Inside Wattpad's Ranking System: How Does It Work?
We look into Wattpad's "YuenRank" system and how it determines hashtag rankings for books on the site.
The History of YuenRank
Since its early days, Wattpad has been using its "YuenRank" system to rank books by popularity in genre and hashtag categories. To protect its proprietary system (and likely to prevent abuse as well), Wattpad has kept the inner workings of YuenRank under lock and key. But the unpredictability of the system has many users trying to figure out how it works.
Its creator and namesake, Wattpad founder Ivan Yuen, modeled the algorithm off those used by community forum sites Digg and Reddit.
"Both rely on the community of users to determine which items are most popular based on how much social activity there is," Yuen explained in an interview.
Since the system has changed a lot since its inception, it's hard to say how much of the original YuenRank algorithm is still in use, but Yuen's software is likely still at the core of Wattpad's rankings.
Peeking Behind Wattpad's Orange Curtain
While Wattpad HQ does their best to keep the inner workings of their rankings under wraps, we've consulted the community and interviews with the Wattpad team to determine the factors we think are likely at play when evaluating a book's popularity.
Here are a few factors we suspect they're looking at when crafting rankings:
Percent New Daily Reads: How many new reads the book gets each day versus how many it usually gets
Vote-to-Read Ratio: How many votes a book receives for each new read
Comment-to-Read Ratio: How many comments a book receives for each new read
Number of Times a Book is Added to Reading Lists
Number of Times a Book is Added to Private Libraries
Average Consecutive Read Time: The length of uninterrupted time the average reader spends reading a book
Percentage of Completed Reads: The percentage of readers who finish the book
Recent Updates: How recently the story has been changed or edited
Unique Readers: The number of separate people reading the story
An important thing to remember about the ranking system is that books seem to be evaluated in context of their own previous patterns. For example, a spike of 500 readers for a book with just 1k reads will raise that book's stats more than that same spike for a book with a million reads. That's because 500 reads would be a 50% increase for a 1k book, but just a 0.005% increase for a 1m book. This is likely intended to give smaller books a fair shot at ranking against very popular books.
Flaws in the Ranking System
For years, long-time users have complained that updates to the YuenRank system over the last four years have introduced flaws that cripple the algorithm and prevent newer, less-popular stories from being recognized. From anecdotal evidence, it's safe to say that at least some of these complaints are justified.
Wattpad Fails to Promote Completed Stories
The most commonly raised issue is that the rankings unfairly punish completed stories. Wattpad has long worked to address their ongoing problems with incomplete stories, since readers hate getting half-way through a story only to discover it has been abandoned by the author years prior. While the rankings aren't necessarily biased against completed books, they do seem to prioritize recently-updated content. Completed books are no longer being updated, and therefor seem to be at a disadvantage in the rankings.
Writers Aren't Incentivized to Finish Books
Another huge glitch in the system is the negative affect of new chapters on unfinished books. While updates seem to work in favor of many ongoing books, stories that have been abandoned for some time may end up hurt by adding new chapters. We speculate that this is a function of total reads divided by number of chapters. If a book has 10 chapters and 10k reads, that's 1,000 reads per chapter. However, if you then add a chapter to the book, those 10k reads are now distributed over 11 chapters for an average of about 909 reads per chapter. In this example, adding a chapter has decreased the reads-per-chapter by nearly 10%. This is another factor that seems to unfairly punish writers looking to finish old stories, which seems counter to Wattpad's goal of focusing more on completed content.
Time for a Change
Wattpad has a lot of major issues to address with their platform, but the rankings should be near the top of their list. Failing to promote completed books is almost certain to result in user frustration and burnout. The algorithm needs to account for new updates to old content and give less weight to recent updates on completed content. We'd also love to see the rankings incorporate a quality variable, which Wattpad has talked about implementing before, to help weed out poorly-written or notably error-ridden content.
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How would you like the rankings to work? Let us know in the comments...