State of the Migration: On fannish archival catastrophes, and what happens next

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Title: State of the Migration: On fannish archival catastrophes, and what happens next
Creator: Greywash
Date(s): December 4, 2018
Medium: journal post
External Links: State of the Migration: On fannish archival catastrophes, and what happens next; archive link page 1; archive link page 2
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State of the Migration: On fannish archival catastrophes, and what happens next is a 2018 essay by Greywash.

As of mid-December 2018, it had 117 replies.

Some Topics Discussed

Excerpts from the Essay

First: let me start off by saying that it is very probable that Tumblr will back out of this particular bad idea. They often do. The pattern of fannish archival catastrophes at the hand of corporations almost always has five stages: 1) a sale, or rumored sale, of the platform; 2) falling or nonexistent profits; 3) pressure from (pick at least one) governments, morality warriors, and/or advertisers/other corporate interests; 4) the actual fannish archival catastrophe, caused by a change in the TOS or in the enforcement of the TOS, which itself frequently comes in multiple stages; and 5) a second sale of the platform.

Strikethrough, for example, wasn't a single terrible idea executed badly, it was at least two terrible ideas executed badly: first Strikethrough, which happened in May 2007; and then, following masses of outrage (particularly outrage from fans), some limited concessions from LJ management; followed by a second round of permanent suspensions conducted a little bit differently, a.k.a. Boldthrough, in August 2007. These tend to get lumped together in fannish memory, but I want people to remember that they were not a single event.

And those two events, themselves, are also not the whole story: Strikethrough itself followed on well over a year of rumors that LJ was changing its TOS/enforcement of its TOS, ever since LJ had been sold to SixApart in 2005, who were trying to monetize the site. [...]

So, in short, here is what happened to LJ: 1) LJ was sold to SixApart; 2) SixApart tried to monetize it; 3) SixApart got pressure from a) the Russian government, b) the Christian anti-porn police, and c) advertisers to bring its "adult content problem" under control; 4) LJ deleted a whole bunch of blogs, backed up and said "mea culpa", and then... deleted a whole bunch of blogs; and 5) SixApart sold LJ to the Russians.


Following this pattern, here is what I suspect is going to happen to Tumblr: 1) Tumblr was sold to Yahoo (now owned by Verizon); 2) Yahoo/Verizon tried to monetize it; 3) Yahoo/Verizon got pressure from a) various governments, including Indonesia and China, b) the anti-porn/anti-sex-work/anti-shipping moral purity police, and c) advertisers/the Apple Store to bring its "adult content problem" under control; 4) starting earlier this year, Tumblr deleted a whole bunch of blogs, backed up and said "mea culpa", and then... changed its TOS and started deleting content [← we're here right now]; and 5) Verizon will sell Tumblr to ? ? ?

My point, here, is just that we have been here before. Exactly here. We have done this before, exactly this. Tumblr may take a while to bleed out, and they may try to triage it, but the writing is, in fact, on the wall: Tumblr will throw us off whatever cliffs they need to to try and eke out a profit for the morons in Verizon's boardroom; and in the end, our data's going to get deleted, or it's going to get sold, because that is just how these things go. So we need to figure out where we go next.

What I would like to see in the next fannish social platform:

Fan ownership and fan control: [...]

An open source platform:[...]

Likes: [...]

Reblogs: [...]

Mentions: [...]

Likes that interact intelligently with reblogs and mentions: [...]

Tagging that works as what [personal profile] pangodillo called "whisperspace", or an equivalent meta-space for weakly-emphasized/ephemeral commentary: [...]

Privacy controls: [...]

A robust abuse and harassment policy, and transparent enforcement thereof: [...]

Mobile access: [...]

Non-competition with the OTW/AO3: [...]

So let's think, for a second, about what it would actually mean to implement all of that ^^^ as an actual, fan-owned, fan-run site.

In some ways, the hardest part is figuring out where, and how, this would fit into the broader fan-owned fan-run fannish ecosystem. First off: if we're going to do this—actually build the thing—we would unquestionably need lawyers, and all the fannish lawyers work for the OTW, basically, and we want them to work for the OTW. The OTW is the organization protecting our assets (see what I did there) in so many ways and venues that I really do not want to risk undermining the OTW in any way. But—yeah. We'd need to talk to some lawyers, either under the auspices of the OTW, or in another venue. And that—generates a lot of difficulty. Maybe there's room to partner with the OTW in some way, or with Dreamwidth; I don't know. But I don't want us to just charge in and start coding, because that's going to cause us a lot of problems long-term.

A big issue we need to deal with from Day 1 is our policy on monetization. Right now, people post links to their Ko-Fi and Patreons on Tumblr, so they can deal with AO3 not allowing that; but if we wind up trying to build a replacement to Tumblr.... TRICKY. I think to qualify as Fair Use, honestly, we probably can't let people link their Ko-Fis et cetera—but then I think we're also going to have a hard time positioning ourselves as a new safe home for (especially) fan artists, who typically do exist in a liminal space where a lot of them support themselves in part on their fannish work, and where the boundaries between pro and fan artists are super permeable ...

And it's not just "well this NSFW is okay, but this other NSFW material is bad" that causes us problems. For one thing: the legal status of fanfic, especially fanfic produced totally noncommercially, is I think getting more stable (in part because of legal work of the OTW—thank you, OTW!); but fannish visual media remains a lot dicier. If our future Magical Fannish Social Network allows us to share fanvids—which I would argue are 100% legit under Fair Use—what about the clip collections that vidders sometimes share to help each other to vid a particular show? What about pure canon gifs, like thatEliot/Quentin clip above, which similarly recycle copyrighted content under a fair use exemption?

