Just to cal­i­brate the audi­ence, I want to ask three ques­tions, and please applaud because I can’t see you very well. Please clap your hands if you’ve nev­er heard of fan­f­ic. [Clapping.] Okay. And please clap your hands if you’ve heard of slash and know what it is. [Clapping.] I hear a woo.” And please clap your hands if you write fan­f­ic. [Very lit­tle clap­ping.] It’s the dark! You can clap. No one can see you. Okay, thank you very much.

So in 1967, I think it was, when Gene Roddenberry brought Star Trek out into the world, he cre­at­ed this cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­non and it was­n’t real­ly appar­ent at the time; the series was­n’t that pop­u­lar. But the peo­ple who were into it real­ly real­ly real­ly got into it. There’s some­thing about this idea of a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural, very good-looking group of peo­ple wan­der­ing the uni­verse, apply­ing the Prime Directive and the occa­sion­al phas­er set to stun to the galac­tic prob­lems of the day that just cap­tures the imag­i­na­tion. And of course the hero of the show was Captain James Tiberius Kirk, a very pas­sion­ate man. You could say he was sort of a space har­lot who whether your skin was white or black or green or blue, it did­n’t mat­ter. You knew that you were wel­come in the Captain’s quar­ters. But you also knew that come the next episode you would be for­got­ten. Because at the emo­tion­al heart of the show was the rela­tion­ship between the stormy Captain and his ice-cold, calm and col­lect­ed Mr. Spock. So it was a rela­tion­ship between two men, or more pre­cise­ly, one and a half men and one half of a Vulcan, that was the motor of Star Trek.

This was the 60s so you’re not real­ly allowed to have sub­text back then. I mean, there was a show called I Dream of Genie where an American mil­i­tary offi­cer has full con­trol of a scantily-clad blonde woman who lives in a bot­tle and does his bid­ding, and yet there was no innu­en­do there. So I mean, you know, you can’t have any, let alone homo­erot­ic, innuendo. 

Kirk and Spock's heads photomanipulated onto the bodies of two bare-chested men against an alien planet background.

But you know, fans are smart and the kind of peo­ple who wrote sto­ries about Star Trek (and this start­ed ear­ly on) saw through this ruse and under­stood that oth­er fan­f­ic writ­ers want­ed to read about man going bold­ly where man has nev­er gone before, or Vulcan for that mat­ter. So this unfor­tu­nate­ly caused a rift not in the space-time con­tin­u­um but it near­ly tore the Star Trek fan­dom asun­der and was dis­cussed heav­i­ly in the ear­ly 70s at a con­fer­ence where there was a big ker­fuf­fle about fan­f­ic authors (who’re pri­mar­i­ly het­ero­sex­u­al women) writ­ing these incred­i­bly racy sto­ries about Kirk vs. Spock. It was such a phe­nom­e­non that it became known as The Premise, or lat­er on K/S” for Kick and Spock and that slash became the gener­ic cover-all term for fic­tion that was homo­erot­ic between these male pro­tag­o­nists. Starsky and Hutch was kin­da the next one up. You had a lot of great poten­tial in those old TV shows.

So slash was very under­ground to begin with. You had to work pret­ty hard to find this stuff. You could­n’t just send away for it because fans were very con­scious of the fact that Gene Roddenberry was­n’t going to be look­ing too hap­pi­ly on hard­core homo­sex­u­al erot­i­ca about his family-friendly TV show. But it was there, and as fan­dom moved from the world of zines and pho­to­copies to mail­ing lists and Usenet and then onto the Internet and kind of found its Nirvana and its mil­len­ni­um in LiveJournal dur­ing a few years before LiveJournal made a huge mis­take and alien­at­ed fan­dom, slash became more and more close to the sur­face, because it got more and more obvi­ous that peo­ple real­ly dug this stuff.

