Case Study: Fan History’s Proposal For Being Acquired by the Wikimedia Foundation

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Title: Case Study: Fan History’s Proposal For Being Acquired by the Wikimedia Foundation
Commentator: Laura Hale
Date(s): December 8, 2009
Medium: online pdf
External Links: "Case Study: Fan History's Proposal For Being Acquired by the Wikimedia Foundation" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-08-21.
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

Case Study: Fan History’s Proposal For Being Acquired by the Wikimedia Foundation is a 15-page document by Laura Hale, the creator and owner of Fan History Wiki.

It was written in response to her November 2009 failed attempt have her wiki become a member of "Wikimedia Foundation."

The document contains a history of the wiki thus far, goals of the wiki, and ends with a major scold detailing "Wikimedia Foundations" failings: "There was one major lesson learned in making this proposal: The Wikimedia Foundation is not equipped at this point to acquire new projects."

It includes much minutia regarding communication with various Wikimedia Foundation staff and quotes many posts on "Foundation-L" and personal emails. It is unknown/unlikely that the emails were used with permission.


  • CONTENTS (2)
  • PROPOSAL (7)
    • SUMMARY (7)
    • PROPOSAL (7)
    • KEY QUESTIONS (11)
    • REFERENCES (11)

Some Excerpts

About Fan History Wiki

Fan History Wiki is a project dedicated to documenting the history of fan communities that was created in May 2006. The wiki covers over 35,000 distinct communities based on source content.

The focus of the wiki has been to approach the task of documenting the history of fan communities by examining micro actions and micro communities. After these micro histories are compiled, the wiki seeks to assimilate them into a cohesive picture and create a coherent narrative of the history of fandom on a macro level. This involves a tremendous amount of original research and an allowance for multiple points of view. To get users incentivized to participate, they are made stakeholders by allowing them to document their own histories in a sense that can be, at times, promotional.

Fan History Wiki’s overarching objectives have been:

Provide members of fandom a resource to find links to communities in fandom, and explain parts of the culture in those communities to help them adapt to them.
Provide members of fandom a tool to promote their work, their projects, charity efforts by fans.
Provide members of fandom a platform to share stories about what happened in fandom so that incidents won't be forgotten.
Provide a comprehensive directory for fandom that anyone can edit. This is necessary because of increased fragmentation in a web 2.0 world, and as members of fandom transition away from various services because of downtime, problems with policy, etc. It is also necessary because a lot of time in fandom trying to track down authors and artists who disappeared and in trying to locate fanworks that have disappeared.
Provide academics operating in fandom starting points for additional research and to provide academics with comprehensive data sets.
Provide companies that deal with fandom a source to locate fandom communities, understand how fandom functions, identify current issues in certain fandoms, give examples of how certain issues were dealt with, etc. By knowing that information, they can better interact with and cater to fandom's specific needs. Institutionally, Fan History Wiki’s administrative team sees its goals as lending themselves more towards providing a greater good, where money issues can be secondary towards working towards our objectives.

Why Wikimedia Foundation

Fan History Wiki has been trying to seek four things that we have been unable to do internally. They are to insure our financial stability, improve our back end, increase our overall visibility and increase our contributor base of people who can help us document the history of fan communities. We are not necessarily opposed to working with a for profit company if we felt they would back seat some of the more annoying monetization aspects to allow us to continue what we feel is our service for the greater good. To that end, we have discussed possibly being acquired by at least three wiki companies in the past eighteen months. It did not work out and our preference was to find a non-profit partner who could help us in our mission. To this end, we considered the Wikimedia Foundation as one option.

Reasons why Fan History Wiki would be a good fit for WMF:

WMF is trying to be more female friendly in terms of developing its contributor base. Fan History's primary contributor base and audience is female.

A largely female audience is a historical truth for popular culture fandom based around movies, and television. The audience around manga and anime is becoming increasingly female. In most areas, the academics entering the field are female. Major popular culture obsession items at the moment where there is a large female base include Twilight, Harry Potter, Star Trek.
Fan History’s inclusion amongst foundation projects can be a selling point for outreach in that area. If needing to point to a similar female dominated group doing similar work, the Organization for Transformative Works can be cited.

Our scope allows for more esoteric information that could not be included in Wikipedia, Wikiversity or Wikinews that would still help work towards a greater good.

The WMF Foundation supports quality resources that anyone can edit. Fan History is primarily a cultural historical anthropology project dedicated to documenting the history of fandom.
People have tried to do such research on Wikipedia in the past but it frequently gets deleted because of the lack of research, it is original research or it isn’t notable. In terms of popular culture studies, Fan History provides a place to do that.

Fan History being part of the Foundation would allow closer relationships with the science fiction community, the academic community and others with a vested interest in the topic.

We’re already being used as an academic source in some places because the research we do on the wiki is not being done by anyone else. With more attention and increased awareness, this can be increased. That attention and use should reflect back on other WMF projects to justify those sources as credible.
Fan History can be used as leverage to develop relationships with programs like the Popular Culture studies work done at USC and MIT.
This would be a big step towards getting professional historians and cultural anthropologists to using Wikipedia related projects more. Some would like such a platform to do their own work and are hesitant to do it on more commercial sites like Wikia.

Fan History’s preservation work would foster good will, improve credibility of WMF projects, generate additional press and help WMF in creating good relationships with other organizations.

We are doing important preservation work related to sites that are closing like Geocities and have identified other sites at risk like Tripod and Angelfire where we need to start working. Most of the work being done preservation wise focuses on just saving the raw content, not screencapping and putting this work into its historical context. There is no competition in that context.

Our preservation work would help improve credibility, as we become more of a primary source resource. It is easier to cite that work in ways that people cannot cite Wikipedia.

The Internet Archive and other projects received a lot positive press because of their preservation efforts.
Preservation efforts open up opportunities to work with university programs, and other non-profits that have a vested interest in saving that information.

Fan History’s content lends itself to multi-language support and greater unity across languages.

We currently do not have separate multi-languages but we have enough content about other languages that can be stubbed on their own language subdomains that we can start at least 20.
Large community of Russians, Germans, Poles and Spanish speakers who are interested in the topic who currently lack a quality resource.
Language integration across the project would help WMF create a more unified community concept beyond individual language projects.

Compromises Fan History is happy to make:

  • Change our copyright from to the same policy used by WMF.
  • As Wikia was willing to acquire us and indicated changing ours was not a problem, we are not that concerned.
  • Remove images with problematic copyright issues.


  • Fan History's motivation for proposing this is further our own mission.

Further reading

"Laura Hale, founder of the Fan History wiki, has proposed that the project join the Wikimedia Foundation projects. Discussion ensued on the Foundation-l mailing list, including whether there should be an entertainment-focused Wikimedia project, and whether Fan History's copyright and mission is appropriate for Wikimedia." [1]


  1. ^ Wikipedia Signpost, November 23, 2009