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astolat

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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I totally think that this is a great idea, though I have some of the concerns that have already been raised (quality, filtering, etc).

I can also to help out with the coding. I don't have much experience with PHP/Perl/SQL in particular, but I'm willing to learn more if necessary.
I'd donate, subscribe, and volunteer. I'm tech-friendly but not a coder or architect.

As a writer, I would really love not being forced to classify my stories according to a predefined taxonomy as the price for posting to an archive.

In my dream archive, the prevailing taxonomy would be self-adjusting, so that as some tag or term accreted users the engine would note that and whoever was curious could look and see who was using what terms both to search (readers) and to label (writers). I would absolutely love it if all fans could have visibility at that level.

As a reader, I would also love being able to search for, say, the least-recced stories as well as the most-recced, for example. I guess what I'm reaching for is a wish that anyone who wants to could see in broad quantitative terms what's going on with readers and writers on the site--what choices people are making and what new things they're coming up with. That's more or less how I'd like to make my discoveries as a reader and find my place as a writer.

Thanks for your leadership on this. FanLib really chapped me.
See, I'd find this utterly self defeating.

Given how we can't even agree on what gen and slash is, I think it'd be more useful to have traditional categories and offer other/uncategorized/... as an alternative everywhere.

I definitely could live without lemons and wombats and whatever else has recently been invoked for ratings :D

Then again, there could always be the freedom that exists at imeem right now. There were clear posts recommending standardized tags, but noone's forced to use them. Otoh, I check every couple of days for new vidding tagged entries...and only yesterday realized that an SGA vidder I like had uploaded ages ago...she hadn't used the standard tags!
I, uh, don't think I've ever commented here, just watched for a while. But I'd like to add my name to the "will provide funds and/or brown bag lunches" list! This sounds like it would be/will be an amazing endeavor, and I think from the response so far that something will definitely come of your idea and the subsequent mass brainstorming.

I'd also like to offer my opinion as a reader of fanfic rather than a writer that the archive's user-friendliness and design quality will be a huge thing towards drawing people over. I know I've been deterred from archives before by sloppy, hard to read, or confusing site design even before I've had a chance to get at the fic itself.

As concerns recs, a quick and easy way to add someone's fic to your recs list might be worth thinking about- maybe someone else has suggested this and I missed it. Similar to LJ's memories feature, only with a box for your commentary on the fic rather than keywords- and the commentary could be edited later so one could put it on the list now but have time to think about what to say. If there was a "rec this fic!" button on the fic itself, it would be easier to keep track of what's been recced, how many times, and by who, as well.
Oh, hello, you suggested that last one! Sorry about that. *sheepish*
I think this is a terrific idea. I can't code or make graphics, but I can write (I saw an idea where people write stories for an auction to get startup funds; I'd vid for such an auction, too), and I'd be happy to donate. I would also love to help in some other way if I could.
This sounds like a huge project, but one worth undertaking. I can be of very little help (skill-wise) to whoever does undertake, but I would be more than happy to be of whatever help I can.

Would it be good to move this conversation somewhere else (say, a(n?) ljgroup?) and actually get things started, in some way?

My thoughts.

A few features I'd like to see:

- All posters, when signing up, must state whether they are under 13, over 13 but under 18, or over 18. Over 13 but under 18 requires a birthdate. Under 13 requires parental permission (I'd want some legal advice about complying with COPPA here, as you're basically not allowed to collect information about under-13s without parental permission.)

Use the birthdate to automatically block off NC-17 rated fics. If you're under 18, or if you're not logged in, you don't have the option to see these. You can add the option to see these fics after you turn 18, or with parental permission. (Personally, I don't care, but if you want this fairly public and you want people to be able to post anything, of any rating, then you need to cover your ass.)

If you can absorb under-13s at all, and I think it would be cool to give young kids a place to post and read fanfic, then block off their ability to see higher than PG-13.

