My apologies to Pink Floyd for the title. I definitely sang it in my head when I thought of it and typed it.
So this post has been one I've been thinking of in drips and drabs for a while now. It's based on things I've seen in blogs, comments, and even said to me in private channels. So please forgive me if it's not entirely coherent and a bit rant-ish.
First off, as the title states we do not have an algorithm. We don't do anything artificial to boost any posts. Our "random solos" feature IS using a standard random choice math or algorithm, but it's not weighted in any way. We don't tweak what you see.
When your story first appears, we try to keep it there for about 7 days. If you post multiple chapters in that 7 days, we try to keep the latest chapter up, but not the previous. IF you post multiple stories, we generally ask you to keep it to less than five. This helps keep access to the front page fair, while still keeping the list of stories on the front page short.
At various times of the year, when publishing surges, we will sometimes shorten the length of things that stay on the front page to as little as 4 days, and when things are really slow, they could last longer than 7. But for the most part this is all done by hand. There are Moderators other than the Admins who watch the front page, and move stuff off based on a set of rules we have defined over the life of Top Shelf, and using their best judgement.
The same happens for Blogs/Forums/Etc. Generally each user gets "one" Blog/Forum Post, Etc on the front page. There are exceptions, mostly for admins, but we created this Admin Content as a way to separate "business" stuff from our personal stuff to help elevate that.
Beyond that the only thing that defines who reads your story, and what kind of response you get, is you. The quality of your story, the quality of your writing (yes, spelling, and grammar do make a difference), and the quality of the sense of community you build around your story all dictate the type of response you will have.
For some people, a great story will trump bad spelling, grammar, punctuation and such. But for others, those things are paramount. So if you choose to have one but not another, that is a choice you are choosing to make, and making the first split from your audience.
When it comes to community, it's all about how you respond. If a reader questions a choice, or makes an assumption or if they supply an edit for bad grammar or spelling, how you take that constructive criticism directly impacts the community around your story. If you are gracious and accept the suggestions, or politely talk to your community about why they don't work, or why you chose to do what you did, you will find you will have a greater gathering. You will develop a "following" of sorts.
At the same time, we get it. No one likes to see their flaws. They don't like to see anyone "attack" what they so painstakingly built. However the healthiest way to think of it is that people aren't trying to attack you or tear it down, instead they are trying to help you build and fortify. If you get your readers so involved that they want to be part of the process, then that just shows you how great a story you have put forth this far.
But in the end, not everyone will like what you write. No matter how perfect it is, no matter how many others love it, there is someone that won't. And that's OK. You have your audience, and if you choose to grab more by honing your craft and learning as you go, then that's awesome and you will go far. But if you don't and decide that what you do right now is just fine, and are happy with the response, then that is fine also.
However one last bit. This is a friendly place for EVERYONE. Not just authors, but readers too.