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All the fashionable people are discussing this, so I thought, bugger it, why oughtn’t I? - Wemyss's Appalling Hobby:
From the Party Guilty of Committing 'Gate of Ivory, Gate of Horn'
All the fashionable people are discussing this, so I thought, bugger it, why oughtn’t I?

All the fashionable people are discussing this, so I thought, bugger it, why oughtn’t I?

The always wise Vaysh adverted me to the discussions at the journals of the capital Frayach and the reliably brilliant Kitty.

You’ve read them? Good. Are you sitting comfortably? Then let’s begin.

We can dispose at once of the HP Fandom is Dying whinge that seems to be an all too hardy perennial. It’s balls. It will die when Christmas dies. (Yes, that is a Chesterton link. Read it.)

The fact remains, there is a general sense that there are either too many, too few, or just enough fests in HP fandom (damn it, now I want parritch), but, in any event, there are too few comments; there is too little engagement.

Assuming this to be so, what in buggery are we to do about it?

One suggestion has been that too many good people have left for newer pastures. I think not: not when I look at who remains.

As a subsidiary point, it has been contended that fest participants – and whether the number and frequency of fests in this fandom is too great, too meagre, or Just Right, it is certainly true that they are frequent and ongoing – fail terribly in commenting on the works of others.

I have written to my deadlines and to prompts I shouldn’t have contemplated myself, and come on as a substitution (the Americans, bless them, call it pinch-hitting), through Test matches, indeed through the Ashes, through deaths, disasters, and General Elections (but I repeat myself). I have tried, if not always successfully, to leave comments for my fellow participants in every fest I’ve been in. And I really cannot concede that this sort of dedication – a hobbyist’s approximation of professionalism – is unique, rare, or even notable in a fandom that includes, merely by way of example, Dyson, Femme, Noe, and Brammers. I don’t think the fault lies in the writers and artists.

And I don’t think it can be fairly ascribed to the readers, either.

Most fests are anonymous. And if there is one thing I have noticed, it is this: in an anonymous fest, at least, it’s rather obvious who you are if you comment on every entry save one, prior to the reveals. If, on the other hand, you wait until reveals are up, you’ve forgotten what you were going to say and you may very readily forget to go back and slog through the entries, commenting (and responding to comments becomes very onerous also). Additionally, of course, it’s frustrating for entrants and commenters alike to be unable to interact in comments for perhaps a month whilst waiting for reveals. I don’t say we want to abandon anonymous fests: not at all. But this is the defect of their qualities and advantages, and I, actually, suspect it plays a very great part in any dearth of comment. It seems rather pointless, I think, to many readers, to leave a comment that shan’t be acknowledged for a month, in the name of anonymity; and if you wait to comment until the reveals … well, a month is a long time in fandom as in, proverbially, politics.

Secondly, there is the platform. Most fests, even now, tend to be on LJ. Should I like to see more comments on things I post in fandom? Yes. Does it Keep-Me-Awake-As-Book-Sales-Do-See-Icon? No. And here’s the difference, as has been, I think, already advanced time and again: comments are a poor measure of reads; hit counters are better, as at AO3, precisely because they are similar to sales figures in the fandom exchange economy. In this as in ease of reading, ease of posting, and almost any other measure, AO3, by way of example, is measurably better than LJ, as a platform, for readers and creators alike. Moreover, the attitude LJ as a platform (you can hardly call it a ‘service’ without doing violence to the English language, can you? FGW is less incompetent and rather less bloody-minded and Sod-the-Public) – the attitude LJ, as a company, has adopted, and specially so since the Yanks, who were bad enough, sold out to the bloody Russians, has driven any number of potential readers away.

Now: I said that ‘comments are a poor measure of reads [and] hit counters are better, as at AO3’, and that is so in one sense. It does not, however, address the problem advanced by those perturbed by the decline in commenting, which is to say, in interaction. A kudos is lovely, but it isn’t a comment; it does not invite engaged response. What can be done about that, I cannot say; but if AO3 or DW were to become the locus of fests in this fandom, I expect that comments should follow as the night the day.

E-readers and similar dark arts and works of the Devil have been mentioned as contributing to the decline in interactive commenting; I don’t know enough of these fearful things to have an opinion (‘… it was great pity, so it was, / This villainous saltpetre should be digg’d / Out of the bowels of the harmless earth’).

One thing, however, does occur to me, and that is this, that if the demography of our deathless fandom is in fact changing, a bar to maintaining the level of comments may indeed be ‘time’: not, or not merely, that no one has time what with all these-yer fest-i-vals, loike, or even that as fandom ages, fen are persons with other calls upon their time (jobs and families and God knows what), but also time as in time-zones. I once, some years ago, issued a challenge and stepped back, and the entries came; I have never run a fest, and shouldn’t do on a bet. But I rather think, from what I’ve experienced, that the majority of mods are overseas, and commonly in North America. If the hard, remaining core of fandom should come to be the Continent and the Commonwealth, including of course Home fen, that does pose something of a difficulty, simply as a matter of time-zones. If a mod in Chicago posts a Hot New Fic Entry in a fest at 8.0 pm local time, it’s 4.0 in the sodding morning here, and dawn in Berlin, and (according to Brammers) Coronation Year in Australia (in which case the buggers oughtn’t to have lost the Ashes: the Don was only three years retired in ’52 and many of his Invincibles were still playing, including Hassett, Lindwall, and Morris). Without knowing if in fact this demographic shift has occurred – something someone really does want to determine – I can but speculate, but the potential, at least, for difficulties, is obvious.