There’s almost a cliche in the world of fan fic­tion about peo­ple expound­ing on slash. Why do peo­ple write this and why do peo­ple read it? And I kind of agree that it’s a sil­ly thing. I’m not going to come up on stage and talk to you at length about why het­ero­sex­u­al men view videos of two women mak­ing out and find that appeal­ing. But for some rea­son peo­ple feel the need to explain slash as a cul­tur­al phe­nom­e­non and you know, What is is that makes it so fun to write and read?” I’m just going to accept it as it is and you’re prob­a­bly won­der­ing at this point, What is this weird Polish-named guy doing up here talk­ing about Kirk drilling Spock?” And some of you are like, That’s fine, please con­tin­ue. Do you have more slides?” 

I’m here by way of atone­ment, because I used to be a real jerk about fan­dom, and I used to make fun of them, and think they were wast­ing their time. And then I had this kin­da life-changing come-to-Jesus moment that I want to talk to you about and this real­ly weird arti­fact that got pro­duced part­ly because of me, and it’s com­plete­ly changed my think­ing. And as I’ve got­ten to know fan­dom and real­ly like them, I’ve come to believe that they kind of rep­re­sent a future and a mod­el for what com­mu­ni­ties are like on the Internet when you have actu­al peo­ple using machines to talk to one anoth­er rather than this kind of invent­ed sense of what social life and social net­works are sup­posed to be like, the way we’ve engi­neered them. 

So let me give you just a tiny lit­tle bit of back­ground about me and my involvement. 

This is Joshua Schachter. In 2004 he wrote a web­site called Delicious. Anybody use Delicious in the past or present? [Clapping.] Alright, yes is the answer. It was the first social book­mark­ing site. The real­ly inno­v­a­tive thing about it was not just that peo­ple can kind of book­mark things of inter­est and see what oth­er peo­ple are book­mark­ing, but he had this tags” field, which at the time no one had real­ly done except Flickr, that came out at rough­ly the same time. And the tags field, I remem­ber not know­ing what it was for. He explained it to me basi­cal­ly as a search engine in reverse. Rather than typ­ing in some­thing to find results, when you save some­thing for lat­er, why don’t you type down the the stuff that you’re going to prob­a­bly use as key­words when you look for it long after it’s for­got­ten? Blew my mind, but what blew every­body’s mind was the fact that when you col­lect­ed tags from a bunch of dif­fer­ent peo­ple, even if you did­n’t tell them any instruc­tions about what to do or what vocab­u­lary to use and all that, you still got real­ly great results. The more peo­ple tagged stuff, the more rel­e­vant and descrip­tive the col­lec­tive tags for stuff would be.

Joshua took that straight to Yahoo!. Yahoo! at the time had rooms full of peo­ple whose job it was to cat­e­go­rize web sites. They had been a web direc­to­ry orig­i­nal­ly and were still try­ing to kin­da do this as the web was grow­ing, and he said you can do this kind of Tom Sawyer-style. Have every­body white­wash the fence for you. Collect this data, wrap adver­tis­ing around it, give it back to them and you’re going to win. And Flickr and Delicious, Yahoo! bought them both for that rea­son. Some years down the line, I was talk­ing to Britta Gustafson, won­der­ful woman, real­ly great diplo­mat. She can jiu jit­su even the most tox­ic peo­ple, includ­ing myself. And we were talk­ing about tags on Delicious and she said, You should look at the fan­f­ic peo­ple. They’re doing crazy stuff.” And I was, “[Groan] the fan­f­ic. Come on. Lame.” And she said, Listen to me. Why don’t you go take a look at what I just said.” 

Screenshot of a tag cloud, various terms highlighted or in different colors.

This morn­ing I pulled up my own tag cloud from Pinboard. This is kind of typ­i­cal of what tag­ging is for non-fanfic peo­ple. Over the years, I’ve accrued the weird­est tags. I just type any­thing that comes to my mind. I have no dis­ci­pline about it. Some peo­ple are much more focused when they tag. They treat it like fold­ers; maybe they only have ten or twelve tags that they fit every­thing into. But the fan­f­ic peo­ple, they trumped us all. What they basi­cal­ly did is they came up with a set of con­ven­tions that allowed them to turn Delicious into a cus­tom search engine for fan fic­tion. So let me give you some exam­ples of that. 


