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September 2019

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astolat

An Archive Of One's Own

**NEW ETA**: we're going to take a stab at putting this together. For more information and discussion, please join and/or watch otw_news.




ETA: If you are coming to the conversation late, xenacryst has helpfully collected up a bunch of links to a subset of noteworthy discussion threads, over here!




First, why fanfic is not illegal and why YOU should stop saying that it is even if you don't agree, by cesperanza. Please read it.

That said, the people behind fanlib (talked about many places, see astridv here) don't actually care about fanfic, the fanfic community, or anything except making money off content created entirely by other people and getting media attention. They don't have a single fanfic reader or writer on their board; they don't even have a single woman on their board. They're creating a lawsuit-bait site while being bad potential defendants, and they deserve to be chased out being pelted with rocks.

But even if they were, which I doubt is going to happen, because hey, they have people and money, we're still left with this problem: we are sitting quietly by the fireside, creating piles and piles of content around us, and other people are going to look at that and see an opportunity. And they are going to end up creating the front doors that new fanfic writers walk through, unless we stand up and build our OWN front door.

We need a central archive of our own, something like animemusicvideos.org. Something that would NOT hide from google or any public mention, and would clearly state our case for the legality of our hobby up front, while not trying to make a profit off other people's IP and instead only making it easier for us to celebrate it, together, and create a welcoming space for new fans that has a sense of our history and our community behind it.

cutting for details and brainstormingCollapse )

If I had thirty seconds more time I would just try to do it, but I don't right now, and so I am throwing out this plea into the ether. And I'm putting myself out here right now to say that I would help as any/all of an advisor, a fundraiser, a promoter, and I would archive my own stuff there. I would even take on coding parts; I just can't take on project management.

But I know we have project managers in our community -- and coders and designers -- can't we do this? Seriously -- we can come up with a site that would be miles better and more attractive to fanfic writers/readers than anything else out there, guys, because we actually USE the stuff.

I have to go offline to write now, but clearly the conversation is happening right now, thanks to the fanlib guys, and I really wanted to get this out there.

A couple of quick ETAs:
I don't allow anonymous commenting, but if you don't have an lj or OpenID account and would like to comment, you can get one really quick right here. ETA: sorry, OpenID doesn't work with anon commenting disallowed, oops.

Also, please have no hesitation to have conversations among yourselves in the comments; I never mind that anyway, but in this case would like to totally encourage it. You can use the lj thumbtacks to track everything being posted in a single thread even if you don't want to get inundated with everything posted to the entry.
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Comments

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stream-of-conscious rambling

This sounds like a fun idea, but my concern would be that a site as big and all-encompassing as you're describing would become a magnet for threats and lawsuits. FF.N didn't ban adult fanfics randomly; they banned adult fics to cover their asses. Also, FF.N bans fic based on the work of authors who don't like it, like McCaffery, Rice, and McKinley. Would our archive do the same?

Also, if the archive is going to be so big and completely free of censorship, it's very important to me that serious steps be taken to make sure the younger writers and readers that such a site would inevitably attract cannot easily access adult/subversive fics. (Part of the reason FF.N has such a magnitude of "badfic" is because it is an easy-to-find and relatively easy-to-use website; FF.N is sort of like a gateway through which many young people, including myself, enter fandom.)

Also, I've always liked archives that issue a standard "disclaimer." I'm not up on my copyright law, and I've heard that disclaimers are unnecessary and even an admission of guilt, but if they're going to be included, why not embed a standard, broad and well-worded disclaimer at the beginning of every story page? That, with PHP embedded titles, ratings, tags and summaries, would cut down on all the gobbledygook people seem to type at the tops of their stories.

I also think that moderation would be important. Some way to report stories for terrible grammar and punctuation would go a long way towards providing quality control without turning anyone away.

Also, perhaps a ranking system for readers who leave feedback? People always seem to complain about how few people write reveiws? Perhaps providing some sort of incentive or system of recognition might help? Is it feasible that the reviewing format could allow users to use icons, like LJ or deviant art does?

Fanfiction.net

Bringing up ff.net -- I haven't read through all of the comments, but I think that ff.net stands as a very valid example of why an all-encompassing multi-fandom archive probably never *would* work on a large scale, at least not any better than ff.net works (which is, IMHO, pretty damn well, but its problems are a case study in fandom archiving on that scale).

