edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
To whom it may concern,

I have recently been party to an argument with the group Critics United (http://www.fanfiction.net/forum/Critics-United/78623/) over the interpretation of a second of fanfiction.net's rules on forbidden content. The rule in question is #5, which says:

5. Any form of interactive entry: choose your adventure, second person/you based, Q&As, and etc.

This is a poorly worded rule, which is the source of the dispute. As I interpret it, the rule forbids INTERACTIVE content, and second person is only forbidden when it is used to create interactivity, as when the reader is addressed as if she or he were an insert into the story. When second person is used as a simple point of view technique, akin to first and third person, to convey the viewpoint of a named canon character, that is not interactive and therefore not forbidden. The members of Critics United argue, on the other hand, that ALL uses of second person are forbidden -- either because the rule can be read to say so, or because they think second person is somehow inherently interactive.

The rule is so poorly worded that your own admins disagree on its interpretation. For example, in response to the first round of complaints, an admin agreed with my interpretation and deleted two reviews from members of Critics United. In response to a third review from Critics United and a second complaint from me, no action was taken. And in response to a fourth review from Critics United and a third complaint from me, my story was deleted. So as you can see, one of your admins thinks I am correct in my understanding of your rule, while another thinks Critics United are correct.

This inconsistency helps create a poisonous and fearful atmosphere on the site, as can be seen by the way some anonymous users followed me from my fanfiction.net page to my livejournal (http://edenfalling.livejournal.com/) and began posting misogynistic slurs in my journal, and by the way a group that may or may not go by the name Eliminator (though I would take that with a grain of salt, since it was reported to me on my livejournal by an anonymous troll; Eliminator may well be a single person with far too much time on his hands) has now begun targeting me on your site with abusive and misogynistic anonymous reviews and claims that they have reported me for violations -- even of stories that do not use second person!

Here is an example of one such review:

cut for BLATANT MISOGYNY and SEXUALLY ABUSIVE LANGUAGE )

Please note the misogyny, the sexually abusive language, and the irrational hatred directed toward the entire Homestuck fandom. Please also note that the story in question -- "Waking Persephone" (http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8637148/1/) -- is not in second person and does not violate any other content rules either. This is the sort of behavior that results from unclear site rules and inconsistent enforcement.

I respectfully suggest that the wording of the content rule in question be changed to eliminate this uncertainty. If you intend to forbid all use of second person narrative, with no exceptions, it would be simple to add a 7th content guideline to that effect, like this:

7. All use of second person narrative (you-based POV).

If you only intend to forbid second person narrative when used in an interactive fashion, it would be equally simple to reword the existing rule along the following lines:

5. Any form of interactive entry: choose your adventure, Q&As, and etc. (Second person/you-based narrative may be a warning sign of interactivity but is not necessarily interactive on its own.)

In either case, the rules would then be clear and all parties would know where they stand, instead of being dependent on the inconsistent ways each individual admin reads and interprets the current poorly worded rule.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Culmer (http://www.fanfiction.net/u/461224/Elizabeth_Culmer)
Member since 2003

---------------

ETA: I would like to state, for the record, that the reason given for the removal of my story was this: Main reason for removal: "Not allowed: interactive, chat/script, real person, mst, and etc." Note that there is no mention of second person whatsoever! Me, Myself, and Die did not use chat/script format, was not about a real person, was not an MST fic, and was NOT INTERACTIVE, under any standard definition of interactivity.

So why was it removed?

Because the forbidden content rule is badly written. Therefore the rule should be clarified.
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
1. I put in some more work on that Jade/Dave/Terezi crossdressing fic I have been stalled on -- it's now at 6,600 words and we are about to see Dave in his slinky red dress for the first time, after having seen Jade put on her own dress and help Terezi tie the tie of her three-piece suit.

I am not sure how a fic that was intended to be basically PWP porn turned into a thing with so much buildup and also clothing descriptions -- not to mention the whole "Jade shaves Dave's legs while Terezi kibitzes" scene and thoughts on Dave's insecurities and the role of humor in his relationships with girls -- but oh well, at least I'm getting somewhere again. Even if it is mostly descriptions of clothes. (So weird.)

-----

2. In other news, ff.net proves as inscrutable and capricious as ever. One admin shared my interpretation of the content rules and deleted two reviews from Critics United members. Now another admin (a different one? the same one in a different mood? there is no way to know!) has apparently taken the exact opposite stand and deleted my story.

