Archive for the ‘fans’ category

NBC Olympic coverage: Why it sucked

February 28th, 2010

At the start of the games, I complained about the coverage… and as the games end (and the USA is behind Canada in the game for ice hockey gold), it is time to complain again.  This is a crosspost based on a comment I made to another blog.

The coverage was awful. It could have been better had NBC used CNBC, MSNBC and USA more effectively to cover events. (But even those often had tape delays, or showed the second half of a two part event. Where was the ski jumping?)

It was made worse by the Pixar commercials in the middle of coverage. I get it. Pixar has a movie coming out about vikings and dragons… but after the third or forth time a commentator cut to the Pixar vision of generic Olympic event in viking times? I had enough of that. The second week had less of that, and instead involved promotion of another movie that the anchors didn’t plug as much.

They decided before the games who the athletes that we would care about were. They had video packages made. We got to see them again and again when ever they could think of a relevant reason to show those pre-packaged clips instead of actual sports. When unknown sports heroes arose, no one seemed to know how to cover those.

There were few options to watch events live on their website, except for the few that were being run live on their sister networks.

There were large moments of advertising Whistler and British Columbia… which would have been awesome, had they not felt like everything being aired by others trying to capitalize on the Olympic feeling.

Then we had moments of sexism, where commentators insisted on calling female athletes girls. We had moments of putting down and insulting Olympians because the commentators didn’t see their sport as a real sport. We had moments of homophobic behavior where commentators mocked Johnny Weir for what they considered his effeminate behavior. We had moments where blatant racism wasn’t called out with the Russians and their Aboriginal dance but still happily highlighting their lovely and interesting costumes.

It was a failure for the US and pretty embarrassing. It almost explains why the USOC screwed Chicago out of hosting 2016 in order to try to get their own network to cover the events.

Fandom history then and now

February 25th, 2010

During 2006 and 2007, I had several conversations with people where I said that the model of fandom developed online from 1998 to 2006 was fundamentally dead.  The major changes for this involved shifting business strategies, strategies that required content creators to actively engage and develop their fan bases as they had never done before.  You couldn’t risk shutting down whole sites or categories on a site with a cease and desist letter. The impact would be negative and newsworthy.  Fans would rally to protest such actions if taken on any scale and the demographics of fan communities had changed so that content creators couldn’t assume that fans would do anything to avoid going to court.

To counter fannish usurpation of their branding, message and ability to market themselves, I predicted increased engagement as a form of control  Why use legalities to shut down conversation when you can channel the message, host the content, define the rules, use other forms of media to help define a fan community to better build your brand?  It was the logical business decision, and one that content creators have slowly adopted.

The net result of this shift includes an increased speed in terms of how fast fandom moves, a diffusion of power structure in fan based communities, breaking down barriers between creators and fans as each use each other for their own purposes, and an overall blurring of the lines between entertainment/general popular culture fans and more hard core fandom. At the same time, as business models change, technology and how people interact with it are changing.  Things that were once very hard to access are becoming more readily accessible.

There are just a lot of changes that are happening really, really fast.  It can and does often feel overwhelming.  (And then, today, Ozzie Guillen got on Twitter.)

There feel like a lot more choices in what to be fannish about.  Television for example is no longer limited in the United States to the major networks in order to get original programming.  It also isn’t limited to premium, pay extra for a station original programming for original dramatic and comedic television.  Increasingly, “cable” stations are creating their own original programming.  If a show is bumped from network television, some networks are picking these shows up.   Added to this confusion of more original programming, it is easier to access original content from other countries and countries that don’t speak English.  Consumers aren’t limited to expensive imports on VHS.  The prices have dropped and getting things on DVD is really easy.  BitTorrents are another option.  YouTube is another place to find that content.  It is easier to make friends with some one across the globe who might share their interests with others.  (I introduced an Australian friend to Kings.  Then, two days later, the announcement that the show was canceled hit.)  This wasn’t the case even five years ago.

Content producers are accessible like never before and they aren’t afraid to try to manipulate fans for various reasons.  Heck, there are currently several projects out there which seek to use fandom to crowdsource the funding of movies or crowdsource the writing of scripts.  Crowdsourcing is becoming more and more frequent.  It just doesn’t begin to compare to the engagement of content producers.  They will interact with fans on Twitter, create fan pages on Twitter, set up contests, solicit fans for ideas, comment on their own performance.   They have blogs.  they answer e-mails. They publicly thank fans for their support online and off, and have been known to name fans by name.  Gone are apparently the days of jms where content producers were afraid to engage fans like that.  People seeking book deals model that behavior to develop their own fan bases because a large fan base can help you get published as publishers know you have a built in audience.

The media is also increasingly engaging fans.  (Even as some are trying to disengage from companies like Google to better lock their content.)  They haven’t been as active in trying to get copyrighted material removed from fansites.  They engage with fans on Twitter, create Facebook fan pages, encourage people to comment, create official accounts on services like Buzz and Google Wave.  They will promote fansites, treating them as a normal part of the discourse involving a movie or show to the point where movie and television show and now used interchangeably with the term fandom.  The media distinction for media fandom between super fans and passive consumers of a product is eroding.  Media access to the power players, what the media has to say as a result of those connection has a greater impact on wider fandom than ever before because the information isn’t just consumed by hard core players who can act on it but an increasingly activist traditionally passive consumer base.  Knowledge gained from the media, easy access to power players on social media and media willing to give serious, non-demeaning attention to fan activism is a  new cycle that begets real results.  It makes it easier to participate in because the barriers are fewer and there are fewer barriers for passive consumer to become small time activists.

The acceptance of fandom, especially around anime, television, sports, video games, movie, theater and actors, has made it easier for fans to bring their friends and family into the community; spaces are harder to define as purely fannish, business or professional.  (Even content creators are breaking these barriers.  It isn’t just fans.)  It isn’t something you need to keep as in the closet as you once had to.  One of the results of this is that the size of fannish communities are exploding: A community that might once have had 500 people may now have 50,000 people.  As a consequence, personal interaction and the development of purely fannish relationships can be harder to make and we fall more into regional patterns again, where were assign greater value to the people online that we can and have met in person.  (It is like fandom during the 1960s, 70s and 80s.)  This can and does lead to a diffusion of fannish activity as people try to make their experiences manageable and not overwhelming while still maintaining that identity as part of a larger group.

When there is a larger group identity, it can be more powerful than it ever was before.  Fans can get together and run a fan run convention with budgets of a hundred thousand dollars.  Fans are networked enough so that they can raise large amounts of money for charity efforts when things that impact our greater society happen.   (Just look at how they responded to Haiti.)  The amount of money that fans are capable of raising in a short time period is like nothing that fans could do even four years ago.  They might have been able to raise $250,000 before but it might have taken them several years to accomplish that.  If their community has the right connections, it could just take a few days.

Scale and size and eroding boundaries boundaries between traditional components of fandom have fundamentally changed definitions of fandom. Things have been sped up.  The amount of communities is huge.  The amount of activity is insane and trying to quantify and qualify what type of activity that is has become increasingly difficult.

In short, we really need to begin to get a grasp on this and document it for the sake of fandom history.  On the other hand, this is just overwhelming in the extreme.  As a fan historian, who likes to document some things happening in the hear and now, it is discouraging.  There is just so much data that it is hard to process. I’m overwhelmed at how to document the then and document the now. I know what’s going on but all that’s going on makes it hard to find a starting point.

Help?

Slash is not gay: Homosexuality, class and fan fiction communities, A historical perspective

January 27th, 2010

I wrote this back in 2006 or so.  It has been on the wiki for a while. When it was first posted, the response was not positive with people asserting that slashfiction was actually gay. Given the recent discussion, I thought it might be worth reposting on Fan History’s blog.

Preface

When I first set out to write this, I had a lot of knowledge about the history of slash, historical attitudes towards slash and anti-slash activities. I knew bits and pieces of the history of GLBT literature in the science fiction community. I had a decent amount of knowledge regarding the literary fan fiction community in parts that never eventually blended with the media fan fiction communities. What I lacked was solid demographic information regarding the composition of fandom and fan fiction communities. It appears that, historically, there have not been serious studies looking into the composition of fan fiction communities in examining race, class and attitudes towards homosexuality. This seems to be a serious oversight from a structuralist perspective. When one is talking about existing fan fiction communities, one should know the attitudes and composition that preceded these in order to fully understand what is happening and what happened. Fan fiction does not exist in a vacuum. It is intrinsically woven into the fabric of popular culture, which is in turn woven into wider cultural practices in the English speaking world. Further research didn’t turn up the answers to the demographic questions I had but it did give insight, changed my views and widened my perspective.

The new knowledge I acquired upset my perspective a bit. It is a bit hard to argue class warfare in fandom when you find that most of fandom, based on various accounts, is middle class and upper class. Fandom and fan fiction communities do not seem to be the domain of the working class… or at least the domain of people who identify with the working class. At best, fandom has middle class culture clashes. These can probably be traced to issues related to class as members have moved from one class to another or perceived themselves as being in the middle class. This middle class culture clash with other parts of the middle class comes across in fan fiction related studies when scholars dismiss, or deem feral, a group of fen who do not meet with their understanding of how fan communities operate. Fan fiction communities have never been truly homogenous in composition; they have roots in disparate communities of music, sports, science fiction, traditional literary circles, the cult of celebrity, television and more. Each of these communities has its own communities that fill certain cultural and personal needs for members of the middle and upper classes.

Which leads me to writing not the article I thought I was going to write, but rather writing a more in depth article discussing class, culture, slash, and homosexuality from a historical perspective. Given previous situations in fandom, it is bitingly aware that fan fiction communities do not have a universal definition of what it means to be homosexual, gay, lesbian or transgendered, and many people commenting on the issue compound the problem by writing from a straight, white perspective. As such, this article needs to define gay, lesbian and homosexual before a serious discussion of the topic can be undertaken. According to several sources, definition is a big problem for many GLBT historians. Just defining what these terms mean can take up the major part of an article on this topic. To ease this problem and give a perspective, the three terms, gay, lesbian and homosexual, are used interchangeably in this piece. The understood definition is based definitions read elsewhere and ones found below:

Gay is used as an adjective to describe sexual orientation (attraction, preference, or inclination) and is usually chosen instead of homosexual as an identity-label.
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay)
gay (gay) n. Term used to describe a man who is attracted to other men. Also overextended to describe women who are attracted to other women. :::(http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/Cafe/1017/lexicon.html#gay)
Gay – The term applied to a person (especially a man) who is emotionally and sexually attracted to members of the same sex. In some cases, the term is applied to people who have same-sex sexual relations even if they do not identify themselves as gay (“He’s gay, he just can’t admit it”). On the other had, people may be said to be gay whether or not they have sexual relations with a member of the same sex (“I was always gay, I just never did anything about it”). The most specific definition reserves this term for those who identify themselves as gay and as members of the gay community. Traditionally, “gay” has been the generic term to refer to both women and men. However, it has also been used to refer to men only (as the word “man” has been used to refer to us all). Because this generic use makes women invisible, the current preference in much of the LGB community is for the term “gay” to refer to gay men (often “gay men” or “gay males” is used to further clarify the meaning of the term), and “lesbians” to refer to women. This position is shared by the America Psychological Association. (http://safezone.georgetown.edu/sz4-1.html)
Gay 2. A man whose primary sexual and romantic attraction is to other men. He may have sex with men currently or may have had sex with men in the past. A smaller number of gay men may never have had sex with another man for many reasons such as age, societal pressures, lack of opportunity or fear of discrimination, but nonetheless realize that their sexual attraction is mainly to other men. It is important to note that some men who have sex with other men, sometimes exclusively, may not call themselves gay. (http://principles.ucdavis.edu/glossary.html)
Homosexual: Individual with a primary sexual and affectional orientation or emotional attraction toward persons of the same sex. Male homosexuals are often referred to as “gay,” whereas female homosexuals are referred to as “lesbians.” Historically, the psychologically appropriate and sensitive term to identify individuals who were primarily sexually aroused by others of the same sex. (http://principles.ucdavis.edu/glossary.html)
LBGT abbv. lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered.
(http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/Cafe/1017/lexicon.html)
lesbian (lehz’-bee-ehn) n. A gay female.
(http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/Cafe/1017/lexicon.html#lesbian)
Lesbian – A woman who is emotionally and sexually attracted to other women. The term comes from the isle of Lesbos, where the poet, Sappho, established a community of women in the 7th century BC. Much of Sappho’s poetry spoke of love for women. Currently, the term lesbian is popular in many segments of the LGB community, and is the term deemed appropriate by the APA to designate homosexual women. It is preferred as a term that makes women clearly visible in LGB issues, acknowledging that lesbian issues are not entirely the same as gay men’s issues. However, some members of the LGB community do not prefer this term. Some believe it is too political and may be divisive (why separate ourselves from gay men?). Others feel that it sounds too clinical or pathological.
(http://safezone.georgetown.edu/sz4-1.html)
queer (kweer) n. adj. One who is LBGT. (Can be derogatory if used by a non-queer.)
(http://www.geocities.com/WestHollywood/Cafe/1017/lexicon.html)
Queer: Once known as a derogatory term for homosexual, Queer was reclaimed by lesbian, gay, and bisexual activist in the 1980′s as a proud name for themselves. Queer blurs both gender and sexual orientation and is regarded as more inclusive of difference than lesbian or gay.
(http://www.number-one-adult-sexual-health-terms-advisor.com/queerterms.htm)
Queer: The precise definition varies. The term has been used to refer to a gay, lesbian or transsexual. (http://www.religioustolerance.org/sexdefnhr.htm)

Body The word fandom dates back to 1896. 1 Some of the earlier newspaper records use the word in the context of sports and movie fan communities. 2 These references to fans describe fans in ways that could be understood as middle and upper class. They are described as intelligent, articulate and well read. They have money to attend movies and buy newspapers on a regular basis. Fandom members are affluent enough to be expected to show up at events with their cars, in an era when a car was a luxury. The sports and literary 3 fandoms of that pre-World War II era were filled with men. The movie fandom was filled with women. These fandom roles were class and gender appropriate for their era.

And thus fandom was off and running in the modern context. It starts off as the domain of the middle class with members meeting appropriate gender related roles. Mass media depictions and scholarly articles did not infer an infusion of the working class in fandom. This is a period where labor law reforms 4 have not yet taken place, where the working class have limited leisure time and limited money to spend on leisure activities.

During this period, homosexuality was absent, based on current sources, from the limited fannish discussion taking place. Culturally, it would not have been tolerated. In the United States, it would have upset traditional gender roles. In the United Kingdom, it would have threatened nationalistic sentiments. (King) Bringing sex into discussions was still taboo, as the Victorian culture was still firmly in place.

Literature based “fan fiction” communities in the vein of Sherlock Holmes would continue after World War II ended. In England, membership to literary societies producing pastiches would continue to be male dominated with many of the members being titled. These organizations included Baker Street Irregulars and Sherlock Holmes Literary Society. They frequently included some of the best writers and influential society members of the day. Members would meet, socialize, analyze the works and share their pastiches. Some of these pastiches would go on to be published professionally or semi-professionally. The discussions that come down to us sixty years later give no indications that the topics discussed would have really challenged gender roles or sexual taboos present at the time.