I was there on the ground floor, more or less, with ff.net, and I've watched it evolve over the years. It's largely been a victim of its own success. In the beginning, ff.net was basically what's being advocated above. In 1999, when most fic was still on individual people's websites or mailing list archives, when only a few fandoms were big enough to have their own widely-read archive (e.g. SG-1 with Heliopolis) ff.net was pretty damn cool. Nobody really knew how a large, multi-fandom archive should be put together, and the system that Xing & co. came up with for ff.net was straightforward, workable and very usable. It didn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but you could upload your stories and generally find what you were looking for, and just about EVERYTHING was represented on there.

But, like I said, it's been a victim of its own success. Its high profile outside the fanfiction community means that the administrators have taken more and more CYA steps -- first banning adult fanfic, then changing the default view so that mature-rated stories don't even show up -- until the site is basically catering to a young-teen audience. The tons of bad fic on the site have meant that it's increasingly difficult to find the gems (and there *is* a lot of good fic to be found) and the site is starting to be abandoned to the preteens, novices and badficcers because new writers come in already knowing about its reputation and not wanting to post there. The attempts by the administration team to clean it up resulted in a number of fic purges that just made its reputation WORSE, because people were having stuff deleted without notification (one of my fics was deleted, for example, for allegedly containing material in excess of its rating -- basically, implied torture and the "fuck" word in a PG-13 story got it booted). So now they have a reputation for having crappy content AND being unfair, clique-ish and arbitrary in their rules enforcement.

Meanwhile, the look and navigation of the site are becoming horribly dated -- and that's going to be a problem with ANY archive. But who's got the time to recode it from the ground up, especially when it contains millions of stories? The ff.net solution is to do a lot of little "fixes" as they go along that have resulted in, half the time, the site being impossible to upload to, and even when you CAN, their upload interface has gotten more and more buggy, cludgy, restrictive and generally horrible. Meanwhile, the problems with their search interface and navigation are becoming increasingly obvious -- the interface that worked great when there were 30 stories in a section is almost unusable when there are 30,000. But what can you DO short of rewriting the codebase for the entire site? And can you do it, or hire someone else to do it, every 3-5 years?

No matter what interface you use, what sort of searching or navigation or tagging, a lot of people are going to complain that it doesn't suit their needs. If it's too simple, you'll have a lot of the same problems as ff.net has with its navigation; if it's too complex, then a lot of people won't be able to figure out how to use it; and in a few years something much cooler is going to come along (like, say, tagging) and suddenly everyone will be using THAT and your archive will look so very 2007.

And fics that aren't wholly text-based (e.g. illustrated ones or those that involve downloads) are a whole new level of headache for accommodating in the code and search structure.

I just don't think it can be done. I mean, even if someone tries to do the next generation's ff.net -- and I'm sure someone will at some point -- it'll ultimately get weighed down by the same problems.

Fanfiction.net (redux)

I posted this as a comment to caitie, but s/he suggested that I pull it out and post it in the main thread, so here it goes!

I haven't read through all of the comments, but I think that ff.net stands as a very valid example of why an all-encompassing multi-fandom archive probably never *would* work on a large scale, at least not any better than ff.net works (which is, IMHO, pretty damn well, but its problems are a case study in fandom archiving on that scale).

I was there on the ground floor, more or less, with ff.net, and I've watched it evolve over the years. It's largely been a victim of its own success. In the beginning, ff.net was basically what's being advocated above. In 1999, when most fic was still on individual people's websites or mailing list archives, when only a few fandoms were big enough to have their own widely-read archive (e.g. SG-1 with Heliopolis) ff.net was pretty damn cool. Nobody really knew how a large, multi-fandom archive should be put together, and the system that Xing & co. came up with for ff.net was straightforward, workable and very usable. It didn't have a lot of bells and whistles, but you could upload your stories and generally find what you were looking for, and just about EVERYTHING was represented on there.

