THE PLAIN LAYNE MYSTERY
I'm remaining mum, neutral and transparent gray on this right now, but FYI:
and, finally, the MetaFilter thread.
Layne fans, especially locals, please Email Me! I'd like to get your take for Blogumentary.
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Posted by: Adry at Jun 15, 2004 9:18:50 PM
Did any of you ever meet her? I have to admit, it's odd that no one seems to have met her...
Posted by: ryan at Jun 16, 2004 3:15:33 AM
This has to be one of the oddest and most interesting things that I have come across in my time as a blogger. I wasn't a huge fan of Plain Layne. I could never really get into it no matter how hard I tried. Maybe it was the extremity of the drama that ocurred. I think part of me had a hard time believing it was real, and part of the appeal of reading blogs is knowing that the things people are writing about are true and meaningful. I find it funny that the reality of Layne has finally come into question. Maybe we will never know the truth. Layne made her mark, that's for sure. Perhaps this was her goal all along.
Posted by: Tim at Jun 16, 2004 8:19:56 AM
I'm having a hard time coming up with a solid motive for having
a fake blog/identity. It's just so puzzling. Why would anyone
spend so much time and energy on a fabricated drama? IF, they're
not making money on it? The question for me is, if Layne is a
fake, what did he/she/it have to gain?
Also, I'm with you Tim, I was never impressed either.
Posted by: Lorika at Jun 16, 2004 9:21:49 AM
It is interesting too that in her very recent pic on Frienster
she is sticking out her tongue. Hmmmmmm.
Posted by: Lorika at Jun 16, 2004 9:59:58 AM
The idea of fictional bloggers has always been interesting to me. I got the vague idea a couple years ago to do one myself -- to post a seemingly innocuous blog that turns itself into a horror story a la "House of Leaves" or something.
We get plenty o' links to false blogs over at the Ranch. One "girl" sent over a link to a blog that was so clearly a forgery done by a guy. It was yet another "escort" blog, and of course there's some question as to whether Belle De Jour, the original, is real or not. How many damn literate escorts *are* there out there, for heaven's sake?
Plain Layne got a lot of attention for her possible forgery because she's so popular -- but I think a lot more fictionalization goes on than we think.
(We've been accused recently of fictionalizing as well, but believe you me -- names have been changed to protect the innocent, but its all been very, very real. We couldn't make up half the stories, they're so bloody strange!)
Posted by: Jon at Jun 16, 2004 11:33:16 AM
Wow. I don't know which side to come down on on the Layne real/not debate. I do know that if people thought I was fake, I would feel kinda bad. While Layne's life is a little, well, x-treme, none of it is truly "incredible" in the literal sense of that word. People latch onto her love life as something unbelievable, but it seems perfectly credible to me. (I've been in some crazy situations, so I guess I can sort of identify.)
If Layne is fictional, then the writer behind Layne deserves some serious mad props. The cast of characters in Layne's life - her family, friends, lovers and co-workers - are all fully-realized, consistent, and credible, which is a hallmark of good writing. None of her peeps seem to be two-dimensional cardboard cutouts. Either Layne is real, or her creator is seriously talented.
Also, the Layne who has left comments on my blog seems to be a really sweet and caring person. I always appreciate it when she stops by.
Whether real or not (and I'm leaning toward real), I think Layne has been, overall, a force for good in the blogosphere, especially as far as making connections goes. Lots of great bloggers have found each others' sites via links or comments on Plain Layne (that's how my Iowa blogging friend Lane [no relation to Layne] found my site.)
I just wonder why she hasn't gotten into more trouble at work, if she is real. So many bloggers who write about their place of employment, or while at work, have gotten into huge trouble, and given that she had her "real" name on the site for a long time, I don't see how she could avoid it.
Hell, I got into trouble once and I didn't even have my name anywhere on the site at the time (or the company's name). There was just this unfortunate Google search....
Posted by: spacewaitress at Jun 16, 2004 12:26:14 PM
For those of you following all this drama who are indeed suffering from Plain Layne withdrawal, and wish to commiserate with fellow Layneian refugees, we've re-created the Plain Layne Comment Box on Orkut (almost all of the regulars have signed on already; you're welcome to join in the fun...who needs Plain Layne's blog to continue our little comment-box community??).