And I also want to remind everyone that where a lot of social networks that once were fandom-friendly but now aren't have run into trouble is under the auspices of "editorial policy", i.e., if the site does things that can be considered editing or making editorial judgements, the site suddenly becomes legally liable for a lot of things that would've been, prior to that, the legal responsibility of the original poster. Yet another area where the AO3 did it right—so let's not fuck it up, guys.

Anyway. This post is massive, sorry, but I want to lay it all out while we're all trying to sort out what happens next. I'm not saying "let's not get into trying to build our own thing, let's just all make artists and vidders pay for their own hosting, screw them!" I'm—definitely not saying that. All fandom is precious to me, including the parts that currently can't fit on DW or the AO3. I'm saying—this problem didn't start with Tumblr; it's not going to end with Tumblr; we're not going to find an out of the box solution that works; so we're going to have to do it ourselves, or we're going to have to keep platform-hopping as platforms get chewed up by assorted corporate and governmental behemoths; and every time we hop platforms, we lose content. We're going to lose content now, because the tools don't exist to pull everything off Tumblr that's actually important. And I'm also saying: if we do end up saying that we're going to build it ourselves, let's put some thought into it, and do it right. So let's start talking about what that would entail.

Some Fan Comments at the Post

[recently folded]:

I share your business model/durability concerns. I think that the tumblrocalypse was really unfortunately timed for [Pillowfort] to be seen as a rescue site while they're still in beta. It's pure overload that's taken them wobbly the second time. They really only meant to open beta intake waves as they collected enough payments to buy adequate server capacity, and this whole deluge has put them in a really awkward position. As for being a corporation, yes, but keep in mind that it was a corporation founded by fans on tumblr who wanted to make a better solution before tumblr collapsed. Let's all file that one under the Dept. of Irony.

That said, I think that a certain number of posters on tumblr harping on negatives may be trying to keep people on tumblr because of pfios greater privacy options: it's by design a more difficult space for the Purity Brigade and their ilk.

In your discussion of things you want to see in a new fannish home (which I mostly agree with), I do think that pfio's post ownership holds some good potential for the forking of post reblogs and mentions. On pfio, a post is only ever one post: no matter where it goes, it's the same post and carries the same comments with it. That makes it easier to keep track of things, and that should get better when the site implements @ mentions (it's on the work plan).

There's also going to be an ability to bookmark posts, so that you can come back to check a hot topic without fumbling around to find it again. I think that these things all will contribute to an easier user experience and the sort of thing we're wanting in this regard. Ditto tagging: it's on the list too for expanded implementation (it's very rudimentary right now). Blocking is there already and is so robust that if you block a term and mention that you're blocking that tag in a post, you'll never see your own post again. And yeah, they're looking at tweaking that, but at least blocking is as solid as people's willingness to tag appropriately.

I like "whisperspace" but to have it not be captured in tags means, basically, another input field that would...what? Given the fact that a post only accrues comments, not changes with each reblog, it's hard to quite grasp how that could work. I'm guessing that would be a long way down the list, but it would be a good thing to post about in the Beta Users Comm to see what ideas people have on how to implement this.

Okay, that's all I've got at the moment on pfio. If I seem like a publicist for them, no: I'm just an early beta user and I think it's a livelier place than this one for people who've been used to tumblr. And I'm kinda miffed at the blackwashing going on, so I'm trying to take the time to set some of these things a bit straighter, if you'll pardon the expression.

"Fandom is intrinsically multimedia"—yes! This is where I see the worst prognosis of fandoms splitting up because of the different hosting needs. Bringing all types of content together was tumblr's essential strength.

Agreed on the ap: all they do is make pocket universes of the internet a la Facebook. Browsers work and tuning a site to display in device browsers is enough. Fuck 'em.

"But I don't want us to just charge in and start coding, because that's going to cause us a lot of problems long-term." Yeah, that's pretty much what I think the pfio people did and it's biting them in the ass now with all of the "big corporation" they're being painted with. Mind you, I don't know exactly how they're structured—I'm just thinking back to when they first appeared.

Re the whole P2P thing: I've already come up with a number of those same concerns seeing postings referring to them on tumblr without even spending much time looking into what they actually would mean. As someone who lives on linux, I also have the concern that clients often aren't available for that family of OSs. And as someone who burned one fandom identity in the wake of toxic targeting, I'm big on firewalling my life so that the privacy issues have a lot of resonance for me.

I do agree with your overall premise that fans need to take control of their social space. SPO3 is probably the only way to have a durable future. Your concerns are good ones and I absolutely feel that we need to work in a space that must coordinate with AO3, both because they have, as you say, done it right in ways we can learn from and because we don't want to step all over them.

I'm not a programmer, nor a lawyer. Still, I want to stay in this conversation and throw support where I can. Are you comfortable continuing to host this thought pool and what might come after, or should we set up a comm here to centrally curate it?


Wow, this is incredibly well organized and thought out! I didn't realize that a .io domain can't host porn, that's inevitably going to cause problems.

I mean. As is literally everything else you brought up. I can't help but wonder if the OTW itself could be brought in on such a development project, to actually own it alongside AO3; or if the inevitability of non-fannish users on a social network puts it too far out of their purview.

I feel like I saw on tumblr recently a thread about the beginnings of the OTW, people talking about "well gosh that sure would be nice but it can't really happen," and here it is now, look how far we've come, look what we built by believing that we could and then working to make it happen. But tumblr is tumblr so bog knows if I'll ever see that post again.

(I do (to no one's surprise) love the idea of a dedicated whisperspace, which is not something I'd considered before but I sure as fuck would use it.)


