News
Changes FAQ

Many thanks to everybody who took the time to read about the recent changes and who provided their feedback. I'd like to address some of the most common questions and concerns:

What changes?
LotRFF is now under new administration. Technical responsibilities and planning have passed hands, but the core focus and values of the site remain unchanged.

Who is the new owner?
That'll be me, Keith Mander. I formerly worked at both Google and Facebook and now dedicate a majority of my time to building web communities. My expertise is in reinvigorating websites and managing the process. I deeply care about the communities too and actively engage and partake in them. An example of this action can be seen on Just-Pooh.com and BusSongs.com. I recently took on the baton for managing the popular Twilight Archives site and aim to make significant improvements to it also.

Is Adora still involved in the site?
Absolutely. Adora has voiced that she would still like to be actively involved in the management of the website as a moderator and founder. You can still contact Adora using the LotRFF email address. Her new address is adora@lotrfanfiction.com. The old address (webmaster@lotrfanfiction.com) is still active and all messages are automatically forwarded.

What does Adora make of all this?
Adora and I spoke at length about the site and the plans for its future before the agreement was made. During this time we were merely discussing possible terms and conditions and making sure we were on the same page at every level. It wasn't a definite thing until really just a few days ago. We wanted to make sure everything was fine on the technical end, ensure a smooth transfer and as little downtime as possible before we made any announcements. Adora has been very supportive of the plans and has confidence that the site will continue to prosper. Of course, you'd better ask for her opinion! She did leave some comments on the original announcement, which I'd encourage you to read.

What is the future of LotRFF?
The future is bright! In the immediate period, I will be looking to understand the features that you'd like to see in the new site and begin to plan the rollout of a completely new design, backend and set of features. It'll take around a month or two before the new site goes live and I'll be sure to communicate updates with you. Work is currently underway on the new Twilight Archives site, and you can take a sneak peak at it's new design to give you a flavour of what is to come.

What kind of new features?
I have a long laundry list of ideas which include notifications, a messaging system, profile badges, easier story submission, character selection, ebook exporting, and challenges. The focus will be on improving the user experience and to foster engagement. Of course, it is you, the users who will help decide what it is that you want to see improved.

What are the long-term plans for the site?
The intention is to continue to develop the underlying fan fiction platform that runs the LotRFF site and leverage that technology to launch other fan fiction sites. Twilight Archives is another early part of this vision; in the near future you will be able to have a familiar experience across sites, use your same login and build a more complete profile. Our intention is not to take on FanFiction.net, but have a small knit group of popular, beautiful and deeply engaging fan fiction sites.

Will the site continue to be free?
You bet! You'll forever be able to add, edit, comment, review and read stories on the site. Everything you see today will remain free.

Will user data, or the stories be sold?
Definitely not; we respect your privacy and will do whatever we can to keep your data secure. Your data will never be passed onto a third party.

Is the site going to be plastered with ads?
First and foremost, we care about the community and the user experience. We'd never jeopardise that with the overuse of advertisements.

But your intention is to make a profit?
This, I'm sure, is the issue that causes the most concern amongst users. The site costs money to run through hosting costs and domain renewal. Moreover, I'm pledging several thousand dollars into the new revision of the site, hiring professional designers and developers. Further investment will be made into marketing efforts to encourage more engagement on the site. I'm also dedicating a substantial amount of my time as a self-employed person. Without any income stream, simply none of this would be possible. Some of the most high profile and engaged fan fiction sites (including fanfiction.net, twilighted.net, and harrypotterfanfiction.com) all generate revenue and have used that to grow and improve their sites. The site will never become a cash cow, the intention is only to cover costs and facilitate future investment into the site. It is absolutely the content that drives traffic and in turn, potential revenue. However, consider revenue being generated from the platform and facilitation of a place where users can share their fan fiction, rather than any single collection of stories. The alternative path is that there's no innovation, the site perishes and the owner bares the cost of running the site; this doesn't seem fair or progressive.

