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Escapade: Is Flocked the new black? Or, “hide everything” versus “be out there"

I recently attended the slash convention Escapade, and plan to post a few random thoughts on the panels I attended over the next few days. And I’m all excited about “Supernatural” and “Torchwood”; now to find some extra hours to immerse myself in canon...!

Here’s the program book description of “Is flocked the new black?” Is the flocked post the future of fan communication? Are we returning to the dark ages of closed lists, zines under the table, and “have to know someone”? More and more LJ posts are locked, communities are closed, and groups are invitation only. Is there a way to protect our RL selves (and our fannish selves), yet share our fannish commentary and fic? Where is our new comfort zone? And how do we keep track of all of this?”

The trends just keep rolling along, don’t they? Just a few years ago, there were panels at Escapade promoting making slash as public as possible. The producers of a Canadian television documentary about slash fandom attended Escapade and interviewed several fans. (Everyone attending the convention was informed about the filming in advance, and people could choose whether or not they wished to participate.) After the convention, there was a followup article about Escapade and slash fandom in the Los Angeles Times.

Judging from this particular panel at this year’s Escapade, the trend seems to be going in the other direction, with people Flocking their fic.

I’d heard of this trend, but wasn’t sure of the reason – or reasons. I’m used to people actively pimping their fandoms and reccing stories. So it baffled me to hear about people flocking fic, which has the result, intended or not, of hiding parts of their fandom from newbies.



I’m glad this panel was included on the Escapade schedule, as it was quite informative. I don’t know if it’s consensus or not, but what I took from the panel is that many people are doing this in an attempt to make slash fandom less accessible to the general public.

Quite the whipsaw reversal.

I wonder if the people who were promoting “be out there” with slash a few years ago have changed their minds? Or do they still feel the same way? Is this an entirely different set of fans with different concerns? And do opinions vary, depending on the fandom(s)? (It seemed to me many of the people attending this particular panel are in HP fandom. In that case, it certainly makes sense to keep certain aspects of HP fandom as far out of the public view as possible.)

There have always been many reasons to use pseudonyms and build layers of privacy between the mundane world and the fannish world; there has always been this tension between people who want to “go public” and people who want to stay very private. I’m occupying a somewhat middle ground. I’d like to see slash as accessible as possible to newbies, while still finding some way to keep out troublemakers.

Not an easy proposition, when technology can change in a nanosecond.

One question I wanted to ask, but was a bit tangential to the panel topic, is this:

People expressed a lot of fear that employers will find out about their LJs, or potential employers will review LJ (or MySpace) and be able to access personal information about them. I know there have been some well-publicized incidents of just this sort of thing happening. Example, that flight attendant who was posting info in her blog on behind-the-scenes stuff at her airline, and got fired because of it. But in every example I’ve heard about, the blogger revealed enough personal information in their blog to make it easy for them to track down.

But what about people who have *no* personal info in their LJ? Is it technically possible for “outsiders” to track them down, and, if so, is this something that would be quick and easy, or damned difficult?

I don’t understand the tech involved. For example:

Mary Jane Smith applies for a job. How does her employer connect Mary Jane Smith to her LJ identify of ILuvGuysBonking, if MJ has no personal identification whatsoever in her LJ?

Is there a means where a potential employer can do some kind of global background search of LJ that would reveal the RL names of people? Wouldn’t this require access to the credit card information for LJ users, and if so, can they do this without the permission of LJ? Would this mean they would have access to the personal info of *everyone* on LJ, not just their potential employee? Wouldn’t they need a subpoena for this?

If an employer is sophisticated enough to be vetting employees by checking them out in LJ, won’t they also realize many people flock posts? And if they have the means to track down someone’s identity on LJ, would they also have the means to disable flocking?

How does this all work? If anyone knows, could you enlighten me?

Just musing here and stepping away from fandom into the mundane world. Will the prevalence of blogging change the corporate mentality in a few years? When the current generation of kids who have posted pics of themselves in their underwear at drunken parties on MySpace join the work world, will it be common for everyone to have done exactly the same thing? Will all these potentially embarrassing posts and pictures be no big deal after all?

Now I’m flashing back to the late 90s, when a number of print fen were very paranoid about posting fic to the net at all. Zines seemed so much *safer*. Net fen, of course, felt the opposite. Back then, every slash convention had one or more “net vs. print” panels. Many net fen were convinced there were no dangers or concerns to posting slash to the net, and some of them were using their RL names. I remember wondering at the time how long it would take before something got invented that would shift the conversation in an entirely different direction.

