What Makes Me Feel Icky

I’ve spent a lot of time advocating for the idea that fans are not insane — that we are perfectly sensible people who are generally quite capable of recognizing the differences between, say, characters and actors, or rock star personae and the people who wear those masks.

So it troubles me no end when people try to post comments on this blog that confuse the fact that I have written ABOUT someone with the illusion that the someone about whom I have written is either behind this blog or likely to be reading it.

This happens a lot with … I fear to use their names lest they generate even more misguided search hits than they already do, so I’ll just say… a really big British pop star whose fan site manager I interviewed and a youtube teenage sensation who’s happy to take credit for having gained his success online.

It makes me wonder what is going on … are these people totally internet illiterate and really don’t understand that a comment on my blog will never ever be read by the person to whom they’re addressing it? Or are they just throwing comments up everywhere figuring eventually he’s going to see one somewhere? Messing with me? Just not paying attention? Or what?

I just don’t get it.

Actually, now that I think about it, it also happened when I wrote about that really beloved racehorse whose name I won’t use but whose fan community became an activist community following his death. I got all kinds of creepy comments submitted on that one, as though the horse’s trainer were reading the comments, in which case I’d have hoped he was standing by with his lawyers cuz that was some ugly stuff they were trying to do through me.

Strangely, it never happens when I write about people (or animals) who aren’t really famous. Guess it’s some sort of natural law — the more fans you get, the more likely you are to get some who can’t tell comment@onlinefandom.com from YourFavoriteStar@Personal.TopSecret.EmailAddress.com

It makes me want to institute universal internet literacy education in grade schools throughout the world. Because if they’re confused about that, what else are they confused about?

Any other bloggers want to tell weird-comments-i-delete-that-aren’t-spam stories?

Online Music Fan Community Powerpoint

At by:Larm a number of people asked me to share the powerpoints of my talk. In it I argue that the internet has transformed fandom because it expands fans’ reach, transcends distance, supports archiving, provides group infrastructure, enables new forms of communication and lessens social distance. As a result, bands, fans and labels need to work out less hierarchical relationships in which fans are seen as equals who, when treated with trust and respect, will delight in spreading one’s gospel to more of the many corners of the internet than any one person can visit. I make the case through lots of examples drawn primarily from Scandinavian music fans, bands and labels.


One friend warned me to “never give away your powerpoints” but I’ve decided if I’m going to preach the ethos of free, I’d best be enacting it as well. I had a look-see at some of the slide sharing applications and none seems to be able to show the notes section as well as the slides and since that’s where most of the content in my talk was hiding, I opted for saving the Powerpoint notes page as a PDF file instead. You will have to imagine the sparkling live delivery filled with explanatory ad libs and examples missing in this version.

I hope you find it useful and all feedback is always appreciated.

Fan-Driven Reunion

I am just back from the Norwegian music festival by:Larm where I had such a good time I am now running on super-powered joy (which is good cuz heaven knows I’m not running on sleep!). There’s much to report from the event, but let me share quickly one of the best online fan stories I heard from Anders Odden who played guitar with the reunited “extreme goth” metal band Celtic Frost.

Apparently the band, which is considered pretty legendary in death metal circles, had broken up before the web took off. When the web got big, some fans bought the domain name CelticFrost.com and created a fan site. Apparently when the band members saw how much loving was still out there for them on this site, it inspired them to reunite. The site is now the official band site.

Among the other things fans do on there is post pictures of their Celtic Frost tattoos. I couldn’t find the page that has them (if you know it please leave the link in comments), but he told me there are something like 100 photos and that the band actually now has to think about how good a tattoo their images would make when choosing them. The cover of their last album featured a graphic of the singer’s face fragmented and one week after its release they met a fan whose arm was tattooed with that image.

He also said that although they are known for being extremely mysterious, they also spend as long as it takes after each show to sign every CD a fan wants signed, sometimes as long as 3 or 4 hours of signing.

Note the contrast between their encouraging fans to post pix of their tattoos and Prince trying to shut his fans down for doing so.

If you read Norwegian, there are write-ups of my talk here and here.  I have no idea what they say, but get the impression that the first is pretty much a summary and the latter adds some interesting examples. If any of you do understand them, please let me know the gist of them.

For those interested in by:Larm’s music, my write up of the bands I saw is here.

Fans vote for … Nike?

