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Frequently Asked Questions List

This page assumes you've already read the Rules. If you haven't read them yet, please do.

Site Philosophy

What's this site for?

The Purpose Of The Site is to enjoy random online interactions as they manifest in collaborative, interactive fiction.

This is a place to play. It's a place to exercise the imagination. It's a game of imaginary volleyball across a polyhedral net. What's important is the process, not the finished piece; the act of creation, not the object having been created. "The point of the journey is not to arrive"... etc.

What's this site not for?

This site is not about permanence. This site will not preserve your masterpiece indefinitely; any story left untouched for too long will be deleted.

This site is not about possession. Any story begun is fair game for others to add on.

This site is not about writerly fame. It won't give you a jump start into a writing career, and it's not an appropriate place to fish for fan letters.

What's up with the new daily limits? Limits suck!

Well, one reason is to prevent any one person from dominating the airwaves. This site is more fun when the content is written by many different people. So daily limits on the free tiers helps ensure that everyone gets a turn. (Of course you can subscribe to the V.I.P. tier (subscription fee TBD) and get unlimited posting privileges if you like, but I'm anticipating that so few people will do this that they won't impact the variety of voices on the site.)

But more importantly, I implemented daily limits because of this only-24-hours-in-a-day thing. When I started the site, I got maybe one post a week, if that. It was exciting to see them come in, and it was easy to keep up. But last summer I got absolutely swamped by your generous enthusiasm, and there just wasn't time to read every incoming post. So daily limits on the free tiers ensure that I will have time to moderate the site fairly and responsibly. (Those of you who spring for a V.I.P. account will of course take up more of my time, what with being able to post a thousand chapters a day if you so choose, but you'll have the warm fuzzy feeling of knowing you're paying me back for all the moderation time.)

But why do you have to moderate incoming posts? Why can't you just let us post what we want and have fun?

Well, for one thing, since I'm the site host, it's my duty to monitor the site's content and make sure it's acceptable. It would be highly irresponsible of me not to know what was on my own site! So it behooves me to read each and every post you make.

Now, the thing about a free-for-all environment is, it quickly devolves into chaos. (They've done studies about it. Really. Read this. I am, in fact, trying to design for the four things this article says should be designed for.) Believe it or not, it actually matters to me that my site remains true to its original purpose. To that end, I need to read each incoming post and make sure that it, too, is true to the original purpose of the site. If I didn't delete it, it would serve as an example for the next user, who would imitate it, and the whole thing would go into a downward spiral.

(I also need see if site abuse follows a pattern indicating a need for the site to accomodate unexpected expectations. In other words, if I wasn't moderating, you wouldn't see new features! Again, the "The End" option is an example of my learning from your mistakes.)

Well, *I* don't care about the original purpose of the site.

Well, I don't care that you don't care.

Is this site family friendly, or do you allow porn?

I allow almost any kind of fiction you want to write. Talking animals, murder mysteries, giant robot fan fiction, erotica, fairy tales, whatever. Sometimes even all of that in a single story!

Is that safe for children? Depends on the parent. Not all parents (or parental internet filters) agree on what is appropriate for children of various ages. Some parents enjoy running a clothing-optional household, reasoning that nudity taboos are silly since we're all born naked. Other parents forbid their children even to bathe naked. When it comes to sex, the same spectrum exists: parents who hope their children never find out about it, and parents who don't mind if their kids run through the room while they're doing it.

So I'm not going to police this site to keep in in line with AOL's parental filters or your parent's comfort levels. I'm going to say that "an it harm none, anything goes" (as long as my IP doesn't tell me otherwise), and leave it to each individual user (and/or that user's parents) to decide what that means to them.

All these new rules suck! No one likes your site anymore!

I'm sorry you feel that way. Why not use my links page or the Interactive Story Web Ring to see if you can find a site more to your liking? Or try making a site of your own. Let me know if you do; I'll be happy to exchange links with you.


Playing the Game

Do I have to pay to play?

No. You only have to pay if you want the perks of the V.I.P. tier. For more information about your participation options, read "How to Sign Up."

Why are there limits on the length of chapters, continuation links, about-the-author, etc.?