Still, World War II had begun to change some perceptions of gender roles for the lower classes. There emerged a “pink collar” work force, with jobs that were working and middle class. Sexism was high and women of this class were on the front lines of the battle to redefine who they were. They were yet to take on the battle of dealing with racial and ethnic divisions still a fundamental part of American life. (May)

It was in this climate that the science fiction and fantasy fandom began to emerge on a much larger, more organized scale. The classics for the genre were being written. Heinlein, Bradbury, Asimov were writing. Important magazines that were fundamental to the fandom had been in existence for some time. Active, principle members of this community were generally of the middle and upper classes. A number were politically active or wrote stories that featured social commentaries. Some of these stories spoke to a classless society, an ideal that many science fiction fans in the working class could relate to and which made it difficult for them to associate with their own class. Science fiction at this time could not escape the boys club that other genres and more classic pastiche communities were basing their work on. Estimates put the number of total male participation for the whole fandom at upwards of ninety percent. Women’s involvement was much smaller and opportunities were limited; the ones who wanted to publish frequently had to publishing under male pseudonyms in order to find a publisher for novels or short stories. Male homosexuality, while heard of in the fandom in the era right after the end of the World War II, was frowned upon and open homosexuality could close every door to publishing for fear of alienating audiences who did not want to read homosexual content, nor read works by known homosexuals.

According to John Fiske, the role of the audience was reconceptualized as popular culture began to take shape and form in a commercial form at the end of World War II. It brought with it such things as professional wrestling with a regular audience that trended more female than male. Fiske cites sources which put the female audience at 60% attendance of live events and roughly ninety percent of the audience for televised audience. Wrestling was helped in a large part by television, a technology being embraced by the middle class, and by live performances at venues such as Comiskey Park and Madison Square Garden. Like music fen that were to follow them and science fiction fen operating during the same time period, this group of fen was actively producing fan created material and fanzines. Fiske notes that among the things they were creating were poems, based on the wrestling they were watching. They were writing stories. They were creating fanzines. There is nothing to suggest the presence of homosexual content or using fanzines to propagate discussion of that issue, to discuss gender roles, poverty, race or class.
As the 1950s ended and the 1960s began, a turbulent era was set to begin. There was the civil rights movement, class issues, feminist issues and issues relating to sexuality, orientation and gender. 5 1960 starts this era off with the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1960, signed by Eisenhower. The battle of the sexes has fuel added to it in 1960 when the birth control pill went on sale in 1960 in the United States. Both of these events would benefit people of all classes but the group who felt the greatest impact was American working class women and minorities. The English speaking world is about to be rocked when in 1960, Brian Epstein discovered the Beatles. In 1961, states like Illinois begin to decriminalize sodomy. In 1963, the first gay rights demonstration took place in the United States. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson declared war on poverty and signed the US Civil Rights Act. That same year, race riots took place in Philadelphia. In 1965, Malcolm X was killed and more American troops were sent to Vietnam as bombing of the country continued. Race riots continued and protests against the Vietnam war escalated. In 1966, the first gay student organization was founded.

It was in this climate that science fiction became a greater part of the fabric of American popular culture. In the science fiction community, several of the bigger, more well known authors would venture into areas which explored human sexuality. This included Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land, published in 1961. (Wikipedia) This was viewed as pushing the envelope. Still, openly gay authors who were not classic were finding it hard to get published their work, explicit homosexual content or not. The audience for the material had an increasingly working class audience in terms of income but in striving to meet that utopian ideal, did not identify that way. This trend of class identification would continue into the future. While much of the content continued to espouse utopian ideals and had begun to look at issues relating to women’s rights and gender, it was still a small, minority voice which lacked central figures and organizational support. Given the lack of organizational support in the wider GLBT community, that this was the case is not at all surprising.

The lack of a GLBT contingent is not surprising. The middle class, which made up a large component of the science fiction community, had been traditionally hostile towards this community. Those with jobs or an income that would place them in the working class from the science fiction community were identifying as middle class. Discussions with fans from that era suggest that they were also willing to borrow values from the middle class as part of their perceived assimilation into that class. Science fiction, while being out there on the forefront of political issues, was not that way in addressing private morality. The working class did not identify with the genre if they wanted to keep their class identification. The upper class at that time only resented homosexuals and Jews for their positions of power in terms of defining creativity and signally what they felt might be a new and threatening creative class.

This was the stage that was set for the Star Trek fandom and fan fiction community which grew out of the science fiction fandom. 6

Before Star Trek aired in 1967, the Beatles made their American debut and on February 7, 1964, they arrived in New York City for their first American tour. (Whelan) According to Barbara Ehrenreich, Elizabeth Hess, and Gloria Jacobs in their essay “Beatlemania: Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” this marked “the first mass outburst of the sixties to feature women – in this case girls, who would not reach full adulthood until the seventies and the emergence of a genuinely political movement for women’s liberation.” This group was composed of primarily middle class, white teenagers. The Beatles were rejected early by many adults for due to the group member’s long hair and sexually explicit lyrics. African American teenage girls of all classes were not fans of the group on a large scale, preferring music like jazz, the blues and other music coming out of their own communities. (Ehrenreich) This group of fans would, like other groups of fans before them, create their own fan products. This included fanzines. The fannish oral tradition alive today is implicit in their being fictional stories about band members being circulated during the early years of the band’s history. This is substantiated by Ehrenreich, Hess and Jacob’s essay which says such things as “girls exchanged Beatle magazines or cards, and gathered to speculate obsessively on the details and nuances of Beatle life.”

But what about homosexuality? The Beatles were at the forefront for many white, middle class teenage girls in helping them redefine their own definition of sexuality and their own definitions of what it meant to be female. (Ehrenreich) This was taking place in an era where there was that increased debate on subjects like “birth, a woman’s obligation to society, and conception, bringing with it all of the bitterness and acrimony that have long surrounded these issues, beginning with perhaps the most obvious one of them all — Sexism.” (Rowland) Legal gender differences between men and women were beginning to fall. (Rowland) For young fans of the Beatles, popular culture was helping them by giving them real examples of people challenging American perceptions of gender. Real men just did not have long hair back then. The traditional middle class reacted to some of these changing gender roles, the “feminizing” of men by questioning a person’s sexuality or clearly labeling them homosexual. During this period, homosexuality was being portrayed to the middle class, with some help from working class homosexuals who were seeking to gain equal rights to practice certain sex acts, as promiscuous, with homosexuals having loads and loads of sex, of being homosexuals being obsessed with sex and not participating in long term monogamous relationships. Beatles fen were discussing these things, liking the fact that these traditional gender roles were being upset. They found the Beatles sexy. At the same time, these fen, like their fellow fen forty years later, fantasized about being involved with a member of the band. The average fan knew this wasn’t possible. The fans resented when a member of the band was involved with other women. They did not want to see that happen. It is highly probable, that given this and the fact that they were writing fictional stories featuring the Beatles, that some of the Beatles were written as homosexual if only as a way to ensure that the object of the fan’s lust, since they could not be hers, would never belong to another female fan.

The Beatles fandom is thus underway and the mid to late 1960s start. Several shows are on television for the first time that will spawn fandoms and fan fiction communities that will be the larger fan fiction community almost forty years later. These shows include Man from U.N.C.L.E., Doctor Who, Star Trek and others. The Man from U.N.C.L.E. fandom followed the trend of earlier television, media and celebrity based fandoms. The fan club was created one a year after the show was on the air. That fandom and the Doctor Who fannish community were both active in writing drawerfics, fan fiction circulated by hand with a tiny circulation that was not published in a zine. Demographic information pertaining to class, race and gender of these communities at this time is not accessible. It makes speculating on what was happening in those domains difficult.

So there you have the Star Trek fandom. It first aired on September 8, 1966. By 1967, the Star Trek fandom would produce the first Star Trek fanzine, Spockanalia. Spockanalia was the first Star Trek fanzine to be produced. It was created by Devra Langsam and Sherna Comerford with a contribution from Dorothy Jones and a letter from Leonard Nimoy. (Verba) Later editions would contain examples of fan fiction. The early creation of fanzines by this community is directly attributable to the experience of early Star Trek fen involvement in the science fiction fandom. From that community, they pulled publishing practices, convention hosting, organizational skills and more. Star Trek fans identified class wise and are portrayed in historical recountings the same way that members of the science fiction fandom did. The only major difference between the two is the overwhelming prevalence of women in the Star Trek fandom, with men as a clear minority.

Star Trek, like parts of the genre from which it sprung, offered various types of political and social commentary. Geraghty in “Creating and Comparing Myth in Twentieth-Century Science Fiction: “Star Trek” and “Star Wars”" puts the thrust of the original series’ political message as one supporting the United Status’s manifest destiny and westward expansion. Geraghty also claims that Star Trek sometimes falls prey to “perpetuating the “white only” myth.” Some episodes such as “Return of the Archons” argue against things like the drug culture, a culture with a large representation coming from the working class. Other episodes such as “Errand of Mercy,” argues Geraghty, are about allegories fighting communism. The Christian Bible is cited as a source of the laws of the Federation by Kirk’s lawyer in the episode “Court-Martial.” (Kreitzer) It is an optimistic view of the United States, promising a future for Americans who were suffering from the pull of various social conflicts and Vietnam that were going on at the time.

None of the above, culturally, points to a Star Trek fan community that would be tolerant, supportive and fostering of GLBT issues. The show itself did not address the issue. The science fiction community, upon which the Star Trek fan fiction community would be built, was not tolerant. There were several hostile elements in terms of getting published and propagating ideas and concepts that could be construed as homofriendly. The nationalistic elements referenced in the show are not that far time wise removed from the nationalistic period which called homosexuality un-American. The Christian Bible’s use as a foundation for law was one of the reasons used to justify discrimination against various classes in American society.

As the 1970s rolled around, events continued to happen. In the United States, environmentalism began to be a cause embraced by parts of the middle class. Women’s rights efforts started to gain more traction with the middle class. Stonewall, which happened in June of 1970, had ignited the gay rights movement but in a way that aggravated some in the middle class as it sometimes portrayed homosexuality as a culture that tolerated promiscuous behavior.
As far flung and separated fandoms entered the 1970s and later the 1980s, three fan fiction communities continued to stick out in fannish memory as documented in interviews, newspaper articles, magazine articles, books, Usenet and mailing lists. These communities include the traditional literary fan fiction, the music fan fiction community and media fan fiction communities. Each would have their own issues, based on their class and gender composition.

Starting in the 1970s and 1980s, there was the anomaly to the traditional middle class and upper class fandom. This anomaly was the punk music community. There were numerous fannish communities based on different punk bands. Most of the membership for these fandoms was working class. These working class fen used their extra money to attend music sessions by their favorite local punk artists. They were male and female. They were misfits. This group of fen used Xerox machines to produce fanzines. Ones like Cometbus frequently included samples of fictional stories about the band. Some of these stories according to fannish lore featured musicians not just written as being involved in same sex sexual couplings but as homosexuals; they were written and coded that way. This was frequently done with the knowledge of the band members involved as many of those fen had access to the artists. While they may not always have supported the material and have actively considered them rubbish, they did not apparently step up and crack down on those materials. The reasoning for this is that music played with those gender issues, those orientation issues, operated on the cultural fringes, with a number of artists in the community being out, out like people in other fandoms could not be. This type of fannish behavior and related attitudes stayed with the community well into the 1990s.
Titled, rich, male, money to spend and an interest in Sherlock Holmes are some ways that the Sherlock Holmes community was characterized historically. This characterization carried into the 1970s. “Elementary Facts of Holmes Fandom” by Bob Cromie appeared in the Chicago Tribune on page 18 of January 12, 1972′s edition. The Sherlock Holmes fandom of that time was characterized by Cromie as having been historically male, with male fen being offended when a female only branch of the Baker Street Irregulars was founded. The men in the article were described as semi-professional writers, obsessed with the works about Sherlock Holmes. The issues of female involvement, of women breaking down doors and trying to enter there space and being resentful of their intrusion, seems to be very characteristic of upper class issues dealing with gender at the time, where trophy wives were still in play and women were supposed to support their men.

In 1974, Diane Marchant sat down, wrote and published a story featuring two characters, gender some what ambiguous and using highly coded language. (Boyd, Langley) The story was titled “A Fragment Out of Time” and it was not until later discussion that the author made it clear that the story featured the Kirk/Spock pairing. The community, through letterzines, reviewzines and discussion at conventions, discussed this material. There was a degree of hostility towards this material. Some of this hostility stemmed from the fact that ew, homosexual content, ew! This was not something people of their class should be writing. It was not something that was traditionally associated with the science fiction fandom. It happened in the same year that the great Star Trek – science fiction schism started. The science fiction community, overwhelming male, felt that Star Trek fen, overwhelming female, would overshadow and marginalize other science fiction being produced at the time. The science fiction community was further annoyed by what they felt was the consistently inferior product distributed by the Star Trek fan fiction community, a community that just the year before had given name to Mary Sue. Making this infusion of Kirk/Spock fan fiction was the fact that some parts of the community started to actively embrace this material and more of appeared in the ensuing years.

But as this material grew, so did resentment. One way to counter this resentment was to remind fen, repeatedly, that they were heterosexual and female. The articles coming out by scholars at that time emphasize that. The husband and wife zine producing duos helped draw attention to that. Fen were also keen on ingraining in other fen the idea that Kirk and Spock were clearly heterosexuals. This was something that was indoctrinated into fen. Kirk and Spock might be involved with each other but that was due to the lack of other options and true love; heterosexual identity remained intact. At the same time that slash was increasing, so was the amount of sexually explicit material. This would lead to a rift in the fandom by 1979, where a number of fen left and joined the Star Wars fandom to avoid this content. This conflict would carry over into other fandoms during the 1980s.

The Starsky and Hutch, like most media fandoms of the 1980s, was mostly middle class in identification. And like most media fandoms, it had its homophobic moments. It also lacked very visibly out and proud gays and lesbians in the community. The early community tried to deter slash or keep it underground out of fear. One example of this dates to 1981 when Code 7 was published. The zine was published anonymously as there was a real fear in the American fan fiction community that the anti-slash component of the fan fiction community would send the material to the producers of the show and create other problems for those slash writers in their real lives. According to me_n_thee, the zine contained the following disclaimer: “This is a privileged and private publication; it was sent to you because you know the value and need for discretion. You are being trusted; if you misuse this trust, you will be harming not only the contributors, but all of S/H fandom. Please keep this zine entirely to yourself! Thank you.” Slash fen in the community felt very threatened by others. They feared fen outings them to their employers and being otherwise harassed. (Boyd)

Going to another fandom, the same demographics of other media fandoms are there: middle class, female and white. The Battlestar Galatica fandom of the same period made it very clear to fen that they might be writing stories with m/m characters but that fen needed to remember, were indoctrinated in the idea that the characters, while being written in m/m relationships, were still fundamentally heterosexual.
The 1980s also saw the start of the backlash against adult material and what was then described as homoerotic material in the Star Wars fandom. 7 The Star Wars fan fiction community was founded shortly after the release of the first movie. The fan fiction community, being built by people with experience from other fannish communities like Star Trek would quickly put out the first stories and fanzines. The first story to arrive on the scene was published in Warped Space or Scuttlebutt. Unlike the Star Trek community’s relationship with Paramount, Lucasfilms Ltd. would be involved and trying to maintain some control on the type of content which appeared, according to Verba, almost from the start. One of the earliest pieces of fan fiction was published this year. According to Langley and Verba, the story was most likely published in Warped Space.

