My MVP for Unknown Tales is ready (and I'm looking for authors/readers to help me improve it)

(Daniel Hollands) #1

This has been a long time coming, but I’m proud to show off the MVP for my collaborative interactive fiction platform:

Unknown Tales

Please note that as an MVP, this is very much a work in progress, and quite feature poor, but it does have the basics of the system in place, and over the coming months, based on the feedback I receive from testers, it should grow into something awesome.

So right now I’m looking for people interested in reading and/or writing fiction to help me develop the concept further, so if this sounds like you, pop a message below and I’ll let you know how you can help.

Thank you.

(Andy Wootton) #2

I’m not drawn to this but I’d like to explain why, as it might be helpful.

I don’t write fiction and I read very little and very slowly. I find fiction an inefficient way of gaining access to interesting ideas, which are what I’m looking for. I know many people use reading as escapism but I’m pretty much escaped, most of the time, so if I was going to use my time on reading fiction, I’d want to know it was the best stuff available.

I write non-fiction because I have a complicated half-formed network of ideas inside my head and I find that selecting ideas in a linear sequence, for a real or imaginary audience, helps me work out what I’m sure about and where some of the gaps are. I could only do this in collaboration with someone who had a similar internal map. Otherwise, I’d spend more time talking than writing. I think that’s a useful phase but I tend to do thinking and writing at different times, even if I context-switch every few seconds. I’ve written this reply partly to find out what I really think.

(Matt Machell) #3

I’m a sucker for interactive fiction (I wrote some stuff in that vein), so I took a look. Here is my, fairly stream of consciousness, feedback. Hopefully useful to shape things moving forward, even though it’s just MVP!

Things that confused me: Thought I needed to sign up to read. But it was just that the stories link doesn’t look like a link and so the stories are hidden. You need to make more use of that first page to show what’s going on, I think. Not currently clear there’s any content on initial glance!

Once I found them, that page of story summaries works well.

On a story page: Not sure about putting plot, conflict and theme stuff up front that way (especially when for all current ones it seem blank). Seems… Odd. I expected more of an elevator pitch, maybe some category type tags to imply the content. More, discover as you interact as an expectation…

Line length. Reading with the current way text flows is a pain. I’d suggest constraining it to say 40em or so. Maybe off-whiting the background a bit to prevent eye strain.

No chapter exists : Trying to read IF, when half your choices go nowhere is frustrating/disappointing. Worth flagging of disabling links to empty sections? Makes more sense logged in, where I can add to it, but as Mr Anon it was frustrating/confusing.

Confirmation email came from Info, rather than the site name. Could get lost or spam foldered.

On story creation. So many required fields! And the only hint I get is the asterisk (but you don’t actually say what it means). I’d go with only making the core elements required, form overhead is high and that will deter people who want to try it out. Maybe reduce to just, title and pitch, then first paragraph to get going? Might even want to boot creating the first chapter to a second page to lower the burden of initial form filling.

No option to keep hidden until I finish writing? I suppose I wonder how much ownership of a creation I get… I want a social contract with people contributing to fiction with me. Ah, but this does explain why theme etc are on the story info pages. Hmm. Maybe not the right place for them. Maybe at the point of collaboration would be more useful? Or maybe a clearer spot of writing and reading mode is needed?

Hope that’s useful feedback. I like the concept. I know plenty of people who might use it (I know a guy running IF via Twitter polls, for example).

(Marc Cooper) #4

I see a title bar with ‘sign up’ and ‘log in’ and a big blank page. (I run popular ad blockers.) I want to see more, as this is very interesting; I write a lot.

(Daniel Hollands) #5

HHmm… I’m not really sure how this would fit within the platform that the site provides. I may have misunderstood what you’re saying, but that sounds more like a mind map.

(Daniel Hollands) #6

I have a lot of improvements of this nature to make. I didn’t want to make too much of a fuss with the visuals just yet (and am hoping that I’ll be able to find someone who can worry about that side of things for me), but yes, I do need to do something a bit more than I have at the moment.

I’m thinking about creating a quick screen cast video to explain the basics, and be somewhat selective about who I invite to use it, so I can control their exposure to it - until such time as I’ve made further refinements.

I have plans to add filtering, to let you slim down the list via things like genre, tags, etc… but as genres and tags don’t exist yet…

The stories I have currently were imported from an older version of the platform I built a few years ago. Back then each story only had a short description and a general background. For the new platform, I want each to have the five-elements of storytelling - but as I don’t - yet - have that content I can’t display it. Maybe I should hide the unpopulated fields.

Good call. I also have plans on letting people select their own settings, including choice of font (including the dyslexia font), text size, colours, etc… Anything to make reading easier.

I was planning on making this an option for logged in users - they’ll have the option to show which paths have child chapters - but do you think this is something which should be enabled by default for everyone?

I’ll take a look at this, thanks.

This is a problem which I’m very welcome to ideas for solving, as I know the form for adding new stories is a bit of a clusterfuck. I think some type of wizard, or a staggered process, could well be the answer.

So it’s this part which might not be explained properly just yet, but the concept is that of collaborative interactive fiction. Anyone can start a story, and write as much of it as they wish, and others can come along and fill in the other chapters. It’s almost like an RPG.

But, having said that, I can see that some people might want to limit access to their stories to a smaller group of people, this isn’t something that I’d thought of before,and is an idea I quite like. I think you’re maybe right about when to show the 5 elements of storytelling.

This feedback has been really helpful, thank you - you’ve given me a whole other angle which I can explore for this. I am keen on having more people use the site to get more feedback, but I want to control this as much as possible while I find my way around.

(Daniel Hollands) #7

Right now the homepage is empty, so you’re not having anything blocked, I simply don’t have anything useful on it yet :smile:

(Daveyon Mayne) #8

You could add some dummy stories to show us what it looks like?

Never mind. Found it. Does a user has to be logged in to read stories, @LimeBlast ? This link was only shown when I’m logged in:

(Daniel Hollands) #9

That link should appear all the time (and, so far as I’m aware, does), but the site’s navigation doesn’t work very well, so it’s a bit hard to see.

I’m going to add some quick intro copy to the homepage, along with a call to action to the stories page.

(Daveyon Mayne) #10

Oh! It was there all along, right beside the logo. Never knew it was that url.

(Marc Cooper) #11

I clicked “Stories”, and the page filled. Highly recommend you make that the default.

(Daniel Hollands) #12

Based on some of your feedback, I’ve spent the past couple of days improving the UI of the site.

  • I’ve swapped out Bourbon for Semantic UI
  • Increased the font size
  • Made the navigation easier to recognise
  • Added some calls to action on the home page
  • Added an about page
  • Limited the width of text-only pages
  • …and a few other things I don’t remember

My next big job is getting the Discourse forum installed and working with the single sign on, which I’m hoping I’ll get done this weekend.

After that I think I’ll start making the Submit Story process easier by breaking it down into multiple steps.

(Daniel Hollands) #13

I’ve just done another release:

  • We now have a forum of our very own, which hooks into the app’s login system via single sign on. I’m keen on having people test this out and reporting their findings.
  • The site now uses slugs instead of IDs, allowing for pretty URLs, such as
  • /read
  • /read/story-slug
  • /read/story-slug/chapter-slug

Now that UT has it’s own forum, I plan on using that more to discuss ideas with the community (minimal that it is right now), but I’ll keep this thread up to date as well as I go along.

(Marc Cooper) #14

Great work. That’s much clearer. :thumbsup:

(Daniel Hollands) #15

It did break the mobile views, but that should be fairly easy to fix.