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Fanfiction.Net NC-17 Ban in 2002

This is just to archive the original post made by Xing Li, the administrator of Fanfiction.Net in 2002:

It covers things like: NC-17, chat/script format, real person (RPF) fan fiction and original fiction logistics prior to Fictionpress.com

"September 12th, 2002 -- This will be longest announcement in FanFiction.Net's 4 year history as there are many things covered and changes announced.

"As noted last month, original fiction is a fast growing part of the site. To give the original fiction writers better exposure, the site has split the categorization into two upper classes: FanFiction and Original Fiction. As a result of this specific change, severals modifications have been performed.

""Original » Song fics" category has been moved to "FanFiction » Misc » Song fics"
"Original » Short Stories" category has been retitled to "Original » General Fiction"
Contents of "Originals » Novel" has been moved to "Originals » General Fiction"

"The following sections of FanFiction.Net will no longer be continued. Entries in these categories will be removed on October 12th, 2002. If you have an entry in the follow areas, please login and use the new "Backup" feature to download them to your computer for personal backup.

"NC-17 based entries will no longer be accepted. Though they are very small portion of the site the adult stories have generated almost all of the complaints filed on record in the past year. Moreover, the highest concentration of them are growing in areas with subjects targeted to younger readers and with increasingly controversial subject matters. However, not all NC-17 based stories fall into the description but as result of their increasing volume a decision has been made to resolve this problem. Innocent writers will be affected but this has to be done considering the non-filtering scheme of the site.

"Many months ago FanFiction.Net introduced a form of ban for real-person based stories (RPS): actor fiction. After evaluating that ban and receiving many responses as a result of that ruling, it has been decided that we need to extend the rule to all real-person stories to keep it consistent. The affected categories are:
All Music Groups
Misc; Sports
TV Shows; Big Brother, Survivor, Who's Line is it anyway?

"Chat room or keyboard dialogue based entries will no longer be allowed. Much of the chat room entries are void of plot, without attempt at plot and are more inline with random dialogue than with stories or poetry. Having these type of entries on the site is unfair to those that have spent quality time fleshing out substantial content.

In addition to the FanFiction.Net Guidelines, a new section, "Writer's Etiquette", has been introduced to detail codes of conduct that all writers should adhere to. Writer's Etiquette and the modified Guidelines are accessible on the "Upload story" page and through this url.

"Review Alert is now active for all members. This used to be a Support Service only feature but because of past and current Support Service members we are now able to reliably provide this service to every registered member. For those of you new to Review Alert, it is setup so that you will be notified by email whenever a new review is submitted to any of your stories. Review Alert greatly reduces the amount of time you waste on the site by periodically checking to see whether a new review has been submitted.
New "Backup" feature has been introduced which will greatly ease the pain of backing up stories archived on the site. This feature was part of Support Service Enhanced Statistics but we feel it is important that everyone have this feature.
Story reading pages (read.php) has been revamped for a much cleaner interface while displaying more information of the story.
The list of authors that have you on their "Favorite Authors list" will now be displayed as part of the standard Statistics page. This is a result of convincing argument from several members of the site.
A ratings guide has been created in the Guidelines to help the correct categorization of stories in the G, PG, PG-13, and R range.

"Misc: The Crossover categories have been moved into the "FanFiction; Misc" category.
Please note that all the stories effected by the ruling above have not been removed. They will be retained until October 12th, 2002. If the changes apply to you, please login and use the backup feature to create a personal copy on your local computer.

"FanFiction.Net will like to issue a formal apology to the many members of the site that will be effected by today's announcement. The site evolves over time and as such we are forced to make decisions that usually have negative impacts on some of the members but in response to needs."

Searching for the original announcement can be a pain due to its historical obscurity and lots of irrelevant links appearing in search results. Hopefully someone finds the text useful!