In my favorite case of online fan empowerment, the purchase of soccer team Ebbsfleet United by 28,000+ members of a website organized to buy a team is a done done done deal. The fans will be voting on team selection in March, but they’ve already voted for Nike:

Last week Ebbsfleet announced sportswear manufacturer Nike will manufacture home and away strips from next season after 91.26% of the 13,809 members voted to accept their offer to supply kit and merchandise.

Which just goes to show that fan-ownership by no means means eschewing corporations. [btw, I'm not sure how to read the contradiction in the article between 28000+ owners and just under 14000 members]

I’ve got a couple of slides I use in a presentation to make the point about fan influence — both happy and not so happy — and on the happy slide I wind up with this purchase because I still haven’t found a better exemplar of the trend toward ever greater fan power and influence.

Things like this tend to get a lot of coverage at the outset, but then get forgotten, so I hope we’ll see some analysis in months and years to come about how this whole fan-ownership thing actually pans out. When you’ve got 90% ready to get down with Nike there’s no conflict, but I wonder what will happen when they start getting bitterly divided over things like whether the goalie deserves a second chance…


On a housekeeping note, my apologies for being a slow blogger lately. Blame the flu and the grading. Today I am headed to Norway to (see pop bands and) talk at by:Larm. I am tickled beyond belief to be speaking on the same program as Jello Biafra — I never did like the Dead Kennedys, but if you’d told my punk rock 15 year old self that one day I’d be on the same program as him, I suspect it would have given me years of feeling like I had the future I hoped for ahead of me. Sometimes life makes the most unexpected spirals. I kind of doubt I’ll be blogging from Oslo, but expect to hear all kinds of things that will make it here when I get back.

Social Computing Summit

Update: Unfortunately, this summit has been postponed until October. Whether I’ll be there then or not remains to be seen.


I’m superpsyched to be giving a keynote address about … imagine this … online fans and community at the ASIS&T Social Computing Summit in Miami this April. That is American Society for Information Science & Technology. Fred Stutzman and the other organizers have been building a great set of speakers, and I’m eager to hear what they have to say and to meet the ones I don’t already know. There’s also a poster session with a February 25th deadline (see below) so get those abstracts polished if you’re looking for a interesting place to display your work:

ASIS&T Social Computing Summit
April 10-11, 2008
Hyatt Regency, Miami, Fl

About the Summit

The First Annual ASIS&T Social Computing Summit will bring together researchers and practitioners of social computing for two days of discussion and exploration in Miami, Florida. The event will directly precede the 2008 Information Architecture Summit, providing attendees a complimentary opportunity to learn about and discuss emergent areas of social computing and software. The Social Computing Summit will feature a keynote addresses from Dr. Nancy Baym, Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Kansas, and Thomas Vander Wal, principal consultant at InfoCloud Solutions.

Social software and computing drives Web 2.0 technology, enabling global connections and providing rich social experiences. Social networking services challenge established notions of privacy, identity and relationship management. Beyond the browser, mobile devices promise new forms of ubiquitous connectivity and presence, offering unprecedented research and business opportunities. To understand the successful applications of tomorrow, we come together today to share research and insight. This summit aims to bring together thought leaders, developers, and scholars working in this rapidly changing area, facilitating the conversations required for tomorrow’s innovations.

Complementing the keynote addresses will be panels exploring the following topical areas: Social networking services, data portability/open social networks, mobile services, social computing and politics, global voices, social computing and the enterprise, and youth social computing. The summit will feature interactive sessions, as well as a poster session for sharing information about services and recent research. In bringing together a blend of experts from different disciplines, as well as enabling conversation, the ASIS&T Social Computing Summit offers something for everyone interested in this fascinating, fast-changing space.

Preliminary Speaker Lineup

Nancy Baym, University of Kansas
Thomas Vander Wal
, InfoCloud Solutions
Nicole Ellison, Michigan State University
Jascha Franklin-Hodge, Blue State Digital
Alex Hunsucker, Eventful.com
Jevon MacDonald, SocialWrite.com
Mary Madden, Pew Internet and American Life Project
Robin Miller, Slashdot
Brian Oberkirch
Micah Sifry, Personal Democracy Forum
Ramesh Srinivansan, UCLA
Fred Stutzman, UNC-Chapel Hill
Sarita Yardi, Georgia Tech

Many more speakers to be announced as they confirm!

Call For Posters

The program committee invites submission of posters to be showcased at the 2008 ASIS&T Social Computing Summit. To be considered, authors should submit a 500-800 word poster abstract by Monday, February 25, 2008. Notification will be made on a rolling basis, with final notifications by Monday, March 11, 2008. Send submissions in PDF, DOC or TXT format to socialcomputing2008@gmail.com.