Three years, three months, and 1,188 entries later

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Title: Three years, three months, and 1,188 entries later
Creator: sophia_helix and commenters
Date(s): July 24, 2004
Medium: online
External Links: three years, three months, and 1,188 entries later, page one; Archive page one; page two; Archive page two
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Three years, three months, and 1,188 entries later is a LiveJournal post by sophia_helix.

The last part of the post: "Since I don't have the first clue as to how journal software works, I'm probably harboring useless hopes. But a journal system that helped to change some of the inequities and inconveniences of our current system would be a serious step forward for fandom."

The post has 147 comments.

Some Topics Discussed

  • Icons
  • LiveJournal
  • mailing lists
  • fan communication
  • signal to noise
  • gatekeeping/silos and selective reading
  • public vs private
  • your LJ as your living room
  • BNFs
  • the relationship between discussion and ownership
  • remixes and ficathons

Excerpts from the Post

Because no LJ-meta post would be complete without a brief history, and because I think it's interesting to look at how we got to making this form of communication our primary means, let's sum. Briefly. You have cons, which involved actual face-to-face contact, combined with the use of zines, which involved actual physical possession of paper with words on. Discussion at this point involves talking, but is heavily supplemented with written communication. Enter the internet and the birth of the BBS, which provided centrality, threading, and zero privacy. Along comes e-mail and mailing lists, threading and centrality are reduced but privacy has a heyday, from private e-mails to private lists. We're still gathering in groups, though, and while there's a degree of self-selection going on the membership of any list is still a fixed quality which is, importantly, impervious to change by any one list member. Blogs came along, but were site- and single fan-oriented in the same way a "Rants" or "Essays" page might have been on a personal website. And then we had Livejournal. (For the sake of disclosure, where do I fit into this timeline? I came aboard just in time for the blossoming of mailing lists, sometime in 1998, and acquired a Livejournal in spring of 2001, just before they blossomed. I went away for the summer with five Friends and came back to find out that fandom had moved in. *g*) So here we are. What makes Livejournal so drastically different?
Well, for starters, there's that self-selection thing. No longer are we blocking that hated listmate, or scanning for messages from the people we really like -- we now have the capacity put all those people in one place. We've got a pretty nice linking capacity, with individual posts pretty easy to find, especially if someone's organized their memories section well. We're got communities for linking entries, and kind-hearted people (coffeeandink, fabu, and stakebait, to name a few from my own list) who frequently do round-up posts of these links, weeding through fandom for the rest of us lazy or time-constricted fen. The signal-to-noise ratio is improved -- but isn't it noisy in here? This is over-simplifying, but it's pretty easy to spot the source of the noise, besides friendslists of 250: the concept of "Off-Topic" simply doesn't exist anymore. So we're not scanning past the entries of people we dislike (unless you're an auto-friender who doesn't use filters), or scanning to find our favorite people, because now we have the capacity to actually choose our neighbors. What we've lost is a capacity to filter for subject, and I don't think anyone realized how valuable that was until it was gone.
Look at your friendslist. If you're like me, you're seeing a page full of vibrant colors, vibrant images, instantly conveying personalities, tastes, and moods, possibly even matched as well as possible to the posters' journal colors. (You know, if you want to drive yourself crazy trying to do that.) If you continue to emulate me (and really, why wouldn't you? *g*), you're visually hard-wired, so this looks even more vibrant. It takes up more mental space. It stops being The Internet Talking To You About Buffy, and starts being 79 Strangers Talking About Buffy, Stargate, That One Fandom You Hate, And Their Bosses. What did we used to do? Look at a block of text with a name. In this context, Mary Sue Ficwriter and Worship-Worthy Fic Queen weren't so different. You might have had associations with that name that will color what you expect to read, but for most of us, I think, associations are triggered much more strongly with visuals. (Not to mention the fact that the mood icons and the userpics are often chosen to reflect a mood or topic as well.) That block of Courier New with some code at the top has become a personal statement, rather than a part of a contiguous whole, thanks to the phenomenon of the userpic. They're vibrant, they're differentiated, they're downright strange. We've never seen anything like them before in fandom, with the exception of the sigquote, which doesn't seem to have carried the same weight. They almost seem quaint now. Never before have fans had such an immediate and intrusive opportunity to amuse, impress, offend and insult. We bitch about creatorship rights, credit-giving, My Fandom, cliques, spoilers, nudity, and the recent Tiny Text wars.
