Thursday, 30 December 2010

State of the Forum: Purge Bot

FFN keeps purging its forums, which keeps causing shifts in the ranks.

Unlike the first purge that took literally two thirds, tens of millions of posts, the recent one was more mellow. Some forums didn't even notice the hit, but the forum history has never been so thin. Time is running out if you're doing research on FanFiction.Net.

Recently, I've asked members of Writer's Anonymous when FFN introduced avatars. I didn't find the exact date on Fan History. However, I doubt there will be a credible answer because that community has been in the doldrums after the first purge. Pushed from the second page deep in the ranks, chances of getting new members are as slim as the recommendations the members give others. With core users becoming more idle, might as well look for another source of information. The problem with that is there not being an alternative. Surely, the Literate Union should be the #1 spot for information on FFN's activities, but even there you won't find many regulars from pre-avatar conditions. Yes, there was a time when FFN didn't have an avatar service. Its introduction was actively discussed in forums back then, but this "back then" is more than two years ago, so the site culled through itself as a primary source. As I'm thinking about facts worth referencing from FFN, I keep procrastinating and hope someone else will do it. Obviously, this won't happen.

Forums will keep shifting, and assure only the leanest boards ever make it to the top for as long as they are top in real time. There is no regard for historic value or past achievements, only the now. While evolution proponents would preach the system as gold, ditching those silly oldies into the bin to refresh the front pages of fandoms. However, evolution takes place if there is something to evolve from.

This is very important. Fans are impressionable, and they fall into trends often. A fandom with a rich forum culture is bound to get richer via "i want one, too!" as it is with illegal stories. You know, someone posts a story in script format, and a member then writes "everybody's writing these, so i wanted to have one, too". Same applies to forums. Different forum communities inside one fandom fluctuate and overlap, making it easier to integrate new members. Fandoms with a slim forum population are more likely to stay that way. For starters, it's difficult to gain members and keep a forum a float. And now that purges occur, successful attempts at forum-making are erased, leaving the least motivation yet.

What's the point in creating a community if it enters a deletion queue during conception?

FFN's activity has been all but pristine in the last two months. Their latest announcement deserves a pat on the back for villainy and devilry. Oh, I am talking about:

"December 24th, 2010 -- Merry Christmas and Happy New Years to everyone from the staff of FanFiction.Net. For the past two weeks we have been upgrading our network nonstop in preparations for 2011 and for the wave of improvements currently being cooked up in our lab.

Enjoy the festive season with your family/friends and with a daily dose of imagination courtesy of all the dedicated writers here. For all the readers, now is a good time to thank all the writers of FanFiction.Net that have given you countless moments of joy this past year."

Merry Christmas? If you recall, FFN purged forums on Thanksgiving. Round two happened on, you guessed it, Christmas. When's the next big holiday on the calendar? Come closer and buy front-row seats to the Easter Massacre! But it's not that simple. When you think the purge is happening in waves, in this case, either by-holiday or by month (exactly one month happened since it began), here's when things are grim: the periodic purge is much more frequent. The site's been clever in its choices, no doubt. Christmas season has gotten FFN a dip in traffic, and forum activity was thin. A jolly good moment to put forums on a stricter diet.

What else has the FFN "feature lab" done to communities on the site? Havoc in content. Just several months ago, the only forum able to get to top 50 or top 25 of a large fandom had to have a post count done in thousands, not hundreds. In Naruto, Sonic the Hedgehog, Twilight and especially General forums, post counts on page one were dealt in 10k, with as much as 50k separating forums in the top ten. It provided incentive and differentiation. New visitors could decide whether to become a part of a forum with a rich history, lots of members and lightning-fast activity cycles and round the clock excitement, or the underdogs or strict conservatives on page two. The underdogs had not yet achieved their full potential and every new member could be the one to push the community forward to the front page. It's a well-known fact that once you are on the front page, in top 25, your community is viewed by anyone, who noticed the fandom having a forum section. Conservative forum owners do not strive to appear in "consumer" spots on the front, but a clever theme or loyal members have contributed to their slow, but steady growth.

Post-purge, these choices no longer exist. Conservatives are culled through first because a topic that gets high quality, low numerosity posts, as was the case for Writers Anonymous, does not generate enough momentum to outrun the purge bot.

The historic forums with plenty of members are also crossed out. It's obvious that the richer the environment, the more quality choices it gives, the better are prospects for growth. FFN trims all of these, turning every forum into, well, an underdog. In this perspective, there are no leaders, no trend-setters because everybody knows this time next month, a quarter, half or more of the forum will disappear. No incentive to get attached and be loyal to one's community.

A lack of incentive creates a controversial situation. By default, communities and "groups" flare up and disappear. On FFN's forums, a group could have re-emerged like a Phoenix because the forum was still there, with a basis for new members to build on. Could have before a short period of inactivity became punishable. No second chances, ladies and gentlemen. The Literate Union was and is an exception in both environments, an exception that is causing more off-shot forums than I can count at the moment. At first, there were two distinctive alternatives, the LU and Veritas. They catered to a different public, but had the same consequences: their presence high in the rankings inspired others to create forums dedicated to improvement. Amusingly, the process is still very much alive. Its outcome is particularly vocal in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians fandom, where half the front-page forums are flamer friendly. Truly, an anomalous environment.

Anomalies created by select communities aside, the trend has not been so positive overall. The LU and Veritas are an exception, not a rule, mind you. And I use them as alternatives because they are and have always been independent neutrals for each other. The trend is easiest to depict with The Domain's forum network. It has been a sight to behold when nearly half of the largest forums in the General category was somehow affiliated with The Domain and its more than half-a-million posts. The first purge has been a devastating blow to nearly all forums in the network. T/D itself got halved, and A Little Piece of Heaven (labelled as "the nicest forum") dropped out of the first page. The latter's perspective is specifically grim after 70% of its posts disappeared without any recovery. When your forum is balancing on growing quicker and slowing down, a purge makes decisions easy. Down.

And this happened to a network of forums, with loyal members, many of them. These people shaped forum culture in large categories or were otherwise affiliated with the trend setters. How did it affect smaller communities, lacking a web of support from other forums? The best example is what goes on on the second page of General forums. Public forums. There are three private roleplay forums there. One of them has exactly two members, and it got onto the second page. In 2009, the LU and Lurker's Paradise (RIP, L/P) had a highly competitive battle for their place under the sun and in the fans' heads. While the forums were very different and practically belonged to the same network (T/D), the fact members of both knew one another and could easily compare activity thresholds created an atmosphere of trying to show the counterpart forum "how it's done". Without such an attitude, getting anywhere would have been next to impossible as activity was encouraged throughout the place. Bouncing in the ranks, sometimes higher, sometimes lower, till both forums reached their goals, was, in part, responsible for motivating members to contribute more. Everybody won from the competition. Lurker's Paradise appeared in top ten, and the LU came to top five.

Since the purge destabilised the situation, inter-community relations were broken. Lurker's Paradise was deleted, another top ten General forum closed, and we have three private roleplays on page two. Private means closed, despite being public. Such behaviour and extreme individualism, not allowing outsiders to your public forum, does not lead to motivation. When a newbie finds competition and some objective, letting him or her feel like a team player in the winning team, it's a growth prospect. During 2009, forums were very much interested in getting those team players, too. When the same newbie sees closed hermetic communities with no possibility of becoming part of the "in-crowd"...that's discouraging.

And discouragement has been the result of this forum evolution. When the active public forums turn private and reject any outsiders willing to test the waters, what's next? Whatever's in store, I'm not sure I want to be a part of this. From my antiquated point of view, forums are about openness and community spirit. You don't create a public forum on the biggest fan fiction website for yourself, and ban anyone wanting to join in if their name isn't "zach2895" or "polly251".

Further illustrating what is going to happen, FFN had a large and sudden drop in traffic in mid-2009. June. It never recovered from this drop or reached above the drop's lowest point. With forum activity, deemed as a downward current since 2008, going through unprecedented deletions, how high is FanFiction.Net willing to jump? It's commercial value is estimated at $1.6m. A quarter of what it was two years ago.

Private public forums are the future, dear readers. Make one yourself and enjoy the show while it lasts.

Edit: During the event, the last available date in forums was March 25. Five days later, it's March 27th.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Reviews are Useful (I)

Aren't they? Most of them are.

Considering the multiple purges (forums and personal messages) that took place, I've resorted to backing up all of my reviews. I never thought this much of them after submission and found it odd that nearly everyone archives them somewhere. Now, I can't be sure the admins won't decide to "delete ancient stories that don't get enough page hits", taking those reviews on their way. It's been a difficult task, getting over a thousand of those off FFN. Apparently, I've reviewed a good 10% of Sonic the Hedgehog. News aside, I'm dedicating this post to feedback.

