unjapanologist: (Default)

Hi! Sorry about the months of silence, I hope everyone's doing well... Dreamwidth seems quiet these days. More soon about the ten million things I've been busy with. First though, a crosspost of a quick analysis thing I wrote for Fanhackers about Amazon's new great idea. The tone of this post is restrained because Fanhackers is not a private soapbox, but my personal objections to the idea of Amazon trying to revolutionize fanfic distribution are, um, extreme.

 

PaidContent reports that in June this year, Amazon will be launching Kindle Worlds, a legal publishing platform for fanfic. According to Amazon's announcement, Kindle Worlds will start out by allowing fanfic based on Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries.

It's not necessarily bad news that companies are trying to create options for "licensed" fanfic, and I'll leave the in-depth analysis of the legal aspects of this to professionals. Legal issues aside, though, I certainly hope that Kindle Worlds won't become a model for other attempts to legalize fanfic. This concept seems to repeat a lot of fan-unfriendly aspects of previous forays by companies into the weird world of fic monetization. Kindle Worlds would allow fic authors to sell works "without hassle", as PaidContent says, but apparently also without many rights, and within the boundaries of extremely strict content guidelines.

The platform refers to fandoms as "Worlds". Copyright holders can give Amazon Publishing a license to allow fic writers to upload stories about licensed media to Amazon Publishing, which will then offer the stories for sale. Since this is not a self-publishing platform, Amazon Publishing will be setting the prices:
Read more... )Again, I'm not against the idea of "licensed" fic in and of itself, and those who want to agree to Amazon's terms certainly have the right to do so. However, something like Kindle Worlds can be only one option among many for licensing fic, and it definitely shouldn't be a model for other "solutions" to the legal uncertainties surrounding fanworks. The only option for publishing fic legally can't be a platform that takes or licenses away many rights, doesn't give fic authors the option to set prices, and excludes large numbers of fans with its content guidelines. Hopefully, alternatives that strike a better balance between the rights of fans and copyright holders will emerge soon to counter this.
unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
"I don't mind that these fics with the serial numbers filed off get published commercially. I just wish they'd publish the good fic."

I've seen a lot of people react like that to Fifty Shades of Grey, and it seems to be bubbling up again with the news that a book based on a One Direction fic* called Me, Myself, and One Direction is also getting published. The problem for many people seems to be that these fics aren't very skilfully written. A lot of fans would clearly have preferred for the first fic that caught the public eye** to be something, well, more impressive in a literary sense? Something less embarrassingly representative of what most fic is like?

Personally speaking, I also feel it would have been nice if the first publicly acknowledged fic had been a literary masterpiece. But I like to think of it like this. If it had been *insert my favorite stunningly well-written story here*, then fic would have been noticed by literary critics and a niche audience, and they would have loved and respected us. But instead we got a crowd-pleaser, so now fic has been lovingly read by millions of women (and men) who may never have heard of it otherwise. They may even decide to look for more fic and join fandom.

That really sucks! I wish we'd gotten the respect of literary critics instead of the love of millions of potential new fans.

Er.

Read more... )
unjapanologist: (Default)
On Nov. 27-28, the Japan Association for Cultural Economics organized the first edition of a yearly workshop at Doshisha University, Kyoto, to fill the long gap between its big yearly conferences. I presented a draft paper titled 'Fanwork as a test case for open source cultural goods'.

This paper is a follow-up on my recent symposium piece 'Why we should talk about commodifying fan work', more precisely this footnote:

Read more... )
unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
Okay, Fanfic.me is utterly hilarious, but they deserve a proper rend-and-tear post anyway. They put so much effort into their... thing. No, really, they did! It's all part of a cunning long-term plan!

Many thanks again to [personal profile] watersword for all the sleuthing work. A lot of the info in this post was already in her awesome write-up from yesterday, and in the comments to said write-up. I did some more digging because I want to be a plucky girl detective too.