Public feedback used to be a phenomenon, to a small degree. So did public adulation. It didn't used to be the rule. I admit, I've always been a slow feedbacker, mostly because I always e-mail it, and the advent of the comment function has made it much easier for me, since I tend to be a sender-of-praises feedbacker, rather than a "You guys HAVE to read this"-type public feedbacker. But the fact that almost everything gets done in front of the curtains (even filtered posts are rarely aimed at a single person) makes those social distinctions between Mary Sue, Worship-Worthy, and Average Scribbler even more, well, distinct. You're suddenly seeing exactly who liked the story, and why (which can, of course be helpful for the rest of us, to know what other think works in a story), and what kinds of posts generate comments for others, and most oddly, lots of varied personal comments. The sorts of fun, shallow, intimate exchanges that used to be the province of private mails suddenly spiral away into long comment threads, weirdly enough, sometimes in someone else's journal. Since we go on about our intellectual turf so much, it can be utterly jarring to have two people chatting, or fighting, in a thread in your blog.
I do think, though, that one of the most important aspects of comments is exactly that -- they're comments. Not really even responses, and certainly not the equally-weighted posts of mailing lists. They're subordinate. They appear below, their font is often smaller. They don't show up with the post on friends-lists, but must be accessed from a separate page. On some journal styles (I'm thinking of Boxer and Component in particular), the layout and threading is so terrible as to make comments difficult to read and follow, and I myself often don't. Most importantly, far less text space is allotted to comments, and I think it's sort of generally agreed that if you have to make a "Part 2" comment after your first one, you're saying too much. You're "rambling in someone else's journal." Go make your own post.
There's another way to gain readers, of course, which is to comment and friend prolifically. This isn't necessarily harder than posting thoughtful mailing list messages, or writing detailed feedback, but it seems like a backwards way to earn what should be a basic right, now turned privilege -- the right to have a voice. Now you can only earn the right to be widely heard via the arduous BNF route of producing, in steady supply, the most valued commodities of our community. And I think that's what a lot of Livejournal flamewars and kerfluffles and bitchfights have boiled down to, though it may not be obvious on the surface. There have always been cliques. There have always been friendships with benefits -- getting recced by your buddy, getting webdesign from a talented friend, getting beta and vid-editing from the best of the fandom. That's pretty human. But I think what drives so many people who feel marginalized is that their community is just so small now, comprised only of people who genuinely like them or are interested in them, and while that notion sounds appealing on paper, I don't think facing a Friends-Of list of 12 is particularly heartening when you're reading 120, even if those are your 12 bestest buddies. The fact that you're an absolute non grata in fandom is maddening when you know it's just because people don't have the time.
Humans control their personal herds with, well, herd behavior. It isn't rants that change behavior, or hissy fits, or even kerfluffles. It's those generalized, unspoken, emotions that influence the masses, and with the dispersed, multifannish, disjointed nature of livejournal, it's almost impossible to have that sort of indirect influence over each other. What's the "norm"? What's the "status quo"? I know people who make incredibly short posts several times a day, people who post large quiz results or large polls, people who write about personal things at length and uncut, people who write at length and uncut, period. I see, from time to time, people complaining about this, but it seems that nothing really changes. Some of the most irritating modes of communication are utterly persistent, beyond all understanding. I say beyond all understanding, because we have personal accountability like never before. Journal identity, in this vast and changing community, is of vital importance. Your username, attached to a recognizable userpic, is your only currency.

