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Community Update

About A community publication for all things Tolkien

Previous Entry Community Update Mar. 27th, 2008 @ 03:55 pm Next Entry
Dear Faithful Readers:

As you must know, up to this point, middleearthnews has not accepted posts or links for those fics/events/etc having to do with the RP side of the fandom. This was a decision made in the inception of the newsletter, since it was, at that time, maintained by one mod and the expansion into LOTR RP was too daunting to even consider. The RP side is just plain bigger than the FP side, and it was just too much to ask that one person try to keep track of it all. (And anyway, your original mod is rather lazy by nature. *cough*)

Circumstances, as they say, have now changed. middleearthnews now has three mods -- the venerable caras_galadhon, empy and estelanui -- two of whom are very active on both the FP and RP sides of things, and all three of whom are willing to give this RP thing a go. So, starting Wednesday, April 2nd, and continuing on through Friday, May 30th (that's a nine week trial period), middleearthnews will be accepting news, links and posts for LOTR RP fandom, in addition to all of those things we now accept for FP fandom.

As noted, this is being done on a trial basis, at the end of which the mods will confer and evaluate, and decide if it should be implemented as new policy. Regardless of how well the trial goes, if it's going to be more work than we anticipated, we might not be prepared to continue. We think you will all agree that the newsletter is a valuable resource within the LOTR community, and we would hate to see it suffer due to mod-overload.

On a similar note, we would like to make this very clear at the onset: Each mod is Queen, Tsar and Despot of her particular issue and owns the right to decide what she will and will not include in a post. (Remember: your mods do this for free and at the expense of their own valuable time; please be respectful of that.) We assume that some bits will be arriving in our inbox, which will probably enjoy a tangential, at best, relationship with these new (temporary) policies. Since it's impossible for us to anticipate every potential problem or foresee all circumstances, what does and does not belong in the newsletter will be entirely up to that day's mod. If she thinks that Viggo's new haircut is not worth the time of formatting a blurb, Viggo's new haircut will have to remain rumour. On the other hand, if it's a mohawk and there's a picture… ;)

Now, we should probably pause here and specify what we mean by LOTR RP:

We are not talking about Orlando Fandom or Bean Fandom or any other Actor Fandom -- we are talking about LOTR RP fandom. Links for comms or stories that focus solely on one actor, paired with whomever, are not what we have in mind at this time. In other words, we do not want to be swamped with Orli fics set in the Pirates 'verse, or during Pirates filming. Unless Viggo happens to show up on the set and fun ensues. We'll trust you to see the distinction; we know that distinction is currently a little ambiguous, but we hope that as we go along, it will become more and more clear what we consider postable and what we don't.

On that note, here's what we anticipate will change:

MEDIA NEWS: Not a whole lot will change in this section. The focus will remain on news having to deal with Tolkien, the books or the movies (including The Hobbit, of course), with possibly an occasional side-trip into actor news. Again, this will be at the mods' discretion.

The fact that Elijah Wood expressed interest in working on The Hobbit = newsworthy.

Whether or not Elijah's once again growing a goatee = not so much.

COMMUNITY NEWS: All communities -- both FP and RP -- are now more than welcome to send updates for this section. Those communities that host both sorts of fics and have heretofore been dropping the RP links from their updates should now include those links as well.

These links are to be reader/mod submitted only, meaning that we will not be asking our mods to go hunting down links to post. If you are a mod of a LOTR RP comm, or know a mod of a LOTR RP comm, we would love to have updates, but if they don't get sent in, they don't get posted.

CHALLENGES, WORKSHOPS, AWARDS: Pretty much the same as the above. We will be more than happy to post updates, notices and links from awards organisations and challenge comms for RP, just as we've always done for FP.

FIC/ART NEWS: This should be pretty self-explanatory. If you have a LOTR RP fic you'd like to promote, or know of one, and which meets the criteria as explained above, we'd love to have the link, so please do send it in.

If you have been sending us lists of links to FP fic and dropping the LOTR RP bits out of it (*hugs mews1945*), you no longer need to go through that last step. Include all LOTR-related fic links!

