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Time savers I use for running the FSFS

Each month I write an article taking you behind the scenes of the FSFS. This month I'd like to share some of the tools I use both on and off WdC to make running the group just a little bit easier.

The {insert:1234567} WritingML

When you have a group with loads of different forums, contests, newsletters, activities, pages, etc... it is important to have an easy to navigate site. The trouble comes when you want to update the navigation menus. You have to edit each and every page where that menu appears. For the FSFS that would require editing seven pages!

Writing ML to the rescue! Back in May of 2012 I was faced with this exact problem. So I went over to the "Suggestion Box and created a suggestion ("Insert Text"  ). Guess what? The StoryMaster had already created a piece of WritingML for this very purpose, but it was only for use with system items that SM created. He unlocked it for everyone to use and it has since saved me hours upon hours of time.

Now, I only have to edit one item ("FSFS Navigation) and I'm sorted. Whenever I want the FSFS navigation menu I simply have to put the code {insert2016891} and it's there! I use it at the bottom of this very newsletter, in fact! I also use the code for the Review Request Page. As the list of review requests appears on the home page, the Hub and the request page I made a separate item to list the requests on. Simples!

Smart Quote Replacer

Sometimes, on WdC smart curly quotes don't show up properly. The issue is fixed in some places, but not others, so to be safe I switch out every set of quote marks in submissions for the Newsletter. This used to take a while. Until I found Dan Hersam's tool   which switches them all out for me!

The list WritingML

I mentioned at the start of the newsletter that the Advent Raffle has sold over 300 tickets. Not so long ago that would have required me to write out the number for each and every ticket. Not so bad when someone buys one ticket, but when someone buys 40 tickets for different people it can be a tad repetitive and time-consuming. Worse is when you miss a number accidentally and then it wins! Worse still is when you double up a number and it wins! I've seen both happen.

With one of the more complex bits of writingML, that is a thing of the past. When I create a list of raffle tickets all I have to do is write this bit of code:

{list:raffle:Ticket #%}Matt

Then I put in the ticket holders between the two tags, and WdC does it all for me like so:

Ticket #1 Matt
Ticket #2 Dan
Ticket #3 Kat

STV Calculator

Running a contest fairly is of paramount concern to anyone who creates a contest. The problem is always deciding how to decide the winner. Some contests use judges which score each entry and the total decides the placings. I like contests where the public decide the winner. I like this method for two reasons A) I don't need to arrange judges and chase people, B) It gets everyone involved. But how do they pick their favourites? I could have a survey with one question on it asking for their favourite item. The trouble with that is in deciding second and third place. What if everyone votes the same item? So I allow you to pick your top 3. But if 40% pick their favourite as A, 25% as B, and 35% as C, does that make A the winner? Well, no. Because over 50% don't agree. So, I need to go to second favourites and take those into account. But how to weight those secondary and tertiary votes? Anyway, once one item gets over 50% it can be declared a winner and the process repeats for second and third place.

But this is fairly involved and complicated and I don't want to mess it up. So I turn to Paul Lockett's tool  . I put in the variables, then put in the votes. What I like about this calculator over others is that, like a good student, it shows its workings. This is important as it randomly chooses if it all ends in a tie. I need to know if it has ended in a tie so that I cast the tie-breaker, not a randomiser.


Ah, the good old Microsoft Office suite. I use Word for short stories, PowerPoint for video creation, and Excel keeping tabs on everything. Running a group requires good organisational skills. Trouble is, I don't have fantastic organisational skills. In the CSFS I would forget newsletter submissions, mislay results and lose important numbers. For the FSFS I made a spreadsheet and those problems have mostly gone away. When a newsletter submission comes in, I add it to the Newsletter tab, when a prize donation comes in it goes on the Raffle Prizes tab, when I'm done with a voting round, I archive the results on the Results tab. I have tabs for keeping notes of important numbers and lists.

Without Excel this Newsletter would be half as long and two days late!
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