By 1981, the Star Wars m/m situation got to the point where Lucasfilms Ltd. felt they needed to act to protect their interests. The community was primed and this year would be the one remembered. In May, Guardian #3 was published. This fanzine contained two version of a story called “A Slow Boat to Bespin.” One story was by A. E. Zeek. The other story was by B. Wenk. While both of these stories featured heterosexual pairings, Zeek’s story contained material that would, in today’s society, likely garner an R rating. This story was the reason that the publishers of Guardian #3 likely received a cease and desist letter from Maureen Garrett, the first president of the Star Wars fan club. Several other zines during the same period, including ones that had published slashed, received similar cease and desist notices. In response to the demand for clarity on what was acceptable to publish and not publish, Maureen Garrett promised guidelines. None came until October. When they came, they were not viewed as being particularly helpful. The guidelines were nothing more than a statement saying Lucasfilms Ltd. would not tolerate pornography, vulgar material, and material that was excessively violent or gory. (Langley) The net effect of this incident was that it shut down almost all production of slash in the Star Wars community. This created an increase of people from other communities where m/m and f/f was more prevalent but who did not like this material joining the community. Fen who did not leave or who were active in both also began campaigns around this time, trying to convince the powers that be in their fannish communities to crack down on m/m and f/f, like Lucasfilms Ltd. had done.

The Star Wars pornography problem in relation to m/m and f/f comment was probably exacerbated by the working class homosexual community being viewed as one that was, by their nature, promiscuous. The white, female middle class did not associate homosexuality with orientation but rather with sex acts, lots and lots of sex acts. As such anything with m/m or f/f content was not about homosexuality, vis-à-vis orientation, but homosexuality sex acts. It made even fan fiction featuring m/m content and coding sexually suspect because of the relationship that white middle class women came up with that made homosexuality about sex. It was further suspect because of the pains taken by more than a few of these fen to continue to indoctrinate their fellow fen into the idea that the characters, while having gay sex, still had an orientation of heterosexual. The inherent conflict with adult material and homosexual content would not be resolved in the fandom until the early 1990s.

The concept of sexual orientation is a new one. The word homosexual did not enter the English language until 1869, and then it was used in the context of certain sex acts that would happen between two men. (University of Waterloo) Gay meaning homosexual men was first used in the 1920s by gay men. (Harper) The usage of gay “as a noun meaning “a (usually male) homosexual” is attested from 1971.” (Harper) Lesbian is first used relating to homosexual women in 1890. (Harper) Is it any wonder that, given the lateness of these concepts into the Western psyche that it would take media fandom eighteen years after the first Star Trek fan fiction was published and eleven years after the first m/m story was published that a word would be created to describe m/m fan fiction? According to Boyd, Curtin and Langley, slash was not used in the fan fiction community until 1985. 8

When one goes back in time and looks at some of the definitions found based on fan recollections, Usenet and early web definitions, it becomes crystal clear that the word slash meant what fen had understood the concept to mean before a word was informally adopted to describe it. Early definitions of slash defined slash as Kirk/Spock stories, stories about two heterosexual men involved m/m relationship with each other, non-canon pairings. The heterosexual aspect was implicit and understood. Stories written from that period lacked coding to define characters as gay. In fact, such coding of characters as gay would have been a turn off for some readers. Authorial and group intent was clear, indoctrinated, that these characters were heterosexuals who found their one true love or who just happened to sleep with a guy. Slash was clearly was not gay, was not gay literature. And this was understood that way by the community at the time; no one would have confused it for being gay literature for the white, middle class heterosexual women reading it.

Conclusion

Modern fandom dates back to the 1890s. From the outset, fandom was dominated by members who identified as middle class or upper class. For the most part, this was a community that, once media fan fiction communities became dominant, were heavily female. The only real deviations from this pattern included fan fiction communities based on musical groups during the 1970s and 1980s and literary pastiche communities. The values and morality brought by fen into fan fiction communities helped to shape the nature of fan fiction communities. They are one of the primary reasons that slash cannot be a product that could be considered gay, nor a form of gay literature. Given the historical roots of slash as non-gay, it is unlikely that most slash will be considered gay, nor gay literature any time in the near future.9

Footnotes

1 Oxford English Dictionary’s Science Fiction Words Site dates the first usage to “antedating 1896 Washington Post, Oct 10, 1896″

2 References to fandom found in the Chicago Daily Tribune. See References for more specific details as to some of the sources found.

3 There is some credible evidence to suggest that there was a literary community of young, female writers involved in the writing of pastiche based on the work of Jane Austen during this era. This is referenced by Jenkins but was not found in newspaper articles searches for that period.

4 For a timeline of labor in the United States, see A Curriculum of United States Labor History for Teachers found at http://www.kentlaw.edu/ilhs/curricul.htm

5 There are a number of good books which address this topic in various forms. Some of my favorites of the moment include The Boundaries of Her Body, the Troubling History of Women’s Rights in America by Debran Rowland, The Way We Never Were by Stephanie Coontz, Sex Ed: Film, Video, and the Framework of Desire by Robert T. Eberwein, Undeserving Poor by Michael Katz, and American Century: A History of the United States Since 1941 by Walter Lafeber.

6 There is an anecdote repeated in the Star Trek fandom regarding the screening of the pilot at a science fiction convention. Gene Roddenberry was showing the pilot at some convention, premiering it for the first time before an audience whom he hoped would be kind to it and to gauge their feelings on it. He shushed two people talking during the screening. One of those people was Isaac Asimov.

7 An amusing side story detailing what was going on at the time involves Mark Hamill. At the same time that Lucasfilms Ltd. was cracking down on Star Wars erotica, some Han/Luke fan fiction writers kept leaving this material at Hamill’s house.

8 According to Langley in a phone interview in the summer of 2005, this date is subject to some leeway as the date was ascertained by herself and Mary Ellen Curtin going through fanzines in their extensive, personal collections and trying to find the earliest usage. Langley’s date of 1985 is helped as she was a long time participant in fandom and can draw upon her own fannish experiences to put a time frame on the date. When looking through Usenet records from that period of the 1980s, the fact that the word might not have been used till that time is logical. The Kirk/Spock convention of using the slash to denote a romantic pairing was still not standardized until the late 1980s, early 1990s. The word is not used in Star Trek Lives! but has picked up enough usage to be used by Henry Jenkins in 1992. Verba’s discussion in her book, Boldly Writing, uses the word slash in the index but as a see K/S. K&S is used by the Verba to denote Kirk/Spock friendship stories.

9 The issue of heterosexual characters involved in same sex pairings continued well after 1985. Shows like QAF challenged terminology and understood definitions of slash. Could same sex pairings between canonically homosexual characters be gay? The discussion that resulted from that time period was a rather definitive no, it wasn’t slash because the characters were not heterosexual. Demographic studies of fen after 1990 began to show a more sizable GLBT presence in fan fiction communities. By some estimates, the number was as high as thirty percent. In some fandoms like Xena, the number was undoubtedly higher. More stories being written included coded GLBT material but more often than not, the average piece of m/m or f/f slash doesn’t.

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A history and my take on The Slash Debate

January 20th, 2010

The Slash Debate continues to go on and the longer it has gone on, the more I wanted to comment on it.  The problem is how to do that thoughtfully, acknowledging both sides and the shades of grey in between the major position.  If you aren’t aware, the Slash Debate kicked off in response to “Man on Man: The New Gay Romance … … written by and for straight women” by Gendy Alimurung in LA Weekly.  Some gay men found the article objectionable because it ignored them completely in explaining about a genre that comes out of their own tradition.  This kerfluffle was on the heels of LambdaFail, where straight writers were upset over having been deliberately excluded from awards honoring GLBT literature.

I haven’t completely followed the whole argument as it morphed into a discussion about m/m slash, but one of the major points that developed was that gay men were upset about straight women writing homoerotic fan fiction for their own sexual gratification, feeling that they were being stereotyped in a less than flattering light, that m/m slash was not helping the GLBT movement and that, ultimately, they were being othered in a genre that was fundamentally about them.  This upset some members of the m/m slash community who felt that men were trying to tell women how to define their own sexuality, trying to restrict their freedom to write, that gay men had no reason to complain because they did the same thing to women with their drag performances, etc.

This whole argument happened against a backdrop of 2009, where some members of fandom were upset about the portrayal of people of color in fiction, and how fandom treated people of color.  Some of the dominant voices during that conversation insisted that white people sit and listen to the people of color, that people of color should be deferred that to when writing people of color, that fundamentally all white people were racists, that just because some people of color were not offended doesn’t mean that a person’s actions aren’t racist.  The Slash Debate flips some of that on its head: Gay men are not being deferred to in terms of how they are depicted by others, where those offended are slotted into a minority position that should be ignored because they are not representative.

Where this argument differs from Race!Fail involves sex and the attempts to regulate kink, sexual interests, how we explore them, what is acceptable and not acceptable.   People just aren’t comfortable with people trying to dictate those interests and that’s why the slash defenders are probably taking their position: We shouldn’t be judged based on personal and private kinks and getting off on m/m slash a personal turn on for many people.  When we perceive these as being attacked, we tend to attack back no matter how right or wrong the defense of these may be in the context of hurting others.

I don’t have a problem with your kink. …  Except when your kink involves shotacon and chan.  But otherwise, your kink is your kink and it may not be my kink but that’s okay as we all have different turn ons. I just dislike the rationalizations for why your kink is not actually offensive to people who find your public expressions of your kink as harmful to their identity, undermining their community and stereotyping them in a way that is unflattering and inaccurate.  Own your kink but don’t rationalize the problems away.  That’s hypocritical and harmful, especially harmful in this case if you’re also purporting to support gay rights while doing what people perceive as undermining those.

One of the cases of supporting the position that this material isn’t offensive that has bothered me is that the fan fiction community that is being criticized is queer and those dissenting voices can be ignored.  This is probably best expressed by Science, y’all and More Science.  The author looks at some polls that demonstrate that fandom is over 50% queer.  If you start breaking down the numbers from the polls that have publicly viewable results, the 50%+ number is largely a result of people who are not heterosexual and mostly bisexual.  The lesbian population is about 10 to 15%.  That’s what those numbers show: Yes, the self selected population in those polls is female, mostly heterosexual, with a large bisexual population and a smaller population of lesbians.  What the author doesn’t show, and what is fundamentally important here, is that of the 500 or so people who answered LiveJournal polls with publicly available results?  Between 10 and 20 of the respondents are male.  Just ignore their orientation for now:  2% to 4% of respondents were male.  The Slash Debate is an issue of gay men not appreciating how straight women depict them in m/m slash.  The issue is not that of queer people not appreciating how straight women depict them in m/m slash.  The female queer population is thus largely irrelevant to this discussion because, well, queer women are more privileged than gay males.  If those polls demonstrated that queer males represented over 50% of our fannish population, that data would be relevant.

Why the emphasis on gender and orientation?  Because in the sexuality privilege Olympics, heterosexual males get gold.  Heterosexual women get silver.  Asexuals get bronze and last place.  (Last place because their orientation is still considered a sexual dysfunction.)  Bisexual women get fourth.  Bisexual men get fifth.  Homosexual women sixth.  Butch and African American homosexual women get six and a half place.  Homosexual men get seventh.  Queen and African American homosexuals (in the context of US culture) get seven and a half place.  This hierarchy of privilege in the context of American culture is important for understanding this argument.

Gay men are less privileged than lesbian women.  When lesbian women start talking about how this material is not offensive and how homosexuality is depicted in slash is not problematic, they are speaking from a place of privilege.  In the United States, lesbian women are often portrayed as hot, sexy and not threatening to American definitions of masculinity.  And anyway, a lesbian can always become straight if she sleeps with a guy.  (Which, no, is not true but it is an attitude that I know some people hold which is why they see lesbians as less problematic than gay men. ) Added to that, American culture, and to a degree English culture, have idealized female friendship and elevated it.  It is natural that women’s relationships might go that way.  One of the major exceptions to this involves butch lesbians, who challenge traditional gender roles, face their own discrimination and are rarely if ever seen on television compared to their non-butch counterparts.

Gay men? They aren’t that privileged in the United States.  Gay men are seen as challenging traditional gender roles.  Gay men felt the brunt of events like Stonewall.  Gay men faced people more actively trying to legislate their sex lives, to criminalize their sex lives.  When people sought to prosecute homosexual sex, they tended to go after gay men.  In the United States, making jokes at the expense of male homosexuals is still much more tolerated.  Remember all the Brokeback Mountain jokes?  People were okay with that and there was no outrage over those, much less outrage than if some one had made similar jokes about a person of color.  Added to that, when American culture talks about gay males, they tend to focus on their sex lives or on stereotypes involving queens.  Yes, this is changing but gay men have often had it worse than lesbian women, and I do not see the two as being being on equal footing when it comes to privilege.  Any implication that they are is probably misguided.  (1) Their voices should not be silenced just because it gets in the way of enjoying your own kink.

I’ve rambled on and I had another pointed I wanted to make: Some universes are harder to read and are more problematic for fan fiction writers, in terms of the accuracy issue and the potential to offend and get things wrong.   Starsky and Hutch is set during the 1970s.  If they got together and were out at work?  It probably would not be pretty and their co-workers likely wouldn’t be okay.  Star Trek, as much as we might wish otherwise, does not present us with a happy future where homosexuality is tolerated and same sex relationships are viewed as normal.  When we do see queer characters that aren’t aliens, they tend to be evil.  In Glee, we really don’t see lesbians and the gay kid gets picked on.  (But thankfully has a supportive parent.)  In True Blood, the gay male gets murdered violently and is a drug dealer. Tolerance in that universe is not really implied. On The Good Wife, the implication is that some one is in the closet for the good of their own career.  (Or was mistakenly labeled a lesbian and isn’t bothered by it.)  Lots of these universes are just heternormative.  Squishy happy romances thus might need some care so that these realities are acknowledged, while at the same time not interfering with the audiences’s kinks.  When you’re writing and when you’re responding as a reader, that may be the most important takeaway from The Slash Debate.

1. If you’re up on the historical GLBT movement, there are some major conflicts that have taken place between gay men and lesbian women.  At times, they have had different agendas and their was a lot of resentment on both sides.  It makes for a fascinating read if you’re interested but I just didn’t want to get into that in this post.

Harry Potter fan fiction on FanFiction.Net

January 10th, 2010

I apologize for the writing quality.  I tend to like to present data.  My analysis and commentary tends to be minimal, stating the obvious and letting the reader speculate as to what exactly the data means.  Insiders can often explain patterns better than outsiders and for the Harry Potter fandom, I’m definitely an outsider.

A friend of mine has been busy pulling data off FanFiction.Net this past week.  He found some rather interesting things:

  • 8,566 Twilight stories on FanFiction.Net with no recorded reviews, 117,578 stories with at least 1 review. 93% of all twilight fics get reviewed at least once.
  • Master of the Universe has28,690 reviews on FanFiction.Net takes gold for most reviewed Twilight story on site.
  • 19 Twilight stories on FanFiction.Net have 10,000+ reviews.
  • The top 3 fandoms by stories on FanFiction.Net: Harry Potter [book] (437,590), Naruto [anime] (221,117), and Twilight [book] (126,590).