And this bears repeating: If you do not send the links, we cannot post them. Especially now, when our mods are basically taking on double their usual workload, reader participation is crucial. This newsletter cannot function without it and there is nothing in the world more likely to dishearten and burn a mod out than feeling like she is spinning her wheels for those who do not appreciate what she does. A show of appreciation is so easy; none of the mods expect readers to drop by every day with thanks and praise -- just make that small effort to send in your links! Seriously. That's all. What could be easier?

DISCUSSIONS OF INTEREST: We anticipate very little change for this section, with the exception of the obvious, in linking to discussions that focus specifically on RP subjects when appropriate.

CLASSIFIED: Again, not a whole lot of change in this section, except opening it up to RP as well as FP queries. Looking for a fic in which Billy Boyd was turned into a unicorn and falls madly in love with Miranda? Ask about it here.

We should note that this section was originally intended as a spot for readers to ask the community for help -- with anything, not just fic -- and, for quite a while, continually remained blank. Our mods, being far too conscientious and too creative for words, began filling it with their hilarious FAKE CLASSIFIEDS because none of them can abide a blank space. This, as you can imagine, turned out to be quite exhausting for all of them, and has since been phased out.

However, we invite all of you out there to pick up where our mods' great examples left off. Maybe Karl would like to know what this Éomer guy is on about with his pikes and whatnot. And maybe Aragorn would really like to know who this Viggo person is, making time with Arwen. We know you can all be extraordinarily creative -- c'mon, you're geeks! -- so let's see what you can do, yeah?

*pokes*

RESEARCH AIDS: Okay, this section we may need a little help with. Are there sites out there with bio information on the actors that would be helpful to those writing RP fic? Are there sites that list filming trivia that may help other authors? Why not check your bookmarks and send us a list? Credit, as always, will be happily and prominently posted with your link(s).

TRIVIA: Our Friday mod, caras_galadhon, has been feeling left out since the beginning and has suggested she might like to start actor/crew trivia as a Friday feature. This would work in exactly the same way as our current Book/Movie Trivia features, except that fake lembas would be awarded on Mondays.

SEND MATHOMS: No anticipated changes to this section.

COMICS: No anticipated changes here, either, unless someone out there can be a fount of funnies for RP stuff, as grimnir1 has been.

Okay, we think that should about do it. Again, we know we haven't covered everything and that there will be questions/comments, so we are leaving comments open and unscreened, and we highly encourage discussion -- either with the mods or amongst yourselves. (Just please remember to keep things polite; we've never had to ban anyone from the comm and would rather not have to start now.)

We are fully aware that we've probably missed a few things, that there will be snags along the way, and maybe even a few stumbles. In that, we ask you, our Faithful Readers, to give us a hand. Ask us about something you think we've missed; tell us what you think we should keep an eye on; send us links you think might help. This newsletter has always depended upon its readership to continue its existence; we'll be depending on it now more than ever.

Anyone who wouldn't mind spreading the word, please do to link this post in your communities or individual journals.

And, as of April 1st, SEND US THOSE LINKS!

Thank you,

Your Mods, abby_normal, caras_galadhon, elanorgardner, empy and estelanui
Leave a comment
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From:lanthirel
Date:March 27th, 2008 08:31 pm (UTC)
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Sounds interesting, but I thought that there was already a community that posted RP links and news?

At any rate, you folks do a great job. I have only one suggestion. I would love to see links to Tolkien icon posts. Not everyone posts their Tolkien icons in
lotricons and it can be a tad difficult to say the least in keeping up with where they all might be. (The Star Wars and Doctor Who LJ newsletters that are the equivalent of middleearthnews do provide icon links, and I find that service very, very helpful.) Just a suggestion, mind you. :)
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From:caras_galadhon
Date:March 27th, 2008 09:17 pm (UTC)
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There is, indeed, another community that posts links to new/updated stories: lotrips. We are not planning to duplicate or horn in on their work; we're merely filling in the gaps we can see.

I think we'd be more than happy to accept submissions from people linking us to various icon posts, so if you yourself would like to send in links, or if you know people who would like to provide us with that information, then we'd be more than happy to list them in the various issues. ^_^ Thanks!

