Archive for April, 2008

How not to appear on Fan History

April 28th, 2008

This is copy and pasted from Fan History’s Privacy help page. It is worth repeating in this blog as many people are not aware of the extent to which the information they put out there in fandom is accessible to others.

Fan History’s advice to those in fandom who want privacy, want to avoid the possibility of ever being mentioned on Fan History or want to never have people link to their work outside their control:

1. Always assume that anything you post on the Internet may become public and respond accordingly. Assume some one may screencap it or discuss it elsewhere, even if the message board, fan fiction archive, mailing list is private and requires a password to access the content. Do not assume that any standards in fandom will keep people from revealing what you share. Always assume that your loved ones, friends, employers, potential employers, the media or academics might be linked to any thing you published on the Internet.

2. Never share your real name in anyway that can connect back to your fan name. Do not do it behind locked posts. Do not share it on private communities. Do not allow your real name and fan name to be connected at conventions. Do not assume that people will respect your desire to keep your real name out of fandom.

3. Do not assume that rules regarding Internet privacy do not apply to fandom, or that, because of fandom, you have increased privacy as fans realize the importance of privacy. Cultural expectations for that differ from site to site, archive to archive, community to community, person to person. Do not assume that because it is fandom that web companies will honor what you see as cultural norms regarding fandom privacy. Fandom needs are frequently not the same as business needs. Fandom does not share universal rules regarding privacy. If you make that assumption and behave accordingly, you risk being burned and burned badly.

4. Do not join any social networking services. This includes MySpace, FaceBook, Bebo, Orkut, LiveJournal, InsaneJournal, LiveSpace, etc. Information on social networking is increasingly shared. Making the information on those sites more searchable and more accessible across sites is increasingly part of business plans for new web enterprises. The profiles on those sites also contain a fair amount of historical information about your experience in fandom. This includes groups you belong to, your interests, universities and colleges you attend, your age and other personal information. If the profile is publicly accessible, people can link to it. Any other information that is public on the site can be linked to by anyone, including complete strangers who you know nothing about.

5. Do not join any message boards. Many message boards create profiles. The profiles on many message board contain a fair amount of historical information about your experience in fandom. This includes when you joined, threads you were participated, any contact information you include, etc. If the profile is publicly accessible, people can link to it. You might not like who could link to this information.

6. Do not publish on any fan fiction archives that are publicly accessible. If it is publicly accessible, people can link to it and discuss it outside of your control.

7. Always make sure that you have robots.txt files which deny all robots from indexing the fan fiction archive you belong to, your personal site, blog, index, mailing list archive or any other site which you belong to. Most robots honor robot.txt files and won’t violate them. If they don’t, many robots, like Google and the Internet Archive, consider it okay to copy everything posted to their own servers. The site is the one telling them they can do that and not much you can do about it.

8. Check the robots.txt file of any site you publish on. If you do not like the robot.txt information, do not publish anything on the site. If you do, you could be giving companies like Google and the Internet Archive permission, whether you intend to or not, to copy your work and store it on their servers, way out of your control.

9. Do not allow RSS feeds on sites where you post that might export your content to news aggregators and rss search engines. Some of these aggregtors will, depending on the type of RSS feed you have, post the full content of your submission. This is the case for a site like LiveJournal and for scripts like WordPress. Some sites, such as archives using efiction, have rss feeds which announce new story submissions. You cannot generally control where these RSS feeds show up, nor always follow who is watching them. They might be included in obscure RSS search engines that you’ve never heard of. If you allow them or on a site that uses them in relation to your content, then you’re taking control away from where your information and content is being shared.

10. Keep contact in fandom to a minimum. If you interact with people, it increases the chances that you will share information with people that could be made public. If you interact with people, you risk annoying people who might then hold grudges against you. If you interact with people, you risk people saying nice things about you and wanting to share how nice you are with others. You cannot trust that people will not share anything you shared with others, even if you think that the person is your BFF in fandom. To avoid such sharing, avoid contact.