After he got that data, he turned to look at Harry Potter.   1.2% of the total stories are missing so there is a certain margin of error to consider.  That said, the average Harry Potter story on FanFiction.Net has 31.8 reviews.  The top ten most reviewed stories have review totals way below that of their Twilight counterparts, which has its top stories with 10,000+ reviews.  Harry Potter’s top stories in contrast have only one story with 10,000 plus reviews.  The top nine fall in the range of 6,200 and 9,300 reviews.  These stories are:

+---------+-------------------------------------------------+------------------------------------+---------+

| storyid | title                                           | url                                | reviews |



+---------+-------------------------------------------------+------------------------------------+---------+

| 2196609 | An Aunt's Love                                  | http://fanfiction.net/s/2196609/1/ |   11532 |



| 2636963 | Harry Potter and the Nightmares of Futures Past | http://fanfiction.net/s/2636963/1/ |    9307 |



| 4437151 | Harry's New Home                                | http://fanfiction.net/s/4437151/1/ |    8827 |



| 4240771 | Partially Kissed Hero                           | http://fanfiction.net/s/4240771/1/ |    8676 |



| 2318355 | Make A Wish                                     | http://fanfiction.net/s/2318355/1/ |    7626 |



| 1260679 | Realizations                                    | http://fanfiction.net/s/1260679/1/ |    7136 |



| 2571676 | Not Your Usual Veela Mate                       | http://fanfiction.net/s/2571676/1/ |    7101 |



| 3733492 | The Apprentice and the Necromancer              | http://fanfiction.net/s/3733492/1/ |    6646 |



| 3736151 | Better Be Slytherin!                            | http://fanfiction.net/s/3736151/1/ |    6506 |



| 2900438 | Unsung Hero                                     | http://fanfiction.net/s/2900438/1/ |    6297 |



+---------+-------------------------------------------------+------------------------------------+---------+

These stories are not short and were often written over the course of several years.  The average story on this list has 74.8 chapters.  Some of that is a bit skewed as one story has 251 chapters.  If that data point is removed, the average length is 55.2 chapters.  To put this into a different context, the average story is 289,902 words with the shortest one clocking in at a measly 174,735 words and the longest one at 396,525 words.

These stories were generally not started recently.  The earliest was published in 2003, one published in 2004, three published in 2005, one in 2006, two in 2007 and two in 2008.  Half of these stories are complete and three of the incomplete stories look like they are still being actively worked on.

Gen stories look like they have a slight edge in getting large numbers of reviews with four of the stories on this list falling into this category.  Of the remaining six, three are het (2 Harry/Ginny, 1 Snape/Hermione) and three are slash (1 Harry/Draco, 2 Snape/Harry).  If you’re looking to repeat this formula to launch yourself to a huge number of reviews, this may not be a helpful variable to focus on.

The authors of these stories tend to not be very prolific in writing other stories, with the average total number of stories by authors on this list at fifteen.  If you remove the author who wrote 57 stories, the average comes down to ten.  Some of the authors who have very few stories often follow up with missing scenes and rewrites of their work.  These tend to have substantially fewer chapters, and a smaller word count.  As these seem like important variables towards getting high review counts, that probably hurts their ability to get as many reviews on their other works.  A small number of stories though probably keeps their audience focused on their main work, giving them reason to keep tuning in: The reader knows what they like and they likely won’t be turned off by discovering other works by the author that diverge from their primary interest.

Beyond the data regarding the most reviewed Harry Potter stories on FanFiction.Net, story and review data was obtained and made into the pretty chart below.   The total number reviews for a month is based on the date the story was published, not the date that the review was left. So our Harry Potter story that was published in December 2004 with 11,000 reviews that was last updated in September 2009?  All those reviews are counted for December 2004.

There are certain peaks and troughs.  Some of this can probably be explained by the sheer volume of stories leading to additional reviews.  As people lose interest, less stories are written and fewer reviews are given.  Stories posted in 2009 are likely to not have multiple chapters for them to get huge numbers of reviews yet.  Or, quite possibly, interest in reviewing new one shot Harry Potter stories has totally evaporated.

Edited to add: The following chart shows the total Harry Potter stories on FanFiction.Net.  There are some big jumps but no really big ones.

How accurate are RapLeaf’s numbers? Can social media metrics be trusted for fandom studies?

January 10th, 2010

Yesterday, I was poking around the Internet to see if anyone had done any large scale demographic study of the characteristics of online fandom because sometimes, I feel like I’m the only person doing this. Most of the research I see relies heavily on survey work, which can be tremendously self selecting in terms of population. As a result, I tend to be generally distrustful of this work for demographic analysis or where it doesn’t speak to a small select population and isn’t a case study.

I did find one small study posted on Scribd titled Study on Sports Fans Demographics on Social Networks.  It was done by RapLeaf.  It had some interesting conclusions like half of hockey fans are female, compared to 40% for basketball and 35% for baseball.  It also concluded that 85% of sports fans are under the age of 35.  Fascinating.   They didn’t go much into their methodology much, beyond that they did this across social networks.

I’m rather skeptical of RapLeaf’s methodology here.  If I go to Facebook’s advertising demographics page, I get 26,240 female fans on ice hockey in the United States and 61,420 male fans of ice hockey in the United States.  (Ice hockey being necessary because in some countries, the hockey means field hockey.  In others, it means roller hockey.)  For the Chicago Blackhawks, 135,000 (55%)  fans are male and 112,00 (45%) are female.    For the Boston Bruins, 33,780 fans are female and 56,740 fans are male.  These numbers are a bit different than 50% and I’m not sure all the major social networks combined are going to get populations larger than Facebook.

Are there more than 90,000 American ice hockey fans on bebo, LiveJournal, LinkedIn, blogger, Quizilla, MySpace?  Are there more than 243,000 fans of the Blackhawks on those networks when combined?  Maybe but I some how doubt it.

Quantcast has some demographic data up regarding gender breakdown of visitors to the NHL’s website.  Quantcast thinks that 59% of the visitors are male and 41% are female.  That’s much more in line with what the team specific data from Facebook is pulling.  The NHL also has a much bigger contributor pool, with about 2.1 million US visitors a month.

If you look on RapLeaf’s site, they give you a sample report for the data they provide, which includes a gender break down for users of various social networks.  One of the sites they offer a gender breakdown for is LiveJournal.  LiveJournal does have a gender field for its users to fill out and they use this information internally; there is no public display.  In fact, when they it looked like they might have made that information public, people complained loudly.  There are no indications from RapLeaf’s site that they have a partnership with networks like LiveJournal or LinkedIn where they are given access to this non-public data.   Where exactly are they pulling that data from?  It really begs the question of accuracy of RapLeaf’s numbers in this case.

I’d love to see a real demographic study about the composition of sports fandom and other fan communities.  It is a fascinating topic and can really go a long ways towards explaining how communities interact with each other, how they function and allow researchers to make better comparisons across communities.  I’m just not certain that the social media metrics provided by marketers, the only population that really seems to be working on this, can be trusted with their numbers any more than academic researchers with self selection survey populations can.

Katsucon

January 4th, 2010

The admin staff hasn’t really been keeping up with the latest Katsucon drama and we would really appreciate if our awesome contributors could step up and improve the article.  One of the most contentious issues that we’ve seen in the lead up involves issues around Artists Alley.  randomsome1 called the Maryland Comptroller’s office and got the low down on the tax situation for any artists selling merchandise and other goodies there.  This is crossposted with permission from her:

So I just spent an hour or so on hold and on the phone with the comptroller & sales/use tax people of Maryland. (For the record, their hold jingle is dire.) I transcribed what I got from them for sharing with the group.

If an individual in the state of Maryland is selling artworks or crafts which have been made specifically for sale, do they need to collect sales tax?

A: Yes they do. What you and/or the show promoter will need is to get a temporary sales tax number, unless you plan to sell in Maryland on a regular basis. If your sales will not be regular, register for a temporary sales tax number. “Regularly” is defined by “four or more times a year.” People who sell regularly in MD should get a permanent tax number, and for more information should call Miss Foster @ 410 767 1543.

A temporary tax number does not have a yearly/quarterly filing requirement. Getting one does not actually make you a business—it’s just to say that you will be selling things. (If you officially want to sell as your studio instead of your name you have to register a fictitious name, which is a slightly different and kind of expensive beastie in its own right.) When you complete the application it asks how long the event will run. After there’s a 20-30 day window to file.

If you return to sell in MD and need to pay sales tax again, just call the temp sales tax phone number (from above) and Miss Foster will be able to talk you through using the number/temp license. She got me registered over the phone with my info from Otakon.

Would tax liability change if a seller proclaimed themselves to be an amateur or a hobbyist?

A: No.

What about the provisions in the tax code regarding “casual and isolated sales”?

A: In the case of this event, quite a few people will have the option of making purchases so it does not count as a one time sale. As the purpose is for people to have more than one sale, and as the likelihood is extremely high that more than one sale will be made by each seller, this makes it exempt from the “casual and isolated sales” provision.

What about out-of-state sellers, small businesses, etc.?

A: They would also need the a temporary sales number. PA or other out-of-state sales tax numbers do not apply in MD, where the possession of merchandise will take place.

What could make sales at this show be tax exempt?

Sellers would not be required to collect sales tax if the purchase is made from a verified/certified reseller. (In this case, they would be required to collect proof of reseller status.) Otherwise they are liable for collecting and paying sales tax. To do otherwise is tax evasion.

What are the responsibilities of the individuals running a show that will feature sales of the previously mentioned artworks?

A: An event promoter could register for a sales & use tax number for the particular event, then at the end of the event the sellers will report their sales volumes and pay them the sales tax due; then the event promoter will report and pay that to the state of Maryland. If the sellers are registered with the state of Maryland they will pay the amount themselves directly. If any of you sold at Otakon—it’s like that.

The outing of Astolat and Fan History

December 31st, 2009

This post is written in response to some comments posted on this blog entry.  I’ve been repeatedly accused of outing Astolat.  I’ve largely been silent on it because it really serves no purpose to confront people about their view on the events.  It tends to piss people off and just drag up a whole bunch of garbage and nastiness in fandom that I’d and others would prefer to avoid.

Prior to the connection of Astolat and cathexys and and their real names on Fan History, both had made the connection themselves.  They did this on their FLists on LiveJournal.  They shared it with friends and acquaintances on other services.  Neither took active steps to really hide the connections and both were viewed as open fandom secrets that everyone knew.  The information frequently appeared on lol_meme, to the point where the mods on lol_meme stopped removing it.  At the time, Fan History’s admins edited articles and made the connections with out thinking, because everyone knew and the information was easily accessible.  Neither of these women were particularly “in the closet” with their identities.  When we were informed otherwise, I asked members of our staff about it.  One of them, who is no longer on staff, made the final call to put it back in and asked me to make the edit as they viewed as common knowledge.  I did, and I’ve never named that person or blamed them because ultimately, the buck stops with me and I didn’t want to subject a person I considered a good friend to the type of wank storm that I was being subjected to.

That these women were “in the closet” in regards to their identities is one of the biggest problems I have with the attacks on myself and Fan History.  Neither were and neither continue to be.  If you want to be “in the closet” and keep your fandom identity separated from your “real life” identity and name, you do it all the time.  You don’t decide that it is okay to be out with this person over here and not that person over there.  And by this person, I mean this group of two or three thousand and not that group of ten.    You don’t make information public and then claim that only this group over here can use that information when it suits them.  Still, that’s what both Astolat and cathexys chose to do.  They were out with their real names when it suited them and not when they weren’t.

We couldn’t have outed either of them.

Would our admin staff make the same decisions again regarding connecting people’s names like that?  No.  Never.

Have we changed our policies to prevent this from happening again?  Yes. YesAbsolutely.  And we enforce it and err on the side of caution.  We have a wonderful admin who has the primary job of enforcing these policies and she does an excellent job.  Connections between real names and fan names must be cited if they are being used on the wiki.  If others do make those connections in a way that we feel is malicious, they get banned.  In fact, edits that connect real life names with fannish ones are routinely altered, no matter who the editor is. We handle these issues quickly when they develop.  We make it our mission to create policies that bend over backwards to be fair to the whole of the fan community, from LiveJournal to DeviantART to FanFiction.Net to Rescue Rangers message boards to Yahoo!Groups.

And that’s better than can be said of the wiki created by the organization Astolat started. They originally said that there would be  no real names would be allowed unless a person consented and that no one would be allowed to connect real names to fan names.  My real name and pen name were connected in a bandom related article.  At first, they removed my real name from the article when I requested it. Later, they added it back without telling me.  (The article about me is one of the most edited on Fanlore.)  That’s fine because it isn’t like I haven’t made the connection myself.  Later, I asked for my real name to be removed from their wiki.  I was told if I took steps to remove the connection, it would be done.  These steps were taken: Removing my last name from all my accounts, and removing links to profiles where I could not remove my last name.  They determined that it sucks to be me because they were not going to do it, despite my compliance with their demands.  When people affiliated with the organization attacked me and Fan History for not allowing fans to control their identities and using real names without permission? And then do the same thing that they accused me of doing just so they can write about me?  That’s just hypocrisy at its finest and fandom politics at their worst.
Edited to add: Not mentioned in the original edit but worth adding: In trying to get my real name removed from Fanlore after it had been inserted again with out my knowledge after having been told it would be removed, I tried to reach out to Astolat and cathexys.  I asked them, as members of the Organization for Transformative Works who had concerns about outing against their will, to help get my name removed from Fanlore. Neither responded to repeated e-mails. I had e-mailed coffeeandink, who was in a similar situation at the time, and asked for her help as she had friends inside the organization.  She replied to tell me that there was nothing she could do to help me.

Brisbane Lions community on LiveJournal, its clones and Blogger

December 30th, 2009

This post is a series of posts looking at the size of Australian sports leagues on LiveJournal, its clones and other social networks. Earlier posts include Australian Football League on JournalFen , Australian Football League community on DeadJournal , National Rugby League on DeadJournal and JournalFenAustralian Football League on LiveJournal clones like Blurty, Dreamwidth Studios and InsaneJournal, Adelaide Crows community on LiveJournal, its clones and Blogger,and Official Australian Football League Twitter accounts and follower population by country.

This post is looking at the size and characteristics of the Brisbane Lions community on LiveJournal and Blogger.  The sundry of disclaimers and methodologies can be found on earlier posts.  LiveJournal data was collected on December 30, 2009 and Blogger information was gathered on December 29, 2009.

The Brisbane Lions community on Blogger is a bit smaller than the community for the Adelaide Crows, with 16 people listing the team or city and a footy related interest as an interest.  This group has six women, nine men and one person who does not list a gender.  This percentage of 38% puts their female audience at larger than the Crows (33%), Blues (25%), Magpies (25%) and Bombers (29%) communities located on Blogger. Twelve people list their ages of which two are obvious errors or intentional mistakes: One is 252 years old and the other is 253.  The average age for a Lions fan on Blogger is 33, the median age is 30 and the mode age is 27.  In terms of birthdays, two are Aries, one is a Cancer, two are Leos, four are Libras, two are Pisces, two are Scropios and one is a Virgo.  All sixteen list their country of residence.  Three are not from Australia: Two are from London, England and one is an American from Colorado.  Ten of the Australians lists their state of residence.  Of these, seven are from Queensland, two are from the ACT and one is from Victoria.

Like Blogger, the Brisbane Lions LiveJournal community is smaller than the community for the Adelaide Crows, with only 61 people listing the Brisbane Lions as an interest.  14 of these 16 updated in the past week and 33 total have updated in the past year.  4 have never updated.  While smaller, this group appears to be a bit more active on LiveJournal than the community for the Adelaide Crows. 16 of the 61 people list their year of birth.  Of these 16, the mean year of birth is 1984, and median and mode year of birth is 1986.   The oldest were born in 1972 and the youngest was born in 1991. 56 of the 61 list their country of residence. 4 are from the United Kingdom and 7 are from the United States.  The percentages of the total population is inverse of what it is for Blogger.  With 45 from Australia, the percentage of the population from the country is similar to that of Blogger, 80%  on LiveJournal compared to 81% on Blogger.  These numbers are also some what comparable to the Twitter population which has 77% from Australia, 2% from the United Kingdom and 21% from United States out of 325 people counted. 33 of the 45 Australians list a state of residence.  Of this, 19 are from Queensland, 10 are from Victoria, 2 are from South Australia with 1 from the Northern Territory and Western Australia.