Excerpts from Comments: Page One

  • comment by anaxila ("The very features that make LJ so wonderful - the fun userpics & themes, the ease of a Friends page over individual blog-checking, the ubiquitous cut tag - are the same things that can suck all the fun right out of the whole experience after a while. I'm to the point now where I think I'd much rather not know if ANYONE is reading me than know exactly who's paying attention and who's lost interest in me from moment to moment. I don't need the pressure.")
  • comment by sophia helix ("I'm really not sure if any of my suggestions are feasible, and I also wonder what Brad & co. think about the fact that their tool got co-opted by fandom. I sort of wish that a couple of BNFs would get it together and approach them about making a fannish version, actually, with the specifications we need -- I bet many fans would actually be willing to pay more to get things set up in a healthier, more convenient way.")
  • comment by coffeeandink: ("*Has* it been coopted by fandom? Fans are almost all I see, but if I hit the Random Journal function, I see teenybopper after teenybopper. I doubt fans actually make up a significant percentage of LJ activity. And I'll correct myself: fans aren't all I see, at least not in the sense of the fanfiction/media fans; there's been a slow but steady of stream of pro writers from SF fandom, but also from other places. (I can't tell you how startled I was to find Random YA Author and Random Bestselling Horror Novelist on LJ.) I remember post categorization being one of LJ's goals for 2004, but I don't have a sense of how far along they are.")
  • comment by swallow ("I think fans do make up a significant percentage of LJ activity, but I think the reason for that is less specifically that self-identified fans swarmed LJ like ants to a dropped lollipop than the fact that, dunno, more people self-identified as non-fans are behaving like fans? I think this is true, and comes out of a gestalt in which 1) more people know casually about fanfiction... 1a) as well as becoming more well-known with the help of HP, which behaves as a bit of a fandom-rl "crossover"; alongside the fandom I'm familiar with... 2) with the fairly-recent shift towards RPF-acceptance in fannish mores, and the accompanying shift in fictional-fandoms to encompass the-associated-RPF-sphere...")
  • comment by sophia helix ("My original statement mostly comes from that feeling, every time LJ crashes, that the site staff doesn't understand that they've effectively crippled fandom for an afternoon, or for a week. People who post personal entries and use it like, say, my sister or my college friends, can deal with a few hours of outages. For fandom, though, the outages are like a corporate server crashing -- our activities are pulled to a halt. We wouldn't have put up with egroups, or Usenet if it had been that unreliable, and yet here we stay. :)")
  • comment by jonquil ("LJ is used by a lot of different people for a lot of different purposes. Unlike the real world, we see only the communities we choose to move within; we never encounter the wider community. My daughter knows an entirely different set of LJ people than I do, with different interests and vocabularies. Note, for instance, that my LJ isn't intended to be fannish. I'm friends with fans, and I'm delighted to see what they're up to and get their book recs. It was coffee's link that sent me to you, but if you're looking for fanfic and fannish essays, you're not reading me. (Which is entirely appropriate.)")
  • comment by harriet spy ("I appreciate the advantages of LJs/blogs, but it does seem that the shift has virtually killed many of the higher (and more frustrating) aspirations of fandom culture. Going from Usenet to mailing lists to LJs, you see a tremendous dropoff in ability to engage in threaded discussions, which are, for all their limitations, really the only one you can sustain a *conversation* over time, rather than a series of individual voices chiming in, often unresponsive to, sometimes even unaware of, each other, which is what the LJ model is. (There's also the separate problem that you note of individuals being perceived as in some sense "owning" each individual discussion, which can be profoundly restrictive, a problem that a random Usenet thread didn't have.) Now these kinds of conversations have all sorts of pitfalls and unattractive features, and many people find them totally unsuited for community-building, but I think it's very difficult to have particularly sophisticated discourse without them. LJs are also horribly difficult to search and have only the most primitive indexes, which is just about as limiting. I do think LJs have had a stupidifying effect on fannish discourse--not so much on individual fans, but on the way we discuss with each other. Having good discussions--ones that were reasonably civil, inclusive, and thoughtful--was probably the hardest social task *for* fandoms to achieve, but also one of the most rewarding, and with the advent of LJ, we seem to have nearly given up on this. It troubles me.")