A Fix the Fan's Mix

Just some two weeks after I posted the exploit, where some script-adept FanFiction.Net member managed to bypass the site's security and create a category for him/herself, the site fixed the issue. The "category" caused a crash in some browsers because the link was ridiculously long, and it mangled the view of Anime crossovers.

Here's what used to be the full link: http://www.fanfiction.net/crossovers/Glamorous_Lip_Login_to_add_items_to_your_list_keep_track_of_your_

Recover it if you wish by connecting the four lines. If you are lazy, here is the short version: http://www.fanfiction.net/crossovers/OMFGWTFLOL/7092/ Apparently, you can put any text between /crossovers/ and the /7092/ number, and still get to the category. Cool beans.

What we have now when we enter the link in FFN's system is a stark red message: "The page you are looking for does not exist. (1)"

This message, I assure you, did not exist. The generic message for a page missing is this. And if we change the number from 7092 to, say, 7093, (http://www.fanfiction.net/crossovers/OMFGWTFLOLx2yay/7093/) we get: 

"No crossovers

There are currently no crossovers submitted to the Glamorous Lip/グラマラス・リップ category."

It seems FFN's staff had to create a separate notification line for this occurrence. They were using a different system message for categories that were deleted earlier.

During this round of applause, it would be excellent if the site could fix the typo on its November 26th, 2010 announcement (some screwy version of the word maintenance), the error on the forums page, where FFN calls its service "dicussion forums", and something I gawked at in its Terms of Service.

I hope this post was informative at least to the casual reader. If you spot any system typos or funky server messages, post them in the comments below. Your feedback may be crucial to improving FanFiction.Net. Who knows?

Edit: Since I've received over 100 spam comments since the last update, and LJ is yet to fix the issue, commenting is now disabled. Sorry, but I have no interest in buying Swiss watches made in China.

FanFiction.Net Got Hacked? With typos?!

When FFN dumps a mile-long link that crashes your browser, things can't be right.

(Image and data courtesy of FFN Research)

The above is a screencap from Anime Crossovers as seen on FanFiction.Net in Firefox. My running guess is that FF.Net has a loophole in those multiple pop-up windows that appear when someone submits their story. A user was somehow able to create a fandom while choosing the series listing the story belonged in. Thankfully, this loophole was not widely exploited by trolls, which became a greater nuisance since Encyclopaedia Dramatica (ED) added a "how to troll FFN" guide on its page.

After the forum purging event of November 25, 2010, as some fans have put it "The Great Purge (TM)", you'd have expected the site was going to shape up and be more grumbly on how users waste its space with hundreds of copy-paste lines like "95% of teens breathe and blink at the same time. If you're a part of the remaining 5%, add this to your profile", but that didn't happen. The only changes I have noticed were a day-in day-out forum purge that ate its way from February 25th, 2010 as the last date in forums to the middle of April, and text limiters in the site's code.

The latter is somewhat important because FFN now has a limiter variable in all of its content. As in, forum posts, PMs, everything you can submit in text. The fun part is that some of the limiter values are empty. In practice, this means FFN is ready to add a "you cannot make your forum post longer than 5000 characters" just by putting the right number in the limiter field. Right now, for forum posts, that field is empty. Hurrah for freedom of tl;dr that may not exist tomorrow.

2011 has so far shown that "tomorrow" like "a couple of days" is a very stretchy term on FFN. It's easiest to see from the announcement below. Yes, it has a typo:

"November 26th, 2010 -- Please note at 1AM US Pacific (PST) time, we will perform several matainance actions which will result in the temporary downtime of forum posting for about 30 minutes.

We will also at this time introduce an auto-delete feature of removing PM message with send timestamp of older than 9 months. The 9 months freshness limit will be enforced for both PM messages and forum topics to ensure fast response time for these systems. For perspective, there are 17 million pm messages currently in the system and we need a self-cleaning system to move forward.

Lastly, both forums and pm/private messaging feature will come to the mobile site within a couple of days."