If you do want to check this out, and you're not already on Orkut, you can either:
1) ask me for a free invitation to Orkut by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, NOT .com (BTW, you can sign up for Orkut with an absolutely bare minimum of information if you want to avoid being data-mined: first name, last name, email)
2) you can use this really handy tool: BugMeNot, to get onto Orkut without a userid and password. If it doesn't work the first time, please keep clicking the "This Login Did't Work" button and BugMeNot will keep feeding you userid/password combinations until you find one that does. (I finally got into Orkut at try #8).
Once you're on, click on "Communities" in the top menu bar, and then do a community search for "plain layne", you'll find us :-)
Posted by: Ryan Schultz at Jun 16, 2004 1:45:48 PM
Wow. I can't even fathom my blog being so popular that I, as the author, become totally moot, that it could conceivably continue after I stopped writing. It brings up some interesting questions, though: When does a blog cease to be a blog? Can a blog exist solely on comments? It seems to me that "Layne" was able to create her own networking community. Maybe Danah Boyd should look into it.
Posted by: Tim at Jun 16, 2004 2:49:31 PM
Hey, that's right, Tim. We've got almost fifty people on the Plain Layne Comment Box (not counting anonymous visitors using tools like BugMeNot) and it's actually rolling along without Layne... it will be interesting to see if this does peter out after a while, or if it will continue. There was a real sense of community among the commenters at Plain Layne, and perhaps that, plus the shared goal of wanting to find out what really happened, will keep it going.
--Ryan (who posted as Quiplash on PL)
Posted by: Ryan Schultz at Jun 16, 2004 2:58:26 PM
At this point I'm just anticipating what will happen next!
...But wait, what if NOTHING happens next?
Posted by: +mojan. at Jun 16, 2004 3:05:04 PM
I have to say I find this all fascinating...but, like Lorika and Tim, I wasn't a huge fan. There's more than enough drama in my own life, you know? Though maybe if I wrote about those things I've kept private I'd gain more of a following. Hmmm. Uh, no thanks.
Still, my curiousity is piqued.
Posted by: Sharyn at Jun 16, 2004 3:15:37 PM
Well-put, Spacey. I feel the same way.
Looking back through my emails, I've been trying to interview her (or at least chat over coffee) since 2002. In fact I've asked her to chat again now, and have been trying not to comment because I want to remain a neutral, unjudgemental party. (Email me Layne!)
Whether I interview her (him?) or not, Layne is part of Blogumentary. I'm really not a neutral party, because I've been interested in her for a long time and have discussed her in public presentations. We're all part of the Layne story, whether that story is fact or fiction. Or, I suspect, somewhere inbetween.
It is odd that I've personally met everyone in the Upper Midwest Blog Association except Layne. (Well, I haven't met the Pussy Ranch folks yet but I've seen Jon's band.) Not that you have to meet someone for them to be real, but this isn't a big town. I always used to be on the lookout for a black VW bug with a Radio K sticker. I think we always felt it would be really cool to meet Layne. Everyone in the UMBA is cool and local - why shouldn't we all be friends?
Jonathan suspected she was fictional long ago, but I dismissed it. For one thing, I never found the MiniCorp stuff terribly interesting - if this was fiction, why bother with the minutia of inter-office politics and geekery? And like Lori says, what's the motivation? And how could she keep it up for so long, so flawlessly?
As to why she wouldn't talk to me, her email in Dec. 2002 was completely plausible and understandable:
I've been putting off replying because the answer is no. Lots of reasons, really, but let me put it to you this way. It took me half a year to become comfortable enough with blogging to share about myself. Imagine how long it would take me to become comfortable sitting in front of a videocamera talking about my life.
I also think Layne is a sweet and thoughtful person. She just wished me a happy birthday a week ago, in fact. But I did sort of give up on her after she kept taking her blog down and going through these dramas. My last attempt to talk to her was last fall, when she revealed her blog to Cassie and Lauren. I thought, a-HA! She's "coming out", not keeping it a secret to people in her life, it might be the end of Plain Layne's blog as we know it. I sent her a long email explaining why I'd like to talk to her, or even her and Lauren, to help people understand why someone would want to share themselves on a blog, and what real-life consequences that can have.