Some of the obvi­ous stuff. You have pair­ings. When you get into fan­dom you under­stand that there’s peo­ple kind of cen­tered around dif­fer­ent shows, and then every­body has their own favorite pair­ing. Maybe you’re a Harry and Draco Malfoy sort of per­son, or maybe you’re a tra­di­tion­al­ist so it’s Kirk and Spock for you even though it’s been years and years. The oth­er thing I need to explain is in Delicious you could com­pose tags, so you could stack them one on top of the oth­er (no innu­en­do intend­ed) and then you would get a fil­ter of stuff that matched only those cri­te­ria. So this was a way you could sub­scribe to the newest sto­ries. And peo­ple, they pro­duced mas­sive amounts of fic­tions so you could real­ly fil­ter it down and still get new things. 

So you could fil­ter by pair­ing, there’s these kind of metatags, like this has­n’t been cat­e­go­rized yet,” so you know, need­stags”. Kink; you can be very spe­cif­ic. I’m into dom­i­nance and sub­mis­sion” or you could have a foot fetish, or I want to read about bondage.” This cool excla­ma­tion point syn­tax that orig­i­nat­ed from fan­dom where could have a char­ac­ter, but some­thing unusu­al hap­pens to them that’s not real­ly in the sto­ry, so here Snape has been kid­napped by some­one. I won­der what they’re going to do with him.

This is one I like a lot, which is chapters-read”, like it’s a long piece of fic­tion, how far have you got­ten. The match­mak­er” one is kin­da cool. Spock Prime, who knew that Spoke Prime was a lit­tle go-to, who would actu­al­ly be the one who got Kirk and Spock Regular together? 

Things are cat­e­go­rized by tropes. Some peo­ple use it almost as a hier­ar­chy. So this is one wom­an’s tag that’s got five lay­ers in it. It’s meta fan­dom female char­ac­ters and then Stargate as the spe­cif­ic show. 

And then my favorite exam­ple, at the bot­tom, took advan­tage of the fact that there’s auto-complete in this inter­face, so when you type the first char­ac­ter you see a list of the tags that start with it. So she was very care­ful to cat­e­go­rize things so the apos­tro­phe meant it was a gen­er­al cat­e­go­ry, the star meant what char­ac­ter in the sto­ry, the plus was for pair­ings, the @ is for the actu­al author of the fic (in this case it’s anony­mous). The caret was for her com­men­tary, allthe­feels” mean­ing this is a real emo­tion­al roller­coast­er on this one. And then word count. So if you want stuff that’s less than 10,000 words long, you put in that tag. 

It’s incred­i­ble how much effort they put into them. Because every­body was using rough­ly the same con­ven­tions they could find one anoth­er’s fic through Delicious. 

So around 2009, I start­ed a web site called Pinboard which was a book­mark­ing site. Basically, Delicious redesigned in a way that I hat­ed and in order to not just com­plain all the time, I tried to make my own ver­sion of what I used to like in Delicious. And I real­ly want­ed to seduce these fans with their amaz­ing tags, but they were real­ly attached. Delicious had this Firefox plu­g­in that was super-fancy. They had all their stuff there. They’re sen­ti­men­tal peo­ple to begin with. So I did­n’t real­ly have any suc­cess in get­ting the fans to come over, until these two fools kind of looked at each other. 

They’re the YouTube founders, Chad Hurley and Steven Chen. Maybe they’re won­der­ful peo­ple, kind to ani­mals, beloved by chil­dren. I don’t know them per­son­al­ly, but they kind of bun­gled their way through the Delicious pur­chase. Like, Chad looked at Steve and was like, Brooo, you wan­na buy Delicious?” and Steve’s like, Bro, total­ly, let’s buy it.” 