The date today is 13th of January, 2011, and the couple of days are still not over because...no mobile forums or mobile PM. Talk about neglect, the last thing they have fixed on the front page in 2010 was the purge date limit, switching 6 to 9. The main forum page calls the service "dicussion forums". And it has been this way for years! It's either a) nobody cares to email the admins about this or b) the admins don't care about what they write. When Xing was involved personally, I couldn't spot typos in his announcements. Now, they might as well say "we'll dalate old PMs in May" and do the "dalating" in October. Still, props for having no typos in TOS. It's gone far from Laura Hale's initial version, and I did see some wordings change over time. Like, there used to be a line against libel. The current version doesn't have that.

As you may have noticed, FFN Research has a lot more news other than the successful hack attempt. In general, the latest post summarises the site's growth and/or deterioration (it's all semantics) in 2010, pinpointing new fandoms like Inception and giving every category a health check based on multiple factors like increase in story count, dead fandoms and ranks the most active spots in the fan fiction writing world.

For those of you, who missed it, here's the link.

Script format ban on FanFiction.Net

FFN banned script format on July 27, 2004.

This entry does not have any novelty value. I simply need a placeholder for information that is otherwise difficult to find. To be completely clear, it was assumed by veteran members on FanFiction.Net that the information previously available on the front page in 2004 is long lost. For a while, I was inclined to agree till I found reference to the ban and a purge that followed in an old review. I found links to petitions to bring script format back to the site, with dates, and continued my search from there, hoping to find the exact text the site used, to finally get the deal over with.

You see, a change in policy on FFN is something that affects many people, and the changes should be documented, so researchers like me wouldn't have to dig through buckets of useless pages with opinions instead of facts. Cutting to the chase, here it is:

'July 27th -- FanFiction.Net Content Guidelines have been updated to reduce the apparent confusion of two rules:

1. Chat and script format are the same. We have not allowed chat/script format for years.

2. Choose your adventure and second person/you based are interactive entries. We do not accept interactive stories.'

This is the original text as explained in the Literate Union's announcement thread with a reference to this site. I couldn't find a screenshot of the page, but the text is sure to be legitimate for the following reasons: the post dates back to 2004 with petitions and discontent, the exact words are quoted all over the net, which (only) becomes apparent when you look for the phrase, and it is how I remember the announcement. The thing that was left in my memory from back then was that the ban was done to "prevent confusion". A misquote, I suppose, because the exact formulation was more complex "to reduce the apparent confusion". It's sad Fan History closed to editors and their source mentions it done in November. I've attained a plain text HTML document of FFN's front page as of 2005, with the last entries being November 2004, and didn't see the announcement there. Right now, the source FH has is defunct, was deleted from the source's website. Personally, I would have guessed the ban took place in September - August, which was when the fandom backlash about the rule took place. Sure, as always, members have said "FFN has changed, and we're not going to post there anymore," but the collective "we" was a silly generalisation that had no effect, and the site grew. Just as it did in 2002 and 2010.

Now, this is where the factuality ends. You probably may want to know where the idea of the "ban" comes from. The site was different in 2004 and admins were closer to its users, so communication was more open and easier to get the juice from the top. There was a group called The Author Alliance, later referred to as The Alliance (they're on FH, by the way) back in the day. They were notorious for flaming and later removal of stories on the site. One of the 13 core members...I don't recall the name (could have been Super Solus, ReactionX or someone else) researched that script format (then allowed) as used in practice on FFN was no different from chat format, as used in IRC, IM (not allowed since the guidelines were created). Basically, before the announcement, members would contest that their work is scripted, not a roleplay session from online chatrooms. It was a common excuse, which caused bickering between opposing camps. Once the announcement, supposedly, based on that member's research, has been made, the site put a big fat cross on everything in similar formats. Three lines of script/chat in the author's note got your story down. Two lines, I'm guessing, could be considered as someone being daft with punctuation rather than a format issue.

