A Network Of Our Own

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Synonyms: Social Network of Our Own
See also: Tumblr NSFW Content Purge, An Archive Of One's Own (post by astolat), Fandom Migration, I Want Us to Own the Goddamned Servers
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A Network Of Our Own (ANOOO, or NOOO), sometimes referred to as a Social Network Of Our Own (SNOOO), is a term for a possible centralized social network that would be set up with the purpose of providing a safe, maximally inclusive, optimized, and functional space catering to fandom and fans. The term takes its inspiration from the Archive of Our Own, as ANOOO would see to do for fanworks and fan communities what AO3 did for fanfiction.

The concept has been discussed up by fans repeatedly over the years in response to censorship by commercially-driven social platforms. It gained particular momentum following the Tumblr NSFW Content Purge of late 2018, which saw vast amounts of NSFW, art and other fan blogs removed from Tumblr, which was previously a popular fandom social space. Amid the discussion about where fans could go after being driven from Tumblr, discussion re-ignited around the idea of fans owning the servers and building their own social platform.

Fandom Migration

Fandom migration refers to the mass movement of fans between communication platforms.

During Strikethrough and Boldthrough in 2007, LiveJournal permanently suspended over 500 journals based on the users' interest lists, which affected fannish groups and lead to fandom migration away from LiveJournal.

On August 7, 2007, femmequixotic commented in their post Open social networking & how to work around that problem now[1]

I've talked to a lot of people lately who are really seriously worried about fandom fragmenting. With very good cause. This whole situation lately is more than a bit nerve-wracking. It's just...honestly, I think we'll settle into a way of keeping track of multiple flists on multiple sites much the way Brad's already envisioning, albeit perhaps a little more roughly. Y'all, we're sort of on the forefront of the Next Big Social Networking Adventure. You and me and all of fandom. 6A's kind of thrown us out there, you know? What Brad's talking about doing? It's what we have to do. By necessity, not choice. I find that incredibly intriguing in many ways. And exciting. And liberating. I look at my two flists sometimes and you know what? The fragmentation between them doesn't destroy my love of fandom or my desire to participate or interact. In fact, it does the opposite. I'm invigorated by fandom again because it's a challenge. Because, whatever their reasons behind it may be, 6A management has effectively thrown the gauntlet down and said Fine, screw you, you want your fandom? You work for it, bitch. And my response? Hell, yeah, I will. You've just gone and given me a reason to now. Sometimes change is good. Sometimes we need to be shaken out of our comfortable state so that we can grow more, instead of just stagnating. But that's not always easy. And it can be very tiring. Believe me, I know.

In May 2013, Yahoo! bought Tumblr for $1.1 billion,[2] leading some fans to predict a slow and gradual demise of the platform as a fandom community.[3]

A 2014 tumblr post, All this leaving tumblr talk is making me hark back to the LJ days of old, man oh man., detailed LiveJournal's downfall, the migration it caused to newer fan platforms like Dreamwidth and Tumblr, and the fatigue that comes from migration:

Brief history:

  • LJ is sold to SixApart in 2005. Previously ad-free for nine years and run by one guy named Brad Fitzpatrick, 6A monetised it, introduced ‘sponsored’ accounts in addition to basic, paid and permanent, which gives you ads in exchange for more features. It was annoying, but LJ had grown into a behemoth by then so it was understandable.
  • 6A then later sells to Russian company SUP in ‘07.
  • May 2007 was the first strikethrough. Fandom banded together, collectively shat on LJ staff for deleting an HP porn community pornish-pixies, along with several others, for alleged paedophilia and ‘violation of the TOS’. Several personal blogs and communities also got deleted and the uproar was huge. Deleted journals looked like this, hence the name. There is outrage, there is uproar, there are news articles, a BNF attempts and fails to burn a t-shirt.
  • People were already talking alternatives by then - InsaneJournal, DeadJournal and JournalFen being the most popular ones, but each had their own faults. JF was invite-only and 18+, DJ was extremely buggy and tended to break down and IJ was…ass-ugly (and ableist). Communities were scattered, there was some general shifting around and there was the beginnings of Scribblit, an fandom-oriented blog community, which didn’t really go anywhere. LJ had been active for 9 years, fandom had been present for around the same time, and people were reluctant to move. At the end of the day, not much changed.
  • But here’s the kicker of the whole shebang: SUP was planning to take LJ public. Strikethrough/boldthrough was them cleaning up the mess.
  • In August, three months later, it happened again only this time the deleted journals were bolded. There was more uproar, only this time people started talking seriously about moving.
  • Things are quiet for a year or two, but most people have lost trust in LJ staff. In this time: LJ disables basic accounts, changed the layout of the profile page, disables comment headlines which made kinkmemes a special sort of hell to navigate.
  • DreamWidth started its roots around early ‘09 with invite-only accounts for beta testing, run by previous staff split from the LJ board. This was the days before kickstarter and crowdsourcing, so it was kind of a big deal.
  • It wouldn’t be until 2011 that the platform would complete beta testing and open to membership. Biggest early comms are kink_bingo and scans_daily.
  • AO3 also start gaining users around this time.
  • The move to DW is gradual and took years. People dropped off the radar, lost contact, some people stayed - it wouldn’t be until late 2013 that DW and LJ would be on equal standing fandom-wise.
  • Parallel to this, Tumblr was getting popular and some people skipped DW altogether and just moved to Tumblr.