And so they bought it and they poured a lot of mon­ey into it, and then they had this uncloak­ing of their new design. And part of the new design was destroy­ing a lot of fea­tures that the fans real­ly loved. So one thing, they got rid of the sup­port forum, so you could­n’t pub­licly com­plain about any­thing. And then they got rid of the abil­i­ty to see all your tags, which you can imag­ine for some­one with a sys­tem like that is just ter­ri­ble. But the thing that killed fan­dom on Delicious was you could­n’t put the slash tag into the search box any­more. So you know, there is no God, life has no mean­ing, it’s over when you can search on the slash tag.

Being a can­ny busi­ness­man, I tweet­ed to the world a gen­tle reminder that I had through hard work enabled Unicode sup­port for the “/” tag. 


So fan­dom kind of dis­patched a probe to see if I was worth fur­ther study. And they talked to me a bit and they’re like, Well you know, there’s some stuff that is miss­ing that we real­ly rely heav­i­ly upon.” And in my fool­ish­ness I said, Could you make a list? I’ll take a look. Maybe some of it is easy to imple­ment.” And I kind of start­ed this monster. 

A grid of images representing and overview of the pages of a large document, showing text in various colors, highlighting styles, and indention levels

So for three days I watched this Google Doc grow. It end­ed up being fifty-two pages long. And I want­ed to show you some of the high­lights of it.

You know, Google engi­neers this stuff pret­ty heav­i­ly, but at cer­tain times it was locked because there were too many peo­ple edit­ing it con­cur­rent­ly. There were always at least fifty view­ers, but some­times it was just read-only because there were how­ev­er many peo­ple try­ing to make changes. These are all anony­mous users, but they some­how seemed to know each oth­er? So here’s the first page of it. 

So, first instruc­tion read the entire thing before you do any­thing.” And then instruc­tions about how you have to be in chat now, please don’t insert any­thing in the table of con­tents because there’s a real­ly OCD per­son who’s doing just that and you’re not as OCD so just relax. And then the friend­ly color-coding and every­thing like that.

So you had to study this doc­u­ment before you con­tributed to it at all. And basi­cal­ly it con­sist­ed of all these fea­ture requests and then peo­ple would vote on it, but they would vote on it by just typ­ing in a lit­tle arrow and their vote after­wards, and there’s noth­ing to keep track of who had writ­ten what but some­how they man­aged it any­way? And I was real­ly afraid of what was hap­pen­ing so I ven­tured into this doc­u­ment and I made my text orange so I’d be kind of faint, but I start­ed hav­ing dis­cus­sions with peo­ple. So here you have a back and forth where some­one requests some­thing and I reply at length and then they decide, Hey I’ll just build an app, for exam­ple, that maps Delicious user­names to Pinboard ones because that’ll be handy” and you know the oth­er fans will appre­ci­ate it, so some­one built an app on Heroku and put it up, and put a link into it into this doc­u­ment that’s spi­ral­ing out of control. 

And then one of the nicest bits here [page 53] is there’s a warn­ing say­ing Please don’t slash Maciej. He’s not okay with it. We want him to like us.” and there’s this debate about whether it’s okay to write slash fic­tion about me, or Pinboard in a fic­tion­al rep­re­sen­ta­tion and why that’s going to alien­ate me. I was just laugh­ing. It’s won­der­ful, right? And also some­one has already writ­ten a fic about the writ­ing of this doc­u­ment and they’ve linked it back in a meta sort of thing. And then some­one else asks for a fea­ture and then they just put Javascript right in [page 46], Oh yeah that’s eas­i­ly fix­able. I’m going to go ahead and do that.” 

So some­one had cre­at­ed a tuto­r­i­al for how to write this doc­u­ment. Someone else, all she did was indent and fix the indents and was thanked for it. There’s a cred­its sec­tion, there’s an index, it’s cross-referenced. MLA-style cita­tions. This thing is intense. And at the very end of it peo­ple start putting thank-yous and they change the text col­or for dif­fer­ent users. So I’d like to very briefly give a dra­mat­ic read­ing of the fic that was writ­ten about Pinboard. 

It was almost noon when Pinboard stum­bled into the office, eyes bleary. His shirt, Delicious not­ed, was but­toned crooked.

