Category Archives: General

Articles that don’t fit into other categories. Some articles may not have a science fiction and fantasy connection.

SF-Fandom and the Web spam community

I have been preoccupied with Web spammers lately. They have invaded the SF-Fandom forums in greater numbers than I have seen in a long, long time. So this past week I finally implemented the strictest email filters I have ever used. The filters have almost stopped all spam submissions.

Of course, we’re blocking thousands of IP addresses and all the major free email domains (AOL, Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo!). It hardly seems fair to the users of those services to require that they contact us directly to request that their accounts be created for them manually but we do take on an extra burden ourselves.

The registration spam problem has grown so bad that other VBulletin users are now complaining that their CAPTCHAs are being circumvented. It is well known in the SEO industry that many of these spammers hire low-cost labor in overseas markets like India, Pakistan, Vietnam, and the Philippines to manually create email and forum accounts. So we’re not just fighting robots here.

In the age of Twitter and Facebook people might wonder if 1990s-style Web forums are about done but I would like to believe that there is a still a place for the Web forums. We have a lot of great users at SF-Fandom who like to discuss books, movies, and entertainment news. And there are many other people who enjoy browsing our forums.

The registration spammers don’t all seem to pursue the same goals. Time was when they all wanted to drop links in the forums, but they learned quickly that many forum moderators delete the posts. So then they turned to just creating profile pages with links. I block search engines from crawling our user profile pages so even when spammers get past our guard they get no benefit from that.

But over the past year or so I have noticed an increasing number of spam registrations that don’t associate themselves with Websites. What is the purpose of these accounts? I’m a little worried.

Among the measures we take to prevent the spammers from gaining a foothold in the forums is that we require all new users to respond to a confirmation email. Most of the spam accounts don’t seem to do this, or they delay doing it. We have been inundated with bounce messages from unconfirmed registrations.

Lists of Web forums and blogs are circulated among the Web spammers. They use software like XRumer to created hundreds, possibly thousands of forum accounts across the Web every day. These people have absolutely no morals or ethics. They are just trying to make a buck off of other people’s hard labor.

If you run a science fiction forum and you’ve seen a lot of registrations but relatively little activity in the way of new posts, you’re probably being hammered by registration spammers. You should take a closer look at what is going on and see if you can batten down the hatches.

Over the past few weeks we have deleted around 2500 registration spam accounts at SF-Fandom. They weren’t all created at once. We let our guard down for a while. That won’t happen again.

Msg from Peace Chief Arvol Looking Horse

This is legimate. I am reposting a message here from Peace Chief Arvol Looking Horse that people are sharing across the Internet. Please pass it on.

Chief Looking Horse

May 12, 2010

A Great Urgency: To All World Religious and Spiritual Leaders

My Relatives,

Peace Chief Arvol Looking Horse

Peace Chief Arvol Looking Horse

Time has come to speak to the hearts of our Nations and their Leaders. I ask you this from the bottom of my heart, to come together from the Spirit of your Nations in prayer.

We, from the heart of Turtle Island, have a great message for the World; we are guided to speak from all the White Animals showing their sacred color, which have been signs for us to pray for the sacred life of all things. As I am sending this message to you, many Animal Nations are being threatened, those that swim, those that crawl, those that fly, and the plant Nations, eventually all will be affect from the oil disaster in the Gulf.

The dangers we are faced with at this time are not of spirit. The catastrophe that has happened with the oil spill which looks like the bleeding of Grandmother Earth, is made by human mistakes, mistakes that we cannot afford to continue to make.

I asked, as Spiritual Leaders, that we join together, united in prayer with the whole of our Global Communities. My concern is these serious issues will continue to worsen, as a domino effect that our Ancestors have warned us of in their Prophecies.

I know in my heart there are millions of people that feel our united prayers for the sake of our Grandmother Earth are long overdue. I believe we as Spiritual people must gather ourselves and focus our thoughts and prayers to allow the healing of the many wounds that have been inflicted on the Earth.

