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Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007, 05:01 am
atrata: this one got pretty long.

It's been a weird day, full of pain-fueled pseudo-fever-dreams about fandom. Every few hours I'd wake up, stagger to the computer, read comments until I couldn't do it anymore, and then stagger back to bed. But I am better now, and I've got some Thinky Thoughts to share.

In unfinished business from the last post: InsaneJournal is not run by 6A, nor affiliated in any way. I think perhaps the confusion comes from the fact that they use LJ's code, but that code is open source and free. See this thread, in which the IJ owner explicitly says that they are not affiliated.

In unfinished business from other posts, I believe I have set up all these comms so that any member can post to them. If anyone would like to take cross-posting duties off my hands, that would be full of awesome. You can link back here, or paste the text, or whatever. I'm going to try to get to it tonight tomorrow, but I have about a million comments to respond to first.

In links business, metafandom, as always, rounds up a ton of posts regarding the recent unpleasantness.

Now, on to the new business. I've started this part a million times, and my brain just goes in circles. Hopefully some semblance of coherency will come out somewhere.

I think the first order of business remains getting the word out to as many people in as many fandoms as we possibly can. You guys have been amazing; in less than 48 hours there are 1300+ watchers (!!). I've updated the profile page to be a little more reflective of what's going on and what the issues are.

I guess the thing that concerns me are the people in fandoms saying this doesn't affect them; it's my belief that this affects everyone. Yes, ponderosa121 drew some chan; the piece of art in question was not chan. elaboration was banned for incest. (Correction: Both were suspended for chan.) But leave all that aside for a moment. Say your fandom doesn't involve underage characters or incest. LJ has declared themselves to be arbiters of artistic and literary merit.

Let me say that again. LJ has declared themselves to be arbiters of artistic and literary merit.

Any fandom -- hell, anyone at all, fannish or not -- posting explicit works of art or writing is vulnerable. 6A/LJ is a business. They're here to make money. These are their servers. They can, and will, do as they please. I'm not shocked or surprised or pissed off that this is the route they've chosen. Again, they're a business, and their interest is in turning a profit. And this kind of environment is not good for fandom. For any fandom.

So we need a place of our own. It's really that simple.

Except it's not simple, because which place? Hasn't this been done before? Isn't there a for-fen-by-fen LJ clone out there? There is, in fact. It's JournalFen. nardasarmy has an excellent post about JF that raises a lot of very good points.

One of them is that JF is a fan-run start-up that's slowly going bankrupt. Another is that maybe fandom hates MySpace, but it makes money.

So where does that leave us? Do we reach out to JF, offer them our support and our money and our time? I mean, on the one hand, yes, of course; they're fen and they're doing a cool thing and they deserve support. (On a personal level: yes, I have an account; no, I don't use it; yes, I give them money anyway.)

But the more I've thought about this, the more I can only come to this conclusion: we need to build something new. An LJ-clone site based on paid accounts and donations isn't a sustainable business model in the long-term. And when you bring in corporate help, well, we all know what happens because we're living it right now. In terms of the current LJ-clone sites, they all have some drawbacks; my own concerns are pretty much covered by what astolat has to say here.

Yes, we all like many of LJ's features. We bitch when they change stuff, and we like threaded comments and we like our f-lists and our icons. But don't we want more? Don't we make post after post about man, LJ is cool, but it would be even cooler if it did X? If we could subscribe to individual tags and have functional searching and easily import and export and back up our posts? If we could easily change metadata, integrate with an archive, automate newsletters, moderate RPGs? If there were killfilters and widgets and comments we could edit?

Fuck yeah, it'd be cooler.

And it'd be cooler for everyone, not just Potterfen. So again, I say, we need to build something new. Many of those features are not possible using LJ's code base, and I worry that using it would make us dependent on them for updates and would, to some extent, stick us with their business model, which, I think we agree, is swell for them and bad for fandom.

So there it is. I know this seems completely insane. I know it requires serious developers to write new code and serious money to buy servers and put them wherever we're going to put them and mirror them somewhere else, and serious business people to come up with a way to make this sustainable and serious tech support to ward off spammers and other issues and serious legal types so we can stand our ground when (not if) someone comes after us. This is huge, and I know it. This is not a small undertaking, and I don't take it lightly.