This suggestion may be more controversial. Allow filtering by age of poster. So you can automatically hide all fics by under-18s. Or search for fics by under-13s, if your goal is to share them with your kids to show them what other kids can do. This, I think, would do a lot to avoid the pit-of-voleness that is FF.net. Of course, this unfairly penalizes some good young writers, and unfairly privileges some bad older writers, but I know I would feel more comfortable flaming the shit out of a bad writer if there was a mark by their account name indicating that they are an adult.

Here's a possibility, but I don't know how workable it is. Starting with your seed crystal pool of good writers, use "trusted writers" to rate fics the way that DailyKos rates posts as excellent through trollish. Only trusted writers have the ability to apply this rating, you get trusted writer status by getting enough high ratings, and abuse of ratings can be raised with the moderation board as an issue (say, an excellent writer has a horror of mentor/student pairings and is going around bad-rating all Harry/Snape fics, Buffy/Giles fics and the like... this would be an example of abuse.) Then readers can search using the rating as a criteria. FF.net started with ratings, but since they never did anything to ensure the quality of the *raters*, they ended up having to get rid of the feature. If we use this sort of model, we might be able to have a filter that doesn't merely rely on the poster's age to get rid of the voliness.

BTW, I have been a project manager and I also do database management vis-a-vis web development. I cannot web develop myself (I can read and troubleshoot ColdFusion and ASP.NET but I can't even manage hello world in Perl or PHP), but I have worked as a tester, project manager, and data hygiene specialist. I also have a lot of experience in the challenges of managing personal data (not that a membership would have a whole lot of personal data, but it would carry some.) And I'd be willing to help out.

Re: My thoughts.

All posters, when signing up, must state whether they are under 13, over 13 but under 18, or over 18.

This might not be a bad idea if the archive wants to legally cover its asses, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't actually work. I've been on the internet since I was fourteen, and I've been cheerfully clicking the "I'm over 18" buttons for just as long. Why would anyone admit being under 18 if it means they get their access to some of the stories taken away, or even get filtered out by readers?
so, i just left a few comments here and there, but: offering up my brains to be picked; i've been with LJ since fairly early days, and have seen pretty much every single technical, social, legal, and business problem that will crop up -- and I know which of our solutions worked and which didn't. :) feel free to grab me as you go forward.

mistakes we made that you shouldn't, or bullets we dodged that you might not duck fast enough for:

* Obtain legal counsel first. An attorney specializing in internet law (that's the part we got fucked on in the beginning) who can advise you on how to set up policies that stay on the sunny side of the legality of a number of issues, including COPPA, the DMCA, and child porn laws, as well as writing your ToS and privacy policy for you. I have horror stories you would not believe that I can't tell in a public comment, but trust me, you will be thankful.

* Design to scale. Your programmer(s) should have experience in maintaining and/or designing for high-availability, high-load database-based web applications, and should keep that in mind early, else you get a year in and suddenly realize that your database architecture is unscalable. I'd actually seriously recommend that you start with LJ's code and OSS tools, because we solved those problems out of necessity, and a lot of the code and tools are based on the idea of "getting the most performance out of the fewest resources". You'll almost certainly want to steal our site architecture and, at the very least, perlbal and memcache; again, you can put your geek in touch with me and I'll point 'em in the right directions.

* A good project manager is worth his or her weight in platinum. A good engineering manager is worth about the same. The ability to realistically scope and prioritize features will keep you from over-engineering, getting things 80% done, or never doing anything at all. However, don't neglect usability. (This was our big mistake. We had neither project manager nor engineering manager, and we had no usability people.)

* Don't try to legislate community behaviour through administrative action; design technical blocks against the stuff you really don't want to see going on, but don't get dragged into he-said/she-said type actions, and don't try to enforce "good manners" with administrative discipline. Once you start, you have to keep going, and the overhead becomes astounding.

* Similarly, don't ever police or pre-screen content in any kind of way. Don't seek out violations of policy, don't require any kind of staff/moderator approval before posting, etc. The minute you start doing that, you assume the liability for all content posted to the site.