I haven’t any solutions; but I do think this may serve as a better identification of the problem, without which you clever lads and lasses can’t hope to evolve a solution that eludes an old buffer of my stamp.

Which brings us back to time-stamps: as you can see, it’s rather getting on, here, and the Test resumes early in the morning, and so – as illustration of a point above – I must post now and let comments build up before I can possibly return to them.

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17 comments or Leave a comment
goddessriss From: goddessriss Date: May 20th, 2012 11:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well, hello...

I try to comment on the fics I read, but with the best will in the world it's not always possible and besides, my Aged P's always told me that if I couldn't say anything nice, I shouldn't say anything at all! I do like AO3 for that reason - the 'hit count' shows that I've read it, the ability to leave 'Kudos' is great when I don't have time to actually comment. I do agree to a certain extent with what you say about anon fests - have you seen the SSHG exchange (run by the fearsome and beloved Shiv and co? They positively encourage the use of 'Sock Puppet' journals to respond to comments prior to the Reveals. I don't know what the comment count has been like in their last round - I've been ill recently and am just trying to begin dipping my toes back in the fandom waters (mostly, I will admit, by watching those pretty boys from Merlin. Mmmmm. Mr Riss bought me the box sets for all 4 seasons to watch whilst I convalesce). Gosh, this is the most I've typed for a while! The only thing that I do find annoying (not on my own behalf, as I'm not a writer or artist) is when the recipients/prompters in various fests fail to comment on their gifts. Bad form.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 21st, 2012 12:24 pm (UTC) (Link)

A quick reply whilst it's lunch.

(And it's thanks to Chef and Bell that ENG are 131/4 at lunch...)

Anyone who fails to acknowledge a gift doesn't deserve to get one. And the SSHG method is new to me, but seems inspired. (Merlin is one of those things I ought to like for the candy lads, but cannot because on both occasions I tried to watch, I was bellowing historical objections at the telly before the opening sequence was done.)
aliciajd From: aliciajd Date: May 20th, 2012 11:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm one of the guilty ones who still reads and loves the HP fandom, but who no longer is a reliable commenter.

My reason, not an excuse, just a reason, is that I've fallen into the habit of downloading nearly all of the fics that I read and emailing them to my Kindle Fire. This works great for reading, but not so great for commenting. My Fire has email capabilities, but it has an annoyingly touchy touch-screen keyboard and it can only send comments when connected to Wi-Fi. My old Kindle could email from any place that had a cell phone signal and had a nice little keyboard.

I resolve to get better at commenting. I really do appreciate the authors' efforts; it's just that once I've read a story on my Fire, it's out of sight and out of mind. As I said before, there is no excuse for this laziness on my part.
germankitty From: germankitty Date: May 21st, 2012 05:10 am (UTC) (Link)

What's more, unless a summary grabs me right off the bat, I tend to wait until reveals before reading ... and as you said, then it's often too late for commenting sensibly. (It's different, of course, when I can identify an author by his/her style; then I'll gladly devour their offering as fast as I can. :P)
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 21st, 2012 12:27 pm (UTC) (Link)

That, and the other.

It does remain a difficult choice, doesn't it.

And now, back to the Test.
germankitty From: germankitty Date: May 21st, 2012 12:33 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: That, and the other.

Enjoy. :-) I'm wallowing in a cricket-free time as the Spousal Unit is at work all day today.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: May 21st, 2012 12:26 pm (UTC) (Link)

I am innocent of knowledge of these mysteries.

Wi-fis, Fires ... dubious arcana, these.

For confirming my suspicions of their baleful influence, I thank you.
pathology_doc From: pathology_doc Date: May 21st, 2012 01:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
My old Kindle could email from any place that had a cell phone signal and had a nice little keyboard.

You have confirmed all my prejudices against touch-screens. And as for the wireless connection... hmm...

I shall consider that advice to stick with the tried and true (when I eventually buy one). Thank you. :)
aliciajd From: aliciajd Date: May 22nd, 2012 12:11 am (UTC) (Link)
To be fair, the fire's touch screen seems to work fine for most users. I have a pronounced tremor that insures that I activate the wrong letters on a touch screen a high percentage of the time. This is also a major problem for me on the touch screen of my HTC Thunderbolt android phone. If your hands are steady, this shouldn't be much of a problem.

My old, generation 2, kindle's keyboard required that the user make a tiny effort to depress a key and thus avoided any accidental tremor generated commenting.
magic_at_mungos From: magic_at_mungos Date: May 22nd, 2012 09:15 pm (UTC) (Link)
Then there's people like me who open loads of fics up in tabs to read at some point then when we get an opportunity to comment get so embarrassed it it taken so long.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: August 9th, 2012 12:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

I meant to agree w this.

But I had too many tabs open and forgot, actually.

Might have been worse. Might have been Tabs.
absynthedrinker From: absynthedrinker Date: June 18th, 2012 01:40 am (UTC) (Link)
You are irrepressible! I'd write a much lengthier reply if only I weren't so busy and the hour so late.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: June 18th, 2012 03:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Who, me?

Surely not.
tigersilver From: tigersilver Date: August 8th, 2012 05:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
As always, you speak with such delightful clarity. It is a joy to hear in my head, and to know I agree wholeheartedly. Thanks, dear♥.
wemyss From: wemyss Date: August 8th, 2012 05:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Bless your kind heart.

Too kind, really.
kitty_fic From: kitty_fic Date: August 9th, 2012 03:09 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm sorry I missed this discussion when it was originally posted! But regardless, I definitely enjoyed reading your thoughts on it.

wemyss From: wemyss Date: August 9th, 2012 12:48 pm (UTC) (Link)


I'm obliged.
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