11. If you are going to be involved in fandom, avoid wank at all costs. Wank will get you attention. Wank will motivate people to share, break FLock and password community expectations. Wank will motivate people to share private e-mails and personal communications with others. Wank will draw increased attention to you and your actions.

12. Find out about who you are interacting with in fandom to determine if they might be some one who might share with others things you have done and avoid people who might share information at all costs. Check Fan History and Fandom Wank. Search on various search engines including Google, message board search engines, Usenet search engines and more. Ask around about people. Find out the history of that individual in fandom and out. Ask their fandom friends about the history of their behavior. Make sure you know who you are dealing with and if you want to risk dealing with them. If you do not want to deal with the, avoid and avoid their social network.

13. Always read privacy statements. Understand what they say. Realize what information that you could be sharing and who could be looking at it.

14. Realize that your every keystroke is likely being tracked. Google keeps records of every search you make. With services like gmail and adsense, a program picks up keywords from your content to give you contextualized ads. Companies like Hitwise get data from ISPs that is used to market to people. Most websites keep logs of every visitor that visits their site based on IP address and can tell which pages you visited and for how long you stayed. There are counters like ljtoys.org.uk, SiteMeter, GoogleAnalytics, Quantcast and StatCounter which allow blog maintainers and web site maintainers to track that information. The best way to avoid being tracked is to not visit any site which concerns you.

15. Regularly check sites like LjSEEK.com and Google to make sure your information is not included and take steps to remove that material as you spot it. Consider subscribing to a service like Trackur or Google Alerts to monitor where you are mentioned. You have to be proactive in protecting your privacy as industry trends, upon which the backbone of some fandom activities are built, are about sharing information and making things more accessible across sites. This can be great for fandom but if you’re genuinely concerned about your privacy and the ability to control where and how people talk about you or the content you create, this is not good. Given that, it is up to you to maintain your privacy and where people link to you.

Orphan Works

April 25th, 2008

On April 24, 2008, the Orphan Works Bills was proposed in the US House and US Senate. I predict another round of fandom activism and failure to understand what this will mean to fandom.

If you spot any interesting fandom links on the topic, please include them in to the external links section on the article about it on Fan History. Thanks! If you’re looking for a good place to keep up with the issue, I recommend Plagiarism Today as the guy who blogs there does an excellent job at keeping up on these issues.

Identity, fandom, fansites and success

April 24th, 2008

Back in the day in fandom, say 10 years ago, fans were forced to stay together out of necessity.  If you wanted access to information, there were very few places to get it.  Information was just very centralized.  People who entered that at the right time succeeded.   Some of those centralized resources are still around.  Think FanFiction.Net.

But then along came services like egroups, onelist, GeoCities and Tripod. Suddenly, fandom information was really decentralized.  Fans could create small websites for extremely niche audience.   If you were an author, that might just be your own stories.    By posting them to your own private mailing list, by posting them to your own little website, you could have a lot more control.  Power in fandom decentralized.  And it became easier to have a much more specific fandom identity and not lack for new content.

But that model appears to have gone out the window with the advent of Web 2.0.   Good fansites are increasingly hard to find because the maintainers either lose interest, can’t keep up with new fandom content, or a good fansite needs to be almost commercial in order to attract traffic and interest.  (Try to find a good Office fansite.  I dare you.)   And fandom sites have to cater to a really broad audience: Regular entertainment fans who aren’t fandom people (who will watch the latest Robin Sparkles video and squee over Britney Spears showing up on the How I Met Your Mother but won’t do much else) and fandom people.  The fandom people audience gets even more precarious for good fansites because you have multiple identity groups going on at the same time.   And some times these groups share membership.  You’ve got your vidders, fanartists, fan fiction writers.  You’ve got slashers, genfen and het shippers.  You’ve got character driven subcomponents.  It’s a big old mess of different groups with different needs and desires.