I intend to write another letter to ff.net support, both in protest and to reiterate my request for a clarification of the wording of the rule. But that will have to wait until tomorrow evening, when I am less screamingly annoyed at the inconsistency and the lack of any operational transparency whatsoever.

Grrr.

-----

3. On Tuesday, it rained in Ithaca. It rained all day long, from before 8am to after 7pm, steadily and without any surcease. Which would normally be fine... except that there is something wrong with the drain on the roof of the building in which the smoke shop is located. It clogged once before and the resulting leak literally disintegrated one of our ceiling tiles, but we were told the leak had been fixed.

Maybe that particular leak was fixed. But the underlying problem -- the drain clog -- remained. And so Tuesday afternoon BW discovered that the ceiling was leaking again. We put out buckets and also an empty magazine tote (which was the only thing large enough to cover the necessary floor space to catch all the drips), called maintenance, and moved a neighboring ceiling tile so it wouldn't disintegrate like the previous one.

Maintenance duly arrived, investigated, and told us there was an entire foot of standing water on the roof. They promptly began pumping it off, but they were unable to unclog the drain. The obstruction turned the drain snake into a corkscrewed pretzel, and even the big industrial snake didn't do much. The maintenance guys couldn't try attacking the clog from beneath either, because that would've required opening the drain pipe in the basement, at which point removing the clog would have sent something like 300 gallons of water exploding into their faces in under five seconds. (Gravity and water pressure are not forces you want to mess with!)

Anyway, they were able to pump the roof mostly clear by the time the rain finally let up, and they promised to return on Wednesday to remove the clog. I was not at work so I don't know the outcome, but I certainly hope they were successful!

Such are the trials of working in an old building. *sigh*
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
Yeah, yeah, dead horse. I know. But WishingDreamer5 (despite the "I have no other choice but to report you" thing in their original review -- what, someone was holding a gun to your head?) is at least willing to ask me what I mean instead of assuming that my viewpoint is automatically irrelevant. So I am attempting to explain. And I am also making my explanation public "in order for others to see it, just like teachers do at school," because that is indeed a good idea. :-)

A message I received at 8:06am, Eastern Daylight Time, on October 23, 2012

continuing conversation in response to WishingDreamer5's review )

---------------
---------------

I am blurring the point on where use of second person slides from "a character's point of view expressed in an unorthodox technique" to "an author directly addressing the reader," but that's somewhat unavoidable since there is no hard and fast line in the sand between those extremes. It gets even blurrier if you use second person to tell the story of an original character in a work of fanfiction -- in practice, it can be made clear through a distinctive voice and a solid POV that "you" refers to a specific character rather than to a generalized/idealized reader, but I am pretty sure any rule I tried to lay down would have at least a dozen exceptions. *sigh*

...

Tangentially, it's frustrating to get messages about complicated issues while I am at work (or checking email on my way to work). I can read email and do a surprising amount of websurfing via my phone during my lunch break or slow periods in the evening, but typing more than a couple short sentences in response is next to impossible. Basically, after I disconnect from my upstairs neighbors' wireless router I am incommunicado until I get home from work the next day, because I don't leave any slack time in my morning routine to get online at all, let alone type up thoughtful comments.

(Which is, of course, another reason not to get into fights. There is no way in the world I could moderate anything in a responsible fashion.)
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
Some people do not know when to let a dead horse die. (Yes, I am apparently among that number. *wry*)

And a special message on behalf of some deeply concerned anonymice! I know you are aware that I never asked anyone to attack the members of Critics United, but apparently neither the lack of such a request or invitation nor the lack of such an attack (because I also know you have better uses for your time) is enough for some people to be certain that an attack was not somehow subliminally ordered. They fear it may be lurking in the metaphorical wings of the internet, waiting to descend like an avalanche upon the denizens of the Critics United forum. So let me be explicitly clear: please, everyone, DO NOT GO FEED THE TROLLS.

This is my Sisyphean argument, and I am perfectly capable of sending reasoned letters to ff.net as long as necessary. :-)

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To whom it may concern,

I would like to report yet another instance of attempted intimidation by a member of the forum group calling themselves Critics United (http://www.fanfiction.net/forum/Critics-United/78623/). They continue to insist that rule 5 of the allowed content guidelines, which says:

5. Any form of interactive entry: choose your adventure, second person/you based, Q&As, and etc.

applies to all stories written in second person, rather than to INTERACTIVE stories that happen to also use second person to directly address the reader as a character. My story, "Me, Myself, and Die" (http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8616496/1/), is NOT interactive. Second person is used as a basic POV alternate to first or third person and the viewpoint character is a canon character, which is made abundantly clear both in the summary and the text of the story itself. Additionally, no reader input is solicited for future chapter content, because the story is complete as it stands.