I want to out - can I delete my account and my stories?
Sure, they're your stories and you're welcome to do whatever you wish with them. Of course, I hope that you continue to visit the site and that you might reconsider your membership in the future.

I hope that you'll appreciate that I've tried to be very open and honest with you. We could have done more to better communicate the changes and for that I'm sorry.

I'm really excited about what we can do together with the site and I hope that you'll join me.

Please use the comments functionality to join me in this dialogue. You're also very welcome to email me directly.

--Keith Mander on 29/06/11 - 02:35 pm 62 Comments

Comments
Keith,

whether or not people have issues with change, that is not the problem here. Whenever you manage and run a site that has users, you can do two things: be truly user driven and ask users honestly about their input. Interview them beforehand, ask what they need, see and expect. From there you redesign. From one webdeveloper to another, I am a tad surprised that I don't see it happening. Often I have shaken my head when Facebook/Twitter/Myspace/Livejournal announced a gadget and reacted all butthurt when users replied: I don't need it, so get it out of my face.

The other approach is take this trinket and make it a site designed after your own tastes. Because quite frankly: you own the site now, you can do as it pleases you. Just don't act butthurt when people pack their bags and leave after they have been invited by you to share their frank thoughts and concerns.

Secondly is the way this takeover has been done is quite questionable, if not very hurtful towards those volunteers who have invested a lot of time and labour of love in this site. If negotiations have been going on for so long, why haven't they been notified or consulted? The role they could have played during this transfer could have been a quite important one. But all they get is this compliment paid to them.

These are my obeservations, do with them as it suits you. I personally keep an eye on developments regarding the new software, simply because I love playing with new shinies. ;)
- Rhapsody on 30/06/11 - 03:24 pm
Great feedback, thanks Rhapsody.

I fully intend on reaching out people to understand what they want with the site. Sure, I have some of my own ideas, but I fully appreciate that I have much to learn and need to have an open dialogue about these, and other ideas, to see if they make sense and are needed. I cannot emphasise enough that no changes to the site have occurred, nor is anything planned to take place in the immediate future. I assure everyone that they will know about everything way before anything becomes a reality.

For the improvements I'm making to Twilight Archives, I've gone to extraordinary lengths to consult users - we have our own forum, I share screenshots, we talk about ideas, talk about design inspirations and lots more - I can't believe that anyone would question my desire to engage with the users. I've not done it here yet, but this is all still way off from happening.

As a former Facebook employee and as an active user, I can certainly emphasise with your perspective on some of the ill thought out changes they've made. Interestingly, their perspective, which is also shared by Apple and others (to make it perfectly clear, I don't necessarily agree) is that users aren't always clear about what they want. An illustrative example would be the News Feed. It's now a core part of the Facebook experience and users go made whenever there's a subtle change made to it - yet, when it first launched, users revolted. Facebook stuck to their guns and it paid off. I provide this anecdote cautiously as I don't want it to be perceived that I know best by any means or that'd I take this approach. It does display the need to look at things from all angles.

I concede that Adora and I should have done a better job of communicating and consulting users, particularly the moderators and other volunteers, before the transfer was made. I wonder if Adora would have received a blessing, however, and whether Adora would have been unable to sell the site.

I wish that we could all be more positive about the future. I've heard the concerns loud and clear and am trying hard to take the feedback on board so that we can get past this.