If a fansite wants to attract an audience and keep it on their fansite, they need to attract all those various groups that make up your target audience.  And most importantly: Those groups need to maintain their group identity.  Slashers need to be able to continue on with their identity as slashers in regards to  the site they’re on.  If the fansite is open to everyone, then slashers need to co-exist with genfen, vidders, and specific character fans.  If a  fansite requires that users take on the identity of the fansite, the fansite loses.  If there is one mindset, a sort of universal group think going on on forums and in all the posts, the fansite loses.   It becomes so much easier to walk away when they don’t share that identity.  If they walk away, chances are they won’t be back unless they are offered something you can’t get elsewhere.

A good fansite needs moderators, programmers, writers, readers, members who can help foster multiple identities on their site.   Getting those people in place can be a problem but it is one that needs to be worked on early if a fansite or fan project wants to succeed.

Fandom and traffic

April 20th, 2008

I love looking at Fan History’s traffic information.  Where is the traffic coming from?  Which plugs are effective?  Which are less effective?  This, for me, is really important information as the decision was made, mostly for financial reasons, to not advertise.  With Fan History catering to an obscure niche interest, it means getting and sustaining a large sustainable can be difficult.  In two years, some traffic patterns have become rather obvious that those trying to market to fandom or those who seek to create in fandom projects can learn from.

  • Wikipedia: Wikipedia is your friend.  If your site, blog entry, mailing list is on the right Wikipedia page, you can generate a fair number of visits.  It increases your visibility in fandom and to people officially connected to your fandom.
  • LiveJournal: LiveJournal (and to a degree JournalFen’s more popular communities) is your friend.  A good plug on an active community can net you 50 to 500 unique visits.  If the community allows itself to be spidered, if the community has tags, those plugs can keep on giving.  They help with your search engine  visibility.  For professionals in fandom seeking to promote their project, these plugs also demonstrate an awareness of the fandom community which helps establish those projects as legitimate in the eyes of that community.
  • Fansites: Fansites are a great way to get visibility.  Make fansite webmasters your friends.   Ask them to plug your project.  Explain why it would be good for their audience.  Ask them to get involved with your site.  If a popular fansite plugs you on your main page, they can provide a good 50 to 10,000 unique visitors.    If you’ve got a unique product targeted at that community, that much traffic can be fantastic.  (And maintain relationships with those fansite maintainers. The maintainers are power brokers in their corner and can help you figure out where to target the fandom community to help you grow your audience.)  Many fansites also have ways to add your own links.  AnimeNewsNetwork and Anipike are two good anime examples where you can add your own links.  If you can’t get the maintainers to plug on your main page, do it there.
  • Mailing lists: Mailing lists are not dead in fandom.  A frequent characterization of mailing list folks is that they are opposed to web 2.0 and the whole blogging culture.  Not true.  Many of the folks I know on mailing lists just like that culture.  They do use other social networking tools but mailing lists are a communal way of sharing news with out having to know how to operate in fandom cultures they may not be familiar with. It means that mailing lists can be a great source of traffic as you’ve got a community of people who share.  Even better, people will take things that they see on mailing lists and mention them elsewhere as they share what they like elsewhere.  An active fandom mailing list with 250 to 10,000 members might result in 10 to 50 visits but there is chance of a mention elsewhere that can result in more traffic.
  • Digg: Digg is not always a huge traffic generator and isn’t a traditional fandom tool.  (delicious seems to be the social bookmarking tool of choice.)  Unless you’ve already got a huge website going, you’re not likely to end up on the front page with out something happening.  Digg does help with search engine visibility.   If your Digg link submission involves an article on an obscure topic, it can help to really channel people interested in that topic to your site.
  • Social networking sites: Quizilla, MySpace, FaceBook, bebo, orkut are great social networking sites but they don’t generate much traffic, nor do they create much increased visibility.  The fandom community on those networks isn’t really oriented towards fandom.  You can tell you’ve made it though when you start getting mentions on them.  Fan History does a plug on one of those sites, or gets a mention, it will net maybe 5 to 10 unique visitors in the course of a six month period.   These mentions won’t necessarily help with your search engine visibility, nor help your networking opportunities.  Your time is best spent plugging your project elsewhere.
  • Blogs: Bloggers can be your friend and key traffic drivers.  A big, influential blog that mentions you can get you a lot of traffic.  A smaller blog might add to your search engine visibility.  A small, influential blog might help you get the attention of people who can help your project succeed.
  • Controversy: Controversy can sell and help add legitimacy to your project.  Fan History gets fairly decent sized traffic bumps when people have issues with articles, with privacy issues in fandom or with people who help maintain the wiki.  Fandom Wank can be your traffic driving, search engine visibility, viral link creating friend.  Lee Goldberg slamming on you can give you sympathy and legitimacy.   Having slashers and het shippers duke it out on your site insures they stay and means they’ll probably link to their arguments elsewhere to complain about the behavior of those they don’t like. Controversy may also bring media attention and attention from the people affiliated with your fandom.
  • Specialized content: Specialized content generates traffic.  Fan History gets a fair amount of traffic because we cover topics that are not covered as thoroughly elsewhere.  Cassandra Claire is the best example of this on Fan History.  The Draco/Hermione is another good example.  Alias Smith and Jones is a third.  Thoroughly link and promote this specialized content to make it easier to find. Doing that will help generate viral links with out your having to do the work.

