Saturday, June 2, 2012 and the "missing" posts

On May 30th, Twilight fan fiction authors were concerned over the removal of posts by host site (FFn).
Authors' and readers' Twitter chatter suggested two possible problems:
  • Summaries for posts may not have been K-rated (all audiences), as required under the Terms of Service (ToS);
  • Posts may have been MA-rated (equivalent to MPAA's NC-17 rating) and therefore out of compliance with the site's ToS.
Additionally, unspecified and unannounced formatting changes deleted punctuation from a number posts. Specifically, dashes and some quote marks were deleted. Because so little data has been offered, it's not clear what kinds of punctuation may have been impacted; it's possible these were non-ASCII marks. At least two users posting content using WinPCs with Google Chrome browsers have had no obvious changes to their posts' punctuation, but this is not enough data to indicate a consistent problem. Whatever drove this formatting change muddied the picture with regard to the fan fiction content pulled by FFn.
Doing some homework on available data for the top three FFn fandoms, the following numbers suggest the problem is relatively isolated:
Wikipedia notes 200,159 Twilight fics published under Books on 28-MAY. FFn shows 198,677 today under books. That's 1482 diff, 0.7% change. [Source:Tweet
Wikipedia notes 594,940 Harry Potter fics published at FFn on 28-MAY under Books. FFn now shows 593,674. Diff: 1266 or 0.2% change. [Source:Tweet]
Wikipedia shows 304,957 Naruto fics published under Anime/Manga on 28-MAY. FFn now shows 302,955 under same. Diff: 2002, or 0.6% change.  [Source:Tweet]
What little data is available regarding the works pulled by FFn suggests that this was not a widespread housecleaning. In at least one case, the author's summaries were ToS compliant, but only one of several M-rated stories were pulled. One of the works not pulled was of a very similar nature in terms of content and theme to the one pulled. The randomness of this work's removal suggests a complaint may have been received about one piece, but no further information is available to confirm or rebut this possibility.
Whatever the reason FFn pulled works, it's critical that FFn users do not misinterpret the reduction in fiction post counts:
IMPORTANT: Reductions in FFn fic counts may not be due to FFn pulling a few fics, but pulling by authors of entire account's worth of fics.  [Source:Tweet
It's also in FFn's best interest not to touch any fan fiction authors have rated as M  content:
If Twilight>Books>M-rated equals 34.6% of current total fics under that category, total number/percent pulled by FFn or authors still small. [Source:Tweet
The percentage of M-rated Twilight-Books posts was determined by using search feature by rating only and noting total number of posts offered under that criteria, against total posts of all ratings under Twilight-Books category. The number of Harry Potter and Naruto M-rated fan fiction works was not determined; it's likely the percentages are very similar, particularly in Harry Potter since the Twilight and Harry Potter fandoms have large overlaps in memberships.

Ultimately, FFn relies on M-rated content, whether fully compliant or not with its ToS. It's difficult to imagine FFn deleting as much as 30% of the content which drives its traffic and therefore advertising income. This same 30+% of content may also drive far more than 30+% traffic since lower rated content may not receive the same brisk traffic.

Graphics below documenting fiction counts:

NOTE: Cross-posted from my Tumblr site, which doesn't permit comments; if you have feedback about this post, please tweet me at my account, @femme_mal or leave a comment here.

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