Archive of Our Own and Hits

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Related terms: Kudos
See also: Feedback, Fandom Statistics, Critique, Hit Counters
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On Archive of Our Own, each fanwork shows the "hits" it has received, tracked using a hit counter.

AO3 defines hits as: "the number of times your work has been accessed." [1]

What Counts as a Hit?

According to AO3:

Hits are a counter of how many times a work has been accessed. A hit is registered every time a visitor navigates to a work's page, with the following exceptions:
  • If two visits in a row come from the same IP address, only the first one is registered.
  • Moving between chapters in a work will only register one hit in total, not one hit per chapter.
  • If you're logged in, hits are not counted when you visit your own works.
Note that hits only log the number of visits to a work, not the duration of the visit. The number of Hits in the Totals box on your Statistics page (refer to Where do I find Statistics? for instructions) is the total number of hits all your works have received.[2]

This means that bots from search engines or web-crawling services will count as hits. A single user rereading a fic after other users have accessed it will count as multiple hits. People clicking on a fic to mark it for later will, when they open it to read later, count as multiple hits, as well as people opening it in a separate tab and reloading it at a later point (potentially multiple times). People who are linked directly to a later chapter of a fic will not count as hits, meaning users clicking on an update email to the latest chapter do not generate new hits. Users who collect one shots or drabbles together into one work will potentially miss some unique hits since people who are directly linked a fic on a later chapter are not counted as a hit (this might be changed in a future update).

Effect on Fans

Because of the way hits are counted on AO3, most of the time the hit count will represent way more views than there are actual readers, or even actual times its been read. This has caused controversy over using comments/hits ratios as a measure of how often readers leave feedback. Additionally, while some people use kudos/hits ratios to judge how good or successful a story is (whether on their own works or by using a browser extension[3][4] to sort works by them), others decry it as inaccurate and harmful to an author's mindset.

Opting Out

AO3 provides some options that allow you to opt out of hit counts.

Preference

In a user's Preferences under Statistics, there are three options (explained by the blue question mark): Don't show me any hit counts, don't show me hits on my works, and don't show other people hits on my works.[5] (The first two also hide the hits section of your Statistics page.) However, AO3's Known Issues page notes that "We've had user reports of hit counters showing up even though the user had selected not to see them. We're looking into possible reasons, such as caching weirdness," so this may not be the most reliable method of hiding hit counts.[6]

Site Skins

Additionally, it's possible to hide all hit counts from yourself as a logged-in user by making a site skins on AO3 with the following code: .wrapper .hits {display: none;} ul.sorting li:nth-of-type(3) {display: none;} However, other users will still be able to see the hits on your works.

Fan Discussion

Hits Are Inaccurate

Responses on a Tumblr post:

There are also bots that will inflate your hit count–if you get a steep increase in hits in a short time with no kudos or comments, it’s probably that. It’s pretty common and has happened on at least one of my fics. Of course, looking at other peoples’ fic there’s no way to tell if that’s happened to them, so in addition to not beating yourself up about it, don’t decide other people’s fic is bad because the ratio is above 1:10 or 1:15 or whatever you’ve decided is good...

[A person asks them to elaborate]

Sorry, there’s not like a comprehensive writeup I can link or anything, it’s just something I’ve heard about anecdotally from various people (none of whom mentioned what the bots were looking for–I don’t think they knew either). The people I’ve heard this from may be wrong about what’s happening, but it seemed like a plausible explanation based on my experience with sites where you can see more about your traffic stats. Possibly the most plausible explanation, compared to, what? One person refreshing the fic 100 times in an hour? Fics being linked somewhere where hundreds of people would follow the link in a short time but no one would kudos?

It may be that this is less common on AO3 than my anecdata suggests, or it may be that people notice it less because (1) you can’t see where AO3 traffic is coming from and (2) in bigger fandoms, the number of hits you get from bots may not really stand out? I write in smaller fandoms and often for unpopular ships; there’s a fic I posted five months ago that literally has been at 40 hits for most of that time. So when I got that random traffic spike, it really stood out to me as an anomaly, both for that specific fic and for that fandom in general. I remember messaging a friend at the time to be like “wtf is going on with this???”, that’s how noticeable and weird it was. But in, like, MCU fandom or something, the number of hits I got would probably barely be a blip on the radar.[7]

interesting. Any time I see a jump in hits (which I don’t tend to notice because I force myself to stay away from my stats page), I’ve always assumed it was due to a rec list of some sort[8]
Sometimes too a fic might show up on unrelated Google searches that would create accidental hits. For instance, I have a fic named “Open Enrollment” in the Agents of SHIELD fandom. So every year during benefits enrollment for the Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO the hit count climbs. I sometimes wonder whether I’ve ever gotten an actual reader that way. Somehow I doubt it.[9]

Tumblr user longlivefeedback also made a post in February 2018 aimed at clarifying the differences between hits, visits, and readers, and why the hit count of a fic on AO3 could be inaccurate for estimating the number of readers. It concludes with:

AO3 has their reasons for coding the hit counter the way they do (mostly to do with privacy and storage of information issues), but that’s a hit, and that’s why hits should only be used to make a rough estimate of the number of readers — and why you shouldn’t put too much stock in the kudos/hits ratio (particularly for multichapter fics).
#holy shit #i knew about the whole ‘if someone else visits between ypur visits’ #thing #but i didn’t realize that binging a fic only couts as one hit (assuming no one else is reading at the same time) #damn #also like…. that feels like it widens the gap? #like a popular fic is more likely to have several people reading simultaneously and interweaving hits #where as less popular fics are more likely to only have one person reading at a given time #idk #i get that there’s reasons for it but i just #don’t like this system[10]
particularly for multichapter fics

I wanted to call particular attention to this point. Multi-chapter works often receive many more hits than audience members, especially if the chapters are posted over time. This typically drops the kudos/hits ratio dramatically.

