Let's talk about books, baby / let's talk about lit'racy March 3, 2016 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Books! We gingerly dipped a toe into books on FanFare late last year, and this seems like as good a time as any to talk about sticking a whole foot in.

Where we've been:

- So far, only folks granted specific permission in the database can actaully create a "Book" post from FanFare's "New Post" form, while we figure out how to approach the unique aspects of books as a discussion topic.

- We launched a small handful of book clubs last October, which have ticked along reasonably well all in all (though the guy running the Dune one sure is bad at deadlines, what's with that) and seem to prove out the basic viability of that approach to book discussion organization.

- We've also granted book-posting permissions to a couple more people on an ad hoc basis since then, to enable a Harry Potter rereadathon (and rewatchathon), and a just-born Dark Tower group.

Where we're headed:

- I'd like to get more books and more more book clubs running. To that end, I'm happy to spread out book-posting permissions more widely, one way or another. That said:

- One thing that's clear about books, and part of why we've taken a slow start on 'em, is that they're unique among the media types on FanFare for being something that's awfully hard for almost everybody to consume with a day's notice. With the exception of very widely popular titles (classics, big best sellers, pop lit phenomena), just posting a thread for a book without warning/planning is unlikely to work out well. Instead, having folks know a couple weeks or a month ahead of time that something is coming seems like a good plan.

- So, we want more folks posting books but in a controlled fashion, to avoid a lot of super quiet threads on otherwise perfectly nice books that just didn't have an organized discussion audience. That could mean, as a couple major options, (a) giving everybody books posting permissions but implementing an approval queue on the mod side, or (b) keeping actual book-thread-posting to an expanding-as-needed group of users actively running book clubs, so that book posts always correspond with a bit of planning and organization. Option B would be easier to get rolling on, and is mechanically already shown to work okay, so that's my inclination for the moment.

- We're happy to hear from anybody interested in being a book club runner; I like the clubs we've had so far and I think it'd be great to start operating a bunch more, chasing down various genres and so on. If you've got an idea and want to be responsible for organizing it, great, hit us up and we'll look into it.

- Posting super well-known books that don't really need a warning because lots of people will be ready to go is also a thing we can start doing; that could again be a moderator-gated thing or a sort of Popular Reads Club thing, or some other variation on the form. This is something I'd be interested to hear brainstorms on.

- FanFare interface stuff is still very much a work in progress and something we've had a lot less time to work on than we'd hoped for since the discussion late last year, unfortunately; discoverability and presentation and so on remain big priorities there but retreading that in here in great detail is probably going to kind of unnecessary. That said, if there are specific things from that older thread that pertain to the book stuff particularly that didn't have a clear answer, that's fine to broach.

Also in the interim, Eyebrows McGee has gone from being one of the pilot book club hosts to being on the mod staff, so I've been chattering in more detail with her about some of the mechanics and future ideas on this front, and she's rarin' to jump in deeper on the Books side of things.

So, that's where we're at. Let's talk about getting more clubs going, getting more books up, and what sort of stuff folks are looking forward to or would like to see to enable that.
posted by cortex to MetaFilter-Related at 11:00 AM (80 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

I’ve been hosting the historical fiction book club, which I feel has gone pretty well. We've got 76 members and have averaged about 20 comments per book, so that feels like a pretty big audience to get reasonable participation. I think having pre-scheduled books is very helpful (I can imagine a few super-bestsellers of the Harry Potter or GRRM type getting good participation without advance notice, but I think books need notice because people have to read them). Just spitballing, I feel like it would be very helpful to have an opt-in for a reminder two weeks in advance where the club would remind you by e-mail, “Hey, have you started reading “The Chaperone”? We start discussing it in two weeks! Here’s an amazon link.”

I’d like ways to encourage more people to participate in the "long tail" of never-closing fanfare threads ... comments fall off pretty quickly after the first week or so and people seem reluctant to comment later in the month or after the month is over, but the discussions aren’t temporally-bound and the conversation can continue for a long time. I’m not really sure how to accomplish that.

More “wild idea file” ideas, it would be nice to be able to pre-schedule club posts since clubs depend on a responsible person posting on time, at least most of the time. But I know we don’t do scheduled/queued/draft posts elsewhere so that’s pretty out there.

Because books are such a wide universe, I think the clubs have worked really well to focus and thereby amplify discussion within a smaller universe of curated selections, which I think is necessary for books. I do think people will at some point want one-off books, like when Winds of Winter comes out, and we should think about how to manage that -- should there be some kind of voting system where a book has to get over a threshhold of interest? Or a book curator who looks at suggestions and decides? Or just strictly clubs?

I also think now that we’ve got a little experience with clubs, it would be easy for someone to host a “shortlist” club where they select the books from the shortlists for the Pulitzer, Booker, National Book Awards, etc., and get a broader variety of buzzy books rather than narrower genre books that fit in a book club neatly; or even a “bestseller” club, doing similarly with bestseller lists.

