The DataLounge's opinionated and witty sensibility stems 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 the forum guidelines formally require posters to respect others, much of the site's fun revolves around its appreciation of cutting wit and satire, as well as its shared history and in-jokes.
DataLounge was launched by Mediapolis in May, 1995. During the site's early years, content included GLBT-oriented news, gossip, links to other sites/services, and editorial content that made for an all-around gay Web portal. Content contributors included New York drag queen Trudy and journalist Chris Barillas. DataLounge affiliated itself via the DataLounge Network with other Web sites such as the gay dating site Edwina.com, gay Web guide Homorama, and GLBT health information site Gay Health, offering information and services to GLBTs. A weekly e-mail was also offered to users. The site evolved to have several discussion forums covering a wide array of topics such as lesbian, religious and sexual issues, and also created a "Flames and Freaks" forum to house threads that site administrators determined to be disruptive to general forum discussion. Forums created for subpopulations such as The Lord of the Rings fans and US daytime drama aficionados were subsequently closed (see below). The most popular forum of all, however, 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 came as a result of the integration of some of the 1995-97 content of Out.com from Out Magazine, who announced in March 1997 that it was closing its Web site 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 which blocked all Web banner and pop-up advertising for what a $12 annual fee (this fee was subsequently raised to $15, then to the present price of $18).
In 2005, DataLounge was given 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 current events continues to appear on the site regularly. Users were also given the option to control certain aspects of the site's layout, including filtration of political, gossip, and/or "Flames and Freaks" threads.
Along 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 controversy amongst DataLounge users, as non-subscribers were in effect blocked from the DataLounge Forum during these periods. Though Mediapolis has received complaints about the policy, specifically that "primetime" periods are irregular and can often occur at times when site traffic should be at its slowest (e.g., North American overnight hours), DataLounge administrators assert that the "primetime" is necessary to prevent slowdowns of the other sites which Mediapolis hosts on the same servers, and preserves the existence of the DataLounge forum by generating revenue to cover DataLounge's hosting, bandwidth and maintenance expenses. The subscription fee was raised from $12 to $15 in 2006, then to $18 in 2007.
In the summer of 2007 Datalounge also instituted a policy that only paying members can start a new thread. It is said that anyone can still contribute to existing threads, but non-paying members postings often find that their postings do not show up on the site. Many posters have complained on the site that this limits the number of new threads.
The DataLounge forum is largely self-moderated via debates amongst posters, and since most posts are anonymous viciousness does occur, though face slapping is discouraged. Many DataLounge posters become violently pedantic where matters of improper grammar, punctuation and spelling are concerned. Some threads are locked by the Webmaster, however, and a few are deleted outright, particularly those which are overtly racist or homophobic. DataLounge has a unique system of "redtagging" trolls. When posters are tagged, each of their previous and subsequent posts are tagged with a number in red text so that they become publicly identified. This prevents the majority of trolls from stirring flamewars by, for instance, "talking to themselves" (e.g., posting anonymously on their own threads while pretending to be different individuals). As with most such web sites, arbitrary applications of deleting, blocking, and presenting prime-time screens to selected posters is done by junior staff filling in as site administrators. This practice greatly reduces the openness and sense of fair play on the site.
DataLounge has few written rules, but a number of implicit standards have evolved. Daytime drama (or soap opera) discussions are completely verboten due to earlier soap discussions devolving to flamewars, rampant homophobia and for taking up too many site resources. Right-wing propaganda threads, particularly those written by so-called "freepers" (members of the Free Republic Internet forum), are also often locked or deleted. Threads incorporating detailed discussions of certain bodily functions tend to be locked quickly as well, as do those that dissolve into flamewars or chatter between a small number of posters. Threads are automatically locked when they reach 901 posts, or are locked at the discretion of site admnistrators.
In an effort to encourage paid membership, non-paid visitors can no longer post comments.
Over the course of its history DataLounge has enjoyed, and fiercely debated, posts from dozens of named posters, many of whom became lightning rods for controversy. Some named posters are authenticated, meaning that they have verified their username and obtained a password so no other users can post under their name.
Anonymous visitors can insert any arbitrary name into the "username" field. This is often used to great comedic effect.
DataLounge has a wide variety of trolls, too numerous for specific examples to be meaningful. The term "troll" is used on DataLounge to describe posters obsessed with a certain subject, even when it's benign, as well as the classic kind of Internet troll.
Many of the common sayings and quotes used on DataLounge quickly become so ubiquitous that they are met with flames and derision. Listed below are a few examples of the more commonly used ones:
Mrs. Betty Bowers - "America's Best Christian." Betty has her own widely-read satirical Web site, but also posts periodically on DataLounge. For a time she had a son, or rather protégée named Benny Bowers who was a huge fan of sub-pop boyband O-Town.
Gay writer and critic David Ehrenstein used to post on DataLounge using his authenticated name. He has since re-joined DL after a long absence.
Michael Musto has openly posted on DataLounge in the past, and has used items from the forum in his Village Voice column. He has also used his column to refute rumors posted on DataLounge, including the purported romantic relationship between "Queer as Folk" stars Gale Harold and Randy Harrison. Musto first learned of right-leaning gay commentator Andrew Sullivan posting an advertisement on the site Barebackcity.com via a thread on DataLounge before breaking the story in his column in May, 2001
Rosie O'Donnell has mentioned visits to DataLounge in print magazine interviews.
Some unauthenticated pseudonyms have come to be used by multiple anonymous posters and have taken on a life of their own, a form of collaborative characters. A few of the most established shared characters are:
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