Thanks again for your feedback Rhapsody and everyone else. It's not always pleasant to hear personal attacks or to see unhappy people. I only want a positive outcome for everyone.
- root on 30/06/11 - 04:07 pm
I have to admit that I was a little apprehensive at first about this whole thing, but I'm starting to feel more confident. After reading Keith's blog and various interviews with him, he strikes me as a very competent businessman. It's not every person who can go solo and be successful at it.
However, I think he may have jumped into the lake without testing the water, so to speak. Although using the Twilight fanfiction site as an example of his skills shows that he is not new to this, and that he can get things done, I think Keith may have failed to recognize that many LOTR fans dislike Twilight rather intensely, and comparisons between the two works (even if it is just websites) are distinctly unwelcome. Also, more importantly, I think a lot of users feel that LOTR Fanfiction is just another project of Keith's, and that he doesn't really care about the site, the community, or the stories. Although it's too late to completely eliminate those fears, some damage control could, I think, be enacted. If Keith were to share his love for Tolkien - his favorite book, character, the mind-blowing awesomeness of Middle-Earth - and maybe mention a few fanfics ("I really think So-and-so did a great job of portraying Boromir as a fallen hero in this story") I think it may be possible to win back some of the users who're on the fence about this change. Rather than having the site run by an 'evil corporate overlord', it would seem like Keith was just one of us, which would enable us and him to work together a lot better.
- Barazinbar on 30/06/11 - 09:52 pm
Thank you, Rhapsody, for your comments. Well said, as always.

Mr. Mander, you seem to be puzzled why people are responding the way they are. As if we should just be thrilled you are going to spiffy up the place and give us cool new features. I don’t think you understand that the core of the Tolkien fanfiction community are not teenagers impressed by neat graphics, but highly educated and intelligent people with a deep love for their fandom and who want honest answers rather than avoidance and diversions with promises of cool nifty stuff. Avoidance isn’t winning you any favors; it’s already cost you a good number of highly respected Tolkien authors. Instead of continuing to talk about what you plan to do and acting all hurt that people aren’t more excited about it, deal with the concerns that have been presented and be honest about it. What you’re saying here and what you’ve said in interviews (http://midascode.co.uk/blog/website-purchase-review-of-just-poohcom-with-keith-mander) and at your blog (http://www.keithmander.com/?p=1191#comments) are two very different things. You’re not here for the love of Tolkien; you’re here to make money off our hard work and you expect us to be thrilled about it?

- on 01/07/11 - 12:11 am
I think the underlying problem here is that many authors are well-versed in Tolkien's mythology. For many of us, we equate Adora to Celebrimbor, and Keith to Annatar.


With no evidence that Keith is also a member of our fandom, it is difficult for the Elronds and Gil-Galads to continue on. These new features are magic rings to us, and we are rightly wary of such things.


Share with us, then, Keith, as Barazinbar has requested previously, who is your favorite character? Which is your favorite book? Your favorite fanfiction within this fandom so far (titles and names would be appreciated, of course)? And I will further that by asking whether you prefer the movies to the books, what your thoughts are on the upcoming Hobbit movie, what experiences you have had thus far within this fandom, your introduction to Middle-earth, who you think you are most like of the nine members of the fellowship, and the most important of all questions -- Balrogs, wings or no wings?


And yes, I am serious in asking these questions. As someone who also runs an archive of LOTR fan fiction, as well as an archive of fan art(and before you ask -- sorry, they are not for sale), my curiosity abounds at the answers you have. If you wish to be open and honest with us as stated earlier, I would hope you'd be inclined to answer these. If you truly want to be accepted into this fandom, 'deeply care about' this community (or, as we prefer, fellowship), and plan to 'actively engage and partake', such dialogue will be expected of you.


No rush. I have several hundred chapters to transfer while I wait...

- Zhie on 01/07/11 - 02:52 am
First off, voicing opposing concerns for the sake of discussion is one thing. Nasty personal attacks are quite another. Abusive language and name calling is completely out of line here and I've taken the liberty of removing a previous comment that went too far in this direction.

Express yourselves. However, do so in a reasonably courteous, adult manner. That's not a lot to ask.
- Adora on 01/07/11 - 09:02 am
I'd just like to point out that when I started this site, I had only seen the movies and written one horrendous Mary Sue. I knew nothing about Tolkien, aside from the fact that he wrote some books that eventually led to me being able to stare at Orlando Bloom in a pretty blond wig.

If canon knowledge was a prerequisite of owning this site, it would have never existed in the first place.
Sometimes we learn as we go.