As we honor the Cycle of Life, let us call for Prayer circles globally to assist in healing Grandmother Earth (our Unc¹I Maka).

We ask for prayers that the oil spill, this bleeding, will stop. That the winds stay calm to assist in the work. Pray for the people to be guided in repairing this mistake, and that we may also seek to live in harmony, as we make the choice to change the destructive path we are on.

As we pray, we will fully understand that we are all connected. And that what we create can have lasting effects on all life.

So let us unite spiritually, All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer. Along with this immediate effort, I also ask to please remember June 21st, World Peace and Prayer Day/Honoring Sacred Sites day. Whether it is a natural site, a temple, a church, a synagogue or just your own sacred space, let us make a prayer for all life, for good decision making by our Nations, for our children’s future and well-being, and the generations to come.

Onipikte (that we shall live),

Chief Arvol Looking Horse
19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe

Since the early 90’s, Chief Looking Horse has been on the Board of the Society of Peace of Prayer that plants Peace Poles around the world, carrying the inscription “May Peace Prevail on Earth” in four different languages. His biography can be found at

Please pass this message along….

Fred Astaire’s movie Kung Fu

This video really has nothing to do with science fiction and fantasy, other than to make you wonder how they pulled off some of the special effects you find in many of Astaire’s movies. Everyone knows about the “dancing on the ceiling” trick by now (where they rotated a box in which Fred was dancing like a hamster wheel). But watch the cane closely. It seems to fly up into his hands at several points. And when he joins a chorus line of male dancers, they’re all Fred Astaire himself — even the guys dancing in the opposite direction from Fred.
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Completely amazing video

I can’t tell if this was produced by amateurs or professionals, but it’s got to be the most uplifting, inspiring video I’ve ever seen. I love the music but the shots of the kids (and adults) sharing hopeful messages just strike a chord within me. You can feel the positive energy flowing across the world.

Why SyFy cannot keep its shows alive

SyFy’s Craig Engler wrote a thoughtful response to the various “Save Our Show” campaigns that are presently underway on Boing Boing. In “How to REALLY save your favorite sci-fi show from cancelation” Craig writes:

So the biggest way you can have a real, meaningful impact – the way that will work every time if you can pull it off — is to find a way to get NEW viewers to try the show. And a LOT of new viewers. If a show isn’t successful with 900,000 viewers, it’s not going to start working with 950,000 viewers. It’s going to take a few hundred thousand new viewers to make an impact.

The way to do that is to go big. Instead of talking to us, talk to the critics and TV bloggers out there who have the most readers and try to get THEM to talk about the show. Do something so unique that your “save the show” campaign gets covered on the homepage of CNN. Find a way to get Jon Stewart to joke about your campaign on his show. Use tools out there like Twitter and Facebook that let you reach people on a mass scale. If you’re sending letters to the network, send them to your friends too. And send them to your friends’ friends. You need scale, and you need it quickly because…

And that is where Craig lost me. Jon Stewart doesn’t amount to a hill of beans when it comes to building audience share for a television show. There are three factors that directly affect a show’s success in building audience:

  1. It’s targeted at the right timeslot
  2. It’s targeted at a receptive demographic
  3. It’s targeted at productive advertisers

If you miss the targeting on one of the three you might still have a successful show for a while but it won’t realize its full potential, and I would argue (probably with Craig’s agreement) that you cannot be successful without productive advertisers.

Productive advertisers embrace the show’s brand. They become more than suits running commercials in-between your three acts and finale — they set up show-related marketing initiatives. That’s where the fast food chains come in with their spaceships and ray guns, their characters-on-a-cup, and that’s where the breakfast cereals get their special packaging, their back-package adventures, and so on. Genre shows are great at building these kind of advertising relationships, but the broadcasting and advertising executives wrongly assume this kind of marketing only works on children.

