FanLib: One Year Later

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Title: FanLib: One Year Later
Creator: Laura Hale
Date(s): March 26, 2008
Medium: online
Fandom:
Topic: FanLib
External Links: originally here, though this post has been removed; Archive
cross-posted at Fan History Wiki; WebCite
Click here for related articles on Fanlore.

FanLib: One Year Later is a post by Laura Hale made to Fanthropology in 2008. The post was later removed by someone unknown.

It is a detailed timeline of FanLib's formation and development.

This rah-rah essay was written March 26, 2008. In August 2008 and just over a year after it had been launched, FanLib was bought by Disney and almost immediately shut down by its new overlord. [1]

Note: Archive of Our Own was shortly on the horizon (officially proposed in May 2008) but not a reality at the time of this post.

Responses

FanLib is not a fanfiction archive? Huh?, posted by stewardess a few weeks later, contains some discussion about this post.

Some Topics Covered

The Opening Paragraph

There are versions of this post: The Long One and the Short One. Why two versions? I started writing the first one, intending it to be an all comprehensive guide to what FanLib's been up to over the past year. I've been watching them and I've been watching what fandom has been saying about FanLib. It's been a fascinating to watch and fascinating to participate in. I really love the topic. The long version says everything that I need to and want to say about FanLib. As I started writing it I realized that important points were being buried in my love of the minutiae. A short version, a greatest hits of FanLib in the past year, was needed. So there are two versions.

Some Excerpts

It's been roughly a year since FanLib first launched their archive. When the events of May 2007 happened, there was a lot of concern about the future of fandom, with people seeing FanLib as a threat where the necessary response was for fans to empower themselves. People made predictions that FanLib would be done by the end of 2007. Others feared that FanLib's existence and their relationship with intellectual property holders would put fan run archives at increased legal risk. So what's happened in the past year and what have the effects on fandom been? This piece of history meta will examine that and see how predictions accurate made at the height of May 2007 situation were.
In the period between March 2007 and the present, archives did not report any fall out as a result of FanLib. FanLib did not hurt traffic to their archives. FanLib did not cause them to face any sort of legal threats. Archivists did not perceive any change in the environment as a result of FanLib's entering the market. Some, like MediaMiner.Org and FanWorks.Org were watching FanLib to gather ideas for their own archives. Between March 2007 and the present, FanLib has seen a steady increase in the number of unique visitors and total page views. In the end, trends indicate that Fanlib shall continue to grow as part of the fannish community. They've created a sustainable project, which will be around for many years to come.

Fan Comments

At the same time, part of the core anti-FanLib movement was busy being involved with the creation of their answer to FanLib, the Organization for Transformative Works.

(in the next paragraph) The fandom project created in response was dead.

If the "fandom project" referenced in the second quote is talking about OTW (referenced in the first quote), I'd take issue with that second quote. OTW is not dead, it's just taken the time to do it right. Currently beta testing has begun on various coding projects which leads to the creation of the archiving software for An Archive of Our Own sometime this year. To some, progress may have seemed slow or non-existent but OTW has done an enormous amount of work in setting up the real-world and legal structure necessary to create a lasting organization.

If "fandom project" is something other than OTW, my apologies for my misunderstanding. [2]
Also, I'd like to think I was at the core of the Anti-FanLib movement, but I am just as anti-OTW than I am anti-Fanlib. Might wanna stick a 'most' in there. [3]

I'd take issue with that second quote.

What I was told was that the project basically had no work and the original people who supported it left from June to about September. When it re-emerged in September, it was with a new group of people. If you know of something that I don't regarding the timeline of what was happening between June and September, that would be fine.

That aside, I have changed the wording to be more accurate and allow for that there was activity that people who belonged to the community were not privy to. [4]

oic! I wasn't part of the core group (against fanlib or in building OTW although I am a low-level volunteer in OTW now) and wasn't aware of those details - from a bystander viewpoint, it never really appeared dead to me, just that people were working in the background, I did see some change in leaders in posting but I guess I saw that as a more normal type of thing, often something will get started by those with a burst of enthusiasm or indignation (or both) and it will get picked up by others along the way who may end up being the ones to carry out a project. And thanks for changing the wording!

And thanks for writing a very interesting summary of Fanlib, I'd lost track of Fanlib in the midst of the LJ issues and ended up gafiating from most of it until recently. Stumbling across your post was an enlightening blast from the past. It's also an timely counterpoint to the recent kerfluffle over comments about complainers by the new Russian LJ overlords. [5]

from a bystander viewpoint, it never really appeared dead to me

It appeared dead for a while. There were no posts on the community from August 4 or so to September 21, 2007. The mentions on blogs, the mentions on mailing lists, the mentions on LiveJournal just... *poof* They were not there.