  • comment by sophia helix ("I've been pleased to see the LJ crew update the way comments flow over time for usability (page numbers, threads, etc.), but I also feel like it just keeps shrinking the importance of the responses. I can't think of another way to design the entry format so as not to privilege the original post so heavily the replies, but I think it's one of the main flaws of the current conversation method. And then sometimes you have the opposite problem -- someone makes a post that might not be very long or meaty, and yet the comments become the main attraction. And, falling back into the It's My Blog argument, it can be very frustrating for a poster who feels that her space (and her spotlight) has been overrun by the commenters. It would be nice if there were some kind of neutral blog to take wildly-spiraling discussions to, rather than continuing to use someone else's space. (Using the current model of discussion-ownership, at any rate.)")
  • comment by harriet spy ("There's the pressure towards shortness. There's the feeling that one should defer to the owner of the LJ--whether in respecting their opinion or simply in not "hijacking" their blog by discussing too long or too off the main post's topic, which particularly can kill potentially interesting tangential conversations. Anyone who wants to write long, or off-topic, tends to take it to their own LJs, where many of the original participants may simply not see it. Then there's the simple buriedness of comments, and the lack of any centralizing mechanism so that people can be aware that the conversations are even going on. Reading your post, for instance, I might've chosen to respond on my LJ, or even my blog, or I could choose to go off there now to ramble further. You might not know about it. Other commenters in the discussion, even those specifically choosing to engage with me in this particular post's comments, might not know about it. There would be no easy way to link that back in. So it means that any attempt at a real group discourse tends to be cashiered in favor of individual folks speaking their minds and going off on their own, and although that saves us, you know, a lot of the endless, pointless back-and-forth bickering of the Usenet days, it also robs us of much of the opportunity for synergy and shared insight.")
  • comment by sophia helix ("...the pressure is always on to make a three-line comment that in some way praises or at least respects the author of the post. In some ways, it's almost as if we've forced people to feedback instead of discuss, which is kind of humorously ironic if you think about it. *g*")
  • comment by delurker ("I'm a new fan, and I've only ever been involved in LJ, so I have little knowledge about lists and Usenet and all that jazz. What I do wonder is, could we not have lists *and* lj? I've heard many people mourn the loss of the list, but I don't see why we couldn't have lists for that kind of prolonged discussion as well. And if you used your lj name, then if you liked someone from the list you could wander over onto lj. If there is a need for the list, then if someone started one and mentioned it to people (perhaps via communities?) then it would take off. Personally I've always been intimidated by lists - I don't know how they work, and when I do wander onto them I come in in the middle of a thread, which I know nothing about and so become confused. For me, lj is much friendlier. The posts are less connected so if you don't understand something you may understand the next, you can find random interesting stuff, and it's more like talking to a friend. So I like lj. But as I said, I've never done the list thing, so I can't really compare.")
  • comment by oyceter ("I come from somewhere entirely different, given that I didn't really have the guts to get into fandom until LJ. Lots of stuff in this post I'm still pondering. Side note: I think I'm the only person on LJ who is actually annoyed by LJ cuts. I'm so lazy that I'd rather scroll and skim past a long entry than take the effort to right-click-open-in-new-window for a cut, and I hate the thought that I might be bypassing something interesting during my skimming.")