And where have YOU been all morn­ing?” Delicious asked. The split-second glance away from the com­put­er had been a bad idea; there was already a full screen of new com­plaints in his inbox.

Nothing much,” Pinboard said as he boot­ed up his own machine and start­ed typ­ing hastily.

Delicious held his fin­ger down on the delete key until all the new mes­sages van­ished, then risked a sec­ond glance over at his office mate. Pinboard already had a dizzy­ing array of win­dows open on his five mon­i­tors, but Delicious’s atten­tion was instant­ly drawn to the one with mul­ti­col­ored text. He squint­ed. One of the names looked familiar–

Hey! You’ve been talk­ing with Fandom!”

We had a good brain­storm­ing ses­sion last night,” Pinboard said mod­est­ly. He reached up to push a lock of hair behind his ear. An ear, Delicious not­ed with hor­ror, that had a bruise on its lobe. There were more bruis­es run­ning down his neck, a line of love bites that van­ished under his shirt.
Ambyr, The Morning After

This goes on but time con­straints pre­vent me from read­ing any more. This is writ­ten by a won­der­ful woman whose han­dle is Ambyr. She gra­cious­ly con­sent­ed for me to give a read­ing here of this fic. Anyway, the point you should under­stand is these are won­der­ful peo­ple. And if you’ve ever used to deal­ing with anony­mous users on-line, this is like a mir­ror world where YouTube com­menters are trans­formed into the most sup­port­ive and friend­ly and mutu­al­ly help­ful bunch. And it com­plete­ly blew my mind. So I want to run through some low-hanging fruit sort of items that you can… I know you’re sent here by your employ­ers, you want to go back and like, you know: Lessons Learned, action items and things. So let me take a lit­tle tour there.

First of all, fans, they’re just so nice. They’re so nice. So stop being mean to them if you’ve ever been mean to them like I used to be. Because we live in a cul­ture that cel­e­brates a man with a met­al stick spend­ing thir­ty years of his life try­ing to hit a ball into a hole, and he’s described as coura­geous and there’s a sto­ry arc to his life or what­ev­er. So a hob­by where you’re just writ­ing sto­ries is not so weird.

Fans are impor­tant because they fight cen­sor­ship. And this is a big tragedy and you know, fans love dra­ma so they tend to dra­ma­tize their his­to­ry, but they’ve had some moments. And one of them was when LiveJournal decid­ed that in order to pro­tect the chil­dren, the were going to ban all these com­mu­ni­ties that sup­port crim­i­nal activ­i­ty. Their def­i­n­i­tion of crim­i­nal activ­i­ty was, We’re going to look at key­words in these com­mu­ni­ties, and any­thing that sounds wrong, you know, incest, rape, abuse, what­ev­er. It means you’re a crim­i­nal.” So they banned 500 com­mu­ni­ties, rein­stat­ed 350 of them even­tu­al­ly, but not just fans who were obvi­ous­ly writ­ing their sto­ries, but incest sur­vivors who were dis­cussing it… A very heavy-handed move, and fans often find them­selves the first vic­tims of this kind of thing, because the stuff they write tests bound­aries. You saw just recent­ly on Tumblr, when Tumblr, acquired by Yahoo! decid­ed, Oh no! Pornography, can nev­er show it again. So we’re going to hide it. You can’t search for gay’ any­more, for exam­ple, on Tumblr and have it have pub­lic results come up.” Fans are often right there in the trench­es, so sup­port them because what they’re doing is won­der­ful and legitimate. 

Kind of in a relat­ed thing, fans fight for pri­va­cy. Fandom, it’s most­ly a wom­en’s com­mu­ni­ty. They have an inter­est­ing take on pri­va­cy, and what I’ve come to under­stand is that fans aren’t ashamed of what they’re doing, but hav­ing the abil­i­ty to have pseu­do­nyms or a sep­a­rate iden­ti­ty from their day-to-day one gives them free­dom to write what they want and inter­act how they want. And we live in a time when these very cen­tral­iz­ing sites are try­ing to teth­er us to our real names. Fans fight for this, and they also demon­strate that you can have an anony­mous or pseu­do­ny­mous com­mu­ni­ty that’s not just full of hor­ri­ble trolls as long as peo­ple inter­act with each oth­er over time. So fans are fight­ing for our privacy. 

