The Need for Two-Way Discussion at FanFiction.Net sign now

This petition is in response to, and support of, a recent e-mail campaign proceeding between various Fanfiction.Net (henceforth called "FF.net" for ease of reference), regarding a change in the enforcement of existing FF.net content policy:

Policy in Question:
"The chapter system is not to be used as placeholder for non-story content such as author notes. You can add short author notes to the beginning or at the end of stories but never as individual chapters."

As stated here, FF.Net's content guidelines indeed allow the use of "author notes" appended to story chapters. In the past, many users have used author's notes to offer short feedback to other FF.net members which have reviewed their uploaded stories, which is useful for several reasons including the mere acknowledgement that the reviewer's feedback was received and appreciated.

The change in this policy is described below via a recent, private e-mail campaign between existing FF.net members, which I quote below:

From: Bryn Jones
Sent: Monday, August 08, 2005 5:54 PM

Dear Writers and Readers on Fanfiction.net:

I'm writing to inform you about a new rule the Webmaster of FF.net has imposed: they've forbidden us to anwer the reviews. Yep, you're reading correctly.

At first, it was believed that this was just a rumor, but some days ago a writer friend was punished because she answered her reviews in the chapters of the fic.

Many people think this is very unfair because that's the only way we have to communicate with our readers. It's the only way they can know we read their reviews; we read new opinions and make friends. We don't like this new rule.

I cannot vouch for the accuracy of all details in this e-mail, but I do not like this news either. However, I am not defending members who upload responses to story reviewers in place of an actual chapter or story content, nor do I believe in or defend the practice of submitting reviews to one's own story solely to answer other reviews.

I do, however, believe that responses to a story reviewer's comments can and should continue be permitted as part of Author Notes appended to the end of a story chapter.

Furthermore, my own experience at FanFiction.Net has shown me one thing very clearly: FF.net does not have (and as far as I know, has never had) a decent system for hosting genuine critiques and discussion (that is, two-way communication between members) about a particular story. Two-way feedback between authors and reviewers is critical to the development process of a growing story, FF.net lacks such a medium, and having to contact a story author by outside e-mail to perform any useful two-way communication is a tedious (needless) alternative.

Fanfiction.Net's existing, built-in chapter review system does not fill this need for two-way communication because:
That was never its purpose, nor its design, to begin with.
Users are limited to one review per chapter. While this rule IS in place to prevent 'spamming' (a good intent), it also prevents a user, any user, from leaving an additional or amended review/critique at a later date should the author update/rewrite the particular chapter reviewed.
Signed reviews left by logged in FF.net can NOT be deleted (except, of course, by internal FF.net staff). Again, this rule is in place for a good reason, but because of it, FF.net members have NO ability to amend or write a new review if the author of a story uploads a new version/edition of their story chapters.

In short, FF.net's built-in review system fails to support the ability of an author to upload a new/revised version of the same story chapter, because when the author uploads a new version, the pre-existing reviews of that chapter are no longer relevant, but they remain on the site anyway, precluding users from reviewing the new version of that chapter.

FF.net also offers a "Critics - Community" (aka "C2") feature intended to help improve communication between authors and reviewers of a story; unfortunately, this does not fulfill the need for two-way communication either because:
C2 has no built-in discussion medium; its only unique feature is the ability to group member-selected stories into a single archive. ("Favorite Stories on steriods" indeed)
Any communication must be delivered via FF.net's built-in review system (with above said limitations) or via outside e-mail.

Because the story review system was never intended for two-way communication, but because two-way communication is critical to the creative development process, I propose the addition of a built-in private message system that all members of FF.net can use to communicate productively between story author and story reviewers, including but transcending the basic desire to let the reviewer know that their feedback was received and appreciated.

Private Message ("PM") systems are nothing new, they are standard features on many free forum softwares and user-publishing related sites (including such names as FictionAlley, deviantART, and Fanart Central). PM systems are a successful alternative to contacting a registered member via e-mail, because forum members can and often do hide their e-mail address from view of others, and it is a communication medium private between the sender and recipient (but can, should the need arise, be monitored by site staff) .

If the "do not respond to reviews" policy is going to be expanded to include Author Notes in addition to actual reviews, then that is going too far.

(FanFiction.Net TOS, Part 2)
FanFiction.Net [provides] writers and readers with a place to post and read stories, review stories and to communicate with other authors and readers through forums and chat rooms. Unless explicitly states, all new features shall fall under the terms of the TOS.

It is already clear that FF.net at this time provides no said forums, chat rooms, or communication media (beyond the built-in story review system) to accommodate the general public members of FF.net (that is, beyond internal FF.net site staff).

I believe that in order for FF.net members to critique another's stories productively, and thus benefit the FF.net community as a whole, there must be a form of built-in, two-way communication between story author and reviewer, a form of communication that is vital, yet not possible under FF.net's existing review/C2 system or even as Author Notes appended to story chapters.

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