But, like I said, it's been a victim of its own success. Its high profile outside the fanfiction community means that the administrators have taken more and more CYA steps -- first banning adult fanfic, then changing the default view so that mature-rated stories don't even show up -- until the site is basically catering to a young-teen audience. The tons of bad fic on the site have meant that it's increasingly difficult to find the gems (and there *is* a lot of good fic to be found) and the site is starting to be abandoned to the preteens, novices and badficcers because new writers come in already knowing about its reputation and not wanting to post there. The attempts by the administration team to clean it up resulted in a number of fic purges that just made its reputation WORSE, because people were having stuff deleted without notification (one of my fics was deleted, for example, for allegedly containing material in excess of its rating -- basically, implied torture and the "fuck" word in a PG-13 story got it booted). So now they have a reputation for having crappy content AND being unfair, clique-ish and arbitrary in their rules enforcement.

Meanwhile, the look and navigation of the site are becoming horribly dated -- and that's going to be a problem with ANY archive. But who's got the time to recode it from the ground up, especially when it contains millions of stories? The ff.net solution is to do a lot of little "fixes" as they go along that have resulted in, half the time, the site being impossible to upload to, and even when you CAN, their upload interface has gotten more and more buggy, cludgy, restrictive and generally horrible. Meanwhile, the problems with their search interface and navigation are becoming increasingly obvious -- the interface that worked great when there were 30 stories in a section is almost unusable when there are 30,000. But what can you DO short of rewriting the codebase for the entire site? And can you do it, or hire someone else to do it, every 3-5 years?

No matter what interface you use, what sort of searching or navigation or tagging, a lot of people are going to complain that it doesn't suit their needs. If it's too simple, you'll have a lot of the same problems as ff.net has with its navigation; if it's too complex, then a lot of people won't be able to figure out how to use it; and in a few years something much cooler is going to come along (like, say, tagging) and suddenly everyone will be using THAT and your archive will look so very 2007.

And fics that aren't wholly text-based (e.g. illustrated ones or those that involve downloads) are a whole new level of headache for accommodating in the code and search structure.

I just don't think it can be done. I mean, even if someone tries to do the next generation's ff.net -- and I'm sure someone will at some point -- it'll ultimately get weighed down by the same problems.

Re: Fanfiction.net (redux)

You see, sholio, I was just about to post asking if anybody here knew how Fanfiction.Net started and what happened to them =). Thanks for saying it, you have the words I lack.

But of course, anybody can try to solve a problem -- it is great, in fact, that the problem has been noticed. But it is not a great idea to try to solve it by menas that have already been tried and failed.

So, because I know that the team formed for this project is reading these comments, I suggest them the following: learn from ff.net. Don't think of it as teenagers think of adults, because in the end you'll find there was some reason for certain things being the way they were.

And I wonder if all this fandomish energy trying to solve ff.net problems (or working with them as affiliates) wouldn't be the best course of action ...
i've been following this thread but haven't actually commented yet.

there's an archive called "vicodin for the soul" that is for house/cameron fics.

what's interesting about this archive is that it doesn't host the fics, just links to them
and i don't mean, it gives you a general adress to where you can find fics, it links straight to a fic, telling who wrote it, rating,spoilers,plot, the usual.

i think that would be a good way to start, by having a central archive at the very least linking to as many sites/fics as possible.
it can have all of the mentioned thing, be categorized by fandom,pairing,rating,etc, have a good search engine, a rating system, a favorites list, etc, but at first (at least) instead of having the fics there, linking to them. there could be a link to a dl of the fic as a txt or pdf, to take them on the go (i know i love to read fic on my bb and im sure im not the only one)

as to what to host, the one thing it must not definitely host, is anne rice fanfiction. cause that's just insane, is asking to get sued and harrassed and killed, same for any author who may rice out or who's asked not be have fic written about their works.

as long as they're properly labeled, and there's clear warning, i don't see why fiction such as adult or nc-17 rating as well as RPF shouldn't be allowed. sure, RPF is sort of extreme, even creepy, but there's also good RPF fics.

i would like for there to be some sort of quality-control, like inspectors or something.

people can volunteer to check a especific fandom/pairing/character/rating/etc and filter out the bad stuff.

moderated submission is too complicated, thats why that sort of things seems better.

and of course, i offer whatever help i can give.

i dont have actual skills in things as website-development, but i could help otherwise, with publicity,or ideas or idk, whatever.
For the record, Vicodin for the Soul is here: http://home.comcast.net/~house_cameron/ It looks like they try to link to the site that houses the story unless it's a LiveJournal post or something like that -- and since a lot of them are LJ posts, most of them end up being direct links to the fic.
this would be so great! I would be happy to help a little as a technical advisor. i don't have a ton of time to do the actual implementation though. what about using drupal? pita but free and very customizable. i can also help with wiki stuff.
I'm gonna comment, and hope I actually manage to make sense :)

I think, before you start any bit of programming you have to know exactly what you want and how what you want should work.