Anyway, that’s my perspective from having been hosting a club; I’m curious to hear what other club hosts, club member, and fanfare users think!
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:02 AM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


(a) giving everybody books posting permissions but implementing an approval queue on the mod side,

I prefer A to B, but would ideally just like to see a queueless barrier-free system in action, similar to FPPs, and seeing how that goes.
posted by Greg Nog at 11:19 AM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, I think at least one club broke books down into sections and discussed them by smaller sections, maybe with posts more frequently? Super-curious about how that went. Historical Fiction goes by-the-book and we've had a couple where people dug into more nitty-gritty discussions but most have been more high-level reactions without as much back-and-forth argument/discussion.

I've also typically posted a summary and a couple reviews/interviews with the author, but maybe I should look for either book club discussion questions (publishers often provide them) or critical analysis articles.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:30 AM on March 3, 2016


My two cents after running one of the Alpha Book Clubs:

I would suggest that each book get some kind of voting process before posting. Like a built in poll to a FanFare Talk post that goes like,

"Anyone up for a Finnegan's Wake discussion? If so, please check your interest below", with a little box to click that says, "Yes, I would like to read this book and I am reasonably sure I will participate in a discussion" and then a calendared discussion about a month out after [10?] people commit.

Alternately, I think we could go with Cortex's proposed plan B above where club runners make a request of a moderator to have access to post in books before starting their club, and then assess after a few posts if the club is "working".

Reading and discussing a book is a big commitment and I found that my club did not generate a lot of interest.

I still think books can work, and I'm still very enthusiastic about the FanFare Books idea, but I would recommend some kind of structure...

I also still think the front page of FanFare should be radically restructured from a designer point of view, so that people can more easily find their interests. Right now there are like 4 separate menus and it's still most recent scrolling from the top.
posted by latkes at 11:52 AM on March 3, 2016 [15 favorites]


And thanks mods for continuing to work on this! Yay!
posted by latkes at 11:52 AM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


My primary use model for Fanfare is
1) browsing for topics I've read/watched in the past to comment on
2) looking at topics for things I haven't read/watched to see what people think.

I think long-tail discussions are a super important part of Fanfare, my suggestions are add an option to be informed when a topic you've commented on has a new reply (even months later) and make search a more central part of Fanfare. My ideal would be a site where someone searches for a book they want to discuss and either adds a comment to an existing thread or starts a new thread right there. Maybe create the option to get a notification when someone posts a topic with a set of tags you choose, like "book" and "Sci-fi"
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 12:21 PM on March 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Just spitballing, I feel like it would be very helpful to have an opt-in for a reminder two weeks in advance where the club would remind you by e-mail, “Hey, have you started reading “The Chaperone”? We start discussing it in two weeks! Here’s an amazon link.”

I like this idea and I'd probably join in if this or something similar (like just getting off my ass and doing it) prompted me to read in time for the discussion to still be active. I have a lot of time on the bus and train to read but I tend to read junk or re-read. I didn't know about the historical fiction club but that's right up my alley.

I’d like ways to encourage more people to participate in the "long tail" of never-closing fanfare threads


I often read old FanFare threads and enjoy them but I never comment because the conversation ended long ago. So challenge accepted there. It's probably counter to the way MeFi works, but if there was a way to see new comments across FanFare in some easy way it might help push people to still active or re-active threads. I don't know what that would look like though. Maybe some kind of sidebar of recent comments? I'm thinking of sites where posts are reordered based on activity but I am NOT suggesting that system, just something that gets attention in some way.

Is there any interest in author specific clubs? For example I have read all of the mainstream and some of the obscure Tim Powers stuff. There are recurring themes and characters which works well as a club, but each book stands on its own so someone could just read one and not be lost at all in the conversation. That might be not the best example, but it's in the front of my mind right now. If it was an author I could get into I'd be interested in that as well as genre specific clubs.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 12:34 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Oh and also I like the title of this post way more than is reasonable.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 12:35 PM on March 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


add an option to be informed when a topic you've commented on has a new reply (even months later)

Recent Activity does this. It's always delightful when a new person pops into an old discussion.
posted by Etrigan at 1:05 PM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Also, I'd love to introduce people to the grimdark of Joe Abercrombie (The First Law etc.) and the batshit awesome Peter Clines' Ex-Heroes (superheroes in a zombie apocalypse). Or host a Terry Pratchett memorial read-through.
posted by Etrigan at 1:07 PM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I use recent activity for that too, but specifically on FanFare there could be very old threads that get reignited for whatever reason and if I never commented or added them to my activity I wouldn't see them in recent activity and I might otherwise be very interested in them.


