• 16 June 2014 17:20:09

    Site updates: stability, premium donations, endorsements, downloading, apostrophes and full-stops

    posted by Dark0ne Site News
    It's been a while since I last wrote about the updates we've made on the sites, of which there have been quite a few, just some have been quite subtle. For my part I've been extremely busy over the past few months (here, have a picture of my feet dangling over the edge of the grand canyon) in between trips to the US and moving home. Thankfully the Nexus to-do list is neverending so the other staff have had more than enough to keep themselves busy. As there's so much I'll just break it down into more manageable sections.

    Have you noticed? The sites seem to be up a lot more than they used to and we haven't had to use "maintenance mode" in a long time (past when we accidentally overloaded the servers last week). That's because we finally think we've cracked our database cluster issues. Since the update we made last week we haven't had a single database blip (that wasn't caused by something we did) and needless to say we are freaking happy about this, especially since one of the guys has been working on this for over a year now.

    We're currently sorting out an issue when downloading via NMM and those annoying "retries" that can occur and then we'll be all set, at least we think we will.

    Premium donations
    About a month ago we silently released an update to the "Donations" system that now allows users to donate Premium Membership to other members on the site. At the time I wanted to write a big news post about it but I just didn't have the time, so now I've got to try and be concise within this news post.

    Where before you could only donate direct money to a mod author there's now a second option to "Buy Premium membership for this user" on the user's profile and when using the "Donate" button on file pages.

    You can turn off this option if you are uninterested in being donated Premium Membership from within your preferences. A user cannot have more than 5 years of Premium Membership bought for them, or more than a life-time membership (if you try and donate life-time membership to someone who already has it the site won't let you).

    We've also incentivised this system for the donor as well. If you donate Premium Membership to another user we'll apply ~25% of the Premium time you purchased to your account as well, free of charge. For example if you buy 1 month of Premium Membership for another member you'll receive 1 week of Premium Membership for yourself as well along with all the benefits that come with that (including being a Supporter for life). The time "stacks" as well, so if you buy 4 people 1 month of Premium Membership you'll have 1 month of Premium Membership yourself.

    The Premium Membership system is an unfortunate necessary evil. Without it I just couldn't afford to pay the server bills in this day and age of adblockers and diminishing advertising revenues. I hate asking people for money, or relying on it, so when people willingly share it with me I want to make sure they're looked after as much as possible.

    I get the occasional lifetime member ask me if there's a way they can donate more money to the site. This is the way you can do that while also giving back to your favourite mod authors or users on the site. And thank you.

    Changes to the way manual downloads are served
    We've changed the way we serve manual downloads to you via the pop-up. While before when you went to download a file manually you would be presented with a list of file servers to choose from we are now moving to a quicker, more automated system that will pick the least over-loaded server from a geographic location you've specified in your preferences. If you haven't specified your preferred location then the first time you go to download a file you'll be asked to pick one.

    There are several reasons for doing this:
    • Right now we have 23 file servers. As we continue to expand the number of file servers we provide it's going to become untenable (or very ugly) to show them all to you so you can make a selection.
    • Many people seem to grow attached to a certain file server and will only ever download from that server even when it's overloaded. This causes an unnecessary load on the network we'd rather avoid.
    • It allows us to code algorithms that manage our file server network more closely, ensuring that load is evenly balanced.
    • It removes a click from the downloading operation which in turn speeds up the downloading process.

    We're monitoring this system closely to ensure it's working properly. If you set the wrong location when the system first asks you, or if you want to change locations for any reason, you can do so from your preferences area.

    Endorsement changes
    Something the mod authors talk about regularly in the mod author forums is the low endorsement to download ratio on their file pages. Mods that have millions of unique downloads can have a comparatively low amount of endorsements. There's a multitude of reasons for this, which have been discussed to death, but during the last discussion that happened a couple of months back I said I would get some things added to the site that could help to combat a few of these issues.

