Pages Unbound Is Closing

Closed DoorAlexandra Erin recently announced the closing of her filter site Pages Unbound. It must have been a very difficult decision for her to make, and I respect her move to do so – she’s got 4 other serials to maintain, after all, and that is no small feat.

Personal feelings aside I would like now to point out a few important implications this move would have on the blooking community at large. The first and most obvious is the sudden vacuum created by its loss. At the moment many blooks derive their traffic from PU, and we have to remember that there is an ecosystem of readers and writers clustered around it. People come in from other blooks, check out what PU has to offer, and then jump off to another one. Rinse, lather and repeat. PU’s loss means this ecosystem will have to shift to another site, and it will take time to do so.

The good news is that we do have another site – and a good one at that. Chris Poirier and Sarah Suleski have together created a brilliant filter at Web Fiction Guide, a site that will certainly serve as another platform to promote good fiction in PU’s wake. The bad news is that WFG works on a different model from PU, and that presents several challenges to the community as a whole.

WFG is editor-powered. I have talked about editorial based filters vs wisdom-of-the-crowd filters before, and we know that both have different but complimentary sets of strengths and weaknesses. I have also pointed out some of PU’s teething problems in the past, problems that any crowd-powered filter would face.

So here’s the thing: PU’s loss means that we’ll lose a major crowd-based filter, and we’ll have to rely solely on an editorial based one. This is not good for a few reasons: a major limitation of the editorial model is the amount of digital fiction it can process. There will come a time when there would be too much good fiction and too little editors to review and rank them. Volume is the one major advantage that sites like PU have – it is democratic and it’s been proven to work in a vast majority of Internet scenarios (think Google search and Digg). We’ll need one sooner or later, regardless of how successful WFG is. Both types of site complements each other; it’s not WFG or PU, it’s WFG and PU.

So why not keep PU going? I suggest we take over the management of the site, if Lexy agrees. I know she’s pointed out that she doesn’t think that it’s worth it, but I don’t think so. Even though PU runs on off-the-shelf components, I believe it’ll be a lot easier to capitalize on both the site’s credibility, community and brand at a later stage, if we want to do a revamp (and we probably will want to recode major parts of it). At any rate, it would make no sense to restart a PU clone later on from scratch – why reinvent the wheel when the wheel’s already running? And there is of course the teething problems that we’ve learnt from in PU’s implementation – something that all new wisdom-of-the-crowd sites would face sooner or later.

I propose keeping PU. I’m having exams at the moment, so I won’t be much help in the sense that I can’t do anything remotely server related. I am however willing to underwrite the costs of moving PU. I’ve already got a bunch of people on NovLounge and elsewhere in favour of this idea, and they’re willing to contribute their time and energy to the continued effort of running PU. I’d like now to ask the majority of blookers, readers and writers out there: what do you think of this? Please tell me your comments.

Update: I’m mistaken in thinking WFG to be completely editor powered. There is a significant crowd aspect to it which has not been utilized because it is a relatively new site. That being said, here’s a-for and-against analysis for keeping Pages Unbound.

For

There are a lot of reviews and a pretty strong community around Pages Unbound. It also has a relatively high profile within our community, meaning new people discover it and benefit from the information there despite slow progress from the owner. Deleting PU off the bat would mean losing a whole bunch of reader recommendations, reviews, forum discussions and also the appearance of dead links on the various blogs and blooks linking to it. Not particularly appealing.

Against

Much of PU’s success has been because of Alexandra Erin’s status in the blooking community. Keeping PU without her personality on board would be a loss to the filter. On top of that Erin is right in pointing out that modifications to the site will be difficult – Joomla is not known as one of the simplest CMSes around. If code modifications are hard then it will be difficult to correct the problems that PU faces – gaming of the system, spite rankings, etc. It would be far better to destroy everything anyway and custom code a solution.

Open Mike

I’d like to hear your thoughts on this. Should we take over PU from Alexandra, or should we close down and redirect to WFG? I am in favour of keeping PU in stasis for a period of time while we determine the feasibility of a) continuing b) moving over to Web Fiction Guide. That way the reviews will at least be preserved for a longer period, and there would some form of community transfer through this pause. Either way the community would benefit more than an instant shutdown of the site. Which side do you stand on?

Disclaimer: I am an editor on WFG’s board. Also, I have emailed Lexy and I’m currently waiting for a reply. As founder her opinion is paramount in this undertaking – if she refuses we must respect her decision.

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Category: News · Writing Web Fiction
  • http://obtrusive.blogspot.com Sebatinsky

    You can see what my level of involvement has been lately from the fact that I was unaware of this development.

    I think that the loss of PU would be a fairly large blow to the web fiction community. PU really has its foot in the door in a way that I’m not sure any other review site does. Eventually, if it doesn’t stick around, some other site will crop up to fulfill that role – but we would be set back.

    Hopefully, somebody takes of PU, or starts something similar very soon that all the folks currently there can jump on.

    I should spend some more time checking out WFG.

  • http://inmydaydreams.com jz

    WFG falls into the category of “something very similar” while being different in some good ways.

    That being said, having AE behind something like that gives it a huge amount of clout among those who read her stuff. That’s the big hurdle that anything else that tries to do the same thing faces.

  • http://www.alanbaxteronline.com Alan

    The loss of PU would be really sad. If you guys can get on board and take over I think it can still work without Erin’s presence. Not the same, of course, but it will still work. My vote is for you guys to step in and my deepest thanks if you do!