Here is a copy of the review in question, and my response:

WishingDreamer5 review and response )

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---------------

This makes FOUR members of Critics United who have attempted to intimidate me into deleting my story and/or have reported me for breaking a rule that I did not break. That is a clear and persistent pattern of bullying and abusive behavior, which is not in keeping with the spirit of your website. The members of Critics United are not helping unleash writers' and readers' imaginations. Instead, they are attempting to stifle creativity.

I repeat my request that the wording of rule 5 be changed to clarify that second person is not forbidden altogether, but only when used in an interactive fashion. That should prevent future spurious abuse reports of this type. I further request that an administrator contact Critics United and tell them to stop their campaign of intimidation against writers in general, and the Homestuck fandom in particular.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Culmer (http://www.fanfiction.net/u/461224/Elizabeth_Culmer)
Member since 2003
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
I'm sure you're sick of these people and my letters by now, but I want to keep a public record of the mess and all correspondence related to it. I will cut the details, though, never fear!

A message I received at 2:45am, Eastern Daylight Time, on October 19, 2012:

continuing conversation in response to Runic Healer's review )

---------------
---------------

...I let my temper get away from me a touch, damn it. The rhetorical question in the first paragraph is a bit too much of a direct personal attack, and I should have let the whole "blatantly avoiding the question" bit lie instead of responding to that provocation. I needed to wait another half hour or edit a sixth time. Gnrgh.
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
To whom it may concern:

In an addendum to my previous abuse report on the Critics United forum group (http://www.fanfiction.net/forum/Critics-United/78623/), I would like to point out that MrGoodyTwoShoes (http://www.fanfiction.net/u/2107552/) and Gaaras1Girl (http://www.fanfiction.net/u/1821929/) mysteriously removed their reviews from my story -- perhaps in an attempt to hide evidence of their group's dogpiling intimidation technique.

Meanwhile, yet ANOTHER member, this one by the name of Runic Healer (http://www.fanfiction.net/u/1501327/), has left a review in a continuing attempt to intimidate me into deleting a story that is not in violation of the site's allowed content rules. I will reproduce our conversation below:

Runic Healer review and response )

---------------
---------------

I would further like to point out evidence that the group is now ACTIVELY TARGETING the Homestuck (http://www.fanfiction.net/comic/Homestuck/) fandom for harassment, as seen in the following exchange on a topic thread (http://www.fanfiction.net/topic/78623/29562573/59/Stories-in-Violation-CU-Members-Only) in their forum:

MrGoodyTwoShoes
Story: Just The Two Of Us Author: TheGoldenPrince Fandom: Homestuck - "you" based story. Author refuses to change unless they are given an "official reason why "you" fics are not allowed" along with "I will take my stories down and change them only if you manage to get down every other story written in 2nd person view and can prove it to me. Otherwise these are staying."
Sounds likes a challenge ;)
Deleted - chance of repost high
Reply Today 12:36PM . Edited Today 2:43PM #2,948

Atraxeus
Tried to review 'Just the Two of Us' and as soon as I went to submit it, it said that the story is no longer in the archives and therefore unable to be reviewed. Figure this might be a person that would repost?
Reply Today 1:00PM #2,949

MrGoodyTwoShoes
I wouldn't be shocked if they're going to do that and are just waiting for the heat to die off.
The Homestuck section itself is chopped full of violators so feel free to wade into the section as well Ryu if you're looking to help out.
Reply Today 1:13PM #2,950


("Today" in the above posts is Thursday, October 18, 2012.)

MrGoodyTwoShoes is clearly inciting an active and targeted campaign of bullying, intimidation, and abuse against an entire fandom, over a MISINTERPRETATION of the site's content posting rules. To prevent this attack, I would like to respectfully request that rule 5 be reworded to clarify that it applies strictly to INTERACTIVE works and is not a blanket prohibition on the use of second person as a narrative technique, and also that the administration contact Critics United and tell them to stop trying to enforce their incorrect interpretation of the rule on other members of this site.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Culmer (http://www.fanfiction.net/u/461224/Elizabeth_Culmer)
Member since 2003

---------------------------------------------

I am BEYOND pissed off about this. Not only are these people complete idiots, not only are they assholes, not only are they targeting my new beloved fandom... they have made me lose two whole days of potential creative activity, both to outrage and to the time and effort it took to calm down enough to write rational responses and abuse reports.

