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Author Topic: Character Search  (Read 5111 times)
jrabbit
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« on: Sun, 22 Aug 10 11:26:45 »

You'll be pleased to hear that you can now search the site by character name. You can either add a specific filter on other searches using the prefix "character:" or just search normally with the character name as a keyword, and the site will now use the character field to help rank the results so that stories where that character has a significant role now appear near the top of the results list.

To provide the data for this feature, the site will now scan each story shortly after it is uploaded and attempt to a) find which words in the story are names of characters and b) determine which of them has the most 'screen time'. It does this by analysing each paragraph of the story and trying to spot who is the first person to speak or perform some action and then assigning the entire paragraph to that character.

You can see how a particular story has been classified by referring to the new pie chart on the Statistics tab, which shows all characters that were identified as being the subject of over 3% of the story. Note, there may be a few minutes delay between a story being added/updated and the character data being analysed.

If you think your story has been inaccurately classified (and it bothers you enough) there are a few techniques to reduce errors:

Problem: Variations of a character name, or first name & surname are being treated as separate characters.
Solution: Introduce your characters using their full name somewhere in the story. In an original fic, good writing style dictates you do this, but in fanfic where you assume the reader knows who characters are, it is often forgotten. In some cases, this is unavoidable - e.g. if you have multiple members of a family present in the story and a character is referred to only be surname, the code doesn't know which family member you meant.

Problem: Characters are missing entirely / my story has a large 'others' section.
Solution: Only characters it can attribute more than 3% of the fic to are included. The rest are classified as others. If you think a character who should be listed is missing, make sure you identify them early in a section/chapter. Some stories start a chapter or continue after a section break using pronouns He/She rather than naming the character who is the focus, either assuming the reader has carried over the context from the previous section/chapter, or being deliberately mysterious for plot purposes.

Problem: Character names are being preceded by other words
Solution: Check you don't have a comma missing - e.g. "Growling Buffy made her way to the door" should be "Growling, Buffy made her way to the door". There will still be a few cases where this occurs, particularly with adverbs. Common adverbs are filtered out but rarer ones will slip through.

Problem: Other words are being classed as character names
Solution: This is sometimes unavoidable. It is usually caused by non-characters performing actions normally associated with humans - e.g. "Nature vented her fury" - and then in the following paragraphs using pronouns he/she to refer to the last character name. The code will mistake the he/she as referring to "Nature". Look for the offending word at the start of a paragraph followed by a word ending in 'ed' and name the next character mentioned instead of using a pronoun.

Problem: Words in single quotes aren't treated as dialog
Solution: Single quotes can easily be confused with apostrophes leading to incorrect results. Therefore only a subset of the rules the analyser uses are applied to single quotes. This can lead to character names not being detected or characters being given less prominence.


In general, the better the grammar of the story, the more accurate the results. Things like overuse of pronouns, 'Burly-Detective Syndrome' and extended unattributed dialog all decrease the accuracy of the story. Remember if you edit a story it won't be rescanned immediately. If you have examples of stories with significant problems, please post below.
« Last Edit: Tue, 24 Aug 10 13:34:06 by jrabbit » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: Sun, 22 Aug 10 12:37:48 »

This new feature is amazing! Thank you for taking the time (and coding) to implement it.

I have noticed that the character Dean Winchester doesn't appear in this analysis at all on either the author page or on the story statistics page (I've checked both my stories and a few from other Dean-centric authors). I went through your list of why this could be happening, and I don't think my stories have those problems - well, except for the fact that I often don't identify him by first and last name. But I don't do that for Sam, either, and his name is tagged with no problem. Maybe this is happening because the word 'Dean' can be a common noun as well?

Anyway, while some people wouldn't consider Dean's absence a great loss Tongue, I thought I'd mention it.

Thanks again!
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« Reply #2 on: Sun, 22 Aug 10 12:48:36 »

Oops. It was restricted because its a title - words like Dean, Ambassador, General, Headmaster etc. were excluded. I forgot to remove the exclusions on those that are also names. It will appear when I rescan the stories after the first round of fixes.

