Saturday, September 27, 2008

Is This What We Have Become?

I'm a small blog and I think a few of those who come here won't have a clue what I'm talking about so I'll do a sum up:

There is a website called All About Romance aka AAR. This website has been in existence for over 10 years now and I have been a visitor since the day they opened their doors. I am also a volunteer pollster for them.

That said, I haven't and will not check my brain at the door.

Anyways, if you have never been there go and take a gander. Basically, 7000 reviews and reader interaction, forums, lists of Favourite Books by Favourite Authors, a once monthly column now weekly column called At The Back Fence and The Annual Reader poll (just to begin).

Fun, fun, fun.

Now over the many years of operating, terms have developed and one of those terms was DIK or Desert Isle Keeper. It is their rating of a book that gets an A- review or higher. There is a whole page dedicated to these titles and you can search through their archives for DIKs.

Two weeks ago now I became aware the Laurie Gold the owner of AAR was upset by a blog that had been started called DIK Desert Island Keepers. To read more about how she feels you can go here and here. (Nuts, Blog-City is down again - last few days it's been cracking so here is the forum post at AAR here)

Now, whether or not Laurie owns DIK I don't know, what I do know, is that I waited, as did Laurie for a response from the ladies who own the blog in question. They were written a letter asking only that they let their readers know where the title of their blog originated.

Were they asked to change the name of their blog? No.

Were they asked to put up a clear banner stating an affiliation to AAR? No.

Did they say ONE WORD in response? No.

Now you guys know me, I rarely if ever get involved in flame wars (I prefer to roast my marsh mellows from the side) or train wrecks (my rubber-necking is done with an ice cold coke) but I am shocked at the lack of response by women, who by the very definition of their own blog, love to read romance books - just like me. Who obviously enjoy the community of which they are a part of - just like me.

The silence from the owners of this site is so friggin' loud it's been blowing my mind for a few days now. I mean really, how hard is it to return an e-mail? They have had TWO WEEKS!!!

I can only hope that somehow the people in charge have a spam folder the poor e-mail fell into. (Look, I'm even giving you a graceful out!)

Edited: Having just looked at the updated messages on the forum I see that author Donna Lea Simpson has posted on her blog in support of AAR and DIKs. With Ms. Simpson's post I remembered the excitement of authors at RWA when they received buttons referring to their status as authors who had received DIK reviews at AAR. Go read her post and tell me that AAR doesn't have a leg to stand on in this debate.

Let's now talk about community just a little more.

When I first saw the twitter by Laurie that started this I thought 'huh, wonder how these ladies will resolve this'.

That was it.

I was looking forward to seeing a bunch of intelligent women coming to a satisfactory conclusion of something that could be debated. If you went to Laurie's blog you found the facts she has. So I patiently waited for the facts from the DIK Ladies.

Still nothing.

I gotta be honest, I waited for the Dear Author ladies to get wind of this because I knew they would look at this logically and even debate the origins of DIK and other acronyms that may become part of the public lexicon.

What I found at Dear Author tonight was atrocious.

Well done ladies.

Ridicule at it's best and all heaped on one person. I stand and applaud. I bow down to your wicked, wicked wit and now realize that every time you have posted a supposedly well thought out post about the rights of authors or readers or reviewers you were doing it with only one thought in mind.

How does this affect US.

Me, me, me.

Nicely done.

So does this make Laurie 'The Man'. Are we supposed to rail against her because she created a site 10 years ago where a community of romance readers could go and talk? From the responses at Dear Author I would say yup, Laurie is the new 'Man'.

I'm assuming from DA's (hmmm, a blog with DA as a title with Dear Author beside it, I like it!) happy dance response that anyone can go and create a blog called Dear Romance Writer where a bunch of women with only C names will not be skewered by the blog community.

In fact, this means I could safely begin all my reviews here with Dear Author?

OMG! This opens a whole new world for me! I can take ideas from anywhere and make them mine. Just tweak them a little bit. Hell, not even a little bit.

Duck Sauce Theatre Presents! What a great name for a blog!

You want to poke fun I get it. We all poke fun, hell we all start putting 'h's everywhere when a new Ward is out. But we love Ward and all her Brothers despite ourselves. We're not only making fun of the work but ourselves.

Anyone see the difference?

I don't know, where I once saw an issue, I now only see personal attacks and it's been painful to watch.