Beyond that, my biggest point of contention here is that right now, people who are reacting so strongly are doing so based on nothing more than wild assumptions. I don't understand why it's so unacceptable to simply wait and give us a chance. (because as mentioned before, I will be working with Keith as a team and I certainly DO have the experience to handle fandom specific interests and issues within the community)

I have passed ownership onto him because I can no longer afford to keep this up on my own. Because I'd like to see updated software and various improvements on the technical side. That's what he's good at... and we've both established that I am clearly more experienced/invested in the fandom itself. And that I would like to be able to focus MORE on the fandom/community itself, without having to worry about the technical/financial worries.
That's why we've decided to combine our strengths... because for this site to continue to grow and flourish, or indeed to survive at all, I have to look beyond just myself to make that happen.

All of the attacking here is based on hypotheticals. Like Keith said, absolutely nothing on this site has changed as of yet. If, in the future, things DO change in what members perceive as a negative way, I can understand throwing a fit. But it would be nice if people could withhold judgment and give it a chance.
- Adora on 01/07/11 - 09:03 am
Adora, Keith is not answering questions regarding remarks he has made elsewhere on the Internet that call his actions here into question. Until or unless he does, and does so in a straight-forward and honest manner, you can expect the distrust to continue. YOU may like him and trust him, but it's OUR stories he wants to make money off of. It's not about site improvement, but about the fact Mr. Mander refuses to address the valid concerns of authors concerning his money making goals and statements he makes in other venues.
Have you not read his blog or the interviews? Authors are leaving because of what he is saying elsewhere, not because they fear he can’t improve the site.
- on 01/07/11 - 09:13 am
I'll have to leave that to him, as his words are his own.
Yes, I have looked over those things. But I've also developed a relationship with him over the past couple of months and put into context, I don't see anything alarming here.

We have a common goal of wanting the website to be as efficient and successful as possible. I've always had that objective... for the sake of the fandom and the desire to have a great archive. For him, he's very much focused on the technical side of things and that naturally comes with a desire to achieve everything one can with a website.

That doesn't necessarily mean there are any intentions to turn it into a cash cow. Indeed, with the existing cost of the server, in addition to expense involved in making improvements in the first place, this is not and will never be a hugely profitable enterprise. He knows that... and if his only interest was making money, he wouldn't be doing it with a niche site based on a very specific interest. That's not how you turn over a high-level profit.

I'll let him speak for himself beyond that, but in all of my correspondence, in the terms we agreed to and in the contract we signed, there is absolutely nothing to suggest that this is anything more than wanting to improve software and expand the website to its full potential. Ultimately for the benefit of the community and in the interest of web development itself, not to facilitate some evil corporate takeover or purchase a yacht.

That would not be possible with a site like this, even if that WERE his intention.
- Adora on 01/07/11 - 09:43 am
I'm really confused as to why people are leaving the site. Obviously, many authors are friends with Adora and are going to miss the brilliant job she did. But Keith could do a good job too, we just don't know that yet. The Twilight Archive he took over seems easy enough to use with good layout. The only thing that has me a bit spooked was something someone said about the Tolkein estate suing us or somebody else suing us for N-17 work being "avaliable" to minors. Surely both of those things would result in the website losing a lot of members, so Keith would take appropriate measures to ensure that didn't happen.
- Gemini_Elf on 01/07/11 - 03:23 pm
Also, I think it's a very good point that this site is highly unlikely to be used as some grand money-making initiative. Fanfic base web moderators only make enough to cover their costs half the time (Admittedly I have limited experience in this sort of thing, but generally that is what I've seen). LOTRFF is never going to be FF.net. It's impossible, there aren't enough members, N-17 fics are cherished too much by our community, (This is the only place I've found to post them) and it would generally be unfeasible.
- Gemini_Elf on 01/07/11 - 03:27 pm

I'm really confused as to why people are leaving the site. Obviously, many authors are friends with Adora and are going to miss the brilliant job she did. But Keith could do a good job too, we just don't know that yet.


Very true -- he may well do a good job. But, as you also pointed out, we don't know that yet. For all we know, I might do a good job flying a commercial airplane -- haven't tried, though. How comfortable would you be stepping up the ramp for a trip knowing that? You'd probably be more likely to say 'why don't you take it for a test flight, and we'll see how you do before I board'.