And I forgot to ask - can someone speak to what is involved in being a "book club runner"? I could get into this, but I have no basically idea what it entails right now.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 1:10 PM on March 3, 2016


I'm not sure how much I would read new books as a result of posts on fanfare (my to read list is long enough already and I get a lot of them through placing holds at the library) but the last couple times I finished books I found myself wanting to go find discussion on them. I'd be in favour of fewer restrictions on making new posts, however that works out, so that I can go find those old ones when I do get around to reading them.
posted by quaking fajita at 1:12 PM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Open it up. There needs to be more variety for book posts to be interesting.
posted by edeezy at 1:26 PM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


People post stuff about older movies and shows all the time without warning; it's for people who have already seen those things. Similarly I don't see why we need lead time on most books. If I post about Neal Stephenson's SEVENEVES I expect a ton of people have already read it, same as people posting about films from last year.
posted by Justinian at 2:18 PM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


"can someone speak to what is involved in being a "book club runner"?"

Come up with an idea for a book club, centered around a theme or a genre or an author or whatever, talk to cortex about it (as there's still some "let's make sure this is an idea for a club that we think will function and draw interest"), and have at least a few months' worth of books to calendar to get it rolling (or come up with that many in the "let's have this club!" organization thread), and then be responsible for posting at a regular monthly-or-so interval with a new book. (There's nothing that says you couldn't do weekly posts on shorter sections, or bi-monthly books, or whatever seems appropriate; or even a "summer book club" where you just do the summer months, but basically a clear plan and being responsible for those posts occurring at the right time.) Can be open-ended like "alternate history, monthly for as long as we keep coming up with these" or it could be limited like, "This particular series of five books, and then done."
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 2:18 PM on March 3, 2016


One thing that's clear about books, and part of why we've taken a slow start on 'em, is that they're unique among the media types on FanFare for being something that's awfully hard for almost everybody to consume with a day's notice.

I'm feeling this already in the yet-to-be-started DT thread. It's tangible to me, or I'm just not calibrated properly.

Anyway, I like the idea whereby there is some sort of consideration given to metering the number of posts, at least for now, to keep the goodness from getting too diluted.

Example, what if a flood of good-readthroughs are posted to begin and there isn't really the interest to keep any of them alive whereas if just a few of them had come up at a time then they would have had a much better chance of thriving with a booming subscriber base.

Anyway, guess we'll see. Tough one, but fun if it works out I think.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:20 PM on March 3, 2016


I agree that some books can be posted tomorrow without a problem, but for a book club, and I say this as someone who hasn't had either time or interest in participating in the current ones, I'd expect that having calendar'd dates, which give people time to read them if they haven't, would definitely be good. I wanted to look into the Dune club, but stumbled over the immediate assumption of discussion when the book when live, and never got around to finding a copy after I felt I'd missed the boat.

So, structure do be good.

Would FanFare Talk be the appropriate place to wage interest in forming a book club prior to contacting Cortex?
posted by Atreides at 2:21 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Maybe also 'book club buddies'? Kinda like the linked to users section but 'you've read/are reading Game of Thrones with RolandOfElf, Justinian, etc' on the profile? Only gets checked if comment in the thread/check in?
posted by litleozy at 2:22 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


...also pretty much what latkes said. I should have read through all the previous comments a bit more before commenting but I wanted to inject my raw thoughts without the taint of other folks' wisdom. LEEEROY!
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:23 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'm all for a SSFF (Silly Science Fiction & Fantasy) club, with co-idols Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, but I don't know if I could manage it myself, so anyone who wants to run with the idea should feel free to do so.

Also, I've acquired a couple books in the last year promoted from Projects posts and would love to see if I'm the only one. Books By MeFites - there's a club.
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:24 PM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Not to mention that a burst of interest in the beginning is both a dangerous and powerful thing.

If 45 clubs pop up between today and tomorrow then I'm afraid that, no matter how good they all are, you're going to see them all wither on the vine.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:25 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


RolandOfElf

I wish that were the username.
posted by Wolfdog at 2:30 PM on March 3, 2016


Just so you could steal mine.
posted by RolandOfEld at 2:31 PM on March 3, 2016


I would be more likely to participate if there was a closed off period after new posts are done so that there's time to read the book. Maybe books can get voted on, but I would really like to be able to read the book before seeing the comments. Similar to posts on the blue, I think the first few comments really set the tone and focus of the discussion. And also I think maybe doing a series is not such a great idea since it dilutes interest.
posted by dhruva at 2:32 PM on March 3, 2016


Just lemme know when the Neapolitan Novels go up, in whichever club they fit in, because I'm just starting book 3 now thanks to MeFi threads and comments and will want to hear thoughts from others.
posted by rewil at 2:43 PM on March 3, 2016 [6 favorites]


People post stuff about older movies and shows all the time without warning; it's for people who have already seen those things. Similarly I don't see why we need lead time on most books. If I post about Neal Stephenson's SEVENEVES I expect a ton of people have already read it, same as people posting about films from last year.

Agreed but most TV, movies and podcasts on FanFare can be watched or listened to in 20-120 minutes and copies are easy to come by. I don't think that's as true for books because many people just can't read most books in 20-120 minutes and some people can't or don't prefer to read them digitally. My wife 'reads' novels mainly via audiobook and there's really no way to speed through that. Many times a post on FanFare makes me go check out a show or podcast and I can do that within a day or two easily to catch up when the discussion is new and active and then participate if I care to.