I would, too. I think, like—I keep thinking about what "a fan" is, and "a fan" can be a fannish creator, or a fannish consumer, but it can also be a *lurker*, and I think all fans have a like—secondary track playing, kind of? Like even if they make "here are my thinky thoughts" post sometimes you just want to be like "hawt, so hawt, also extremely heterosexual good job guys" or whatever. THAT'S BEING A FAN, TOO.


I asked AO3 straight out and they said, basically, that they're not in any way considering creating a social platform. Which, fair enough. Though I imagine that individual members might be willing to offer advice/mentorship.

Another thing I keep reminding myself of is that AO3 has been around for how many years now? And it's still in beta? This sort of project takes time. If tumblr collapses immediately (which I'm skeptical about anyway), people will scatter regardless. Let's say a SPO3 does actually get off the ground. It's going to be quite some time from now and my main concern would be how fans find their way to it eventually.


(Disclaimer: not speaking as a representative of AO3, just for my own perspective as someone within the org)

The biggest thing holding back our ability to host art on AO3 is the Abuse and Legal side of things, not the technical side. We would have to have a bigger Abuse team to deal with the added complexity of determining which images fall afoul of the TOS, which images are potentially illegal, how to deal with commissions/patreons/etc. (like for instance: would we allow a work with a watermark that says it's a commission or a preview of something on Patreon? we don't know yet how we'd handle that situation.) Plus there's the effort of keeping the existing site running and functional, and would art be integrated right in there (we'd probably need to redesign a lot of features) or as a separate but related site (which someone would have to design from scratch) or what? It's not to say we will never do it, but it's complex and a lot of us are already strained thin by the efforts we already put in. More volunteers, who are invested in helping this happen, would be a great start. (And more donors are always useful.)


The Abuse/Legal side of it definitely seems like a massive headache, but I also feel like—just speaking as a fan, an individual fan but also a fan who's been around for a while, I personally want to brainstorm and see if we can make it happen, because I feel such kind of... ill-formed grief about having to do this all over again, losing years and years of art and conversations and communal work, you know? So I want us to have the conversation, and I want—to be really clear about what is and is not possible, which I, at least, don't 100% feel like I am right now. And I don't feel like we're in the same place, legally speaking, that we were in 2007/2008/2009, re: fanworks—which the OTW deserves a ton of credit for—and I think that started with fic- and meta-producing fans saying "No, you know what? We're not doing anything wrong," and fighting for that; and I'd like to see more and more fannish creators be brought under that umbrella.

Maybe the solution is, ultimately, incremental? Like—maybe the fannish solution is the inverse of the corporate problem: corporations come in saying, sure, give us everything, put everything here on this server and we'll keep it for you! What AO3 did was say: here is this one particular kind of material that we can store and archive and defend. And now, after 10 years, maybe we can sort of... build something to nudge that boundary outward a little, and bring a few more fans/types of material in... and a few years, we'll bring more, and more, and more, as we're able to nudge our technical capabilities and the legal understanding of fanworks out. Like, I don't know what that would look like, exactly, but I feel like that's usually how groups build legal protections for themselves, and I think it's how things have worked in the art world/re: "obscene art" to a certain extent, too.


I'm with you on the incremental sounding the most realistic. And I can envision, like, a suite of sites dedicated to different things (art, vids, conversation, private journaling?). That wouldn't have the convenience of a one-site-for-everything, but I just don't know that one site is even possible. Maybe construct several different ones and then eventually link them up?


I think you're really onto something with the idea of being incremental, and about being extremely clear about scope -- that it's practical, that it's how Overton windows shift, and that it's the opposite of how corporations operate, which is why it can expect to outlive the corporate social media lifecycle.

I also suspect that focusing on a small, well-defined sliver will clarify the approach design-wise. If we think fanvids are the most crucial area where the corporate systems cannot support fandom's needs, I think P2P starts to sound a lot more appealing. (I kind of almost know enough about it to be intrigued? I was reading up about it because it was hip with some solarpunk/intentional community/anticapitalist circles that I run in, in my secret double life.) P2P really does seem like it slices the gordian knot of video hosting, so we could build from that premise to address the immediate security and legal problems that come from that framework, if we were really intense about designing the sustainable Fanvids Of Our Own.

But I think what I, personally, will miss from tumblr is the "hanging out". AO3 already completely meets my needs as a reader and writer of fanfic. What tumblr offered was a low-key way for the people I am interested to get to know me in return, NOT through my fanfic (lol what fanfic?) but through reblogs of fussy grandma style, excerpts from things I'm reading, kittens and puppies, etc. pangodillo made a great point about DW making you "a creator rather than a curator" -- I don't know that curation is specifically necessary, but I valued having a place where I could interact without the pressures of Creation. But maybe that's what comments are for?? So, if we wanted to design the Social Network Of Our Own, that would go in a totally different direction, I don't think that belongs on P2P at all. What kinds of social network designing opportunities open up if, for example, we do say 'hosting multimedia isn't our job right now' and offer no file hosting, just hotlinking? (Folks could set up with something like, maybe, if they don't want to rely on a corporate server.) Does that, for example, change the legal landscape at all?

This is where I have no idea and am talking out of my ass just because sometimes saying the wrong idea makes it easier to spot the right one! But my heart I feel a strong pull toward the idea that we could have a second phase of fandom tool building. I was too young for the first one, but I've grown up on AO3 and I love it. I can code in Python extremely poorly and am a decent project manager; facilitating interdisciplinary research projects is basically my current career goal. I could.... serve on a board? If I had many friends with me, but -- fandom is friends!


