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Jan
12
2014

The changing face of CC - Story view -- by Jon Bjarnason

In my last blog I talked about some changes I want to make this year to the basic layout on CC. Check it out if you haven't already. smiley

I got some good feedback from that blog and people were a little afraid that I might make the website less user friendly on desktops while searching for a tablet utopia. That is not my intent. I want CC to be awesome on tablets and I want it to be better on desktops as well. I want the choice between devices to be completely up to the user on their own grounds rather than CC being inherently better on one device or the other.

Anyways, today I am going to be talking about the heart of CC: The story view and the crit process. I personally think that the process of critting stories right now is pretty darn good, and I must be careful not to inadvertently make it worse while trying to make it better. Therefore I'm going into this with a little sense of apprehension.

Like I've mentioned before, the major reason for doing this is to make CC function well on mobile devices but at the same time I'm hoping the whole process will be at least somewhat better on desktops.

Removing all crit types except inline

With inline crits being around 90% of submitted crits I'm thinking of making the process simpler by just removing the other crit types altogether and having everything inline. You will still be able to submit 'classic' crits by just writing general comments and not adding any inline comments but template crits will go away completely.

I'm not sure whether to include some option of allowing writers to specify questions which people can answer template-style, maybe that's a feature I would add later on.

Removing different crit types will make the process a lot simpler for new members but it will make it impossible for people to use pre-formatted text in their stories, but we only get a very small handful of those types of stories anyway.

Another idea I'm toying with is if we're removing the different crit types, maybe we will just remove the 'crit story' option completely and allow you to start critting a story from the story page directly. That might be pretty cool, you're just reading the story and add comments as you go instead of having to scroll back up and click "critique story" to put on your crit hat. I'm not sure how people will feel about that, but maybe it would make the process more streamlined. I'm not certain this is a good idea but I might toy around with this a bit.

Reading-view-only

I've noticed that only around half the people use the reading view option to read the stories on CC but I exclusively use the reading view myself and would definitely recommend that for critting. In the spirit of simplifying the crit process and make stories better viewable on tablets I want to just get rid of the old one and use reading view exclusively. I'm hopeful that the reason only half of you are using this is just because it's not the default setting, rather than it just sucking big time.

I suspect some people don´t even know we have a reading view. Search for that link when you read your next story, it will change your life. wink

There are a few things I know I need to address, such as the loading time of reading view. It takes to damn long to parse the text into the reading view format. I'll need to optimize this and fix a few bugs in the meantime.

I also want to make some stylistic changes to the reading view, like playing around with the font, margins and justification a bit. Originally, when I first made the feature, I had wanted to allow users to select the font to use in reading view for example but I never got around to it. With the availability of web fonts the number of fonts we have available has exploded and it would be awesome to take advantage of that, which brings us to...

Customization

People spend the majority of their CC time reading and critting stories. After all, that's what the website is all about. Therefore I want to give you a lot of customization options so that you can read stories the way you want to.

I mentioned the font earlier. You will be able to choose from a palette of awesome web fonts.

I also want to give you some more options on how to read stories, with respect to background, text size, margins, etc, etc. After all, the stories are the heart of CC and we need to have that as perfect as possible. I've been playing with the kindle app on the ipad and the kindle website as a source of inspiration.

I'm hoping to make the story view good enough for you guys so that you want to cuddle up in your couch with your tablet and read or crit a couple of stories on CC.

If you really hate the idea of the reading view becoming the only way to read and crit shout out please.

What would you like to see?

Like I mentioned before, since this is the most fundimental system of CC we're talking about here I'm sure all of your have some thoughts on what you would like to see change and what features you would like to add. Maybe you think the story system is fine and you would like to focus on something else? Maybe there are some things in the story system that infuriate you and aren't being addressed here that you would like to see?

Feel free to speak your mind. smiley

Posted by Jon Bjarnason 12 Jan 2014 at 01:26
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Responses to this blog

Fictiondog 12 Jan 2014 at 06:24  
There's no doubt that, on general principle, this old dog would rather not learn new tricks, but thanks Nonnib for your thoughtful comments in this and your previous post.