Because that's just part of designing a database table. A container holds a finite amount of stuff.

Another kind of container is a reader's attention span. Chapter length is limited to keep some of y'all from trying to squeeze a whole novel in where only a page or two was expected.

Why must a chapter be above a certain length?

Because, aside from Faulkner's famous "My mother is a fish" contribution to literature, chapters are not one sentence long. It isn't worth turning the page just to see, "Too bad, you die, the end!" The game is more fun when people actually make an effort and write something with substance.

What's stopping me from giving my steamy sex scene a G rating?

Nothing, really, but I'll be very disappointed in you. I'll have to come in there and correct the rating to better reflect what you wrote. And if you pull that stunt often enough, I might even ban you from the site.

The rating system is a means for you to communicate to others the nature of your contribution, and if you're going to use it, I'd prefer you do it honestly. See, chapter ratings are averaged up in order to provide a rating for the story. That allows readers to select a story they think they will enjoy. If you lie about your chapter, you skew the average in a way that destroys the usefulness of the rating system without gaining you anything but the reputation of a sleazebag. So please don't do it.

Now, you can always leave the "none" rating option selected. That still skews the overall story chapter, but at least it's not lying. I'm not going to ban people from refraining from choosing a rating. I'm also not going to ban folks from choosing PG when I think it should be PG13. When I warn you not to be dishonest, I'm not talking about differences of opinion over shades of gray; I'm talking about deliberately mislabelling your chapters in an attempt to lure in readers who otherwise would not want to read them.

Why do I have to provide two continuation options? There's really only one thing that happens next.

You have to provide two options because this is a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure site. There isn't much for a reader to choose from if there's only one link! Rack your brain and come up with a second option for the story to continue. Alternately, you could write the story down on your own computer. No one will force you to branch the plot out in two directions there.

For the purpose of daily limits, what counts as a "submission"?

With one exception, which I'll explain momentarily, a "submission" can be thought of as "one push of the 'Publish Me' button." Start a story? That's one. Add a chapter? That's one. Add a one-word path to an existing chapter? Yeah, that counts as one, too.

You might be thinking, what a bummer! One itty-bitty path counts the same towards my daily limit as starting a whole new story? And I'd be saying, Yes indeed. Paths aren't freebies - otherwise y'all might get tempted to start holding BBS-style chatter with 'em, which is a no-no.

And you might then say, OK, that makes sense, but what if the chapter I want to write necessitates adding a path? Well, that's where the exception lies. If you add a path and then in the same day write the chapter it leads to, then the path and the chapter together will count as a single submission.

The who to the what now? OK. Let's walk through an example.

The chapter you're reading has two outcomes: "1. Go North." and "2. Go South." You want to add a new chapter to this story, about how the character doesn't go north or south but instead sits his butt down in the middle of the clearing and has a picnic. So you click "3. None of the Above" and you add a new path. Then you click your new path, "3. Stop here for a picnic" and write the next chapter from there.

To put it mechanically: If the chapter you're about to write stems from a path you added in the last 24 hours, then the path is stricken from your record and only the chapter counts towards your limit.

Now, this only applies to paths. You don't get to count a chain of entire chapters as a single submission, just because you wrote them from one end to the other! Every chapter you write will count towards your limit.

Hey, I didn't get all five of my anonymous posts today!

See, now, that's why you should upgrade to a free login account. If you're not logged in, there's no way I can really know that it's you. So all I can do is count the number of submissions that comes from your IP Address - the unique identification of the computer from which you're accessing the site. Which means that if several people share a computer, and they all use this site anonymously, they all look like the same person.

What's more, if you access the internet via a network, the entire network has the same IP Address. So you might get to the school computer lab or the local wiFi coffee shop and find that all five submissions are used up, because your friend got there first.

Now, if you get a free login account, then I can identify you by your login id. And you get ten, not five, submissions per day. So I recommend it.


About Deletions

My content is gone! Why?

There are several possible reasons why content might up and and disappear. If a story or chapter constituted site misuse, I'll have deleted it. If a story was inactive long enough, it'll have been swept up by the daily cron. Or Murphy ("anything that can go wrong, will") might have eaten it - computers do fail from time to time. If it's recent enough, I might be able to restore it from backup. But before emailing me a backup request, do first check the "Hall of Shame" page, where deliberately deleted content will be on display for a 28 days following its deletion.