Edited at 2008-03-27 09:17 pm (UTC)
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From:msilverstar
Date:March 28th, 2008 02:17 am (UTC)
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Am so glad you're doing this, and have already subscribed! If you could link to our weekly updates, we'd really appreciate it. I'll add a link to middleearthnews in the user info on lotrips, in any case. I'm so happy to hang with you, despite the fact that I can't really read most FPS.
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From:abby_normal
Date:March 28th, 2008 02:39 am (UTC)
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Welcome and thank you! We would love to link your updates -- do you think it would be possible to send us a link to your post when you update over there? Just something simple:

lotrips update from mod msilverstar -- [LINK TO MOST CURRENT UPDATE(S)]

Or if you'd rather, you could send us a copy of the post itself and we can print the whole thing. Whichever way you'd prefer. Either way would get us off to a great start, I think.

I hope this proves a good resource to the RP community; any input you might have that you think might help is more than welcome. Thanks so much for your support.
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From:msilverstar
Date:March 29th, 2008 03:33 am (UTC)
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You may have the whole list if you want, but it would be another 50-70 lines of text, which seems like it might flood readers' friendspages. Let us start with sending you the most intriguing announcement we can think of (I hated marketing when I was a product manager, but I recognize its value).
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From:abby_normal
Date:March 29th, 2008 04:05 am (UTC)
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Anything you want, love. Thanks again and we look forward to working with you.
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From:abby_normal
Date:March 27th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC)
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Great, thanks!
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From:the_marquis
Date:March 27th, 2008 09:01 pm (UTC)
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Thanks for all your hard work peeps!
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From:abby_normal
Date:March 27th, 2008 09:28 pm (UTC)
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caras_galadhon, empy and estelanui work so hard on the newsletter and I know they appreciate every pat on the back. Thanks so much for taking the time and for your support of the newsletter.
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From:baranduin
Date:March 27th, 2008 09:33 pm (UTC)
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Great! I'll look forward to the additions!
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From:abby_normal
Date:March 27th, 2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
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Good. Hope you enjoy!
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From:half_elf_lost
Date:March 27th, 2008 10:03 pm (UTC)
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Isn't that "Tsarina"? :)

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From:abby_normal
Date:March 27th, 2008 10:09 pm (UTC)
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*grin* Yes, it is, in fact, but I liked the way Tsar sounded better, so I took a bit of license. ;)
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From:bed4good
Date:March 28th, 2008 12:49 am (UTC)
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Sounds great!
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From:abby_normal
Date:March 28th, 2008 02:01 am (UTC)
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Hope you find it useful. :)
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From:cressida0201
Date:March 31st, 2008 02:28 am (UTC)
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May I offer a suggestion that I've been considering for a while now? Middleearthnews has gotten so long that I'm really losing the things in it that I might be interested in; I tend to hop over the whole thing, and it really takes up a lot of space on my friends page. Now that you're adding this section, it's bound to get even longer, and, well, I'm simply not interested in the RP part of fandom, which means that it's going to be an even bigger chore to sift through the newsletter and find the bits I want. People who are interested in the new stuff are probably in a similar predicament.

I think you do about the best you can with the format you're using, but have you ever considered something along the lines of the daily_snitch, where each section is behind a cut? That way, people could browse much more quickly and click on the headers that interest them. Just a thought. I do appreciate all you're doing for the community; I just wanted to offer a suggestion which might make the newsletter even better!
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From:abby_normal
Date:April 4th, 2008 02:34 am (UTC)
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Hullo! Hope you're doing well and, on behalf of all the mods of middleearhtnews, thank you for the suggestion.

We have previously discussed this subject amongst ourselves and decided that placing each category beneath a cut would rather defeat the purpose of the newsletter, that being the purpose of encouraging its members to easily follow the links provided and thus increase their participation in theor chosen branch of the fandom, or to maybe even investigate another. This is how we have formatted the newsletter since the very first post and have no reason to believe it doesn't work to its purpose for the majority of those who subscribe.

I'm sorry you're finding the posts too heavy with information outside your own interest, but the point is to be inclusive; this means that everyone with only one focus within the broader scope of fandom as a whole has to sift through the rest of the links to find the thing that interests them, and cuts won't really help with that. I do understand your point, but cutting would defeat the purpose.