And I’m thinking with amusement about the woman who, in the late 90s, berated me for leaving most of my Yahoo profile blank. She claimed that by not filling in all the requested, personal, RL information, I was “missing out on the whole internet experience.” Uh- no. I was quite happy with the internet experience I was already having, thank you very much. I’d already made the mistake, back in 1995, of including my city in my AOL profile. All that got me was some creepy guys IMing me, trying to pick me up. So I deleted that information right away…!

If anyone can answer my tech questions, that’d be great!

Comments

How does her employer connect Mary Jane Smith to her LJ identify of ILuvGuysBonking, if MJ has no personal identification whatsoever in her LJ?

I think I can answer this since I have some experience with it. Applicant applies for job through email. Google search of that email address brings up their Yahoo profile. Applicant has a link to journal on Yahoo profile. Or it could be as simple as Googling said email addy and livejournal because some people have the same email addy listed on their LJ as they use for job applications.
Ah, thanks! That makes sense.

The moral of that story is, never use your fannish email address for any RL interactions. Particularly those dealing with work. Or family...!
Of course. This is something even I do - firmly separated accounts.

Besides, who's stupid enough to use "yourlittlebitch24@yahoo.com" in a job application? (Though I have seen similar things happen, sigh ;)
>>>Besides, who's stupid enough to use "yourlittlebitch24@yahoo.com" in a job application?

LOL! It's pretty amazing what people do when applying for jobs. I used to screen resumes at one company, and, oi! I couldn't believe some of the resumes people submitted.

And then there was this one woman who showed up to apply for an office job, which required business attire. She looked like a prostitute, right down to her platform lucite heels. And there were plastic goldfish inside the heels.
Yeah, that's the problem--some people simply aren't fascist enough about keeping their fandom and RL lives separate.

I flock ANYTHING real-lifey enough to cause a problem. As far as I know, there's no way to google my RL name and wind up with my LJ or anything else fannish--and I'm trying to keep it that way.
Some people are very scared of being outed. For instance, if it happened to me, I would more or less be thrown out of the family. Of course, I would never put my 'play' email on an application, but I can see where it would happen. The other day someone thanked me for not flocking my stories. I think more and more people will do that. It's a shame.
>>Some people are very scared of being outed.

Oh, I absolutely understand that. But I'm trying to figure out why LJ seems so much scarier than yahoogroups or personal websites. When, to me, it's more anonymous, because - AFAIK - you don't have to post anything for the general public to see that could link you to your RL identity. Unless I'm wrong about that.

>>>Of course, I would never put my 'play' email on an application, but I can see where it would happen.

*shudder* People always need to have a RL email address...

>>>The other day someone thanked me for not flocking my stories. I think more and more people will do that. It's a shame.

It sure is.
Hm. Well, since I've been disabled and unemployed for the past two and a half years, this sort of thing doesn't apply to me. In fact, it never even crossed my mind that people might be afraid of being outed at work due to their LJ's. Idiot moi!

I went flocked about three years ago, mostly because I only have the one LJ, and I use it to post about fannish and RL stuff, and I really don't care to have every last little detail about my personal life out there for public consumption. The filters are there, so I might as well use them!
I pretty much keep my personal posts separate from my fannish posts. I tend to flock the personal posts.
I don't care about work, I flock because of fandom wank. There was a huge rash of flocking when the wanking started. Real life can go fuck itself, but when fans start attacking other fans, I shut my windows.
Wanking always bites, big time. I take it there was a recent wank wave?

Wish I could say this was something new, but the weirdest experiences I've had with fandom wank was back in the early 80s. I was getting all sorts of really bizarre, anonymous mail and phone calls.

And of course the flame wars in the early Trek zines were legendary. The problem, of course, is the net makes it much easier for wankers to, well, wank.

Was this when those "hate communities" sprung up? How sad was that...!
I'm more flocking lately because it's my personal journal and as that I feel I'm entitled to when it includes more private things - or files to share ;)

But all my fiction is online and very public on my website, via which you can easily find out everything about me. But I'm self-employed, own a business mailinglist for S&Mers, have been in random snippets shows due to attending the Cologne gay pride parade, and we have shots of us on our animal roleplaying website.