Neal Stephenson's SEVENEVES is a good example. I've never heard of it but given enough lead I might want to read it and join in the discussion.
posted by Clinging to the Wreckage at 2:43 PM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


One thing I've noticed from hosting the Harry Potter club is that the event posting doesn't seem to be particularly effective at reminding people to reread the book. I've seen other clubs post a FanFare talk thread on an upcoming event but I haven't followed suit. It would be nice to either include club events on the FanFare main page or send an automated reminder to club members of the event. I suppose as club leader I could remind people myself.

I'm conflicted about whether there's a saturation point for books or if you'd find the various genres and authors would grab certain people, with the odds being against everyone wanting to participate in every post.

One change I'd like to suggest for the post skeleton is to include some level of spoiler warnings or reread tag.
posted by toomanycurls at 2:57 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I've been wanting to reread The Book Of The New Sun, and would love to discuss it here. There's a Reading Gene Wolfe club already, but the only post is on scheduling. Could I get posting rights to get that rolling?
posted by InfidelZombie at 3:01 PM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


I was one of the book club runners at launch. I've had to mothball the club because I just didn't have time. Between parenting, work and various other obligations I just didn't have time to run a book club properly. In theory, that will change one day in the near future. I'm hoping to take what I've learned and relaunch the club. I'm rather disappointed that I haven't been able to keep this running, because I dreamed of a BookFilter for so long.

But yes, here are some observations.

Books don't fit very organically to the FanFare model. The main problem is that books take long to read. Based on the average reading speed of 200-300 words per minute, books of regular length take about 4-7 hours to read for most people (not including time spent staring off into space mid-sentence). Personally I'm lucky to get an hour a day for book reading, but most days I have much less time. However, I can integrate other media much more easily into my day to day life (e.g. listen to a podcast while cooking or watch a film with a visiting friend) and they tend to take a much shorter time to finish. Even long movies rarely go much beyond two hours, and most podcasts are between half an hour and an hour and a half. It's an investment of time and attention to read a book.

Also, most books aren't read within days of publication (with obvious exceptions, e.g. Winds of Winter) but readers come to them over a period of months, years, even centuries. The daily blog scroll of FanFare makes new posts vanish within days. It takes a while for a book to build up enough critical mass of readers to get a discussion going.

Last, but not least, books are different from all other media in that there's functionally an endless amount of books. A dedicated reader will read five thousand books in their lifetime. But there are millions and millions of books. Most people will have wildly divergent lists of books they've read, which again makes it difficult to get that critical mass.

I posted about two works. The first was about Asimov's original Foundation series. It went pretty well, I thought. I posted about every section from the books, which made sense to me as they were originally published as a series of short stories/novellas. That seemed to suit FanFare pretty well, especially since it's a series tons of people have read. Its episodic nature seemed like a natural fit to the site too, which allowed people to build on what they'd already said about earlier sections.

The second was less successful. I posted about Margaret Atwood's The Blind Assassin. I think I overestimated how many people would have read it already. It got two short comments, and that was it. I got a MeMail from someone who was reading it, but they never commented. I'm hoping that it'll sit out there and garner more comments in the future. I think conversations about books can take place across a long time, Talmud-style. Though perhaps book posts need to be a bit more discoverable. Though I'm not entirely sure how to go about doing that (aside from alphabetical lists, genre categories and book-specific tag clouds).

I'm torn between what I'll do in the future when I have more time to devote to this. Either I'll make posts about interesting books I happen to have read, as a kind of book recommendation thing, and hope that people will come across the posts in the future and leave comments. The second option is to start again and have a much tighter focus (e.g. reading poetry or old classics).

Though right now that's all moot, because my life is pretty busy for the time being. At least into summer. But on the whole I'm very happy that this is up and running. I thought that the discussions so far have been very good. I'm pretty confident that the Books-section of FanFare will grow and prosper.
posted by Kattullus at 3:05 PM on March 3, 2016 [5 favorites]


When I display all the books in fanfare it displays 1-20, says there are 25, and I cannot see how to link to posts 21-25. This page.
posted by bukvich at 3:42 PM on March 3, 2016


Weird. You can use http://fanfare.metafilter.com/books/2, but yeah, I don't see a link anywhere on the page.
posted by ODiV at 3:56 PM on March 3, 2016


Will fix! I suspect the lack of enough books to make the problem obvious until recently has let it slip by.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:56 PM on March 3, 2016


No, leave it!

It can be our little secret corner of the library, cortex.
posted by ODiV at 3:57 PM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm still pitching a High Strangeness bookclub focusing on weird fringe books - ufos, cryptids, ghosts, and so on. The first book would be The Mothman Prophecies, afterwards we can decide if we want to follow the adventures of a one armed UFO contactee/conman or a guy who communicates with psychic Sasquatches. As some of this stuff gets kind of obscure, I'd be using "Can you get it on Kindle? Can you get it cheap on Amazon?" as a guide.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 3:58 PM on March 3, 2016 [2 favorites]


Catching up with some thoughts:

If I post about Neal Stephenson's SEVENEVES I expect a ton of people have already read it, same as people posting about films from last year.

