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Friday@#& *&#$%#$% #$%$#%!!!10 comments · 159 views
After the recent site update, the list of users who favorited a story is NO LONGER AVAILABLE.
That's a catastrophe for my recommendation system. With favorites by story, I could just pull the favorites on the top 1000 stories, and that provided enough data to bootstrap the system. More importantly, I could get the favorites off new stories as they come out.
About a year ago, the site stopped giving you the full list and truncated it at the most-recent 200. That was pretty bad. It meant the lists were biased in unpredictable ways.
But now, I have to get favorites from user's pages. That means that to have daily updates, instead of querying 100 new stories a day for a list of who favorited them, I'd have to query 100,000 user pages a day. I can't do that.
I don't think my recommendation system can work anymore. Or, if it did, it wouldn't be able to recommend a story until a month or two after it came out.
I can get crude estimates by taking the current user's list of favorites, finding a list of "similar" users, and querying the favorites off of them. But I don't think that will scale well.
WednesdaySomething Not Safe for Ghost53 comments · 484 views
28 comments · 297 views
I wanted to refer to my reblog of "Everything I Needed To Know About Life, I Learned From Supervillains" in a PM to Causal Quill. But it looks like I never wrote it. Did I never post this before?
is an awesome blog post by PJ Eby, author, self-improvement guru, & LessWrongian, on his blog, DirtSimple.org . I can't improve on it; I'll just quote part of it:
In the movies, the villains typically:
- Have a vision and goals, for how they'd like things to be in the future
- Believe that they deserve -- and are capable of obtaining -- everything they want in life
- Proactively seek the fulfillment of their goals, and persistently work towards achieving them
- Are willing to plan and prepare for years, then execute that plan in a well-disciplined manner, having anticipated as many issues as possible, with well-thought out contingency plans
- Are very willing to delegate most tasks to their staff of loyal, highly-motivated employees... who they somehow managed to recruit, train, and persuade to follow along with their shared vision.
Meanwhile, the heroes tend to:
- Be reactive, rather then proactive -- they wait until something bad happens, then try to solve the problem afterwards
- Be reactionary, rather than progressive -- they try to put things back the way they were, instead of changing them for the better
- Rarely promote a shared vision, preferring to work alone or with only a partner or two... who they don't trust with anything really important!
- Rarely anticipate the possible failure modes of their plans, to the extent that they plan anything at all!
- Use their talents and abilities rarely, for emergencies only, instead of keeping them in top condition or proactively using them to improve things
- Not believe they personally deserve anything good out of life, or that things will ever get better for them
... I didn't really think all that much about it, until this past week. It just seemed like an amusing, cynical observation about Hollywood: that movies are designed to make people feel better about their crappy lives, by allowing them to subconsciously identify with the "good" guys.
But that was only because I didn't realize just how much this applied to me.
Or that on the inside, I was still trying to be the hero.
And that it was perhaps the single biggest source of pain in my entire life!
What's good about being special? "I'm better than everyone." What's good about that?
- If I'm a hero, I won't get hurt
- If I'm a hero, it's okay that I'm alone or have few friends
- If I'm a hero, it's okay that people look down on me, because that's just my secret identity
- If I'm a hero, I'm strong on the inside, even if I seem weak on the outside
- If I'm a hero, it's okay for me to strike at those who hurt others, the way they hurt me
All in all, the superhero fantasy was more attractive to my 7-year-old self (the approximate age where these thoughts originated) than I'd ever realized. And consciously, it had never even occurred to me that they were anything but idle daydreams and escape fantasies.
I had no way of knowing that, when I adopted this superhero ideal, the following personality traits would come along with it:
- If you're a hero, you're just strong and successful and equipped... automatically -- you don't have to practice or work out or really do anything at all to become successful (Impatience with details and implementation)
- If you're a hero, you should never use your powers (talents and abilities) for any personal gain... unless it's an emergency. (Procrastination, not to mention failure to pursue non-work goals)
- If you're a hero, it's your job to right wrongs... not to make good things. (Perfectionism!)
- If you're a hero, it's your job to do the impossible, or at least the extraordinary... so leave the ordinary things to ordinary people (More perfectionism, not to mention elitism!)
