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Wed, May. 23rd, 2007, 10:19 pm
sheenaghpugh: Archives and not wanting to say "but"

I can see why the proposed new pan-fandom archive fanarchive is not, quite, the one that already exists, ie ff.net. It would, presumably, allow genres ff.net doesn't (eg RPS?) and it would, please god, be better organised and easier to post and edit in - it could hardly fail to be.
But unless I've missed something, and there's been so much on this subject since the whole FanLib kerfuffle started that I might well have, it will be like ff.net in one important respect, and that's where the problem comes in.
FF.net is where just about every journalist "researching" the next article on fan fiction writers, aka "who are these weird people?", starts his or her enquiries. Unfortunately, because of the limited time they have for said research, it is also often as far as they get. Which is a shame, because though there is excellent stuff on that site you have to wade through an enormous amount of dross to find it. Many journalists, I fear, give up before getting anywhere near the good stuff. (Some, indeed, quote not only the worst of ff.net but also those sites set up deliberately to mock the worst examples of fan fiction.)
If I've been reading right, the idea is that this new archive will no more be edited for quality than ff.net is. Indeed, how could it be? And by whom - committees acting for each fandom? This does happen on some individual archives, like Henneth Annun, but IIRC, it has not always easy there to find people willing not only to devote the time but to take the flak from those who will inevitably diagree with their judgement. The whole idea of editing fanfic sites for quality is controversial, because it potentially conflicts with fanfic's essentially democratic ethos: if everyone has the right to be an author, who's to say: post here, but post not there?
I know there are several ideas behind this archive, and it's not just about presenting an image to the world, but that is part of it. We would surely all like to to improve the woefully low quality of most journalists' articles on fan fiction, and I don't see it doing that unless it can somehow point them at better examples of the genre. But that, somewhere along the line, means someone making lists based on value judgements.
I don't think there's an easy answer to that one. I sympathise with the spirit of  fairestcat's exhortation I think we CAN do this, we CAN make this amazing, complicated idea happen. But in order to do so we're going to have to be careful about those little voices inside our heads saying "well, it's a nice idea, but"   But the little voice saying "but" in my head goes "if it is no more edited than ff.net, what is it for that ff.net doesn't do?, and if it is different in that respect, how do we make that happen" Because I can't see a way, offhand, not for the whole of fandom.

Wed, May. 23rd, 2007 09:53 pm (UTC)
tiferet

I don't see why it needs to be edited. There are a lot of very good writers in fandom who don't post in edited archives because they have their own betas.

So there will be some scriptfic posted by 13 year olds who think they're high because they're up at 4 AM after drinking 5 cokes. So what? That doesn't mean the whole archive will be like that.

Perhaps there will be a ratings system where people who have read a fic can rate it. I seriously doubt that the top rated fics will be the bad ones. However, some of them may be chan; some of them may be very dark; some of them may be extremely sexy or violent or in some other way objectionable to an uninitiated outsider.

Either we are okay with that, or we create another FFN.net, and by another FFN.net I don't mean a situation where there's a lot of crap, I mean a situation where there's a lot more of what you can post than there is of what you can, and who wants that?

Wed, May. 23rd, 2007 10:16 pm (UTC)
beccastareyes

Perhaps there will be a ratings system where people who have read a fic can rate it. I seriously doubt that the top rated fics will be the bad ones. However, some of them may be chan; some of them may be very dark; some of them may be extremely sexy or violent or in some other way objectionable to an uninitiated outsider.

I'd be tempted to disagree here, at least partially, mainly because I suspect that a fic could get a neutral rating both by being of mediocre quality, or by being on an unpopular subject. For example, if I were to post two fics of roughly equal quality to the same famdom, and one was for a very popular pairing and the other was for a rare pairing, and I came back in a month, the popular-pairing fic would probably be much higher in the ratings than the unpopular-pairing fic. Which would select against the less popular subjects in fandom even more than one would expect from the numbers, and despite quality of the fiction.

Wed, May. 23rd, 2007 10:10 pm (UTC)
rez_lo

I think there's a lot of things the contemplated archive could do to help an honest journalist understand the breadth and quality of the fic universe, don't you? But in my view, editing (or other forms of gatekeeping) definitely isn't one of them. And as both a writer and a reader of fanfic I would not participate in an archive--any archive--that had the right to edit my work.