You can't delete my content! I'm a paying subscriber!

Not so! Reread your subscription agreement. [It'll be available by the time subscriptions become available, if not before.] What you're paying for is reliable use of the site and perks like the HTML Editor and the chapter feedback form. Your subscription does not give you the right to ignore the site rules, and it doesn't turn this site into your personal, permanent publishing house.

You can't delete my story! It's a violation of my free speech rights!

I am not making this up. Someone actually said that to me. So, I'll explain.

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution, to put it very simply, only guarantees you freedom from government censorship. It does not oblige publishers to host your content. (If it did, heck, I'd have already bullied Random House and etc. into printing my collected short fiction!) In theory, the Constitution says you can't get arrested for what you post here (I'm not going to discuss the constitutionality of local obscenity laws right now; we'll leave that to the CBLDF). But I can delete your submission, 'cause it's my web site, and DrakNet can delete my account if your submission violates their Terms of Service because they're the ones who pay rent on the servers. Whoever pays for the space gets to say what gets to stay in the space - get it?

Of course, since it's only US law we're referring to, readers who are citizens of other countries may feel free to ignore this bit. (Most US citizens will have ignored it too, because they already know better.)

Why is it a deletable offense to tell people not to add on to my story?

Because to do so defeats the whole purpose of the site. (And it's not "your" story. You may have started it, but you aren't necessarily the only one writing it. All you can lay claim to are your chapters.) If you are still confused about the purpose of the site, reread the Site Philosophy section of the FAQ. If after reading it you are still confused, email me and I'll try to set you straight.

Why do you delete inactive stories? Why can't the good ones stay up permanently?

But the "good" stories do stay up permanently... only, "good" is defined as "active." See, the interesting bit is how the story grows and changes due to the collaborative efforts of the players. So once a story remains inactive for a long enough time in proportion to its size, it is considered to have stagnated, and it is automatically deleted.

Now, if you really want to keep a story forever-and-ever-amen and sleep with it under your pillow and cherish it and hug it and name it George... you have two options. Copy and paste it all to your own computer, that's one thing. The other thing you can do is buy a PDF copy. That way, I get paid for my time, and you get a nice hyperlinked e-book to play with. Here's a sample (138k).


Getting Banned

If stay anonymous, I can't get banned, right?

Wrong! If you think anonymity gives you a green light to behave in ways that should get a user banned, you're in for a surprise. And so are your friends. See, I record the IP address of the origin of emails and submissions. If you deserve banning, I'll do it via your IP Address. Not only will submissions from that IP address be forbidden, but also attempts to register for a free login from that IP address will be thwarted, too.

As explained above, all computers in a network share a single IP Address, so if you play via your school's computer lab, and you play anonymously, and you break the rules left and right until I ban you, you're going to screw over all your friends too. They will probably express their disgruntlement to you in unpleasant ways. So don't do it.

I can't play anonymously, and I can't register, because my IP Address has been banned! I don't think I deserve it! What can I do?

Email me. Maybe you got screwed over by an unscrupulous bastard using the same computer lab as you. Let's chat about it and see whether we can work it out.


About the Redesign

Why did you delete all the old, pre-redesign stories? Couldn't you have at least kept the good ones?

Well, first, there were hundreds of stories. Thousands of chapters. For me to determine which were "good" and which were not would have taken too many hours to be worth calculating. Plus, I suspect that definitions of "good" differ. Some people think the anime fanfic was dumb; others think that only the fanfic was worth keeping. Still others would be happy to see all the sexy stuff wiped. Me, all I wanted was to see every story on the site be true to the purpose of the site, regardless of content. But, again, there were too many posts piled up and too many new ones coming in every day for me to comb through them all.

Second, the new features I wanted to put in place required a complete rewrite of the entire database architecture. I would have had to restructure all the existing stories to fit. This would have again taken a considerable amount of time, and it would also have introduced the potential for all sorts of mistakes in the process.

In the end, the only thing I could humanly do and still hold down a day job was wipe the slate clean and build the site fresh from the ground up.