What does the breakdown by state look like?  The following chart shows LiveJournal, Blogger and its clones:

Official Australian Football League Twitter accounts and follower population by country

December 30th, 2009

This post is a series of posts looking at the size of Australian sports leagues on LiveJournal, its clones and other social networks. Five earlier posts were Australian Football League on JournalFen , Australian Football League community on DeadJournal , National Rugby League on DeadJournal and JournalFenAustralian Football League on LiveJournal clones like Blurty, Dreamwidth Studios and InsaneJournal and Adelaide Crows community on LiveJournal, its clones and Blogger.

There is a tool called Twitter Analyzer.  It allows you to get some data about your followers on Twitter.  It has some short comings, namely that it really only allows you to identify followers by country, rather than state.  When trying to figure out the population location inside Australia for a team, this is a bit of a problem.  Still, data is data and I ran every team’s official Twitter account through it and the results are… not what I consider particularly useful.  For me rather than highlight where an audience for a team is, this highlights the problem of Twitter follow spam.

Before going into this, Australian Football League games are available outside Australia.  The AFL has a list of their international partners that air games and news from the league.  The easiest place to get games is the United States and the United Kingdom where ESPN may provide them with up to three matches a week.  Ireland’s national network doesn’t appear to get games, so much as they get match summaries but they do get some on ESPN.  Europe gets the games on Eurosport but they are limited to two matches a week.  The Middle East and North Africa get two live matches a week.  New Zealand gets one live match a week on Sky, with additional coverage during sports related news casts.  Canada gets one game a week.  There is no indication that these games air live in Central and South America, Asia, and Oceania.  Airing of games in Africa is only very recent in a deal that appears to have taken place midway through the 2009 season. There clearly is an international market for the AFL and it is being fed.

In the United States, the major site for info on Australian rules football, Australian Football Association of North America, gets only about 503 visitors a month.  For the official AFL site, Compete estimates the size of the United States visiting population at 6,736 for the past month.  This is relatively small population that we are talking about.  Alexa says that the official AFL site gets 2.6% of its traffic from countries other than Australia, Sri Lanka, the United States, the United Kingdom, China and India.  Alexa does not rank the official site in Ecuador, Germany, Thailand, or France.

With that all in mind, time for Twitter data.  The team with the most followers it the Adelaide Crows with 3,696 follows.  The Essendon Bombers come in second with 3,808 followers.  The Collingwood Magpies are third at 3,506 followers and the Sydney Swans are fourth with 3,160 followers.  At the bottom are the Gold Coast Football Club with 139 followers.  The second smallest team in term of followers count is are the Fremantle Dockers with 282 followers.  Third is the Brisbane Lions with 363 followers.  All the other teams have follow counts above 500 and below 300.  Comparing the totals to the totals for LiveJournal clones, which is admittedly a bit small, something feels a bit out of whack but as I’m not Australian, not exposed to AFL coverage on a regular basis as part of my local news watching and reading, I’m not sure what.  The Essendon Bombers are number one for most followers on Twitter but rank 13th for total fans on LiveJournal clones.  The Collingwood Magpies rank 9th for population total on LJ clones and 3rd for followers on Twitter.  The Carlton Blues rank last for followers on LiveJournal clones but 6th on Twitter.  The Hawthorn Hawks rank 4th on LiveJournal clones and 11th on Twitter.  The Brisbane Lions rank 3rd on LiveJournal clones and 11th on Twitter.  The Fremantle Dockers rank 2nd on LiveJournal clones and 15 on Twitter.

As I implied above, there is an international audience for the AFL but the size of it is some what limited.  Twitter Analyzer’s numbers don’t add up when comparing them to total followers so I’m not sure how accurate they really are. Overall, when total follower counts for all teams are added together, the total is 26,134 followers.  Based on Twitter Analyzer, 15,191 people do not list their country in their profiles.  That leaves us with 10,943 people who do list their country which would be fine but  9,059 are from Australia and 4,669 are from the United States which shouldn’t be possible.  Given that, I’m just going to compare the totals based on the data that Twitter Analyzer provides and ignore the total followers numbers from Twitter.

Using these numbers, 59.6% of all followers of official AFL accounts are Australians.  Americans represent 30.7% of all followers.  Great Britain accounts for 3.3% of all followers.  Germany, Ecuador, and India all have percentages between 1.0 and 1.9%.   In addition to those numbers, 42 accounts from Greenland, 68 from Thailand, 18 from Vietnam and 31 from Argentina follow these official team Twitter accounts.

I’m going to call highjinks here.  I know there is a US audience for the AFL.  We have our own domestic leagues, which attract a small audience mostly of die hard fans and people connected to the players.  The games are televised.  But I cannot believe that the Australian audience for teams on Twitter is only twice that of the US audience.  I’m also having a hard time believe that Ecuador and Argentina have a large following on Twitter.  I don’t believe that these numbers are a reliable indicator of international interest by country in these teams.  Evidence seems to indicate that two of the following are likely taking place: People are not listing the country they are actually from AND that these accounts have people following them with the intention of trying to get an autofollow back.  This data just is not reliable to determine the size of an team’s audience, or even the team’s effectiveness at using Twitter to reach their target audience.

That said, the following is a country by country break down based on the numbers from Twitter Analyzer.

 

Adelaide Crows community on LiveJournal, its clones and Blogger

December 29th, 2009

This post is a series of posts looking at the size of Australian sports leagues on LiveJournal, its clones and other social networks. Four earlier posts were Australian Football League on JournalFen , Australian Football League community on DeadJournal , National Rugby League on DeadJournal and JournalFen, and Australian Football League on LiveJournal clones like Blurty, Dreamwidth Studios and InsaneJournal .

This posts looks at the size of community for the Adelaide Crows on LiveJournal and Blogger.  Posts about both these networks will be separate based on teams because getting data the data sets for the AFL are too difficult to mine by hand in a timely manner. The size of the individual team communities on these two services is also bigger than the size of the total AFL community on some of the LiveJournal clones.  Data for LiveJournal was gathered on December 24, 2009.  Data for Blogger was collected on December 29, 2009.

77 users Adelaide Crows as an interest on LiveJournal.  This community is more active on the site than their counterparts on LiveJournal clones with 14 people who have updated in the past week and 28 total who have updated in the past year.  Only 5 have never updated.  Of the 77 users, 25 list their year of birth.  For the group, the mean is 1984, median is 1985 and mode is 1988.  Like the clones, most of the community for this team is based in South Australia with 59% of 44 of the 55 people listing it as their state of residence.  There is a small population representing other Australian states: 4 from Victoria, 3 from New South Wales, 2 from Queensland, 1 from Tasmania and the Northern Territory.  In addition to the Australia, two people from the United States include the team as an interest.  One of them is from California and the other is from Arizona.

The community of people listing the Adelaide Crows, or Adelaide and another footy related interest, on Blogger is small with only 16 people.  This is much smaller than the community on LiveJournal.  One of the things that can be determined with the Blogger population is the male to female ratio in the community.  For the Adelaide Crows, 6 people identify as female, 8 as male and 4 do not identify.  10 people list their age on blogger.  Of these, one is an obvious incorrect age as 253 years old is not possible.  Of the other 9,  the mean age is 25, and the median and mode age is 20.   The youngest is 16 an the oldest is 59.  11 people list their a birth date, which blogger displays as an astrological sign.  In this group, 3 are Pisces, 2 are Aries, Capricorns and Gemini, and 1 are Libras and Taurus.  In terms of location, all but two are from Australia.  Of those two, one is from the United States and one does not list a country of residence.  For the 16 Australians, 8 are from South Australia, 2 are from Victoria and 1 are from New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia.

With six networks, the geographic picture of this community indicated that the team’s base is very much that of South Australia.

Australian Football League on LiveJournal clones like Blurty, Dreamwidth Studios and InsaneJournal

December 28th, 2009

This post is a series of posts looking at the size of Australian sports leagues on LiveJournal and its clones. Three earlier posts were Australian Football League on JournalFen , Australian Football League community on DeadJournal and National Rugby League on DeadJournal and JournalFen. These posts acknowledge that the communities aren’t very big and in the grand scheme of things, this is not very meaningful in terms of understanding sports communities in Australia.  Still, hopefully they can lead people to be more curious about online demographics and the activity level of these communities .

Do communities for the AFL exist on other LiveJournal clones?  The answer is yes, but for the vast majority of them, they do not.  This post examines LiveJournal clones and some of their characteristics.  It identifies those networks which have people with an interest in the AFL and then does a deeper examination of those networks.

Outside of JournalFen and DeadJournal, there a number of LiveJournal clones.  These include asks.jp, blurty, CrazyLife, Dreamwidth Studios, Inksome, InsaneJournal, Ivanovo, IziBlog, Kraslan, OpenWeblog, Scribbld, Sviesta Ciba and ????????.  Each of these caters to a unique audience with its own history. 

About half of these are non-English based service.  They include asks.jp targeted at a Japanese audience that does not rank for Australian visitors.  It also includes Ivanovo which is geared at a Russian speaking audience and does not rank for an Australian audience.  Kraslan and ???????? are bot clones aimed at Russian speakers that did not rank for on Alexa for Australian visitors.  Sviesta Ciba is a Latvian language based LiveJournal clone that does not rank on Alexa for Australian visitors.  Unsurprisingly, none of these non-English based LiveJournal clones have a community that expresses interest in the Australian Football League.  (Or the National Rugby League for that matter.)

The English speaking LiveJournal clones include blurty, CrazyLife, Dreamwidth Studios, Inksome, InsaneJournal, IziBlog, OpenWeblog and Scribbld.  Blurty was one of the most popular LiveJournal clones that was most active five to six years ago and for a while was one of a series of clones used by fandom_wank.  Its traffic has since fallen off a cliff and it has only had 715 users update in the past 24 hours on December 24.  It does not rank on Alexa for Australian traffic.  CrazyLife is a small LiveJournal clone that only had 5 accounts updated in the past 24 hours and only 62 of its 44,323 accounts include Australians.  Dreamwidth Studios is a new LiveJournal clone that launched in May 2009 and caters mostly to a media fandom audience. Of the 468044 accounts on December 27, only 1,797 list Australian as their country of residence.  According to Alexa on December 28, the site ranks as 7,337 in Australia.  Inksome was originally founded as scribblit and was the first LiveJournal clone created specifically in response to LiveJournal’s Strikethrough event in May 2007.  It catered a bit to LiveJournal media fandom and never really took off.  As of December 27, 2009, it had only 79 accounts that had been active in the last 24 hours and only 138 of 30,323 accounts list the country of residence as Australia.  The site does not rank in Australia.  InsaneJournal is one of the most popular LiveJournal clones.  As of December 27, 2009, 3,174 active accounts or 890 more active accounts than Dreamwidth.  The site has fewer Australians, with only 910 users listing Australia as their country of residence.  Alexa ranks the site as 4,885 in Australia. Iziblog is a small LiveJournal clone that had only 8 accounts updated in the 24 hour period around December 24, 2009 and did not rank on Alexa for Australian sites.  OpenWeblog is a tiny LiveJournal clone with only 3,780 total accounts, of which two had been updated in the 24 hour period on December 27, 2009 and the site does not rank in Australia.  Scribbld is another small LiveJournal clone.  It has 33,343 accounts as of December 27, 2009 of which 77 of those accounts were active in the last 24 hours.  Only 32 of those accounts list their ountry of residence as Australia, where the traffic does not rank on Alexa. 

Of these clones, Blurty, CrazyLife, Dreamwidth Studios, Inksome, and InsaneJournal had communities which listed AFL as an interest.  None of the others, as of December 24, 2009, listed AFL as an interest, neither were teams listed as interests on these services.

28 people list the AFL as an interest on blurty.  Of these, only two people are from the United States and one does not list a country.  The rest are Australians.  Of these, seven list their year of birth.  The median year of birth is 1982.7, median is 1984 and mode is 1985.  None of these users have updated recently, with the most recent update happening 196 weeks ago and five of them never having updated.  They represent a number of states: 8 from Victoria, 3 from New South Wales, 2 from South Australia, Queensland and the ACT, 1 from Tasmania and Western Australia, and 4 Australians who did not list a state of residence.  Blurty has four teams where people list them as an interest.  They include the Adelaide Crows, the Brisbane Lions, the North Melbourne Kangaroos and the Sydney Swans.  The Swans have three fans who list them as an interest, the Lions have two fans, and the North Melbourne Kangaroos and Adelaide Crows both have one fan who lists them as an interest.  This represents a total of seven individuals.  With the exception of the Swans and one fan, all the fans are from the state that the team plays in.

CrazyLife has five people who list AFL as an interest.  Three of these are the same person.  Two are from South Australia and one does not list a state.  One lists an age of 1985 and the other 1986. Of the three, the most recent update was 234 weeks ago.  Two people list specific teams as an interest: One listing the Fremantle Dockers and the Hawthorn Hawks, the other with three accounts listing the Adelaide Crows.

Twelve people list the AFL as an interest on Dreamwidth Studios.  Of these, three are from Victoria, two are from New South Wales and Queesnland and one is from Qestern Australia.  Only three of these twelve accounts have updated in the last week.  Two have been been updated and five have not been updated in the past 28 weeks or more.    There are four teams that are listed as interests: The Adelaide Crows with five people, Brisbane lions with one person, the Fremantle Dockers with one person and the Sydney Lions with one person.  The Adelaide Crows may have the largest group of fans but only one has updated in the past twenty weeks.  The fan of the Brisbane Lions has never updated.  The Fremantle Dockers fan updated in the past week.  The fan of the Sydney Swans last updated 32 weeks ago.

The Inksome community had one user from South Australia who listed the AFL and the Adelaide Crows as an interest.  They have never posted a blog entry on their inksome account.

On InsaneJournal, fifteen people list the AFL as an interest.  Of these, one lists the US as their country of residence and are clearly a fan of the American Arena Football League.  The other does not list a country and it cannot be determined by other information available on their profile. Of the remaining thirteen, Three are from Western Australia, two are from Victoria and one is from Queensland.  The rest do not list their state of residence.  One last updated in the past week. Another last updated eleven weeks ago   Four have never updated.  Four last updated between 85 and 124 weeks ago. Six last updated between 41 and 58 weeks ago. Five people list their year of birth: 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985 and 1986. Twelve people list interest in nine teams: Three for the Adelaide Crows, one for the Brisbane Lions, two for the Freemantle Dockers, one for the Hawthorn Hawks, one for the North Melbourne Kangaroos, one for the St. Kilda Saints, three for the West Coast Eagles and one for the Western Bulldogs.  There are several fans of teams located outside their home state: The Fremantle Dockers have a fan from Victoria, the North Melbourne Kangaroo have a fan from Western Australia and the Western Bulldogs have a fan from Minnesota in the United States.  With the exception of one Fremantle Dockers fan, none of the people listing specific teams as interest has updated earlier than 48 weeks ago and five of those have never updated.

The AFL community on LiveJournal clones, expressed by listing the AFL as an interest, looks like this when all the different networks are looked at together:

One of the problems with this little analysis is that there are often inconsistent uses of a team’s name that can make it hard to distinguish fans of a team from a city or another sports team.  For example, people might include Brisbane or Lions as an interest when they are actually fans of the Brisbane Lions.  As both are so common, it is a problem when trying to compile a data set like this.  What it means is that in actuality, the fan base for a team might actually be larger than the listing of interests indicates.  In general, it is why I tend to use membership in communities dedicated to a source to evaluate a community’s size and interest on a LiveJournal clone.  This is problematic as these clones are so small that they do not have a user base that is interested in creating communities for their teams.  With larger social networking sites or dedicated sites, this should be less problematic and the data should be more reliable.