I'm not a programmer in the basic sense of the word (php, perl,java...) , but I do know, that adding features after the fact is hard and creates chaos.

A good plan is the best thing to ensure success.


What I think is second most important, is the structuring of what you want to make it accessible. Where do you expect to look for search windows, log in windows..etc.


A cool idea, imo, for design, would be a system similar to csszengarden.com. It uses a php script which enables you to use several stylesheets for on Html base code. Which means you can have several design and have to user choose which one he wants.


I think the hardest thing though, is to gain recognition, because it's obvious from the answers to this post, that archives similar to this do exsist. I've never heard of any of them before.


My favorite fanfic archive is http://smallville.slashdom.net/. I've never been able to earch for my favorites better than there.


Also for design. It should be easy to read and scale (ie, work for resolution and have resizable font which should not effect that overall design.)

Re: Volunteering

Same goes for me. I'd be especially interested in working with tagging, taxonomy, controlled vocabulary, and potential del.icio.us/similar phases of the project (as evidenced by my comments in this thread and this thread). Plus, I have a lot of time.
This sounds really, really exciting. I can't code or anything, but would love to help out in any way I can, and would definitely support through donation.
I have no meaningful coding skills, but I'd be happy to volunteer to help moderate, work on FAQs, or anything else non-tech-y.
Me too-ing, as someone willing to help. I possess no coding skills or legal knowledge, but I'm sure other needs will pop up over time.
I think this sounds awesome, and I'd be willing to help out, if you have an use for volunteers without technical or legal skills.

Update: <lj comm=fanarchive>

Posting a quick comment here for those monitoring via thumbtack: if you are interested in following or volunteering, please join and/or watch the new community otw_news -- this is not the archive itself, just a place for discussion and coordination.

volunteering

So I've read a lot of the entries by now. And naturally I'm way out of my depth when it comes to helping with programm the actual archive (whatver form it may have) or any of that stuff.

But can do legwork. Seems to me that whatever form this might project take on eventually, you'll need a lot of people eventually who do things like tagging, going over existing tags, tracking down people, mobilizing other volunteers, beta-testing, and I don't know, grunt work.

I do have some understaning of programming (just, you know, personal use, nothing like this). And I have time.

Depending on the actual form of the archive, maybe you could use people willing to organize and channel information pouring in from all kinds of corners of fandom.

I will also gladly donate some money (after I can still afford LJ) - just you know, consider that I have a student's budget.
Hey, I'm still making my way through the comments here, but I already love this project and I'd love to help bring it about. I can do html and css stuff, and have a little bit of scripting knowledge (perl and javascript, and basic unix stuff) -- not enough to help write the software this archive will need, but I think I could help with testing. I could also help with network setup issues, should you decide to house the project on your own servers. I can write FAQ's and support documentation. Um. I could wear a funny hat and tap dance?

Really, I'm not picky -- sign me up for whatever needs doing.
I'm a speed reader, so if you need me to do something- read and categorize, tag, etc. long fics, etc- I'm your girl!
May need some instruction on the mechanics, but once I have it down I can do some tech stuff too.
Indus

Story Ratings, e.g. NC-17

I haven't managed to read all the comments, but I think one thing that's important is that you not use the MPAA rating system for your archive. The MPAA are apparently possessive, and although they might ignore individuals, a (potentially) large and high-profile archive could become a target for their lawyers.

Also, if you really intend to create a multi-fandom, all-inclusive archive, then it should be international, which means it should be easy for non-native English speakers and non-Americans to use, which lets out American ratings right away.

I'd strongly suggest rating stories by age (e.g. 16+, 18+, 21+) for just that reason; the fan-rating system (T for Teen, M for Mature, etc.) is confusing because it's not very intuitive, whereas numbers/ages are much easier for everyone to understand.

Re: Story Ratings, e.g. NC-17

I want to second your suggestion. The age rating idea is simple and clear. There's been so many systems lately that they are quite confusing and I imagine doubly so if you don't speak English.
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