I guess what I'm really proposing is—what if it was possible to go into your fannish apothecary chests of holding, which all connected to, like, the broader, more universal fannish Unseen University library, and look at what (public) things were kept there, and what (public) information was available about them, and try to archive the content everywhere possible? Like—okay, so I am using this one gif, and maybe HBBO is also using it, and Oulfis is using it, and we all call it different things in our own respective apothecary chests and use it in different posts but somewhere, secretly, under the hood, it's the same gif, and it's hosted on Imgur, but nowhere else—but all it'd take would be one person to go in and say: you know what? Let's put this on Google Photos too. And then that gif wouldn't be in danger, if Imgur went down—and the content, the actual high-weight, high-bandwidth, hard-to-store image content, would be distributed; and if one network went down, the magical fannish social networking site would be smart enough to know: you know what? Sure, maybe Gins originally linked to this image on Imgur, but I know it exists on Google Photos too. So now someone's going to request her post, which references her fannish apothecary chest of holding, and I'm going to look in the box she labeled 'flames.gif', and in it I find this reference to an image I know is on Imgur, Google Photos, and Tumblr, and I'm going to try to serve it from one of those locations and make sure that what I get back matches the checksum. And if it doesn't match the checksum, I'm going try the next option, and the next, and the next; until if none of them work, I can serve, idk, whatever my code is for a broken image. But none of those images actually live on our servers. They live—somewhere else. All our servers do is keep track of where those places are.

You know what this sounds like? This sounds like a wiki. I mean—it's not a wiki as it exists now, but it's an extension of a wiki. It's a new technological system, but it's a new technological system that has parts that could be built, probably, on top of a wiki. And a wiki is a thing that already exists.

And—no, I mean, this wouldn't solve the whole problem. It'd still mean that fannish artists and vidders had to find other places to actually host their content—but I do think it'd solve part of it. The internet is super redundant? All these pictures that, actually, exist all over the place, on multiple networks. And corporations, corporations have a vested interest in keeping it redundant, because keeping your eyeballs on their site is how they make money—Tumblr doesn't want you to embed a tweet on your page; it wants you to screencap it, and put the screencap onto Tumblr's servers, where it can own that screencap—but fandom isn't a corporation. Fandom is a community, and the thing that we keep losing is how we are stringing and have strung things together. We keep losing our letters, because part of our language isn't text: what we lose is the record that I replied to this post, with this particular reaction gif; and that you made a comment that referenced a meme; and then another fan started talking about how that related to intersections between queerness and media representations of bodies; and then another fan made a vid that parodied that vernacular, using solely Jane Austen adaptations from the 1990s—


This idea sounds really familiar to me. Like it's pieces of things we already have. Like how on Tumblr one image might be reblogged thousands of times, but every post just points back to that one saved image with an incomprehensible file add in the ability to look at this (searchable!) media library where every item has metadata attached, and then make it so that library can look out at the rest of the internet and say, "Yes, good use of the elmofire.gif, I have that stored here on this shelf as elmo_on_fire.gif," and makes a note of it.

But it also really reminds me of the process I go through to find a fic that's been deleted from the internet. Let's say I have the author and the title. So I have to find a URL. Google is not great at this if the story's been gone a while and unless it was really popular there might not even be references to it in the crawlable web. So I do this with Pinboard--a resource fans use to bookmark the internet--where the public bookmarks are searchable. If I'm lucky I find a dead URL (if I'm really lucky I find a working one). Take the dead URL, put it in the Wayback Machine, fiddle with it for ten minutes looking for different versions of the URL at different save dates, etc, etc. Try another caching service that doesn't work as well, and so on. But sometimes the author has changed their pen name! Or their user name! Or the fic title! So I have to verify that it's the same author and the same fic. Can I see a list of their works to cross check? Do I have a snippet of the text? Compare. The process is fraught. There are so many places where I can lose the thread. I can find references to the fic, but not the fic itself. Or I can't even find that. It's so frustrating.

So it's this huge process of searching old archives, old posts, old data, verifying it, then saving it somewhere else (privately) to make a backup. Our fannish network is fragile because it's not redundant, but that's by design. The big issue with this Unseen Library is many artists aren't going to want their work floating around outside of their control. So while our conversations (and reaction gifs) might be preserved by The Librarian (Ook), our fanworks are still going to be really vulnerable unless we as fans change our idea of where and how our works are stored and who has the right to share them on a public network.

Even I, with my zeal for archiving fandom, want the ability to, at the very least, scrub my pen name from my stuff if I have to disappear. And what of the artist who nopes on out of the internet and doesn't want their work shared at all, publicly or privately? How do we distribute and crosslink all of fandom and still allow creators to have control over their content?


I’ve really been thinking that fandom doesn’t need one tumblr replacement site. It has two distinct needs: archival/good tag searching for art (and gifs/video), and social networking. These don’t necessarily have to be the same going forward just because we’re used to using tumblr for both currently.


Saving our fannish history is so important to me, and I feel so helpless about everything we're about to lose, so it's reassuring to hear I'm not alone in my, well, let's call it grief.

Also, as soon as lim gave the P2P fan network pitch, my first concern was security and my second was child porn because you get that shit on your computer and you're done. It doesn't even matter how it got there, and P2P networks are, I imagine, exactly the kind of service that crowd would utilize. As I've got no training in this area, I'm not willing to risk it.


Okay, but wait wait. Just for clarity:

First of all, security, EVERYONE CAN ALREADY SEE YOUR IP, as I type in this very box, it says "This account is set to log the IP addresses of everyone who comments" RIGHT BELOW ME and if you are not using a vpn, this is true of 99 percent of places. This is why in LJ days there was mocking of "anons" who were the same people as the original complainers etc: we could see the IPS! Now in fact in the sort of P2P I am talking about, it would be much less of a danger because we would be in a giant swarm, where here you could look JUST AT ME AND ONLY SEE ME, but in fact, yes, if you have concerns about IP address you should be using a VPN and we can tell people how they can do that, and you should be doing it already - that's already happening everywhere else mostly.