Although the Template crit is used infrequently, I would strongly encourage you to leave it as an option. The Template crits can be an important tool for Newbies, and even for more experienced critters new to critting a type of book (Picture, for example) or when an author asks for input out of the critter's usual area of expertise.

Aheila 12 Jan 2014 at 11:39  
Personally, I think streamlining the critique process would be great. Critting right on the story page, using only reading mode (which I already do), and keeping only Inline crits work for me. I like to see the stories close to book form so I can crit the rhythm on the page as well as the other stuff.

That being said, if a significant number of people don't like that idea, maybe other options could be kept as toggles on the streamlined version (like the current reading view). By default, people click on a story in a Queue and can do Inline crits on the story page in reading view. They can also change that default setting to web view or populate the "general comments" box with the Template crit guidelines without actually changing the Inline crit structure (instead of treating them as two separate formatting). This way, you keep the options, but streamline the process for the majority of users (which is especially good for newcomers).

Cutting down on some options would also streamline the story submission process, so it's a worthy change, in my opinion, and I agree with your take on it. Good stuff!
Scila 12 Jan 2014 at 12:17  
I actually prefer not to use the reading mode, I find it much more easy to critique and read a critique in the normal mode - it loads the whole story/in-line comments in a single swoop, and I can just scroll down to find a paragraph I'm looking for. It's quicker than clicking on "Next Page" every few minutes. And besides, it doesn't work as a preview for how books/ebooks work because the number of different devices and formats books now appear in.

If there's a way to load the whole story in reading mode, then I'm fine with losing the other option, but I like not having to click to turn pages - the less clicks I have to use, the better.

The classic type of critique is really useful when you don't feel you have much in-depth corrections/suggestion to make.
Aheila 12 Jan 2014 at 12:44  
I agree with Scila for reading the critiques or when I need to check back on previous comments. I definitely only use normal mode to read people's critique on my story, and forgot to take that into account in my previous comment.
Nonnib (administrator) 12 Jan 2014 at 13:02  

If there's a way to load the whole story in reading mode, then I'm fine with losing the other option, but I like not having to click to turn pages - the less clicks I have to use, the better.

You've always been able to do that in reading view. Just click "Toggle scroll".
Scila 12 Jan 2014 at 15:49  
That's good to know! But it still needs me to hover my mouse over the paragraph to see the comment - I check the critiques I received as I'm revising my chapters, so I would prefer to see them all expanded.

Ah, it would be also nice to be able to customize the line spacing/font size/page width - I prefer the normal mode style in that regard. If that's possible.
Kids_table 12 Jan 2014 at 16:08  
I use normal mode too, for all the reasons above. I like the width better than reading mode, and I like scrolling up or down better than clicking. I would be sad to see normal mode go, but it wouldn't be that big a deal. I'm sure I'd adapt.

I think using just the inline system would be smart, and I love the idea of streamlining the process. I think it would lead me to crit more. As it stands, sometimes I'm reading something and I have just a couple comments (maybe not enough to earn credits) so I usually don't bother, if it was as easy as just clicking a story to browse and being able to add a couple notes, I'd be more likely to leave those mini-crits.
Aries75 12 Jan 2014 at 20:15  
Quote by: Scila
Ah, it would be also nice to be able to customize the line spacing/font size/page width

Yes! Please, please, please, please add this!! I hate fixed widths and small fonts (seriously, the default CC font size - 10px, I think? - is pure evil, especially on tablet screens. Even all the zoom options aren't really enough, since the text always shrinks when you type in the yellow inline comment box)

I never use any of the other crit options, so I'm fine with ditching them in favor of instant-inline. Instead of offering the "template crit" option separately, there could be a link above the story to "suggested crit templates" for the purpose of helping out members new to critting - the link could open a modal dialog box, the critter selects the template they want, and then the template gets pasted either above or below the story for them to use. People who don't want to see this link could have the option of hiding it.