Even if the chapters are all posted at once, or if a long work is published as a single chapter, long works often have the same person opening and closing them multiple times before they finish. Popular works experience the same effect through being re-opened by people who previously enjoyed them. This is one reason you’ll see kudos/hits ratios drop for a work over time, even for works that take only a short time to enjoy.

Repeat hit counting, along with archive-locking (which requires kudos to be given logged in), bots (which count as hits but don’t leave kudos), and downloading works to enjoy offline (particularly impacts podfics and videos, but also fic to an extent) all contribute to lower kudos/hits ratios.[11]

Kudos/Hits Ratio

Author Perspectives

I don't know how to feel about the Kudos/Hits ratio.
I've been using Ao3 for only a week now, and about even though one of my stories has almost 90 hits, it has only 9 kudos. And for my other story it's 42 hits and 6 kudos. I'm not sure if these are good numbers. People are reading my stories, but only about a tenth of the viewers "liked" it. I'm not sure if I'm doing something right or wrong...[12]

Responses to that post:

10% is pretty good kudo ratio for Ao3.[13]
Totally depends on the fandom and the type of story. I personally put much more stock into the number of reviews.[14]
Everyone's talking about stats recently, I don't get the importance of this honestly. I'm not a statistician, but I do know that a number is only as good as what's going into it, and there are so many variables behind why someone would view and kudos or not, it's always going to be a worthless number I think.

I mean, using fake numbers, assuming that 50% of people that read even LEAVE feedback ever, and there needs to be adjustments for longfics vs. one shots (longfics get way more hits), and then considering fandom culture (do people want to associate their username with this kudos?) I mean, it goes on and on to get to the bottom of WHY someone would click on your story and not give a kudos. Maybe they never do. Maybe they're embarrassed. Maybe they clicked you on accident. Maybe they read it and legitimately hated it. There is zero way to know, and saying "Please Kudos if you like this so I can figure out my ratio of people that read to people that like it" would not help the situation, readers don't care. I have someone who commented on EVERY chapter of a story, and never left me a kudos. Kudos are just a cool thing you can collect. BUT I LOVE GETTING THEM don't get me wrong lol, but it doesn't measure how many percent of people liked my fic, it measures how many percent of people that were a unique view took the time to click a heart button. End of story.

So my advice on Hit/Kudos Ratio is ignore it, that's a useless number.[15]

Reader Perspectives

SputTop posted Choosing good stories on AO3. Comments, bookmarks or hits? at /r/FanFiction on 2 January 2016. One response:

I normally sort by kudos, and then look at the ratio of kudos to hits. If a story has 5% as many kudos as it has hits, it's going to be strong. This method does tend to break down with longer stories (since they will have more total hits because more chapters are viewed) but it is still a good benchmark for AO3.[16]

Anonymous asked ao3commentoftheday.tumblr "What would you say the average kudos-to-hit ratio is, in your experience?" In response:

A bad way to decide if a fic is good.

Yes, that’s a joke-y way to answer the question, but it’s also completely true.

Kudos to hits is invalid in a couple of ways. First of all, hits are not unique readers. People come back and reread fics all the time. Or they come back to the same fic multiple times to finish reading it. And readers can find a dozen different ways to leave more than one kudos on a fic, so that’s not an accurate number either.

Add in the fact that different fandoms have different levels of engagement and that different types of stories get different levels of interaction and it’s all just a totally unreliable way to decide if a story is good or not.

And that’s not even touching the fact that fanfic being “good” is judged on enjoyment, not on quality of writing (as a general rule, to which there are always exceptions).

People will tell you that a “good” ratio is 1:10 or 1:8 or 1:15 or all sorts of other completely arbitrary numbers. I’ll tell you to stay away from the stats because they lie and they will suck you into a deep pit of hell that is hard to escape. I know. I’ve been there.[17]

Refer to #Hits Are Inaccurate for more perspectives on its lack of use as a metric for how good a work is.

Links to Meta/Further Reading

References

  1. "Glossary". Retrieved February 21, 2018. 
  2. "Statistics FAQ". Retrieved 18 February 2018. 
  3. Min. AO3: Kudos/hits ratio, Greasyfork, 19 November 2017. (Accessed 18 February 2018.)
  4. hujgup. AO3 TrueRank, Chrome Web Store, 10 May 2016. (Accessed 18 February 2018.)
  5. "Statistics Preferences". Retrieved 18 February 2018. 
  6. "Known Issues". Retrieved 18 February 2018. 
  7. "literaryreference.tumblr". Retrieved 22 May 2018. 
  8. "a03commentoftheday.tumblr". Retrieved 22 May 2018. 
  9. "kat-har.tumblr". Retrieved 22 May 2018. 
  10. "squirenonny.tumblr". Retrieved 22 May 2018. 
  11. "wrangletangle.tumblr". Retrieved 22 March 2018. 
  12. TLAW1998. I don't know how to feel about the Hits/Kudos ratio. posted on 21 December 2016 at /r/FanFiction. (Accessed 22 May 2018.)
  13. Hermit9. Posted on 21 December 2016 at /r/FanFiction. (Accessed 22 May 2018.)
  14. saretnsk. Posted on 22 December 2016 at /r/FanFiction. (Accessed 22 May 2018.)
  15. pegacornicopia. Posted on 22 December 2016 at /r/FanFiction. (Accessed 22 May 2018.)
  16. "Posted to Choosing good stories on AO3. Kudos, bookmarks or hits?". Retrieved 22 May 2018. 
  17. "a03commentoftheday.tumblr". Retrieved 22 May 2018.