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  • http://www.meilinmiranda.com/ MeiLin Miranda

    I don’t think PU would work without AE. The sole reason it has the influence it has is because she flogs it on her own sites. That’s it. I’m not saying it’s bad or anything–I’m saying that’s how people knew it existed.

  • http://www.alanbaxteronline.com Alan

    Sure, that’s why it works now. But whoever takes it over can flog it on their sites and we can flog it on ours. AE was great – it’s up to everyone else to continue her good work.

  • http://www.themutantstory.com/?page_id=2 Sonja

    I don’t think PU has to be taken over (though I do think it would be wise to keep it in stasis for the reasons Eli mentioned above). I consider it as the first step towards a bigger, better, web novel community, but that’s all it is/was — a first step.

    If someone else wants to take over PU, more power to them.

    On a personal note, I don’t really have the desire to attempt to keep PU up or anything along those lines. I already think WFG improved upon AE’s idea and made the community better for it.

    What’s happening with PU is the natural — I’m trying to phrase this in a way that isn’t trite, but I can’t (perhaps I’m too tired). The fact is, there’s a time for everything and it’s the nature of things to live and die.

  • http://childrenofthefirst.com Alex McG

    I think the WFG does a pretty good job of filling the listings and reviews void, but I think the real loss would be the forums.
    If WFG doesn’t decide to add forums onto the site, it will definitely need to be hosted somewhere else.
    I’d be willing to set something up or help set something up if no one else is going to step up to it.

  • http://inmydaydreams.com jz

    For what it’s worth, WFG will be adding forums.

  • http://childrenofthefirst.com Alex McG

    Awesome. That is great news.

  • http://bigmellymills.blogspot.com/ GGCT

    WFG is a fun-looking site that’s easy to navigate, while PU was always tough to figure out and we never got the click-through traffic that other people are raving about. Still, two directory sites are better than one.

  • http://bigmellymills.blogspot.com/ GGCT

    Also there’s a great forum for blog fiction at forum.blogfiction.org with a directory of sites — blog fiction is a more specialized subset of web fiction in general but yet another place for a budding community of authors to support each other’s work.

  • http://inmydaydreams.com jz

    Incidentally, the forums at WFG are now open and work…

  • http://www.novelr.com Eli James

    GCCT: I wasn’t aware of those forums before. Thanks for pointing it out.

    On a related note, I haven’t got a conclusive reply from Erin yet. Am wondering what to do while we’re waiting.

  • http://srsuleski.com/ srsuleski

    To be honest, I think our time is better spent working on improving Web Fiction Guide than trying to keep Pages Unbound afloat. It you get pulled in too many directions, everything falters, as I believe this whole situation with AE and her stories and PU shows.

  • Kitty

    I’ve been to PU a couple of times, but to be honest, I didn’t find it to be particularly useful. I checked out a couple of stories that had good ratings and found the quality to be lacking; this is one of the things that turned me off web fiction in the first place.

    I find WFG to be a much more useful resource, it seems far more balanced to me, and there’s a lot to be said simply about the consistency of having things reviewed by the same editors. I can learn which editors share my taste and which don’t, and choose which stories to look at accordingly. But I can also balance the editorial opinion with what regular members have said.

    Since WFG has managed to keep even a stodgy person like me, who resists newfangled shtuff like blooks (I gotta say the term “blook” makes me shudder in horror) poking around for stuff to read, I’d have to say that it makes a far better resource than PU. I don’t really see any reason to beat a dead horse when there’s a perfectly good new horse standing right there in the coral XP

  • http://obtrusive.blogspot.com Sebatinsky

    OK, I’m convinced. WFG has taken and surpassed PU as a filter/editorial site. I find myself always using WFG and rarely PU. My one complaint is that there doesn’t appear to be a way to add works whose authors don’t know or care about WFG.

  • http://courage-my-friend.org Chris Poirier

    Send us an email to submissions@webfictionguide.com. If you can supply the information we normally get from the author, we’ll probably list it. To date, all of the non-author submissions we’ve gotten (2, that I can think of) have left us with the job, and we haven’t gotten to any of them yet, due to the workload of reviewing our existing listings. If you can supply the information, we’ll probably try to notify the author that the listing is going up, and then list it.

    Just do please let us know if you aren’t the author, so we don’t credit it to you.

  • http://yedda.com/people/5181189615966/ JinnaTrenona

    i am gonna show this to my friend, dude

  • http://www.chevenga.com Karen Wehrstein

    What needs to happen is that web fiction needs to transcend the impression that it’s the refuge of people who can’t get published traditionally — in other words, the slushpile in html.

    I think that WILL happen — I think it’s inevitable, as good writers realize that it can be a better deal than traditional publishing because there’s such a huge cost saving on cutting down, pulping, flattening and slapping ink on all those trees, and they can control both editorial and marketing (see my explanation why I’m doing it after publishing traditionally here — http://www.chevenga.com/faq.html, it’s down a ways.)

    Our job is to make it happen sooner rather than later. Part of that is by making sure our writing is of good quality, part is by doing good quality reviews, establishing online fiction awards and other forms of recognition, etc., and part is promoting original online fiction as a whole. Things can happen very fast on the Internet, so I have hope.

    I’ve signed one book onto WFC as Chris knows and will soon follow with another. (www.chevenga.com for those who are curious.)

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