Most people will tell you this: critique is the most useful feedback a writer can get. In 10 times out of 10, that is true. However, my definition of "critique" is very lax for environmental reasons. Take the issue of how feedback is referred to on FanFiction.Net, reviews. An actual review (not one of those pop-art flicks about how you loved a movie) requires significant substance to exist. Real, full-fledged reviews depict not only a piece in question, its perks and weaknesses, but put it in context. The context is three-dimensional, which gives the reader of a review perspectives on: the artist's past works, comparison with others' pieces and historic benchmarks. Honestly, that takes more than five A4 pages and might as well be a part of your thesis statement (if you're studying philology). Things movie critics and show hosts dabble in a hurry, which fit on one screen do not qualify. Yes, they might call it a review, but it's not a genuine one.

What's the difference? It's like comparing bouillon cubes to soup made by your grandma. In essence, they are the same, but soup doesn't naturally appear in cube shape. Same goes for reviews that can be fish bone-thin or lavish like a four-course meal. The latter is genuine and most useful every time, but comes with three strings attached.

Writing a full-fledged review takes considerable amounts of time. This is why professional critics don't go into detail; they're not paid enough for it. Likewise, you can't expect such effort from people, who do it for free, online. Now, you may get freebies, but that usually makes you a guinea pig (young hairdressers cut your hair for free while they're studying, but results may vary). The second string is that few authors, few fandoms and generally exceptional individuals are eligible to receive a real review. Before someone cries "exorcism" or "discrimination", allow me to reiterate: a review gives multiple perspectives. To let it happen, there are requirements for the critic, genre and artist. If it's someone new, you can't have a comparison with the artist's previous work, no decisions of progress. If it's a small genre, you don't have outside opinions, fresh air to add to the review. Even if these exist, in terms of FFN, it's a large, active fandom with its history and experienced authors, a reviewer might not know of these details. Since Fan History closed to editors, it's doubtful little things about fandom history are even recorded, so you don't have anything ready. It forces a reviewer, when required to concoct a real review, to DIY and dig through seas of content.

However, that's not the worst thing. Most pieces of art can handle up to three real reviews. Think about it. How many different all-encompassing appraisals can there be? How many different perspectives one genre can give? If the review is only partial, the answer is "many", because several people can take a cut of the pie from a different spot, and have some left. When someone takes it all in one gulp and doesn't leave anything left to be said...then what? Even in large fandoms, most of the time you have some twenty schematics and plot device systems (not single devices, whole systems). An original story comes up once in a while, but if you have a decent memory, this originality gets one bonus point, and anything that follows already has a reference. Fandoms tend to grow in numbers, but these numbers only exist under influence of similar ideas, turning into predictable types. Given enough time to study a fandom and its submissions, things get predictable very quickly.

Same applies to reviews. It's actually a very large problem if you bear in mind a fandom's often limited potential and scatterbrainedness. How to remedy this? There isn't a way. You can't make a child grow in every sense of that word quicker than it's possible. The same way, you can't force creativity, which is then seen as a stable stream of plentiful, but repetitive ideas. A review might contain recommendations and out-of-the-box thinking, yet it takes an out-of-the-box mind to comprehend these thoughts and turn them in another direction. It's very easy to "give new ideas" to people, who didn't do research; they see everything as new. The only saving grace is their capability to make these ideas their own. Sadly, this rarely works out, and exceptions take dedication, time, to maintain. I really don't know anyone online, who could maintain an exception via reviewing. You can't guard a tree in the woods 24/7, so it's easiest, and most useful to give it a boost and hope it grows cherries, pineapples, something nice.

This also applies to reviews because a review is difficult to make more...scenic than the story it is posted on. In fandoms that have one problem, the issue is downright ridiculous. One could copy/paste the same advice to many authors in a row only to get "you said that to other people already!" Whose fault is it that one problem is shared by many? A reviewer can't invent something that isn't in the story (unless he or she is an idiot). Trying to say the same things differently every time is just as difficult as reading samey stories. Specifically, it's difficult to stay original yourself when originality is limited to a writer, naively believing his or her story is new, fresh, revolutionary. I don't think copycats are aware of their doings by default. If they were, I am unable to explain how they see what other people got in their reviews, but don't implement advice themselves. As in, car A drove straight on a curvy road, and ended up in a forest. Car B is hopeful that if it drives the same way, it will stay on the road. Rational thinking, anyone? When I joined, the first thing I did when reading review boards of my acquaintances is think "how could this help my writing?" I learnt a lot from others' mistakes, which saved me many a bother.

I digress. Summarising the points above: it's difficult to write a full-fledged review, and every author can only handle a few despite them being most useful. No new things to add are left. It discourages other reviewers because they, like the naive writers, feel they are original, and don't want to repeat what was said in another review. That would look silly to write in a review: "what she said..." It effectively reduces the review count (provided they are not ignoring reviews already posted), and we're huffing despite usefulness.

If you can have up to three real reviews per chapter/story (depending on content), how can rates such as twenty or even 200 be explained for every update? This is where the dog hid its bones. Most of those reviews are repetitive junk, yes. Like stories, these review bits can be classed, and you can say "five points for 'good story' team" with every passing bunch. Generally, it's difficult to find a real review in those numbers for the simplest reason, a critic is not an imbecile to waste time on repetition. Sure, nothing forbids one from writing five A4 pages about the story, but those 200 reviews, if written with good will and respect, would create one full review in summary. Each is only .5% of a real review, but they make up a big picture together, provided it's all done right.

Actually, the above is a principle I follow: saying what others have missed to say. There is no rational point in repeating what other reviews have mentioned because the author already got the idea, and it's more useful to concentrate on the untouched unknown. Sure, this doesn't exclude a person from behaving irrationally and adding a full review, accidentally or purposefully repeating the truths stated by previous reviewers, but generosity comes at a price of time and effort.

Generosity also comes from the heart. Or should. I don't know where a reviewer's inventions come from. Some people would rather falsify an opinion to reach some sort of goal other than improvement. Compensation. An example will make it easier to understand: a reader sees five reviews lambasting a story. Feeling pity (no euphemisms from me), the reviewer writes a false review, congratulating the writer on a job well done. Maybe add a "don't listen to the other five reviews". Such opinion wars are audacious because, ultimately, reviews on FFN are meant for the writer, not other reviewers. Yes, it is acceptable to disagree with a point of view and be generous when others are not, but it has to be genuine. To be genuine, one has to be well-informed.

In my experience as a critic, I've seen many reviewers disagree on subjective issues like "originality" or "respect to readers" with "style". In terms of originality, arguments happen because reviewers did not do enough research, so they can't agree on information they don't know is there. A solution is analysing trends to determine whether a submitted piece is extraordinary or an unintentional (or otherwise) copy. No resolution may be made if definition levels differ. For person A, a whole story may be original because it has the element X in plot C. For person B, element X would be seen as original, but the story as a whole, containing plot C, which was present in stories G, E and R, would not be. One applies the quality of an attribute to the whole, the other doesn't. Only one method works in rational, genuine conditions and reviewers would reach an agreement.

Respect to readers is more difficult to determine than originality because it is felt, not memorised. Also, readers have a different respect threshold. You may disrespect a king by coughing in the wrong place, but you'd have to kill a person to disrespect a peasant. Provided the standards are genuine, an agreement can be reached even for those two extremes. My preference is continuously raising the stakes as they do in the Olympics. This offers a challenge to most writers, or a set of challenges if they are tiered (applying standards of an average story to an average story, high standards for a serious and deep epic), so the writer can have something to look up to. Critics have a good memory for champions, several tiers of them, so newbies aren't compared to veterans by accident and have achievable goals. The essence of the system is not to let them look down. Chances of falling increase.

"I saw three stories worse than mine!" comes off as a very sad result of looking down. My response is always predictable (after a thousand reviews, what wouldn't be?). I just count the number of stories in the fandom, remove four and say something like "15,901 stories are better than yours. That's not even average."

We've touched the issue of averages. Here is where we can use the tier system better. It is my belief that the majority of works in any fandom is average. They make up the mainstream bulk, and can be graded further (upper-middle, lower-middle, the exact average). Below average stories are as common as good. Awful stories are as rare as great ones. From this perspective, it's just as difficult to write a horrible fanfic as it is to write a great one. By default, a story written in less than five minutes is not going to end up horrible. Below average, perhaps, but talent can be exceptional. Recall the originality issue? As people gather more experience and information, more and more things fit in the average section because it's difficult to stun someone with experience. Even if the story is illegal or plagiarised. So it was stolen from some poor sap. Nothing shocking there if you've seen it twenty times before. Sure, if the story contained missile launch codes and self-replicating viruses to format your computer, that would be shocking (for me), and I'd have to call it horrible with all honesty. Even trollfics receive a separate standard of "awfulness" over time; they stop being effective and just disappear (the admin doesn't care how awful a trollfic is, and even the "meh" ones are erased).