LJ is by now a ghost town, but it’s going to take years before any significant change in userbase will take effect and make a dent in Yahoo/Tumblr’s pocket.

All has happened before and will happen again etc etc, because when fandom makes a blogging platform grow in size, they will inevitably have to sell out and this eventually fucks its userbase over. Tumblr has an estimated userbase of 30-50 million, which is at least three times the size of LJ when it was bought.

I’m glad people are so optimistic about all this, but I also doubt that much is going to come from it.

I’m sure that people older than me, who moved from usenet to yahoo mailing lists and Geocities, have a lot more experience in this. [...]

On the post, user [doctorscienceknowsfandom] replied:

Correction, from one of the Fandom Old Ones:

At the end of the day, not much changed.

Not true! Strikethrough was the genesis of both Dreamwidth and the OTW. These were separate projects, but had the same goal: fandom platforms not supported by ads, where we would be the customers, not the product.

Because the organizers of the two projects knew what they were doing, they each spent a year or more laying legal, organizational, and coding foundations. This has proved crucial for their long-term success, IMHO.

I think it’s an *excellent* time for fans to seriously discuss creating SNOO, the Social Network of Our Own. It could be a LLC, like Dreamwidth, or a non-profit, like OTW. Either way, it needs an organization and a plan – and someone (better yet, a group of someones) who, unlike me, knows about project planning, management, and organizing.[4]

Fandom and Profit

This article or section needs expansion.

Tumblr NSFW Content Purge

As Tumblr's initial purge of NSFW blogs (prior to the adult content ban being officially announced) gathered steam, some fans raised the need for an "AO3 for communities",[5][6] referencing the way that Archive of Our Own was set up to provide a safe, maximally inclusive space for fanworks and allow fans to own the servers, on the heels of incidents like FanLib and Strikethrough and Boldthrough.

For more on this, see: An Archive Of One's Own (post by astolat).

Eventually a full ban on visual NSFW content was announced by Tumblr, furthering discussion about the necessity of fan control of Terms of Service.

Fail Fandom Anon Discussion

On November 25, 2018, a user on Fail Fandom Anon started a discussion around building a "Network Of Our Own" specifically for fandom, which would be set up as a US-based non-profit, again in the vein of the Organization for Transformative Works. They shared a test/proof of concept site they had built and invited other users to play around with it and offer feedback:

I am not a programmer, but I've been playing around making a fandom social network app for a while, and with all the tumblr nonsense I've been thinking about it again. I'm not affiliated with the fandom social network people who've posted on meme before or any other current site.

A couple of things that have kept me from going forward with making this a real thing:
- I am not a sysadmin, so I don't have the first idea how to set up a server long term. Where this is hosted right now is not a long-term solution. I'm not in any way a BNF, so I don't know how to go about getting people involved who do know about server setup, security, GDPR compliance, or optimization if the userbase got large.
- If I were involved in setting this up as a long-term thing, I would want to set it up as a US-based nonprofit (I'm in the US and I have experience with fairly large non-profits). However, I don't know what kind of advocacy or education mission a US 501c3 could have that would be compatible with running a social network in the same way that OTW's preservation and advocacy mission is compatible with running AO3.
- Meme has discussed this before, but payment processing and image hosting seems to be a major holdup for this kind of project. I don't know how to go about finding a lawyer who could write up TOS to navigate the underage art/fic issue or how to do image hosting of material that a host might take issue with without owning servers. AWS and Heroku both have TOS against "excessively profane content." I put "no photos of genitals" in the play TOS on the thought that it would prohibit pornbots but allow fandom nsfw material, but that would need to be policed and doesn't get around the issue of server space TOS.