Second of all, vis a vis child porn--of COURSE child porn people are using all kinds of P2P sites - they already are. As are people trading pirated stuff and any other network where people want to share content. That doesn't have anything to do with us! We are talking about seeding each OTHER and so you would only ever seed things that YOU CHOSE - I was floating a concept where we said "make 'seed' the new like!" and so you wouldn't ever have to seed--I hate the words even, lets call it turtles--you wouldn't ever have turtles on your computer unless you not only decided to click on turtles but hit the button that said "seed this turtle." You'd be in no more danger of that then you are now?

Third - dat - the p2p stuff we're talking about (see here: - is not the same as bittorrent: it's very new and comes out of an open source, academic research sharing community. So a different vibe totally on the goals and development end.


this is all good questions! I wouldn't have groked it myself except I have been trying stuff out to see how it works and I was exploring much much more primitive versions of this with the OTW circa 2011. But now the ability to seed individual things/oages is super great--I mean: here, I posted this to Gray elsewhere but: like: if you can imagine using this browser to look at art, fic, vids, whatever, except that on top of leaving a kudos or a link you could hit "seed" and thus donate a little of your processing power to keeping it online. There would be no hosting: no amazon, dreamhost, whatever. And remember that most fans are readers: I would seed art even though I don't MAKE ANY ART. I would seed podfics I love even though I don't make podfics myself. Vid fans who are not vidders can support vids they love this way. And collectively we keep all the balloons up! FWIW though I do not like it a lot of p2p also have "tip" type technology embedded also which I do NOT care for one bit but artists may like.


One thing I'm concerned about is the money. One of the things I have always valued most about fandom is that it is a gift culture (to the point where I still have mixed feelings about commissioned/bought fanart). I don't know that there's a way to have a fan-run/fan-designed site that could be of a sufficient size to serve all of fandom's needs without the money situation getting really complicated. I think AO3 has done a really good job with handling this problem, but part of the reason they work is that they're so focused on providing one particular service. Would it be possible to scale the AO3 model of total volunteer creation and donation funding to the kind of site that would serve all of fandom's other needs?

I'm worried about this on both a practical level and an existential one. I don't want us to lose what makes us special.


I'm grateful that people like you are putting so much thought into this. In my (admittedly fuzzy) memory of the LJ exodus, that was a long-drawn out affair with many fits and starts toward various alternatives... this migration seems to be happening more quickly and with more conscious consideration. Maybe it's a good thing Tumblr keeps shooting themselves in the foot? If we're all frogs in the pot of water, this time it's heating up so quickly it's hard to ignore.


A lot of it gets kicked off only for advertising and family-friendly ness, not for illegality. And even tumblr--it's not us they're going after. They're trying to catch tuna. We're dolphins. But we're in the nets anyway.


This is incredibly well researched and thought out and honestly made me feel TONS better about our current situation. I can't begin to explain how much I would love a fan-built platform that we have control over, but it would be an inexplicably massive undertaking. We could do it. But holy hell...what a project. I think it was mentioned before, but AO3 is still in beta after all these years? Like, this shit takes time. But I am so sick and tired of losing content/community/lore/art every several years to the corporate greed...

All that said, I am in this for the long run so I would back this effort 100%. If we're gonna do it, let's do it and like you said, let's do it right. Thanks for opening up the conversation.


Throughout the past couple days I've heard several times that DW is too slow-moving but I'm like... a big reason it's slower is because there are fewer people. Come over here and we can get the party started!


I don't find it slow moving at all, really. Yesterday I spent my whole afternoon and evening on here, and as soon as I started making posts and replies, people replied back to me. This is the busiest I've been in ages. On Tumblr a post might get a bunch of notes or likes, but there was never this much real interaction going on between users. I'm really enjoying it.


My two cents--

I love, love, love the idea of the apothecary chest--don't get me wrong here--but as I was reading it, I was basically thinking "but this is how P2P works. This is how torrents work". And while I love them, that's a huge problem from the legal POV, considering how they are seen as very very shady by law enforcement all over the world already. And .dat domains are already being used for illegal purposes, so that's Darknet as far as the governments are concerned, whether we like it or not. I live in a country (Finland) where all the major ISPs throttle torrents like crazy, so I don't have high hopes of *anything* decentralised not being seen as legally dodgy, because it already is used for that on such a vast scale (and that sucks for us, because I really do love the decentralised idea :/). Let's assume that accessing P2P/Darknet-type places isn't illegal per se (technically, it isn't)--but if the cops come after you, perhaps on suspicion of something you haven't even done (say, a stalker trying to frame you for something, which does happen), the fact that your computer is linked up to stuff like that is not going to look good in court.

Obviously, that's a problem we'll always run into if we want to be free--with freedom will always come the people who abuse it. But when it's something that's already universally seen as dodgy by the law enforcement, the way P2P is, it's going to be much trickier for us to prove we aren't criminals, if that's the route we take. And I really wish it wasn't that way; I like torrents (apart from the fact that stuff can vanish on there, too, if there's nobody to seed that documentary on Afghan camel-drivers in 1800s Australia that you're desperate to see, and apart from the rampant sexism considering it's very much an alt-right heavy dudespace). I really would love to have that apothecary chest, I really would--but it has to be carefully thought out.