Is marketing a fandom project different than marketing a project that is not fandom related?  Probably not.  A lot of this advice would probably work for a site promoting soap or a non-fandom specific web service.  The difference is that fansites don’t necessarily see good marketing advice as applicable to them because fandom is a hobby or an academic exercise; for them, fandom is not a business and should not operate like one.   They should because nothing is sadder than seeing a good project die through lack of interest.

New posts

April 20th, 2008

When I started this blog, I really intended to update more with various comments about what was going on in fandom. And then there was a large period where nothing was going on. FanFiction.Net, FanLib, Quizilla, AdultFanFiction.Net, MySpace, FaceBook, LiveJournal, bebo, none of those sites had really big news as to what was going on. The little news coming out didn’t look like it had any particular trends to it. (So what if FaceBook adds a chat component? It isn’t going to change fandom at all. We’re already using IM programs.)

The Orphan Works topic was mostly covered by edits I did in the wiki. The only real thing that demonstrated is that one misinformed article, one slightly inflammatory article could inspire a lot of people to be fearful and irrational. That’s typical for parts of fandom. Certain corners did it for LiveJournal, FanLib and Quizilla. That it happened first on DeviantART was interesting but, given that the legislation being discussed was art, not all that surprising. So yeah, that was covered there.

The Harry Potter Lexicon was interesting. It isn’t really covered adequately by Fan History. (It should be. Anyone who could edit and improve the article and related articles, it would be very much appreciated.) It doesn’t necessarily scream of relevance to the wider fannish community. The whole situation in fandom seemed to be caught in personal issues, money issues, the joy of finally seeing the Harry Potter fandom have some serious wank, and the dismissal of the Lexicon as irrelevant because it was for profit and fandom is not for profit. The people most interested in the situation seemed to people interested in intellectual property law. The situation also didn’t really feel like it would impact fandom that much. Authors who might send DMCA takedown notices will continue to do so. Those who haven’t aren’t likely to suddenly start doing so.

Another reason I haven’t been updating is behavior patterns are hard to change. I’ve been doing a lot of meta on my LiveJournal. I’ve been doing it for years. Changing that pattern is hard. I’ve really got to start working on that. So starting today, I’ll have a new goal of trying at least one blog entry a day about my thoughts on fandom, trends I see, etc.

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