But didn't you quit your day job?

Yeah. But not to be a full-time Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story Engine Moderator. I'm working on my writing career at the moment. I've got about three different novels in various stages of development, and I'm trying to complete shorter projects and assignments in hopes of doing my part to help my husband pay our bills. So you see I don't have oodles of time to spend here.

So when are you bringing back the old, pre-redesign stories?

Never. I deleted them months ago. They're gone. They can't be brought back.

What?! Do you realize how much hard work went into those stories?

Really? Then surely you kept a copy on your own computer, right? I mean, if you cared that much about it, you wouldn't trust some random stranger with a web site to preserve it for you, right?

You didn't? Well, for crying out loud! If you didn't give a damn, why should I?


Special Section For Serious Writers

Is this a Webzine? Do you pay for content?

No, and no. This web site isn't a magazine. Your writing won't have a guaranteed audience. It is unlikely that being seen here will skyrocket you to fame. I'm not an editor, I'm not soliciting "content," and if you are expecting monetary compensation you are in the wrong place. Writing here should be understood in the context of a game, no more.

Can I go on to have what I wrote here published elsewhere?

You can certainly try. I make no claims on exclusive rights to your stuff. But keep in mind that by virtue of posting content here, certain publication rights are logically going to be affected. In that way, it's a lot like posting to a newsgroup, a BBS, or a webblog. For example: Your piece will have been published here first; thus, its "first rights" will be used up. You'd have to rework the piece extensively before you could offer anyone else first rights, serial or otherwise.

Can I ask you to delete my piece so that I can offer someone exclusive rights to it?

Depends. If the content was posted by a logged-in user, and I get a delete request from the email address on file for that user, and if no one else's content is downstream of yours, then I will honor that request. Congratulations on finding a publisher interested in exclusive rights to your piece!

Be advised that deleting it here does not restore first rights. It's a matter of history that it was published here first, regardless of whether it's still here.

Why can't you delete my piece if I wasn't logged in when I wrote it?

Because unless there is a userid attached to the piece, there's no way to prove that the content was written by the same person who asked to have it taken down.

What do you mean by "if no one else's content is downstream"?

Visualize stories here as rivers, eternally branching out into different streams. Chapter 1 is the source of the river, and where the chapter ends and readers are given a choice, the river forks. All the possible Chapter 2s are downstream from Chapter 1. To put it another way: If User A wrote a chapter to which the story can arrive only by going through User B's chapter first, than User A's chapter is downstream of User A's chapter.

(When I say "only by going through User B's chapter," I am trying to distinguish between the logical flow of a story from Chapter 1 onward, and shortcuts like the "Latest Chapter" link in the Archives. Downstream is determined by the former, not the latter.)

So why does it matter if someone else's content is downstream?

Because I want to be fair to all players, and if deleting your chapter truncates a story branch that contains a whole bunch of other chapters written by other players, then deleting your chapter is hardly fair to the other players, is it?

Bottom line: Don't go posting here anything that you might possibly need deleted for any reason later. The only way to guarantee that no one else will be downstream of you is if you choose "The End" instead of giving your chapter two continuation options - and you can only do that if you chapter is Chapter 5 or higher.

This bites. I want to get published! Give me some advice!

OK, go here. They've got some good advice, whether you're writing short fiction or books, poetry or prose. If you want to learn about book publishing, the authors at this link won't steer you wrong. And go here so that you learn how to avoid the preditors and find the editors. (Ha! I made a funny.)

Preditors do abound. While you're looking for a book publisher, keep an eye out for nastynasty scam publishers. For instance, PublishAmerica (or is that Publish America?) pretends to be a traditional publisher, but acts like a vanity publisher. Their business model actively impedes the authors' attempts to get their books into real "brick and mortar" bookstores and libraries. Most Publish America books are in fact sold right back to the author him/herself--that's how you know they're a vanity publisher. Avoid Publish America like the bubonic. (Hey, don't take my word on it. Let the pros tell you all about it.)

Seriously, there's a lot of good writing by writers for writers out there. It would be silly for me to reproduce it here. Go forth and learn at their knees, and know that I am doing the same.