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Friday@#& *&#$%#$% #$%$#%!!!10 comments · 153 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 · 292 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, 14hI don't want to know...26 comments · 321 views
6d, 15hFifty 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?
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is bookplayer's fault. See this blog post by DH and this comment by bookplayer. Also see bookplayer's How to do a Sonic Rainboom, which has nothing to do with this story but is really good. NOT NOW! After you read this story. I'm not allowed to use the OC tag because device heretic and bookplayer invented the character, so there.
Churning dark clouds hurried overhead past Ponyville, blown on a chill, foreshadowing wind. The red glow on their undersides faded as the sun's last rays died and night descended on the town.
The gaunt, old grey unicorn pulled his tattered and dusty cloak tighter about him as he made his slow and deliberate way down the town's empty streets. The traveler paid no mind to the street signs, but stopped now and then to sniff the air, and cock an ear to the sky, before grunting to himself and continuing. Eventually he found himself on the doorstep of a nice Ponyville townhouse, one of those new tri-levels going up on the south end. He eyed the row of peonies in a window flowerbox dubiously before rapping heavily and ominously on the door.
Inside, the red-and-black alicorn Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade stood in a room by himself, silently regarding a tan chaise lounge situated between two oak end tables, one with a brass lamp with fringes on its shade, the other with a vase of red flowers. His massive muscles rippled with every movement of his battle-scarred body as he turned his head, first to one end table, then to the other. On hearing the hollow, foreboding knock, he turned and looked over his shoulder.
"Honey, could you get that?" he called.
An earth pony stallion with a maple-sugar coat and mane trotted down the hallway, past the room where Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade stood pondering the furniture arrangement, and into the entrance foyer. He opened the door to find the stranger waiting there. They both twitched their noses and blinked, looking equally surprised. Then the stranger spoke, in the deep, unwavering voice of one who has seen unspeakable sights and knows terrible and glorious secrets.
"I have followed the scent of destiny to your doorstep, young stallion. I have grave words to speak, and grim – but there is yet cause for hope."
The earth pony turned his head over his shoulder and shouted, "I think it's one of those Jehoovah's Witnesses."
"Just flame at him and he'll run away," Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade called back.
"I don't flame," the earth pony said.
"I have come from a distant land, drawn here by emanations of vast magical power, and by prophecy."
"Oh, come on, just roll your eyes at him and call him 'darling'! It'd be so cute."
"Not gonna happen, Nighty."
"The fate of all Equestria hangs in the balance!" the unicorn intoned.
The earth pony nodded. "Yeah, yeah. Look. Come in for a second, I can get you some water, okay? But then you hafta leave." He took one step towards the kitchen.
"SILENCE!" the old unicorn thundered, and when he stamped one hoof for emphasis, a lightning bolt split the sky behind him and left an echoing crack and a ringing in all their ears.
"My bad," the earth pony called over his shoulder. "He's an adventurer."
"Oh, Celestia!" Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade called back. "They're even worse!"
The unicorn cleared his throat. "I am Dan-galf Shadowhax, the grey pony, the midnight crow, counsellor of kings..."
"Come on, Nighty, you know he's here for you."
"... summoner of tides, wayfarer of wastes..."
"I'm not here! Can he hear me?"
"... keeper of the crimson croissant, and I must speak to the prophesied one – to Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade!" He glared at the earth pony with the visage of one used to commanding armies and giving stern warnings to kings and queens.
The earth pony stared right back. "Yeah. Well, he's a little busy. So whattya need?"
The unicorn scrutinized the brown earth pony doubtfully. "And who might you be?"
"Phil," the earth pony answered.
The traveler frowned. He did not look like a pony used to being denied an audience, or to explaining himself to ponies named Phil.
"Look," Phil said, "let me guess. You got an evil sorcerer needs killing, a relic of great power to get or destroy, a dangerous rift that might open a portal to another dimension, or some kinda Discord-related issue."
The traveler said angrily, "Do not speak to me as though I were a colt! I have climbed the heights of Mt. Varanus, I have ridden the wind on the backs of dragons, and I—"
The old unicorn turned his face away. "The third," he muttered.
"Yeah. And it's in the Everfree Forest, right?"
Dan-galf raised both eyebrows.
"I thought so. It's rift season. Just hold on here a moment." He disappeared into the back briefly, then re-emerged holding a battered black steel toolbox in his mouth, which he set on the floor. "Nighty," he called, "I'm gonna go help this guy with his rift, okay?"
"But we were going to go through that new catalog from Neighman-Marecus together tonight!"
"I'll be back quick, I promise."
Phil groaned. "Pinky-promise." He turned back to the old unicorn. "Now let's you and me go take a look at this rift, then we can come back here and you can talk to Nighty if you still want."
