delirium happy

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Three entries in a row on one topic? Gosh.
delirium happy
rho
I'm sure that anyone reading this must have heard by now that LiveJournal has been bought by sixapart. And since I've already done a trolling entry about this and a piss-take entry about it, I figured I'd also do an actual real genuine one.

Personally, I think that this is a Good Thing, and don't really get some of the hysteria that's been accompanying the announcement. I'm actually reminded of an entry from 6months ago in lj_biz: I love LiveJournal, but it sucks. I don't actually think I'd go so far as to say that it sucks, and I don't think I agree with the poster of that article as to what the worst problem is, but I like the sentiment.

There are a lot of things that are wrong with LiveJournal. The things that I'd point at mainly are usability, interface and documentation. I've ranted about the state of documentation on LiveJournal before, and similar comments could be made about other aspects of usability. But I'll stick to documentation, because it's what I know most about. There are several different reasons why documentation on LiveJournal sucks, but one of these reasons is lack of manpower.

The two employees who are most involved in documentation (jproulx and rahaeli) both have a whole heap of other things that they need to keep on top of, so documentation tends to get shunted to the backburner. I would be a very happy panda indeed if someone were to be brought in to concentrate on documentation because that would mean there would be a good chance of the site getting good documentation.

"But wait!" I hear you cry, "wouldn't you be upset if someone got brought in and got paid to do what you'd been doing for free, only with better tools available to them?" No, I wouldn't be. A lot of support volunteers seem to be uppity about the prospects of anything changing with the volunteer aspects of the site. Personally, I'd actually be quite happy if this led to the gradual phasing out of volunteer stuff.

There are several reasons why I do LiveJournal volunteer stuff (notably: because it's something I could put on a CV; because it's there; because I'm good at it) but possibly the overriding reason is that I like LiveJournal. This is a reason that I sincerely hope that almost all people doing stuff for the site share; and if it is, doesn't it make sense to want to see LiveJournal improve? I understand the knee-jerk "change bad" sort of reaction, but when you step back and take a look at it I can only believe that a support/abuse/documentation department staffed by competent paid employees would do a better job than a bunch of volunteers. There are several reasons for this: they wouldn't have to deal with the less competent volunteers who actually wind up being a drain on resources; they'd have greater authority to speak on behalf of the site; they'd be given more tools required to do the work; they'd be better able to communicate with other internal departments; they'd simply have more time. And so on and so forth.

Now, I don't know what's going to happen, or how this is going to transpire, or whether there will be any changes at all in terms of the areas of the site which are currently done by volunteers, but if there are changes, I predict that they will be for the better. And if user interface improves or some system styles that don't suck get created then that can only be a good thing as well.

Now onto some of the other arguments that people have been making against this whole thing. First up is the incredibly dumb "Brad sold out!" type of argument. First off, if Brad wanted to shaft his users and sell us all down the river, I'm quite sure he could have chosen to do so well before now. Secondly, given his general distrust of "business people" due to previous bad experiences with them, I think it's fairly safe to assume that if he trusts them then it probably means that they aren't assholes. You also have to remember that Danga (LiveJournal's parent company) was and always had been a "for profit" company. I hate to disappoint anyone, but the money you spent on paid accounts didn't go towards supporting justice, the safety of puppies and Christmas. Finally, keep in mind that this is six apart -- a company so small I don't even know the correct capitalisation of their name -- and not Microsoft/AOL/Nestle/News Corporation/the Nazi party/whoever.

Then there's the issue of trust. People commented that they wouldn't trust New People with their credit card data or protected entries. I grok that. I don't trust them either. But then I don't trust Amazon, Sainsbury's or Lloyds TSB, and yet they all have my debit card details frequently. It's not that I think that the people involved are all good, honest and trustworthy so much as thinking that they're smart enough to realise that credit card fraud probably isn't a particularly smart move for a decently sized company with a substantial reputation. What would any of the people from six apart possibly gain from trying to illicitly use your credit card?

With the protected entries, I just believe that none of the people who can access my protected entries care enough to do so. While I trust nildram (my ISP) as a company, I certainly wouldn't say that I trust that all of their sysadmins are trustworthy. If any of them wanted to try to monitor my internet traffic then they probably could do, gaining access to my protected entries that way. I just assume that none of them would want to bother. Unless you're posting all your LJ entries with encrypted email, then there are already plenty of opportunities for unscrupulous people to gain access to your entries.