But thank you for caring enough to make the suggestion. We all appreciate that you took the time to stop in and share your concerns.
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From:abby_normal
Date:June 18th, 2008 04:38 pm (UTC)
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Hullo again. :)

I understood your initial question in your email, but thought the gist of the above comment applied in a general way, which is why I referred you here. You're confused as to why we think plaing the post under a headline cut would defeat our purpose, so let me clarify (probably in a rambling sort of way, for which I pre-emptively apologise):

The purpose of the newsletter is to provide easy access to a wide variety of information that the members might not normally find on their own, and encourage them to follow them, perhaps find new interests they didn't know they had, and participate in areas (ie, by leaving comments) in which they might not normally particpate. We decided back in 2004 (and re-visited the subject a few months back, where we decided to re-affirm the initial policy) that placing all of that information behind a cut would not encourage the participation of members to follow and investigate those links.

A little bit of explanation:

This newsletter is no piece of cake to put together. I did it every day for almost three years before I had to cry Uncle! and lasso caras_galadhon, empy and estelanui to come and take over weekly posting, at which point we knocked the posts down to Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Today, in filling in for empy, it took me close to 2-1/2 hours to collect all of the information, check all of the links, format the newsletter and make the post. And I have no doubt that the three regular mods spend even more time on their posts, as evidenced by the fact that their issues are generally longer and have more information than mine. What you're asking boils down to asking my mods to put all of that work into an issue and then make it easier for people to scroll right past it. It takes our mods hours to create a post and a few seconds for a reader to scroll past it; we think that trade-off isn't too much to ask.

Now, I do understand that you would probably scroll past and then come back later to poke about when you had more time. But you and I have been around lj for a long time, and I think we both know that isn't the case, generally speaking. In my observation, placing a newsletter post behind a cut would result in the majority of the membership scrolling past and then forgetting to come back later, or perhaps not making the time to come back later; on the other hand, placing all of those links plainly on the screen might make those readers slow down and look for headlines that might interest them. It encourages participation, which has always been our goal. Yes, it's rather a 'in your face' method, but it does work for this particular community, resulting in a higher level of participation within the community itself, and we're pretty sure in those places to which we link (though we have no empirical evidence to support that -- just casual observation).

Placing the newsletter behind a cut would, I have no doubt, knock down that level of participation. And since I personally depend upon that participation to keep my mods happy (I would be so screwed if they got jaded and decided it wasn't worth it anymore), I don't want to fix what is, to the apparent agreement of the members of this community, what ain't broke.

If you do feel the need to opt out of the community, I think bookmarking the site and checking for new posts on M/W/F would probably work out for you. I know many people who do just that. We'd be sorry to lose your membership, but more than happy to provide the information you're looking for in a way that suits your convenience.

Hopefully, my rambling did not interfere with my clarity (it does sometimes, you know). If you need any further explanation, or if I did not address something in plain enough terms (I do that, too), please do let me know and I'll be happy to ramble some more. ;)

Carole
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From:abby_normal
Date:June 19th, 2008 01:20 pm (UTC)
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Well, good. I'm glad that you find the newsletter useful and as I said, many people do exactly as you plan to do. It sounds like you've hit upon the right balance for yourself.

Just so you know, I have changed one of the FAQs in our comm info to link here; the link previously went to my comment to cressida0201, but I felt like our discussion hit all of the pertinent points in more detail, so I altered the link. If you have any problem with that, just let me know and I'll screen your comments; if not, I'd like to thank you for this opportunity to explain our reasoning more clearly (typos and all! *headdesk*) so that I can refer future enquiries here.

And for doing all of that with such good will. It's not often one gets to have a polite, friendly discussion where both parties are not in total agreement, and I appreciate the fact that you had the community's best interests at heart.

Carole
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From:paranoidangel42
Date:June 29th, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)
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Just butting in on this conversation to ask a related question. All of what you say about not lj-cutting makes perfect sense.