* ...and likewise, don't edit a user's account. If, hypothetically, you receive a complaint about one asset, and you determine it violates the ToS, don't adminstratively-delete it. Make the user do it him/herself, and if they don't, suspend the entire account from view. If you go into a user's account and delete things yourself, again, you start assuming liability.

* Oh, and flipping back to technical for a minute -- while you can go with a shared-hosting plan or a dedicated-server plan at first, you're going to outgrow it fast if you get any kind of popularity (it took LJ about six months to outgrow the shared hosting, and another year after that before outgrowing a single dedicated-server plan). Plus, both of those architecturs have a single point of failure, which is bad. When you're shopping for cage space to host your machines in -- and they should be your machines, not the hosting company's, once you get to that point -- pick a colocation provider within driving distance of your sysadmin. Just trust me on that one. (At least one of our Infamous Downtimes involved Brad being in Portland and the colo being in Seattle with both of our local Seattle sysadmins out of town.)

That's just off the top of my head, but I'm sure there's tons of stuff I'm forgetting. Seriously, do poke me as you go; I'm happy to advise.
These are words of wisdom. Pay attention to them.

- Project manager. God, yes.
- Scalability problems will kill you if you don't have an experienced programmer designing your architecture early.
- Make sure at least one of your programmers is a usability expert. You'll have several programmers, and their skills should complement each other.
- Own your equipment. Keep it local. Make backups. (But your sysop will know this, because you will choose an experienced one.)
oh, yeah, one other thing, and it's so fundamental that I almost forgot to say it:

spec first, then design, then code. Have your first two years' worth of development planned before you even start, and know the roadmap for the next good long while (even if it's just in a vague "yeah, we want to add that" kind of way) before you open to the public. It's the only way you can avoid the Giant Feature Creep and the cobbled-together feel of many sites. This, above all else, is what does in many emerging sites: the urge to add the kitchen sink. (Also, don't be afraid to say "no" to requested features if you don't think they'd work out either technically or socially -- but don't reject all suggestions just because they don't fit into the roadmap; your users can and will surprise you.)
Oh, yes, this. There's nothing quite like the feature-creep of "hey, it's Tuesday, let's start a new forum!!1!" sites.
Just hopping in randomly. Isn't that what FF.net has been doing?
If you look at the bullets, you'll note that no, ff.net doesn't do this. The only things that do apply to them are:

run BY fanfic readers FOR fanfic readers
allowing the poster to control her stories (ie, upload, delete, edit, tagging)

There's also their ban on NC-17 material, which is a big deal.

astolat cleary pointed out, whether intentionally or not (I'll go with intentionally), how different this kind of archive would be from ff.net, so I'm kind of surprised someone is asking about it. If you look through the comments here, you'll see a number of people have explained their reasons for disliking ff.net.
...all of which would automatically be linked back so you could see the kind of interconnecting 'web' of how our work is interrelated (with the original author able to delete any given link if she wanted to, but not the inspired-by work itself)

I think this is the point I like best - exploring that web is one of my favorite things about fandom. Since I spend too much time with my job, I also thought, "Oh, it's a combination of hard-coded FRBR concepts (especially the family of works), and, with tagging, the hand-FRBR'd style of something like LibraryThing.
Seconding that the idea of having some kind of crazy inspired-by spiderweb would be the coolest thing ever.
I've only read through the first page of comments, so I don't know if anyone else has yet to offer my particular skill set...

While not a writer, I am a devoted reader of fanfiction and, while not a coder, I am a graphic designer with some small additional skills in organization. I find myself quite taken with the idea behind this project, and would love to assist if anyone can use me. I... should probably include more information with this post, yeah, but it's past bedtime and I'm struggling not to sound inane. Cheers!
Right. Awake and commentified.

First, a side note - an interesting parallel to the legality issue is the doujinshi phenomena in Japan (doujinshi being self-published, small run comics that often derive from other, commercial works. A *wide* range of material is covered - drama, gags, porn and romance featuring both straight and same sex couples, etc - and creators hail from all sides of the gender line). Doujinshi artists publish in relative freedom - there are conventions, events, and second hand shops focused openly on their work - and, while I don't have sources on hand, I'm fairly sure the practice is generally considered legal (it's a non-profit activity, promotes interest in commercial products, trains up new generations of artist who often turn commercial, etc).