  • comment by franzeska ("I like lj better, but it's partly because I found the lists I used to like dying anyway. Long before lj sucked the life out of most of the little/less popular yahoo groups, the lists I liked went the way of all overly small fandoms. I like lj because I can follow a literate, interesting person to their new fandom without having to really dive into that fandom. I can also decide what's appropriate on my own lj and let others do it on theirs. One of my favorite lists was abandoned by its founders including what constituted a BNF in that tiny fandom only to have her return for a single post ranting about how we were all kiddie rapists and would understand what bad people we were some day wah wah wah. Now obviously the issue of chan is a complicated and potentially very upsetting one, but she could have posted the same rant in a livejournal without creating nearly as much trouble as in a mailing list. All other activity ground to a halt so that people could have a flame war and/or whine about having disappointed their hero. In lj land, there's an ocean between every journal. It takes a lot more effort to maintain a flamewar between numerous people because it's going to be happening in the comments of posts that are long since off of most people's first page of flist. You have to go looking for trouble.")
  • comment by fourteenlines ("Fandom doesn't, as you well know, ever stick with one method of functioning for very long. This happens to be the Livejournal heyday -- and frankly, it's one that I'm enjoying. One thing about LJ that I didn't get with blogs or mailing lists or boards is that it's much easier to keep up with many fandoms (or, alternately, many people, since my slow connection speed limited the amount of blogs I could read in a day.) It does tend to devolve into a lot more personal territory, but I've never particularly seen this as a problem -- people with excessively or exclusively personal posts go on their own filter.")
  • comment by fourteenlines ("I personally see Livejournal as a personal space in a public place. So I can talk about whatever I want, but I have to have some consideration for other people, the people who've added me to their reading lists for one reason or another. If I'm at a party, I'm going to have the conversation I want with whomever I want, but I'm not going to do it so loudly that everyone is obliged to hear. If it's personal, I'm gonna be quiet and put it behind a cut-tag. If it's not too personal, I'll leave it un-cut. But if it evolves into a really long conversation, we're maybe going to retreat to another area of the house altogether. If it's really personal, I'm gonna pull a few people into the bathroom and lock the door.")
  • comment by infinitemonkeys ("You hit the nail on the head with why I am so ambivalent about LJ and yet love it so much. Yes, it's a lovely free-for-all but it's killed many of those long, meaty, personal emails stone-dead. Everything is "read it on my LJ". I *really* lament their passing. Also, the flipside of the glorious array of multifandom shiny is that the commitment to a fandoms has, on balance, decreased. Peeved with the way that the show you love is going? Switch to another. Write shorter. We're seeing fewer long stories that jump off the cliff of canon and dive screaming into the sea of ... um, something deep and metaphorical. There isn't always that sense of deep engagement and the meaty discussions that arise from that -- and there's much less pressure to keep discourse civil, as has already been said.")
  • comment by sophia helix ("To me, it doesn't even feel so much that as just that it's so. much. easier. to leave a short comment on 30 people's blogs and feel you've earned your fan-participation cred for the day instead of having in-depth e-mails with five people. I feel like now I know more people, but I *know* fewer folks. You know?")
  • comment by musesfool ("LJ makes social skills more important than they used to be (see Usenet *snerk* where a bare minimum can get you by), and more important, in some ways than actual content - keeping up with one's flist and tending those relationships *can* be all-consuming, depending on how big the list and how far you take it. Chatty people, people with lots of time on their hands, people who are somewhat more extroverted, may have an advantage. I have no trouble commenting in anyone's LJ, for example, because to me, LJ most resembles Usenet, and Usenet was big and scary when I started. To someone else, commenting in a stranger's LJ is big and scary, because it's *their turf* and they may not have invited you (despite the fact that, imo, posting interesting stuff publicly and not turning off the comments is a de facto invitation to discussion. I know not everyone feels the same.), so are you committing a faux pas? etc. And of course, being prone to overanalyze (isn't that a dominant fannish trait) we sometimes overthink all these social interactions and weigh them more heavily than we would in other fora. So I think the amount of work is the same, but its nature has changed. Not that you didn't have to be polite and cultivate acquaintances on Usenet or mailing lists, but it may be much easier to initiate more meaningful contact one-on-one via private, offlist email than it is publicly in someone's comments.")