And thanks for changing the wording!

No problem. It gets to the point more effectively anyway. I should probably have used it originally.

I'd lost track of Fanlib in the midst of the LJ issues

I follow things a bit too much. And the number of mentions was down... so revisiting it, especially after having reread some of the comments and in recalling conversations with acquaintances at the time, it felt important to do at this time.

It's also an timely counterpoint to the recent kerfluffle over comments about complainers by the new Russian LJ overlords.

Could be worse: Your overlords could be Nickelodeon. Your overlords could be saying no deathfic, no lemons (and enough with the death threats). They could be reinforcing that your fan fiction site and blogging service was always targeted at kids. The community on Quizilla is going through that right now and Quizilla is giving less of a response than LiveJournal. It is an odd mirror to the LiveJournal situation, with almost no one drawing comparisons. [6]

(my Russian overlords comment) I should have added a tongue in cheek note there, I actually prefer the forthrightness of the Russians to the 6A crap and whatisname said some things I thought were very accurate about LJ users (which were also accurate about users at lots of other services, imho) albeit not particularly kind (in either translation) but still accurate. And aside from his comments in the interview, I'm more favorably impressed by LJ's recent words than I ever was by anything 6A said about LJ or MoveableType (my first experiences with 6A were thru MT).

Quizilla

Wow, I had no idea about that! And it is interesting seeing kerfluffles on other services, I've been thru some recent ones on Yahoogroups and while they didn't involve fandom, I was aware of the similarities in how each side dealt with it in relation to LJ, gave me a definite "been there, done that" feeling ;) and I came into it with an understanding that it is possible to complain constructively and get some changes and/or concessions but that we also have to be willing to compromise, not just with the service involved but with what other users want as well. But then again, sometimes you lose the battles and the war which sounds like the case with Quizilla. :( [7]

I've been thru some recent ones on Yahoogroups and while they didn't involve fandom, I was aware of the similarities in how each side dealt with it in relation to LJ

What has Yahoo!Groups been up to? The last problem I saw was when they talked about unsubscribing people from lists who had been bouncing e-mails for over six months... or something like that.

it is possible to complain constructively and get some changes and/or concessions but that we also have to be willing to compromise

Yeah, that much is true. From a fan perspective, if you're rational, approach the people/company in question with the idea that with everyone working together, we can all help improve the business and the member experience, you get much further than you would with cat macros.

I've chatted with people at FanLib in writing this, and chatted with people at Wikia over Fan History. Spent some time talking to a lot of other archivists. Companies and fan archivists definitely generate more good will by answering questions quickly and responsively than you would by being secretive, are slow to respond, and ignore user responses.

But in both cases it takes two parties willing to do that and sometimes, there are vested interests in not doing that.

But then again, sometimes you lose the battles and the war which sounds like the case with Quizilla. :(

Take a look at some of the comments. The users weren't exactly ... nice to the management over there. The moderators seemed to do a decent job in removing some of the more offensive comments while still allowing members to communicate their issues with them. It just really ultimately wasn't going to matter. I can't see how, when Quizilla had clearly found their target market, they were going to budge on things like deathfic and suicide depicted in members stories and smut. Parts of their member base were also happy and supportive of Quizilla getting rid of lemons as they were Ew! Just hard to make changes. [8]

What I was told was that the project basically had no work and the original people who supported it left from June to about September.

I find it odd that you'd say that. For example, the first post in the OTW lj community was made by astolat, in May 2007. She's still involved with the OTW. So are two of the frequent posters to the community in June 2007, cesperanza and bethbethbeth. (There may be others; those are just the ones I know off the top of my head.)

Yes, some people cycled in & some left, but you know perfectly well that many of "the original people who supported it" did not, in fact, leave -- and that many of them are still involved with the project now.

I don't care if you hate the OTW, but I really don't know why you lie about it so often.[9]

I agree that many of the same people are still involved. There was a fairly long interval between when I volunteered and when I got offered a spot on a committee, but I don't see any great signs that people left during this time. More recently, some people have stepped down from committees because of real life concerns, but we're talking two or three people here. There were definitely people who responded to the original post who were interested in the general idea but who didn't like the particulars (e.g. the inclusion of RPF), and I assume some of them have drifted away, but none of them was actually involved in the first place.

I'm not saying everyone loves us, but to the best of my knowledge, the pro-, anti-, and highly ambivalent camps have changed very little from that first post until now.

And yes, before anyone starts quoting me out of context, I do not speak officially for the OTW.[10]
The wording was changed and should now accurate: The fandom project created in response to FanLib has not produced a product. If this statement is inaccurate, I apologize and I will again make revisions to reflect that. [11]

Your summary insufficiently differentiates between the two business branches of FanLib.