Sure, and that'd fall into the really-visible (either as a classic or as recent big seller) stuff that's kind of the exception to the "this should probably get a bit of runway first" idea. I think if we wanted to do (however formally or informally) a Popular Choice sort of thing with random books outside of a specific thematic club, The Latest Neal Stephenson would be the sort of thing that could fit very well there.

That said, having everybody who is excited about books go post the popular/classic book they want to talk about all at a go would be not so great in terms of visiblity or uptake. So finding a way to pace it out a little for now feels like a good idea. But, at that, doing regular no-big-warning threads for some popular reads in tandem with the more structured individual book club stuff sounds doable.

Would FanFare Talk be the appropriate place to wage interest in forming a book club prior to contacting Cortex?

Yep, that'd be a totally okay way to test the waters a little on a given club idea. (Also totally fine to chatter in here at the moment, obvs.)

I would be more likely to participate if there was a closed off period after new posts are done so that there's time to read the book.

At the moment we're pursuing this more in the other direction: trying to have a bit of warning before the actual book post ever comes along, in Club-type settings. So there's a very basic Club Event calendar that upcoming discussions can be forecasted on, to let Club members and passersby see that a given title is coming up and give 'em a chance to get reading before the discussion starts.

The Event stuff right now is very, very lightweight, by design to keep it simple while we started experimenting, but that's something we may end up wanting to build out a little more so that it can be used where desired for active reminders or whatnot. But the idea in any case is that most books would have that pre-discussion window one way or the other, and then once the thread goes up, folks start discussing, and are welcome to wander in late whenever they like.

One change I'd like to suggest for the post skeleton is to include some level of spoiler warnings or reread tag.

There isn't really a spoiler or reread concept for individual books as a default assumption: if the thread is live, it's discussing the book, and you need to assume people will be discussing the whole book unless very specifically and idiosyncratically agreed upon in e.g. a preliminary Club discussion.

The idea of spoiler-controlled vs. reread discussions of books in a series makes more sense, and is something any organized reread should figure out in the planning stages; we've had both approaches show up already in book club discussions, and they're both fine, but are really only relevant for franchise/series collections of threads, not standalone books.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:10 PM on March 3, 2016


I'm still pitching a High Strangeness bookclub focusing on weird fringe books

Sounds good!

I'm all for a SSFF (Silly Science Fiction & Fantasy) club, with co-idols Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, but I don't know if I could manage it myself, so anyone who wants to run with the idea should feel free to do so.

Yep, that'd be fun if someone wants to tackle it.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:26 PM on March 3, 2016


Given that more people would see FanFare than FanFare Talk, when a book is selected to be read, it would be nice if a quick, no-comments allowed, notice could show up on FanFare, something like:

-----
After defeating the Mothman, the High Strangeness Bookclub will next square off against Bigfoot by reading Kewaunee Lapseritis's The Psychic Sasquatch and their UFO Connection! Discussion will start April 15.

[More Inside] could contain additional information/synopsis about the book.
-----

This would give people notice about the next book and could possibly tempt someone not normally reading the club books to jump in, rather than seeing the discussion post for the first time and going "Dang, I could have read about bigfoots not understanding how ice cream works but now it's too late."

People could opt out of seeing this 'upcoming' notices the same way they can opt out of seeing podcasts and so on.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:45 PM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


There isn't really a spoiler or reread concept for individual books as a default assumption: if the thread is live, it's discussing the book, and you need to assume people will be discussing the whole book unless very specifically and idiosyncratically agreed upon in e.g. a preliminary Club discussion.

We had a spoiler discussion in the Harry Potter Club Thread but some people were not aware of that decision when the first book post went up. Perhaps a series spoilers tag would be more appropriate.
posted by toomanycurls at 5:04 PM on March 3, 2016


I appreciate the addition of books to Fanfare and have enjoyed the couple of discussions that I have participated in. I agree that the long tail part is important, and it is neat to see someone add a comment to a dormant discussion.

I’d like ways to encourage more people to participate in the "long tail" of never-closing fanfare threads ... comments fall off pretty quickly after the first week or so and people seem reluctant to comment later in the month or after the month is over, but the discussions aren’t temporally-bound and the conversation can continue for a long time. I’m not really sure how to accomplish that.

I think I gave my specific thoughts in a previous FanFare discussion, but I agree that the current format/layout of that section doesn't work at all, and needs to be rethought from first principles rather than given minor tweaks.

Given the importance of the long tail thing, especially for books, design aspects are going to be key to making that work well.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:48 PM on March 3, 2016


I'd love to see a recurring post or posts where people can make comments with what books they have read and would like to recommend. "Best of the books," if you will. Although I don't currently spend any time over at FanFare, I would definitely visit to check out "what everyone's been reading lately" threads. If there's enough interest, anyone could then go through the extra work of making a post dedicated to a discussion of that book.