However, the placement of the average depends on the quality of stories. If a fandom gets worse over time, the average slowly (with a delay) moves down. Stories that were good 3 years ago might be excellent now, and what used to be sub-standard is now common-place, for instance. The opposite happens when the crank goes up, shunning those that used to be on the margin. Liberals would say this rise of quality is unacceptable because people are shunned, and averages should not move up, only down or remain stable. In reality, both of these are treacherous. Why? If a fandom is getting better at something, and you don't raise general standards because of a few imbeciles, you lose the edge in being useful, delivering obsolete truths. Averages also move with a delay, so making them stable will bring less relevance. Instead of reacting to change, remaining at the same point renders a review useless in short-term because fandoms are dynamic and need help in live. Advice you needed yesterday might be old facts next week. And it usually is.

That should conclude the first part of my essay about reviews. In part two, I move from discussing basics and averages to dissecting margins. For the curious, I will explain the flamer phenomenon.

If you're looking for additional help in reviewing, feel free to PM Lord Kelvin on FFN or drop in the Review Mastery thread of the LU forum.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Forums Purged on FanFiciton.Net

FanFiction.Net purged all forums on 25th November, 2010.

All unpinned forum threads that nobody posted in for at least 9 months have been deleted. The filter was moving up by forum creation date.

Despite the front page announcement made on the same day being: "To reduce clutter in many of the larger forums, we will begin to clear out forum threads with last posting date of older than 6 months. Pinned threads are excluded from the periodic purge." FFN decimated all forums with the last posting date over 9 months ago.

EDIT: On 26th November, 2010, FanFiction.Net changed the announcement to 9 months, solving the mystery why February 25 was the oldest date not deleted.

The result is that all historic value is lost, any useful guides, fun conversations and fandom information are lost. The process was automated, and it happened while America was sleeping (FFN is registered in America). Over a few hours from 7 AM GMT till 2 PM GMT forums made in 2005 and 2006 were purged, leaving their subscribers hanging. In fact, nobody will find out what happened till they wake up.

Why FFN decided to cull forums instead of poking trollfics is beyond me. If you want to save resources, reduce the amount of memory wasted by your servers, pay more attention to plagiarists, real-person fics and other things that can get you sued. What did forums have to go first is beyond me. Most importantly, why did they have to go overnight?

It's a sad day, very sad. With Fan History's closure just two days ago, the future of fan fiction does not look bright.

Edit of December 31st, 2010: FFN approved its claims on the purge being periodical, and did it again on Christmas Day.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Fan History

Fan History has long been a favourite wiki of mine. As the biggest non-Wikimedia project that managed to stay alive and grow over time, it was a valuable source of fandom information. Without it, I would have been unable to meet the people I've met and get to the source, the very ones responsible for making fan fiction a world-wide phenomenon.

I have a few drafts on this blog, waiting to be published, but this one is more important now that I think of it. Thing is, today Fan History is closing to public edits. For a wiki, this is pretty much a death sentence. Unless you get special permission from the admin, you won't be able to edit anything, with or without an account. I really love the site and hope the people running it somehow find time and motivation to make things as they used to one day. The hope is not a reasonable one because the site is up to change owners. Judging by closure of other fandom resources, I can only assume the concept of textual fan fiction is getting old.

Though, as long as some people don't go demanding fanfics to become a profitable and legal business, I'm sure sites like will remain open. When the lawyers come, you might as well find a different hobby.

Have a nice, abuse-free day.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Frequently Asked Quotations

I've decided to give my loyal readers some shenanigan fun. In this essay, you will see things FFN writers say, what others think of FFN, what smut writers think of themselves and more. All the quotations are real and documented, but anonymous. Don't take it too seriously and enjoy. Some points may look outlandish or even offensive, yet I am not posting to disagree, just to inform and make funny.

Italicised commentary should give you some background if any is necessary. The outline is below.

1. FFN members about FFN
2. Non-FFN members about FFN
3. Smut posters about FFN

1. FFN about FFN.

"They can delete our stories, but I for one will never submit to their rules!!" The novice FFN writer mantra.

"Whatever you have to say will not make me change my fucking mind!" The updated mantra, having met the administrator

"You win. I removed all my stories." No novice mantra left. The member gains experience by leaving.

"Are there really people out there who want to read stories with absolutely no angst? :-o Where's the fun in that?" Notice the limited imagination of the amateur writer.

"We aren't really doing anything to make fucktards out of ourselves." And denial.

"When did FanFiction.Net change their logo?" The confused user takes a moment to gawk at the screen instead of reading.

User A: There's a website called I think... we might be able to start one there and if we keep coming back and signing it...
User B: it might just work
User C: We already have a petition on that site for script format!
User D: what is script format?

Thus the literary knowledge of fan fiction writers is explained.

"I WANT A JAPANESE NAME THING TOO!!!!" Behold the member's other interest.

"As for the whole grammer thing, I think it's idiotic." Considering the word is 'grammar', difficult to disagree.

"Yes, is broken. DO NOT PANIC." You can't worry about what is broken by default.

2. Non-FFN about FFN

"We NEED a plan to take these FUCKERS down." An aspiring Fiction Press writer, having heard of FFN's monthly traffic.

" is one of many pus-filled boils on the tender ass-cheek of the internets. This site is a battle-ground between Animu fantards, yaoi Nazis, furfags, emo fucks, and 16 year old girls." A reputable encyclopedia writer fizzles during the analysis.

"Over 9000% percent of all stories contain fancharacters, or characters from the show/book/movie acting like complete dipshits." Factual references with a marginal mathematical error.

"Careful, dear! Their fics have disclaimers longer than the story!"

"SHUT THE FUCK UP! SHUT UP! NO WAY! OMGGGG!" The published author, having found out they have a fandom on FFN.

" has the fourth highest average time spent per user. That’s right, they beat out Facebook, MySpace, Google, Yahoo! and MSN." Unlike Facebook and Google, most parental locks just bypass FFN. All roads lead to Rome and all stories trace back to FFN.

"The average user spends over seven and a half hours on this website a month and logs in more than 34 times." The average typing monkey spends seven hours divided by thirty-four on each story update, which explains the quality.

"This is a continuation of a story of mine that got deleted off It has more connection to the book than the movie but you should be able to follow along pretty well. I think it's the first fic on here? anyway, summary=sucks, story=good, you=read." One wonders why a bad summary does not work outside FFN.

"I just checked out that like and OMG! people like that have too much free time on their hands." A concerned mother, wondering if her child is in danger of losing her social life to FFN or is everyone just as screwed.

"What's to stop people from reporting their own fics, posting a duplicate of their story under a different account and claiming plagiarism, or vaguely alluding to other suspicious dramas that are unable to be verified in order to boost their popularity?" The unbeatable formula for instant popularity, patented on LJ.

"Do these people not have jobs? Do they not have lives?" Shakespeare on FFN.

"Good riddance to" The quitter's mantra and entry gate to Fiction Press.

3. Smut on FFN

"I like to think I have pockets of intelligence, and even I spent over a year not realizing that M did not equal MA." Ego, first. Information, later.

"As you can now see, I am a fucking pro at this shit now! But fuck its hard work, I stopped partway through a second thingy and now I need a cup of tea and a lie-down.

Love, love!" An experienced smut writer at a social gathering.

"If you were going to start your own fanfiction site...what would you name it?

So far I've got -" Notice the addictions of an experienced smut writer on FFN.

"I love her warnings...makes me want to read it even more...makes me feel baaaaad....yep, I'm one of those people..." A hardcore adrenaline junkie desperate for shenanigans.

"But this Edward Cullen mother fucker, who the hell is this pretty sparkling mother fucker and why is he getting so much pussy (and ass? Only dorky Jedis with crippling social phobias who never shower deserve that shit!) and having all these stories written about him? And it's just sad and pathetic that women read this shit, right? Because porn is for men! Young girls don't need to realize that they deserve orgasms (because men would have to bother to give them!) and older women are just old and therefore shouldn't want to do anything other than cook and clean! Written erotica about Edward Cullen and his sparkly co-horts will be the downfall of modern society unless...." Freud's analysis of smut writing.