P.S. Replying here to save time re: the app/mobile stuff: I'm disabled and use the Tumblr app a lot, since I can't sit up for a long time on my laptop. I do a hell of a lot of my internetting while lying down in bed. Doing HTML and using a browser is a massive pain in the arse on mobile, still--I wouldn't even try making a photo post on LJ or DW or editing fic on Ao3 via my mobile browser(s). One of the biggest problems is that due to how mobile devices handle memory, browser pages may refresh on you and you lose a post (while I always type my text input in my notes app before feeding it into a box somewhere, it's still a huge pain in the arse to lose the page/place on your page, the way you necessarily don't with an app). So whatever the fannish Place Of Our Own ends up being, I do hope the mobile support is going to be robust nevertheless. I absolutely agree that apps shouldn't be the main focus on places like PF and Ao3 that are still developing, as they take a huge load of time and effort. But I'd also look at just how many Tumblr users were mobile--wasn't it at least a third, or over a half, the last time people were talking about it? So that's going to affect the amount of adopters today, whatever way you look at it. Again, a hurdle.

And just to finish: I am absolutely all for this project, so please don't take this as my trashing it! This is just the stuff that comes to my mind, stuff that we need to consider. This is a great post and I'll be sharing it around:)


Thank you for taking the time to write this!

I have to say that as someone who *existed* in fandom without ever really participating in the social aspects of it for years and years until tumblr happened to me, I do feel like there's something special about the way tumblr operates. (Twitter is, to me, the social media platform that seems to come closest to recreating this.) That tumblr centers so heavily around reblogging means you can sort of passively follow someone and even interact with their posts without having to directly speak to them in a way that's just not possible on more traditional blogging platforms. And that tumblr encourages users to treat reblogs as their own, in a way, means that you can feel comfortable adding commentary even when you're not sure of OP's welcome (I feel like this in particular is actually a part of tumblr that catches a lot of flack but that I see as a fairly positive thing overall). Maybe that sounds a little silly in comparison to arguably more important concerns like a platform that support multimedia posts, but I can't possibly be the only person who found that tumblr provided them with the space to graduate from "permanent lurker" to "active community member" at the pace of a tortoise rather than a hare.

I don't know that I actually have anything all that insightful to add about this at 2am other than I hope against hope wherever fandom winds up will preserve these particular aspects of tumblr that made it so welcoming for me.


Honestly, with the obvious popularity of threaded comments & OP owned & focused content/comments/etc I'm seeing in discussions of what fans would like to see next, I'm increasingly concerned that any new social platform will lose this aspect of what has made tumblr such a great platform.


I completely agree with this. I've been a lurker for 20 years now. I felt like Tumblr gave me sort of an "interact-lite", much like the kudos button on AO3. I have to sit and read over a comment for 10 minutes before I can post it (anxiety, yay) but I got really comfortable with the reblog/like buttons, and they definitely helped make me feel like more of the community.


It may also be worth talking more about, a fan-run platform for hosting vids. They need more publicity so that people know they can host their vids there, as well as always needing donations.

While we're discussing the long-term ideal solution, getting improvements to AO3, Pillowfort, Dreamwidth and will help us rescue things and preserve community in the meantime. Dreamwidth is particularly short of volunteers at the moment, and getting some out of this Tumblr influx could make a big difference to some of those features being added.


I think my biggest concern with a new platform that had reblogging and a communal tag space to find things would be finding a way to not have the massive issues with bullying that tumblr had. The whole "Let's all watch as teenagers dox and harass each other to the point of suicide" aspect was not my favourite part of the site.

A very smart friend of mine has pointed out that one of the reasons this doesn't happen on DW (as much if at all), is that there isn't the common tag space. There's either your own journal, which you can control, or communities, which the mod can control. Now there's good and bad modding, but for the most part that cuts out the bullying flamewar because there are walls to keep them from spreading.

Having staff on hand to deal with a top down anti-abuse policy on a social platform of any size at all is going to be a nightmare.

That all said, I would like a platform with most of these features. As someone who doesn't have a great internet connection, image-based tumblr didn't work well for me, and P2P makes my skin crawl, so I tend to stick to text-based stuff more, but I did like the speed of tumblr and the ease of finding things you were interested in.


Here via a mention on a Discord server, and you can consider this a "like". ♥

I never managed to make Tumblr work for me, and so I somewhat selfishly hope that Dreamwidth steps up its game and reclaims its popularity as the next generation platform. But I expect that what's really needed is some sort of octopus with many arms. AO3 does what it does really well, but it doesn't do everything we need. So AO3 is one component of things. Dreamwidth.v2 might be another. Perhaps there will be some equivalent of DeviantArt. And then somehow these need to be wrapped up in a way that lets us reach across and connect our identities.

Right now, for example, my needs are pretty much met by a combination of Dreamwidth (my blogging home), AO3 (my archive), and Discord (my chat home). I think most fic writers and readers, even if they use Tumblr, also use AO3, as Tumblr's great for pretty pictures and art but not so much for a fic archive. But AO3 is less popular for art, and as [personal profile] cesy mentioned, vidders have other needs and use for those. So perhaps the ultimate solution will be an interworkable menu of one from column a and one from column b, according to each fan's approach to fandom?


For me, the move of many of my friends off DW (to Tumblr, to Facebook, and to nonfannishness) coincided with my own dip in fannish-feelings, so I didn't really feel the need to move anywhere. Dreamwidth suited my needs, which had largely shifted from fannish engagement to books and meta, and I still kept up with some of my closest formerly-fannish friends on Facebook. It was only as I fell into a new fandom in 2014-ish that I felt the loss of that fannish engagement. That fandom (The Raven Cycle) was going gangbusters on Tumblr, but the way it was done there didn't mesh with the way I wanted to do it, and the people who were doing it there weren't people I felt connected to the way I did in e.g. due South (though to be fair, that was partly due to the way Tumblr interaction happens).