Also, characters with an apostrophe in the name (e.g. Teal'c) weren't being recorded.
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« Reply #3 on: Sun, 22 Aug 10 18:12:00 »

Looking at my stories and a couple favorite writers... Some very interesting results  Grin My top character gets more than twice the word count of the next two and it drops rapidly after that.

What does it do for character totals in cases where a writer has multiple stories with characters with similar names? And site-wise?

Like Jack Harkness/Jack O'Niel/Jack Sparrow

or John Winchester/ John Shepard

And Sam Carter /Sam Winchester ?
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« Reply #4 on: Sun, 22 Aug 10 18:33:33 »

It doesn't differentiate between multiple characters with the same first name, unless they appear in the same fic - in that case it won't replace surnames with first names in the story.
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« Reply #5 on: Sun, 22 Aug 10 21:20:51 »

This is definitely one awesome search feature.

Had a giggle when I saw that Sam was higher on the list than Dean, lol.
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« Reply #6 on: Sun, 22 Aug 10 23:49:27 »

Very nice.

One little glitch: I notice for my story "Changing the Guard" it treats "President-Elect" as a name, rather than a title.
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« Reply #7 on: Mon, 23 Aug 10 00:01:03 »

Also, 7% of my story "Chasing Severus" is attributed to someone named "Conversation."

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« Reply #8 on: Mon, 23 Aug 10 00:04:26 »

This is definitely one awesome search feature.

Had a giggle when I saw that Sam was higher on the list than Dean, lol.

Well, the name Sam seems to occur in more fandoms than Dean.  You've also got Sam Carter, Sam Finn, Sam Beckett, Sam from "Burn Notice", Sam Guthrie, and probably a few others.
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« Reply #9 on: Mon, 23 Aug 10 15:59:45 »

And for my Iron Buffy story there's 7% that is attributed to someone called Lou. Got no idea where it got that from.
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« Reply #10 on: Mon, 23 Aug 10 16:22:02 »

And for my Iron Buffy story there's 7% that is attributed to someone called Lou. Got no idea where it got that from.

I'm not sure why, but that had me cracking up.  Is it a mystery?  Maybe Lou's the killer!   Cheesy
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« Reply #11 on: Mon, 23 Aug 10 17:02:50 »

You have a character called Lou Branch. The latest version of the analyser reduces his weight down to 2.5% but he is there.
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« Reply #12 on: Mon, 23 Aug 10 18:21:57 »

I love this feature, if simply for the hilarity factor. In my "Just a Girl" story, I've got 20% attributed to Experience, and 19% attributed to Organs. Probably because it talks about hearts a lot, but still...

I don't think I actually care whether it's accurate or not, it's worth it just for the weird stuff it's coughing up.
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« Reply #13 on: Mon, 23 Aug 10 18:45:40 »

That's an example of a story where it has little to go on. The section breaks are treated as a reset point by the analyser so it forgets the current assignments of 'he' and 'she'. However, you continue using 'she' to refer to Buffy across the sections so, as a result a lot of the fic is unattributed and something like 'Organs' that was only assigned a small part of the story gets its prominence exaggerated.

The percentages shown aren't the percentage of the overall words in the fic, they are the percentage of the portion of the fic that was attributable to some character, which for this story is only 42% of the total length.


I've made some improvements to the analyser as a result of the feedback so far and set it off rescanning all stories again, which will take about another 14 hours to complete. I've made the pie charts show more characters now (previously it was limited to the top 10, now its top 15 and down to 1%).
« Last Edit: Mon, 23 Aug 10 18:49:19 by jrabbit » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: Mon, 23 Aug 10 18:55:57 »

Just out of curiosity, if we don't agree with the breakdowns, did you want us to tell you?
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« Reply #15 on: Tue, 24 Aug 10 13:34:27 »

Yes please, and give me a link to the story in question.
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« Reply #16 on: Tue, 24 Aug 10 19:08:04 »

Did you further refine this? My 'Other' has split into myriad minor characters, going from 30% to 14% with that 16% being attributed to assorted other people.
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« Reply #17 on: Tue, 24 Aug 10 19:11:50 »