If you've read this and think I don't have a clue, do me a favour and forward me the 'New Rules Book for the Online Romance Community'.

I've obviously missed the update.

Until then:

Edited: The DIK Ladies have posted

And in closing here are my final thoughts for the week:
We here at the DIK blog are not associated with AAR, but by many reports, they coined/developed the phrase Desert Island Keeper/DIK in relation to romance, and we raise a drink (with a little umbrella in it) in appreciation and mutual love of the genre.

I'm a simple woman, I like it.

Thanks for responding everyone.


Kat O+ said...

My 2c, as someone who doesn't frequent AAR, for what it's worth...

To be honest, I didn't even realise DIK was coined by AAR. To me, it's part of the Romance world lexicon. Unless it's trademarked, I can't see how AAR has a legal claim to it. (And even a word like Band-Aid, which is trademarked, bleeds into common use. Imagine how annoying that would be--to think that one day you'll lose your trademark because, in effect, your brand has become too popular for its own good.) I can see why Laurie might feel that she's owed the courtesy of some kind of acknowledgment from the bloggers, but as a disinterested party, I don't know that I'd agree.

I can see why she personally feels slighted, but I suppose I'm not so protectionist about words that have been adopted as part of the community's vernacular. Laurie probably feels a sense of ownership over DIK because she nurtured the phrase and it's an essential part of AAR's lexicon. But I've heard the words "desert island" and "keeper" way before I even heard of AAR, and to put those three words together to talk about your favourite books is kind of clever but by no means do I see it as a completely original concept. What I *would* agree with is that it would have been courteous to respond to Laurie's e-mail at the very least.

As for the DA post...well, they've always had their own brand of snark, and I must admit I found the post entertaining, and there are many valid points made in the comments (albeit couched in snarky language) and also quite a few that are sympathetic (if not wholly supportive) towards Laurie. Personally, it didn't make me feel negatively about Laurie or AAR. I just found it interesting as a broader commentary on the appropriateness of being able to own commonly used phrases. But I concede that if you were sympathetic to Laurie, it may well come across as a personal attack.

I think copyright is a different kettle of fish (i.e. as opposed to trademark). And if I understand correctly, even copyright has limits--for example, if you write something and it includes a cliche, the cliche itself isn't going to be "yours". Cliches, by nature, are commonly used phrases and need no attribution. The copyright notice is also not always needed. For example, in Australia, copyright is automatic whether or not you have the symbol on the page. As for starting every post with "Dear Author", I doubt that would infringe on their rights at all. I used to submit English essays that started off with "Dear _____". It's not an uncommon style to use.

Anyway, that was a bit longer than I intended to write, and you probably don't agree, but these are some of my thoughts, having only just heard about this when I read your post (i.e. I'm not at all invested on the argument either way).

Marg said...

I don't know what I think about it all. It all seems a bit like romance land imploding in on itself...again.

Would it have been polite to at least acknowledge the email? Absolutely. Does AAR have a case? I don't know really. I think that Kat has a point in that both the concept of what would you take to a desert island and keeper has been around for years. I certainly never associated it with just AAR, maybe because I have never really hung out there at all, and therefore never had such a strong association between DIK Keeper and AAR.

CindyS said...

Hey Kat - thanks for sharing your thoughts! I concede to people who know their stuff when it comes to ownership and copyright etc. And I think where I became invested was when I realized no one from the blog had responded to an e-mail. I think the blog owners have to make some sort of response, even if it's 'go pound salt'.

For me, the post at DA was less about the issue and more about laughing at someone. I think it's because Laurie mentioned If You Like in a twitter post and DA caught it and thought 'how dare she'. Two of us immediately let Laurie know that If You Like has been something we had seen at bookstores or libraries for years.

What I can't place in my brain is where I may have seen or heard Desert Island Keeper or DIK *before* AAR.

I do think DIK would have spread from AAR naturally and may have been absorbed into many reader's vocabulary without having to know about AAR.

To sum up, I'm looking for the conversation just like you and I are having. I don't even know if Laurie is right but I think the conversation is worth having without the ridicule that came at DA. Most of the time DA comes at these kinds of issues very informatively and with a sharp knowledge of the facts.

I just found the post to be more about making fun of ONE person instead of making fun of the situation. It's one of those hard things with humour, you either get it or you don't.

I do hope the DIK ladies make some sort of statement.

