Mar. 9th, 2011

So, [personal profile] cypher posted about the DOINK! signup form and some more general issues surrounding gift exchanges, porn, and kinks. I like and am grateful for hir post and the commentary/discussion both there and in the comment thread. I highly recommend giving it a read and a think.

It also leaves me and my fellow mods with a pretty disheartening situation: our signup form is not nearly as welcoming and inclusive as it should be. For reference, a run-down of the form as it currently stands is here: DOINK! 2011 Signup Form Preview

[ETA 2011-03-11 The wording of the form has been edited. The new version is up in the proxy/signup preview posts: DW | LJ. The previous wording and screenshots are preserved in a comment on each post: DW | LJ]

[ETA 2011-03-12 [ profile] regann has an interesting post providing a different perspective/experience on fandom expectations surrounding kink and porn.]

I want to, first thing, apologize to anyone who has felt othered, unwelcome, or alienated by the form. I am so, so sorry. This is the farthest thing from what [personal profile] renay, [personal profile] seventhe, and I intended, but we collectively did not make improving this aspect of the form/exchange experience a priority, and that was wrong of us. I'm sorry.

One of the sadder things for me about this, especially as a kinky and genderqueer person, is that we worried about this and tried to work in into our system from the inception of the sign-up form, before it went public for the first time last round. We discussed this, specifically, back then -- does our ship/gender combinations list welcome non-binary, poly, and gen options? We want to account for both kinks and squicks, what do we do? We were aware from the start, but the system we came up with was skewed more to making our lives easy as mods than making our participants welcome in every part of their identities. I have fretted about it ever since, and the other mods have also been uncomfortable -- but we didn't do anything about it between rounds. And that was wrong. We should have.

We focused too much on letting people opt OUT — and it's interesting, isn't it, which areas we chose for opting IN vs. opting OUT? You know, one of the initial drafts of the form had EVERYTHING as opt-in? But we looked at it and we worried about how people would feel being presented with that same list and being asked to opt in — we worried about squicks. We also thought that opting out would mean the opposite of assuming vanilla and thus be more exclusive — by assumption, you're okay with anything you don't say no to. (Not only did this not work as intended, we still left vanilla off the list, giving people no real way to opt in or out of that besides the freeform text boxes.) So we changed part to opt out, as trying to account for both felt beyond our coding abilities/resources at the time. And looking over all this, I feel deeply uncomfortable that our form does not include a model for enthusiastic consent.

We also mixed genres and kinks together — on purpose. We were hoping that putting the two together would lessen the potential for stigma. I'm still not sure if this was a good approach; [personal profile] threewalls's response indicates that separating out genres may be better.

In looking at a couple specific parts of that post/comment thread, I see one probable point/cause for where and how we screwed up.

And trying to encourage more porn in the more general exchanges is tricky; it's hard to find a way to say "if you're comfortable with this, it's what I'd really like you to do," without leaving a writer/artist who's NOT comfortable with it in a bad spot.

And this from [personal profile] lassarina: I think *particularly* for an exchange, where people are making requests, it's important to let them say things they really do not want to receive.

This is where we erred too far on the side of caution, and we ended up normalizing things we'd... really rather not normalize. This helps explain a lot of our thinking, but it still means we erred.

I hope it's okay if I discuss our internal atmosphere a little bit — I am not trying to display our kink/kink-ally cred (ufff) but instead want to focus on how this disconnect between internal attitude and external perception happens. Because within the exchange, among us mods, we're kink-positive and, I believe, all kinky ourselves, and we definitely try to match for kinks when they come up as well as for squicks. When communicating on a personal level with our participants, the atmosphere around porn feels pretty open and friendly — we had a pretty good intermoogle (between participants, mediated by us to preserve anonymity) exchange last round asking whether the request welcomed a specific kink and getting a positive response, and we really like that.

But it doesn't show through in how we present ourselves. And our failure there really bothers me — and it bothers me more that it makes others feel judged or unwelcome. I'm not sure how the disconnect happened — obviously some of the locations of the greatest mistakes are obvious now, and I'm grateful that people are willing to point these issues out — but it bothers me that somehow this positivity disappeared between our minds and what our participants — or potential participants that hit the back button — encounter. I think it got lost somewhere in trying to make matching easier for US — but easier for US does not necessarily mean easier for the PEOPLE WE MATCH. We should do better. We CAN do better. And as soon as we can— we will.

So I want to discuss some possible changes we could make to improve the experience, because the current situation is untenable.

Unfortunately — or, more accurately, due to us not managing our time better to address this earlier — very little time remains until the signup form goes live, and the amount of work it would take to restructure the form is not feasible for us. We mods and our programmer between us have agreed to work on a general restructuring this summer. But until then, here are the things we can change: the wording on any part of the form and arrangement of options.

Short-Term Ideas [ETA 2011-03-11 These have been implemented; please see ETA at top of page]
These are undeniably purely cosmetic changes to a deeply flawed system. But I think any little bit of improvement — any small thing we can do to lessen the alienation — is better than nothing. So here are some ideas:
  • Rename the area to "Content Preferences" or similar instead of "Do Not Want"

  • We have some language at the top that tries to make clear that the exchange is kink-friendly but not kink-only, and how we came up with this list. Obviously, this language is insufficient or downright unhelpful. We can change this language to reflect some of the worries and explain that while we are aware there is not an option to opt in, we are aware of the lack and will correct it next year and that, for now, people are encouraged to give opt-ins in the freeform area

  • We can change the wording of any particular item — not only in the current DNW area, but in the gender/ship preferences as well. If you think anything could do with a revision, we definitely welcome critique on this front.

  • Offer more hintboxes or other explanatory text showing a broader range of signup possibilities, like something by the freeform area explicitly inviting people to opt in to kinks or genres

Long-Term Changes
These are I think more universally applicable than he above, but cannot be implemented until next round.
  • Offer ways to opt IN to kinks and genres as well as opting OUT; have both available. I am not sure if a neutral option is feasible in terms of matching -- the more variables and variations we have, the harder to match -- but I am also leery of reducing this to a binary. Any feedback on this idea would be welcome.

  • Add, remove, or rearrange options

  • Re-examine the way we handle ratings and gender/ship preferences

This is all I can think of for now, but we will definitely continue to give this careful thought throughout this round and will begin working on improvements as soon as we can after this round is over. Further suggestions for improvement, or general discussion of these issues, are definitely welcome!



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