While there are cultural and legal differences I think, should our argument be framed in a similar way (we're not hurting, we're helping), fanfiction could not only gain legal recognition, but come to be supported by the larger commercial world (Not in a creepy, corporate sponsor kind of way, but in that they happily let us go about our business. And yeah, with the west's current state of paranoia over copyright issues, this might be wishful thinking).

That done, I've got to say that the whole uberarchive idea is insane, and if anyone can pull it off anyway it's fandom. As a reader, the concepts being tossed around upthread inspire greed of the basest sort - I *want* these things available, the search engine and recommendations (reminds me a bit of Amazon.com's extensive review/recommendation/tagging/listmania system - are they someone who could be used as a model?) the gathering off acafen and writing resources [glee] - and am willing to do what it takes to make it happen.

Which brings me back to the original post - I'm a print graphic designer (although I've worked with the web on occasion) - and I offer myself as a resource on Usability - font sizes, navigation flow, page layout/ratio, color schemes - as well as a general ability to make things pretty. None of which will be required until later, but I'm getting my digs in now. In the meantime, I'm pretty good at organizing people and information (nowhere near Project Manager status, but it's something) and I've got a cool head and cooler temper. If you need someone around to run errands and douse fires, I'm your girl.

I like this idea very much, and would be happy to help in whatever small ways I can. I'm halfway decent with photoshop, at least.

If we're talking about dream features, here, I would take a page from LJ and let members have the ability to friend each other, and then have some sort of rec feed on personal member pages that lists fics your friends have recently recced (or even just commented on), and their comments on the fic, etc. This would likely help with quality control.

I had... other stuff to say, but I'm too tired to remember. But I'll be interested to see if this goes anywhere.
Ooh, I saw the post about this on my flist from cupidsbow. It's a wonderful idea, though I think there would have to be some oversight to make sure it didn't end up like ffnet. I'd offer to help, especially since I have tons of free time right now, but there's not really much I could do in way of getting a site ready and whatnot. Good luck to everyone, though!
One of the major wanks that always crops up when it comes to categorizing fiction for archives is that some writers don't want to warn for deathfic because it spoils important plot points, and some readers don't accidentally want to stumble over it ever ever EVER OMG. Maybe it would be a good idea to have some sort of tag that those writers could click that amounts to "I'm not saying there's death in my stories, but if there was, I wouldn't warn for it". (I don't really know how you'd express that in one or two words. "Caveat lector"?)

That way, readers who want to avoid deathfics would know that they need to be careful around that author, the author could avoid the enraged comments of "Thanks for ruining my day! Warn, dammit!", and nobody would need to be spoiled.

(All that in addition to a plain old "deathfic" tag for the people who do like to warn, of course.)
Personally, what I'd love to see would be the ability for both authors and readers to tag stories, and the ability to turn on or off reader tags viewing. Having a 'caveat lector' tag would be a lot quicker to do though.
I am organised, not a writer, but a reader, learning to be a project manager and am interested in taking on a smaller chunk of something to direct - it looks big enough that you need a person directing the whole (or 2) and some doing the other broken up bits of work to feed upwards and downwards so that things happen, and everyone is happy.

Oh, I should point out that i'm here via cupidsbow

Additionally - by way of drawing attention to it, I have a couple of ideas for a mass launch strategy involving choosing a weekend and having simultaneous convention like events/fan events in as many places as we can organise it in - done right it should be more than enough to get attention and be spread out amongst all the writers who would be able to take advantage of the shiny new toy, and also be able to encourage fundraising and donations.

Actually... let me reprase my first statement - I can take on coordination of a launch strategy either in the sense of the above or in another way that people like and are happy with? I'm sure that there are others who'd be interested in assisting?
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