We Aint Got No, algorithm....

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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.



"Thank" and "Love" that Piper

"Thank" and "Love" that Piper!


{I leave a trail of Kudos as I browse the site. Be careful where you step!}

I think it all boils down to why you write.

Patricia Marie Allen's picture

Personally, I write for several reasons. Number one is for personal enjoyment or fulfillment. My early work was a kind of therapy; an outlet for the regrets of missed opportunities or what I called, "could have beens/should have beens." After I got a handle on myself and who I was, I then simply enjoy seeing what I could do with a story idea. Lately, my best work (in my opinion) seems to come in the form of a challenge to make something different of an old trope.

In all of that, other's opinion of what I write takes a backseat to what I think about it. Mind you if others like it, then great. It gives me pleasure to know I've done something that others enjoy. I don't think I've had any kind of following and until I wrote "The Crush: Patty's Dilemma" I don't think there were more than twenty or so people who would go out of their way to read one of my stories. I was OK with that.

I totally surprised me that I won that competition. What's more it was the first time I really paid attention to reader response to my stories. Having it break 100 kudos was a shock. That win, got people to read my work. I try not to look at my "my stories" page often. Due to that story, my kudos count has gone up dramatically on many of my stories. I'm sure it was because readers now wanted to read what I'd written whereas before, my name was not known. Likewise, I've pretty much avoided reading comments until the story had been up for sometime. It's easier to accept criticism of you teenagers than of your toddler. Also, I don't write serials. No story is posted until it's complete and I'm happy with it just as it is. It goes up all at once. It is what it is; good, bad or ugly. When I do finally look at the comments, I do try to see the point of view if some chose to offer some suggestions to improve the work. However, I simply file the suggestion away for future work. Editing a posted story is a pain, so unless it's a glaring error, the story remains as posted.

If someone wants to call my attention to something that should be addressed it's better received in a politely worded PM. That was the case in Patty's Dilemma. Being in a rush to get it up for the competition, I managed to miss use a homonym. A reader gently pointed it out in a PM with the appropriate word. I happily went back and edited the story.

I'm not a very prolific writer, so many times when I do post something people just don't pay attention. So winning that competition got me noticed. I expect, due to not posting often, to slide into oblivion again. That's fine, as I said, I write mostly for my own enjoyment.


Happiness is being all dressed up and HAVING some place to go.
Semper in femineo gerunt


"Welcome to the Machine"
I "Wish you were here"
you gotta "Keep Talking"
otherwise you will be "Lost for Words"
as you "Set the controls for the Heart of the Sun"
and "I'll see you on the Dark Side of the Moon"

Sorry, could not resist it. I saw the Floyd for the first time 50 years ago (June at the Royal Albert Hall)

Thank you, Piper

I am a very long time reader of BC in all its evolutions and have been a supported for several years, as I can (I'm low fixed income). I really appreciate all you do for us to make our lives a little more tolerable. Keep it up! This is an amazing resource.

Still can't

Still can't do the macarena.

Him or me. No matter what I drink.

Not true

I thought everyone knew that algorithm was the former vice president's method of birth control...

Haha. I heard the music when I read the title! :-D

Thanks for the post. And thanks for not making BCTS into a data-mining vampire like certain unnamed Internet Behemoths now in the news.

I grew up in the days of BBSes, when passion was the priority (yes, bills needed to be paid - but commerce was not the driving force - getting by and keeping up the original mission superseded getting rich & cashing out.)

I still get that sense from BCTS. I can not thank you enough for keeping this Friendly Place alive.

I cherish the day I found BCTS and this community.

Thank you & the other admins for your perseverance. I can not express the depths of my gratitude.

If not for you, I never would have discovered so many talented authors. And my own ramblings would have died on my desktop.


Some thoughts from a writer on BCTS

persephone's picture


If I may, I would like to support and add to your thoughtful post?

The vast majority of our community (both readers and writers) are helpful and kind. We all have our own quirks and emotional buttons, but I don't think we could find a nicer bunch of people.

In the ten years I've been a member here I have seen more than a few altercations between readers and writers. So, I tried to identify the main causes, here are the top three I spotted:

  • As a writer we strive to create sympathetic and believable characters. The moment we share them we have to accept they are shared. Our readers invest in our heroine, her challenges and her journey. When our readers are kind enough to share their thoughts and feelings about any character it is not an attack, it is engagement and the highest praise, even if it does not support your vision or planned plot line.

  • A top flight commercial author has a team behind her. At the very least line editors and copy editors. We don't. In our head we have a story that needs to be told, and it's hard to slow down, step back and look objectively at our baby without a lot of practice. When we publish it is so easy to see criticism of our spelling, grammar or a technical detail as criticism of the whole. It isn't. Someone actually wants to help.

  • For a reader who is kind enough to comment, it is incredibly hard to convey one's emotions and intent properly with the written word. A good rule of thumb is to always start with praise and support, then suggest how to make something better, then finish with more kindness and support. Many of us who are publishing for the first time often have skins thinner than tissue paper.

Piper, you said at the end of your post,

However one last bit. This is a friendly place for EVERYONE. Not just authors, but readers too

I couldn't agree more.

Kind regards


Non sum qualis eram


What I heard when I saw the title was "(I can't get no) Satisfaction". ;-)

"Life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”
George Carlin

Thanks for the look behind the curtain

Iolanthe Portmanteaux's picture

Thanks for explaining all that. It's nice to know how things work.

Thanks to you and Erin and the others for your diligence and efforts! This is an extraordinary and special place that we shouldn't take for granted.

I realize it sounds mawkish and overblown to say it like that, but I honestly don't know where I'd be without this site, these stories, this opportunity, and the people here.

- Io


This morning I was out on my lawn with a hose -- hand-watering those areas that I has just seeded. My neighbor has black walnut trees. They're wonderful trees, except they kill a lot of vegetation around them, including most grass. I've seeded with Kentucky Blue Grass, but I need diversity and now I'm adding tall fescue.

I'll hand-water for the next two weeks, until the grass is about three inches tall. It's a pain in the ass but necessary.

Piper -- you and Erin have been hand-watering BC for a long, long time. I've been around for about two decades and I think you've been here all that time giving constant minute attention. It's a pain in the ass but necessary.

Thank you.


Angela Rasch (Jill M I)