The main, and original, FanLib business branch, which has been around since at least 2004, conducts corporate sponsored writing contests, such as the one for Star Trek. These have nothing to do with traditional fanfiction; they are advertising campaigns FanLib was paid to run.

The second, more recent branch, is the FanLib fanfiction archive, which, according to FanLib's "one year birthday" announcement, added 29,000 members in the last 12 months. That is incredibly slow growth. InsaneJournal, which doesn't advertise, adds that many members every month.

Your inclusion of FanLib's original business branch in this report makes it difficult to determine the level of traditional fanfiction activity at FanLib. I'd be interested in seeing a revised version, which focuses only on the fanfiction archive. [12]

The main, and original, FanLib business branch, which has been around since at least 2004, conducts corporate sponsored writing contests, such as the one for Star Trek.

FanLib doesn't consider itself a fan fiction archive. And really, at this point, it has expanded beyond that to include video and fan art. The main site was created to help carry over an audience from event to event. Given that, talking about the events in connection with the publishing of fan fiction, fan art and vids felt appropriate.

That is incredibly slow growth.

I didn't compare FanLib to InsaneJournal, which isn't similar in that the two are not competing for the same market and do not provide the same service. I generally looked at FanLib in comparison to itself or to similar services.

I'd be interested in seeing a revised version, which focuses only on the fanfiction archive.

Having looked at and watched FanLib for the past year, you really cannot separate the two. (Or three or four, depending on how you define fan fiction, and if it includes art and vids.) One compliments the other and vice versa. If you're interested in writing one which only focuses only on the fiction aspect, I can provide you with the numbers I have, a few links not included in this, etc. [13]

Yes, I would be interested in the numbers.

My reason for separating the two business branches is: They are funded differently.

One is paid for directly by intellectual property holders, one isn't. If you have information that FanLib funds its fanfiction archive through the profits of its marketing campaigns, instead of through other means (such as advertisements on the FanLib website), that would change the situation. Then the entire business is directly funded by intellectual property holders (I'm ignoring the venture capital at the moment), presumably as a "stealth" marketing campaign -- though I'm sure they would think of it as "grassroots."

You may not see a difference between the two endeavors, but I do. An advertising campaign to drum up interest in The L Word, Star Trek, and other shows, through a writing contest, is not the equivalent of not-for-profit fanfiction, where the writers are not offered any compensation, not even T-shirts. Admittedly, the fan writers who participate in the advertising campaigns aren't really being compensated, either; FanLib makes the money. So perhaps making a distinction is unnecessary; with either branch, the fan writers make nothing and FanLib makes everything.

It would not surprise me that FanLib may have chosen to blur the distinction between the two branches of business. The people who have joined the fanfiction archive are a key target of the IP's marketing campaigns, after all. It would also allow FanLib to hid what I suspect is a extremely unprofitable venture, the fanfiction archive.

Do you know if FanLib makes a distinction between the two branches? They certainly did in May, 2007, when their advertising brochures for the marketing campaigns were discussed on the Internet. Perhaps you don't recall the "color within the lines" snafu.[14]


I went back through my notes and e-mailed FanLib to get clarification regarding this as they were rather helpful in composing the original post. According to the person at FanLib that I e-mailed, there is no way to differentiate their revenue streams.

I recall some of the color within the lines snafu. I didn't cover it much in this piece because I was more interested in what happened on FanLib after the major kerfluffles. :/[15]

References

  1. "When Disney bought FanLib, what did it get, and what did it do with it? The short answer: Disney got the servers and the software — everything but content — and launched Take180 the same month FanLib closed (August, 2008)." -- What Disney Bought From FanLib; Archive, post by stewardess at life_wo_fanlib, January 7, 2009
  2. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 12:25 am (UTC) alicettlg
  3. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 12:29 am (UTC) anarchicq
  4. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 12:43 am (UTC) partly_bouncy
  5. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 02:23 am (UTC) alicettlg
  6. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 03:31 am (UTC) partly_bouncy
  7. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 12:11 pm (UTC) alicettlg
  8. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 12:58 pm (UTC) partly_bouncy
  9. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 09:18 pm (UTC) jacquez
  10. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 09:51 pm (UTC) franzeska
  11. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Mar. 27th, 2008 09:59 pm (UTC) partly_bouncy
  12. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Apr. 10th, 2008 04:05 am (UTC) monster_of_hope
  13. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Apr. 10th, 2008 01:12 pm (UTC) partly_bouncy
  14. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Apr. 10th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC) monster_of_hope
  15. FanLib: One Year Later Thu, Apr. 10th, 2008 06:04 pm (UTC) partly_bouncy