COMMENTARY | Fans of the Harry Potter series rejoiced when Pottermore was launched on July 31 — Harry Potter’s (and creator J.K. Rowling’s) birthday, launching a new flurry of discussion about the books and characters, already energized from the release of “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2,” in theaters. Friday was the final day of pre-registration for the beta site.
The free site, opening to the public in October, offered early access to a limited number of users. The trick? Those trying to be counted among the magical few admitted early were required to answer a Harry Potter-themed question, which could only be accessed for a few short hours a day, and which changed over each of the seven days (representing each of the seven books in the series), and ending Friday.
Crying Over Spilled Potion?
Fans rushed to register during those few hours, and many who have done so in good faith have been frustrated by the experience. On the one hand, error messages and failed registrations have made it difficult for some to complete their applications, but there are other, more unfortunate problems with the site that have nothing to do with bugs in the system.
Some folks are discovering colorful new ways to ruin the experience for many before it’s even started.
How? Fake or multiple accounts for sale, spammers, violations of terms, spoilers, and possibly worse.
Too Many Cats Among the Pixies
Pottermore fan sites have popped up all over Facebook. One look at them clearly shows violations of terms of service and a number of questionable posts.
For example, screenshots are prohibited, and with good reason. The site is in Beta mode, and the terms clearly state than users not take screenshots. Anyone with access to Facebook can join these pages and see more than enough to spoil their online experience. Speaking as one who’s been spoiled, that stinks like bubotuber pus.
I’m not sure they care, but in case they’re interested, those posting the screenshots potentially put their own accounts at risk.
In one group, a thread was started on the wall asking members to post their usernames on the wall — which could be innocent, but considering that Pottermore itself is designed to protect the identity of users, particularly children, I can’t help but wonder how meeting on Facebook where your names and faces are all displayed is a good thing.
As a parent, it raises a flag, if only a metaphorical one.
The usernames, without saying too much here, are one area in particular in which Pottermore makes a special effort to protect the identities of its users. Although Facebook is, by its own rules, does not allow children under 13 to use the site, a report by All Facebook, “an unofficial Facebook resource”, maintains that almost half of 12-year olds in the United States use Facebook.
And Harry Potter is, quite clearly, a series aimed at young adults.
One person responded to my post cautioning against the use of screenshots by pointing out that there were people selling accounts on eBay. That was news to me. People were, apparently, registering for accounts and then putting them up for bid.
In fact, eBay has since posted a notice warning people against the practice.
A number of friends tried unsuccessfully to register, but were turned aside because they were unable to get through the site traffic. That’s the way it goes, and they’ll have another chance in a few months. However, if even part of the reason for errors and a shortage of accounts was due to greedy jerks trying to sell the experience to others, I can’t help but think it’s really a sad commentary in itself.
Rowling reveals that it will offer the books, including ebooks and audio books, for sale, but the most highly anticipated feature by far are the notes and background info on the settings and characters in Harry Potter’s world: around 18,000 words worth of magic for fans to enjoy.
That there are people willing to spoil the experience and make a buck from the free site — or worse — makes me wish even more that people would let there be a little magic in the world without ruining it for the rest.