Recently, Fan History, as well as myself, Laura Hale, have been under a great deal of criticism and scrutiny regarding our actions and policies with the wiki. I would like to address these issues here, as well as apologize for certain actions which I am aware were wrong. I would like to reach out to those who may be questioning why they should contribute or give support to Fan History in the future and explain:
- what I know I did wrong
- how I am working with our administrative team to correct these issues
- address other misconceptions about how Fan History is operating.
Regarding the outings, and my apology
First and above all else, I would like to apologize for the inclusion of information on the site about several individuals, information which linked their real names to their fandom identities. The intent of including this information was never malicious in nature, nor to cause ill will towards these individuals. I never intended to threaten anyone’s livelihood, out anyone who I believed was not already outed to the community, nor to reveal private information publicly. The specifics of the decisions made, why they were made after consultations and agreement with other wiki administrators at the time, is something which will not be discussed here because it could continue to provide information these individuals would prefer to remain private, and I respect their wishes.
At the time, I believed that by failing to include this information in the wiki, Fan History was engaging in historical revisionism by excluding information that was already common knowledge within fandom. For me, it was about being open, honest and correct in my history. This was, clearly, a mistake in judgment. I realize that there were obviously flaws in our decision making process regarding this matter. Knowing what I knew about how people perceived Fan History and my actions, I knowingly did things that were likely to cause upset in the community. While I may have thought my reasons were logical and were done for the good of the community at the time, I was wrong to do them.
For my part in this, I am deeply sorry, as are the other admins who were involved in the decision-making process. In this case, I took a stand where it was wrong to take a stand. I am deeply sorry for that and I take complete ownership of my mistake.
As a result of these incidents, myself and the Fan History administrators are currently working to redraft our policies regarding privacy and personal information. I would like to assure all potential users of the site that this is a matter I take very seriously, having learned from these mistakes in the past. A repeat of such mistakes will not happen again. As these policies are under revision, all pages related to the individuals in question and their organizations have been deleted, until it has been fully determined what is acceptable for inclusion and what is a breach of privacy.
Fan History financing
I have been accused of only being interested in Fan History as a money-making scheme, and of using fandom solely to generate profit for myself, reaping millions off fandom and the work of others. It is true that Fan History is seeking venture capital for the long term health and growth of the wiki. The site has grown past the point where it can function solely on the money out of my pocket, which is how it has been run to this day.
Fan History has gotten to the point where in order to grow and be more useful, and to address known shortcomings with the site technically, it needs to hire staff. The staff members that Fan History wants to hire include a backend developer, as well as two to three programmers to help with our programming needs, building extensions and automated improvements of articles. Fan History is also looking to hire a marketing person to help the wiki generate income to make it more self-sustaining. Lastly, Fan History is looking to hire a few community support personnel, similar to those employed by Wikia. These individuals would monitor recent changes to ensure rules are not being violated, help develop the community, serve as guides to help people learn the rules and become better contributors. Fan History is also looking to improve its server situation so we can acquire one of our own.
These things all cost money, just as Fan History costs money to maintain. Fan History does not believe a donation based model will allow us to accomplish these goals. It would put us at the mercy of forces we could not control and, in our view, give the wiki an even greater perception of bias based on the individuals contributing monetarily to the project.
The decision to seek capital was made in January 2008 after we discussed the possibility of selling Fan History to Wikia. The decision was not made lightly. It was discussed with the administrators at the time, including LennoxMacBeth, Sidewinder, Hector, ScrewTheDaisies and Jae. We also consulted other individuals in fandom such as Anarchiq and KayJayUU. We opened the discussion regarding the Wikia situation to everyone who visited the wiki. It was also discussed on LiveJournal, and on various people’s friends lists, where additional opinions were sought. Eventually it was determined that this would not be an ideal situation, so we turned to other methods of financing the site.
In March 2008, our steps towards financing Fan History were reflected on our about page and our funding page. We have never tried to hide this. We talked openly about it on the relevant wiki pages, our friends lists on LiveJournal and InsaneJournal, on twitter, and on various instant messenger programs. We discussed what the goals for the wiki were, how we would use the money to improve the wiki, etc. We have always tried to be as open and honest about this as possible, trying not to hide this fact as we were aware of how some corners of fandom would perceive this. It was why we decided that honesty and openness regarding the process was important; by being transparent, we believed people would be more understanding.
I realize that parts of fandom found the situation involving Fan History’s plans to become a business upsetting and counter to the norms established by the community. For that, I apologize. I’m not quite certain how else we could have gone about our goals of improving the wiki by acquiring funding elsewhere. I would be open to hearing suggestions that would be more in line with community standards, or how, after we secure funding, we could contribute back to the community in a way that would bring us more into harmony with some of those established beliefs.