National Rugby League on DeadJournal and JournalFen

December 24th, 2009

This post is a series of posts looking at the size of Australian sports leagues on LiveJournal and its clones. Two earlier posts were Australian Football League on JournalFen and Australian Football League community on DeadJournal. These posts acknowledge that the communities aren’t very big and in the grand scheme of things, this is not very meaningful in terms of understanding sports communities in Australia. 

Australia’s second major sports league is the National Rugby League.  It is popular in different parts of the country than the Australian Football League., with more fans of and teams in the NRL hailing from Queensland than the AFL.   In terms of LiveJournal clones, it is interesting to compare the two communities in terms of size and state location.

For the AFL, JournalFen has a total of four fans for the league and specific teams.  The National Rugby League in comparison has zero fans who list it or specific teams as an interest on JournalFen.  JournalFen also has no communities dedicated to the league or a team.  This particular LiveJournal clone has always catered a bit more towards media fandom and it has a small community, with only 85 accounts having posted an entry in the last 24 hours.

The community on DeadJournal for the NRL is larger than the one on JournalFen.  The general interest in the league, expressed by listing NRL as an interest, was smaller than that of the AFL on DeadJournal;  5 people versus 13 people.

Of the five people who list the NRL as an interest, three list a year of birth or make it easy to determine, based on their profile description, their year of birth.  The years were 1987, 1988, 1989.  Four of the five listed the state they lived in: Three live in New South Wales and one in Queensland.  None of these accounts have been updated recently.  The most recent was 188 weeks, or a little over 3 and a half years ago.

There are a several fans for specific NRL teams on DeadJournal.  This small community of six people is twice the size of the team specific interest for the AFL.  The most popular team on DeadJournal is the Newcastle Knights, with four people listing the team as an interest.  Newcastle Knights fans list their years of birth as: 1986,1986, and 1987.  One person does not list a year of birth. Three people list their state of residence: Two are from New South Wales and one is from Queensland.  These fans haven’t updated recently with the most recent update 265 weeks ago.  Two other teams have people listing them as an interest: The Melbourne Storm and the South Sydney Rabbitohs.  Both these teams have one person listing them as an interest.  The Melbourne Storm is from Victoria, was born in 1987 and last updated 203 weeks ago.  The South Sydney Rabbitohs fan does not list a year of birth or state of residence; they last updated 388 weeks ago.

The NRL community on both JournalFen and DeadJournal is smaller than that of the AFL.  The small NRL community is based more in New South Wales than the AFL community on both services.  They are inactive and probably not relevant in any grand scheme of thing for determining the size and shape of both leagues online communities.

Australian Football League on JournalFen

December 22nd, 2009

Like DeadJournal, JournalFen is a LiveJournal clone.   It has a smaller active user base than DeadJournal with only 95 users updating in the past 24 hours on December 22, 2009.  JournalFen has 250 users that list themselves as being from Australia.   Surprisingly, according to Alexa, JournalFen is ranked 2,385 in Australia and accounts for 19.7% of all traffic to JournalFen.

I’m currently exploring the size and shape of the Australian Football League community on LiveJournal clones.  This piece explores the community on JournalFen.  To find the size of the AFL community on JournalFen, I went to the Interest Search using AFL and each current and past team in the AFL.   Three people listed the AFL as an interest.  One was born in 1975, one in 1991 and one did not list a year of birth.  One is from the ACT, one is from Victoria and one does not list  a state they are from.

Unlike DeadJournal, JournalFen attracts a large audience specifically for certain communities that sometimes do not allow anon commenting. Users are thus incentivized to register but, because of the small size and lack of audience, not necessarily to utilize it for their primary blogging space.   This may explain why the three people who list AFL as an interest have last updated, at the earliest, 189 weeks ago.

People listing teams as an interest is comparable to DeadJournal: Three teams have people who list them as an interest.  Two, Fremantle Dockers and Sydney Swans, have one person each who list them as an interest.  One, the Hawthorn Hawks, have two people who list them as an interest; one is listed under Hawthorn and the other under Hawthorn Hawks.  This actually represents a total of three people because one user lists two teams as an interest.  Two of the people who list teams also list the AFL as an interest.

For the Fremantle Dockers, the person does not list a state and lists 1987 as a year of birth.  For the Hawthorn Hawks, one person is from the ACT and lists 1975 as their year of birth. The other one is from Victoria and lists 1991 as their year of birth.  For the Sydney Swans, the person is from the ACT and lists 1975 as their year of birth.

The community for the AFL is tiny.  It is hard to draw any conclusion about it as it only has four people.

Australian Football League community on DeadJournal

December 22nd, 2009

DeadJournal is a LiveJournal clone.  It isn’t very active.  Only 279 accounts were updated in the past 24 hours.  Despite this, Alexa indicated that this particular LiveJournal clone is more proportionally more popular in Australia than in the United States, where it ranks 37,038 compared to 100,135.  Australian visitors account for about 6.1% of all visitors to DeadJournal.

I was interested to see the size and shape of the Australian Football League community on DeadJournal.  To do this, I went to the Interest Search using AFL and each current and past team in the AFL. 13 people list AFL as an interest. Not all of these individuals are necessarily interested in the Australian Football League.  The AFL also stands for the Arena Football League, a defunct indoor American football.  It is possible that people listing AFL as an interest could be referencing this league, especially as the league formally folded this year.  (It was in hiatus the previous year as a result of the economic downturn.) 

Of the 13 people listing AFL as an interest, only two were Americans.  Three people did not list what country they lived in.  The other eight people were from Australia. Of these Australians, two were from Western Australia, two were from Victoria, two were from South Australia, one was from Queensland and one did not list a state. 

Six of the eight Australians listed their year of birth.  The mean, median and mode year of birth for these DeadJournal members was 1985.   That puts their age at around 24 years.

The DeadJournal people listing AFL as an interest are not very active on the service any more.  The most recent update of a journal by some one listing AFL as an interest was 66 weeks ago.  That is 15 months ago.  The mean last update for these 8 users was 309 weeks or almost 6 years ago.  The median last update was 345 weeks or 366 weeks or 6 years and 7 months ago.

The community for specific teams is even smaller than general interest in the AFL.   Of the sixteen current teams and three former teams, only three teams have people listing them as an interest.  These teams are Collingwood Magpies, Port Adelaide Power, and the Western Bulldogs.  Each of those teams has one person listing them as an interest and none list the AFL as an interest.  All of those fans are from Melbourne, Victoria.  The most recent update was for the Collingwood fan, who last updated 323 weeks ago.  The Collingwood fan does not list a year of birth.  The Port Adelaide Power fan lists a year of birth of 1987. The Western Bulldogs fan lists a year of birth of 1986.

The community for the AFL, based on interests, is small, young, Australian based and has been inactive for over three years.  It will be interesting to see how this LiveJournal clone compares to others like Blurty, Dreamwidth Studios, InsaneJournal and JournalFen.

When did businesses become fandoms?

December 19th, 2009

When did businesses become fandoms?  I was reading a Business Week article and it had the following quote:

Yelp also gives Google entrée to a loyal social community—something it has had difficulty building on its own in the past. Users of Yelp, often calling themselves “Yelpers,” have been known to form tight-knit groups that meet at favorite bars and hang-outs. “This is distinct from what Google is about,” says Greg Sterling, principle of Sterling Market Intelligence. Yelp’s is a fandom that lures a lot of interested advertisers.

Social groups do not a fandom make.  Just because the structures look the same does not mean they are fandom.  Fandom tends to describe a certain subset of activities inside of certain cultures in response to popular culture products.  Yelp! is not what I would ever describe as a fandom.

What does the Organization for Transformative Works look like?

November 17th, 2009

The Organization for Transformative Works is a fan advocacy group that runs Fanlore and An Archive of Our Own.  They were created on LiveJournal and most of their early and continued support continues to come from that community.  Much of that has to do with the reasons they were created: The group perceived Fanlib as a threat to fandom as a whole, and had issues with how LiveJournal treated its fans.. 

After having done a bit of an analysis of the Twilight fandom as represented by lion_lamb, I was curious to see how otw_news looked, especially when compared to lion_lamb.  How similar are they in terms of age, length of time on LiveJournal, the number of friends, the number of posts, etc. In the past, the group’s members have talked about doing advocacy on behalf of fandom to change media perceptions of fans.  The goal looked like they wanted to present their demographics as the norm.  That is what I am looking for here.

The Organization for Transformative Works’s founders and supporters were also vocally critical of LiveJournal’s commercial aspects, and discussed the need for a non-profit site that would cater to fan interests while being less susceptible to pressure from advertisers.  The actions by LiveJournal taken during StrikeThrough 2007 were one of the prime examples cited by this group to rationalize this position.  Many people talked about giving up paid accounts, not using Plus accounts, etc.  Given that history, I am curious as to the behaviors of the organization’s supporters in  the almost two and a half years since the groups founding: Are they more likely than Twilight fans to use basic accounts, less likely to give money directly to a company whose ethos runs counter to the group’s founding principles?

The methodology for gathering data for this analysis is the same as the one for for lion_lamb: A sneak peak into the composition of the Twilight fandom.  The community looked at is otw_news.  The data was gathered on November 15, 2009 and pulled from publicly available profile information for people who both watched and belonged to the community.   This means that 1,784 journals are included in the sample.  When looking at this data, you have to remember that not everyone lists factually correct information.  For this data, we assume that the obviously wrong data balances out in the end.  (People list themselves at 100 and people list themselves as 5 years old.)  This is the same methodology used for lion_lamb and we assume the error rate between the two is the same.

One of the first things to look at is age of the membership of otw_news. The chart below includes the total number of people who list themselves as having been born in that year.

OTW ages

The average year of birth is 1975, with a median age of 1979.5 and mode of 1984.  In terms of fandom, this is not a young group: The average member is about 35 years of age.  Even if we assume that the mode year is more representative of the group, that still places age at 25.  If we try to correct this data for error by removing 10 from each extreme of high and low years of birth, our year of birth average only increases to 1976.7, and the median and mode stay the same.  If we remove 10% of the extreme from the sample, or 30 from each side, we get an average year of birth of 1977.3 with median and mode remaining unchanged.

Assuming that our group of 11,000 Twilight fans on lion_lamb are representative of fandom on LiveJournal, the average year of birth is 1985.6, median year of birth is 1987 and the mode year of birth is 1989.    If we try to correct for error and remove the extreme 10% of the sample, fans who are claiming Edward Cullen’s birth year as their own as well as fans who claim an impossibly young age, lion_lamb has an average birth year of  1986.5 with median and mode remaining unchanged.

When we compare the membership of otw_news to fandom, Organization for Transformative Works members and supporters are on average almost ten years older than their counterparts in the rest of fandom.  If we assume that median is more representative, we are still looking at a an eight year difference.  Mode is the only one where they are close, and even that is only by three years.  In the case of fandom as a whole, the average is right out of college.  The after college life experiences are very different in terms of forming our perspectives so these three years are critical and do demographically separate the two groups.

It just cannot be said that the Organization for Transformative Works members and supporters are representative of fandom based on their ages.

The other important demographic issue for LiveJournal based fandom is location.  Some 1,111 members of otw_news list the country they live in.  6,330 members of lion_lamb list the country they live in.   Both have garbage entries for places where people obviously do not live,  places like the Romulan Neutral Zone, the Vatican City, Jesus’s home town or the North Pole.  In both sets, people listed cities or providences instead of countries.  This data was removed.  We are assuming that the members who do not list their home countries are represented proportionally by those that do.

The Organization for Transformative Works members and supporters represent 41 countries. 63% of the membership are from the United States, 11% are from the United Kingdom, 7% are from Canada, 6% from Australia, 4% from Germany and other countries all have less than 1%.   The top five countries population wise represent 91% of the organization’s total population.  The other 39 countries represent 9% of the organization’s total population.

lion_lamb represents 112 countries.  54% of their membership is from the United States, 6% from Canada, 5% from the United Kingdom, 5% from Australia, 3% from Germany, 2% from the Philippines, 2% from France, 2% from Italy, 2% from Mexico.    The top five countries represent 73% of the community’s total population.  The other countries represent 27%.

OTW ages

The Organization for Transformative Works over represents for Americans, with about 10% more Americans the lion_lamb.  The Organization for Transformative Works members and their supports also over represent for Brits, Canadians, Australians, Germans.  They under represent for the Philippines, France, and Mexico.  The top five countries by membership over represent by about 20%.  It cannot be said that the national representation of the Organization of Transformative Works is representative of the fan community on LiveJournal.

There are some other issues regarding how representative patterns for the Organization for Transformative Works are when compared to the whole of fandom on LiveJournal with lion_lamb being defined as fandom.

For year of registration, lion_lamb had  the median and mode of 2008 for registering. The average registration year is 2007.07 in comparison. Members of this community are updating, with a last update year average of 2008.66, mode of 2009 and median of 2009.  Compare this to otw_news, where the average registration year was 2004, with the median also being 2004 and the mode being 2003.  Members and supporters of the Organization for Transformative Works became members of LiveJournal much earlier.  Three years is a lifetime on the Internet.  This is another example of otw_news follows not being representative of fandom on LiveJournal.

otw_news members have posted an average of 858.6 times, with a mode of 492 and a mode of 1.  Compare that with lion_lamb members who have posted an average of 132.25 times, a median of 11 times and a mode of 1 time.   Again, the Organization for Transformative Works members and supporters are not representative of fandom on LiveJournal.

These patterns hold true for other variables such as number of friends where otw_news members have almost 50 more on average and almost 95 in terms of median.  It holds true for tags, memories, and virtual gifts.  In all cases, members of otws_news have much higher averages than their fandom counterparts.

All of this reaffirms the same idea: Members and supporters of the Organization for Transformative Works do not represent fandom in that they are demographically distinct from fandom on LiveJournal.  otw_news members also differ from their fandom counterparts in that they do not use LiveJournal the same way: They use LiveJournal much more actively in their personal space than the rest of fandom.

That concluded, the next issue is LiveJournal account status.  The issue of paying LiveJournal was a big one.  Around the time that Strikethrough happened, LiveJournal offered permanent accounts for sale. Some people affiliated with the later founding of an organization like OTW  advocated that people unfriend those who bought permanent accounts.  Other people openly talked about allowing their paid account status to expire as a method of expressing unhappiness with the site.  Two and a half years later, what is the status of members and supports of the Organization for Transformative Works in terms of paying for LiveJournal?

OTW account type

otw_news members  pay or have paid for their accounts. 36% have Paid Accounts.  Many (15%) have permanent accounts, where they paid at least $150 for this status.  A smaller percentage (18%) have plus accounts, which offer additional features in exchange for viewing additional ads. 

lion_lamb account type

When compared to lion_lamb, otw_news members way over-represent in paid accounts and permanent accounts. Despite the issues of Strikethough, not all of which have been resolved, people affiliated with the Organization for Transformative Works are much more willing to pay for LiveJournal than their fandom counterparts.  Still, there is some obvious shift from the group, where people are willing to sacrifice functionality in order to view fewer ads and thus potentially give LiveJournal less income; there is an 18% difference in basic accounts from otw_news to lion_lamb.

Are the buying habits of a cross-fandom section, and their choices to expose themselves to additional ads, consistent with the attitude expressed by members and supporters during the time they lambasted LiveJournal’s beholdenment to advertisers?  It is hard to make a conclusive judgment based on the data we have available. 