It's like that. We don't know yet; so, many of us take our babies home, watch what happens, and later if he proves himself, return. I certainly did not load all of my stories the moment this site opened up -- I waited, I watched, I heard good things and bad, and made my decision. As it stands, I never did get around to getting everything up (which is probably a good thing with how long the migration is taking). So I shall wait, and watch, and see if he has an opinion on the balrogs, and go from there.


As for other sites that accept NC-17 stories, Of Men and Elves (http://www.ofelvesandmen.com/index.htm), Archive of Our Own (http://archiveofourown.org/), Open Scrolls [het] (http://www.openscrolls.net/), Adult Fan Fiction (http://www.adultfanfiction.net/), and Library of Moria [slash] (http://www.libraryofmoria.com/) are all available, as well as Many Paths to Tread (http://www.lotrgfic.com/) for genfic. I would highly suggest checking these places out, for those either looking for a new home, a temporary home, or an additional place to post their stories.


Bonus question for Keith (and yes, I understand he might not have in-depth knowledge yet on Middle-earth, but this will all help get him up to speed): Who is your favorite Gondolin Elf-lord? (Feel free to answer if you're not Keith, but came here to read all the comments and got this far down.)

- Zhie on 01/07/11 - 06:31 pm
Thanks for the sites Zhie! Out of all of those, I'd only heard of AFF and LoM, both of which I find difficult to use. I might check out the others :)
- Gemini_Elf on 01/07/11 - 07:43 pm
Who is your favorite Gondolin Elf-lord? (Feel free to answer if you're not Keith, but came here to read all the comments and got this far down.)

He's not just my favorite Gondolin elf-lord, but my favorite character period! And that, of course, would be Glorfindel. :) Though Erestor is creeping up on that all around favorite character thing... =D

@Gemini_Elf: Go read what Mr. Mander says on his blog and in interviews about taking over web sites. There are no assurances he won't spiffy up this site, get it making money, then sell it to someone who won't allow NC-17 fic. Note that when questioned about NC-17 fic, he's very vague. He' didn’t say nothing would change, only that it hasn't yet and won't without due notice and discussion. And so far as making profit: He’s talking about a cash flow, making money off software development and bringing in hired site developers. You don't say such things unless you're anticipating making enough of a profit to make it worthwhile. No, it probably won't be a huge cash cow; he'll be linking to other similar sites and forming a web ring to bring in the big bucks, but our little niche will be contributing to that and I don't want anyone making a profit off my hard work. Read this interview (http://midascode.co.uk/blog/website-purchase-review-of-just-poohcom-with-keith-mander/).

Mr. Mander is not here because he has extra time on his hands to go around fixing up small websites just to be nice and have something to do. He’s obviously not here for a love of Tolkien’s works or because he’s a fellow fanfic author. He’s not driven by the same passion we are. Something else is driving him, and one can easily ascertain that from his blog and interviews: Money and guinea pigs for his software. *glances around* Seems many piggies have run wee wee wee to other archives.
- on 01/07/11 - 08:46 pm
He knows that... and if his only interest was making money, he wouldn't be doing it with a niche site based on a very specific interest. That's not how you turn over a high-level profit.

Adora, you realize that in an interview about how best to make money from buying websites, that is exactly what Keith Manders says works best for him?

"I tend to avoid marketplaces such as SitePoint and eBay. Sellers using one of these platforms tend to have a better understanding of their site’s value, and therefore have higher expectations. My approach would be to directly contact site owners who are unaware of their site’s value and who’ve never experimented with online advertising. They’re usually surprised when you contact them with an offer and this eases the negotiation process. The potential with this approach is far greater."

"I think it’s wise to concentrate on topics that are not immediately commercial in nature as you’re more likely to discover a site created out of passion, rather than for profit. "

Source: http://midascode.co.uk/blog/website-purchase-review-of-just-poohcom-with-keith-mander/

So either he is not telling the truth, or you do not know him as well as you think.