  • comment by coffeeandink ("I sometimes suspect those of us who came to fandom via other electronic forums sometimes make the past more golden in memory. Thoughtful conversation is rare on LJ. But I found it pretty rare on mailing lists and Usenet, too, which is why I treasured the people who regularly offered it. A couple of minor corrections: Zines actually predated cons. The ongoing textual conversations in zines were what inspired the first face-to-face meetings of fans. (This is well documented in several histories of SF fandom. I don't know if it's documented for media fandom -- but since media fandom seemed to take off from SF fandom in the 70s, I am pretty sure it's the case.) It was (and still is) the custom in SF fandom to produce "fanzines," which were as often personal anecdotes or political commentary as they were anything to do with fandom -- they were fannish by virtue of having been produced by fans. I've seen several Old School SF fans refer to LJ as "an electronic fanzine." LJ is a blogging implement is peculiar and seems to be kind of sideways from the larger or at least more public world of blogs; I've seen several blog researchers call LJ "a black hole" in puzzlement and frustration, despite the significant strides LJ's made toward making itself more transparent to other blogging technologies in the past year and a half -- allowing its users to add blogs as syndicated feeds and automatically syndicating its users' entries in the two most popular syndication formats. I suspect the apparently hermetic nature of LJ is what's led to so much fannish activity here; I still see people becoming startled when their LJs are mentioned in places they don't expect and consider more "public." (Hell, I get startled, too.) So some of the ... insularity, maybe? of LJ in general and flists in particular is, I suspect, what's made LJ more popular for fans than other blogging technologies. I also wonder how much the prevalence of mixed personal/fannish journals is a reflection of the [growing] *presence* of media fandom--it seems to be going much more mainstream, and there seems to be less reason for people to be quite so cautious about personal identity issues, except for the reasons you should always be cautious about them on the Internet.")
  • comment by laurashapiro ("You've helped clarify my reasons for remaining ambivalent about LJ, especially with regard to the difficulty of following threaded conversations. If I could change one thing about this environment (and this is true for a lot of blogging software, not just LJ), it would be to remove the "subsidiary" status of comments. I have no idea how I'd handle that in terms of user interface; it's certainly a conundrum. But it drives me crazy.")
  • comment by valancy ("I'm fascinated by this, but at the same time, I really like the fact that I get to enjoy people's random thoughts as well as their fannish lives. I've often thought that was the best part of LJ, that I got to know some BNFs as people, and not just as a story.")
  • comment by rainkatt ("Since I've not been involved in other forms of communication online, I suspect that my view of the whole thing is incredibly simplistic. I'm always amazed when someone friends me and then sticks around. There's still the momentary feeling of distress if they do leave, but I'm a big girl and I can take it. LJ has been magical for me in many ways, allowing me to meet people from all over with many different interests. I never would have joined a list, so the accessibility has given me an in, where I otherwise would have just been a casual reader of fic who lurked on a TWoP board. At least I now give feedback...")
  • comment by sophia helix ("Being able to leave a quick comment has vastly increased my feedback volume, because before I always felt pressured to write lengthy e-mails. I certainly appreciate *that* function of LJ.")
  • comment by franzeska ("I find it restful in a way because lj is also very time specific. I may be missing great conversations, but I miss them in RL all the time. LJ forces me to let go of the idea that I could go read everything. Of course if you refuse to accept that fact, lj is a bad, bad place.")
  • comment by cereta ("Wow, how much do I agree with you on the subject thing? It's always puzzled me a little when people praise LJ for letting you customize your fannish experience, because to me, it did just the opposite. Six years ago, I wouldn't know who all the members of N'Sync are at the same time that I couldn't identify a single song if you shot me with it. I wouldn't know about kerfuffles in Harry Potter fandom even before I belonged to a single discussion group. Some of this has been good, I think. I've found new fandoms beyond what my immediate circle of friends was into. And I'll somewhat shamefacedly admit that I enjoy a good dust-up now and then. But more control? I suppose much of that comes down to whether fandom for the individual fan is about topics or people. I exist somewhere towards the middle of that continuum, so I like the way LJ lets me keep up with certain people even as we have zero fandoms in common. But there are days that I long for a little topic control.")