For example, I might post a comment like the following in such a thread:


Books that I've read recently that I would recommend include:

-SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain (Goodreads)

-No Equal Justice: Race and Class in the American Criminal Justice System (Goodreads)
First chapter
posted by aniola at 6:16 PM on March 3, 2016 [3 favorites]


Ha, I didn't even realize that book posts were a special case before I posted this in Fanfare talk. Well, anyway, I'd love a place to discuss those particular books!
posted by lunasol at 6:57 PM on March 3, 2016


I just realized that I'm part of the historical fiction book club but never saw any of the posts (forgot all about it). Can we have a setting to have posts about our book clubs added to our activity be default?
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:14 PM on March 3, 2016 [4 favorites]


Can we have a setting to have posts about our book clubs added to our activity be default?

Sure, we can think about that some more. Right now club posts automatically show up in My FanFare.
posted by pb (staff) at 7:18 PM on March 3, 2016


My natural inclination would be to do an Appendix N book club, because, well, it's got a certain cachet among fantasy geeks who like older editions of D&D. The thing is, some of Appendix N is in-print fantasy (Tolkien, Howard, Lovecraft, Moorcock, Leiber, Vance, Zelazny), some is coming back into print through public domain publishers (some of Dunsany, Burroughs, Merritt), and the rest is all either out of print or available only through specialist reprints.

It also has some potential to survey particular short works, since a lot of the authors listed wrote short stories. So we could do a fly-by sample with stuff like "The Call of Cthulhu" and "The Tower of the Elephant" and such to get people the feel of a pretty broad array of authors. (It also brings up the valid question of what degree to sit there discussing racism in some of these works; there is an unfortunate amount of racial prejudice evident in a number of the listed works, and I don't want to gloss over or apologize for it, but I would prefer not to have the whole discussion be one-dimensional.)
posted by graymouser at 8:25 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


I appreciate the highly curated tall bar for entry version of books that is working well now IMO. Opening it up to more clubrunners sounds great! Letting anyone post anything without warning or barrier for entry seems less good.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 9:25 PM on March 3, 2016 [1 favorite]


Can we expand the sidebar stuff from desktop onto the mobile interface? I can't figure out how to get to the "all movies" or "all shows" lists on fanfare from this here cellphone. Obvs all books too. I rewatched Kubrick's 2001: a space odyssey the other day and just thought "I wonder if mefites have talked about it" but don't know how to check. By the time I'm at a desktop I'll have forgotten.
posted by axiom at 11:08 PM on March 3, 2016


Could we have a monthly free talk (Klatchian coffee klatsch?) thread? Right now it's mainly book clubs and it's way too structured if you aren't willing to do synchronized reading of stuff you don't find terribly interesting. Open a thread on the first day of the month, close the previous thread.
posted by sukeban at 1:18 AM on March 4, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm all for a SSFF (Silly Science Fiction & Fantasy) club, with co-idols Douglas Adams and Terry Pratchett, but I don't know if I could manage it myself, so anyone who wants to run with the idea should feel free to do so.

I would like to run a Douglas Adams book club. (HHGTTG and Dirk Gently) or the Adams section of SSFF.
Actually SSFF could also include less good things like Tom Holt, Roberts Rankin and Aspirin and so on.
There are plenty of films and TV shows that could be folded in too.
I'm happy to take point, if there could be some helpers?
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 3:42 AM on March 4, 2016


...I feel like it would be very helpful to have an opt-in for a reminder two weeks in advance where the club would remind you by e-mail...

What about something appearing in the righthand gutter of the homepage, like the list of upcoming IRL meet-ups?
posted by wenestvedt at 5:44 AM on March 4, 2016


Katullus: I was one of the book club runners at launch. I've had to mothball the club because I just didn't have time.

This is why I will never volunteer to run a club: I could manage it for one book but not on an on-going basis. :7( Can people just start up a thread for a single book?
posted by wenestvedt at 5:52 AM on March 4, 2016


Yep, that'd be a totally okay way to test the waters a little on a given club idea. (Also totally fine to chatter in here at the moment, obvs.)


On them grounds, drezdn back in November had asked about any interest in reading Star Wars: Aftermath. This was before TFA blew up the cinematic box office and doomed the world to perpetual Star Wars. Now that our fates are sealed, I would be interested in a club focused on the new Expanded Universe, which is currently small enough to allow fresh minds and faces back into the fold, and not have to worry about approximately 25 years of accumulated material. We would catch up on most of the recent releases and then also adopt new works a month or two after their release (current big one is the next Claudia Gray novel based on General Leia in April/May).

In Brevity:

Subject: The Star Wars Expanded Universe Book Club

Content: Books published within the last 18 months as part of the new Star Wars Expanded Universe (approximately 10 books of varying lengths and difficulty in reading, plus future releases).

