Archive for May, 2008

MediaWest con report: Pre-planning, Thursday, Friday

May 30th, 2008

In April, my primary activity involving Fan History was in promoting the wiki on-line. The results? Fan History‘s traffic was up 254% on the year.

And then May. For Fan History, May was a jammed pack month. Trying to continue to promote Fan History on-line. Switching over from VPS to a dedicated server. Big daily increase in traffic. Administrator turnover. RecentChangesCamp. ACEN 2008. MediaWest 2008. Following up on all three, all of which were different types. Camp. As a press attendee. As a dealer. For most of the month, I didn’t know if I was coming or going.

MediaWest was the third of three events I had for the month and the one I was most nervous about attending. I’m a fandom history geek. The more I learn, the more I know nothing. I knew just enough about Fan History, well, to make me really nervous. The FanQs trace their roots back to friction with science fiction fandom awards. MediaWest as a touchstone to off-line fandom in the past and the present. Paula Smith, who named Mary Sue and did a whole bunch of other things for fandom, would likely be there. This convention was full of people who I knew of, had heard of and respected for their place in fandom history.

Did I mention I was all flaked out about attending this convention? I just want to be sure that my audience knows that. I pestered a number of fandom acquaintances about the whole thing. What was it like? Would people know who I was? Did the convention have an audience that would be open to Fan History? How should I handle it if I ran across people I wanked/fought with before? Would I be on my own or would I have friends there? Could I survive the politics of fandom? The answers I got from my acquaintances were at times highly contradictory. Nervous. Nervous.

My prep work for Fan History and myself, pestering my friends aside, included printing up stickers. I already had handouts from ACEN 2008. Sidewinder had printed everything else up. I just had to pack my clothes, rent the car, make sure I had a hotel room. I think, if you’re a dealer, you should do more. But I’m me and May was stressful.

I left Illinois around noon, arrived in Lansing after an uneventful four hour drive. I got in, called my room mate who told me to check in, and then called Sidewinder, to find out when she would arrive in. I had four hours to kill so I called Kay. I talked to Kay, offered to pick up her and her friends from Tim Hortons so they wouldn’t have to walk. Then I killed time with them at Tim Hortons and their hotel room. That involved some interesting conversations. FanLib is still very much a sore point with some people. Legal issues involving fandom are very interesting. My dad’s cookies are mighty tasty. Sara Sidle on CSI may or may not be hot but don’t mess with another fan’s OTP. … Especially when said fan is a Harry Potter fan. Also, yeah, it frequently comes down to who we find physically attractive. When Sidewinder got in, Kay showed me the Dealer’s Room and I sort of helped Sidewinder unpack and foisted wine and cookies off on her. I also set up my table with all the YAY! flyers and hand outs Sidewinder had printed. Then I went out with Sidewinder and Dave, her Doctor boyfriend guy, and ate a nice local bar where we had appetizers, alcohol and pub grub. My pub grub included pizza. (And said pizza later became Sidewinder’s breakfast.) When I got back, I spent a long time chatting with my room mate about a great many things, including how we met in fandom.

Woke up early Friday. Got myself some donuts and hot chocolate from Tim Hortons. Pretty tasty. Real donuts. Not southern style krispy kreme ick. Went back to the hotel. Uploaded some pictures I took the day before. Killed time. Then moseyed over to dealer’s room with my laptop to kill time. I talked to a lot of really nice people. I made Nicole talk to a lot of really nice people. I learned more about the Blake’s 7 fandom than I knew before. Conversations began to blend. I offered to drive get food. I went to Wendys. I bought food. And then I got back and lost my keys. This involved much drama. I had to report my keys lost. I had to ask con security and the hotel to keep an eye on them. I stressed and flaked myself out. I have to applaud everyone involved at the convention and hotel for being very helpful and kind. (I didn’t find my keys until Sunday afternoon. Much drama involved with that. And I was extremely embarrassed at where they did turn up.) I didn’t do any panels because I was manning Fan History‘s dealer’s table. Lots of plugging that Fan History was working on becoming a fandom directory, that anyone could edit it, that we have no notability requirement, that having some friction in who is telling the history can be good for the history and cited the Rescue Rangers article as a good example of this. Friday night, went out can’t remember where. Had appetizers maybe and ribs and chicken and a Mike’s Hard Lemonade. Sat around Sidewinder’s hotel room/dealing out of her room room and talked fandom shit for a bit. Then went back to my hotel room and repeated with my roommate and her friend. Went to sleep really late.