But I get how you feel, because after all, the same thing happened during the shift from LJ to DW. I read at both sites, and crossposted, for many years, until most of my LJ-stalwart friends either shifted to DW, or to Tumblr, or gafiated. Which was a pain! But that's the way things go, I guess.


You know what this post reminds me of, right? An Archive Of One's Own ;)

[breathedout]: I realized while commenting on adiprose's post re: this, that something that was super key to my Tumblr experience was the existence of a blacklist, so that I could follow people whose brains I liked but whose interests didn't totally line up with mine, and have conversations with them without wading through 5,673 posts on, i.e., LOTR or Overwatch or Richard Armitage or whatever. Recording here for posterity.


Jumping in here randomly, but I wonder about the importance of having a blacklist at all (for Dreamwidth at least), given the intrinsic volumetric difference between Tumblr and Dreamwidth. Here's what I mean:

Part of what made Tumblr FUCKING UNBEARABLE for me (and I openly admit that I'm in a camp that will miss literally nothing about the platform) was that it felt like being trapped at the bottom of a well with people hosing you down with whatever they were interested in at the time because of the nature of ephemerality of reblogging and the type of content that Tumblr's system encouraged: images, quick takes, pure hot chaff, etc -- stuff that you could pull from other people and shove in other people's faces at the rate of 246 sexually active skeleton anime pictures a minute! But that stupid well was also the only place where I could see my friends and, sometimes, in the deluge of sexy anime skeletons, I could find like, a post about kimono fabric and someone might be linking the latest chapter of a Steve/Bucky fanfiction.

Dreamwidth, intrinsically, does not facilitate that type or volume of posting. I guess you could make the aggressive choice to post like 3 word posts about sexy skeletons and link to 100 sexy skeleton gifs, but each individual time it would take significantly more effort and time than it ever did with Tumblr -- and that's not even broaching the fact you'd probably have to do all this sexy skeleton stuff at your desktop computer.

So for me, blacklist was always imperative on tumblr just for volumetric management reasons, whereas just going through my reading list now, yeah there's some stuff I'm not a huge fan of, but it's not at a volume that makes it difficult for me just to scroll past and not worry about it, you know?


“Part of what made Tumblr FUCKING UNBEARABLE for me (and I openly admit that I'm in a camp that will miss literally nothing about the platform) was that it felt like being trapped at the bottom of a well with people hosing you down with whatever they were interested in at the time because of the nature of ephemerality of reblogging and the type of content that Tumblr's system encouraged: images, quick takes, pure hot chaff, etc -- stuff that you could pull from other people and shove in other people's faces at the rate of 246 sexually active skeleton anime pictures a minute! But that stupid well was also the only place where I could see my friends and, sometimes, in the deluge of sexy anime skeletons, I could find like, a post about kimono fabric and someone might be linking the latest chapter of a Steve/Bucky fanfiction.”

You’ve summed it up with complete accuracy :)

I deleted my Tumblr after 6 years and felt nothing but a sense of relief, although I did know where to find friends I had made and posted where I could be found before I pulled the plug.


[Tumblr] was so frustrating. And I think for a lot of us who are way more relationship/discussion/connection oriented, it was a place where it was ALSO impossible to have a conversation, meaning it was even more useless to me.


EXACTLY. I tried a couple of times to have a discussion with friends in reblogs, but the format quickly became unreadable, and they never got into comments (wasn't there an ill-advised venture into Disqus?), and it was really hard to follow "conversations in tags" as well. At least for me. People I knew had conversations and made friends with one-on-one asks/messaging/DMs, but I turn most of those options off automatically on websites because of e-stalkers. Tumblr seemed like a very odd mix of where everything was way out there in the open (global tags, strangers reblogging and adding stuff to posts) and silent backchannels, where most of the actual socializing went on, at least the type of socializing I was used to from LJ/DW.


So first off let me say wow. This post was a huge effort and super informative, and thank you for writing it! I'm about halfway done and still reading through. I just want to address this bit:

Maybe it's not crazy for commercial fanartists to pay a small licensing fee, I don't know. Someone who knows what they're talking about should definitely jump in and tell us some things.

Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm a working artist-ish and went to school for a BFA in painting so I like to think I have some idea what I'm talking about when I say— I don't think it's a matter of a small licensing fee that we're talking about. For one thing, I think many companies would be resistant to allow certain kinds of fan art at all (I don't see Disney, who owns the MCU, wanting to allow NSFW content because it would hurt their brand). Disney in particular is notorious for going after fan artists, even small-time fan artists.

Even if licensing were an option, I think it would be prohibitively expensive for artists. Right now, fan artists are kind of able to work in the shadows with everyone involved turning a blind eye, but I don't think "going legit" is actually a viable option for many of them. Even if licensing was an option (which is a big if), I doubt it would be affordable.

Also, there's the issue of ethics. Personally I'm... iffy on the ethics of monetizing fanworks. The fannish part of me wants to say "Yes, of course it's alright. Transformative works have a place and artists/writers should be compensated if people are willing to donate." There are fandom writers that I would donate to in a heartbeat because I value their work so much. The other part of me, the part that creates original content as part of my livelihood, wonders if that's fair to the original creators.

Don't get me wrong I am 100% in favor of fanworks, and I think they are transformative and have merit (which is why I'm willing to link my fandom participation to my real name, life, and work)... but I don't know how I feel about money changing hands without the permission of the copyright holder. I think about this a lot, and I go back and forth in my mind.