So I hope this isn't too much like farming meme for ideas, but I would be interested if nonnies wanted to talk about concrete steps for getting a fandom-made nonprofit social network off the ground. I've tried to make the frontend something I would enjoy using, but the other infrastructure pieces are the hard part.[7]

Other anons weighed in with feedback on the features and support for the idea, as well as suggestions for launching the network as a sustainable, long-term project.

I don't know what I can say about the back end or the nonprofit, but I've got plenty of experience in community building. I love the format and layout of what you've got so far, too.

When my archive had to move, I kind of 'hired' an engineer -- he'd run another one before mine took off -- and we became co-owners. He bought a server slice at first, then an actual server itself, though the archive's only a piece of what is on that. You could start with that as an option, or buying a virtual server.

The rest here is just my opinion:

As to the community building-- honestly, as long as you can keep its uptime decent and advertise it here on meme, or by word of mouth to start, I think you'll get people. Fandom's a lot more forgiving of small operators than Verizon. You'll get the people who are sick of antis and strikethrough 2.0, and you'll get the people who want a protected fandom space. I'd actually recommend making it 18+ from the outset, too. I'd make sure you had actual, active volunteer or maybe someday paid moderators that you trust to handle disputes, harassment, etc. (and ban antis or actual bad actors.) Community owners can mod their own stuff, but global, active mods would go over well. I'd talk to OTW and DW staff, as well. If anyone can guide you on the nonprofit part, they could. And if this is a fandom project, OTW's lawyers might be willing to help with the legalese, too.

I'd lay down clear rules about harassment, call-outs, what's allowed and what the overall philosophy is.

This is all, luckily, really scaling friendly! By starting it with a handful of trusted people, and building it by word of mouth and kind of almost 'you gotta be vouched for by someone else' thing to start, you can control the kind of atmosphere that develops. And hell, I like the format enough that I'd be glad to donate to the cause. Even if it failed, I'd consider the venture worth the capital and the money well spent on the attempt.[8]

Similar to you, I'm not really much of a coder but I tinker, and I have fantasies of some kind of tumblr-like blogging platform. And as I think has been pointed out, hosting images and gifs (let alone video!) as tumblr does is essentially impossible on a fandom nonprofit budget. And while it's easy to think, "Okay, a few discreet ads wouldn't be TOO annoying" the downfall of fandom platforms is usually conflict between advertisers and fans, because fans want to make content advertisers don't like being associated with.

[...]

And it's very...if you're not the customer, you're the product, and fandom isn't a very good product, and it would be sort of worrying if we were. If it isn't the socially unacceptable porn, it's the copyright violation! Even tumblr, with more money than I'd guess you have for this venture, had frequent downtime in its early years. And AO3 does well for itself on donations, but even it couldn't afford tumblr-style image hosting. The money just isn't going to scale, and I hate it. It's possible that will change as tech gets ever-more powerful, but right now?[9]

OTW Official Statement

On December 4 2018, the day after Tumblr announced its ban on adult content, the Organization for Transformative Works' Tumblr posted an official statement in response to the many calls for the OTW to develop a social network:

[transformativeworks]
Hi, folks! We’ve been getting a lot of messages like this lately, so here’s the word.

Like you, we’re concerned about changes to Tumblr’s Terms of Service and how they will impact fandom. However, we also need to consider our ability to build and support new services, given that the OTW is an entirely volunteer-run, donation-supported organization.

There are no plans for the OTW to offer a social media site or forum. It would take a lot of resources that we don’t have, in terms of both the work and the hardware that would be required. And even if we had all the money and personnel we could want, it’s impossible to build a home for all online fannish activity on a single site, so some of fandom would be left out no matter what.[10]

The post continued with some advice on how to preserve and archive endangered Tumblr blogs.

However, some fans remained dissatisfied with the OTW's response, believing that it had a unique responsibility to use its position in fandom to galvanise fans into creating a Tumblr alternative.

[rivertalesien]
It absolutely would be much too large at this point, but there really isn’t a better organization who could inspire a large group of people right now to think about the future: to think about what it would take, about numbers, volunteers, strategy, etc. Setting it close to OTW and AO3 it would be something of a natural outgrowth.

What OTW could inspire in others is important and the advice they could provide invaluable. Imagine if this organization told everyone who follows them to imagine the possibility. Imagine working with other groups, individuals who could take it further. It won’t happen right away. It may take a few years. But it has to start somewhere.