Finding the right counter tool for your fansite

May 19th, 2008

Fan History traffic ranges between May 12 and May 18, 2008 I spend an inordinate amount of time examining Fan History’s traffic patterns. Outside of marketing Fan History, it is the task to which I devote probably my most of my time. What various trackers do is interesting I love awstats because it saves so much information, produces the best list of referrers that you can easily filter and it saves everything. I love StatCounter because the recent came from list is much better than a similar similar feature offered by my host. The list of ISPs for recent visitors is also fantastic. Google Analytics is the tool you have to have in order to be taken seriously. Quantcast gives pretty charts, updated rankings and demographic information. ActiveMeter I’ve used less. (Their free version only allows for the past 100 visitors, as opposed to StatCounter‘s past 500 visitors.) Still, it provides good data to help supplement other counters.

I’d almost recommend anyone running a fansite use all four, minus ActiveMeter. They offer a good cross picture of what is really going on traffic wise with your site. I wouldn’t use more than four because it can increase load time. (Fan History uses six. Plus ads. It can really slow down the site at times.)

I just can never get past the fact that these stat tools, while providing valuable information, rarely agree. When you’re talking a thousand unique visitor spread on a site getting between 1,000 and 2,500 unique visitors a day, there is some problem going on. It means you can’t really compare the effectiveness of an advertising campaign against counters but rather with the comparisons inside that counter. Ug.

ACEN 2008

May 19th, 2008

Over the weekend, I attended ACEN 2008, an anime convention held in Rosemont, Illinois that attracted a crowd of over 12,000 anime fans.  It was held in a convention center that I hadn’t attended a convention at since 1999 or so.  Huge was an understatement from my point of view.  As a non-Anime fandom identifying fan, I suffered almost immediate culture shock.  My brother prepped me for attending by saying to think of it was a convention like I’d see in Genshiken.  Yes, that felt pretty accurate.  Everything depicted in Genishiken was pretty much there, except that it was filled with an American audience as opposed to a Japanese one.

I passed on most of the big events, something that I started regretting by the time I got home Sunday afternoon.  I didn’t go for the experience and talk with people like I should have.  There were a lot of people who could really have helped my understanding of fandom had I had the courage to approach more people. The few conversations I did have were interesting, entertaining and enlightening.  The panel I did went pretty well and hopefully I can get Fan History involved with more panels in the future.

My selection of pretty poor pictures can be found here.

RecentChangesCamp 2008

May 13th, 2008

From May 9 to May 11, I attended RecentChangesCamp 2008 in Palo Alto, California. It was a camp, conference, gathering of people who are involved in some ways with wikis. People who showed up included representatives from of Wikipedia including their CTO and a few people really involved with the organization, people affiliated with Wikia on the technical, business and community end, representatives from wikifarms including WikiSpaces, a few academics interested in the collaborative possibilities for using wikis in an educational setting, a number of people involved in all levels of WikiHow, representatives from AboutUS, people who had taken their wikis into the commercial realm, and people who run smaller wikis that are in various stages of content and audience development.

I attended this event with pretty much zero expectations regarding it. I learned about it because one of the things that we’ve been talking about behind the scenes on Fan History is how there is a wiki community out there. We’ve had discussions regarding how to plug in to it, what it could do for us and our place in it. We also knew that Fan History is at a stage where we’re almost ready to take things to the next level. It is just something scary to contemplate. None of the people most heavily involved with Fan History had done something similar and none were particularly plugged in to the bigger wiki family. There seem to be local groups around in some places which have meet up that sort of deal with these issues but non were particularly local to me. So having heard about RecentChangesCamp 2008, it seemed to be a really good event to attend to help me learn about various issues, do the networking that we know needs to be done and then take that information back to Fan History, to share with our administrators and users. Still, it felt like a crap shoot. That’s a lot of money to go when you have no clue if it will help you meet your goals for attending. But things came together and I attended. And it was worth every penny and anxiety about attending.