Now, as far as a plan to put this in place, I'm not there yet. Step One is, and always will be, spread the word. Maybe no one likes to admit that there are BNFs, but there are certainly people with a lot of influence in various fandoms, and everyone knows it. Who are they? Are they your friends? Convince them. Or e-mail me and tell me who they are and I'll give it a shot. Maybe they're already here. Who knows. But keep talking and debating and being awesome in the comments.

Step Two has got to be to bring in some honest-to-god help. All those things I mentioned about all the serious people this requires? I'm not any of those things; I'm certainly not all of them. I'm a girl with a dream and an obsessive love of making lists. A committee is clearly in order. I need to think a little more about what sort of committee and how large a committee and all that. Input is, as always, appreciated.

And now that it's five in the morning and I have to be up in a few hours, I'm going to go to bed and dream of fandom.

Much love.

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 10:13 am (UTC)

I've had a paid account at JF for some time because they understand fandom.

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 10:18 am (UTC)

Many of those features are not possible using LJ's code base, and I worry that using it would make us dependent on them for updates and would, to some extent, stick us with their business model, which, I think we agree, is swell for them and bad for fandom.

I'm not really sure what you mean by that because you are NOT stuck with using LJ/6A's business model. I mean, if you just mean offering paid accounts and free accounts okay but eventually getting to the point where ads are needed and corporate sponsorship? There are all sorts of LJ-clone sites out there that DON'T do that. And Scribblit won't do that either.

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 10:29 am (UTC)

I don't quite see how a new structure for the site is going to make it more affordable.

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 10:44 am (UTC)

read your post and i must say that i agree on everything you say.

do take care
and i would love to help where ever i can,
so ask away


Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 10:56 am (UTC)

So again, I say, we need to build something new. Many of those features are not possible using LJ's code base, and I worry that using it would make us dependent on them for updates.

If you think you can find the people to code a completely new system for you, surely you can find the people to write LJ code updates.

I think it's pretty ambitious what you're saying here and in no way do I mean to suggest that you don't understand what it will take but, LJ sourcecode is, in my opinion, not a business model. It's a sourcecode.

It's a pretty good sourcecode too, from what I've seen. And yeah, sure it could be better but regardless, it's a really good base to start from.

Many of those features are not possible using LJ's code base

Are you absolutely sure of this? Because in general, anything is possible. It might take some more variables here or there and whatnot, but it's seems improbable to me that LJ's sourcecode actually has parts that obstructs certain features.

When you're talking about this something new, it would still mainly revolve around blogging, would it not? Posts, tags, comments, friends - the main concept would be the same as LJ is now, would it not? And if this is the case, I think a very large portion of LJ's sourcecode would still be useable.

Why start all over again, trying to write something that's already been written?

Besides that, perhaps the fact that this something new will work similarily to LJ will help people move.

Mon, Aug. 6th, 2007 04:04 pm (UTC)

Are you absolutely sure of this?

Yeah, I am. I was overstating a bit for simplicity's sake, but many of my crazy plans would involve ripping the code apart and putting it back together. Can it be done? Sure. But It's code I didn't write in a language that is (IMO) extremely difficult to understand and maintain. I realize it sounds counter-intuitive, but it will honestly be much faster and easier to build something from the ground up than it would be to rip the LJ code apart and add in a million new features.

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 11:05 am (UTC)

Yea, a lot of the other comments will actually be helpful in a practical-i-know-what-you're-talking-about-way, but I just wanted to say I'm backing you guys in the quest for a super-duper fan run journal. I don't know what it is exactly, and I don't know if you know, but twocorpses has started something similar; is this in collaboration with that? Anyways, if you need the legal help, I'll be available in about 5 years, but for now, I'll do any slaving you need.


Tue, Aug. 7th, 2007 05:54 am (UTC)

I absolutely LOVE your icon.


Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 11:09 am (UTC)

I know a company that runs a site with about 30.000 pages with several data-bank based services for its users. To ensure constant availability and service they run a server cluster with three servers plus additional system for back-up. The cost of maintaining the site comes up to $250.000 per year (tax not included). It's full time job for three to four people. The cost of hardware and hosting is not incluced.

Last I heard fandomcounts comes up to 30.000 journals. As these are not only text-only journals and the users would demand constant backup of their pictures, vids, comments etc for years to come you should be aware those are just a part of the overall costs. Even if we should get the design and programming for free, hardware, hosting and support will add to the costs - in addition to the paid accounts I imagine you'd need the capital for a small to medium start-up company to get fanLJ off the ground.