Some way to add author input to the process would be good, e.g. for my Sid story it'd be nice if I could go to e.g. the story details page and add the name of any characters who don't come up on the automated search.
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« Reply #18 on: Tue, 24 Aug 10 22:39:53 »

One thing I found rather amusing, aptly accurrate, but nonetheless odd was how the new feature attributes all parts of speech in my BTVS poem, Hell Hath No Fury to Torment, even though Buffy is named in the poem, even if only just the once.  
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« Reply #19 on: Wed, 25 Aug 10 07:07:44 »

You have a character called Lou Branch. The latest version of the analyser reduces his weight down to 2.5% but he is there.
Ah, that explains it. I was wracking my brain trying to remember what character Lou was on the show. Didn't know it handled originals as well.
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« Reply #20 on: Wed, 25 Aug 10 21:23:28 »

I do have an issue.  In my newest story, Stories, it reads as being 58% Giles, 36% Dawn and 6% Buffy.  It neglects two characters with substantial roles, entirely, in addition to the fact that Buffy does not appear in the story at all (as it stands).  They do talk about Buffy, which I have no doubt is where the 6% comes from, but there are two characters - Lucille and ((spoiler alert if it wasn't already bloody obvious from the crossover and timing)) Susan  - who are left out entirely.  I assume this is because, well, first, in the latter case, she went unnamed in the story so far.  She is referred to only as "Mother", or "Giles' mother" or the like, due to the fact that the story is from Dawn's perspective.  Similarly, though Lucille is referred to by name, she is first credited as "Giles' sister", and is repeatedly referred to as such in the narrative.

As a result, I assume that it has mistaken "Giles' sister" and "Giles' mother" for Giles himself.

EDIT: A link to the story: http://www.tthfanfic.org/Story-22910/ElessarNett+Stories.htm
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« Reply #21 on: Thu, 26 Aug 10 03:18:20 »

Lucille is missed because she is only referred to by name when talking about her - there is no point she is referred to by name where she is speaking or performing some action, hence she isn't detected as a character.
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« Reply #22 on: Thu, 26 Aug 10 09:08:00 »

If I were to add future chapters, which I intend to, that use Lucy instead of Giles' sister, would it re-interpret this chapter or not?  Just for clarification on the system.
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« Reply #23 on: Thu, 26 Aug 10 12:21:13 »

yes, it will rescan the whole story when you add a chapter.
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« Reply #24 on: Fri, 27 Aug 10 14:17:33 »

I wondered for a bit who this "No Focus" character was who suddenly started popping up in all my stories.  I think I preferred the graphs when unattributed dialogue was left out.
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« Reply #25 on: Fri, 27 Aug 10 19:45:48 »

I've got some wacky results. Even for a fic heavy on dialogue.

For example, 'Tony' is accredited with a good 6% of my character analysis pie. The word Tony only appears once in my entire fic to date, in a paragraph where it is preceded by the name Willow:

Quote
After calling his mother, and assuring her that yes, he was fine, no, it didn’t matter that she couldn’t come visit because of her phobia, no, he didn’t remember how he got injured, yes, he’d be home within the week, yes, the doctors said he would probably have a full and rapid recovery, actually, the bruised ribs would probably take longer to heal, yes, Willow would help him study, no, Tony didn’t need to be bothered, yes, I love you too, Xander lay back feeling oddly calm.

The name Bruce, on the other hand, appears not at all, even though he has seven paragraphs to himself in chapter three. Granted, about half of those are one-two sentences long, but it seems like he should at least get more of the pie than 'Tony'.

-----

I'm also concerned that my fic doesn't pop up under any character filters in its category (Batman). Not Xander (40% in my pie), not Batman (31%). Shouldn't it show up in at least one filter? Xander is the point-of-view character, for goodness' sake!

Thanks in advance for any assistance you can provide.