And they nev­er sold out, man. There were all these attempts to cre­ate fan fic­tion sites and you even saw one or two weeks ago, Amazon intro­duces Kindle Worlds, where Kindle’s gra­cious­ly licensed some of these fic­tion­al realms and you can write sto­ries about them. If you look at the terms and con­di­tions, there can’t be any sex in them, and there’s all this oth­er stuff. But you get some pit­tance of a per­cent­age of every sto­ry you sell. And fans have tak­en an hon­est look at this, but they’re like No, we’re just going to keep doing what we’re doing.” Which is trans­gress­ing, which is kind of awe­some, and used to be what the Internet was sup­posed to bring us, these edgy free­doms. This is a quote from some shill at LucasFilm where he says

We’ve been very clear all along on where we draw the line,” said Jim Ward, vice pres­i­dent of mar­ket­ing for Lucasfilm. We love our fans. We want them to have fun. But if in fact some­body is using our char­ac­ters to cre­ate a sto­ry unto itself, that’s not in the spir­it of what we think fan­dom is about. Fandom is about cel­e­brat­ing the sto­ry the way it is.” 

Enh, no. Fandom is a big mid­dle fin­ger raised at this dude. A sub­cul­ture that’s old­er than the Internet and is still some­thing I can talk about to a gen­er­al audi­ence and some of you might be hear­ing about it for the first time, that’s pret­ty cool. They’ve kept it real.

Fans improve our cul­ture. Part of the rea­son our tele­vi­sion shows suck less than they used to is because peo­ple are more sophis­ti­cat­ed about the way they watch them. There may be tech­no­log­i­cal rea­sons for this; we can binge on stuff now dozens of episodes at a time. But there’s also a real sense in which fan­dom ana­lyzes this stuff to death, decon­structs it. There’s tons of aca­d­e­mics, librar­i­ans, pro­fes­sors, just gen­er­al smart peo­ple no mat­ter what their jobs are, who are in fan­dom and love to pick stuff apart and glue it back togeth­er in dif­fer­ent ways. And this kind of per­co­lates back into the cul­ture. It cre­ates more sophis­ti­cat­ed view­ers and that means the stuff we watch is just better.

A few more ranty items while I have a lit­tle time. 

This is a big one. Social is not a syrup or a sauce or a gravy, it’s not even a noun. But we have this ten­den­cy to like, there’s these two ele­ments right? So there’s con­tent. Content is a tofu-like gelati­nous sub­stance, which you can cut into cus­tom pieces. And then there’s social, which is this condi­ment that you pour over it. And I’ve tried to stop using the word con­tent” at all because I find it so objec­tion­able. This idea that we’re going to engi­neer web sites and then just sprin­kle social onto it and have a com­mu­ni­ty. Real com­mu­ni­ties don’t work like that. Real com­mu­ni­ties are peo­ple who have long mem­o­ries, and inter­act with each oth­er over time, and can take your prod­uct or leave it. It’s might incon­ve­nience them, but you’re not the boss of them. I think it’s impor­tant to remem­ber that.

Something counter-intuitive to me was a lot of this fan stuff, they would use tools and web sites and plu­g­ins and Greasemonkey, like five things at once, and it’s real­ly hard to get your mind around it. My instinct was could­n’t this be done more eas­i­ly or more intu­itive­ly? But it’s actu­al­ly the dif­fi­cul­ty of the tools and the norms of the com­mu­ni­ty [that] pro­tect it. It takes a while. You have to be com­mit­ted to start con­tribut­ing because you have to learn how all this stuff works. 