    To begin with we've added added an endorsement reminder pop-up to the sites. This is something we had a few years back but it never really worked brilliantly. This time around the pop-up will provide you a list of files you've downloaded recently that you have yet to endorse. You can quickly endorse the listed files from within the reminder pop-up without any page reloads and if you've endorsed all your files already you won't see this pop-up. You can change how often this reminder is shown to you, if at all, from within your preferences (I think we're having a few issues with that right now, which means a few people might be getting spammed by the reminder, which we're in the process of fixing - should be fixed).

    There's a consensus among some mod authors (probably not a majority) that if you've downloaded a mod you should endorse it. I disagree with this philosophy. Because endorsements on the site are seen as a positive rating against a file it doesn't go that just because you've downloaded a file you think it's worth endorsing the file. Because this new reminder system checks if you have any files you have not endorsed, it's not fair to you if you're reminded about files that you have no intention of endorsing. As such we've added a new option when endorsing files that is labelled as "Abstain" and indicated as either a red cross or a thumbs up symbol with a red line through it. Abstaining from a file is just that; you are refraining from endorsing the file. It is not a negative mark against a file. The amount of people who have abstained from endorsing a file is not shown anywhere on the site. So what's the point? By abstaining you are telling the site that you are aware you can endorse the file but you don't want to. It's different from before because now the system knows that you aren't planning to endorse the file and, ergo, won't remind you to do so. You can change your mind later on by going to your download history and changing your abstain to an endorsement.

    Going hand-in-hand with the download changes listed above we've also added a sort of mini-endorsement reminder to the download pop-up window. If you have unendorsed mods you will be presented a list of 5 mods from your download history that you have yet to endorse which you can quickly do from within the pop-up without affecting your current download. We hope to update this system so that the list is organised in such a way that the unendorsed mods shown to the user will also belong to the author of the file you're downloading from first. For example, if you've downloaded 3 files from the author already that you've yet to endorse then you will be shown 5 files, 3 of which will be the ones that belong to the file author. Our early attempts at getting this put in, however, overloaded our servers so we're looking in to implementing this author preference system as soon as possible. If you have endorsements turned off on your file then the endorsement list will not be shown on your downloads.

    It's my hope that by presenting users with these convenient ways in which they can quickly endorse or abstain from endorsing files we'll see an increase in endorsement ratios for files. I'd be interested to hear from authors as to whether they've noticed any sort of noticeable bump in their endorsements over the next week.

    Using apostrophes and full-stops in file names
    We've changed a lot of things since the last time I was directly involved in programming a major recoding of the sites in 2007 but one thing that's never changed is the inability to use apostrophes and full-stops in file names. We've now, finally, updated the sites so you can use proper grammar in your file names and use full-stops to denote version numbers in your uploaded files.

    Smaller updates and bug fixes
    On top of these updates there's also been a number of smaller updates and fixes applied to the sites:

    • Banned members will now be notified of why they were banned when they attempt to login to the Nexus sites.
    • Fixed the filters in the Image Share not working.
    • Fixed an issue where user uploaded images were showing on file pages before the author had verified them.
    • Implemented our IP ban list on the sites when originally it only worked on the forums. If you are getting this error and you haven't been banned in the past then please get in contact via the contact form (obviously letting me know your IP address) so I can sort it out for you.
    • Fixed an issue where the "required files" system wasn't working properly.
    • The tracked files system no longer breaks the home page.
    • Authors who upload mods for games we haven't approved yet will now be emailed when we approve the game.

    Known issues
    We are aware of two ongoing issues with the sites right now. An issue with the tracking and notification system not properly informing users of certain updates to certain files, and an issue with comments sometimes going crazy and not being posted to the proper file page thread. Our work on fixing these is ongoing but is likely tied to our continual efforts to sort out the database cluster and ensure our code is efficiently reworked to synergise with this system.

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