As for the point someone raised in your previous blog post - the ability to edit the story text directly while critting - I thought of a compromise solution that should preserve the ability for writers to still have their own paragraph-revising ability When you're in inline mode and click the paragraph to comment, the comment box gets pre-filled with the paragraph text (thus saving you the trouble of copy/pasting it - definitely good for tablet users). Or, you could have an icon - similar to the current "text" formatting option - that instead just dumps the paragraph text into the box for people who wish to do line edits.
Torchtwig 12 Jan 2014 at 20:48  
I don't like reading view personally. Sorry.

First, I do most of my reading on here when I'm not critting on my iPhone. It's my preferred device to read on. Reading View does not play nicely with my phone, especially if I want to read crits. I always read other's crits on stories I'm interested in.

Second, when I edit my own work, I have my story up on my PC in word processing. I use my beloved iPhone to view everyone else's crits on my chapter while I work. Reading view makes a nightmare of that. I just tried it, and the crits overlap the text, and I have to click on paragraphs and miss items.

I don't actually prefer reading in reading view. I like the plain text I can scroll through, no page turning. I already cuddle up with my tablet or phone and read on here, even when I'm not critting, so that goal is complete, but I would be really sad if the plain view function were removed, especially for viewing many crits within a story at once. I suppose if that part were worked out to function more like the plain view does, then I wouldn't cry, and I could adapt to the reading view only.

I will add that my favorite way to read whole novels is also on my phone's tiny screen. I'm nearsighted and middle age eyes haven't kicked in yet, so I read very small font easily close up. So, some of my preferences may differ from others.
Gretchen 12 Jan 2014 at 21:49  
I have to use screen magnification/screen reader software to view webpages (a program called ZoomText). If Reading View is the only option, I simply won't be able to use CC any longer.

But if Reading View is set to default, I don't mind toggling it to normal view if that's available. Or perhaps you can include the story and crit viewing preference in the Settings section?


Celebc¨en 12 Jan 2014 at 23:54  
I sometime use the Reading View when I read a chapter, I even use it to crit inline (I have to say I normally used Clssic, though), but then when I check the crit before posting it, I always go back to normal view, because - as others have pointed out - that allows me to see the whole crit and the whole text.
Reading View doesn't allow you this. You have to open comment by comment and the comment box overlaps the text, and personally I find this verry annoying. But I'll agree that the Reading View is more confortable when you just read.
Cam 13 Jan 2014 at 09:24  
I use the Reading View when I read and critique. I change it back when I review the critique, because it's easier to see everything that way.

I would love to be able to highlight just one word or sentence while I'm critiquing instead of working inside a whole highlighted paragraph. Track Changes does that in Microsoft Word and Apple Pages programs. It's really handy. There's no need to cut and paste, you just highlight a section you want to discuss, so the writer knows exactly what you are talking about.
Owllady 14 Jan 2014 at 07:30  
I like that suggestion for highlighting individual words or phrases.

I haven't critted in a while but if I recall correctly, all members can save critiques if they can't finish them in one sitting. I love this feature. On another site, only premium members can save their in-progress critiques. I think that makes life harder for people who simply can't afford to go premium, or for whatever reason don't want to. CC is generally about making members' lives easier, so I'd suggest keeping that feature.

And please keep the Preview option for posts! I always preview my posts, and for some reason it helps me not only catch typos, but things that aren't clear. (by this I mean the Preview button below the box we type in. The icon for Preview always adds extra spaces for me, no matter which browser I use. Weird)
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Xc0000005 14 Jan 2014 at 07:45  
In reading mode, how would it work if I were to burst out one of my patented "Wall of yellow rage" crits in the middle of a page? Would the wall of yellow chase text off the bottom and I'd have to click to move on to the next page? That would be frustrating. I do LOVE the idea of being able to select phrases or words. I mean, that's how my editorial feedback comes from an editor - not paragraph by paragraph, but highlighting words.

Purplek 14 Jan 2014 at 16:04  
Totally agree with your idea to remove crit types and the "critique story" button.

I never heard of the "reading view" before.