The unicorn stamped one hoof stubbornly. "The prophesied one must come!"
"Look, he's staring at the furniture again, and in another few minutes he's gonna start pushing it around, and that could go on for an hour."
"The prophecy says—"
Phil raised a hoof, cutting him off, and said, "Listen. Do you like musical dance numbers?"
He grimaced. "I despise them."
"Then leave him here. Trust me. So, this rift. Does it go hiss, or a sort of zhurp-zhurp-zhurp?"
The old pony sighed and slumped his shoulders. "It's more of a zhurp zhurp," he said.
"Uh-huh. And would you say it pulses, streams, or just glows steady-like?"
"Pulses. It throbs with an other-worldly—"
"Uh-huh. Gonna need a socket wrench." He opened the toolbox and began rummaging through it, tossing a few tools onto the floor. "Is this rift English or metric? Ah, better take both sets."
Dan-galf gasped at the pile of tools, some of which were forged from metals that were a wicked-looking cold grey, or strangely iridescent, and covered in ancient runes. "Is that – is that the Dagger of Invictus?"
"Yeah," Phil said. "Nighty gave me that. Never needs sharpening. Wish I had a dozen of those babies."
"And the Hammer of Amit?"
"Yeah, we're gonna need that to drive in some shims," Phil said. He threw some of the tools back in the box, left the Dagger of Invictus and a few others lying there on the floor, then strapped on some saddlebags that were hanging in the foyer and put the toolbox inside.
"I still don't understand," the old pony said. "Why is Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade, the great warrior foretold to us in ancient prophecies, obsessed with the placement of furniture?"
Phil leaned in, put one foreleg around Dan-galf and said quietly, "Well, lemme put it this way. Some ponies believe that every guy like me and Nighty is a natural-born genius at matching colors and furniture and all that."
The gray pony wrinkled his brow, perplexed. "Like you and Nighty?"
"Yeah, but it's just a myth."
"And your... friend is one of the few with real talent?"
"Phil!" Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade called from down the hall. "Have you seen my color swatches?"
"They're Rarity's swatches, which you were borrowing, and she came by and picked them up yesterday because you never returned them," Phil called out. He turned back to the old unicorn and leaned in closer. "My 'friend' is one of the ponies who believes the myth. Come on, let's get out of here before there's a montage or something." He pushed Dan-galf the grey pony out the door and shut it behind him.
Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade absent-mindedly stroked his chin with the blood-red pearl of great magical power mounted in his adamantium-clawed battle-hoofring while he contemplated the two end tables. End tables normally went on the two ends of something; but the whole purpose of a chaise lounge was to break up that kind of symmetry. Functionally, both end tables should go at the end where a pony's head would go, one behind and one beside the lounge. But that would push the lounge away from the wall and leave a big unusable empty space behind it, which was bad Feng Shui.
He loved chaise lounges, but the mystery of how to coordinate them with matched end tables still eluded him. Possibly... if you pushed it back into a corner, angled so that the end table behind the lounge just fit into the space between the lounge and the corner...
A little less than an hour later, Phil and Dan-galf returned. "Amazing," Dan-galf was muttering. "We are eternally grateful to you... Phil."
"Remember to check on it every week with the torque wrench, crank it back up to 35 if it goes under 30 pounds, but no more or you'll strip the threads. Whack the shims if they start working their way out. Let me know if reality starts going a little wibbly-wobbly."
"I shall, Phil of Ponyville," Dan-galf said. "This I swear by—"
"Phil!" Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade exclaimed, galloping into the room. "You simply must see what I've done with the sitting room! You're going to love it."
"Can we still sit in it?"
"Come, come, come!" Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade tugged at Phil with a fiery red plasma of immense yet gentle magical power.
"Hail, Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade!" Dan-galf said. "I have heard the bards sing of your—"
Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade jerked his tall, stately head toward Dan-galf. "My designs? You've heard of them?"
Phil shook his head urgently at Dan-galf.
"Er... no. I have heard tell of your deeds of bravery..."
But the handsome alicorn had already lost interest and turned his deep, soulful red eyes on Phil. "You won't believe it. I asked myself, How can I balance a tan lounge with oak end-tables? That's bad color theory right there to begin with. But I found these forest-green throw-pillows..."
Phil mouthed Get out while you can! to Dan-galf and waved him towards the door as he was dragged backwards by the irresistible strength of the equally-irresistible alicorn.
"Er... I take my leave of you, Dark Demon King Ravenblood Nightblade. And of you... Phil." He watched them disappear down the hallway and into the sitting room.
"Nighty!" he heard Phil exclaim. "It's exactly the same as before!"
Then Dan-galf Shadowhax the grey pony, counsellor of kings, shut the door behind him very quietly and ventured back into the cold and windy night.