I’m here to spread positivity about the idea. I really hope there’s a group of people out there who can get together and pool their expertise into the next level of what OTW started.[11]

Fandom Platform of the Future Discussion

On December 5, a user named pearwaldorf tweeted, initially jokingly, about reaching out to Pinboard to develop a new space:

If @Pinboard were not actively trying to save the American republic I would beg him to help us figure out how to launch a fandom friendly platform that is inclusive of not just text, but visual and multimedia too[12]

Pinboard developer Maciej Cegłowski, who became a respected figure in fandom after demonstrating a willingness to listen to and cater to fans who used his website for bookmarking after the fall of Delicious in 2011, then contacted pearwaldorf via direct message indicating a willingness to help.[13] pearwaldorf created an editable Google Doc entitled "Fandom Platform of the Future✨: Requirements Gathering and Features Discussion." for the purposes of brainstorming what the ideal fan-run social network might look like. The document grew to 133 pages in length before it was put into read-only mode.

Later that same day, Greywash's post "State of the Migration: On fannish archival catastrophes, and what happens next" spun off into a Dreamwidth community, post_tumblr_fandom, created to discuss building a fannish social network. A Fandom Platform of the Future Dreamwidth was also created to serve as a central source of information and discussion around the various initiatives related to the "Fandom Platform of the Future/Network Of Our Own".

Distributed/Federated Fandom

Intertwined with the Fandom Platform of the Future discussion and movement was a growing movement towards a distributed, or federated, fandom social network. Another "post-Tumblr" blog, Fandom After Tumblr, run by Sareniel, carried prominent header links to explanations of federated social networks[14] and Hubzilla, a favoured decentralised open-source social media platform.[15] The post_tumblr_fandom Dreamwidth also began serialising a newsletter, 'Fandom gets closer to the metal' (cross-posted to Fandom After Tumblr), which contained regular updates about Hubzilla and federated fandom.

pearwaldorf and demitas created a Federated Fandom Wiki to provide information to fans on what federation is and how it could be useful to fandom, how to find federated platforms and fandom-friendly instances, and how to contribute to the federated fandom movement. It described the advantages of distributed social media for fandom as follows:

In a fannish context, what Federation means is that individuals within fandom host servers that run one of the Federated Platforms, which allows us to interact without relying on a centralized platform like Tumblr, Twitter, or Facebook.

This means that when someone like Tumblr changes their TOS, it won't affect us. If the instance you're on changes their policies, you can move to another instance and still follow the same people (unlike if you went to Twitter and tried to follow someone on Tumblr).

Because these platforms are open source, we can also change things that we don't like about them directly, instead of waiting for a corporation to listen to us when it might not benefit their bottom line.[16]

Fans also gathered, discussed ideas and co-ordinated their efforts on the distributed_fandom Discord.

Additional Reading/Meta

References

  1. archive link
  2. Yahoo to Buy Tumblr for $1.1 Billion dated May 19, 2013; [Yahoo to Buy Tumblr for $1.1 Billion reference link].
  3. Tumblr sponsors post about advertising on Tumblr dated June 3, 2013;reference link.
  4. doctorscienceknowsfandom, archive.is, 5 November 2015
  5. Note by amaluelmwood: What’s pillowfort? I only started hearing about it when this purge started, I feel like I missed something - though I do feel like we need something like what AO3 did cor fanfic, but for art and community
  6. Reblog by samshinechester: I’m considering going back to DW or LJ, but as I was saying yesterday, an Ao3 based social platform would kick ass. I’m really tired of packing & moving every X years, ffs.
  7. Network Of Our Own? on Fail Fandom Anon, posted November 25, 2018 (Accessed November 26, 2018).
  8. Re: Network Of Our Own? on Fail Fandom Anon, posted November 25, 2018 (Accessed November 26, 2018).
  9. Re: Network Of Our Own? on Fail Fandom Anon, posted November 25, 2018 (Accessed November 26, 2018).
  10. Seeing as tumblr seems to be pushing fandom off the platform... by transformativeworks via Tumblr, posted December 4, 2018 (Accessed December 9, 2018).
  11. Post by rivertalesien via Tumblr, posted December 4, 2018 (Accessed December 9, 2018).
  12. Tweet by @pearwaldorf, posted December 5, 2018.
  13. Tweet by @pearwaldorf, December 5, 2018.
  14. Federation: social media potlucks! by fandom-after via Tumblr. Published December 19, 2018 (Accessed December 27, 2018).
  15. Update on Hubzilla! by fandom-after via Tumblr. Published December 19, 2018 (Accessed December 27, 2018).
  16. What Is Federation, Federated Fandom Wiki. Accessed December 28, 2018.