"Let's face's graphic sex but it's about love." Freud is baffled by the skewered perception.

"Seems to me that someone who has stories about a gay vampire following a guy is not in the position to talk about violating the terms fo use!" Violation brings violation of a different kind just like lightning energy is transformed into burning trees.

"At that age, those women need at least to read about sex because they ain't getting any. It does things to the mind." Freud's scientific conclusion of a smut writer's psyche.

More to come! This list is eternally open for business. Be sure to place Your favourite quotes in the comments.

Sunday, 14 February 2010


Don’t cross during red light. Good idea, but I’m out of those, so I’d rather not waste time and get to the other side. Don’t look at me! It’s a good idea because there could have been a graveyard.

But it’s not, so field day of jollyness to be free and not click the dirty button on the pedestrian crossing semaphore. No cars in sight, so the crime does not exist like the wind nobody saw.

Don’t look at me! Ask no questions, either. It’s very rude to get in a person’s head while they’re jaywalking. Stuff may happen and you’d have to wait until the next world to have the call answered, if at all. Frankly, I doubt they have phones in the next world.

They must have bunnies, though. Bunnies are nice to see and eat. I’m not a carnivore; just a grass avenger. Are you not looking at me? Good!

Finished crossing the street, so it’s time to look forward and just try to realize what is it that I’m doing here that is actually there without a “t”. Square shop on the left. Red bricks, white logo with three yellow letters. Meh. Who reads these days? On our right we have the opposition: a row of kiosks full of half-empty shelves. Their clients advertise quality service by drinking booze on the sidewalk that surrounds the kennel-sized vendors.

Yours truly is in the middle of it all, walking along the road that separates the bricked from the scrapped. The road ends abruptly between two kindergartens further in the distance. Yes, they share both sides. The one on the right is renovated. Perhaps, to make things fair for the brick store. Competition reigns supreme, and I’m intending to pass an aisle of idle lamp posts set to illuminate the road from the left. It’s always fun to take the cold metal in my hand on a humid afternoon like this.

I grin, knowing what happens next. My foot bops against support near ground, and I take a spinning leap, circling around. Flying is my hobby, but I can’t fly when propelling myself off a lighting contraption. Indignation occurs as I slowly slide down to the ground.

Why couldn’t I rise up and defy gravity? The drunks are laughing. They probably know why, but I won’t ask. Asking questions is low and tasteless. I’m not as lost as they are. In fact, they’re probably laughing at something else.

No. They’re laughing at me.

Wait, who said that? I did. Who am I? I’m me. This is not a conversation. It’s a monologue. A monologue can’t be a conversation. There is one person, one paragraph. But the voices are two. Who am I? I’m asking me first.

I am confused. Two voices in my head: both are me. Which one are the people laughing at? Me, I suppose. Wait. That is the second voice. No, it’s the first.

Hold on. Each voice deserves a separate paragraph. Whoever I am, one half has to leave this paragraph. Yeah.

Fine, I’m leaving the one I started. Now, who am I?

I’m Don.

It’s a lie. I’m Saul.

But I’m Don.

May I use second-person perspective then?

Don thinks so.

Not funny. Okay, why are they laughing at us?

They’re laughing at you.

I fidget and stand perfectly still, arguing with a part of me that is Don. The drunks chuckle harder. It makes me uncomfortable, but I stand in place.

Thoughts are shorter now. I can’t be half of what I am.

And that half will have to survive with the fact it is now a whole. You can breathe, right?

I guess. Lemme try. I inhale consciously. Air fills my lungs. It’s not tasty. My mind drifts back inside before an ignorant exhalation breaks out.

Why are they laughing?

You cannot fly.

I can, watch me! I exclaim. That voice shouldn’t undermine my efforts. Maybe the next lamp post will work.


I’m silent, just like before, only my eyes shift rapidly. Maybe the voice is out there, not inside? No. My paragraph, get one of your own.

Fine. You’re too heavy to fly. I remain silent to my half. It continues. You’re trying to lift two wholes with the force of one half. A bird cannot fly with one wing.

It can, straight down!

So are we.

Oh, now it’s first person.

Three-two-one. If I am stuck here, we might as well get comfortable, Saul.

I dislike us already. Why couldn’t we occur when the sky was less lemon and more peach? The colours are beautiful this evening. Never have I seen them as affectionately as now. They used to be attainable and mine, but once I am void of a necessity, I must crave for it until the very thing returns to my possession.

Are we done?

Not quite. Someone is approaching us from the drunk side. I’ll hide in your paragraph. Wait!

He came up with a smell of a thousand dead mice. The muddy facial hair and dazed eyes made me understand the man was sad. No more than forty of age, he was already beginning to think half a life is too much, and the body should drown low to spring the soul up. Were it not for the words, I’d have pitied him longer.

“Give me twenty cents,” he said.

“I don’t speak English,” I spat back in his language.

“Help me, friend.”

Ah, I have his money, which makes me a friend. It’s sometimes scary to have friends. One’s acquaintance raises expectations, hopes that friendship will flourish into something profitable for the heart and body. I quiver from the smell of bonding and step back. A smile creeps up to my face. Being alone is much safer. It’s better and safer to be in self-captivity.

“I’m a student, I’m not your friend,” I stammer friendlily.

He grins, his arms swinging wide open. Those fat sausage-like hands extend to the sides like a plane’s wings. Dark-skinned fingers wiggling, the man lunges at me with a hug, but misses. Stepping forward caused a foot to misinterpret the law of gravity, so he swaggers to the side and kisses the sidewalk.

I am shocked. People no longer laugh. They approach me with discontent in their eyes. I am not their friend. Just a student. And a hurtful scholar at that. One of them winces in pain on the ground, sighing between irritated curses. Time to go to kindergarten. This would be better.

One jump atop the lamp post. They are beneath me, like the idle light. I’ll reach the sky and have my questions answered if I dared to ask any.

Insert laughter here.

That is impolite to say. Especially when I am more than four metres in the air, jumping to reach an ideal safehouse, where naïve dreams are not countered with friendship and backstabbing.

We’re not human.

Sure I am! Sure, I talk to myself, but I am sure that I am.



I am standing on a flat lamp top. What do I have to do, Don?

Stop going in a circle.

That’s right. I look around and see that instead of inching closer to the kid place, I was prancing back and forth while the ones I held beneath got their hands to besmirch my footholds. To the left, then. One more leap takes me to the brick store. I sit down on the roof, having found a spot free of bird droppings. Time to gather thoughts that managed to splitter all over the visible surroundings like the wiggling drunks on the pavement.

I’m confused. You are. Stop using my paragraphs.

It’s fun, though. Get me out!

Good idea. I want to fly, and you’re ballast. I look above the grey blocky buildings with squiggly corners into the translucent sky. The yellow turned purple, and oddly-shaped clouds started dyeing the peace above my head. A sigh escapes my lips while fingers twirl to reflect the gears in my head.

So, we’re turning back to second person?

Right, first person is better. But we can’t forget about the point. Don’t tell me I forgot to tell. Yes. And we agreed that I, Don, use a separate paragraph…unless I feel silly.

Since my own voice is speaking to me in my head, may I inquire some background?

Hah! I hadn’t chosen to be a part of this. I’m a female dreamer.

Dreams get us nowhere, dear. And that’s why we were running in circles on a straight line. It makes no sense as long as I keep thinking reality is unbendable.

Very fluid, actually. Were it not for its weak texture and temptation, I’d have never been the Don in Saul that we are.

Settle down. My original thoughts are messing up. I’m not used to this. And hey, how did we get between the two kindergartens? There’s a path forward, which leads into the valley. I know sunlight never reaches there.

It’s where rainbows begin.

Wow, I know the most useless things. Happy to, though. Boredom looms in the buildings on my sides. It is a plain neighborhood. We must get out, away from the incorrect segment of this twilight zone.

Gasps reach my ears. They are mine. Hands support me on the pre-school’s fence. Why am I tired? That’s right…half a man carrying two people inside.

One person in total. I’m not a leech, I am what I didn’t have, but now do. However, we both have something missing now. I’m surprised it hadn’t caused a headache yet.

This didn’t happen overnight. Half of us trickled away until we could no longer tell which part was it. When the call home happened, the pieces were closer to the opposite person.

Wait, so I’m telling me that…half of me is inside some girl with the name Don?


No waiii!

Settle down.

I can’t. There are drunks down there. Let’s go to the valley. I don’t know why, and neither do I, but-

Settle. It’s hyperventilating us both. I can’t feel outside myself, so just hope we find ourselves soon enough. The lemon sky was there for a reason. If you find that reason, we’ll both be able to have fun. As halves of another whole.

