I've survived a flood, and can now breathe enough to write about it.

For those of you who are familiar and associated with LiveJournal, feel free to skim. The website that hosts my writing is a blogging tool called LiveJournal. In addition to having your own personal site, you can also create what's called communities here. They're essentially forums that lots of people who have joined have posting access to, and each community is usually centered around a particular subject or interest. A community often has a moderator, much like a forum or a panel, who makes sure that there's nothing inappropriate being said and who filters through unnecessary or irrelevant content.

In this case, the purpose of the community is very specific: people who have forgotten the title and author of a book they're looking for can submit help requests to the group. We get requests for sci-fi/fantasy books, children's picture books, horror/ghost stories and collections, classics, romance novels, and just normal books that don't really fall into a genre neatly. Occasionally, we get non-book requests, like for poems, quotes, or songs; sometimes we get people asking for the book that was based on the movie they watched, and sometimes, the requester owns the book but they don't know which one matches the plot in their head or they've got all their books packed in boxes.

A stranger named [livejournal.com profile] blindsage called it "group therapy for bookworms." I often find, through other's found books, things to add to my own list of books to read.

Well, on the main page that each of our journals links to, and on livejournal.com, there are three or four specific communities that are featured for a week. They're usually communities that have interesting premises or that have large memberships. This book-find community of mine was featured last week, and, as you would expect, we had a flood of people join and an overflow of requests.

Of course, the logical thing to do is to just not read the community for a week. But that's how lots of these communities under the spotlight, after the initial flood of extra attention, have turned defunct under the pressure. Old-timers don't want to contribute anymore because of the sudden overflow of stupidity that appears, and everyone else forgets to start reading again when the flood of newbies ends. It is possible that the newcomers could keep the community active, but most of the time, newcomers who join lurk in the background after their initial interest to read and wonder for awhile without actually ever contributing usefully.

So the only thing I could do all last week was flip back 120, 160 entries to the place I left off the day before and continue wading. The moderators do quite a bit of filtering--the most common requests we get are for The Fairy Rebel by Lynne Reid Banks, a short story called All Summer in A Day by Ray Bradbury, and the horror story about the girl with the ribbon around her neck whose head is really severed. We also get posts like, "Hi, guys, I just joined the community. Isn't this great?" with no book request, which are automatically deleted.

Each requester is supposed to edit their post to indicate whether the book has been found so we can concentrate our efforts on the ones that haven't been identified. When they don't make some sort of addendum in the body of the request, I end up reading the request carefully, comparing my memory to the details they've got and often doing Amazon.com searches to recall authors of books, only to find that my careful effort is for naught because it's already been solved. Before the flood, I have often inserted a polite comment along the likes of, "Could you please edit this post?"

But now, I simply struggle to keep up with the flow of people who all have lost something. I've given the answer to three or four books now, when no one else knew the answer; I'd hate to miss that one entry where I am that person's only hope. After reading this community for awhile, I've felt like I'm well-versed in the common book-lore I ought to know; sometimes, the answer is obvious and I race to the comments to be the first the answer, only to find that the solution has been seconded many times over. I developed a relationship with the site's founder, who acted as moderator before she tired of the job, when we were smaller.

And the flood seems to have abated; I can soon return to my self-appointed admin duty. I joined when the community was spotlighted in 2006, and we survived the flood then. We're still going strong now, but I no longer have a daily six hours of sleuthing for missing book memory, wading past too many people who all think the community I belong to is a wonderful tool. Now, hopefully, the people who read make up a wider reading audience than before, and we can leave fewer requests unanswered.
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