I think that a far more likely problem in terms of entry security is leaks from people who one lists as a friend. While I don't have any reason to suspect that anyone on my friends list would deliberately blab the contents of my protected entries, I'm well aware that gossip happens. And I'm also willing to bet that at least one person on my friends list has an old unused hotmail or yahoo address previously used for their account which could be used to gain access to it easily enough, should people wish to do so. This is why I never post anything on LiveJournal -- regardless of security setting -- which I absolutely could not live with being made public.

Then there's the whole thing about the "community" aspect of LiveJournal. Other people have already said this eloquently, so I won't stress it too much, but really, what do you think makes LiveJournal an attractive investment? The one big thing that makes LiveJournal stand out in the blogging world is the community element. If you're looking purely at features, then LiveJournal isn't all that great. It's not bad, but it doesn't have anything that really stands out there (except for the backend, which is really damn impressive). Anyone buying LiveJournal will be buying it for what it is, not because they want to change it to something else.

So there we have it. Personally, I'm not worried at all. If you do decide that you have to leave though, for whatever reason, then you might want to look at DeadJournal. Sure, their colour-scheme sucks, but they have most of the same features as LiveJournal, and Frank (scsi, the guy who runs it) is a Good Bloke.

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And as I've said several times elsewhere, my understanding is that Six Apart's biggest interest in LJ was the community aspect of everything. With that in mind, I think they'd be very cautious not to disturb that, because then we'd just turn into TypePad.

Obviously there's no other point in buying it other than to obtain LJ's userbase. That's why I'm a little suspicious of it. Why buy something.. if not to make money? How are they going to make more money without limiting free accounts, raising prices, reducing performance, adding advertisements, and/or enforcing monopolistic agreements?

I'm not much of a doomsayer (I don't really care, and I don't have the time to create drama about this). It just doesn't make sense to me.

Easy - the same way Brad makes money off of it, except managing it badly. LJ is currently not managed all that well and loses a great deal of efficiency, which could translate into money because of that.

For example - the support page has needed fixing for years. Fix that and we'd have less of a drain on Support and Support volunteers would have more time to work on other projects like userdoc.

The FAQs aren't searchable - ditto above.

The translation team is almost completely dead purely out of mismanagement. Translate LiveJournal and you're suddenly much, much more attractive to people in other countries. And doing it would be easy. It'd probably cost less than $1000 USD per year to fix the translation teams.

Basically, keep LJ just as it is, but manage it well. That's all that'd be needed to make more money off LJ than is already being made, and LJ already does make money.

I think Six Apart may be a good thing for LJ. There's a good chance they know more about management and will do a better job with it. Brad never wanted to be a manager and his skills (which he has many) aren't in that direction. He's done a fairly amazing job for someone who just fell into the role because of his ability to program. But he's not the right person to manage a site with millions of users.

The only worries I have are that I don't know these people, so I don't know what issues may come up, and while I think it will likely be better for LJ as a whole, I may no longer be comfortable volunteering here. I don't know if that's the case - I am waiting for more information. But I think it's a possibility. But I do think it'll be good for LJ as a whole. Although they will likely make some mistakes, since everyone does, and they will get far more heat for them than Brad does, and Brad gets quite a lot.

Uh the first sentence should be "but managing it well"
call that a Freudian slip...

Ahh. Well while I have some anecdotal notions of Brad's (lack of) business acumen, things are probably worse than I imagine.

And yeah - the support page is a bit dated.

I think the best thing though would be greater stability, not just of the networks but of the code. This isn't anyone's fault, people are just overworked. You've probably seen it far more than me - paid users frustrated over features that aren't up.

And I share your insecurities as well, though to a lesser extent. Obviously I'm far less involved with LJ than you and for less time.

heh, I have a deadjournal.

I don't think the main problem with LiveJournal is usability or documentation but rather performance and stability.

We wouldn't need to have people read as many FAQs or have as many Support requests if the user interface was more obvious. I constantly listen to complaints about the user interface, and while I don't think it's horrible, I do think it is often stupid. Good user interface fixing would lead to some pretty serious long-term improvements.

Plus, it bugs me that the default scheme is the least disability-friendly scheme of the three.

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