I am super cranky right now because I am damp (stupid rain) and tired (blergh, work stuff) and have been bombarded with various reminders that dudes can be pretty darn shitty (not even going to attempt to list all these out), so I am going to start out with an inflammatory statement.
Fandom is kind of terrible at building things.
Okay, so what do I mean by that? I have always liked the analogy of cultural scavengers, scouring the media landscape to find things that we can turn into narratives and stories that we find more pleasurable.
That's what we do with technology, too.
Think of the Yahoo mailing lists, filled with the announcements for the new story you just put up on your Geocities site.
Think of the webrings, a third-party service for linking together like-minded sites.
Think of the fic exchanges, built off the back of LJ's ability to screen comments to everyone except the moderators.
Think of the kink memes, a weird hybrid of anonymous LJ comments and Delicious bookmarking.
Think of Tumblr, however the fuck people manage to use it.
Sure, there are exceptions. But the AO3 is pretty much the only big ongoing technology/infrastructure project that I can think of in fandom right now. And it came out of a specific desire to control our own future. How much fannish history was straight-up lost when Geocities went down? How many people freaked out when LJ's new commenting system didn't support comment subjects anymore? How many rec lists for fandoms went nonfunctional when Delicious was sold to a new company? How does fandom manage to function on Tumblr at all? (Okay, I'll try to stop taking cheap shots at Tumblr. Mostly.) The AO3 is important, but it almost entirely stands alone. (There is still stuff like FF.net, was stuff like the Automated Archive. We are willing to do archives, apparently.)
Okay, so why? Why doesn't fandom do more things like this? Sure, writing code takes a lot of specialized skills that aren't easily developed, but so does vidding. Sure, organizing a lot of people takes a lot of work, but so does running a fic exchange.
I think it is part of the nature of fandom. We're not, by our nature, planners. We are distracted easily by the nearest, most interesting shiny thing. It's virtually impossible to see things in fandom planned one year out, much less five years out. How many WiPs have been lost to time?
Building software for fandom is tireless, thankless work. How many current AO3 coders can you name off the top of your head? Building software is also extremely time consuming. Code projects staffed by multiple experienced software developers working full time can take upwards of months, and after that, there's still bug fixing and maintenance and server costs.
And why bother in the first place? There's all this other stuff out there, given away for free. Why not just use that instead? We can repurpose it, of course, cut it up into scraps and figure out how to make it work.
But we didn't build it. It's still not ours.
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