Which does not make any sense. I’m talking to myself and it gives me enough reason to shake the voices out of my head by dropping down from the roof. Sure, I won’t get hurt. I never do. Heck, jumping off balconies was my hobby before I appeared in this neighborhood.

Sigh. Stop manipulating because we’re at the fence. The valley is in front of us and we must go down there to find clues to make any sense of it. Just, don’t let me ask myself any more nonsense. Let’s walk while the story slowly streams through the mind. Move it, and don’t be ignorant that you are a breathing creature. Whenever a human being flea jumps on lamps and flickers images of roofs when he or she is on the ground, things are either grim or limitless.

I’m not dead.

Because I’m not dead either. I don’t know if one of us can die, since it’s impossible to kill half the mind or body.

Metaphysically speaking, that is impossible to understand just like the image of me tipping at the edge of a tall building, looking down at the grass several stories below. The wind is blowing in my face. I feel warm as I embrace the flight. No need for a dramatic jump. It’s enough to shift the weight forward with a loose smile. Earth will call upon me to descend, and I’ll swoop down like a bird, gliding the air we all breathe day in, day out. Mew!

Cut it out.

I can’t cut air.

I can’t allow either of me to sound like a kitten. It’s sinful.

But kittens are so lovely! You get to pet them, feed them, love them, and they’ll just scratch you. And, and…and when you need a soothing hug, you get their pity which feels more comforting than all the delights in the world together, like swimming on a feathery cloud.

Imagery works on those of weak will and mind. Concentrate. There is a valley in front of us. And open our eyes, for goodness sakes!

Those are bad sakes. Goodness is often too delicious not to cause evil consequences.

I know. That’s why I’m not using second person.

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone! This one's just for You~

Thursday, 11 February 2010


This essay is about abuse reports, guidelines and other intellectual essentials.

I've been troubled to explain why certain individuals report fictions on FFN. With this post, It'll be a lot easier to concentrate all relevant points in one place.

Let's start with the basic topic list and introduction.

1. Abuse Reports: What are they?
2. The Blue Book and Guidelines
3. Benefits of Reporting
4. Idle Consequences

5. Excuses/Questions

You may all guess the first four points are general, and the last one is of interest to anyone that has already experienced the result of an abuse report and/or requires mentoring on the issue of common questions people ask about reporting abuse.

1. Abuse Reports: What are they?

The Abuse Report is a way of communicating with the Fan Fiction dot Net (FFN) administration for FFN community members, visitors and bots. It is the only tool of enforcing quality control on the site, which depends on honesty and goodwill of its users. Every Possible Abuse Report is assessed in a case-by-case basis. Should a user's complaint be viable, disciplinary action is taken immediately in the form of irrevocable loss of artwork and a banning period, which extends after every infraction. Users that have performed horrendous acts lose the right to host an account on FFN.

With the whole process covered in a pill, we might go through every part.

-Possible Abuse located
-Possible Abuse reported
-Report Assessed
-Actions Taken

Let's try to locate abuse. I'll save you time searching for something horrible on the domain with a ready example.

Here is a story that users would report as abusive:

Why? It is a chatroom upload, not poetry or a novel. The rules are discussed in the next point, so don't worry if you're a bit confused.

We pick a category, write the message to describe the abuse as an illegal format and click 'send'.

The message then goes into queue in the administrator's machine. Usually, the queue takes two weeks with a cooldown period for the story's author to take action. Only usually because sometimes the responsible people are busy multi-tasking, so action is delayed. It gives the offensive story even more time to be fixed and tinkered with, so it's nice and acceptable.

When the time comes, the staff member clicks the story link that is automatically provided in an abuse report and reads for a story match of the words in the sent complaint. If such things are not found, the administrator smiles and carries on doing other things.

If the evil stuff is found and that story is still scripted after such a long period of time, the admin gasps and clicks the purge button. No more story.

Other possible actions include: a temporary ban on posting content (from a week to 90 days), account deletion, IP address blacklisting. The last one is fairly new, according to the fresh version of Terms of Service (TOS). That's also the most extreme method of assuring proper order. Bear in mind that FFN is a network, so banned users would be unable to access other domains such as Fiction Press. You are informed of the disciplinary consequences unless it is a complete expulsion. The last instance is irreversible and no account holder has been known to be brought back to activity after appearing on the black list.

In case you are wondering what triggers certain response, look at the second point!

2. The Blue Book and Guidelines

Upon signing up, you are given a claim that your age is 13 or above, and you have the TOS presented, to which you must agree before joining. Remember, to receive the right to upload content and become a member, you accept full responsibility for your actions as well as the administration's authority. You promise to honour these responsibilities, and your decision is forever recorded.

Not reading the TOS is bad. This is not MS Windows with a mile-long disclaimer, so the document is shorter and contains pretty useful information. Remember that the TOS are changed from time to time without informing users. But you won't even know the administrator has the right to change the rules of the game if you don't read that information in the first place! More knowing means more armed. Let's get weapons of understanding. I've quoted some extracts from Terms of Service as of February, 2010.

Some members have claimed that they've found loopholes in the official text. Allow me to inform you, the public, that it is not true. Any misinterpretation of the domain's regulations leads to negative consequences. The site values trust, not lawyer excuses. As soon as you start using a missing word to defend a case, know that trust is lost, and you are reduced to semantic prowling. Until the domain switches for federal ownership, actual people who see beyond excuses and falsified logics remain in the administration. FFN is a friend, not a judge. Respect your friends!

Terms of Service: (with italicised commentary)

"These Terms of Service apply to all users of the FanFiction.Net Website." All are equal.

"FanFiction.Net may, in its sole discretion, modify or revise these Terms of Service and policies at any time, and you agree to be bound by such modifications or revisions."

"You may never use another's account without permission."

"When creating your account, you must provide accurate and complete information."

"You agree not to alter or modify any part of the Website."
No revolts.

"You agree not to use the Website for any commercial use."

Commercial use such as: "use of the Website or its related services for the primary purpose of gaining advertising or subscription revenue" No advertising of links/products.

"You understand that when using the FanFiction.Net Website, you will be exposed to User Submissions from a variety of sources, and that FanFiction.Net is not responsible for" it.

"You shall be solely responsible for your own User Submissions and the consequences of posting or publishing them."

"You understand and agree, however, that FanFiction.Net may retain, but not display, distribute, or perform, server copies of User Submissions that have been removed"

"You further agree that you will not, in connection with User Submissions, submit material that is contrary to the FanFiction.Net Community Guidelines."

"FanFiction.Net will terminate a User's access to its Website if, under appropriate circumstances, the User is determined to be an infringer."

"FanFiction.Net reserves the right to decide whether Content or a User Submission is appropriate and complies with these Terms of Service for violations other than copyright infringement or privacy law, such as, but not limited to, hate crimes, pornography, obscene or defamatory material, or excessive length."

"FanFiction.Net may remove such User Submissions and/or terminate a User's access for uploading such material in violation of these Terms of Service at any time, without prior notice and at its sole discretion."

"You affirm that you are over the age of 13, as the FanFiction.Net Website is not intended for children under 13." You are expected to be 13+ old if you enter FFN even to read, not write.

"You agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless FanFiction.Net" Defend FFN, do not threaten it! Or banland....

Here are a few extracts from the Privacy Policy. Less exciting, but useful to know.

Privacy Policy

"We do not rent or sell your personally identifying information to other companies or individuals, unless ... we are required by law or have a good faith belief that access, preservation or disclosure of such information is reasonably necessary to protect the rights, property or safety of FanFiction.Net, its users or the public."

And now the main ingredient, the actual meat of the rule book, the Community Guidelines (Guidelines in short).


They are easily found in the login area, and you accept them once in a while. The page also includes ratings, some of which are not acceptable on FFN for specialisation reasons. The ones excluded are the B supplement for pre-school children reading Simple English, and the MA rating that may contain adult themes or excessive swearing.

The guidelines are divided into sections. Community Etiquette, Entries Not Allowed, Actions Not Allowed and General Rules. I'll provide you the excerpts of rules that are not redundant with italicised commentary.

First section:

"Spell check all story and poetry. There is no excuse for not performing this duty."

"Proofread all entries for grammar and other aspects of writing before submission. 'Hot off the press' content is often riddled with errors ... it is the duty of the writer to perform to the best of his/her ability."

"Respect the reviewers." Respect ALL reviewers, no exclusions. You are behaving against the guidelines if you disrespect any reviewer, and can lose the account.

"Using only capital letters in the story title, summary, or content is not only incorrect but also a disregard for the language itself."

