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ASSTR is home to over 1000 authors of erotic literature, host of the newsgroup, mirror site for, and host of several popular erotic literature archives.

ASSTR Standard Header System FAQ
(last revised 2002-10-24)

This document is the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) guide for the ASSTR Standard Header System (SHS).

SHS provides a quick and easy way for authors to add description information to their stories in a computer-readable format. This information, including the title, description, author's name, and story codes/keywords for the work, is then used by various ASSTR services. Examples include enhancements to the search engine and new files list that assist readers to more easily find stories they will enjoy, thus furthering ASSTR's purpose of bringing authors and readers together. See below for more information.


General Information

  1. What is the purpose of the Standard Header System? / Why is it needed?
  2. Is SHS mandatory?
  3. How does the Standard Header System make it easier to find stories?
  4. Isn't this information already in the subject lines of ASSM posts?

Adding SHS headers to stories

  1. How does an author go about adding SHS to his/her stories?
  2. How are SHS Headers added to an HTML document/web page?
  3. Is use of non-standard/unofficial headers permitted?
  4. List of Official SHS Headers

Adding SHS headers to stories already posted

  1. How do I update stories I posted that are in the ASSM archive?

General Information (system overview/purpose)

What is the purpose of the Standard Header System? / Why is it needed?
Over the years, erotic literature archive sites such as ASSTR have amassed a large number of works. For instance, ASSTR currently has almost 175,000 works available. As the number of works has grown, finding ways to make it easy for readers to find stories that interest them has become an increasingly difficult task.

The purpose of SHS is to create a system that makes it easier for readers to find stories they enjoy, and, as a corresponding benefit to authors, get more people reading their works. At the same time, if the system is going to work, authors need to use it. SHS was therefore designed to be very simple for authors to use.

I'm an author [who posts to ASSM/with an ASSTR account]. Is SHS mandatory for me to use?
Use of SHS is 100% voluntary. However, ASSTR highly encourages all authors of erotic literature to use it. As time goes on, the archive is only going to get larger. Assuming an author is posting his/her works because he wants people to read them, it only makes sense to take advantage of services that will help get people reading his/her stories - particularly if those services are free and easy to use. If use of SHS catches on, other archives may make use of the system as well, thus increasing the benefit of using it.

How does the Standard Header System make it easier to find stories?
One problem with computers is that no matter how fast they get, they still lack basic intelligence. Getting a computer to locate the title and author name inside a story, if that information is even present, is not an easy task. Trying to get a computer to match different chapters of a single story or extract story codes from a story is even more difficult.

SHS solves this problem of automated data extraction by having authors put the information at the top of their stories in a computer-readable format. In this way, a computer can easily get information about stories because it knows exactly where to look for it and the specific format in which the information is present.

Once a computer can automatically get information such as the story's author, title, a summary, and/or story codes from the work, it can make this information available to readers in places where it will be most beneficial. For example, the information can be presented to readers in search engine results, new files lists, and other places where it would be useful.

Additionally, users can search on this information using the ASSTR search engine. This gives readers the ability to find all stories that contain themes that interest them. For example, a reader could search for stories that only contained specific fetish themes. Additionally, readers can filter out categories that they do not care to read.

These examples are just some of the ways SHS is presently employed. Many other possibilities exist and are in the works.

It seems that all this information is already in the subject line of ASSM posts? Doesn't this make SHS redundant?
First, ASSM posts make up only a fraction of the works archived at ASSTR. Works posted by authors with an ASSTR account to FTP directories and/or web sites usually do not have any such subject line.

More importantly, while it is true that most authors who post stories to ASSM include the title, author name, and story codes for a work in the subject line of the post, there is still a problem of getting a computer to extract this information because there is no standard format for an ASSM subject line.

The standard header system creates a method of presenting the information in a story that a computer can easily obtain. The benefits of a computer being able to do automated data extraction are numerous; some of them are detailed above.

It should be noted that ASSTR still strongly encourages ASSM posters to continue putting a story's title, author, and codes in the subject line. Many readers still access ASSM solely via the Usenet newsgroups, and thus it is important for ASSM posters to continue using subject lines as detailed in the Standard Subject Lines FAQ.

Adding SHS information to stories

I'm an author who wants to make use of SHS. How do I use it?
One of the goals of SHS is to make using it as painless for authors as possible. Essentially, all an author needs to do to make use of SHS in his/her stories is add a few lines of text to the top of a work. To facilitate creating the correct headers, ASSTR has available an online form that will create the headers for you. From this form, authors can simply copy and paste the text they need to add to the top of their stories. to access the SHS header generation form, which walks through the process one step at a time.

If you wish to create the headers manually, keep reading. Please note that the following information explains how to add SHS headers to an ASCII text file or MS Word document. For those authors wishing to add SHS headers to an HTML file, see the question below entitled How do I add SHS headers to an HTML document?. Authors wishing to add SHS headers to numerous works already posted to ASSTR may wish to read the section on Adding SHS headers to stories already posted.

Each header in SHS is put on a separate line at the top of the story. Generally, SHS headers are placed starting at the first line of the document. However, the only requirement for the location of the headers is that they be placed within the first 30 lines of the document.