--Idhren


Link to fic: http://www.tthfanfic.org/Story-22970/Idhren+Knight+of+Faith.htm

Word count: 4,791
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« Reply #26 on: Sat, 28 Aug 10 08:37:24 »

I've hard-coded a few common aliases into the script, so Brace Wayne gets combined with Batman in the rules.  Tony is followed by a number of paragraphs that start "he" so it thinks you are still talking about him rather than Xander.

As for not showing up under the category filters, you need to click on the "List all XXX stories" link to show stories in subcategories on the DC->Batman page.
« Last Edit: Sat, 28 Aug 10 13:56:31 by jrabbit » Logged

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« Reply #27 on: Sun, 29 Aug 10 05:49:04 »

Thank you, jrabbit--it wasn't clear to me that the character filters shown on the main Batman page only applied to ones not already in a subcategory unless one made a manual change. It'll be interesting to see how this new functionality influences the way people browse and discover particular fics. (I'm a bit bemused by the hits on mine--where are all these people coming from?) Do you keep track of aggregate data re: how people interact with the site?
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« Reply #28 on: Sun, 29 Aug 10 07:19:41 »

I've been trying to think of a way to handle the awkward cases, most notably stories told in the first person.

The only good answer I can think of is to have some way of telling the search program that "I" is such and such a character, e.g. for my story Encore, "I" would be "Sid the Dummy."

Maybe it could be entered as part of the story details, or in a line of text in an agreed format at the end of the story. Something like

* Characters
* "I" = "Sid the Dummy"
* "Fred" = "Fred Weasley"

or whatever.
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« Reply #29 on: Mon, 30 Aug 10 13:41:07 »

Maybe, I'm holding off writing any user interaction until I'm happy that I've refined the automated part of the script as much as possible, as UI code takes longer to write/modify.

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« Reply #30 on: Mon, 30 Aug 10 14:36:00 »

My story Feeding, Fighting and... http://www.tthfanfic.org/StoryInfo-6414-8/ has Harmony as its number two character, but she's listed behind some minor characters, who only make brief appearances.

I think that this is because the PoV character almost never thinks of her by name, always referring to her as "the Bitch."  By my count she's only referred to by name 20 times, (mostly her complaining about him not calling her by name) but there are 140 instances of her being called "Bitch."
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« Reply #31 on: Mon, 30 Aug 10 16:00:12 »

Is there going to be a character filter added to the Latest page?
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« Reply #32 on: Mon, 30 Aug 10 16:43:30 »

Don: it's not going to be able to cope with that sort of story where a character isn't referred to by name, even if she was named before the last few lines.

Lightning_Skies: I'm not planning to add one - the latest page is hit far more often than other pages so I try to reduce the database load from it as much as possible. Also, without being narrowed down to a particular fandom, the character filters don't make as much sense as 'John' could match any number of different Johns.
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« Reply #33 on: Mon, 30 Aug 10 16:59:23 »

I figured it was going to be something like that, but it doesn't hurt to ask. Great work on the character search and the character analysis. I love them both.
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« Reply #34 on: Wed, 01 Sep 10 10:20:38 »

Im my total words listing, I have a listing for Giles and a listing for Rupert.  In every story in which Rupert Giles appears, both names appear together some where in the text.  In the statistics for all but two of the stories he's listed as Giles, however... so though I have no other character named Rupert or Giles, I have two separate characters in the master list.

(He's listed as Rupert in A New Heart and Doing What Comes Naturally - which I think is correct.)  In all other stories, he's listed as Giles, even though the name "Rupert Giles" appears in the text.

Oddly I have one other character who is known by both names often, Gregory House.  He's listed as Gregory 100% of the time, as is correct, since we're using first names to identify characters.    
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« Reply #35 on: Sat, 04 Sep 10 05:28:05 »

Just spotted an unexpected use for this - it can make it obvious that you've spelled a name wrong! I just posted the first chapter of an NCIS crossover, when I looked at the analysis I realised that the characters included Abby and Abbey.
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« Reply #36 on: Sun, 05 Sep 10 15:50:07 »

Also, characters with an apostrophe in the name (e.g. Teal'c) weren't being recorded.

