  I had thought to roll these out in small pieces but in the five years that has gone by with piecemeal updates, the core code is a bit of a mess.  Not to mention, of course, that the core code began life when I was in high school - to say that advances have been made would be an understatement.

So the first of the small upgrades, it's just the first one will be rather large as I replace the underlying framework and structure of the site.  There will be testing first, of course - and although the archive will look different (everything will get a bit bigger - either my eyes aren't as good as they were or, as I suspect, low resolutions in computer monitors in the early 2000s meant that everything was super tiny) for the most part (with some exceptions, please see below) functionality will remain the same.

What does this mean? From the view point of users of the archive, the changes should seem cosmetic.  Fonts will be bigger, colours will be different, the site based information pages will be updated (nothing that requires a change to the terms of use).  The real changes in the first update will be mostly code based to allow for extended functionality.

Some new things will appear of course - an example of what to expect in the first release:

  • story links will now contain the story title, making it a bit more human readable (and searchable - though skyehawke as a rule does not allow search engines to crawl its pages)

  • stories will have a 'full story' view which displays all the chapters at once

  • story rating (i.e. PG), content warnings, genre (i.e. Humour), characters are all searchable (or rather you can navigate through all stories with the same rating, warning, genre, character etc).  This is the incremental step required before authors can enter their own characters (i.e. tagging system)

  • lists - the ability to not just have favourite stories and authors but to see them in a useful way and get meaningful updates (we're going to move away from emails - sorry guys, but in return I'm looking at APIs, RSS feeds and other ways that are more useful and less annoying to manage)

  • a better mousetrap (for spammers that is - one that doesn't annoy the crap out of reviewers by making them get through a ridiculously large CAPTCHA)

Regarding functionality: some parts of the archive (i.e. user ratings for stories, fandom sponsors, news posts) aren't used.  I will need community feedback regarding whether or not these functions should be kept.

In some cases, such as for the news posts, there are better ways to communicate (i.e. twitter, tumblr, livejournal).  In others (i.e. user ratings), the use of the functionality is so perfunctory as to render it useless (i.e. everybody rates a story five stars - it has no use as a filtering system and would probably be better replaced with something like AO3's kudos).

Given the low levels of community interaction in the past, I'm putting these topics forward now in the hopes that there'll be enough feedback by the time I need to make a decision of what to do.  So do, please, state your opinion on things that are useless on the site (even if it works) or, alternatively, suggest alternatives.


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Skyehawke - current status

Apr. 5th, 2014 | 06:29 pm
posted by: tienriu in skyehawke

Hi all,

Apologies that I did not post here immediately on discovering the site was down. Reasons for the lag (not excuses because there are none to be had):
- did not receive notifications (long chain of emails forwarding to one central account so I no longer need to log into several, one chain broke, I didn't notice the lack of emails till yesterday)
- something happening with my domain register (I am still trying to find out what - it's been a lot of circular clicking).

Please rest assured, the domain is safe, it is back up, the site is secure, the stories are secure. It might take a while before the various servers (the back bone of the internet, as it were) that maintain domain information around the world refreshes, but as it does, you will once more be able to access the archive.

Note that the forums are down - and will remain so for the foreseeable future (in the old days when there were very few places for people to communicate and talk about fandom, this would be a huge deal - but I'm hopeful that with better alternates like twitter, facebook and tumblr available, this will be not an issue).

I would like to apologise to the users - as always. This issue with the domain keeps happening, despite what the registers promise every year. Given I'm literally waving money at them, so I can't stop having to set a reminder at certain times of the year to check what's going on, it's really - really - really annoying.

I would also like to apologise to all the other people vaguely affiliated with running, sponsoring or monitoring the site. I know every time this happens you get pinged, messaged, emailed and otherwise hounded about this - and I know it's annoying because you can't do anything about it. Which, wow, makes me sound like a drama queen but there you go. So I'm sorry - no excuses, this is my fault and I will get this sorted.

Speaking of which: stuff that will have to happen to prevent this from happening again -
1) moving domain registers because wow, auto-renewal should not be this hard to organise
2) removal of forums completely (it's a security exploitable area, without constant and active monitoring - which I don't have the time to provide and I can't ask others to do, it's just not possible to keep it up - but as above, I doubt it will be problematic to users as there's better alternatives now available)
3) Please see below.

I know a lot of users hit the archive because it provides stories that aren't archived elsewhere. Skyehawke has been around for more than a decade in one form or the other. The first time I used that domain, I was 16. The year I first installed the content management system and launched it was I was 19. I'm thirty-three this year, and I haven't been paying the attention it deserves for the past five years. That's my fault - I [insert all the excuses nobody is particularly interested in hearing].

Let me first assure all of you, keeping Skyehawke up is not a financial burden (I'm relatively well paid for what I spend 90% of my waking hours doing - the lack of work life balance aside) - but it does require a level of automation that is causing these yearly problems. So, as per (1) I'm going to try and fix that automation issue so we can stop remembering the anniversary of the last time the site went down by watching it go down again.

Secondly, five years of non-attention is a problem. Mostly for the users, partially ethically. I am a programmer, part of the reason I created Skyehawke to begin with was to practise my skills in a way I couldn't at work. I still want to do that - I've put it off for five years because [see afore mentioned excuses nobody really wants to hear about]. I shouldn't any more.

So, Skyehawke is being upgraded this year. Expect the usual style of revamps to the front and back end. I'm not sure how many active users there are that would care about the back end, but for those who are still reading, the front will at least be a little less annoying to deal with.

Most importantly however, for those users concerned about getting back ups of their stories or who want to get back ups of the stories they read (note, only with author permissions), I'm creating a download to ebook/html file service so those who want to (or who have the author's explicitly granted permission) will be able to get copies independent of Skyehawke's continual existence.

Speaking of continual existence - the site will continue for so long as it has active users. And I will make sure that, prior to it going down, there will be ample time, opportunity and services in place to make sure any users wanting to get copies of the stories it stores will be able to. Skyehawke will not vanish without warning.

It's the least I can do.

Tien Riu

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Skyehawke down

Mar. 29th, 2014 | 01:20 pm
posted by: vamp_ress in skyehawke

I just wanted to leave a quick note for everyone who commented on the last post or PMed me in the hopes that I could bring Skyehawke back up: I cannot. The site isn't mine, the domain isn't mine. Both belong to tienriu. My association with the site is by being a fandom sponsor. That's all.

I didn't mean to ignore all of you, but I'm really not the right person to contact, especially when it comes to donations and such.

That said, I'm with you in hoping that the site will come back up again. Lets keep our fingers crossed!

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Yes, it's down

Sep. 23rd, 2013 | 08:14 pm
posted by: vamp_ress in skyehawke

Yes, the website is down. To me, it looks like it was hacked. I haven't heard from tienriu yet, but I've sent a PM. So we should all keep our fingers crossed that the site comes back soon!

Edit 10/3: It seems to be back up for me. How is it looking for other people?

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Skyehawke back up!

Mar. 17th, 2013 | 08:21 pm
posted by: vamp_ress in skyehawke

... At least it is for me. I hope it's working for everyone else as well!

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New Fandom: The King's Speech

Aug. 7th, 2011 | 02:05 pm
posted by: vamp_ress in skyehawke

Yay, new fandom! You know, I really like creating new fandoms:) Anyway, I present to you: The King's Speech. We already have a few stories in the archive (hopefully, they'll be moved, so that everyone can find them in the proper category). But you know how it is: There could always be more!

I've also added a few characters to the dropdown, please let me know if you need more!

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