SHS headers are not case-sensitive, although the value of a header may be. For example, the case of letters in story codes indicates the ages of the characters in the story. The format of all lines that make up a standard header is the name of the header, followed by a colon, a space, and then the value for that header. For example, if the title of the story was "Candy in Paradise" and the author was "Suzie Q", the lines of text added to the top of the story would be:

Author: Suzie Q
Title: Candy in Paradise

How are SHS headers added to HTML (web) pages?
Adding SHS headers to web pages is done using HTML "meta tags" and follows a similar procedure used to add headers to a text file. In order to add headers to a web page, you will need to be able to edit the HTML document in a text editor or find a way to let your HTML editor let you add text to the HEAD section of the web page. If you use a program that generates your HTML code for you, you may want to use the SHS index file system to avoid having to edit the HTML code yourself.

Creating meta tags to add to the head section of an HTML document can be done either by hand or by using the . The form will create headers that you can then copy and paste into your web page. If you prefer to create the headers by hand, the format follows the standard meta data format as follows:

 <META NAME="shs-title" CONTENT="A Time To Remember">
 <META NAME="shs-author" CONTENT="Alexis Stevens">
 <META NAME="shs-part" CONTENT="1 of 2">
 <META NAME="shs-keywords" CONTENT="f/f, 1st, college">

Note that the names of the meta-tag SHS headers used in HTML files are the same as the SHS headers for text files except that the names all begin with shs-. This is because some of the standard SHS header names conflict with existing standard meta tags used by search engines and other Internet services.

Is use of non-standard/unofficial headers permitted?
In short, yes. ASSTR designed the SHS specification to be very liberal because it realizes a header that should be part of the official FAQ may have been omitted. If a significant number of authors begin using a header that is not part of the official FAQ, ASSTR will, in time, add the header to this FAQ and make use of it in its systems that use SHS. On the same line, anyone who believes a critical header is missing from this FAQ should feel free to contact ASSTR.

Official SHS Headers

A list of all official headers and their descriptions follows. Please note that use of any header is not required; it is completely up to an author as to which headers he/she chooses to use. Additionally, authors are free to use their own headers.

ASSTR highly recommends that all authors using SHS include at a minimum the author, title, and either keyword or summary headers. Using this set of headers will accomplish the primary goal of SHS by allowing readers to search for your works by title, author name, or content while keeping the headers size to a minimum.

The name of the author or authors who wrote the story. If multiple authors, separate with a comma (i.e. "Author: Jason, Jack, Joe")
Examples: Author: John Smith; Author: Kate Simpson and Jessica Frei

The title of the work, without any chapter or part information.
Example: Title: The Adventures of Ben Dover and Mike Rotch

Use this header if the story consists of multiple files. For example, if each chapter of the story is a separate file, using this header will allow the system to provide links to readers to the other parts of the work, provided the title and author are consistent in each file.

Indicating the total number of parts present is optional (i.e. both "Part: Chapter 2" and "Part: Chapter 2 of 10" are acceptable.

Labels such as "Part" and "Chapter" are optional or can be abbreviated as "pt", "pt.", "ch", "ch.", "chap", or "chap.". The important thing to remember when using the Part header is to specify a digit (0 through 9 for this header). Refrain from spelling out numbers ("chapter two") or using Roman numerals ("pt. XI of XX") in this header.

Examples: Part: Chapter 17; Part: Chapter 12 of 20; Part: Part 1 of 2; Part: Part 10; Part: 10; Part: 10 of 25

This header is used for stories that are part of a series. For example, occasionally authors will write multiple works that alone can be considered a complete story, but together make up a series. One specific example is Bill Morgan's Alison Clifford saga. Another use of this header is for fan-fiction. The universe would be the TV show in which the story is set (i.e. "Universe: Full House"). Using this header will enable readers to find other stories set in the same "universe".
Examples: Universe: Alison Clifford saga; Universe: Full House fan-fiction

This header can be used to give the reader a textual description of what the story is about. The maximum size of this description is 200 characters. Summaries longer than 200 characters may be truncated when displayed. Authors are encouraged to use this header to entice readers into reading the story (i.e. a "teaser"). However, authors should not use this header to intentionally mislead readers.

The summary may span multiple lines if necessary.

Example: Summary: A man gets a knock on the door one day from a girl selling magazines that changes the rest of his life.

Keywords and/or story codes used to describe the contents of the story. For those not familiar with story codes, more information is available in Uther Pendragon's Story Codes for Authors FAQ. Keywords refer to "broader thematic" descriptions of stories that are not necessarily thought of to be a story code. Examples include "literary", "stroke", and "squick".

Using keywords and/or story codes not listed in Uther's SCfA FAQ is permitted, but unless they are popular among/known by readers, including them will not help readers more easily find your works.

Examples: Keywords: MF, snuff, squick; Keywords: mc, nc, mf, ff, growth

Specifies the language in which the story was written, if other than English.
Examples: Language: French; Language: German

Adding SHS information to stories already posted

I have stories archived in the ASSM archive at How do I add SHS information to them?
Eventually ASSTR plans to have a system that will enable authors to edit and/or delete their ASSM posts within the archive. However, this system will not be available for quite some time. Therefore, the only solution at present is to email the ASSTR administration with the ASSM post number and the SHS information you would like added to the post. Please understand that it may take a few weeks to get the information added depending on how busy the admins are. Remember to include the ASSM post number in the email for all posts to which the SHS headers are to be added. Once again, ALL requests to have SHS headers added to an ASSM post must contain the ASSM post number(s) of the post(s) to be modified.

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