dConstruct: Fan is a Tool-Using Animal

by September 6, 2013

In his talk at dConstruct in Brighton UK 2013 Maciej Ceglowski shared his experience working with the fan fiction community and the lessons he learned. Here's my notes from his talk Fan is a Tool-Using Animal:

  • In 1967, Star Trek came into the World and created a rapid fan base. In the 70s, the premise that Spock/Kirk had a relationship caused a big rift in the Star Trek as a lot of Fan Fiction emerged about the topic.
  • Delicious allowed users to save bookmarks on the Web and tag them. Tagging was like a search engine in reverse. The fan fiction community used a set of custom complex tagging vocabulary to annotate and find fan fiction on Delicious.
  • When Delicious changed owners and redesigned a lot of fan fiction authors moved to Pinboard as the site offered to support their work.
  • Fans are a generally well behaved community. They fight censorship -like the removal of 500 communities from LiveJournal. Fans test boundaries and fight for privacy.
  • Fans improve our culture. They analyze content, pick it apart and create new versions.
  • Social is not a syrup to pour over content. We can't engineer Websites and add community. You are not the boss of your community.
  • The difficulty of learning an interface keeps communities isolated from drive-by comments. This might be a feature not a bug.
  • Stop futzing with your site. If something is working well, it may actually be better to leave it alone rather than keep redesigning.
  • Shut up and listen- ask people what they want. They can't wait to tell you about their needs.
  • Communities leave sites permanently. It's difficult to bring them back. Don;t send them packing.