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 04:48 pm (UTC)

Why not have people do their own hosting for photos with things like flickr and photobucket?

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 11:10 am (UTC)

I agree with what you're saying, but speak to twocorpses if you haven't yet. She's in the process of working this out. I'm sure there will be people who will donate money to support this. Just have extra things for them or something like lj did for paid users and permanent users. With what I saw of LJ workers making fun of us (us meaning fandom), I'm definitely all for a massive move. I do know some people, especially some on my on flist, don't want to move and were only on lj for the flists. But I keep pimping you and twocorpses in my entries to try to get my flist to spread the word.

I know a few BNFs you can speak to of at least 2-3 different fandoms.

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 11:18 am (UTC)

will you be on jabber/im today? I would like to ask you about some stuff that'd be faster/easier that way then comments here.

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 11:19 am (UTC)
bubble_blunder: My thoughts, Part One of Two

Here's my bottom line:

I think that a lot of these ideas that people are throwing around are great. Really I do. They show a lot of creativity and tend to be well thought out. Now, let me tell you a story...

When LJ first announced that they were bringing advertising in, my husband and I looked into starting a site with all of the extra features that you guys keep bringing up. Hubby started looking at code, we contacted an attorney, hubby started talking to the guys he works with at Intel about hardware, etc. We got all of the information together. Our only thought was to start a site for the Jossverse fandom. What we discovered was that to code it from the ground up, take care of server space, maintenance, fees, the bills for the space where the servers would live, and on and on and on, would cost at least $50k to start, and take 6 months to a year to get going before it could open up to the public. We would still have been required to prohibit illegal content in our TOS, or risk getting sued the first time some kid made a hit list on his journal and then shot up his school. The $50k didn't include the monthly fees to keep it going, just the first year of start up stuff. And our intention was to go back to invite codes to attempt to control the speed of growth.

What I'm trying to get at here, is that I think maybe you guys aren't being completely realistic here about what you are getting into. Money-wise, it's a HUGE undertaking. People keep bringing up overseas servers without considering that if you are running a non-profit in the US you are still going to be subject to US Laws regarding illegal content. And most everyone is talking about how they don't know enough to do it, but surely someone in the fandom does and will donate their time. Now, maybe that's true and maybe it isn't. The new fandom archive has just recruited a shit load of people, which means that a lot of the members of fandom who might be willing to help are already tied up with another project. Then there's the fact that 6 months from now, after all of the money has been spent to start this thing up, there may not even be a user base who is interested in it anymore. 6 months ago, very very few people thought that the fandom would be considering leaving LJ in 6 months time. Things in fandom are changing extremely quickly.


Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 10:06 pm (UTC)
slashbluegreen: Re: My thoughts, Part One of Two

I agree. Btw the company I mentioned in my post *is* working for a non-profit org and still imo the cost of running and hosting a site that size is way beyond of what fans can realistically afford.

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 11:20 am (UTC)
bubble_blunder: My thoughts, Part Two of Two

*Continued from previous comment*

Now, twocorpses, please correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think that the brains behind Scribblet were anticipating the kind of migration that you guys seem to be assuming you would get if you built this. They were most likely expecting a slow trickle, much like what IJ and GJ have seen recently. Realistically speaking, when the dust all settles, very few people are going to be leaving LJ, even if they are now posting to multiple journal sites in case their content gets deleted. But, because of the timing, Scribblet, IJ and GJ are going to see things happen faster than they were anticipating. But they still aren't setting things up on the expectation that 35k users are going to leave LJ and migrate anywhere. Even in the midst of Strikethrough, we nearly all stayed here and waited, and then accepted the apologies at face value. If and when things at LJ continue to deteriorate, people will gradually start to migrate elsewhere. And when they decide to do it, if they are serious about it, they'll start asking about Scribblet and Insane Journal. My guess is that Scribblet's TOS will give them the edge and they will likely see steady growth over the next year. Meanwhile, you guys will still be coding. And by the time that you are done, all of those people who originally said that if you built it they would come will have either adjusted to LJ's new way of doing things or will have become firmly entrenched in their new communities on Scribblet and Insane Journal.

The majority of my fandom (Buffy) has no intention of leaving. They don't feel that this will affect them as much as it will HP, Anime and the like. Our characters aren't as young, they actually had sex in the source material, aren't cartoon like, and were never billed as children's characters. Couple that with the fact that HP fandom has a very interesting reputation within the fandom, and that is the fandom that LJ seems to be targeting at the moment. I'm not saying that these sentiments are right or wrong, just that they are what I am seeing and hearing.