When people google the name of my husband, they get usually shocked by a) the amount he posted b) the contents ;) And still, no customer of his company ever had a real problem, and his boss just got used to it somehow ;)

All this said, I'm trying to find a middle way too between being public but not overly so. And I think this is the best route. As to why people hide fiction, I've got no idea, and I sincerely hope it's not a trend that will hit trek fandom ever. We may have more of a problem with the many smaller mailing lists now, but it's relatively easy to join them, so it's not hidden like in an flocked journal...
>>>I'm more flocking lately because it's my personal journal and as that I feel I'm entitled to when it includes more private things - or files to share ;)

Same here. I don't put much personal stuff in my LJ as you've probably noticed; I mostly use it to write fannish commentary. But when I do put personal stuff in the LJ, I flock it.

>>>When people google the name of my husband, they get usually shocked by a) the amount he posted b) the contents ;) And still, no customer of his company ever had a real problem, and his boss just got used to it somehow ;)

;-) Do you think that might be because of a difference between European attitudes and American attitudes?

>>>As to why people hide fiction, I've got no idea, and I sincerely hope it's not a trend that will hit trek fandom ever. We may have more of a problem with the many smaller mailing lists now, but it's relatively easy to join them, so it's not hidden like in an flocked journal...

Exactly! I'm glad Trek fandom seems immune to this trend, for now, anyway. It's relatively easy to find the mailing lists, and people are good about sharing information as to where fic can be found.

For myself, I've often gotten into a fandom "after the fact", and if this flocking fic trend continues, it's going to be difficult/impossible for people to participate/catch up with older fandoms. Which I think is sad.
I agree the goal is to create wholly separate personas for play and work. Mostly doable if you pay attention.

What gets difficult, IMHO, is the money. Most people have one paypal account, one checking account, one credit card -- all in their real name. And fannishness does sometimes take a bit of money -- registering domains, registering for cons, paying for LJ accounts, writing checks for zines. Somewhere, there is a computer file that crosses most people's personas. One must be very clever to keep these things totally separate.

Pictures are another issue -- I know one Escapade con-goer has posted pictures of me in a locked post already. I have no idea who else she has friended, so this makes me itchy.
>>>Pictures are another issue -- I know one Escapade con-goer has posted pictures of me in a locked post already. I have no idea who else she has friended, so this makes me itchy.

Oi! I know people have posted pics of me from past slash conventions, and it makes me feel "itchy" too.
Huh. I didn't attend the panel, so this was interesting to read - both your summing up and all the contents. I like to say that I post everything under my real name because it's all a part of who I am, and while that's true, the initial reason is that I could never think of a good pseudonym!

The shocking part to me is that I taught my coworkers how to google (complete with a handout that included pop culture examples), and yet none of them have googled me. (My boss is friends with my mom, who's told that group of friends that I "write gay porn." Clearly it doesn't bother the boss.)

(Anonymous)

>>>Huh. I didn't attend the panel, so this was interesting to read - both your summing up and all the contents. I like to say that I post everything under my real name because it's all a part of who I am, and while that's true, the initial reason is that I could never think of a good pseudonym!

LOL! It took me ten years to come up with a good pseudonym, and I haven't used it all that often. It took me another 20 years before I chose an online pseudonym. But when I first got into fandom, almost everyone was using their real names, so I did, too. (It was rare to find people using pseudonyms in the 70s, even on het and slash stories.)

>>>The shocking part to me is that I taught my coworkers how to google (complete with a handout that included pop culture examples), and yet none of them have googled me.

Too funny! I don't think it occurs to many people to do those kind of searches, even though it's common enough in the culture now to be the subject of jokes. And, of course, "googled" is now a verb.

I've also wondered about mistaken identity. There are at least five other women in the US with my name. A couple of years ago, I got an email from a religious college 3000 miles away from where I live. A woman, with my name, had done some writing for their publication, and they wanted some biographical information for their Author’s Notes. I email back and told them they had the wrong person. But it boggled my mind, just a bit, to imagine people at a religious college googling their author’s name and discovering all these references to a rather unusual hobby.

So, how does a particular employer know that the Mary Jane Smith applying for a job is the same Mary Jane Smith whose name pops up on google in connection with slash? I would assume geographical references would narrow things down, but that clearly wasn’t the case with the religious college. As I said, they, and that author, are located 3000 miles away from me.
I don't think it occurs to many people to do those kind of searches, even though it's common enough in the culture now to be the subject of jokes.

And yet they think to search the local court system information for everyone they know - including me.

What I've heard from some (cynical) people is that when HR folks google applicants, they're looking for any excuse to dump people out of the applicant pool. If that's true, they probably don't care which Mary Jane Smith it is.
It just occurred to me what I do instead of flocking -- when I post something too personal about myself, I leave it for a time, and then delete it before it can get cached anywhere in the big LJ vaults of time. lol