Type of site
DataLounge (also styled as Datalounge and The Data Lounge) is an internet forum with approximately 6.5 million page views each month, according to its webmaster (as of June 2006[update]). Mediapolis, a New York City interactive media company, created the site in May 1995.
DataLounge derives its "personality" from a core community of predominantly anonymous posters who share news, opinions, gossip, personal histories, and political views from a gay and lesbian perspective. While forum guidelines require posters to be nominally respectful of others, much of the site's appeal revolves around its appreciation of wit, satire, and "pointless bitchery," as well as a 20-plus-year shared history and its resulting in-jokes.
History and site policies
DataLounge was launched by Mediapolis, Inc. in May 1995. During the site's early years, content included gay-oriented news, gossip, links to other sites/services, and editorial content, making it a gay web portal. Content contributors included New York drag queen Trudy and journalist Chris Barillas. DataLounge affiliated itself via the DataLounge Network with other gay-and-lesbian-oriented websites, including the dating site Edwina.com, the web guide Homorama, and Gay Health. A weekly email subscription was also offered to users. By 2000–01, the site had evolved to encompass several discussion forums covering topics such as lesbian, religious, and sexual issues, along with a "Flames and Freaks" forum to house threads that site administrators determined to be disruptive to general forum discussion. Special-interest subforums for fans of The Lord of the Rings and U.S. daytime drama aficionados were created as well but subsequently closed. The most popular forum was the Gossip Forum, which dwarfed all others in both traffic and number of discussion threads created.
A portion of DataLounge and the DataLounge Network's content derived from the integration of some of the 1995–97 content of Out magazine’s website, which closed in March 1997 (but subsequently reactivated) to focus on print content. Out.com users were redirected to DataLounge, and DataLounge administrators adopted Out.com's discussion forums, dating service, and weekly survey.
In 2003, DataLounge instituted a subscription service that blocked all advertising for a $12 annual fee. This fee was subsequently raised to $15 and then to the present price of $18.
In 2005, DataLounge underwent a major redesign. All forum topics were collapsed into one general discussion forum called "The DataLounge Forum," and all news content, most references to the other sites in the DataLounge Network, and other features were discontinued. Editorial commentary discussing events continued to appear on the site. Users were also given the option to control aspects of the site's layout, including filtration of political, gossip, and/or "Flames and Freaks" (troll) threads.
With this redesign came a policy change that limited access to the DataLounge Forum during high-traffic "Primetime" periods to fee-paying subscribers. This move was met with criticism from DataLounge users, as non-subscribers were completely shut out of the DataLounge Forum during these periods. DataLounge administrators asserted that Primetime was necessary to prevent slowdowns of other Mediapolis sites hosted on the same servers, and to generate revenue to cover DataLounge's hosting, bandwidth, and maintenance expenses. In the summer of 2007, DataLounge also instituted a policy that only paying members could start threads.
In May 2009, DataLounge launched another comprehensive redesign of the site, dubbed "V6," allowing users to embed photos and YouTube videos, as well as mark specific threads to watch. The new site was auto-refreshed in real-time as new posts were created, and nonpaying members were at first permitted to start threads, but that quickly changed. The DataLounge webmaster explained in introducing the redesigned site that the transition was largely dictated by the effect of tabbed web browsing, which resulted in users constantly using their browsers' refresh function and overloading the servers, sending the site into constant Primetime mode. Shortly after launching V6, however, the webmaster reinstituted Primetime, in part due to a rapid proliferation of racist trolls. (DataLounge's anonymity has made it a troll target from the beginning, but the site has seen a significant uptick in disruptive/offensive posts over the past decade.)
Another major site redesign was phased in during 2014 and 2015. Rather than multiple pages, the site now has a single "infinite scroll" page that hosts all non-archived threads. Individual threads consist of a single page as well.
This latest redesign's most significant feature overall is the ability to fine-tune the user experience to filter out offensive content. A "Flames and Freaks" slider setting allows for global adjustment between two extremes: "Delicate Flower" (blocks most troll posts) and "Asbestos Eyeballs" (no filtering). Users can also ignore individual posters and/or entire threads, as well as bestow "Wit and Wisdom" (WW) or "Flames and Freaks" (FF) (similar to upvoting/downvoting at Reddit) and share threads on Facebook and Twitter. Threads and posts with a certain number of FFs are grayed out and the text struck through. (Methods of managing trolling in earlier DL iterations included "red-tagging," in which the webmaster labeled a troll's posts with red text describing the troll's "crimes" [e.g., "talks to self"], and "Troll-Dar," which, when turned on, highlighted all of a particular user's posts in yellow.)
In another measure to control troll posts, the latest iteration of DataLounge uses cookie-based tracking to assign "reputation" to site visitors. Non-paying visitors may now start threads, but they must lurk on the site for a minimum of a few hours to a few days, without clearing their browser cookies, to gain permission to post threads and replies, give WWs/FFs, and vote in polls. Posters with excessive negative reputation (that is, FFs and ignores) forfeit these privileges. Posters who clear their cookies lose their reputation and must restart the process to regain privileges; subscribers do not lose reputation as long as they log in and abide by DL's rules.
Members and moderation
DataLoungers may insert any name into the username field when they create a post, often to comedic effect—for example, "Mrs. Patsy Ramsey, Formerly of Boulder, CO."
Posters used to have the choice to be totally anonymous, post under any name of their choosing as per above, or be authenticated (registered with a unique email address). Authenticated users were distinguished by "(authenticated)" after their usernames in posts, setting them apart from any trolls who used the same names. Authenticated posters were numerous DataLounge's early years; over time, however, site culture came to discourage authenticated posting as attention-seeking and self-aggrandizing. As a result, most "authenticateds" stopped posting under their usernames due to personal attacks from anonymous posters. Authentication was discontinued as a user option around 2004–05.
In addition to garden-variety trolls, DataLounge also has self-styled "trolls" who are fans of a particular celebrity or enthusiastic about a certain topic. The Dominion Wackiness Troll, for example, is fascinated by Dominionist Christians, while the Lisa Whelchel Troll is a devotee of former Facts of Life actress Lisa Whelchel.
DataLounge is largely self-moderated, but from time to time, threads are closed or deleted by "Muriel," as the webmaster is nicknamed today.
Notable names on DataLounge
Marcia Cross controversy
DataLounge made mainstream news in February 2005, when a "friendly spy" claiming to work at ABC posted that Desperate Housewives actress Marcia Cross was preparing to come out as gay in an upcoming issue of The Advocate. Within days, the rumor spread rapidly and garnered mentions in the media—including CNN, Entertainment Weekly, and Fox Television's Los Angeles affiliate—before Cross denied the rumors in an interview with Barbara Walters and her co-hosts on The View. The Advocate published an article chronicling this incident. Less than six months later, Cross announced her engagement to stockbroker Tom Mahoney, leading to widespread speculation on DataLounge that Cross—believed by many posters to be a closeted lesbian, owing to both direct assertions made by gossip columnist and DataLounge user Michael Musto and the fact that she had not, to anyone's public knowledge, dated a man since her then-boyfriend Richard Jordan died of a brain tumor in 1993—had entered into a relationship of convenience at the urging of her PR team in order to squash the rumors about her sexual orientation.
Author, entrepreneur, and reality TV personality Josh Kilmer-Purcell is a onetime DL "authenticated" who used to post as "josh."
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- Vary, Adam B. (15 March 2005). "Marcia Cross: Desperate rumors". The Advocate. Archived from the original on 2 June 2006.
- Martinac, Paula (27 March 2002). "Opinion - Lesbian Notions". The Advocate. Archived from the original on 27 May 2008.