The announcement set things straight very nicely, and the site made a big purge. For example, Sonic the Hedgehog lost some 30% of its weight in August. Dropping from over 5000 stories to about 3400. Stunning. Now, I actually wonder what the announcement entailed in theory. If chat = script, and chat was banned since the first guidelines (last months of 1998), script format was also banned. Then again, if it was banned, why was there arguing and unremoved stories? Why was Sonic the Hedgehog allowed to have 30% of its bulk being against the rules? It's really an interesting record when nearly a third of an archive is in violation of one rule, while you have numerous rules up. This reminds me of making a law with a backwards date. As in, you sign the legislation in 2004,  and it starts taking effect in 1998. That's how patents work, but the situation gives off a confusing glow, considering its background and consequences.

I hope those of you wandering the web for info on the ban are now happy and able to carry on your research. Hopefully, I'll find other missing links in FFN's evolution, so those looking into the subject of fan fiction and its gargantuan representative FFN, can work on solid grounds instead of rolling in the clouds of unknown.

FFN carries on its Thanksgiving tradition of killing fandom history.

Taken straight from FFN's front page:

November 26th, 2010 -- Please note at 1AM US Pacific (PST) time, we will perform several matainance actions which will result in the temporary downtime of forum posting for about 30 minutes.

We will also at this time introduce an auto-delete feature of removing PM message with send timestamp of older than 9 months. The 9 months freshness limit will be enforced for both PM messages and forum topics to ensure fast response time for these systems. For perspective, there are 17 million pm messages currently in the system and we need a self-cleaning system to move forward.

Lastly, both forums and pm/private messaging feature will come to the mobile site within a couple of days.

Since the previous six-month period for forums was, in fact, an error, and the last untouched date in forums was February 20, 2010 which is nine months away, they fixed the announcement from the 25th and are using the same filter on your personal messages.

FanFiction.Net introduced an inbox feature in the middle of 2009, June 14th (if the timer didn't mess up), so we could see all our personal messages (PMs) on one page without a fuss. It was a very convenient feature for those of us keen on keeping the actual email tidy, and it let everyone keep track of PM conversation easily. The problem is that FFN created a false sense of security. "You no longer have to save your messages because we save them for you" or something like that. Now, that security is lifted and replaced with shock. Literate Union members petitioned to the administration for more time to preserve personal conversation history. Personal messages, like other types of personal stuff are an emotional and often important part of fandom history. It's rare to see someone not care about their old doodles and exchanges with other fans. This is their past, and a bit of nostalgia is usually present. Erasing these messages would be taking away something fans value and love. First lessons in writing, gaining new friends in the writing world and many other cherishable moments disappear if FFN deems them too old for the site.

It's what makes fandom history so difficult to document. You might care about not repeating mistakes you've done in the past, but if the admin doesn't care, good luck and F U. What's interesting is that they're using the scissors on everyone on the site like some communist state: "Your hair must be this short to continue." If you're out of server space, get rid of trollfics, pay attention to plagiarist requests and, for goodness sakes, weed your own backyard. You don't bomb a city to make a parking lot. Besides, if FFN doesn't fail anytime soon (their domain registration expires in September 2011), they'll soon be out of server space again. Unless they're expecting the number of new members to drop, so they never again have a greater amount of PMs archived, the ordeal is pointless. Though, if they hired a consultancy firm to get easy fix solutions, they must know what they're doing.

And the amount of discontent it's going to cause. I don't know about you, but I've spent an hour backing up my PMs this morning. Tomorrow, I'm going to find the reviews I've sent throughout my stay on the site. Heavens forbid the site decides to flip off old reviews or stories, but one can't be too careful in this situation.

One thing for sure, I'm staying on FFN. They might not have done something agreeable this time, but this doesn't compare with ownership wars or emotional mod fights that happen in other archives I'd rather not name.

Edit: It's 9:30 AM GMT+0, and I've lost  20 PMs. 9:45, the number increases to 50. In two minutes the number of deleted PMs goes up from 1178353 to 1204467.