  • comment by mecurtin ("A couple years ago on the fanthropology ML we collectively hammered out the idea of Craft vs. Social fanfic writers. Or rather, that fanfic can have a Craft motive and a Social motive, which are usually mixed in each writer. LJ is superlative for the Social motives, but I frankly think it suxx0rs on the Craft motives: in other words, it makes connecting to *people* easy, but connecting to ideas difficult. The thing is, I think us human-being types will always favor the social, statistically speaking, which is a bummer unto me.")
  • comment by cofax7 ("Quick: When did the BNF = bad!wrong!evol concept first evolve? Answer: At the same time as the ability to see how many Friends a person has. I would contest this: the BNF issue has been around for yonks, and there's always been a certain amount of resentment about the BNFs. They're the ones who get recced on the recs sites, they're the ones whose atxa or atxc posts always got the most responses, they're the ones whose approbrium would help a newbie writer get some attention. Because BNF is status, and because we like to think fandom is non-hierarchical and anti-establishment, anyone who gives off even a whiff of Status is subject to criticism by those who feel that they are lower in the rankings. However, your point about the Flist numbers is well-taken.")
  • comment by [[ranalore] ("This is an excellent post, and certainly I resisted blogging of any kind for some time because of the mix of personal with fannish. I'm a hermit by nature, and the "off-topic" posts on my various mailing lists already drove me crazy enough, with their discussions of new kittens and switched medication and things that I really, really did not want to know about complete strangers. However, as more and more mailing list posts on topics I was interested in included links to blog discussions of the same topics, I finally gave in and started reading these discussions. And then, when certain of the discussers really caught my interest, I started following the links over to their own blogs and journals to see what else they had to say. Quite often, what I found were these long and wonderful essays on various meta aspects of fandom. There were rambles about the writing process, examinations of particular trends in fanfiction, comparisons of this media source with that media source. In fact, the thing I liked best, and the thing which finally drew me into creating an LJ of my own, was the multi-fandom, meta-fandom nature of blogs and online journals. Of the various mailing lists to which I belonged, only FCA-L really allowed for meta-discussion. Yet, even on FCA-L, I know that I personally would often reconsider a post because it drew heavily from the main fandom in which I was involved, and most members of the list didn't know the fandom, and weren't interested in it. I felt awkward providing a link to a story and then reviewing it in-depth, because again, the story might be in a fandom the majority of listmembers didn't read, and I would have been clogging up their inboxes for something that wouldn't hold their interest. FCA-L was (and is) a list meant to encompass the wider field of fandom, but as such I think it often discludes certain topics that are narrower in focus, but not narrow enough for single-fandom lists.")
  • comment by ranalore ("And speaking of single-fandom lists, I think a lot of the talk of "controlling your fannish experience" in LJ arises from dealing with list rules and peer-enforced tone. Discussion that involved another fandom was deemed "off-topic." Posts about the writing process, about what you looked for as a reader, about what you felt made a good story review, were all off-topic. Even when there was nothing specifically in the list rules to forbid a certain line of discussion, there were a few times I got complaints for introducing a topic, and I saw similar complaints about posts made by other people. This is not something I have to deal with when posting to my LJ. I may get vehement disagreement with what I've said, but only once have I had someone try to tell me I shouldn't have said it in the first place. Where on a list, I would have stopped to consider, "Oh, man, is that topic really not appropriate for this venue?", even if no other poster piped up to agree with her (and I never saw a time when that was the case), on my LJ, I can simply say, "Sorry, my space. You don't have to click on the cut-tag or link to read me."")