But, hypothetically speaking, let's say that you guys go ahead and try to do this. You are going to need a shitload of monetary donations from fandom. And frankly, if I'm going to put my money and my time fundraising and the like into a fandom project, it's going to be a project like fandom archive, that is much more likely to be successful simply because it's not something that will be competing with 10 other sites out there offering the same service, even if it is different in coding. It stands a much much greater chance of success. My time for helping out on projects like this is limited, and I am going to donate it to the places that I think are likely to be successful.

There is already a journaling site for fans by fans out there (JF) with another one on the way (Scribblet). Personally, I think that fandom's resources would be much better served if pooled into one of these sites (most likely Scribblet, as JF's issues have already been well documented and debated), than they would be by attempting to start from the ground up. The LJ source code can, I assume, be dug into and modified to make it do the things that people are asking for. So why not pool our resources into helping twocorpses come up with the money and experts to dig into that code and write things that will add those things in WHILE we are using the site, instead of waiting 6-12 months for new code and praying that we don't get deleted in the meantime? Goddess knows, with this latest round of things making larger numbers of people start thinking of migrating, Scribblet is probably going to be busier and growing faster than was originally anticipated. I'm sure that they could use the help (and again, twocorpses feel free to correct me if I'm wrong).

Anyway, that's just my humble opinion, and I already know that it means very little in the overall scheme of things. Take it as you will.


Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 11:52 am (UTC)
noa_luna: Re: My thoughts, Part Two of Two

I agree. In fact, I've written a post here about the advantages of moving to Scribblit.
(Deleted comment)

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 04:48 pm (UTC)

There's a joke on JF about the servers being "Robust" because there are frequent downtimes. And you are correct, they are using a very old version of the code.

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 11:43 am (UTC)

Writing a new and better codebase will be, as other people have said, an enormous undertaking. But in my opinion, it has to be done. We need our own turf, it is as simple as that and we need something that is completely and wholly ours.

I am ready to contribute with my time and money. My question is how much money it would cost to hire professional code writers to set this up for us? It must be easier and a lot quicker to hire people with professional skills than to push this over on volunteers willing to do it on their limited spare time.

Mon, Aug. 6th, 2007 04:14 pm (UTC)

Ballpark figure? To contract this out? Six weeks and $120k.

And then, to a certain extent, we STILL have some of the same problems -- they'll turn over some code, which neither I nor my team had any hand in writing, and which we'll then be expected to maintain and upgrade. I think it's going to be much easier, if a little slower, to do it ourselves.

But I'm glad someone agrees with me about the need for something new. :)

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 12:11 pm (UTC)

I think that the cons mentioned for coding totally new system are all extremely massive.We're already trying to do something hard(creating a massive and organized migration of fandom), lets not complicate it with trying to code a wholly new journaling system, which will probably will have compatibility problems when people try to import content from their LJs.No need to make things more complicated then absolutely necessary, Murphy loves complicated processes.

My personal thoughts about additional features are that most likely they can be coded as additions to existing LJ code rather then starting them from the ground up.It will likely be both more stable and less time consuming- as well as the fact that the basic system can go up sooner with a list of "features to be implemented" and maybe general date of completion projected for each one.

Money issues:Start collecting for servers *now*.Specifically I would suggest you talk incorporating Scribblit as non-profit with twocorpses and go forward with it soonest if she agrees, if she doesn't incorporate a "friends of Scribblit" or something similar with mission statement of supporting Scribblit as long as it doesn't limit freedom of speech more then absolutely required by law or somesuch.The moment it is incorporated get either a paypal account or some other way for people to donate over the internet and pimp it- I'd suggest starting from fandomtossed and similar groups, as well as asking metafandom admins if they will link to a pimping post.

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 12:29 pm (UTC)

LJ started with one man - Brad - and an idea. We're starting with thousands. That's got to be worth something :O)

Sun, Aug. 5th, 2007 02:47 pm (UTC)

Sorry to butt in, but it needs to be pointed out that Brad (presumably, I have no direct pipeline to his thoughts) saw LJ as a longterm professional endeavor. It's different when it's fans-we're in fandom as hobby, and all have real lives that tend to interfere on both the time and energy we spend online.