And I appreciate you sharing your thoughts because like you say, you have no bias and even though I *think* I have no bias I have been visiting AAR for 10 years and feel like I know many of the people there.


CindyS said...

Marg - thanks! It's good to understand that there are those people who have been familiar with DIK and the idea of keepers without having visited AAR. I do think it makes a case for DIK being part of the public domain now.

As for legal stuff I'll bow down cause that's out of my realm. I don't think legal stuff is involved as much as courtesy at this point. We'll have to wait and see what comes next. I'm hoping for a meeting of the minds instead of a lynching.

Amazing how openly talking about something can help resolve issues ;)

Bev(BB) said...

Well, consider this hypothetical - if this had been some obscure little DIK blog started by, say, a Robinson Crusoe fan who had nothing whatsoever to do with romances, would the title mean anything to us? Is this really about ownership of that title or phrase or about the reactions of the various participants on the larger stage?

sybil said...

I have been trying to embrace my inner swiss and be good but I did threaten Kristie with you so I shall link!
Use the CindyS force or would that be C-REX

hi I chatty today ;)

Holly said...

Cindy, you know I have a super major girl crush on you, right? I just want to state that for the record because I'm about to disagree with you and it's not because I don't love you.

For the record, before I start what I'm sure will turn into a veritable rant: I am in no way associated with the DIK blog. I like a lot of the women who post there, but I like a lot of the women who agree with Laurie also. My opinion on this matter is mine alone and is not influenced by the ladies of the DIK blog.

The truth is, the way Laurie went about the whole thing offends me. Terribly. I am not a DIK girl. I honestly had no idea that AAR used DIK. None at all. I've been saying Desert Island Keeper for years and years, not just about books, but music, movies and all manner of other things (like smexy eye candy..mmmm..eye candy). I think I've been to AAR once or twice and that's it.

The reason I've only been there once or twice is because - like the tone of Laurie's blog post about this situation - it feels condescending and self-serving over there. I've never once felt comfortable. Every time I visited I got the distinct feeling that the owners/moderators of the site were just looking down their nose at me and waiting for me to shout, "OMGOMG I LOVE YOU!"

Perhaps that isn't the case, and I do appreciate that you adore the site and feel some loyalty to it. We can agree to disagree on that part.

But I think Laurie badly misstepped when she brought the issue to the AAR forums because, and I quote, she was upset over the lack of people saying, "OMG, how wrong they were!" (she actually said that, though I did paraphrase a bit b/c I can't remember exactly how she said it).

Perhaps the DIKLadies should have acknowledged AAR when they started their blog. And perhaps they should have responded to her email. But Laurie herself admits that she only just sent them an email on Monday, after she posted her blog post. After she tweeted about it. After the site had been up for months and only when it gained major popularity. She hadn't gotten a response by Tuesday and then took it to the forums and then started a campaign against them.

Now, we all know I'm generally not a very nice person. But I can tell you right now if I'd gotten an email from someone claiming I was a thief and that I had to give someone else credit for something I've been doing - well, I wouldn't have taken that well. And I probably would have needed some time to calm down before sending a scathing response - which is what my first reaction would have been. In short, I'm saying Laurie didn't give them time to respond before she continued her campaign against them.

Not only that, but the fact that she came up with the button you've posted here on your site, and the form letter for all members of the romance community to send to the DIKLadies pushes all my buttons. What right does she have to do that? How dare she send her minions over to harass those women, who started that site not to dis AAR, but to talk about books they love. That, IMO, is just like when an author sends her "Rabid Fangirls" after me because I wrote a bad review for her precious book.

The whole situation was handled very badly. Very badly indeed.

If I remember correctly, the entire DIK thing started as a meme. It made the blog rounds and it's entirely possible it was mentioned in the very beginning that the idea came from AAR. It's possible it didn't. But as you know, a lot of times things are lost in translation. I had no idea AAR used the term Desert Isle (Island) Keeper. None at all. And even if I had? I still wouldn't have felt the need to credit them if I used it on my own site. Because there is no ownership established. Especially since, as others mentioned, there have long been Desert Island or Deserted Island references in the world. Such as the BBC program Desert Island Discs.

And did you notice when that was brought up that Laurie brushed it aside as unimportant? How easy for her to bypass a valid point only to return the attention back on herself.