EDIT 3/10: A few people have correctly pointed out that the limits of my personal fannish experience are showing in the way I interpret the fannish background of people behind Fanfic.me. Qualifiying statement about why I chose to call them "not fans" here. Also, there's some extra info about Fanfic.me's money-making strategy at the bottom of the post now.

EDIT 5/10: Huge batch of edits at the bottom of the post, including links to lots of new Fanfic.me pages and discussion of problems with the software being used. And another qualifying statement about the use of "fannish" in this post. Sorry, people, I didn't realize at first posting that I made a couple of snap judgements and inadvertedly made it sound like this is all about the fannish background of the Fanfic.me people. It definitely isn't.

Read more... )
 
Crazy Easy
Fill out the 4 step form, and BOOM – you’ve got a Fanfic.me site just like that.
Pick a name like Harry Potter Fan Fic
Describe your site
Grab your domain like potterfics@fanfic.me.com
Pick your fandom
And away you go. Import an existing WordPress site, or start fresh. If you can type or copy and paste, you’re going to have a hell of site. Get started.
 
Track comments
We know that the comment fanfic readers leave for writers are of great importance. When you go to your dashboard, you’ll find a Manage Comments option. Everything is easy and intuitive to help both fan fiction writers and readers.
 
Not just a fan fiction archive
Fanfic.me has a feature called “pages” which allows you to easily create web pages. You can even create an entire web site/fan site using WordPress pages on Fanfic.me.
 
No lock-in
You can leave Fanfic.me any time you want. We provide a complete XML export of all your posts, pages and comments outside our exclusive plugin. Of course, you should always keep copies of your own stories, but you already knew that.
 
We protect you against spam
Spam Pack comes with every Fanfic.me site. We provide a nice “captcha” (and one that is not as easily hacked like others), automatic trackback filtering and protection, and the comment protection features that check against a number of factors like the site owner’s white list, black list, 3rd party anti-spamservice, etc. We want you to be spam free.

I'm not a WordPress user myself, so I'd love to hear from anyone who can judge how interesting these features are. My first reaction is deep scepticism, especially since several of the features described as "free Fanfic.me features" separate from the free WordPress features that offered with a fansitepress.com site actually seem to be free WordPress features instead. They even use the same image for the Fanfic.me spam blocker, and the text for the XML export bit is identical to that on WordPress.com's own site. They just replaced "WordPress.com" with "Fanfic.me".

What happens when fansitepress.com wants you to " kick in towards the costs a bit"?

So what happens if you need more storage or want to have a www.customname.com?
Be the master of your domain – ($20/year).
We know how fans are  - you’re going to eventually want your own name.  It’s easy to add your own domain name, like thebestfics.com, to your site here at Fanfic.me. Or if you already have your own domain name, it’s easy to transfer it to your WordPress.com blog. Email us to transfer or get your own domain.
 
Your fandom is growing – add storage ($25/25o additional stories)
The free limit of 250 stories per site is enough for most fans, but if you’re building a fanfic site that will have a large community or if you’re a large organization, grabbing this upgrade is the way to go. The first 250 stories are free. For each additional 25o writers, it’s just $25 a year. What if you keep growing? It gets even cheaper. That’s just a buck a writer to be part of your amazing site using our rockin’ fanfic plugin.
 
Custom CSS ($15/yr)
If you know your way around a cascading style sheet, you can really put a personal touch on your WordPress.com blog. Or use the Custom CSS upgrade with our Sandbox theme to create an entirely new design.
 
Go Ad-Free ($40/yr)
From time to time, we display ads in fanfic. No worries about junk ads. We only use ads relevant to your fandoms.  Doing this allows us to keep bringing you the free features you love. However, if you’d prefer your readers didn’t see ads, you have the control to turn them off.

$20/year for a domain, $25 per year per 250 stories, plus $40/year to make ads inside stories go away? I suppose this is one part of their elusive plans for highway robbery financial stability.