Is this something that you had to put in manually per character, or something that didn't take effect for old fics? I was looking at the statistics for a story that should have had D'Hoffryn in there, and it didn't.
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« Reply #37 on: Sun, 05 Sep 10 15:56:04 »

it should work for all stories - can you post a link to the one is D'Hoffryn missing from.

Edit: Nevermind, I can see where it is going wrong. It will find D'hoffryn but not D'Hoffryn. It only expects capitals in the middle of names after certain prefixes and D' was missing from the list. He should appear next time I rescan all stories.
« Last Edit: Sun, 05 Sep 10 16:09:21 by jrabbit » Logged

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« Reply #38 on: Sun, 05 Sep 10 19:08:59 »

I'm curious, when a new story is posted, about how long will it take for the character analysis to show?
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« Reply #39 on: Mon, 06 Sep 10 04:41:55 »

Normally, upto 1 hour. However, if i've set it off rescanning all stories it could take a day.
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« Reply #40 on: Tue, 07 Sep 10 12:37:28 »

Still not sure what to do to have just one character (Rupert) listed in my character statistics, instead of Rupert AND Giles, despite the complete name Rupert Giles being listed in each of the stories, it defaults to 'Rupert' in some and 'Giles' in others... maybe it has something to do with Giles also existing as a first name?  Is there something else I can do to make it come up consistent?  In most of the stories he appears in, he's called both names, because his intimates or his friends don't call him 'Giles' and the slayers don't call him anything else.  If I'm doing something 'wrong', I'd like to know what to do about it.

I noticed that there's two categories for him in statistics -->

     http://www.tthfanfic.org/statistics.php?list=misc  

Giles has ~3.5 million words, Rupert 1.2 million, I have 14K Giles words, and 9K Rupert words, so the breakdown is similar.

Evidently, I'm not the only person with this issue.  Maybe you should just set up a special character category called "Rupert Giles, and any story where either 'Giles' or 'Rupert' speak, they get tagged as Rupert Giles, if the words 'Rupert Giles' appear together in the story.  If a different Giles speaks such as a Mary Giles, it's unlikely anyone's gonna simply call her 'Giles', so it shouldn't tag her as 'Rupert Giles', right?  Of course I don't write code, so I have no idea how you've set it up.  I'm limited to basic Html, I'm afraid.  

I know I'm being pestiferous about this, and hopefully you will know I'm only being pestiferous because I'm in awe of your wonderful abilities, J, and I know you can solve this!

Thanks again,

Blue
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« Reply #41 on: Wed, 08 Sep 10 21:13:56 »

Thank you.  I knew you could do it!  My faith in you was justified.  Because J's the man... (I think you're male, right?)  Anyway...  I am very grateful.  Little things bug me way too much... but on the other hand... little things that work make me happy out of all proportion.  I have only one category for Giles now... and so does everyone else.  

I have a happy.   Wink

[My soul: still intact, mostly b/c I'm not a vampire, despite being an  annoying obsessive git.]  

Thanks.

Blue
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« Reply #42 on: Thu, 09 Sep 10 01:49:33 »

OTOH I still have "Abby" and "Abbey" shown as characters even though I corrected the mistake several days ago.
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« Reply #43 on: Sun, 12 Sep 10 14:49:12 »

I have another problematic one coming up - the next chapter of my NCIS / Dexter crossover will have a chunk from Dexter's point of view, again in the first person.

Just to make things worst, in a future chapter I'll be incorporating another fandom where stories are mostly told in the first person. There will be a different "I" character...
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Diana: Warrior Princess
The Original Flatland Role Playing Game
http://www.forgottenfutures.co.uk
Marcus Rowland
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« Reply #44 on: Wed, 15 Sep 10 15:02:20 »

OK, it successfully spotted Dexter as speaking! Not bad, since about the only clues are one passage in which someone else refers to him as Dexter, and one in which he says "I'm Dexter Morgan"
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Marcus L. Rowland
Forgotten Futures, The Scientific Romance Role Playing Game
Diana: Warrior Princess
The Original Flatland Role Playing Game
http://www.forgottenfutures.co.uk
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