I'm in agreement with much of what you said in this post, so I'm just going to comment on the one part I think will prove to be the hardest decision going forward: blocking capabilities.

You mentioned this as well: lj's downward spiral basically followed three axes: bans on fannish, especially derivative, work where copyright holders got involved; bans on pornography, because of prudish advertisers, investors, or governments (and porn is an integral part of fannish work, though of course by far not the only one); and the Russian government's involvement regarding political dissidents (real life dissenters are probably more prevalent in fannish spaces as well).

Those still seem, nowadays the three main axes a new hub would need to traverse. Looking at the political landscapes around the world these past few years, this will only be possible with strong anonymity guarantees, helped along by strong encryption and a distributed, highly duplicated, resilient structure. So I'm thinking a P2P solution will be, at least in the long run, unavoidable.

As the vast majority of fans in the fannish community aren't devs, these guarantees will need to be implemented in such a way that using them is easy on the average user, solving the old problem of making secure communication easy (okay, encrypted messaging has made huge strides in that regard). I haven't delved into the code yet, but the scuttlebutt approach seems to be going into the right direction here. Alternatively, IPFS, but as a social network, if that makes sense.

But, and I think this will be my most controversial statement yet, it also means essentially giving up on the notion of centralized content blocking being possible even in principle. A network as extremely roughly outlined above will not be controllable. There will be documented abuse on there, and nobody will be able to delete it. A network with such strong free speech guarantees will of course be used not only by fans, but by the worst of the worst, because free speech guarantees always draw most strongly on those whose speech is (justly or unjustly) most suppressed. Helping fans freely share fannish content without having to answer to repressive measures by advertisers or copyright holders, *will* help more malicious segments of the population use it as well. (I've always held that it'll be most helpful to all to stop such actors in the real world instead of trying to block their content online.)

However, it should of course be possible to close *yourself* off entirely from malicious content such as that, simply by not following anybody who would post or reblog anything like that. Doing that should further prevent such content from being downloaded to your device.

This is markedly more than the OTW had to do with AO3, but the multimedia world is simply much more tightly watched and controlled by both governments and copyright holders than the purely written word, even if you can ignore advertisers. But I think it's the only truly future-proof way to go. Anything hosted, even if paid for by its users, with a content policy and enforcement thereof, will sooner or later cave to outside or *inside* pressures (I mean, just a few weeks ago, there was this huge discussion among *fans* on tumblr why AO3 would need that much money, and how it's just a fanfic site, so you shouldn't support it). I'm aware it seems like a drastic approach, but getting everyone in one boat for this, fandom, derivative artists, simple discussion communities, political activists and dissidents, could be imperative for all of these communities to continue striving in the future.

[strangesistas writing]:

Some thoughts. Fandom obviously needs to change how we find our online home. Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me. We can't just keep migrating to the next free thing and hoping for the best.

I think one of our best options to make a non for profit if we can and charge a small membership fee. I remember back in the day you actually had to submit id and be screened to join a lot of comms. This is out of fashion because of identity theft issues and the way in which soc_med functions, but it would cut through some issues with child pornographers and the like.

If it takes time to join and you have to create a paper trail then becomes more difficult to both hide what you're doing and reduce the incentive for using the site in the first place.

The drawback ofc is that if we collect that type of information we have to have a method of protecting and then disposing of it. Just a thought that I have.


Strikethrough/Boldthrough weren't just two things (and yeah, they get lumped together a lot today, and I remember them being sharply different); there was at least a third tech change, and then the aftermath problems.

Just after Strikethrough, around or at the time of Boldthrough, they also brought in "flagging" for objectionable content. You were supposed to mark your journal NSFW if it was, and if you didn't mark it, other people could flag you for review, and as far as we could sort out, enough flags would get you on the "minors cannot view your journal, ever" list. There was no process for objecting to a flag (although there maybe was for "your journal has been declared NSFW," with the standard caveat of "but we're not actually going to listen to you if you make any pornish stuff at all.")

They also changed ownership, moving from 6Apart to SUP, and the new owners did nothing to alleviate the tensions that 6A had just set off.

I immediately canceled my paid account, and decided I'd consider staying on LJ if they

1) Apologized for Strikethrough, in the sense of "oops that was totally the wrong thing to do; we should not have done that," and

2) Said they wouldn't do something like that again - change the way they interpreted the TOS so that thousands of users were in violation of rules that didn't exist yesterday.

They did neither of those things. They very carefully and at great length, did neither of those things. All of their statements carried a tacit, "oh, and we could do this again tomorrow; no, we're not going to give you any hint of how to stay within the rules here." It wasn't even as direct as Tumblr's "no adult content" rule; they got asked about text-only posts, about locked posts, about "what if I post my porny stuff on Wordpress and just link to it" - and the answer was always, "we can't tell you what violates the rules unless we get a complaint; are you reporting someone?" They refused to give guidelines or examples of NSFW art; they wouldn't make any judgment calls without a formal report.

LJ gave out a very clear message of, "you are not safe here, no matter what kind of content you post," for months.


Personally, I wouldn't want anything to do with something that was part of AO3/OTW/Fanlore.


I remember when Strikethrough went down! There's a pretty good analysis of the events on Fanlore.


lot of this is far out of my depth, but this was a fascinating read, and I really hope something like this--a for-fans-by-fans multimedia site--happens, because I'm primarily an artist and fuck you, if I want to draw dicks or the dreaded Female-Presenting Nipple then that's my business, you know? I wasn't terribly active on Tumblr, but everything's a bit scary right now...especially since a lot of us have done this song and dance before.

It's certainly a lot to think about, though I unfortunately have nothing to contribute to this theoretical magic future site.

Further Reading