Someday you'll talk me into this, Chuck. But not yet. I recently shared the link with Lauren and Cassie and my archive became a revelation that impacted our relationships, just as I hoped/feared it would. Their understandings of me were changed by what they read, especially when I admitted what happened to me in Mexico. And I need more time before I understand how their understandings of me changed, assuming they were really changed at all.
Unfortunately, that decision also transformed my blog into this weird passive-aggressive communication channel where they read whatever I write, but only comment in person. I'm trying to figure out what that means to me and my sharing. A real audience changes everything, that's for sure.
Anyway, now you have a better understanding of my reluctance to appear on-camera than ever before. Same reason I haven't blogged about the rape before and never will again. I utterly reject the v word and don't want everybody thinking I'm just a pathetic sympathy case.
Keep your heart up. Blogumentary is a pathbreaking work, and you're doing amazing things.
Well, actually I don't have a better understanding. I detected some dissonance in that email... I can't put my finger on it, but my instinct was to let Layne be whatever or whoever she was and move on.
I've rarely checked in with her this year, but I when did, of course there was this huge soap opera going. Goth girl, naughty shenanigans, and so on. I thought, wow! This is the kind of juicy stuff that drew me into Layne's world to begin with. She makes me feel for her, I get sucked into the whirlpool. Like Ryan once said, Layne is digital crack.
Now here we are, feeling foolish for our addiction.
Posted by: Chuck at Jun 16, 2004 3:39:05 PM
My MeFi comment:
I live in the Twin Cities and am producing a documentary about blogs, which means that I've personally met everyone in our little regional blog club... except Layne. I've been trying to interview or at least meet her since 2002, to no avail. That's not to say she's not real of course, but it does lead me to believe she has fictionalized at least part of her life story - which would be much more difficult to pull off in person, especially being interviewed.
It's one thing to keep it together in writing, but body language and slips of the tongue aren't easy to control.
Regardless, I'm very fond of Layne. Whether her life is real or fictionalized, she wrote about it in a thoroughly engaging and entertaining way that drew me in and made me reflect on my own past. The "people that live in Layne's comment box" found each other because of Layne, and apparently now continue on without her.
This is really an amazing story in the history of the blogosphere. We're scrambling to find this ghost, only to find ourselves.
Posted by: Chuck at Jun 16, 2004 4:10:19 PM
I haven't been reading her long enough to be emotionally invested. I can't really decide how I feel about, not that any of this matters at all. I just wish I could get more of the story. She's left me with blog blue balls. Even if it was all fiction(alized), it was great reading. One of those blogs that makes you want to go the first entry and start reading it all from the beginning.
I have found myself casually looking for that girl in the pictures while out and about, even though I live over on the west side of the metro.
Posted by: Erica at Jun 17, 2004 3:23:38 AM
geez, i go away for a couple of weeks and look what happens.
actually i had been reading PL while on the road when i could. the train wreck of her story was rather addictive. i stopped commenting around the time the whole Lauren engagement thing was taking place because it all seemed too dramarama and some of the commenters there were just plain mean.
i tried to contact her a couple of times. one time she was talking about being interested in hockey and i invited her to go to a U of M women's game with Tina and i. didn't hear back.
to me it doesn't matter if she is a real person or not. if i had known she was fictitious, i probably wouldn't have read the blog, but no harm, just many wasted hours.
Posted by: lane at Jun 17, 2004 11:52:20 AM
I too was on vacation, only to return to all of this. I'm stunned, really. Layne emailed me many times and, while I pride myself in having a pretty in-tune bullshit detector, I guess I was completely taken in this time. Or was I? Ahhh well. It was totally worth the ride. In the meantime---don't even think I won't be screening every face I encounter when I hike around Afton State Park this summer.
Posted by: mopsa at Jun 20, 2004 11:55:38 PM
Michael Snider, the Macleans reporter who did an article about her, thinks she's real.
Others have been weirded out by the emails, IMs, and comments too. I was a little bit, but it's not like s/he's a robot or something - we still had genuine interactions with this sweet (if deceptive) person.
Totally worth the ride... that's an overwhelming consensus, too. I'm pretty amazed at this, rather than feeling burned there's an outpouring of goodwill for having had the Layne Experience.
Posted by: Chuck at Jun 21, 2004 9:12:41 AM