Entries not allowed

"Non-stories: lists, bloopers, polls, previews, challenges, author notes, and etc." Also includes character submission sheets, shout outs to the public, quotes from books, teasers for the upcoming story.

"One or two liners." The author's note is not included in the line count.

"MST: comments inserted in between the flow of a copied story." No copying from Wikipedia articles or news feeds with your laughing comments.

"Stories with non-historical and non-fictional characters: actors, musicians, and etc." No fics about the Jonas Brothers until they're graveyard history.

"Any form of interactive entry: choose your adventure, second person/you based, Q&As, and etc." Includes voting, asking to visit links, asking to call numbers, asking to submit characters, using any other word to hide that it is asking while doing so, asking for ideas, addressing reviewers directly in long notes by name, asking questions directly.

"Chat/script format and keyboard dialogue based entries."

Actions Not Allowed.

"Copying from a previously published work (including musical lyrics) not in the public domain." Plagiarising lyrics in your creative work is not creative. No songs at all!

General Rules

"Entry title and summary must be rated G for all audience." No swearing, no teenage themes, no blood or gore, should be suitable for children aged FIVE.

"Entry must be given the proper rating." No hiding MA as M.

"Entry must be placed in proper category." Crossovers belong in the crossover section.

"Chapters of the same story are not allowed to be submitted as separate entries." Get a beta reader to help you navigate through the login area if you are unable to submit chapters. Also, you are to have a separate file for each chapter.

These are the expectations you have. You accept all of it before posting. Responsibility comes first. You get rights only when you admit being fully responsible for yourself, and realise what will happen if you break the domain's trust.

3. Benefits of Reporting

Why report an illegal fan fiction? For a start, it's one of the responsibilities that come in protecting FFN, as mentioned in the TOS. It is also your right and nobody can condemn you for doing so. Also, it is the only way of assuring good quality front and centre, the only way that always works.

The benefits of a control switch like that are many, and I'll point out only some, so that this essay does not grow out of proportion. The most obvious one is the rise of overall quality on FFN. Currently, the domain is not considered fine or good by users of other websites. Since FFN users are expected to keep the domain's market share, not being a laughing stock is a part of it. When the number of low quality uploads with, say, abishmal spieling, goes down to zero, everyone immediately sees change. Wonderful spelling and English are what makes sites such as Fiction Press feel very elite, above FFN. When the bad examples they point out to support their claims of our fan fiction site being horrible disappear, the FP people don't have an argument, so we're even.

Report a bad story. Don't give others a reason to laugh at us.

Moreover, when you assure a story's removal, the number of faulty examples of a particular infraction in a particular fandom decreases. It discourages others from making the same mistakes by thinking they can do just about anything without consequence.

Report a bad story. Teach the community that crime does not pay.

On top of all that, reporting a faulty work bumps up the low-end margin. It encourages people who think 'my work is not the worst' to do a reality check, because when the safety evil spiral disintegrates from below, they know improvement is the only way until the burn gets to them. This generally reduces the amount of excuses and makes people strive for improvement, looking up.

Report a bad story. Raise the ante for poor authors.

But these are more in-community benefits. There are pros that spend time reading things on the site. For them, it's very pleasant to see a page of neatly rated fictions. It looks promising, and lucrative. In fact, the domain must offer a reading pleasure for so many people, it's worth investing into it, adding more bandwidth and customised features to make the writing community flourish.

Report a bad story. Get new features and benefits.

And it doesn't end there. Whole families that browse and decide which hobbies would help their children excel in various skills would be happy to see no stories with bad spelling or swearing ('I CUNT SUMMARISE'). It would assure that their kids shouldn't be limited from accessing the website. Instead, they should be given the opportunity to write here because the stories are so swell, and they'd make a wonderful example to lead them on into great deed territory.

Report a bad story. Make Bob's parents happy.

And let's not forget that there are always legal issues FFN users are assigned to defend the site from. Bear in mind that if evil people start plagiarising or doing extremely bad things to English in a particular fandom, huge consequences might follow. The domain already has a specific no-post list. It is growing. Several original authors have shunned FFN, not allowing us to write about their works here. Their fans were not happy, but had to relinquish the works. What if Nintendo decides that the Zelda fandom has to go or the site will be closed? What if the Jonas Brothers feel that FFN is out of control? It all seems implausible until it happens to someone close to you.

Report a bad story. Save whole fandoms from legal destruction.

4. Idle Consequences

The benefits established, you may only wonder what will happen if abuse reports are no longer used for people that don't bother to improve into legal territory. Actually, you don't have to wander. Just check my previous blog post for illustration in a particular fandom.

I'll point out a few of the downsides of leaving things to lay quietly without action.

No respect to Language.

Were it not for the report button, one would be unable to prove an assaulting user that language does matter and it is the cornerstone of respectful story presentation. If you don't report a stubborn user's faulty writing, they are not motivated to improve their language.

No respect to readers

Don't report and you have no realistic leverage against disrespectful people that write abysmal works and then laugh at anyone that reviews or plagiarise said reviews for the sake of amusement.

Abusing Ratings

When evil community members don't wish to disclose a proper rating or include inappropriate content, they try to swallow a greater number of innocent readers and steal attention from fictions the authors of which have actually bothered to prepare a reader-friendly welcome.

Unfair Game

A scripted story takes less time to write than prose. An interactive entry takes less thoughts from the author than a proper novel. Both of these would get more feedback because people wish to solicit ideas and help. In reality, they are falling victim to a stat boosting game, which eventually kills the review as we know it. Review boards turn into forums and the story itself turns into a forum for those involved, while any outsider would consider it a useless clutter. By harvesting reviewer time, these monsters once again steal the spotlight off good fictions written with love, detail and dedication.

Bad Example

And when that happens, authors who have tried hard without any illegal takes either leave or jump in the bandwagon, further deteriorating the website. Seriously, why write a story with depth and characterisation, when you can have Sex in Virgin Valley: Cock Chronicles? With "Submit your positions and I'll write them. Choose your fave characters, too!" in the summary. That kind of writing requires a faceless schematic on an animal level. No planning required. And submissions themselves become a lottery, while popularity of such a monstrosity casts a shade over everyone that doesn't join in the abuse. Once again, why write good if you can write badly and get the same results? Don't erase the bad example: inspire people to deteriorate into the gutter, and call it a very artsy deterioration.

Don't report. Sacrifice FFN on the altar of evil.

Naturally, this applies only when the kind word does not work.

5. Excuses/Questions

This is the last and best part in the entire essay, the excuse depository for every possible argument against reporting illegal fan fiction being wrong.

There are sections: Novice Arguments, Liberal Arguments, Popularity Arguments. The excuses themselves are in no particular order.

Novice Arguments.

#1N. "This is my *insert number* story! I'm improving!"
Improvement has little to do with violating the TOS, Guidelines or Etiquette. Beta readers can be assigned tasks of assuring quality language, and the user claims to have read and understood all the domain's regulations before posting every story.

#2N. "I didn't read the rules!"
Signing any document without reading it leads to great woe in a capitalist society. A fool and his money are soon to be parted, and that is the consequence of ignorance. You take full responsibility for your actions. Post-factum excuses do not save a work; they only exacerbate weakness.

#3N. "I wrote this for my friend *insert name here*!"
FFN is a public domain. Email works well for personal writings. Yours truly uses that and IM clients for personal exchanges. FFN is a public space; therefore, it is irrational to use a dedication as an excuse. Also, it does not reduce the fact of it being illegal or excuse from penalties. Dedicating a crime to Bob does not make the crime any less evil. I'm sure Bob would be scared to have crime committed in his name...

#4N. "It'll get better later!"
Irrelevant. The abuse report regards one chapter and one chapter only. Unless the later refers to improving the chapter in the next few hours, that is no excuse for idleness. Such promises do not change the fact of a story being flagged for deletion. They cut dialogue short often, so stories end up off the site.

#5N. "You're lying!"
This one is impossible to counter because it's like explaining an infant how a thermonuclear reaction makes the sun shine. It's best to just say: "Trust me. Like the admin does."

#6N. "You're not the boss of me!"
The administrator is. When the boss hears of you going loopy and ripping off kind readers with illegal content, the feathers are gonna fly. Once an abuse report has been sent, there's no way to take it back. Just like sending an email or a regular letter. Irrevocable decisions. Crying about superiority does not revoke them. Remember that the admins can see all of your personal messages, so they can track your whines and increase the penalty.