RecentChangesCamp 2008 was run using OpenSpace. A description of OpenSpace is: “In Open Space meetings, events and organizations, participants create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme of strategic importance, such as: What is the strategy, group, organization or community that all stakeholders can support and work together to create?” I didn’t really know this before I got there and my first thought was “How is this going to work?” but work it did. There was a really diverse group of people there, with various needs and various interests who created their own panels. They included a panel on who edits Wikipedia, a panel about encouraging people to become more involved with wiki editing, a panel on the future of Wikipedia, a panel on how to use wikis in education, discussions on which wiki platform worked best, and some more technical discussions.

For my part, I facilitated two discussions: A panel on wikis and fandom and a panel on marketing your wiki. The fandom one was interesting. It turned in to not what I necessarily thought it would be. At times, it was more of a general overview of what is fandom, how does fandom identify, who is watching fandom than it dealt with some of the very real policy issues that Fan History has to deal with: Fandom privacy concerns, use of real names, identity issues, behavioral patterns in fandom that at times run counter to the expected norms for wiki behavioral norms. Some of those were covered in brief. We also discussed funny things in fandom, some of the bad things fandom does, etc. I also tried to make clear that while there are bad things fans do, there are plenty of good things. The bad are just easier to mention, funnier to talk about and are easier in terms of creating discussion. I did feel reassured by the end of the panel that Fan History is doing many things right in terms of how we’ve transitioned in our policies to be less about my personal project and more of a project for the whole fannish community. It is awesome when your peers, in this case people in the wiki community who have been there and done that, reaffirm your actions or give you advice on how to improve in areas where you need help.

The other panel I facilitated was about marketing your wiki. The first half of this panel was mostly a conversation between myself and Evan who ran WikiTravel and runs vinismo. He also helps out with We discussed various strategies for marketing wikis. Both of us were pretty much on the same page regarding how to do that. Our marketing strategies were pretty similar. Contact bloggers. Use tools like digg to improve your search engine optimization. Know your community. Network and network. Use various tools to help with search engine optimization. Find content for your wiki that makes you unique. Give people a reason to invest in your project. Get the right people involved. Use controversy to your advantage. When Evan left, the discussion continued with two or three other people where the conversation tended to be a bit more context specific to specific needs. There was one guy who wanted to make that panel but couldn’t and we couldn’t really reconnect before the end of the camp in order talk about the subject more so we met for breakfast in the Mission district the next day to discuss it.

I also attended a panel on community building, and a discussion on using wikis for data gathering and how to include that, how to make sure the data is good, etc. I also took part in a discussion on using wikis educationally and some of the issues connected with that. One thing that came up was the question of training: Do you need to train people to gain online and information literacy? Or is it something that needs to be absorbed and shared through a broader culture?

Outside of the panels, a lot of what I did was networking. It was one of the major reasons I went. For anyone thinking of going to this camp in the future or thinking of attending a similar event for this reason, it really is worth it. It might be worth checking out who is going to help determine if the people you want to and need to network will be there. I knew that Wikia looked like it had people who would be there, Wikimedia foundation had people who would be there, a few academics who were doing work related to my MSEd, people who participated in smaller wikis who I could discuss specific smaller wiki issues with would be there. And really, fantastic. I got the chance to chat with a lot of those folks. They were really helpful. It reinforced one of the themes of the camp of the wiki ohana. This is a community of helpful people who definitely have a sense of community that extends beyond their individual projects. (And that extends beyond just wikis to include giving people rides to places like Oakland.)

I also had a lot of fun. There were interesting side discussions for those of us being butterflies. One involved what a Amish wiki would look like and what the principles of an Amish wiki would be. It wasn’t very serious but it was seriously entertaining. There was another conversation about fandom wank and the Open Source Boob Project. The who participated in it added to the entertainment level.

Fan History comes away my having attended this having gained a few things:
1. Fan History is ready to be part of a wider wiki community.
2. We’ve got contacts who can help us in the future.
3. We have leads on how to grow the wiki in order to be more successful.
4. We gained information that can be shared with others who help out with Fan History.

If you’re in fandom and you’re helping with a wiki, I can’t urge you enough to be bold and try to participate in the wiki community on a wider level.

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