- If you're a hero, you have to rely on yourself... so don't share your secrets with anyone, or expect anyone to be able to help you with your problems... frankly, it's laughable that they'd be able to understand your issues, let alone help. (Arrogance, closed-mindedness, and other a**holery)
- If you're a hero, everything is serious business. Deadly serious. All the frickin' time. You can enjoy other people being happy, but don't expect to have any free time that can't be interrupted for something more important. (Recipe for struggle, suffering, and general life imbalance.)
The post goes into more depth on how this subverted his attempts at self-improvement. I don't know if his course or books or whatever it is he's flogging are good, but I think this post is brilliant.
6d, 21hI don't want to know...26 comments · 321 views
6d, 21hFifty shades of marketing27 comments · 258 views
My question about "story views" reminded me...
"Fifty Shades of Grey" was a spectacularly popular Twilight fan-fiction; it had over two million downloads online. The publishing giant Vintage Press saw that number and realized they had a hit on their hands. They filed off the Twilight serial numbers, put it in print, marketed it like hell, and now it's sold 60 million copies, satisfying a huge but previously unrealized market for bad BDSM chick-lit-porn.
Part of that is true.
Though the Twilight fandom was very large, it was still too small, I thought, for one story to have two million reads. A little searching and I found the original quote was "over two million hits". It was reported by Anne Jamison, author of "fic: Why Fan-Fiction is Taking Over the World". I emailed her and asked where that number came from. She replied,
The "millions" numbers I had were not public; I had them from screenshots from various writers. The counts were from fanfiction.net which, for the Twilight fandom, remained the biggest hub--most if not all stories that were also posted at Twilighted.net and TWCS were also posted on ff.net. Ff.net tallies reads but doesn't--unlike Wattpad or AO3--make them public.
But for all the sites, read or hit counts are for every time someone clicks on the story--so if they click through the front page to get to chapter 37, that's 2 reads.
Fan-fiction is published one chapter at a time. "Fifty Shades of Grey" has 26 chapters, but when it was originally published on fanfiction.net as "Master of the Universe", it had over 100 chapters. More digging by gwern showed that the story had over 40,000 reviews when it was on chapter 70. It had 37,000 reviews when it reached 2 million hits. So let's say it had 65 chapters when it reached 2 million hits on fanfiction.net.
fanfiction.net adds 1 hit every time any page of the story is reloaded. If you go to chapter 1 and read all the way through to chapter 120 in one sitting, that's 120 hits. If you log in, see it updated, go to chapter 1, and then go from there to the new chapter, that's at least 239 hits to read the book. If you refresh the page, that's another hit. (I verified this myself by refreshing one chapter of one story of mine 3 times on fanfiction.net, checking the stats before and after.) If you read half of one chapter one day, and log in again and finish it the next, that's at least 2 hits. If you leave it in an open tab on your computer, that's 1 hit every time you open your browser. If you reread the story, the hits double. If you click on the story each day to see if it's updated, hits go way up.
Two million hits on a 65-chapter story means a theoretical maximum of 2,000,000 / 65 = 30,769 readers had read it on fanfiction.net when that "two million" figure was reported. More likely, given re-readings, users who always go in through chapter 1, users who quit halfway through, browser refreshes, etc., perhaps 10,000 readers finished it on fanfiction.net, and let's say another 10,000 on other sites. That's about as many readers as finished My Roommate is a Vampire.
What actually happened was that a fanfiction that had been read by at most a few tens of thousands of people was reported on in a way that misled publishers into thinking that it had millions of readers, when really, it just had a lot of chapters. So they put a major marketing campaign behind it, and sold tens of millions of copies.
But was Fifty Shades of Grey really what people wanted? Or would the same thing have happened with almost any book they'd marketed as heavily?
Being an Excerpt from the Reminisces of John H. Watson, M.D., of the Canterlot General Hospital
Chapter 1. My friend, Fetlock Holmes.
In the course of my association with Mr. Fetlock Holmes, I have often been the subject of his keen insight. More than once, this has made me wish he would turn his unflinching gaze upon himself. I learned how needless that wish was from a peculiar entanglement with a most peculiar mare.
To Holmes, she is always "the mare." I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name. In his eyes she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex. If he once felt something akin to love for her, he at least believes he has since sublimated it into an intellectual admiration. He never speaks of the softer passions save with a gibe and a sneer. For him to admit such an intrusion into his own finely adjusted temperament would be to introduce grit in a sensitive instrument. And yet, to him, there is but one mare. It was in Fillydelphia that we first encountered her.