#7N. "I worked really hard on this story!"
So making a few more fix-ups would not be a problem. A caring author cares for a story's healthy lifespan. If complaints and whining are the way you treat your story challenges, maybe writing isn't the right hobby for you? Fear of loss is an extra motivator to improve in this case. Otherwise, the statement is a poor excuse and hypocrisy.

#8N. "You're just ruining my fun. I hate you"
FFN is about fun if you stay within the guidelines. If not, it's torture. There are other websites you can post on. Nobody is forcing you to stay here. However, reminding people that their story is abusive does not even sound like ruining anyone's fun if you consider the admin may remove the account when nothing is done to fix the situation. Wouldn't that really ruin the fun for you? Pointing out the truth is the beginning of a fruitful dialogue. Nothing can survive on lies for long, not even a hypocrite.

#9N. "My story is gone, I'll kill you!"
Harassing a fellow user with threats and losing integrity as a community member is an infraction. Bear in mind that a lost story is not the end of the writing world. Getting yourself banned for further misdemeanour is the end of it on FFN. Consider your priorities before attacking those, who willingly reduce the amount of filth on the domain.


#1L. "It's my story; I do what I want!"
Incorrect. FFN takes the worldwide licensing rights of the fiction, which is a legal question for the first fragment. The second fragment is countered with the agreement to uphold and honour the domain's regulations. Anarchy is not an allowable form of conduct.

#2L. "Don't like it, don't read it!"
The issue is not of like or dislike. One cannot project an opinion whether something is written in chat format or not. If the statement is about not liking illegal content, the reply is very simple. One does not need to read a whole scripted chapter to decide that it is illegal. Glancing is enough, which would make the exclamation redundant. Also, informing a user of the abuse report should motivate to improve, not limit communication between the two parties. It leads to no exchange of useful information and the report causing losses.

#3L. "The site should allow me to write *insert illegal entry here*."
You agree in the TOS not to alter the website. You agreed to the set of responsibilities and rights you were given, so any belated whining is voided by your contract with FFN. One cannot deny the documented existence of your agreement with FFN. Remember that the domain is privately-owned. You are not a shareholder, and your opinion is irrelevant. Buy the website and you will be allowed. Until you do, rules apply to all.

#4L. "The rules were different when I joined!"
However, you are to get along with the times or be deemed obsolete. Living in the past leads to tremendous problems in the future, so fixing an illegal story into a legal shape is essential to save it. The excuse does not prevent abuse reports. FFN went towards specialisation, and dumped such thins as lists, chat format, adult content and original fiction, which were adopted by sister sites such as Fiction Press and Adult Fan Fiction. Nobody is leashing you to the site.

#5L. "The site's motto is: 'Unleash your imagination'! You're limiting it!"
Commercial slogans are a set of marketable words. The motto used to be: "Unleash your imagination and free your soul," but that one shortened down. It's nice that FFN's marketing works well on you, but you are not to believe every ad you see. In other words, you are to unleash your imagination*
*Rules and Conditions apply.

#6L. "You're not letting me be creative."
Anyone can work in a mansion surrounded by beautiful scenery and lush lawns on the hillside. However, it takes a real artist to make the plain look special. It's a challenge of creating added value where it is not. True creativity does not take. It shares. It gives. FFN is as free as your lust and arrogance deem it. For some people, rules are very obvious and they exist without a need for extra reference. For some others, they are a constant hindrance because they want fame and attention with minimum effort. Cutting corners too much is bound to slash someone's throat sooner or later, and that, dear colleagues, is illegal even in the real world.

#7L. "Murder is not at all like breaking the rules!"
FFN bleeds quality. People bleed fluids. On a metaphysical level, it's the same. On a philosophical level, vibrations of a greedy hypocrite that willingly breaks the rules are equal to that of a child molester ready to strike another victim. It's all illegal, so they're brothers in arms. Are you a molester's brother?

#8L. "You're saying the slogan lies?"
No, I'm saying the slogan is a slogan, not an axiom and/or a pure holy principle. It is to be taken with a pinch of salt like every "buy one Bob for the price of two" advertising scheme. Besides, if you require crime to be imaginative, there are other sites, and institutions you can visit.

#9L. "You're evil for reporting."
Exercising one's rights is not evil. It is only silly to undermine one's rights because they do not allow one to live up to the full capacity within the frame of proper society. There is a misconception that an anarchist has when facing the long arm of the law. Disagreeing with a reporting party's decision does not void the abuse report.


#1P. "Others like this story"
Others don't prevent deletion. In fact, only you can prevent your story from being pulled down by editing the illegal content out as soon as possible. If other reviewers really liked your work, they would have pointed out that the story is illegal. Fans care and are not afraid to tell when the gold turns to rotten apples. Otherwise, they're just yes men that are quite ugly to have around. They don't speak the truth.

#2P. "I have more reviewers than you, so shush"
Stories with eight-thousand reviews disappeared in the past, and stories with over a hundred chapters also poofed into the abyss. Review counts do not give any leverage against any single abuse report.

#3P. "I'll send my fans after you!"
Fans cannot get a story back. Petitions, protests, shouting and bothering the staff can only make matters worse. Remember the TOS? No right to alter the domain. Trying to foist changes through fandom rebounds on everyone. Script writers went too far in the past. And the administrator forbade script. List posters went the same way. What dastardly rule will your uproar cause?

#4P. "You're ruining it for all of my fans!"
See #1P. Real fans mean well for the story and the author. If they are real fans, they are really honest and helpful. Ignoring illegal content is just brewing cancer until it becomes a large problem difficult to treat from the story. If other readers did not point out the infraction, it's your fault for not asking for advice, and their fault for not offering a reality check. Get real!

#5P. "My friends will leave the site if this story is removed!"
No writer that has made a proper career on FFN would leave. That I guarantee. As for the flingy visitors that can fly away, these are not predictable to start with, so the domain won't feel any change. Threatening after an abuse report is sent is useless. The report cannot be stopped.

#6P. "There are more stories like mine, you'll never get rid of them!"
Abuse reports are easy to write. Were it not for the helpful queue that gives you improvement time, all of those stories would have been gone, but the administration is merciful and allows dialogue. Only the stubborn criminals are punished.

#7P. "A lot of people will leave the site!"
Script was banned years ago. The site grew. MA was banned years ago. The site grew. If we draw conclusions from these unrelated points, the threat will make the site grow even more. No idea how it works exactly, but the threat would make no change.

#8P. "There are worse stories than mine. Get rid of them first before you get mine."
Is a classic excuse. Keeping up with the Joneses. It's also a classic example of raising oneself by belittling others. "That girl has a torn dress, so I'm awesome." Look up, not down. There are better stories than yours, so you should improve. Besides, the abuse report was already sent, and those other stories will follow suit at the right time.

Remember, readers: as soon as the abuse report is sent, all arguing may come to a halt. God was called to decide who is right and any speculation is just empty hot air. Take action and improve instead of using idle excuses. After all, that is what abuse reports were for: motivating everyone, even the poorest souls to excel and get up from the muddy ground.

Have a nice, abuse-free day.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Cities of Fan Fiction: Slimming Down

It's been a while since I updated this thing. Generally, there was no need with issues being either very temporary or too small to post them here.

Lately I've been browsing the Twilight section of FFN. Truly, no other part of the website matches the abysmal stupidity and pig-headedness of members there. I'm a hopeful person that gives people several helpings of second chances, but you know how some individuals are criminal failures, as proven by the repetitive anonymous commentary this essay got on its first day and some fans' disregard of other fandoms for whatever reason. How I got to this conclusion is a long and complicated story, but its synopsis is simple. Before I begin, though, I'd like to make it with an analogy.

There are three types of sections on FFN. Ghost towns, neighborhoods and cities. Ghost towns are the easiest to describe: they are dead. Updates are scarce, there are little stories et cetera.

Small sections (say 15k stories) are like neighborhoods. There is a fixed number of people that stay, the core landlords. They are the backbone of the community with others either moving in permanently (writing alongside you for long periods of time) or renting accommodation. Those who rent basically stay in the shadow of their idols on FFN and have a short lifespan. They move from section to section without having a clear home plate. Sure, when their idols leave the website for whatever reason, they might buy the experienced author's accommodation and use the free niche to prosper. It happens often when some fans decide to prolong the work of some inactive author. Cutesy.

Neighborhoods have perks and flaws. The perk is that it's possible to spread any message via several idols effectively. Since people tend to know one another after a while, communication is fast and you get quick feedback. Another advantage is that people seem to care for one another in such sections. They make friends and gain respect as part of a fixed group. Sadly, that very glue that bonds the community can be an obstruction. When a certain policy/decision/reform is put against an idol, the whole community might start an uproar in support. Stubbornness and inability to accept certain publicly useful decisions (because the benefit to the idol is smaller than that of the public [people are selfish]) can lead to stagnation when it comes to quality of housing (posted stories). One more issue can be found when a person wants to enter the community. When you're that new guy at a party where everyone else is friends with all except you, it might be tough to enter the circle. You're not with the in crowd, so you stay shunned.

