The concept of the fan society developed a lot last night. Last week we sat around and watched animé videos and Neverwhere. This week, we (essentially) sat around and watched animé videos and Neverwhere. However, we asserted that this is not what we want to do every week, not least because (a) we've seen all of Neverwhere now and (b) there already exists a separate animé society. (On the plus side, they're set to show Spirited Away on a big screen in a lecture theatre either this Tuesday or next; on the minus side, the gamers' club meets that night. Ah, decisions, decisions.)
Instead, we are theming our Friday nights and concentrating on a different fandom a week. We're tying things in to the calendar when and where we can; horror on Hallowe'en, The Matrix when the third movie is released, Red Dwarf when the third series is released on DVD and so on and so forth. I think November 21st is slash evening; next Friday is Harry Potter night - without any intervention on my part, honest - so I ought to try to prepare something for that. The least I can do is go trolling around for some hot original pieces of fanfic which t'others might enjoy.
fruufoo writes fanfic herself as do some of the others, and others still draw, which leaves me rather in the cold as someone who is not productive in either of those ways. As I don't have a collection of DVDs myself, and as I don't think anyone apart from me counts the game show fandom as a fandom, sometimes all it seems I can contribute is jokes, mostly ripped off from you lot. (addedentry, I don't think you realise just how good your subtext/buttsex crack is in the right company.) Perhaps I can talk a bit about Nimbus and/or possibly even playtest the Duelling Club idea we were knocking about t'other month. Some day I'd hope that game generation would be at least as valid an activity as prose, verse or art, but I think that's kind of up to the game generators to make it so.
All the same, I'm very pleased with the way that the fan society is shaping up. It means that I am getting out of the house and seeing people who I can regard as peers, which is something I just haven't really done for years. Heck, I'm even getting out to parties, which is something I didn't habitually do during my (first) studenthood. They're a nice crowd of people, as far as I can tell from only two or three meetings, and very open-minded. They should even be a good influence on me.
Anyway, so last night we watched the first episode of Bubblegum Crisis 2040 (girl comes to Tokyo, works for company which makes humanoid robots, wonders about fabled vigilante group who deal with out-of-control robots, is saved by a member of said group, tries to join said group), that well-known Merton/Hislop animé Have I Got News For You?, the first episode of the big-on-gore-small-on-plot Cyber Gene (? may have the title wrong there), the not-animé-but-very-silly-and-very-cool Tank Girl, then we sat around chatting from about half past midnight. Topics of discussion included animals, dreams and families, oddly enough. There was a move to go to bed at three, but it failed; the four o'clock move to bed succeeded. Nobody else took the spare bed, so I did, and ended up with a good night's sleep instead of a bad one. Well, if people are going to be so nice...
(Digression: I also inadvertently fasted for 21 hours, between leaving my house at 6:30 yesterday evening and getting home at 3:30 this afternoon, other than a couple of glasses of Sprite, one of which had added coffee. This is really hammering home just how finicky and pernickety - no, let's call a spade a spade here, how immature - my attitudes really are about food. Some of you have seen one way in which this manifested itself, which wasn't pretty. The people I offended at the time have forgiven me, but I still feel bad about it. I want to try to work this out in my own mind some more some day, so I can work out what the issue really is. Then I'll write about it some more. It's not like going from home in Middlesbrough to another house in Middlesbrough is an exotic culinary adventure.)
It was particularly refreshing to see Middlesbrough from another perspective, from a student's point of view - to see what the concerns of a sizeable chunk (10%?) of the town's population are. It was also very interesting to be at an event where some of the people were on LiveJournal, but some of the people were not. Those on LJ have such a better idea of the moods, thoughts and opinions of the others who are on than who are not to the extent that there's almost a weak sort of telepathy or at least shared empathy between the LJ users - a remarkable local demonstration of the difference between the haves and the have nots in the information race.
On a related topic, there was an interesting study of the blogosphere published, which should help people try to understand the social impact of blogs and the differences in interactions between bloggers and non-bloggers. Sadly, there's no date on it, but it's probably pretty recent. The really interesting thing is that LiveJournal is singled out as having unusually good retention rates compared to most blogs, and Clay Shirky identifies how well the LiveJournal Friends feature works, suggesting that that may be a considerable part of reason behind the relatively high retention.
Certainly the Friends scheme is more useful than a collection of people's blogrolls because it provides a centralised, large dataset with which we can do useful and interesting things. For example, you aren't going to be able to do the LJ friends grapher nearly as easily for generalised blogs. (That said, Friendster made the ABC Evening News, which we get to see on News 24 at 1:40am UK time, for getting to two million users swiftly, and that's sort of generalised-blog-friendship-grapher-minu
As ever, though I'm parroting Nielsen mindlessly here, the utility of a network is proportional to the number of connections it makes and so proportional to the square of the number of people therein, so it's definitely in people's interest to stick to one service to as high an extent as possible. ixchelmala posted a link to the popularity of LiveJournal over time, which we can extend to the Alexa graph comparing the popularity of LiveJournal and Blogspot over time, which is interesting especially in the context of the Perseus report's forecast.
It's also relevant to note that the Perseus report doesn't include any of the LJ-code family - GreatestJournal, DeadJournal, Blurty, JournalFen and the like. I'm sometimes worried to see the migration from LJ to other LJ-code services, but I really think LJ's size means that it won't be permanent. GJ may give you whizzy toys like 1,000 big icons, but I really can't see it being as sensible a place to live in the long-term. I do like the look of the toys they are thinking of adding, but it seems to me that any toy that they could code for GJ could be added to LJ as easily. Someone more experienced at reading software licences than I am would likely be able to put me right about whether that would be legal or not.