Holmes' appearance regularly drew attention in Canterlot, that magnet for everything and everypony outlandish or excessive in Equestria. He could hardly pass unnoticed on the streets of Fillydelphia. In height he was rather over fifteen hooves at the withers, and so excessively lean that he seemed considerably taller. By breed he should have been a plow-horse, but one could not imagine him engaged in dactylous labor. Aside from his ectomorphic frame, he had a delicacy of touch in his hooves not exceeded by any unicorn; and something imperious in his eyes as well that at times called to mind the Canterlot high-bred. But he walked with the awkward urgency of a grounded pegasus, and I was once again pressed to keep up with him without breaking into a trot, as we headed from the train station towards the center of the city.
He would have stood out even had he not had a completely uniform tan coat, bare of decoration on both flanks. Either by virtue of his mastery of innumerable subjects, of his impatience for pursuing any of them with regularity, or (as I am inclined to believe) through sheer force of stubbornness, Holmes had managed to avoid ever manifesting a cutie mark relegating him to one trade or another. I may give the impression in my missives that detective work was his sole occupation; but in reality it took only a fraction of his time, and served as much as a framework to organize and justify his hobbies and vices, as a profession.
The sight was too much for one blue-maned unicorn on the other side of the street, who cocked his head and widened his eyes until I could see the whites. My companion stopped abruptly as we drew up beside him.
"I see you were admiring my mark. That is a sign of distinction." He tapped his forehead with one hoof and smiled conspiratorily. "Only the wise can see it."
The stallion glanced at Holmes, at Holmes' blank flank, and back at Holmes again. "Ah... remarkable!" he replied.
"Really? What do you think of it?"
"Think... of it?" The poor fellow – it is impossible not to think of anypony who falls into Holmes' hooves when he is in a mischievous mood as a poor fellow, no matter wealth or breeding – twitched his ears back and forth, uncertain whether to venture an opinion or bolt.
"Yes, yes. The coloring, the geometry. Does it call anything to mind?"
"Not... immediately. Unique, I should say." The unicorn took a harder look. "Yes... unique. Excuse me, I have a train..." He sidled off, then hurried towards the station at which we had just disembarked, looking shaken.
"Holmes!" I admonished as we resumed our walk. "You should be ashamed of yourself."
"On the contrary, I have rendered him a service. I have taught him that he is not wise."
"But by deception!"
"That is the difference between you and I, Watson. You are a deontologist; I, a consequentialist."
"I haven't a deuce what you're talking about."
Holmes whinnied briefly. "Thank you, Doctor. It is refreshing to converse with somepony who will admit to not knowing something."
"It is fortunate for our friendship, Holmes," I huffed, "that I do not feel the same."
He tossed his head up and pulled back his lips. "Ha! Touché, Watson!"
He is a horse not given to sentimentalities, observing no emotional allegiances beyond those of close friends and, I charitably assume, family. Yet I have never seen him exercise his sharp wit this way on his fellow earth ponies. It is one of the many contradictions of his character. I would not ordinarily mention such small indulgences of his, but I think this one bears on this case in particular.
"I suppose I will allow you your vices, Holmes, if you will allow me mine."
"Did you have any particular vice in mind?"
"Indeed," I said, already scanning the storefronts along the road. "I plan to find a pub and a pint, and ply you with drink, if need be, until you tell me why you were so intent on arriving here by six for an exhibit that closed at five."
"Ah! I see where that might be confusing. Do not worry about the exhibit; I have an appointment with the curator at six. But it is essential that we see the magic show at seven. I am afraid your drink must wait."
Holmes has a bitter fascination with magic. He has often bemoaned the difficulty of eliminating the impossible when anypony with a horn can violate the laws of physics on a whim, and expressed the opinion that the world would be a good deal more orderly without such nonsense. Yet he devotes entire days to the study of magical theory, and delights in confounding well-educated unicorns with his superior mastery of the subject. He mostly applies this knowledge in eliminating magic as a possibility from his cases. Nonetheless, I could not see his practical study of the matter carrying over into a desire, or even an ability, to be entertained by a magical impresario. I told him as much.
"You are correct, Watson," he replied cheerfully. "We are not going to the show to be entertained. We are going there to witness the theft of the Starry Night."