This is not what I want to be doing with my time! I want to be writing! (Or drawing, I guess.) These people are actively destroying my creative potential. So not only are they making existing stories vanish, they are killing new ones before they can be written.

Yeah, sure, that's a GREAT way to make a site based on the active creation of stories into a better place. Brilliant idea. I can't imagine why nobody's ever thought of it before. Round of applause, guys. Round. Of. Applause.

*headdesk*
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
To whom it may concern:

I would like to report a systematic pattern of abuse by a group of members calling themselves Critics United (http://www.fanfiction.net/forum/Critics-United/78623/). They are not, in fact, critics. What they are is a self-appointed police force who go around leaving bullying and intimidating reviews, and reporting stories they claim are in violation of site rules.

Many of their reports are accurate, but I would like to point out that they are persistently misinterpreting rule 5 of the "entries not allowed" section, which states that

5. Any form of interactive entry: choose your adventure, second person/you based, Q&As, and etc.

is not permitted on the site.

It seems obvious to me that the rule prohibits INTERACTIVE content, and the words after the colon are examples of things that may fall into that category. The problem is that -- and this is important -- NOT ALL SECOND PERSON STORIES ARE INTERACTIVE. Sometimes second person is simply a narrative choice. An interactive story is defined by a writer's attempt to solicit audience feedback to determine the content of the next chapter. Writing in second person does not, in and of itself, constitute such an attempt at interactivity.

This is particularly important with regard to Homestuck fandom. (http://www.fanfiction.net/comic/Homestuck/) Homestuck is written in the style of a second person choose-your-adventure computer game, because it is a satire of such games. Many fanfiction stories for Homestuck are therefore also written in second person, to more accurately mimic the flavor of canon.

Homestuck fics that use chatlogs or actively attempt to be a choose-your-adventure story are of course not allowed, as per rule 5 and rule 6. But Homestuck stories that tell a traditional narrative that happens to be in second person are not, in fact, violating the spirit of rule 5.

For example, I recently had two members of Critics United -- MrGoodyTwoShoes ( http://www.fanfiction.net/u/2107552/ ) and Gaaras1Girl (http://www.fanfiction.net/u/1821929/) attempt to intimidate me into deleting my story "Me, Myself, and Die" (http://www.fanfiction.net/s/8616496/1/) on the grounds that it violates rule 5. Here is a copy of our correspondence:

MrGoodyTwoShoes review and responses )

---------------
---------------

At this point Gaaras1Girl chimed in to say:

Gaaras1Girl review and response )

---------------
---------------

I would also like to refer you to this topic thread in the Critics United forum, where it is clear that Gaaras1Girl did not have time to read my story before reviewing it, nor did she give me any time to read her review and respond before she leaped to report this so-called violation: http://www.fanfiction.net/topic/78623/29562573/59/Stories-in-Violation-CU-Members-Only. I will reproduce the text of the posts in question below:

MrGoodyTwoShoes
Story: Me, Myself, and Die Author: Elizabeth Culmer Fandom: Homestuck - "you" based story. Author argues it's allowed because the rule is about interactive fics only.
Reply Today 12:20PM . Edited 2 hours ago #2,943

Gaaras1Girl
Reviewed and reported.
Reply Today 12:22PM #2,944


The "today" in these posts is Wednesday, October 17, 2012. If you compare the timestamp of her post to the timestamp of her review, it becomes clear that Gaaras1Girl told MrGoodyTwoShoes that she had reported my story three minutes BEFORE she left her review in which she implied that she had NOT yet reported it. Therefore, her review to me was given under false pretenses -- it implicitly set up a "Follow my orders and I will not report you" situation, when in fact she had already filed a report.

Also note the next post in the topic thread, from MrGoodyTwoShoes:

MrGoodyTwoShoes
Story: Sister Blister Author: VirgoInDisguise Fandom: Homestuck - "you" based story. Author claims that because the webcomic is written like that then it's ok despite the claims they also read the rules before blocking me. I suspect this one is block happy.
This claim about the source material seems to be one of the excuses these kids will use so be ready for it.
Reply Today 1:56PM . Edited 2 hours ago #2,945

As you can see, Critics United has become aware of Homestuck fandom and seems to be preparing to target Homestuck stories and authors en masse under pretext of their misinterpretation of rule 5. To prevent this attack, I would like to respectfully request that rule 5 be reworded to clarify that it applies strictly to INTERACTIVE works and is not a blanket prohibition on the use of second person as a narrative technique, and also that a mod contact Critics United and tell them to stop trying to enforce their incorrect interpretation of the rule on other members of this site.