This isn’t just fan­dom. You know those awful PHP-based mes­sage boards like, I like to scu­ba dive so I go to the scu­ba board some­times and I have no idea how to use it but there’s some real­ly infor­ma­tive peo­ple on there. I think that these ter­ri­ble inter­faces actu­al­ly serve a pro­tec­tive func­tion where they keep the com­mu­ni­ty iso­lat­ed from just drive-by com­ments. If you ever go to the Guardian or the New York Times, places where you can actu­al­ly com­ment very eas­i­ly with­out ever hav­ing been there before, the com­ments are just total­ly trash. And I won­der some­times if it’s because it’s too easy to do it.

Lurkers are watch­ing you, and they out­num­ber every­body else, so your behav­ior— For exam­ple, LiveJournal did­n’t think there was going to be a big deal about ban­ning all these fans, but for every per­son who spoke out there were ten peo­ple who were watch­ing to see what would hap­pen. This is some­thing to be real­ly care­ful about. And a corol­lary of that is just stop futz­ing with it. Don’t mess with it. If you have a nice site just don’t refresh it. Just leave it, because it’s good. On LiveJournal for exam­ple, fans, a lot of them would use user icons as com­men­tary to their posts. There’s be a one-sentence com­ment, but then the user icon, they would have 900 of them and they would pick the one that best com­ple­ment­ed it. It was a form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion. LiveJournal decid­ed for some rea­son you have to lim­it this to what­ev­er it was, twen­ty or thir­ty, because no rea­son. And so they killed this fea­ture of their site they did­n’t even understand.

Which leads to the corol­lary shut up and lis­ten.” People are using your sites in ways you might not be famil­iar with. Why not have a look and see what it is, or ask? People are amaz­ing­ly forth­com­ing about it, and it’s very rare that any­body gets asked, so take advan­tage of it. 

Breakups are real­ly hard both on com­mu­ni­ties and on sites, like when a tight-knit com­mu­ni­ty choos­es to leave they real­ly all go in one piece. Delicious, the whole thing was like a stam­pede away from it. Not every­body came to Pinboard, but pret­ty much every­body left Delicious. And this is kind of an irrev­o­ca­ble thing. When your site los­es a com­mu­ni­ty, they’re not going to come back eas­i­ly because there’s such a high acti­va­tion ener­gy bar­ri­er to them leav­ing in the first place, you real­ly have to exas­per­ate them. In that way it’s a lot like human rela­tion­ships. Once you move out from your spouse’s house, it’s prob­a­bly because you real­ly can’t take it anymore.

And last­ly two things, or three. One, we are all fans. So whether or not you write fan­f­ic, or have any inter­est in it, there’s stuff that you like to read or watch or what­ev­er else. So let that be a guide to you to empathize with peo­ple who like to take a more active approach to it. And then, this might sound a lit­tle bit maudlin, but I think it’s true that fan­dom actu­al­ly changes lives. Britta had a real­ly nice way of putting it that for some young women fan­dom is this kind of secret sem­i­nar in fem­i­nism and is life-changing to them. For oth­er peo­ple it has that same effect on sex­u­al­i­ty and gen­der and even know­ing that there’s such a thing as a gen­der iden­ti­ty that you can choose. Some peo­ple dis­cov­er that through fan­dom. For a lot of peo­ple it’s their hap­py place, and it’s impor­tant to have a hap­py place, some place you go and you can con­tribute and be active and con­nect­ed. We’re told that the Internet is so alien­at­ing, but com­mu­ni­ties like this prove that it’s the oppo­site that’s true.

So I want to just say a big hooray and yay to fan­dom and then encour­age every­body to go see, a lot of this talk came from fan​lore​.org, which is run by the Organization for Transformative Works, the Archive of Our Own is what Britta calls the friend­liest damn open source project on the Internet.” The only place that will actu­al­ly train you from noth­ing if you want to con­tribute, and teach you Ruby just so that you can patch this archive they’ve cre­at­ed. And Dreamwidth is a fan-run fork of LiveJournal that adds some fea­tures for them. And then of course every day you can see what’s pop­u­lar on Pinboard among the fan­dom crowd on the fan­dom page.

So thank you all very much and thanks to all the fans who made this talk possible.