We can set up information pages for newcomers to the site, we can design the interface such that the variety of work available is very obvious, we can do all kinds of things to make it unmistakably clear that fan creativity (and I believe the archive is seen as embracing everything--vidding, art, and so on) is and can't be understood to be any one thing.

Beyond that, it's up to the journalist, or whomever. Part of what goes on currently with the misrepresentation of fandom has to do with bad-faith journalistic practices and the ongoing squeeze by corporate media (the same ones, in many cases, dealing in other divisions with fans like us) of news-gathering resources. But we can't do all of the journalists' work for them. We can't make them report what's there.

We can report it ourselves, of course, but that's another story. *g*

(I also think much of the fic--not all, but a lot of it--that gets dissed so often is by young fans. And I am all for young fans writing badfic so that they can get older and write the stuff I want to read. The idea of a site that welcomes them and that I also would find attractive to use? That appeals to me tremendously. Some of the smartest people on my flist are teenagers.)

Thu, May. 24th, 2007 07:48 am (UTC)
sheenaghpugh

And I am all for young fans writing badfic so that they can get older and write the stuff I want to read

Yes, but I'd rather not have to read the early rubbish to get to the good stuff! Someone else said: "So there will be some scriptfic posted by 13 year olds who think they're high because they're up at 4 AM after drinking 5 cokes. So what? That doesn't mean the whole archive will be like that.</i>

But if enough of it is like that, and there's no way of getting straight through to other stuff, journos will go away with an idea that everything is like that. I'm not saying I can think of an answer - though I do think even the most jealously authorial author should be prepared to accept spelling edits. I don't know about you, but no story on ff.net or anywhere else can keep me reading more than half a page if it's semi-literate, and I once gave up on a whole fandom because there was just too much of that. It's an easy target for critics of fandom, too.
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Wed, May. 23rd, 2007 10:16 pm (UTC)
fides

I must confess that my thoughts for the future have not so much been about a large, multifandom archive as finding a way of being able to link across the many archives and webpages that exist while allowing those website to state how they want the information to be handled. Part of this is the not putting your eggs all in one basket.

While I can't really see fandom joining the Open Archives Initiative some sort of fan equivilent would not be beyond posibility. Combine that with a social networking system (which could easily take onto LJ which already uses FOAF or user profiles on the archives) that includes recomendations and preferences and you have the makings of a personalisable search and access system which is distributed and democratic.

The question is not how we store the stories themselves it is how we store and share the information about those stories, the metadata the describes the story. An archive is merely a presentation of that metadata with a link to the data being described. If the metadata is shared across sites the any search system looking for that metadata becomes the functional equivilent of an archive. There are obviously important questions about the creation and sharing of that metadata but a well designed system would take this into account and allow a negitiation between the system asking for the information and that providing it.

But combining the metadata from peoples rec lists and the archives you would not only be able to search across archives but you would be able to do really interesting and useful things with the results. That that is before you start looking at whether the community structures can be used to support an anonymous but sustained ID system for those people who wish to restrict access to the work they have created.

And that, your honours, rests the abbreviated case for my thesis defense ;-)

Thu, May. 24th, 2007 02:26 pm (UTC)
lyore

Metatagging and information sharing/management is a fascinating idea for fandom, (and one I'm wrestling with in real life). I'd love to see it developed further in fandom, it has a lot of potential.

You make a good case for your thesis in less than 500 words - I'm sure you'll be equally eloquent in the real thing (assuming you are, in fact, completely one. If not, you should!)

Wed, May. 23rd, 2007 10:23 pm (UTC)
partly_bouncy

The whole idea of editing fanfic sites for quality is controversial, because it potentially conflicts with fanfic's essentially democratic ethos: if everyone has the right to be an author, who's to say: post here, but post not there?

That would depend on where you are in fandom. In some places, the idea of having quality standards for fan fiction is not controversial in the least. It is accepted as part of the process of being involved in fandom. And I don't think if some one wanted to create an archive which monitored for quality and wanted to enforce quality guidelines, they'd have a problem doing that. When I did Design and Implementation of Computer Supported Collaborative Learning: FanDomination.Net in 2002, I easily had over 50 volunteers. RockFic and SugarQuill both do variants of the same with out a problem. Fic Wad was founded on quality purposes.