Interest: ???
posted by Atreides at 6:51 AM on March 4, 2016


From my limited perspective, Fanfare doesn't have a unique site identity, and people are using it in a way that is similar to how they use the blue. I don't think that's a problem in itself. It seems to work quite well for reasonably popular TV series, and really comes into its own for big zeitgeisty things: Star Wars, GoT etc. For the site to work in this way, there has to be a relatively low barrier to joining the conversation, and people aren't going to hang around to chat forever, because that's what they expect from Metafilter.

The book clubs running up until now haven’t fitted in with this idea, but they’ve worked because it’s been clearly signposted that there is a different cultural expectation: people understand what an IRL book club is and can adjust their expectations accordingly.

That doesn’t answer any of your questions, but I think it explains stuff like why books don’t work as general fanfare posts, and that as an extended discussion period isn’t a part of either model, fanfare posts tend to become inactive quite soon. I think it’s going to be difficult to change these sort of behaviours without some really big changes to the metaphors underlying the site.
posted by Ned G at 7:19 AM on March 4, 2016 [2 favorites]


Eyebrows' first comment made me wonder if there could be sub genres? Folks who might not be able to host a whole book club but would be happy to do it for "Georgette Heyer" subsection of an existing moderator's theme as a special or somesuch woo.
posted by infini at 11:16 AM on March 4, 2016


I happily read some of the threads in fanfare/Books without realizing that you could only comment. When I tried to make a new post for SEVENEVES, it was at least 10 minutes before I realized it wasn't gonna happen. I'd vote to open it up, even if the posts would need to be pre-scheduled or book-clubbed to help ensure a conversation gets going at the time of the post.

But I will also be honest and say that I'm more excited to read other people's comments than to contribute my own. (Except maybe for a "this book sucks" book-club survey of American lit. I would love to talk about what's wrong with A Fan's Notes.)
posted by postcommunism at 5:21 PM on March 4, 2016 [1 favorite]


People have been talking about posting Seveneves for months now. I say, let's let someone post it! There is surely enough interest. I haven't read it and am maxed out on Stephenson for the moment, so I'm not the right person to post.
posted by latkes at 6:44 PM on March 4, 2016


Mefites and books are a match made in heaven. I think a lot of the traffic issues here are due to the fact that too much is being shoved into a single sub-site; maybe each form of media deserves its own sub-site. Bookfi! As it is, I find Fanfare almost un-navigable.

I don't want to overstate it, but I guarantee we could Make Metafilter Great Again. I guarantee!
posted by anotherpanacea at 8:54 AM on March 5, 2016 [2 favorites]


Speaking of FanFare, is it possible to turn off the feature on the search that automatically takes you to the page of what you're typing in? I wanted to see if there was a Pride and Prejudice and Zombies post and I ended up on the page for Pride twice before I realized it wasn't my fault. I find it pretty annoying (but maybe everyone else loves it?).
posted by ODiV at 9:43 AM on March 5, 2016


I think since this kind of has to be a popularity contest sort of thing, doing books can really only work if (a) they are classic longtime popular series that a lot of people have read, like Game of Thrones, or (b) something recently coming out from a longtime popular series like the new Harry Potter.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:12 AM on March 5, 2016


ODiV, sorry about the hassle there. You can navigate the list of results using your keyboard or your mouse and select the exact one you want. If you press Enter it will select the first one on the list and take you there.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:40 AM on March 5, 2016


Right, but if I just type "Pride", then before I can type anything else I get taken away from the page. No navigating results, no enter key. Is that intentional?
posted by ODiV at 10:43 AM on March 5, 2016


No, not intentional! I'm seeing that too. I'll add it to our to-fix list.
posted by pb (staff) at 10:44 AM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


(Try typing in "Star..." to see how it's supposed to work.)
posted by pb (staff) at 10:46 AM on March 5, 2016


Oh yeah, when there are multiple results for the word it works great, I just figured that this was an additional feature for if there's an exact match for what you've typed.

I'm interested to see what it will look like when stuff like the original RoboCop gets posted since dates aren't included in the list and the titles are the same.

Anyway it's Saturday and this is a book post, so...
posted by ODiV at 10:50 AM on March 5, 2016


Oh, sorry, I just found another bug. If you type in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" no matter which of the two results you select you get the post for the movie.
posted by ODiV at 10:53 AM on March 5, 2016


The single exact entry bug is fixed. I'll add the duplicate entries bug to the list, thanks!
posted by pb (staff) at 10:56 AM on March 5, 2016


What is with the need for time-sensitive discussion? What's the downside of a post that slowly accrues more commenters over the course of weeks or months?
posted by Greg Nog at 8:42 PM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


I personally don't think there is a need, but I think people are hesitant to jump in if they miss the initial flurry of posts, fearing the conversation is dead and they're too late. Everyone who's said to me, "Oh, I actually read that! But the post was two months ago, I guess I'm too late ..." I've been like GO POST NOW IMMA SIT HERE WITH THE WINDOW OPEN SO I CAN REPLY. But I assume most people don't contact me to be like, man, sorry I missed it, so I can correct them.
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 11:26 PM on March 5, 2016 [1 favorite]


If I had a wish for FanFare it would be to shape the culture of it to make it more conducive to people feeling like they can comment whenever they wish--even if it's weeks or months or longer after a post goes up. I regret the seeming emphasis on rallying people to all have a conversation about a post, because I agree like it feels like a conversation is a One Night Only Be There Be There Be There kind of event.

