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A More Concise Critique of Weasyl, FA, SoFurry, InkBunny...

on 21 January 2014 at 09:21:59 MST

The other day, I posted (http://www.furaffinity.net/journal/5433801/) a journal in which I criticized Weasyl[/url]. I did so based off of my early attempts to upload my stories, there, without having to deal with the frustration of unsupported file formats, lost formatting, and ease-of-use of their tools. I feel I should have been a bit more clear. I also should have tried it, again, since previous to my posting things may have changed.

I did try again, since, and found that while one thing changed, most others had not.

Fandom is diverse, both in the content of its membership and its choice of forums for sharing art, writing, music, and other creative creations. And while this flexibility in options is great for those consuming the art, those who produce it have to spend an increasingly long time with each submission making sure that it meets the unique needs and formatting of the target site. If a creator wants to expose their work to the widest possible audience, they must now post to at least five different sites. This is, in and of itself, not a bad thing. But it is cumbersome.

Weasyl, for instance, used to accept text submissions only in .txt and .pdf format. The former is a problem because it does not preserve bolding, italics, tabbed indents, or other elements crucial to storytelling. It’s fine for simple role-play texts and one-off bits of un-emphasized text (like emails or forum posts) but for a writer, it’s pretty useless. The latter, PDF, is more of a difficult beast. It fixes widths and tries to carry everything with it in one, big block. It is not easily converted to an HTML format and, as far as I can tell, Weasyl (like Deviant Art) does not do any conversion. It just throws up the link onto the site.

What I am looking for is:

  1. My stories to be uploaded and displayable on a responsive-design site so that it can be read via desktop, laptop, tablet, or mobile device,
  2. My formatting to be preserved,
  3. Simple indexing options whether that be folder-classification or keywords (and phrases),
  4. The ability to attach “cover art” in a common image format (GIF, JPG, and PNG are the most common),
  5. A space to provide author’s notes, a forward, an afterward, etc., and
  6. A way to rate or classify it based upon content (such as “adult”, “extreme”, etc…).

Not all sites offer these options. Those that do, offer them differently from each other.

And this is fine.

I’ve been in Web development long enough to appreciate that each site should not be the same. Each site should reflect the understanding that the site’s owner(s) and maintainer(s) has of their members’ needs and usage habits. In short, Weasyl has an idea of how Weasyl members use (and want to use) their site. This will differ from Deviant Art, SoFurry, InkBunny, Fur Affinity, and every other art sharing site out there. This is how it should be.

But my problem comes in the proliferation of sites to use. With so many members moving back and forth, creating new sites, adopting new standards, it is creating moving targets for creators to hit.

I cannot spend so many hours each day participating on each site, answering questions, posting Journals, uploading/maintaining my creations, “faving” work, and providing feedback. An artist, of any type, needs to do these things if they are serious about their art. They need to engage the audience, these days. But with so many portals for engagement the ability to do so quickly requires the artist to either be spending a massive amount of time on such updates or deciding not to be serious about their art reaching their target audience.

Weasyl, to use as an example since so many folk have been talking about it of late, now also accepts Google Drive submissions. This sounds good but presents some serious questions. First, they tell you to use the share link in the upload process. Since I keep all my work on Google Drive locked-down save for those few people I (momentarily) allow to see it, I do not use those links except under rare circumstances. Usually this happens when I’m seeking a review. But the instructions on Weasyl do not say whether or not the story will be imported or if they’ll just link to it like they would with a PDF that they’ve uploaded (just providing a link). I will never want this to happen with my stories. Second, when you manually update and try to format writing, the tools that are provided do not work in a normal, proscribed way. For example, say you want to create a numbered list. The standard icon for this, in use on social media sites around the world, usually works by selecting whatever lines you want formatted and then clicking the button. The whole lines, found by where they begin and ranging until the next line break, are automatically formatted into shape. Weasyl does not do this. Rather, it inserts pseudo-code into the exact places selected. This would be fine if it were that way in the rest of the world.

In short, there are idiosyncrasies to Weasyl that hamper my ability to quickly and easily upload and share my work. There are questions as to whether or not there are privacy concerns since I do not like opening up my Google Drive to anyone for very long.

These are my problems with the site.

I have similar problems with InkBunny, Fur Affinity, and Deviant Art. I do not hate Weasyl but it was the last of these I joined and, so, from my perspective it is the site asking me to change how I do things to suit their system.

The only site that truly offers what I need is SoFurry. A simple cut-n-paste from an open Word or Google Drive document preserves all my formatting. They have auto-complete for their tagging suggestions and allow both large-size cover art as well as separate thumbnail art.

But even if all of the sites worked in the same way, the problem would still exist that it takes hours to update each of them. A single short story, given away for free, would take quite a bit of my time. I know. I’ve tried. And with the different formats, it takes hours.

I cannot keep up with the fandom as it goes through its periodic diaspora. (Look the word up; it’s cool.)

So, I propose this: a centralized, no-frills site, app, or browser add-on for the creators. We need something that will allow us to fill in a form, once, and get our work distributed across all sites to which we belong. Until this exists, the growing dilution and spread of our fandom membership will, likewise, fracture our artists. For visual artists, maybe it is easier. I do not know for sure. I do know that formatting text in multiple files for multiple sites is time-consuming and a pain in the ass.

Can this be done? I know it would probably be a huge project. Could I help? Maybe: but I’m not a coder of API scripts. How can we find people willing to do this and, further, keep up with API or site changes/additions going forward? I wish I knew.

But that’s my problem. I have all these people I want to keep up with and the only way to do so is to spend hours, daily, trying just to run in place. For people who are members of these sites, who want to just choose one and enjoy what it has to offer, the problem is not so great. But for creators, for the artists and writers, the hill is getting steeper and the time commitment to supplying free art is getting longer.

I hope a solution can be found. Until then, I’m not sure how I can keep pace with the diaspora. (There’s that word, again.)

Yours,
Sylvan Scott

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