In any case, links to this whole fiasco have been posted at middleearthnews and life_wo_fanlib on LiveJournal, a link has been submitted to metafandom on LJ as well, and the OTW blog is preparing a post on this. News spread quickly in fandom, and no matter if Mr Mander thinks us the perfect niche to exploit, fandom knows how to take care of itself. I do not think that his plan to "dominate new fandoms" will go all that well after this.
- Esteliel on 01/07/11 - 09:38 pm
Also, for all of those who think that Keith Mander buys fannish archives out of the goodness of his heart, here is a quote from a podcast with him, from last year, that is available here: http://www.techme2.eu/startups/keith-mander/

"I'm interested in building a portfolio of small, niche websites, and then monetizing them through basic online advertising, through the classic exchanges and networks, AdSense being the kind of main one at the moment. So I look to buy undervalued websites, sites that haven't been updated in a while, are poorly monetized, are kind of in disrepair, so a way of looking at it is kind of real estate, like houses that are undervalued, and then rejuvenating it, so improving the design, adding more content, improving the monetization, and then looking to either sell it, or rent it out through advertising. It's much like the real estate model, people buying properties and developing them, and adding value and hoping to reprofit, but I'm doing it in the virtual world." (my transcription)

Sounds more like Saruman than Gandalf, if you ask me... ;)
- Esteliel on 01/07/11 - 10:13 pm
Also, I think all users of this archive should read the OTW's take on this: http://transformativeworks.org/lotr-and-twilight-fan-fiction-archives-bought-profit
- Esteliel on 01/07/11 - 11:00 pm
I'm quite new to being an actual author on this site, but I've been reading stories here for over a year now and I do know this: Authors like Spiced Wine, Pink Siamese and Ziggy write from the heart and it shouldn't matter where you're reading the stories or what the website looks like or even who's running the site, it's the content that really matters and I don't think that any changes Keith can make would ever change that. Beside from the fact that nothing has even changed yet, doesn't Keith deserve a chance? Hasn't Adora earned enough respect, running and funding this site on her own, for people to trust her judgement? It's the authors and the content on the site that matters the most, and if authors leave isn't that just making things worse? By leaving and taking down your stories you are taking away what is the most important thing about this website. The passion and love people weave into their stories should be what matters, not money and law suits. I respect people's opinions, but I have to wonder if these opinions are based on actual fact or just complete assumptions?


The day I start to care more for who's making money or who's suing who over Tolkiens Legandarium will be a very sad day indeed.
- Pragmatic Dreamer on 02/07/11 - 12:21 am
Hm. Not sure yet.

To be honest it never occurred to me that someone else might make money from what I write- a bit naive I suppose. I post on ffnet too and just enjoy the feedback but am rethinking that now. HASA is donation only but struggles and I think they have limits too on what they allow.

I think it is OK for Keith to cover costs, I have no idea how much he is worth or what this site will be worth but it is true that people with a business acumen will have seen the release of the Hobbit as an opportunity to make money from renewed interest. Personally I see it as an opportuinty to have new readers and I just love having the reviews- that really IS my reward.

For Keith, the thing that alarmed me is the comment that you will not charge us for posting. 'The site will remain free...' I am sure you wish to reassure us, Keith, but it is a complete misunderstanding of what this is.

I would like to know how much you paid for this site. If it was merely to pay Andora back what is has cost plus a bit more, I think most of these issues can be resolved.

I'm with Spiced Wine on this I think.

But you need to GUARANTEE NC17 and permissive fics please. If you can't, I'm off I'm afraid.
- ziggy on 02/07/11 - 01:29 am
I share the concerns of the authors who've voiced them. I'm going to wait and see what else develops, but so far I'm not impressed with Mr. Mander's evasive responses to those concerns. I'm also not impressed by the fact that reviews I've left for others are simply disappearing since the takeover. Is that a glitch or is it an example of the kind of efficiency we can expect in future?
- on 02/07/11 - 07:21 am