Take the Hercules and Xena fans. They bought every piece of junk associated with the shows: plastic cups, plastic swords, plastic chakrams — global warming was accelerated three points by the adult fans of those shows targeting cheap junk at children who had little intention or desire of buying the stuff. They weren’t even watching the shows unless Mom and Dad forced them to.

SyFy is feeling some heat from fans of Legend of the Seeker and other shows right now. Why? Because everyone perceives them as the place where genre shows can (or should) succeed. Oddly, SyFy seems to be moving away from genre shows. It’s more interested in wrestling because, oddly enough, money talks. Hey — isn’t that wrestling merchandise I see in the stores?

So ABC Studios hasn’t exactly flooded the marketplace with Seeker merchandise contracts but that’s only one of the three tiers. Anyone who is as sick of depending upon Tribune Broadcasting for picking up genre shows as I am has to be secretly happy that they dumped Legend of the Seeker because maybe, MAYBE ABC might find a way to get the show broadcast in receptive markets on a consistent basis. You don’t build audience share by pre-empting a popular show, changing its weekly broadcast, or otherwise screwing with the audience expectations.

When your audience cannot trust you to broadcast a show as scheduled, you have absolutely no business criticizing the masses for staying away in droves. Tribune wants to invest more money in Jerry Springer productions because they are less expensive and they appeal to the limited imagination of people who will buy just about anything an advertiser sticks in front of their face. Good-bye Tribune. Please don’t pick up any more genre shows. You don’t deserve them.

But here’s where any genre show will fail: if you don’t target the show at a receptive demographic, you have absolutely no chance of building sustainable market share. SyFy, Tribune, and ABC — let me clue you in to something: You’re living with the INTERNET GENERATION.

Some people in the film and television industry GET the Internet Generation. Some people don’t.

I’ve been building and promoting science fiction fan sites for over 13 years. I do okay. I’m not a commercial success at it because I never tried to become a commercial success. I don’t want to wake up every morning thinking, “I need 15-20 articles about science fiction and fantasy or my page views will decline 10%”. There are certain genre Websites that go for the mass audience.

I’m good just pleasing 100,000-150,000 fans per month with my network. They generate enough revenue to pay the server fees and that’s all I ask. They make it possible for me to do what I like to do when I have time to do it.

But the Xenite.Org/SF-Fandom network is not alone out there. There are literally thousands of fan Websites — now mostly blogs and forums — that are visited by hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of visitors every day. Those amateur fan sites, like mine, just do what they want and they share what they like and somehow they connect with millions of people.

Today the film and television industry are struggling to generate “screen time” that pays for all the production costs, marketing costs, infrastructure costs, etc. and still makes a little profit to keep investors happy. But they ran into a brick wall a few years back that they still haven’t figured out how to climb: file sharing networks. It is possible to watch virtually every movie and television show online for free if you’re willing to risk being taken to court or possibly arrested (distributing copyrighted materials in volume is a felony in the United States, for example).

As I write this at least two film studios are waiting on me to put up some content to help them promote their genre movies. I’ll admit I have invested more time than I originally thought I would in the Save Our Seeker campaign, but I was drawn into the effort not by fandom’s cries for help — I was enticed into taking action because Slam Internet, Inc. asked me to put a LOTS widget on my Website.

They’re still asking me to help increase exposure.

Craig — that is what SyFy, ABC, and Tribune need to be doing for all their shows: reaching out to the fans online and giving them tools to work with. The studios that do this still haven’t quite mastered the almost twin arts of social and viral marketing. In classic viral marketing you give people something to share, to pass on. It spreads like a virus. In social marketing you give people something to engage with.

What guys like me really need is a constant flow of unique content. I don’t want the same stuff being handed out to 20 other fansites. I want stuff that lets people engage with me in a way that differs from how they engage with other sites. In the world of Internet marketing the audience tends to stick with the site it first arrives at regardless of the quality of the sites behind it. That’s just the way it is. So every site needs something new, something different, in order to peel people away from those “first hit” sites they find that naturally capture their loyalty.