In LiveJournal media fandom, we are taught…

November 2nd, 2009

… admit no mistake, do not make yourself vulnerable to others, always be on the offensive, don’t admit to character flaws or weakness. We are taught that if you do, you will suffer the consequences for years. We are taught, through example, that if you admit mistakes and are vulnerable, others will exploit these weakness for their own fannish benefit.

I’m writing this entry mostly in response to a series of tweets by Ben Parr, a writer for Mashable. Our perspectives differ because of our place online and our own experiences. I’d love to believe “@BenParr @purplepopple My philosophy has always been “let the haters come,” because I believe in what I do and prove it with my actions.” I believe in what I’m doing. I believe in it a lot. I’m committed to what I’m doing and am always looking for ways to improve. I just do not like to publicly own my faults because I just have moments when I can’t because I’ve seen what fandom haters are capable of. I don’t just don’t have the energy to deal with the ramifications of the shit that could come down the pike if some hater took issue with me.

Check out some of the shit that Cassandra Clare, Supernatural fans, Smallville fans, Blake’s 7 fans, X-Files fans and science fiction fans are capable of. Contacting employers, contacting family, threatening to kill people and talking about how they deserve to be sexually assaulted, cracking passwords, contacting webhosts to report them for alleged Terms of Service Violations, contacting a show’s producers and actors to blast them for another set of fans’s actions. Most of the most egregious behavior doesn’t get documented out of fear of both sides going after the document-er for getting the story wrong.

I want to characterize these actions as fail fandom but it isn’t. Fail fandom is generally about some one taking offensive at something some one did or said or implied. Sure, yeah, the subtext of fail fandom is often about a power play in fandom but at the onset, it generally doesn’t look that way.

A lot of this is really banal stuff. Do you ship Clark/Chloe? Well fuck you. I hate your ship with a fiery passion. You’re in my space. Let me find some ways to cause you pain. Hey! You wrote Supernatural incest fic? I hate that crap! I know what to do! You made the mistake of linking your real name and your fannish name so I’ll contact your family and let them know what you are up to online! Oh hey! You challenged my status in the Harry Potter fandom and I need my status to be higher so I can be closer to JK Rowling. Let me teach you a lesson, because I know you work in school, by letting them know what sort of material you read. It doesn’t matter that I read it too because I don’t work with kids. You like Doggett from X-Files? That’s unforgivable because MSR is the only good thing from X-Files and because you’re too stupid to get that, I’ll just do a DDoS on your network connection. I want the freedom to write sexually graphic rape because of artistic freedom. You don’t like that and hey you’re a rape victim? Awesome! Because you know how you tried to repress my artistic expression? I’m going to intentionally trigger you! Those examples are all variations of real incidents.

And then we come back to the first part of this post: Media fandom on LiveJournal (and its clones like Dreamwidth Studios)teaches us not to be vulnerable, to self criticize, to admit to our weaknesses. In some places, in some communities, you want to admit and own your weakness, your vulnerabilities and where you can improve. I’ve found that in the wiki community outside Wikipedia, this generally is the norm. On Twitter and in social media communities filled with social media professionals, it is also good to be able articulate those. Fandom differs to a degree though. In a wiki, we should all be working towards a greater good. In social media, you want to be honest with your clients, to be continually learning and you’re aware of the professional repercussions for being an asshole, and a moron that engages in personal attacks on people outside of the scope of the content. Fandom doesn’t have those considerations of greater good or professional gain.

Fandom has other considerations because, for most of us, fandom is a hobby. People have goals for fandom: Having fun, getting feedback on their stories, enjoying the porn, being fawned over for their most awesome fanvids and fanart, writing extensive meta analysis because they love to do that, to fantasize about Eli Roth getting off on your nudie pics, trying to get a professional publishing career, using their fanac as a vehicle to meet actors and producers, trying to influence the writers and directors and actors to write the book or show like they want it to be written. Some of these inherently set fans into conflict with each other. If you are in a fandom to get close to the powers that be, well only so many people can. If you are in a fandom because of a character, actor or ship, there is only so much time that those can be given; people with different preferences are going to be in conflict as they try to persuade producers to focus on their desires. For fan fiction writers and readers and vid watchers, there is only so much time in a day, only so much feedback that can be given; conflict happens in the struggle to maximize the feedback and to support our favorite artists. The greater good in fandom only seems to happen when there is something that threatens the institution around which the fandom is based like a show ending.

Because of fandom existing as a state of conflict, because LiveJournal fandom is dominated by women, people bring in the personal and unrelated. The attacker looks for vulnerabilities. They look for places where they can exploit your weakness in order to push you out of fandom, to get you to stop being in conflict with them and to further their own agenda.

That’s my takeaway from fandom. Those are the lessons I have learned. So while I think it is good to be able to articulate your weakness in social media, as a journalist, as a historian, as an entrepreneur, I have trouble with that because I cannot unlearn overnight what I spent over ten years learning and having reinforced on a daily basis. (Thanks White Collar fandom and Smallville fandom for this week’s lesson.)

Having the hockey fan experience

November 1st, 2009

I’ve been busy in the past two days being a big hockey fan, having seen the Chicago Blaze and the Rockford Ice Hogs play. The Chicago Blaze are an AAHL team. They play in Rolling Meadows. Home games cost $8. Parking is free. Food is cheap. The hockey is entertaining and the team is undefeated.

I didn’t have my normal camera so I was stuck taking pictures on my cell phone on Friday night. Those pictures can be found here at Chicago Blaze images. If you have your own images, please feel free to upload them.

On Halloween, I went the 50 miles to Rockford, Illinois to see the Rockford Ice Hogs play. I’d been to a Chicago Wolves game before and had loads of fun there. The Ice Hogs are the Chicago Blackhawks farm team and get a lot, lot of promotion on WZOK, a Rockford radio station I listen to a lot. I decided at 5:50pm to see them with a start time at 7:05. Eek. The parking was more affordable than the Wolves: $5 vs. $11. I got a ticket for $12 behind the goal on the second level. Second level seats seem a bit better (Metro Center) than they do at Wolves games. (Allstate Arena) I didn’t buy any food so I can’t really compare. It was a lot of fun. The fans at this game chanted and cheered and talked to other fans. I was amused by the cheering when the Ice Hogs scored. The cheer? “Hey, guess what? Your goalie sucks!” This chanting went on for a while. Some one also had bubbles blowing. The hockey players seemed a bit more intense, quicker to get on and off the ice than the Chicago Blaze. The hits were harder. Awesome fun. I’d go see them play again. (Though I might see the Wolves first as they have better entertainment during the game.) Oh and hey! Free wifi inside the Metro Center.

Again, no camera but had my cell phone camera. My pictures are at Rockford Ice Hogs images.

I love hockey. I love the game experience for the AAHL and the AHL. I just never want to hear how rude Chicago Cubs fans are again. Anyone who says that? They haven’t attended a hockey game, where rudeness has been ritualized and is good fun.

Minor league teams and their use of social media

October 21st, 2009

How are minor league teams leveraging social media?  This is my perception of that and is based on an e-mail I wrote.  It has been altered slightly to make it more a blog post.

From the teams I am familiar with, as a fan and having talked to some people involved with local teams, the emphasis when it comes to online presence is e-mail marketing.  They get people to subscribe to their announcement lists when they buy tickets online, do post game follow ups with people who attended to ask them to attend another game or survey their experience at the game.  That’s really good with soliciting feedback, and getting people who just saw a game to commit seeing another one.

When it comes to e-mail marketing, some teams are more successful than others.  Not all are as compliant as they could be in regards to US laws regarding CAN-SPAM.  One team does not make their e-mails that viewable for people who don’t view images with e-mail; their e-mail announcements to subscribers contain just one big image.

Many teams use Twitter.  The Chicago Red Stars, a local Chicago team in the women’s professional soccer league, live tweet their games.  They also @ reply to people who mention them, often mentioning deals on ticket packs.  Other teams are doing similar strategies with Twitter.  The teams with a better, comprehensive social media strategy are duplicating or promoting the content from their other online presences on Twitter: They link to YouTube, Facebook, what their players are doing in the blogosphere, encouraging people to follow players.

Teams use YouTube to brand themselves.  They have their own channels where there are interviews with players, clips from games, clips from television coverage of their team, commercials for the team, advertisements for team apparel, etc. The teams most successfully leveraging this space are ones that have detailed descriptions on their videos with keywords that will attract a wider audience.  (YouTube is the second or third largest search engine out there in terms of volume of search.)

Facebook Fan Pages are also a popular tool used by teams.  They have some content duplication with Twitter and Facebook but other content too.   They mention training camps, opportunities to meet with the team during the off season, information on player signing.  They talk about what players are doing during the off season, like playing for the national team or training/playing with other clubs.  They might give health updates.  They mention changes in the front office and other news around the league.  They link to blog posts that

Teams are still using MySpace.  (Facebook hasn’t killed it and the demographics for the site are different for both the US and Australia.  It is the 13th most popular site in Australia.)  Most of the updates that teams do are blog entries.  Some of these are press releases.  They are also using the space to upload videos and photos, sharing the same content from Facebook and YouTube.  The better teams are making sure there is some original content on each network they use.

Some minor league teams are also creating, or their fans create, a presence on LinkedIn in order to network.  The level of activity on these networks tends to be smaller.  The goal is to allow fans to network.   These groups tend to be smaller.

Those five networks, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, LinkedIn, tend to be where most teams place an emphasis.  It makes sense as these are the most main stream places to capitalize on the largest audience.  People on those sites, with the exception of LinkedIn, tend to expect that there will be a presence for those teams.  There are several networks that aren’t being leveraged that teams should consider and that they may not because most social media people define those places as the Internet and stop. These networks include Flickr, LiveJournal, bebo, Ning, orkut and tagged.com.  Each has advantages that an online presence can help.

The teams that are most successful in using those networks are ones there they have the same style of writing across all their networks: Professional and friendly.  Teams that are successfully using social media to attract and keep an audience that they want to convert into regular attendees to matches also brand their logos and colors consistently across the different platforms they use.  If they can’t use their own background, like the case for Facebook and LinkedIn, the accounts have their own logos showing for all posts they make and wherever else they can brand.  Teams successfully using social media are also updating regularly, even during the off season.  There is generally new content on all their networks at least once a week, if not more.  Those three things are important: Consistent writing style, consistent branding and regular updates.

Fan Fiction’s Predictive Value for Nielsen Ratings

September 25th, 2009

On January 15, 2009, CSI had one of its highest rated episodes all season.  On that day, people published 26 new pieces of fan fiction, the most stories posted on the same day as an episode had aired. On September 25, 2008, CSI had it third lowest ratings day all season and people posted zero new stories on that date.

Fan fiction is a really popular outlet for fan expression of interest in television shows.  The stories are creative, explore plot lines in the show and, according to many fans, help market a series in a positive way.  Fans often argue that their activities mirror larger interest in a show, and that producers should pay more attention to them and cater to their fannish interests as the example provided seems to demonstrate.  Fan Fiction’s Predictive Value for Nielsen Ratings tests this fan theory and answers the question: Does the volume of fan fiction published in the period around when an episode airs correlate to Nielsen Ratings?

To answer this question, fan fiction daily posting stats were gathered for the one week period around television shows where fan fiction communities existed and Nielsen Ratings were available for that show.  The fan fiction data was compiled from six archives: FanFiction.Net, fanfiktion.de, FanWorks.Org, FicWad, SkyHawke, and Freedom of Speech Fan Fiction.  The Nielsen Ratings data included over 720 episodes representing thirty-nine shows.  Once this data was compiled, it was analyzed using Pearson’s Correlation and linear regression. 

The results confirmed what many fans already suspected: Levels of fan activity, specifically in terms of the production of fan fiction, mirrors interest specific episodes of television.  Fan fiction can be used to predict Nielsen Ratings.  The predictive value is strengthened in several cases when it is broken down by network, genre or specific television show. The best networks for predicting Nielsen Ratings are CBS, The CW, Disney, Fox and USA. Comedy, crime comedy, crime drama, medical comedy and sports drama are the best genres for predicting Nielsen Ratings.  The strongest correlations for  television shows for predicting Nielsen Ratings are Burn Notice, CSI, Eli Stone, Friday Night Lights, Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, Hannah Montana, Heroes, iCarly, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Life, Prison Break, Psych, and Terminator: Sarah Connor Chronicles.

This information is potentially valuable to parties with a vested interest in a television show’s performance.  By analyzing content patterns around periods with high volumes of fan fiction and high Nielsen Ratings, comparing that to periods of low posting volume and lower Nielsen Ratings, producers can make changes to maintain high interest amongst fans.  Non-American television networks and advertisers can better predict how their shows will perform.  This method of analysis can help organizations save money as it is cheaper to monitor and track than other analytic tools.

A copy of Fan Fiction’s Predictive Value for Nielsen Ratings can be found at http://www.fanhistory.com/FanFicNielsen.pdf . The appendix can be found at http://www.fanhistory.com/FanFicNielsenAppendix.pdf .

Are you a sports fan looking to find others to play with you? Check out sportkin

September 14th, 2009

I hang out a lot in AboutUs‘s chatroom where I help with pro follows, creating articles and adding tags. Sometimes, I find some really cool people who are promoting their websites. Today, I found one such individual and I asked them to send me an intro about their site so I could post it to Fan History’s blog. Their site focuses around sports and I’m a huge sports nut. (I’d also like to see Fan History’s sports section improved.) This is what I got and I encourage you to check them out!

What is Sportkin – It’s the digital media platform designed to bring together individuals who share a common interest of sport.

About Sportkin:
It is our intention to unite  the Global sporting community,  Sportkin is pioneered to help all sports people in  finding other athletes of their own sporting interests and abilities, then unite, practice, and communicate together, hence perform better together. Sportkin serves many convenient functions to help athletes discover their full potential; furthermore, it brings tranquillity to ones sports lifestyle.

Key Features:

Members & Visitors:

* Find sports players*
* Find sporting Activities*

Members:

* Unite with sports people through a circle of kinship
* Communicate with members
* Create and manage* multiple sporting activities (and make it happen again within the click of a button)
* Participate in multiple sporting activities

What can Sportkin do?

Because Sportkin is consistently setting new targets and striving to achieve them, new features will be consistently introduced, it is thus the features listed below, may be less than the actual number of features on the website.
Twelve Reasons to Use Sportkin
1. Sport has no limits, so why limit yourself? There are close to 500 different types of sport on Sportkin to choose from!

2. For many of us sport is just for our spare time, and you might think it’s not necessary to join a website just to play sport, since you can easily go for a run by yourself or call a friend to go out and play. But it’s not always that easy, sometimes we need little nudge!

3. Sportkin is more than a social network, it’s a digital media platform designed to unite people with the common interest of sport. From sporting contacts to sporting activities, Sportkin has all the features you need to help you get sporty!

4. What if your friend or sports partner moves out of town one day, or is injured, or even worse, doesn’t like you any more? This could be the perfect excuse for you to stop playing sport, and you don’t want that to happen!

5. What if someone in your area is feeling depressed, lonely or left out? You could help cheer them up by playing a game of sport with them, and they may even be able to teach you something!

6. What if someone is new in your area? They might not have any friends to play sport with, and maybe you could help them find new friends – and maybe they could help you improve your game!

7. Just a few more to go! But if you want, you can join Sportkin first and come back to this page later. We’ll be here when you get back, because the only place Sportkin’s going is up! We already passed the point of no return back in 2005 when we first had the idea for this site.

8. There are also some people who might need a change of crowd, and as the saying goes: a parent is successful only when their child is successful! So why not get your parents into sport too? And remember – it’s not what your community can do for you, it’s what you can do for your community!