For instance, I don't think the Evil Secret Crush Meme would work nearly as well for a universe of 50,000 GJ users as it would for the LJ universe which is at least ten and possibly thirty times bigger, depending on what types of users you count.
The Evil Secret Crush Meme really is a piece of work; I'm faintly disappointed to see that they now offer to remove your entries from their database at no cost. Frankly, I think they were letting people off cheaply by only charging $4 for crush IDs; they could've made far more money by charging $40 on day one, $39 on day two and so on to let the market set the price. Evil genius to be admired, really, and I think the fact that we haven't seen far more whinging, cursing and whining about them than we have is a show of just how widely grudgingly respected their stunt is.
Yet they're still missing a trick. One can look up how many people have declared "secret crush", "public crush" or "ex-crush" on you, but you can't look up to see how many people entered and said "no crush, no way, no how, not ever" about you at all. Accordingly, you're still in limbo as to whether the person you hoped might have declared some sort of crush on you, but evidently hasn't, has ever even taken the survey or not! Perhaps that's the bit of information they're holding back to sell to you next for four more dollars. Or forty more.
And despite this demonstration of what people are willing to do with information, people are still keen to rush to click the circles on the exciting new LJ Match sexual compatibility test. Interestingly, while ladies were quicker than men to take the standard compatibility test in my experience, the men seemed to have rushed to the sexual compatibility test far more quickly than the ladies did. Now if the market values finding out who someone else's crushes are as being worth $4 in this day and age, how much would finding out someone else's sexual desires be worth, I wonder? ;-)
If the figure is - say - $10 (and $10 for a working gaydar, bidar, kinkdar, pubedar and so much more seems quite inexpensive to me) then I guess the only policy worth holding is to sell that information yourself to all-comers for $9. Me? Save your money - I answered "no experience but curious" for all of them. Well, almost all of them - and I'll tell you which ones for a price. Because we're friends, let's call it, say... eight bucks. :-)
OK, I'm kidding, but I'm making light of a serious perception of what I perceive to be the global trend. I really think the most practical way to conduct yourself as an online journalist is with absolute openness and an extremely thick skin. Of course, this will only work if everyone does exactly that, in a similar way to that in which the best way to allay traffic congestion would be for every slow car in the jam to decide to speed up at exactly the same time. As people slow down on the motorway to avoid accidents, to facilitate travel through narrower stretches of road and to stop running pedestrians over, people slow down on telling the sometimes ugly truth for very similar reasons. Perhaps in relationships, as on the roads, the world would be faster and more efficient if we all shifted to top gear and just hoped like hell not to crash.
The fact that LiveJournal gives us a network of (in at least some sense) who knows whom and who likes whom facilitates a lot of other sorts of interesting tools. (Has Friendster generated counterpart tools in the same way, I wonder?) The way that these tools spread about the LJ-sphere, the best tools will get more and more users, more and more points of information in the dataset, more and more possible relationships. The vast majority so far have been benign, but the secret crush meme is one glance at a way that LiveJournal's Evil Cousin might develop. Accordingly, presenting: When LiveJournal Tools Go Bad.
The Mortality Index. It should be easy, in theory, to look at the ages of all someone's LJ Friends. From there, we can cross-reference these ages with actuarial tables and work out how likely it is that each Friend will die in the coming year. From there, we can work out how likely it is that everyone on your Friends list will be alive in a year's time, or the probability of a funeral on your Friends list over the coming 12 months. Naturally, I hope everyone on my Friends list lives a very long and extremely happy life, but traffic is fast and dangerous and - especially for folk with larger Friends lists - there's a very real chance that someone on your Friends list will be headed for ljers4eternity. It's the openness thing again - if the existence of such a tool helps people to say the things they want to say and eliminates one instance of someone dying with words unsaid, that's got to be something, eh?
The LJ Therapist.My name is John Doe. For the last 20 years I have been a therapist at Springfield Medical Centre. I will follow your LJ and offer you therapy. Can't talk to conventional therapists? Let me read your posts, even the private ones, and I can help. $50/hour, minimum two hours of attention per week. If just 20,000 angsty LiveJournalists find out, just 1% of them are interested and just 0.1% can produce the bucks, you've got a $100,000/year job right there. I get the feeling that $50/hour is probably pretty cheap as therapy rates go, too. Now this could be a real boon to the world if the therapist is a good one, or a real rip-off if the therapist is a sufficiently convincing scam artist. Insert the standard whinge about the efficacy of qualifications and testimonials for telling the two apart, out-source the labour to graduates in India, couple this with a pharmaceuticals scam and you're looking at more money than you know what to do with.
The Pr0n Club.This is sort of like Fight Club, but with sex instead of fighting.
Everyone likes porn, right? OK, this is for values of "everyone" technically referred to as "almost everyone", which practically translates to "sufficiently many people". (And for just $8, as discussed above, you too can find out whether I am one of them...) This would be a cross between a private club and a chain letter and a specialised natural evolution of the non-uglies communities which exist, set to cater for geographically close promiscuous folk. Two people make porn of themselves having sex. To join the community and see all the porn therein, you have to make porn with an existing club member already and share it with the rest of the club. Existing club members vote on who has sex with whom to create more porn for the benefit of the entire club; refusal to follow the club mandate leads to expulsion. I haven't thought this one through at all clearly, as you can tell, but that's the core, anyhow. I bet this isn't an original idea.
I always feel a little bit guilty about posting to LJ about LJ itself, as if I should be doing and thinking about other things and posting about them instead. Yet perhaps LJ is what I do best at this moment in time, which is a scary thought.
Hooray! All my e-mail from the start of the week which went missing has finally come through. 90% spam, 9% mailing lists, 1% of which would have really been rather useful to have had in a timely fashion. Still... better late than never, eh?