Crease 14 Jan 2014 at 21:53  
Would highlighted words or phrases become chaos when viewing all inline crits?

I like reading mode but having all crits open like in normal mode would be invaluable. Probably only workable if scroll is turned on.

Otherwise, my wishlist is short. WYSIWYG in crit boxes, messaging and forum posts. Yeah, there'd need to be a workaround for toys like and , but its so hard to spot typos in a crit without toggling Preview, a chore .
Simjim 15 Jan 2014 at 03:51  
+1 for the ability to easily highlight a word, phrase or sentence in a para graph for comment. I spend a lot of time doing a cut/paste into my crit sot he author knows what exactly I am talking about.

Another random thing that would save me some time: the ability to go back and view the synopsis or previous chapters of a novel without leaving my current place in the story. I do this every so often and it's a pain to leave and then have to find where I was it the story again.
Owllady 16 Jan 2014 at 18:57  
I have critted on another site where we can highlight individual words or phrases, and personally I like it.

I got 3 or 4 crits on a chapter of mine done like that, with inline comments as well. It does break up paragraphs with some parts highlighted in yellow and the inline comments highlighted in green, but I don't have trouble following what's being said.

I saved all the crits in one PDF. The crit from person A comes first, followed by the crit from person B, and so on. It's perfectly clear who made which comments.

Now that's me. I don't mind seeing my paragraphs messed with because I still have the original files with everything intact. Others may find having the symmetry of paragraphs messed with to be difficult to follow.
Benjaminlg 17 Jan 2014 at 04:35  
I don't use the reading view ... I find the font feels, erm, too big / clunky. I also like to be able to see the whole crit at once.
Gkt 17 Jan 2014 at 12:16  
I didn't even know there was a reading view. That being said I do like to see the comments expanded.
Petesdiner 17 Jan 2014 at 13:35  
Perhaps the Reading View could just be made the default, while the Normal mode was still an option? I generally prefer the normal mode, but that's mostly for reasons already mentioned, so with the proper tweaks, I could see Reading View working nicely. There is one thing, though, and I think Xc touched on it. When you crit in Reading View and you click on a paragraph to make a comment, the comments box drops down and veils some of the following paragraphs, which sometimes leads you to missing them altogether. Also, when you want to close a box in reading View, you have to press the 'Close' button, whereas in Normal mode you can press that button or just click on the highlighted paragraph again.
Fairchild 17 Jan 2014 at 14:02  
I don't use reading view. I like to see the whole story/crit at once.
Clarksvill 17 Jan 2014 at 15:22  

If you really hate the idea of the reading view becoming the only way to read and crit shout out please.


I WOULD REALLY HATE THE READING VIEW BECOMING THE ONLY WAY TO READ OR CRIT!

(You did ask. I would resent all that time spent unnecessarily turning pages, and why give up the ability to scroll up and down easily and check things? I do a lot of that. I want to be able to see all the comments.

I'm not bothered about being able to highlight, as long as we can still highlight and drag as well - I don't want to lose the ability to highlight and drag easily because I do so much of it, and if I couldn't do both I'd much prefer to keep the dragging.

I'm not interested in fonts or ways to change the look of anything.

I wouldn't mind if the only type of crit was inline.
Tonin 17 Jan 2014 at 16:06  
Not a fan of the reading view either, for reasons others have mentioned. If you do make it the only option, there's two major points I'd like to see addressed. First, being able to view all comments without hovering over them, and without hiding the story text. Both of those issues make it very difficult for me to either read or write crits.

The other point would be to not display page breaks when using the full-story scroll mode thing, since they just waste screen space.

The highlighting individual words idea sounds very interesting. Could save a lot of cut and paste when writing a crit.
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Clareeast 17 Jan 2014 at 16:37  
Quote by: Clarksvill


I WOULD REALLY HATE THE READING VIEW BECOMING THE ONLY WAY TO READ OR CRIT!



Me too.

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Jcdrake 19 Jan 2014 at 02:36  
Add one more the the -Not a Reading View Fan- pile.
Benjaminlg 19 Jan 2014 at 06:12  
Quote by: Clareeast
Quote by: Clarksvill


I WOULD REALLY HATE THE READING VIEW BECOMING THE ONLY WAY TO READ OR CRIT!