  • comment by sine_que_non767 ("The same old ideas are trotted out, the same arguments and wanks and flames get thrown, and nothing is changed particularly, except that a lot of people get bored/pissed-off. I just wish there was a way to point to a central topic list, like you describe, and say 'read that. Then discuss, *if* you still want to...'")
  • comment by kyuuketsukirui ("As someone who had an LJ before getting into fandom and as someone who uses it mainly for non-fannish purposes (though I also post fic and stuff), I am completely boggled by this entire post. I had no idea people felt this way. there's no gentle, peer-based way of encouraging people to post less, or post shorter, or post "on topic." (And neither, it can be argued, should there be.) I can't even imagine how it could be argued that there should. It's people's journals. Who are you or anyone else to tell them what they can and can't post in their own journal? Bizarre.")
  • comment by sophia helix ("I can't even imagine how it could be argued that there should. It's people's journals. Who are you or anyone else to tell them what they can and can't post in their own journal? Bizarre. Well, in the first year or so of fandom existing on Livejournal, it *was* an issue. Now we seem to have settled on the basic idea that in someone's journal, anything goes, but there's always been a definite idea of shared "ownership" of fandom. Because we had moved to LJ from communities like lists and bulletin boards, where no one person could claim to be the controller of a discussion, it was very difficult to transition to a place where people could simply lock comments on a discussion and tell everyone to shut up because he or she disagreed with them. I really *do* think that ability to shut people out has stymied a lot of fannish discussion and dialogue (and I say that neutrally -- it's possible some of those discussions shouldn't have gone on anyhow). I also recall *several* public arguments over a mailing list mod or board mod (I can think of two instances in the X-Files fandom) who just decided unilaterally to control the flow of discussion, change the allowed topics, or shut down discussion altogether. Then it was argued that since the list or board was a community space, no one had the right to change the rules without a general consensus, so I think people were pretty touchy in the first few months/years of LJ-based fandom, given that history of shared space. Besides the history, what I was really trying to say was that it's much, much more difficult for fandom society as a whole to influence each other in the ways that societies *always* influence their members, and sometimes that can be difficult. Instead of being forced to strike a compromise and reach a happy medium in order for everyone to *basically* get along, now it's easy enough to hole up in one's own blog and shut people out, without trying to be a harmonious part of the fandom community. Again, not necessarily a good or bad change -- just a change, and while I find it problematic for fandom interaction, others obviously don't.")
  • comment by franzeska ("Assholish behavior will neither make me unfriend nor discourage me from friending someone if their journal is interesting and grammatically correct. There is exactly one thing that will do that: insufficient use of the cut tag. If you routinely post something longer than my (small laptop) screen with no cut tag, you're off. The only exception on my flist at the moment is someone who posts such breathtakingly interesting and well-written posts that I have no trouble figuring out who it is from the first paragraph. I use lj like a newspaper, really. I just want headlines and the opportunity to read more. I'm not so interested in journals that want to take up the whole front page. I'm also not interested in journals that were written for the writer. That sounds a bit cold, but I think you know what I mean. Some people use lj to bitch about their boss. Others use lj to entertain the masses by bitching about their boss.")
  • comment by anajana ("I'm relatively new to fandom and livejournal, so much of this is illuminating as history. I'd like to post and be read, learn to write better, read others' work, and now I'm sorry I missed the mailing list days. But as a newbie, this beats nothing.")
  • comment by sophia helix ("now I'm sorry I missed the mailing list days Well, don't let my rampant nostalgia fool you -- there were plenty of catfights and problems back then, and obviously there must have been something good enough about LJ that we all ended up over there. Maybe we *needed* to break out of the tight constraints of "on topic" and let our personalities break free -- maybe it added something to the dialogue -- but I still miss some of the structure and the respect inherent with the mailing list/bbs sphere. ::shrug:: But then, as a newbie, I was nostalgic for the cons of the 70s and 80s. It all works out. :)")