EDIT 4/10: From people with actual knowledge of WordPress: yes, this appears to be highway robbery/a scam.

EDIT 4/10 2: Fanfic.me has posted a TOS now ([personal profile] elf notes that it's the same TOS as on MyFandoms.com). The TOS, which Fanfic.me calls a TSA, appears to be kind of dreadful.

BUNCH OF EDITS 5/10: Lots more things going on at the original post. Fic posted by [personal profile] elf to Fanfic.me got bahleeted, she got mail implying that her content is not welcome in the community Fanfic.me founders are part of.

On the software side, it seems that the code of the Wordpress plugin offered by Fansitepress.com is being kept under wraps in violation of the GPL licence (EDIT 5/10 Or perhaps not). Claims that much work and years of development (founders contradict each other about the time frame here and here) went into the plugin appear to be false, as the plugin was only released and pulled from the Wordpress.org site again in February 2011, and seems to add extremely little functionality to the kind of Wordpress install offered by Wordpress.com (which Fansitepress.com seems to be confusing with itself.) See links in EDIT 4/10 for some appraisals of the plugin's functionality, and here for links to where it can be seen in action (EDIT 5/10 The links are no longer active. We appear to be under surveillance. I think we should get credit for beta-testing this product and suggesting so many improvements). On this new page, Jacky Abromitis claims that the old Fan Fic Fan software was bad because "Unfortunately, we built it on a really lousy open source platform". She then proceeds to wax poetic about their new Wordpress plugin without mentioning that Wordpress is also open source.

Fanfic.me has just published some new pages: founders, blog, and privacy. All are well worth a look. Will link to more discussion about them later, no time for extensive analysis ATM. What struck me the most after a quick first read is the 'founders' piece, in which Jacky Abromitis discusses at length why her venture is beneficial for the fan community, and why she thinks the concerns of fans who think "Fanfiction should never be about “business”" are not relevant here. She appears to be quite knowledgable about the history of fanwork commodification. Interpretations about the content of this text may vary. But personally, I'm becoming more and more convinced that she knows exactly what she's doing, why the way she's going about this can be harmful to fandom in ways I've already outlined, and why we're criticizing her.

[personal profile] watersword and [personal profile] elf have pointed out that Jacky Abromitis appears to be reading the original post. No idea if she may be reading here as well, but just FYI.
 
Mea culpa again about the confusion caused by my use of "fan" and "fannish". I meant to just dig into the fannish background of Jacky Abromitis a bit to understand where she's coming from and what her motives for making Fanfic.me could be, but I ended up sounding like I was judging her for not being a fan in the same way as I. That sort of thing is obviously not okay and completely besides the point. *headdesk* Thanks again to the people who called me out on that. I think Jacky Abromitis should be criticized because I believe her venture is disingenuous and harmful to fans in general and as individuals, not because she and I are apparently from very different fannish spaces. And I agree completely with what [personal profile] watersword said in this addition to the original post

I would really appreciate it if we could stop trying to determine if Abromitis is “fannish enough” — at this point it seems pretty clear that Abromitis is Not One Of Us in a different way than Chris and David Williams of Fanlib were Not One Of Us. The point remains that Fandom Entertainment, the company, owns sites which (a) approach the line in the sand which many fans have drawn vis-a-vis commerce and fandom, but that’s a personal mileage thing, and for all I know, her fannish community is more comfortable with the intersection of capitalism and fandom than I am; I would still like an explanation of WTF she hopes to achieve by attending the NY Expo Startup Showcase; (b) commercially exploit fans who may not know better (disregarding the Tolkien estate and Disney and Warner Bros. entirely, I am comfortable making a blanket statement that tricking your fellow fans into paying for unnecessary services is not cool); and (c) are not very good fanfiction archives.