Me too.
<br>


triple vote!
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Chaine 20 Jan 2014 at 03:10  
Having to toggle the CC spellchecker on and off is tedious chore that most CC members seen to avoid. I would like the spell checker to be similar to that of Microsoft Word, Open Office and many other programs in which spelling mistakes are highlighted as the text is typed. This would help writers to avoid spelling mistakes, and would help critters who often have to amend the errors.
I would also like the spellchecker to be available in different languages. For example UK English, USA English and other forms of English. The writer states the form of English that he uses and this may help differing forms of English to be acceptable.
Provision could also be made for other languages. Free downloads of dictionaries in a variety of languages are available on the internet. Each Critique Circle member would be able to download the languages of their choice.

Nonnib (administrator) 20 Jan 2014 at 15:16  
chaine, spell checking is integrated into most major browsers, such as firefox and much better than I could hope to achieve. It should be enabled in your browser by default. If it is not, take a look at google for help to get it working.

reading-view haters, It seems most of the issue is that you cannot see your inline comments. I will take a look at that and see id I can make everyone happy.
Clarksvill 20 Jan 2014 at 15:34  
I think most of the issue is that you can't scroll up and down the story to check things easily.
Megrim 20 Jan 2014 at 16:18  
I quite dislike reading view. I prefer the width/size of the normal view, it's more aesthetically pleasing to me; I just plain find the reading view unpleasant to look at. But like others I also really don't like not being able to scroll all over the place rapidly. I often quickly check my own comments or re-read paragraphs from earlier on, and it helps a lot to have everything on one page.
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Chaine 20 Jan 2014 at 16:45  

chaine, spell checking is integrated into most major browsers, such as firefox and much better than I could hope to achieve. It should be enabled in your browser by default. If it is not, take a look at google for help to get it working.


reading-view haters, It seems most of the issue is that you cannot see your i line comments. I will take a lok at that and see id I can make everyone happy.

The browser that I use, most of the time, is Firefox. Its spellchecker works fine outside of Critique Circle. If the Critique Circle spellchecker works automatically, why would we need a toggle switch? I don't understand what you're saying.
When I write anything, such as critique, forum message, note, etc. I need to follow the instructions given in the FAQ section: www.critiquecircle.com/faq.asp?all=0
Am I missing something? Am I the only member who has to use the spellchecker toggle?
If I were using Microsoft Word, for instance, the wrongly spelt word would be underlined in red to show the error. This would alleviate many problems that I have listed.
One of the things the spell checker FAQ states is:

CCSpell is not available for story submissions. You should spell-check your stories in your word editor of choice before submitting to CC. There is also a limitation of 3000 words per text area. This is because spell checking adds an extra load on the server and we want to minimize that.

I believe that if each member downloaded an appropriate dictionary, or dictionaries, the load would be placed on each member's computer not the server. That makes sense to me. And, as I have said, the dictionaries are available free of charge. Why not use them if we can?

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Tonin 20 Jan 2014 at 17:08  
@ Clarksvill and Megrim:

You actually can view the whole story at the same time in reading view, and scroll up and down over all of it.

While reading view is active, there's a little link in the upper right corner next to the page size options that says "toggle scroll". It will display all the story pages on a single web page, similarly to the classic story view.
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Megrim 20 Jan 2014 at 21:41  
Quote by: Tonin
@ Clarksvill and Megrim:

You actually can view the whole story at the same time in reading view, and scroll up and down over all of it.