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Culmer (http://www.fanfiction.net/u/461224/Elizabeth_Culmer)
Member since 2003
edenfalling: stylized black-and-white line art of a sunset over water (Default)
So does anyone know how, exactly, ff.net interprets their own posting rules? Particularly with regard to "Homestuck" fic? Because this afternoon I had the following exchange with a prissy rules-lawyer type, in regard to my story Me, Myself, and Die:


Date: Wed, 17 Oct 2012 10:56:06 -0700
From: MrGoodyTwoShoes ( http://www.fanfiction.net/u/2107552/ )
-------------------

Entries not allowed:

1. Non-stories: lists, bloopers, polls, previews, challenges, author notes, and etc.
2. One or two liners.
3. MST: comments inserted in between the flow of a copied story.
4. Stories with non-historical and non-fictional characters: actors, musicians, and etc.
5. Any form of interactive entry: choose your adventure, second person/you based, Q&As, and etc.
6. Chat/script format and keyboard dialogue based entries.

Your story is not allowed under section 5 of the guidelines.

2nd point of view aka "you" based stories are not allowed on this website. I suggest switching to either first or third person perspective before someone comes along and reports you.

MGTS of Critics United


---------------
---------------
---------------

To which I responded as follows:

While your concern for proper procedure is admirable, you have misinterpreted the rules. Rule number 5 forbids INTERACTIVE entries, through which a writer solicits reader feedback to determine the content of the next chapter. Second person is a frequent SYMPTOM of such works, which is why it is listed as an example under section 5, but it is not in and of itself a determinant of interactivity (except insofar as ANY story demands the basic interactivity of a reader bringing the words to life in their own imagination). My story utilizes second person to add canon flavor, since Andrew Hussie's "Homestuck" is written in second person as a satire of text-based choose-your-adventure computer games, but my story is complete in and of itself and neither requests nor requires reader input for a continuation as there will never BE any continuation.

The "Homestuck" story I write that IS actually interactive has never and will never be posted on this site. Nor will the chatlog-based "Homestuck" stories. Because I do, in fact, read the rules. :-)

Cheers,
Liz


---------------
---------------
---------------

To which he responded:

You are misunderstanding the rule completely. Second person stories are not allowed here at all.

It doesn't matter what the source material is, the rules of the site say it's not allowed and you agreed to follow those rules before posting.

Heed me review or not but don't be shocked when your work is removed because you violated the rule of this site.


---------------
---------------
---------------

Now, first of all I am not inclined to listen to a guy whose review carries overtones of "do what I say or I will report you". He claims he doesn't report people himself, just points out problems that other may report (see his rules-lawyer account here), but given his paternalistic prescriptivism, I confess to having doubts. Also I stand by my interpretation of section 5 (which is a terribly-worded rule in any case).

BUT.

FF.net is notoriously idiosyncratic about which rules they enforce, what interpretation of their rules they enforce, when they enforce them, and whether they give any warning beforehand. I have had a story written in second person ("Knives") up on my account for YEARS with no complaints whatsoever. And I have a strong suspicion that this may be part of a campaign directed against Homestuck fandom in particular, since Homestuck has a large hatedom as well as a large fandom. But as I said, ff.net can decide to enforce completely random things for no reason.

Do you think I am correct in my interpretation?

---------------
---------------
---------------

ETA: Oh look, he's brought a friend!

Gaaras1Girl chimes in to say:

You based stories are not allowed, change the POV or be reported. Hint: All
you have to do is change the "you" to an "I" or make up a name.

-GG, Mod of Critics United


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---------------

So this IS a threat, no matter what MrGoodyTwoShoes claims on his profile! Truth revealed!

(And Gaaras1Girl, did you even bother to read the story? The character HAS a name. It's Dave. That is explicit in the summary and the story, and nobody who knows the fandom would blink twice at it.)

...

Is this seriously the best use people can think of for their time? What kind of enjoyment do they even GET from this kind of witch-hunting???

...

I would write more but I have to go to work now.

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Elizabeth Culmer

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