Television networks and film studios have sometimes gone down that path the right way. More often they just put up shlocky cheap crap Websites that do nothing but twinkle in flash and tell you to buy the DvD; worse, they have begun setting up Twitter accounts so they can tell their fans about all the great stuff they are slinging out.

Do you really think your 1 million followers care about whether the DvD for “Slimy Thing From The Pit” just went on sale? They want to know what you’re thinking, what you care about — they want to know where a studio or network is going next, what priorities and trends you see. They want you to engage, to connect.

In that kind of world, Craig, your advice to fans for saving shows just doesn’t work. The fans cannot create quality experience out of a vacuum of resources. They need to be able to connect with the actors, the writers, the stunt doubles, the directors, and the business decision makers who may not feel comfortable explaining themselves to 100,000 hard core fans.

Why are Star Trek, Stargate, and Star Wars fandoms so big? Why do those franchises keep succeeding over and over again, whereas other genre franchises come and go? Is it possibly because there is engagement there at all levels?

Is it possibly because someone is really thinking about nurturing a relationship with the audience, even if only at an intuitive level.

ABC Studios (and Tribune and CW and anybody else associated with Legend of the Seeker) should have brought Craig Horner, Bruce Spence, and Bridget Regan to Comic Con, Dragon*Con, anyCon and let them meet with and engage with the fans, the media who cover the conventions, and be part of the whole experience.

Craig Horner walks down the street in New Zealand and people don’t know who he is. Maybe that will be great for him as an individual — he won’t be ruined by all the attention that destroys Hollywood style celebrities more often than not. But maybe if Craig had to fight off his fans and flee for the sake of keeping his pants once in a while, no one would be writing “Save Our Seeker” today.

It’s not the fans’ fault that the television networks and studios still cannot figure out how to do 21st century marketing.

It costs about $7,000 to fly someone first class from New Zealand or Australia to the United States. Don’t sit on your hands and say there is no return on that investment. That dog won’t hunt.

For what it’s worth, the 15th annual Xena convention was held in February. Anyone who wants to get into the genre show business should spend some time observing that fandom. That will teach you a lot about how to do it right.

How to promote your independent Scifi film on the Web

Except for all the differences that distinguish it from all the others, today is a day like any other day. I just don’t have time enough in my day to do everything I need to do.

I wonder if Hermione’s Time Turner would help me catch up on things that I need to do.

So, anyway, like there’s a thousand things happening that I’m aware of but I’m so buried in Web projects I just haven’t had time to come up for a breath of air.

But in case anyone is watching, the Mothman Prophecies Website has now been renovated. It’s a popular part of Xenite.Org and probably should have been updated long ago but it was one of the few content sections that sort of stood on its own.

We were approached by the studio or their PR agency to help promote the movie online. I asked if they would provide me with content to create a site, rather than just post some announcement and they agreed.

Studios do occasionally contact Xenite.Org and ask if we want to be added to their list of fan sites. Sure, we’re glad to accept the press releases but if you’re letting a dozen fan sites publish the same press release you’re not getting much bang for your buck.

Another studio contacted us this week about an upcoming Steampunk movie. I’m trying to see what they’ll let us do. If they just want us to link to their site, we’ll pass.

Here is a tip to all the small film studios that want to use fan sites to promote their movies: Don’t just distribute press releases. Give the fan sites something extra to work with. Create “Web Kits” that include background information, images, interview transcripts, etc.

And don’t sling this stuff out to all the major sites like UGO, I09 and then hit the smaller sites as an afterthought. Give people an opportunity to do something unique.

You’re only hurting yourselves because, frankly, I can get a LOT of Websites to mention my special projects when they stand out from the crowd. But I don’t have time to go out of my way to create something from scratch for every little film that is coming out.

Xenite.Org is a true fan site — we’re not commercialized database-driven keyword-injected promo site and we don’t have a staff of journalists writing 10-20 stories every day. We get thousands of visitors each day but we do this out of the passion we feel for the topic.

And that’s my rant for the day. Thank you for listening, but send me real, substantial content, please.