In addition to these monetary issues, others have been brought up which I feel the need to address. In a Fan History blog entry, I offered some advice regarding disclosing financial information. My intent was to inform potential fansite maintainers that, for their own protection, some financial information should be withheld from users. I believed that users do not need to be told all of a site’s financial details if they are not being asked to contribute monies to a project. However, I oversimplified the situation and said that fansite maintainers should lie about their finances. This has led to the belief that I am untrustworthy and am lying about Fan History’s finances, despite having laid the site’s fiscal details open for public scrutiny. I regret giving that advice and apologize for it; it was ill-worded at best. Those who have questions about specific costs as disclosed in the funding page are welcome to ask about them.
Generating wank to drive traffic
I have been accused of openly encouraging individuals to create wank to drive traffic to Fan History. This is untrue; it is a case of a joking comment made among friends in private and on FLocked posts being misconstrued and taken out of context. I would never knowingly plan to subject myself, people I consider to be my friends, Fan History administrators and contributors to the wiki to the onslaught of attacks, criticisms and strains on their relationships in fandom as has occurred recently. I would not knowingly seek a means of promoting the wiki in a way that I feel would hurt the credibility of the wiki, a credibility that I have spent that past year trying to improve.
Yes, I have encouraged members of the wiki team to openly discuss issues regarding the wiki in their journals, in other communities, and elsewhere that would help bring new people to share their fandom knowledge in the wiki. That is a productive action. I wanted people to be aware that Fan History was here and how it could be useful to them. Such goals cannot be accomplished through wank and creating controversy which only paints myself and Fan History in a negative light.
Our plans for the future
In light of the current events, Fan History has decided to make several important changes both in our administrative team and our policies.
I will remove myself from daily involvement with the wiki. I will step in when decisions are needed regarding site policy, legal issues and financing. Rather than be involved with day to day wiki tasks, I will do more back-end support in terms of working on the business side of the site. Day to day operations of the wiki and organizational issues will be handled by system administrators, who will be given more freedom in how they operate on the wiki. I will also step back from fandom in general. I will not be an active participant in meta parts of the fannish community outside of Fan History’s blog. I will not be involved in handling deletion requests, and the deletion process will be handled by others on the administrative team through a simplified process of communication. This will ensure prompt handling of such requests, as well as minimizing chances that an article deleted would be re-created by someone else.
In the wake of recent departures from the administrative team, Fan History has moved Tikatu from fandom specific administrator to system administrator. DarkAngelFan06 and Random have also been brought on as system administrators to assist in dealing with administrative duties such as deletion requests. They have also been brought on to serve as additional checks regarding policy changes, to help with organizational ideas regarding the wiki, and to deal with user concerns via e-mail. Bestyb has volunteered to do all the marketing work for Fan History. This work will replace the work done by me and includes maintaining the promotion to do list, and editing articles to prepare them for promotion. This work is to be done from official Fan History related accounts.
At this time, Fan History administrators are re-evaluating our privacy issues to address the problem of real names. Our first inclination, as a result of the ongoing situation, is to create a policy where real names are automatically deleted upon request and unwanted connections between real names and fan names will be removed. The issue is still a difficult one as different parts of fandom have different social norms and expectations regarding the degree of separation between real and fannish names. There are also issues where citations necessary to validate information in an article, such as the creation of a particular website or domain, might lead to a publicly-viewable whois page which includes a person’s real name. Fan History administrators are soliciting feedback from the community in the comments of this entry for advice on how to deal with these kinds of situations. We will examine that feedback, and then craft our policy with that feedback in mind. We are already working to redraft Help:Privacy and other related articles to address this — both in explaining our sensitivity to privacy in fandom, as well as alerting members of fandom to ways in which their privacy may also be compromised without their knowledge and what they can do about it.
This section was modified on August 19, 2008.
Fan History has modified our deletion policy. If you want an article deleted, please follow the guidelines outlined on our new improved article deletion policy page.
This policy exists because if someone blanks an article, or edits an article to say something that goes against the rules of the wiki – such as saying the individual is not affiliated with the wiki – Fan History must assume bad faith. In those situations, we cannot verify that the edit was not done maliciously. Also, by blanking or otherwise defacing an article, an individual does not remove the history of that article. It is still there for anyone who wants to see the original version. Blanking articles does not make them disappear, and because we must protect the site against vandalism and blanking, those who do so will be banned from editing for two weeks.
I realize that there are other concerns you may have which have not been addressed here. I value genuine feedback and dialog, as do the other site administrators, who are here to address your concerns. We have chosen to do so on Fan History’s blog instead of via the numerous conversations elsewhere about the site because we believe it is important that a record of such conversations be maintained on the Fan History itself.
Again, please accept my heartfelt apologies for actions in the past which have caused so much consternation and upset within fandom. I know many individuals may not feel as though I or Fan History deserve another chance to serve the community, or they may doubt my sincerity in this statement. I can assure you that nothing is more important to me than creating and maintaining a site which is for fandom as a whole and not my personal gain. This site exists today because of the hard work contributed by many individuals as well as myself, and that is why I am working hard to respond to criticisms and make it better.
I thank you for your time and willingness to read these words.
The text of this message is released under the following license: Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States, attributing the authorship of the work to Laura, Fan History’s founder.