9. Thinking of getting into sport for the first time, or getting back into sport after a long holiday? You’ll be suprised how many others are too! Most Sportkin members arrived here after Googling “find a sports player”.

10. What if you’re a professional athlete? Don’t worry! There are other professional athletes on Sportkin too – in fact, Sportkin is for everyone, from beginners to pros. Each person’s skill level is checked against the other players they’re engaging in sporting activities with.

11. There are lots of cool and exciting features continuously being added to Sportkin, because we’re motivated by helping individuals to discover their full potential and move beyond!

12. Sportkin was designed to save you time. And best of all, Sportkin is free to join and free to use, so why not give Sportkin a try? It’s safe, secure and you have total control over your privacy!

If you have a passion for sport, and want to see world unity, then help Sportkin unite people through sport.
Add a link to your website from http://www.sportkin.com/info/resources01.php

P.S If you know of anyone looking to get into or back into sport, tell them to signup at sportkin. Its free to join, and free to use. Thank you

» Read more: Are you a sports fan looking to find others to play with you? Check out sportkin

f/m instead of m/f ?

August 31st, 2009

Yesterday, I was chatting a Fan History admin about this fan fiction dictionary. It is a nice little dictionary… but it has one thing that really stands out as different from every other fan fiction dictionary I have seen: It uses f/m instead of m/f as the norm. Is this the norm in the Superman fandom? Is it specific to just this site? Is it specific to comics fandom? The whole idea seems to flip some gender understanding of how we organize things in fandom on its head. The definition list also seems to indicate that femslash is the norm for the fandom and that m/m is not dominant or normative.

I’d really love an explanation for this. :D

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water – fighting mob mentality in fandom

July 29th, 2009

Metamobs can be hazardous to fandom. Particularly when they don’t get their facts straight before launching into attack mode.

A recent example of this? The attempted lynching of Doctor Beth which nearly turned into an entire anti-fanzine crusade in some circles.

See, Doctor Beth sells used media fanzines. She sells them on ebay. She sells a lot of them, and at rather hefty markup (but hey, have you ever tried to run an ebay store? Those fees are pretty steep. You’ve got to sell things at good prices to make any money at all doing so.) I’ve seen her in action at MediaWest: she’ll look for people unloading large collections of old ‘zines in room sales and in the dealer’s room, try to haggle them down to buy the whole lot at once at a bargain price, only to turn around and sell them on ebay.

Is that proper fannish etiquette? Well, everyone may feel differently about that. But it’s not anything illegal (leaving aside the questionable legality of fanzines as an issue for now. She’s not publishing them. She’s selling them as collectibles for specific fandoms). She’s buying what she believes to be genuine, original copies of fanzines and looking to resell them elsewhere on a market where there may be limited supply, and more demand. Not any different than running a used bookstore, is it?

Problem is, not everyone selling used ‘zines at MediaWest or elsewhere is always on the up-and-up themselves with what they’re selling. Despite rules about not allowing the sale of bootleg zines at the con, some people still do – not in large quantities, perhaps, but here and there. Someone might have borrowed and made a private copy of a hard-to-find/out-of-print ‘zine for themselves in the past. Many people print out and may even nicely bind copies of their favorite stories for their own personal reading and enjoyment. Months or years later, they may no longer want them and feel, “well, I paid for the ink and paper to print this, let me try to get a couple bucks back for it” and throw some of those home printing jobs in among their genuine ‘zines to resell. Or they may give those print-outs along with their ‘zines to a friend going to the con, to try to sell for them, and that friend may have no idea which are “real” ‘zines vs. not.

Stuff happens. However it happens. End result, Doctor Beth ends up with hundreds of genuine fanzines to resell – along with a couple “fake” or “unauthorized” ones in the batch. Not a big deal – until the author of one of those stories who never authorized its publication in a ‘zine stumbles across their story for sale on ebay.

Naturally, said fan has reason to be upset. The problem comes when the news begins to spread through the fandom blogosphere. A statement that “One of the authors on my flist discovered an ebay listing for her work printed, bound and listed as a ‘fanzine’ without her knowledge” soon becomes twisted as it is passed and reprinted, rephrased, and a mob called to action against this great injustice! Soon it becomes a cut-and-paste message stating firmly, “it looks like everything doctor_beth2000 is selling is stolen, printed and put in a cheap binder with fanart without the knowledge or permission of the writer or artist.”

But it doesn’t end at that. The enraged mob decides that they must take action on their own beyond spreading a warning: they must attack the offender directly. Report Doctor Beth to ebay for copyright violation! “And don’t stop there,” argue those who, in this internet age of fandom, have issues with the publication of fan-fiction in ‘zines sold for money, period. “Let’s report other fanzine sellers on ebay! Whether they’re the publishers themselves! It’s wrong to sell fiction for money no matter what! In fact, no one publishes fan-fiction zines anymore, so they must all be bootlegs! Get ‘em all!”

One or two people try to spread a voice of calm. Doctor Beth removes three – three out of 700! – listings, which turned out that yep, they were private copies of stories never meant to be sold or resold. People are asked to revise their statements of outrage and accusations about what Doctor Beth was doing. Many do, some don’t. Some are rather passive-aggressive about it, either only striking through their accusations or adding an “ETA” after them instead of removing them completely or making a new follow-up post to retract what they’d said earlier.

Of course, the damage is done already no matter what. Doctor Beth has been labeled a wrongdoer in fandom; the viral warning spread like rapid fire in a way that retractions of the attacks against her never will (because apologies about misinformation never are as much of a “fun” bandwagon to jump on, are they?) This isn’t the first time I’ve seen someone in fandom targeted like this, and I have no doubts it will be far from the last time, either.

Should Doctor Beth been more careful about what she’s selling? Perhaps. There are plenty of resources out there to verify the origins and authenticity of fanzines, and they should be utilized by anyone who may have reason to doubt the origins of a publication they come across. FanHistory’s Fanzine Category indexes thousands of fanzine titles by genre and fandom. There is also a useful resource list here of fandom-specific ‘zine indexes.

At the same time, though, perhaps fans can be more careful and at least try to think calmly for a moment before joining a mob attack. Make sure you’ve got the facts straight about a situation; make sure the person or persons making the accusations are being honest and are trustworthy, and not working on their own questionable agenda in leading an attack; make sure the accused has had some chance to respond and correct a situation first. Otherwise there is little to be gained except potentially aiding in the spread of misinformation and damaging another’s reputation in fandom – or fandom as a whole.

Social Equality Effort – Fandom, ur doing it wrong?

July 24th, 2009

So there’s a group calling themselves the Social Equality Effort causing a bit of a kerfluffle in Star Trek fandom right now. It seems they’ve begun a campaign called “SEE Trek Love”, the main focus of which is to promote the idea of making Kirk/Spock a canon couple in the new Trek film series. They’ve got a petition going and have been promoting their efforts on various forums and messageboards throughout the fandom but with pretty mixed results so far.

Mainly, they seem to be causing a great deal of Fail by taking a cause that many do support – seeing more recognition and positive portrayal of queer/non-heterosexual relationships in the official Trek canon – and going about it in all the wrong ways. As multiple individuals have quickly pointed out, their emphasis on Kirk/Spock over the possibility of other characters and pairings (either new or already part of the film canon universe) seems to reek more of fangirl privilege and slash-fen wanting to see their OTP acknowledged officially than an effort truly geared towards promoting visibility and equality. Their posting to the newtrekslash community on LiveJournal caused considerable wank and fail in the comments, where it seemed they managed to aggravate many fans and groups including Spock/Uhura shippers and lesbians who felt they were being dismissed as “not important”. There’s even been a healthy dose of race wank in the discussion as one of the campaign supporters made dubious statements such as “if Star Trek hadn’t broken the race barrier, I might not even exist (I’m mixed, black and white)”.

All in all, this entire situation looks like it’s just going to end very badly. Which is a shame because for decades, many fans have actively tried to promote for recognition of alternative sexualities in Star Trek and done so in ways that managed to garner great support both within the larger fandom and to some extent from the actors and powers that be as well (see the Voyager Visibility Project). The Social Equality Effort instead seems to be angering too many of the fans they should be courting to get behind their cause, by putting their emphasis in the wrong place and not responding constructively to the criticisms being raised about their efforts. I wouldn’t be surprised if they become the victims of a metamob at this rate, as the voices in protest and slamming them are already rising quickly.

New Moon soundtrack campaigning continues!

July 14th, 2009

Well, despite my initial pessimism (as expressed in an earlier blog post here), apparently campaigning to get on the “New Moon” movie soundtrack is a big, big thing right now for numerous band and musician fandoms. With the huge success of Twilight, everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and get their favorite artist some extra exposure. And a news article about this in the Examiner names Fiction Plane fans as “the most dedicated” in their pursuit of getting one of the band’s songs on the soundtrack.

So, color me a bit surprised! But I still wonder, will the campaigning really pay off? Now more than ever I’m curious to see what happens…

Plagiarism with consequences

July 10th, 2009

I love reality television.  This morning, I was catching up on my The Fashion Show.    The end of the episode came up and there were two contestants up for elimination.  One of the judges said all these nice things about one of the dresses that was in the bottom two.  The designer looked pleased.  Then the judges dropped a bomb shell: They accused the designer of plagiarizing another designer.  They said a lot of the audience had come to the same conclusion.  They offered photographic proof.  The judges then went to debate which contestant should be let go. Meanwhile, the other contestants discussed amongst themselves that this particular designer had talked about making knock offs before, had mentioned the designer that they were modeling this dress off and otherwise weren’t sympathetic to the alleged plagiarizing designer.

The judges discussed amongst themselves if a dress that was a creative failure was better or worse than some one who plagiarized other people’s designs.  When they reached their decision, they determined that creativity and originality was more important than the ability to make copy some one else’s design.  This was a clear case where plagiarism had consequences: The contestant did not advance because he wasn’t original.

This feels important to note because in fandom people justify plagiarism by saying there aren’t any real world consequences and who cares?  Here is a case, in the creative world, where there are consequences and people cared.  The point the judges made regarding this issue in fashion has just as much meaning in the world of fan fiction: Copying other people’s work is not a fundamentally creative act that should be rewarded.  Copying  and plagiarism should not be celebrated and should not be tolerated.

Music fans! Help us improve our fanzine category!

July 10th, 2009

As I’ve been working on improving our Michael Jackson category here at FanHistory, one area I’ve been looking into is fanzines focused on the artist. Clearly there have been a great many of them produced through the years, and what’s listed in our Michael Jackson fanzine category so far is, I’m sure, just the tip of the iceberg.

I’ve always been personally interested in fanzines, as we are in general at FanHistory, because of the window they provide into a fandom at the time of their publication. What issues were people talking about and debating? How were people reacting to news and events in their fandom? When–or did–a fandom switch to on-line activities instead of ‘zines? Which countries produced more fanzines in a fandom than others, and what does that say about the fan base?

In music fandoms, I’m curious to see what creative activities fans were engaging in, too, as these aspects are often overlooked by mainstream fans, and those in media fandom who seem to presuppose that fan art and fan fiction began with Star Trek or Man from U.N.C.L.E. Sometimes I’ve found interesting cases of what I’d call “proto”-fan fiction in music fanzines, where fans share “dreams” or daydreams they’ve had about meeting their favorite artists, but it’s rare I’ve found out-and-out fan fiction except in dedicated music fanzines such as UMF, a Duran Duran fanzine. For instance, most of the Michael Jackson fanzines I’ve found have been fan club newsletters, and I haven’t seen any that appeared to contain Michael Jackson fanfiction.

All that said, we could really use help from people in music fandom in improving our music fanzine category. Are you a fan with a couple ‘zines sitting around? We have an easy Template you can use to upload individual ‘zine information and cover images. Have a large collection of ‘zines? Contact me, sidewinder, and I’ll let you know how you can put together a simple spreadsheet database and we can see about uploading the information to the wiki quickly and easily.

Fanzines are an important part of music fandom’s story, and I hope you’ll consider helping us preserve that history here at FH.

Using Twilight to promote another fandom?

June 30th, 2009

This morning I received an interesting email from one of the fan groups for Fiction Plane, an alt/rock-group which has been around for a number of years of which I am a moderate follower. Fiction Plane opened for The Police on the first half of their world tour in 2007-2008, perhaps not unsurprising given one of the members of the group, Joe Sumner, is Sting‘s son. While that tour did manage to boost their visibility to the public, it didn’t really do much to get them on the charts or bring them widespread success, at least here in the U.S. where they maintain a loyal, but not especially large following.

Well, some fans are trying to think of creative ways to promote them, especially with a new album due out later this year. And what they’re proposing is a campaign to get a Fiction Plane song on the soundtrack for the next Twilight movie, “New Moon”. They’ve created a Facebook page for the campaign as well as having a thread about it on one of the main fan sites.

Undoubtably, the widespread phenomenon that is Twilight brought a big boost to the popularity of the bands featured on the soundtrack of the first movie. When I looked at statistics for the Twilight last.fm group earlier this year, many of the most popular artists within that fan community were those featured on the soundtrack album. That said, are the demographics for Twilight compatible really with Fiction Plane fans? I’m not sure. My experience is that FP fans tend to skew older. They’re not so much a band that appeals greatly to the teen, tween, and young adult crowd the way Twilight does. I don’t know that I would hear their music being really compatible on a soundtrack with, say Paramore. But, I could be seriously mistaken on that, so who knows.

I think, more importantly, Fiction Plane fans need to come up with a serious plan if they want to make this happen. An on-line Facebook group isn’t going to do the trick, and as the film is due this November I would have to imagine much of the negotiation for soundtrack music may already be long completed (perhaps they’d be better aiming for “Eclipse”?) Petition drives can be effective but only when well organized and focused on the proper individuals — and truly huge in volume. Big enough to get media coverage. The cynical part of me is far too convinced that getting on the soundtrack for a sure-to-be blockbuster like “New Moon” is something that takes a good deal of record company and corporate dealings and is driven by demographic studies far more than fan-driven efforts. That said, I wish them well — I just hope these fans don’t get too disappointed if they find that a grass roots campaign like this is up against huge entertainment industry hurdles.

Privilege!Fail has shorter life expectancy because emotional stakes are so high

June 29th, 2009

People on unfunnybusiness, lcsbanana’s blog and elsewhere have been making comparisons between Privilege!Fail and RaceFail!09.  The tactics used by the racists and the anti-warning supporters have been scrutinized and found similar.  (Some onlookers are saddened that avowed anti-racists are attacking sexual assault survivors and their allies using the tactics they recently so heartily condemned.)  But an important comparison has not been made: how long it will take/has taken for each discussion to wind down.

I think Privilege!Fail is going to end really soon… if it hasn’t already.  Liviapenn is never going to apologize; she won’t need to.  zvi-loves-tv only needs to wait another week, maybe less, before everything returns to the status quo.  Unlike Race!Fail09, nothing will really change and the audience will be smaller and much more self-contained.

Why?  Race!Fail09 allowed a certain degree of emotional distance.  For all the rage that poured out, it was easy enough to step back and think logically.   You could be dispassionate about it.  Privilege!Fail allows no such detached intellectual analysis.  For one side, the whole issue involves emotion, deep gut-wrenching responses to the worst kinds of violation.  And if you’re on that side, you just can’t sustain the response.   It is exhausting.  For some survivors, the whole discussion is potentially triggering, making it detrimental to their mental health.   The only way to really prolong the discussion is to continually feed the rage… and really?  That’s not the sane or emotionally healthy thing to do.

So Privilege!Fail just isn’t going to last as long. The emotional stakes are far too high.

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