But the little voice saying "but" in my head goes "if it is no more edited than ff.net, what is it ofr that ff.net doesn't do?, and if it is different in that respect, how do we make that happen"

I think the better question is, why is this proposed archive needed? What is better being defined as? What features would it offer that makes it different from existing archives? I've yet to see the people involved with the project, the people talking about how they want to see it, do such a break down. I have yet to see a real discussion of how FanFiction.Net, FicWad, FanWorks.Org, FanDomination.Net, RockFic, Freedom of Speech archive, ADultFanFiction.Net, efanfiction.Net, FanLib, Soup Fiction, MediaMiner.Org don't work, what does actually work there and how those lessons can be applied to their current project. When I see that, then I think your question will be fair. Until then, the people are still putting the cart before the horse.
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Thu, May. 24th, 2007 08:24 am (UTC)
unlikely2

Rather than a single monolithic central archive, I'm not sure that, right now, what need isn't a really good central directory with links, site descriptions and caveats where applicable.

Whilst I'm no expert, it seems to me that this would fit well with the ethos of the fanfiction community (communities?), could be set up fairly quickly and would provide a more flexible and democratic approach to access.

That said, personally, I think it might be useful if the site were to host a small number of fics, these being chosen for excellence and accessibility, suggested and voted for in the usual manner.

It is, of course, quite possible that this could develop organically into the sort of archive many fans would like to see, in which case the directory format would prove an effective intermediate measure.

Thu, May. 24th, 2007 09:29 pm (UTC)
fantasyenabler: LJ hates me today, so I'm replying in pieces.

I'd prefer that as well. There are more enough good stories out there. It's really just a matter of finding them in a manner that doesn't make you want to curse the founders of Google and all their descendants unto the nineteenth generation. (Pain, pain, pain, pain, pestilence, pain...)

Thu, May. 24th, 2007 09:29 pm (UTC)
fantasyenabler

Unfortunately, I've run a links site before, so I know how much of a headache it is to keep the links current. Site owners and archive runners tend to drop off the face of the earth with little or no warning, leaving you with dead links all over the place. It's a job I eventually had to abandon, since grad school was also eating my life at the time.

Sun, Jun. 3rd, 2007 09:14 pm (UTC)
elfwreck

Been watching this whole archive discussion at a bit of a distance.

Could arrange something like "pool of available editors and/or beta readers"--plenty of people like that. And fics could be tagged "approved by site's proofreaders" (for those who go through an editing process), or "some changes made by proofreaders" (for those stories where the author insists on some of their atrocious phrasing, but allows spelling and the worst of the punctuation errors to be fixed), or "not reviewed here."

Make it optional. Give author the full choice of when it's "ready."

Writers retain control of their fics; inexperienced writers get improvement advice if they want it; readers get a warning that they may not want to bother with some stories.

Make the beta/edit/proofreader pool *not* a collection of random fans chosen by "least reluctance," but by some other criteria. BNFness, maybe. (:ponders the wank involved in establishing that:) Or winners of online awards of some sort. Or make polls/petitions so people can say "X is a good beta reader;" require 10 or 25 or 100 replies, or whatever. Or an application with a voting process attached to it.

Sun, Jun. 3rd, 2007 10:53 pm (UTC)
treewishes

I think there are ways to use the search function and some sort of ratings function to get the fic you want. Code can be very clever that way. I think people would have to rate stories on a couple of different scales, not just "I liked", and users would need the ability to rate the raters -- ie, ratings from people who like what I like get more weight.

It would be a slog to figure out exactly how to do it, but I'd love to wake up every morning with a mailbox full of stories that were all in my "orthogonal" fandom.

Mon, Jun. 4th, 2007 12:58 am (UTC)
rez_lo

Yes, this sounds more like what I was imagining when I read the initial proposal. The gatekeeping function happens at the individual level, based on filters, tagging, and the development of a network of trusted writers/readers/reccers. I hope also to see a flexible, transparent tagging function that would be accessible to anyone who wants to look, a la del.icio.us., so that writers can classify their stories as they please, and not be constrained to a narrow set of terms