Television and podcast episodes will naturally feel this way to some extent, and it makes sense that they would. But movies and books don't have to, and from my point of view it would be nice if the tone was shifted so people felt like comments at any time would be worth making.
posted by MoonOrb at 9:05 PM on March 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


If I had a wish for FanFare it would be to shape the culture of it to make it more conducive to people feeling like they can comment whenever they wish--even if it's weeks or months or longer after a post goes up. I regret the seeming emphasis on rallying people to all have a conversation about a post, because I agree like it feels like a conversation is a One Night Only Be There Be There Be There kind of event.

Part of that is going to be fixing the display/design aspects that aren't working very well right now. But an easy interim thing that might help at least a bit would be adding to the "Note: We're all fans here, please be nice. Spoiler policy." text under the comment box to include something explicitly about late comments being welcome parts of the conversation, in the way that "Everyone needs a hug" was added in Meta to try and help dial down the heat.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:45 AM on March 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Ooh, can we have a book club that only reads online stuff? I'm always tempted to join a book club, but sometimes I can't afford to just run out and buy a book. Libraries in my area are hit and miss. If we stuck to Project Gutenberg and web stuff, it'd be years before we ran out of things to read.
posted by domo at 1:59 PM on March 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


On that note, how would you do a web serial, like Worm or Velveteen vs? There are too many "episodes" to have a thread for each, but only having one thread for the whole work invites horrible spoilers.
posted by domo at 2:02 PM on March 7, 2016


I don't think you could do a web serial without spoiling. There was a multi-episode experiment thread for Reign, but that sadly petered out so I guess it didn't work too well.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:02 PM on March 7, 2016


The special season 2 one sort of petered out, but the Season 3 thread has stayed current. It's not really a spoiler issue, it's the fact that you don't have new posts prompting people to go to the thread. Maybe a feature to bump the season thread back to the top when a new episode comes out?
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:33 PM on March 7, 2016


I also don't think that situation benefitted from both individual episode threads *and* a season thread, plus just being a low-traffic show. I thought the season thread worked really well for jessica jones, which had the high profile to sustain a lot of activity, and the season thread only went up after all the episode threads had happened, which lead to a natural transition from those to the season thread after everyone finished watching the whole thing.

The main benefit of the "just a season thread" model is that you don't have to keep making new posts, which can feel like rolling a stone uphill when each post gets one or two comments.

Anyway, I think for something with a lot of small pieces it'd be reasonable to have threads for chunks like 1-5, 6-10, etc
posted by vibratory manner of working at 8:38 PM on March 7, 2016


Has there been more thought given to the model of a book being discussed in weekly installments? I've been thinking of doing a "year of reading Genji" club. The chapters I've read so far in the book are very self-contained, almost like episodes from a TV series where the B-plot is the overarching story, but the A-plot is different every week. Also, since it has 54 chapters, that makes for about a year of reading if done on a weekly schedule.

I think it would be much better to have a new post for every chapter, if only to make it easier for people to find specific points being talked about, and also to make it easier for people to read and comment at their own pace while still following the discussion (even years later, potentially).

Also, it would be better if other people could make posts from time to time. I feel it would be closer to the open feeling of MetaFilter in general, and these kinds of discussions benefit from as many different voices as possible.

Would that kind of club be okay for FanFare, with weekly posts and more than one user making posts?
posted by Kattullus at 3:17 AM on March 9, 2016

explicitly about late comments being welcome parts of the conversation
That reminds me I still have something (some things?) to reply to.

No pressure, me. Nooooo pressure.

Even though it's been a year...

posted by aroweofshale at 9:46 PM on March 10, 2016


Katullus, that seems like an experiment we can totally try, yeah. The only concern is that it's going to be less awesome if there's not enough interest to sustain a conversation across that many posts, but it's not going to do any harm even so.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 3:47 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Excellent! Hopefully it'll be fun for a group of people who want to chat about an 11th Century Japanese novel. But yeah, if it dies, it dies. There's no harm in that.

Oh, and how would it work to have more than one user making posts. Would each individual user have to be activated by the mods?

I assume that using the right tag takes care of keeping it in the right club.
posted by Kattullus at 4:23 PM on March 17, 2016


Yes, right now anyone posting books needs to be approved by the mods. And using the club tag is the way to associate a post with a club, yep!
posted by pb (staff) at 4:29 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Excellent! I have a firm deadline for pretty much every project I have going in mid-May, so I'll get this going come summer.
posted by Kattullus at 4:34 PM on March 17, 2016


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