EDIT 12/10: Forgot to mention that [personal profile] elf has made a Fanlore page for Fanfic.me. Gathering info over there is much more efficient in the long run than keeping things in a bunch of DW entries, so I'm in the process of moving all the verifiable facts we have to Fanlore. Please do feel free to edit the page to bits! I don't have copious amounts of time available right now, so any help would be greatly appreciated. Latest news: Fanfic.me was down for a couple of days and is now back with a new design but no new content, and today Fansitepress.com has been taken offline as well. Maybe it will be back before Fanfic.me takes part in today's Web 2.0 Expo New York startup showcase. (Note: my time zone is 14 hours ahead of New York, so this 12/10 edit is really a 11/10 edit from a US point of view.)
unjapanologist: (Default)
Fanfic.me appears to be a company that tries to coax people into posting fanfic on its site so it can market visitor eyeballs to advertisers. [personal profile] watersword has a ton of details here.

In-depth analysis and mockery will have to happen after a good night's sleep, because right now my brain can't seem to get past how incredibly hideous that site design is. So much orange. Ugliest banner ever. Why. And I don't know if there are even any real people over there, the profile names of the fic authors aren't clickable and all the comments seem to have been made by Fanfic.me itself. Did they just harvest stories from FF.net and change the author names? I tried googling the first sentence of a couple of the fics, and they were all posted to FF.net or deviantART under different author names. 

Regardless, this one looks like a really special train wreck. It's... kind of pathetically cute, the way they throw "fanfic" around as a keyword, as if it's a magic spell that will draw all the "fanfic" writers to their site. Look at the way they keep using it as a hashtag on their Twitter account. I almost feel sorry for them, they're so obviously ignorant and incompetent and doomed and unable to see what's coming their way.

EDIT of no, still not sleeping: There's a lot more discussion/sleuthing going on in[personal profile] watersword's post, including[personal profile] franzeska digging up a hilarious news article about Fanfic.me.

unjapanologist: (hey ozai)
Two articles recently accepted for publication/presentation: "Why we should talk about commodifying fan work" will appear in Transformative Works and Cultures in November, and "Open source production as a model for commodification of derivative works" will be presented at the Asian Workshop on Cultural Economics, which is organized by the the Association of Cultural Economics Japan and takes place on November 27-28 this year, in Kyoto.

As the titles suggest, these two are very closely related, and I'm thrilled that they can be published more or less together. The TWC piece is the tl;dr version of the post I did yesterday about Keith Mander, and the open source paper is the even more tl;dr version of a footnote attached to the TWC piece. Both talk about the cultural economy of fanwork, but since each is written for a different crowd (fan studies people and cultural economics people), they have a somewhat different focus. The TWC text argues that commodification of fanworks may be inevitable, and why this could be a good thing for fandom. The open source text is basically a thinking exercise/tentative proposal about how "derivative" works such as fanworks could be commodified in practice, based on principles associated with open source production.

Abstracts:

Read more... )
unjapanologist: (fetchez la vache)
So, a Mr. Keith Mander bought up a Lord of the Rings fic archive with the express intention of making money out of it. Well. The relationship between Mander, LotR fic authors, and unfortunate legal reality as personified by the Tolkien estate is best summed up by this beautiful parable. [personal profile] boundbooks uses Mander's own quotes to relate how the sorry tale began and to show that, while he claims he intends to make the website in question "better" for its users, Mander is actually astoundingly clueless about what fans want. Nothing bona fide to see here. When the OTW posted a quick overview of the incident and its ramifications for the fic authors involved, Mander showed up in the comments to mansplain his plans and contrast them rather hilariously with what he refers to as the OTW's "vision" and their execution of it (he can do better because the OTW are just volunteers. Someone please point him to the Wikipedia entry for open source).

In short, train wreck. A very large part of me is too tired and heat-dead right now to do anything but snigger and microwave more popcorn, and Mander has already been told everything he needs to know directly and also indirectly by the many awesome posts about his antics currently gracing the internet. [personal profile] elf  is keeping track of links to said awesome posts.* But rambling is fun, so I'm going to try and make a point or two about what does really irk me about this beautiful technicolor fail.

Read more... )

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