I guess that's the crux of the thing for me. Rather than this seeming like a legitimate argument, or something she's concerned over for the good of the romance community or AAR, it smacks of an attention getter. "Hey, look at me! Look what they did to ME! Look, I'm not getting enough attention over what they did to me so I'm going to take this to the forums. That's not giving me enough attention either so I'm going to start a campaign against them!"

Maybe that isn't how it really happened. But that's how it felt to me. And I can tell you, I've never been to AAR and after this, my desire to do so is smaller than ever. It makes me feel dirty that she reacted this way. Like a petulant child who didn't get her way and is now throwing a temper tantrum.

In closing I'll say this: The DIKLadies perhaps should have given her a nod when they started their site (Which they have now done, in case you didn't know), but after the way she acted, the absolute fit she threw, I have no respect for her. None at all.

I really hope I didn't offend YOU, Cindy. Because as I said above, I love you and would hate for that to happen.

Laurie Likes Books said...

Thank you, Cindy, for your blog entry. I'm glad you are not the only one who felt that waiting for nearly two weeks to hear back from the "DIK ladies" was too long before going public with it. The timeline is this: I emailed the founder of the DIK Ladies on September 15th, writing: "I'm Laurie Gold, aka Laurie Likes Books, founder of All About Romance, and creator of the term "DIK" (Desert Isle Keeper), something I came up with way back in 1996 when I first started writing online. I wasn't sure whether or not you knew the history. The term is not trademarked, but I wanted to make you aware that the name for your blog 'DIK - Desert Isle Keepers' - which many AAR readers participate in - is one of many AAR terms that have made their way into the public domain. That's the purpose for this email; to make you aware of the history and to also request that you in some way acknowledge it." I've yet to receive a response, although I see that it is mentioned at the end of their blogging for today.

A couple of days later I heard from Sybil, who asked this question: "I want to talk about... something to do with 'ownership' like the DIK blog - A. I don't know if that term started with you or not but it seems shitty to not at least give you create."

A later email from Sybil reads, in part: "I have always thought giving 'credit' to the person who sends it 'in'... like @ lifetime I could email 'what DIK' means and it would be credited to me as wrong The DIK Blog... I can see it being ok but I think it should have an 'about' us page linking to AAR, crediting who coined the phrase and most of all asking permission.... "

I worked on my piece for her for five or six days, and didn't finalize it until I'd given the DIK Ladies a full work week to respond. And then almost another full work week, leading to my posting last Thursday when Sybil didn't do her larger story on Sunday or Monday as she'd originally planned. Ultimately she didn't do a story at all.

When I look at my original blog entry on this, I went to painstaking lengths to track the history from idea to Desert Isle Keeper to "DIK," and I can see now that a misstatement in the subsequent posting was my downfall that created so much delight elsewhere online. Bravo, Janes!

My original blog entry, linked to from one of our forums at AAR, said this: "Because we’ve been around so long, much of our terminology has become part of the public domain. I accept that, and am happy to see it as a general rule. But to see something like 'DIK' used in the title of a blog without deference to its more-than-decade-long history shocked the hell out of me when I first saw it."

It wasn't the use of Desert Island Keepers so much as DIK and/or the two together, but when I posted my sample letter, I can now see that wasn't clear. Yes, even somebody who writes on a daily basis fucks up at times. "Both DIK and Desert Island Keeper TOGETHER" as opposed to "Both DIK and Desert Island Keeper" is what I meant.

Further, the argument that "I've heard DIK for years now and I've never even been to AAR" doesn't make a lot of sense if you look at it logically. For the fun of it I looked up the acronym DIK and discovered two; "Dokumentation Information Kultur (Nacka, Sweden)" and "Delta Iota Kappa." While AAR has had an impact on the terminology used in the romance community, we're not big enough to have affected online acronym sites. if you google "DIK," you get DIK Ladies and AAR.

I appreciate that Donna Simpson mentioned in her post that she is proud of the "I've been DIK'd by AAR" pin she received. We've been giving them away to authors who received DIK status at AAR for three years now at the national RWA conference. I can't tell you how quickly they ran out during the Atlanta conference when I handed them out...authors literally came up to me asking where theirs were and I had to say I'd run out. For the next year, I almost doubled the order for our official reporter in attendance. This year we had TWO people giving them out.