While reading view is active, there's a little link in the upper right corner next to the page size options that says "toggle scroll". It will display all the story pages on a single web page, similarly to the classic story view. <br>



Oh cool, I forgot about that. I still think it's ugly though
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Benjaminlg 21 Jan 2014 at 02:36  
Look, reading view just isn't as popular as the stats suggest. I'd speculate many of the new users who come and go within a few months use it — and this screws the numbers.
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Chaine 21 Jan 2014 at 03:44  
I can see I have put my message about the CC spellchecker in the wrong forum. Is it possible to transfer it, and the subsequent messages, to a better, more relevant, place?
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Clarksvill 21 Jan 2014 at 09:40  
Quote by: Benjaminlg
Look, reading view just isn't as popular as the stats suggest. I'd speculate many of the new users who come and go within a few months use it — and this screws the numbers. <br>

This is a good point.
Clarksvill 21 Jan 2014 at 09:52  
Quote by: Tonin
@ Clarksvill and Megrim:

You actually can view the whole story at the same time in reading view, and scroll up and down over all of it.

While reading view is active, there's a little link in the upper right corner next to the page size options that says "toggle scroll". It will display all the story pages on a single web page, similarly to the classic story view. <br>

Yeah, but you can't see the text as a whole entity. You can't judge the shape and the placing of breaks and the sizes of paragraphs that way.

I don't understand why anyone would want to have the text broken up onto individual pages and have to move their attention between pages on the screen rather than being able to see how everything is and flows and connects without the bother of artificial, random, pointless sections being created.

What exactly is gained by that? I can't see the point of it. It's just an irritation, an obstruction to clarity and a waste of navigation time.

(Yeah, I really do hate it.)

Clareeast 21 Jan 2014 at 10:07  
Quote by: Clarksvill


(Yeah, I really do hate it.)





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Tonin 21 Jan 2014 at 17:01  
Quote by: Clarksvill
Yeah, but you can't see the text as a whole entity. You can't judge the shape and the placing of breaks and the sizes of paragraphs that way.

I don't understand why anyone would want to have the text broken up onto individual pages and have to move their attention between pages on the screen rather than being able to see how everything is and flows and connects without the bother of artificial, random, pointless sections being created.

What exactly is gained by that? I can't see the point of it. It's just an irritation, an obstruction to clarity and a waste of navigation time.

(Yeah, I really do hate it.)



Preaching to the choir, man.

I was just pointing out that particular facet of the normal vs. story view debate is something of a wash (especially if the developers take my earlier suggestion to remove page breaks when in scroll mode). I strongly dislike the current reading view too, but with some work on the code behind it, I think it could be unified into one mode that satisfies most people.
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Clarksvill 22 Jan 2014 at 05:22  
If the work's not split into pages then I have no problem. But isn't that just like keeping the normal view?
Aries75 22 Jan 2014 at 06:56  
Quote by: Clarksvill
If the work's not split into pages then I have no problem. But isn't that just like keeping the normal view?

Perhaps the answer, then, is to keep normal view but give people options to customize it (e.g. changing background color, font size, line length, etc). Those who want to make changes can, and those who don't simply leave it the way it is.

Larrue 27 Jan 2014 at 09:01  
I agree, leave both options open.

My two cents on the changes to the site:

How about getting rid of that EXTREMELY bothersome 5000 character limit in messages? Makes commenting and sending snippets of text very difficult outside of a critique.

Also, in a critique, how about making the text inside a copy and paste from the story darker? It is almost invisible as it is now.


Ardyth 31 Jan 2014 at 21:18  
I just have to add to this after finally noticing it... I too really really hate reading view. It's ugly, annoying, and gets in the way of how I zoom up and down the text while critting. I crit the whole piece at once jumping around and making it look like "pages" is super distracting. I want the text in the nice easy format I use.

Consider that perhaps 50% of people don't use reading view because most of them don't like it when critiquing. It's easy to "discover" as it's right there! You could easily put it on default for new people if you want to push it, but I hope you won't force it on everyone. I tried it and it only crimped my style. I will be spectacularly annoyed if I'm forced to use it and may crit less. "Pages" slow my brain down when I crit or edit.
Ammonite7 10 Feb 2014 at 12:58  
I have never used reading mode. Probably because i started with normal and just kept to it. Please don't do anything that would making critiquing or submitting stories harder to do on a Mac. I was invited to join ReadWave, which I did, until they made a bunch of changes and now nothing seems to work with my Mac.

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