However, I'm a bit confused why you have the opposite policy on RSS/Atom feeds. On those all you get is the title and a read more link, so you don't get the benefit of people spotting headlines etc (and I know I spot headlines when I skim-read newsletters in other fandoms I read). I'm just wondering why you don't want people to do the same when they're reading by RSS Feed?
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From:abby_normal
Date:July 1st, 2008 03:29 am (UTC)
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Well, unfortunately, we don't have a choice with RSS feeds -- that's the way they're set up by the hosting servers. It's not that we don't want readers on other journal services to get the same benefits from this format; it's that, if we're going to have any kind of presence on them, we kind of have to take what we can get.
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From:paranoidangel42
Date:July 1st, 2008 08:09 am (UTC)
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Sorry, I'm still a bit confused. What do you mean by hosting servers? Surely the RSS Feed is generated automatically by LJ and they're a full feed, unless you go in and change the settings somewhere?
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From:abby_normal
Date:July 1st, 2008 01:49 pm (UTC)
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I'm thinking you know a whole lot more about the technicalities of this than I do. All I can say is that we got directions from IJ, followed them, and set up the feed accordingly. (The one on GJ, btw, never did work.) If there was a better way to do it, I don't know of it and don't understand enough about it to play with it. If you know of a way to fix it and are willing to share, please do.
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From:paranoidangel42
Date:July 1st, 2008 02:16 pm (UTC)
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I don't feel like I know that much about the technicalities!. RSS Feeds happen automatically with LJ, and they're full feeds. A full feed means that what you see in an RSS Feed Reader (or in Firefox or IE) is the post on this page (but not the comments). If you do nothing at all, that's how it stays.

If you do something, I don't know what, but presumably whatever instructions you had from IJ, then you can change the feed to be partial (so you can only see the subject and the first sentence, roughly speaking). Or you can change the feed to titles only, where you see just the subject.

So, for example, if you go to http://paranoidangel42.livejournal.com/data/rss you'll see the feed for my LJ and it includes all the text for each post. I haven't touched my LJ RSS Feed at all.

Whereas, for this newsletter, if you go to http://community.livejournal.com/middleearthnews/data/rss you can see there's nothing very useful there at all. Was that what you meant to do when you followed these directions, or would you rather the posts showed up?
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From:abby_normal
Date:July 4th, 2008 03:30 am (UTC)
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I can't say we really meant to set it up in any particular format, because I was assuming that the directions we were following were our only options, and the directions resulted in the format on IJ. Truthfully, I don't use LJ -- I use IJ -- and would definitely prefer the un-cut format. I'll have to go back and find all of the links and info we used and see if I can figure a way to change it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention that a change might be possible.
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From:caras_galadhon
Date:May 1st, 2009 05:58 am (UTC)
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Hi, I know this is ages after the point, and it's possible this has been cleared up for you in the meantime, but since I was adding to our FAQ tonight with links to the various feeds, I figured it would be helpful to have a public record explaining why the M-ENews feed seems not to follow our "uncut" format.

Basically, when we first set up the feeds across the various journaling platforms, we had the LJ-side set to display the full post, just as each issue appears on LJ. Unfortunately, we quickly realized that that meant the posts themselves broke the feed, because of their length. That essentially meant that nothing would update correctly, and the various journaling systems wouldn't receive notification of each new issue. (I've had this issue with a few blogs I've been following as well; if they're over a certain size, their feeds won't update.)

What you see in the M-ENews feeds is actually the next step down; we've set it to "summary," in which it is to display the title, part of the text of the entry, and a link to the rest. Because of the format of the newsletter, LJ believes that the first line of the body of the entry, our Volume and Issue #, is the first paragraph of the issue, and therefore stops right there. It's the most we can get it to display without running into the broken feed issue over and over again.

Anyway, I hope that explains why the feed settings seem completely counterintuitive, given our decision to keep the newsletter as a whole uncut. Sadly, it's simply the limitations of technology/the platform warring with our larger preferences.
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From:paranoidangel42
Date:May 1st, 2009 06:29 am (UTC)
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Thanks for the explanation, I had given up wondering what was happening. The length thing seems bizarre, though, because I've never seen that problem with fic journals and comms, which have even longer posts. So I don't think it's the length that's the problem, it must be something else in the content - there are non-LJ blogs I follow that are often broken because the feed reader dislikes some of the characters in it, or because of the way it's been set up.

If it's just LJ that's having this problem does that mean that you are crossposting it to other places where the RSS Feed is still the full one? I don't mind where the feed comes from, I'd just like to be able to read the LOTR news.
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