Now we reach the question of big sections or cities. I consider Naruto, Harry Potter and Twilight writers the most prominent examples of city folk. A city has LOTS of people. The people rarely interact and you don't notice many strangers in its streets. It's very easy to disappear, blend into the crowd in a city. Likewise, it's easy to find friends in one because city dwellers are lonely. This lack of integration and being scattered into tiny isolated groups makes people very sensitive to communication. That's a definite perk. It's a lot easier to find like-minded people in a city section than a neighborhood. However, it's very difficult to gain sufficient leverage in a city for anything at all since most people will not notice you. Example: by the time you click and review one story on the front page, it's already on page two. This way, a lot of things remain in the shade, and you never know what exactly you have missed. Maybe a gem waiting to be discovered or a guy with a knife waiting to butcher your eyes. Cities are dangerous places. Crime and filth can call them a safe haven, though. The more people, the easier to find a sucker to rob. If you die, chances are nobody will care. In a neighborhood, everyone would mourn you. This is one of the reasons why inhabitants of cities (people who write mainly in those sections) end up depressed and their creative health deteriorates to animalistic urges. Why try to have a nice friendly home when you can open a whore house and reap benefits from sad individuals? Not a question.

Some of you are probably curious why I've gotten through such an extensive visual tirade. I'm a critic. I review fictions with the goal of attaining a higher level of literary quality in a section. My home plate, Sonic the Hedgehog, was successful in that sense. How come? It's a neighborhood. Yes, it was a bit difficult at first with idols opposing critique, having been used to pure praise and nothing less, but eventually constructive criticism became a standard. Now it's a beautiful sight: people are not afraid to speak their mind! When someone posts an outright abusive story, they don't get censored greeting cards and flowers, but what they deserve. It's a marvelous example of community spirit with central values. Improvement and quality are just a few of them. Branching into other neighborhoods (like Pokemon) also proved itself a worthwhile experience. Changes have occurred there, too. That's the power of change one person carries.

And now we reach Twilight, the big city, and a peeve one person cannot physically contain. I can't even start explaining how horrid the experience of a critic is in those parts. In a neighborhood, there is a certain standard of respect. People try to mirror one's levelheaded reviews and ask intelligent questions. Moreover, account age is also a factor people consider before making judgments. Not the best way of evaluating something, but it works. In a city, there is none of that. Any 12-year-old that is not of legal age to write on FFN will subject any random critic to verbal abuse for as much as touching the issue of spelling and effort. The sensitivity and personal intake of critical messages make communication downright impossible.

The typical conversation goes somewhat like this:
- review
- angry response with 'don't read if you don't like + this is my story + i write what i want'
- my reply of 'i can't like/dislike a story without reading it first + respecting readers is a core value for a writer + guidelines prevent anarchy'
- the recipient's message 'i don't care what u think + i saw worse stories'
- my post with 'you're typing so much text telling me you don't care it sounds like you care + it's best to use better stories as an example, not worse ones'
- the already mad author 'i have a difficult life: my mother is a drunk + i really don't care what you think about me not caring (in 5 sentences)'
- the finisher 'you have written me more text saying you don't care than it is necessary to fix your whole story'
- the critic is blocked

It's impossible to approach them with kindness because the recipient merely starts laughing. And, generally, all conversation ends up in a standstill with excuses. The issue becomes absurd when some nihilist poster decides that script is legal here because nobody told them it wasn't. My reasoning is as simple as lying about one's age to start writing. Guidelines are accepted and read before posting. One should have enough boldness and tactlessness to ignore them to start with. Now, ignoring the call to change the outlawed story before it is too late is out of any logical frame.

Ironically, an abuse report is as potent on a small story as it is on a long scripted epic. The posters of the latter tend to think because their story has a few more reviews than the next fiction (that is legal), they are above the law and can post just about anything for drones that copy/paste reviews from one story to the next. Seriously, when you get a one-liner review, chances are the person never read the story at all.

Abuse reports take time to write for any individual upload. For big cities where crime remained unpunished for a long time, that is also quite a labour-taking task. In Twilight, I have seen stories that stand next to poison in terms of the message they bring. Those fictions get praise, naturally. They are copied and that poison spreads. Eventually, one comes to the realisation that the whole fandom is going downhill via numerous negligent posters that consider writing about shallow topics the best medicine for impopularity. During a single brief visit in the Twilight section, I have found that the authors consider the following legal:

First updates page infractions:
- author's notes for multiple chapters
- author's note chapters to avenge criticism
- scripted author's note chapters
- two-liner author's note chapters
- MA incest
- MA vore (cannibalism for sexual pleasure)
- MA sadism/masochism
- MA child molestation
- MA exhibitionism
- MA violence, including decapitation
- MA paraphilias
- MA titles
- MA summaries
- spam chapters
- scripted chapters
- IM chapters
- centred script chapters
- unchaptered script
- character submission interactivity
- idea submission interactivity
- voting interactivity
- advertising interactivity
- aggressive disregard to proper language
- aggressive disregard to structure and format
- aggressive formating in bold and/or italics
- all-capitals titles
- all-capitals summaries
- spam summaries
- duplicate posts
- plagiarism

Et cetera.

Since I'm unused to such volume of wrongness thrown at me in a single day, I asked myself the logical question: "How could this happen?!" The website has quality control, so where are the moderators looking, too. No matter. One can complain only after taking significant action.

The difficulty with acting in the Twilight environment is that communication is stilted in a city. One removed story makes a drop in the sea of filth. Users have gotten so bold as to advertise openly sexual innuendos and pornographic content right in their summaries on a teenage domain. Not only is this immoral and wrong, but also shows how...uneducated are the actual writers there. And all of them use the same excuse of having seen worse stories. My eyes were ready to explode when a thirteen-year-old posted a story with a woman diving on a 20-inch penis. Children of that age are not old enough to read their own works. For a psychiatrist, Twilight is a goldmine of various pathologies and disorders. I have actually yet to read a story void of swearing and emotional negativity there. The material available there is plainly dangerous.

What upsets me the most is the hedonism found in an increasing amount of new members' writing. I can't call it creative fiction or fiction at all. Stories start off with explanations of boredom and things being average. Then comes the perfectly undescribed painless sex scene with no sense of proportion. Advertising of one's videos, websites and hogwash comes next. The whole page looks like an assortment of scripted speeches with 'he said' slapped at the side. Story after story, it looks equally bland. The mainstream posters (not writers!) don't strive to feed one's soul. They just want to take. Page hits, reviews, attention, popularity. There is no giving. No sharing.

Something of a virus is easily found in uploads at Twilight. Members do not feel the need to write descriptions. No. They merely post links to pictures of objects/characters inside the story (for instance: The first time I've found a post like that, I gawked for a while. Some rummaging later, one could notice it's not a rare phenomenon. When I looked at the guidelines, I didn't even know which infraction was it. The level of utterly miserable literary failure was so unfathomable, so impenetrably deep that one's logics need to create a wholly new toolkit to manage a response.

And they get praise.

And they believe the praise is well-deserved.

I shuddered. Despite the grim outlook, things are salvageable. What one person cannot swallow, a group can easily share. The fact a city establishment makes it easy to bring a reform up to particular members plays into the hands of authors that actually try to write. Honestly, why do people break the guidelines? To get better stats. What are the results? Quality stories are drained of attention and disappear in the sea of dirt. That said, it is field day for a reviewer to do just about anything to make the gems more noticeable and drain the mud. Medicine tends to be bitter, and nobody asks the virus about its reflections on the matter.

That's why it's my pleasure to present you the Literate Union, an organisation willing to help deliver the vaccine. See, ladies and gentlemen, there are people that want to make change. They can make change. And they will. How do I know this? If one person can protect several thousand people from neighborhood poison, one group can protect a city full of inhabitants.

It's a positive note for the otherwise moody essay. Things may be bad there. Heck, a hundred stories worth erasing probably popped up in Twilight during production of the previous few paragraphs. But it's a trend. And trends are not made of concrete.

Anyone curious about the Literate Union can find its members here:

Have a nice, abuse-free day.

P.S. I'm not in the Literate Union. Misguided comments are misguided.

P.P.S. The conclusion is: tons of stories were removed since February. The angry illegal content addicts had to move, receiving no leverage or support from the owners. Don't underestimate your critics.