When Kristie wrote me on Friday night, her first letter indicated her discomfort about the creation of the blog with "DIK" in the title, but she stated that she wasn't really involved in it. I admit...I pressed her because, of course, her name appears as one of the main contributors. But she didn't want to offend anybody at DIK Ladies; I'm guessing the offense I took at their use of a term she'd told them originated at AAR was silly ("I sent them an email saying I didn't think it was such a good idea; that AAR had come up with the phrase DIK and perhaps they should come up with a different name.") Today I read she's upset with me. Obviously there's enough upset to go around.

I've kept silence as this whole thing unfolded throughout the weekend. I had not planned any sort of response whatsoever, but your blog entry gave me the courage to say something.

It's quite possible that I'll next read somewhere that I've tried to weasle-shit my way out of it by saying, "I didn't mean that...I meant this!" But I believe that a logical person who reads all of what I've written on the topic, particularly when considering the original framing by Sybil of "the DIK blog" question will conclude otherwise.

Sincerely, the weasle-shit fuck-up,
Laurie Likes Books aka Laurie Gold

CindyS said...

Bev - I've been hearing about Robinson Crusoe and have to admit - I've never read it (Bad Cindy). Just curious - but what would DIK stand for in terms of RC?

And if you ever read one of my *cough* reviews you'll see I use the word KEEPER all the time. Because I keep the book to re-read.

Excellent hypothetical!

Sybil - have you been a bad duckie ;) Bob's taking me out to dinner so I'll be doing the rounds later although Kristie sooo better not leave the blogging world cause I got me some flying monkeys and she knows I'll use 'em. Wait. It's Renee who's afraid of the monkeys. Damn.

Holly sweets you can always disagree with me. That's the thing, you can be my friend and still call me a dumbass (not that you did in any way). I can see what you are saying. Basically the whole situation could have been handled better. I'm glad you shared your feelings about AAR and how it's operated. These are things I think everyone can take and look at their own sites and ponder. Is it welcoming?

Okay, Bob's calling me. Gah.

Laurie - thanks for coming and explaining further although I would like you to be a little clearer only because I did stumble.

Is it just the use of DIK as an acronym?

Is it the use of DIK with Desert Island Keeper.

Or is it just Desert Island Keeper (yeah, I'm thinking not but I'll let you respond)

So forgetting every thing else for just this moment tell us what is the central issue for AAR. I think that would help clear things up.


Laurie Likes Books said...

Cindy -

I think my original email to the founder of the blog pretty clearly states my intent, and the email in its entirety is included in my earlier comment here.

I don't know the founder, but I have had an online relationship with Kristie for some time. When she wrote me that, "I sent them an email saying I didn't think it was such a good idea; that AAR had come up with the phrase DIK and perhaps they should come up with a different name." - I took her at her word, which means they knew and did it anyway.

When I started AAR, they didn't have google, but they DID have yahoo, and I made sure I searched the term "All About Romance" before naming the site to make sure it didn't pop up in some way. Given that googling "DIK" right now yields results for AAR and DIK Ladies, it seems to me that it would have been pretty simple for them to have checked into it...even if Kristie hadn't told them about it.

If Sybil hadn't asked me to write it all up for her blog, all I would have done is this: Written a blog entry and AAR forum post that included my email to the DIK Ladies and sharing how much time had elapsed. I think Sybil's emails, in which she uses some pretty strong language, probably subconsciously encouraged me to go farther than I would have on my own. See, earlier this year I vowed to no longer let the goings-on on other venues dictate what I do or feel. Instead I was going to focus solely on what I did at AAR. I wish I'd kept my promise to myself. Valuable lesson, and a very painful one. It's truly helped me put things in perspective and will affect what I do in my life.

Laurie Likes Books aka Laurie Gold

sybil said...

I sincerely apologize for inadvertently using my mind control abilities to cause LLB to act like a tool.

Hopefully now she can stop

Holly said...

I'm really glad I didn't offend you, Cindy. I would hate to do that (not that it would really stop me from saying what I think, but I'd still feel bad *eg*).

The other day a friend and I were talking and she remarked that you can tell the true measure of a friend by how s/he acts during a fight. Isn't that so true!?! I like that we can have intelligent debates without flaming each other.

I really do heart you. ;0)

Zeek said...

Well no offense to the person saying she originated the phrase, but NPR has long had a segment called Desert Island 5 (If stranded on a desert island (with, of course, electricity and a stereo) the 5 CDs I'd have to have...) I think one could hardly stake a claim to the idea.

The exact phrasing? hmmmm...