As ever, I'm late to the party posting about this, but that's never stopped me before.
In case anyone managed to miss it, half of the US employees of LiveJournal got laid off a couple of weeks ago
. As is usually the case, this was surrounded with a whole lot of completely inaccurate "the sky is falling" rhetoric that managed to cloud the real issues involved. This doesn't mean that LJ is about to die a horrible death, but there are two things that I think we can take from it.
1) SUP care a whole lot more about the Russian userbase of LiveJournal than the Anglophone userbase. This is hardly surprising. They bought the company based on its Russian userbase and they were involved with the Russian elements of the site before they bought the rest of it. Obviously, that's going to be their main focus. That they're getting rid of half their US staff and just keeping the Russian staff around to do the jobs just emphasises that.
I'm not saying that the Russian staff aren't going to be highly capable people who can produce some really good stuff. They may well be. The fact remains, though, that the site is used in vastly different ways by the Russian userbase than by the Anglophone userbase. Russian workers are much more likely to understand and to focus on the needs of the Russia userbase. This is a bad thing for Anglophone LiveJournal users any way you slice it. That two of the people who were laid off (janinedog
) are long-time LJ users who really understand how the site's community works and had been able to advocate for us only makes things worse.
Now, there are still good people left working for LJ out of America. The only ones I actually know are coffeechica
, but I am assured that there are other Good People who Get It left among the LJ staff still. LJ as we know it isn't going to go away any time soon, but this is very definitely a clear statement of SUP's priorities, and that's not something that's good for us.
2) SUP don't give a shit about people. The laid off staff were given less than a week's notice and no redundancy (severance) pay at all. I'm a realist. I know that sometimes people need to be laid off. I even know that sometimes there are circumstances where, for the good of the company, you can't even provide any redundancy pay because you're so strapped for cash. However, barring freak occurrences, if things are that bad, then you know about it in advance and can give more than a week's warning. Doing it the way that they did just shows a completely disregard for the actual people involved.
I looked at this and I thought, if the powers that be show that little regard for the people who have worked for the betterment of the company and the site for years, how little are they going to care about me? The only answer I could come up with was "not in the slightest". That I have a permanent account, and therefore never give them money and never generate any ad revenue for them certainly isn't going to help.
I don't think they're going to go out and yank my account or anything. To do so would generate a shit-storm that would cost them far more than they'd save by getting rid of me. The thing is, I can't help feeling that that's the only reason. Human decency doesn't seem to enter into it any more, and that's a worry. LiveJournal is built entirely on people. If you remove the people and get rid of the human element then LiveJournal is nothing.
Personally, I've decided that I'm going to get behind Dreamwidth
. There's more information about it at that page I linked, but the thirty second version is that Dreamwidth is a project run by people who fell out of love with LJ, and want to create something worth loving again. It's going to be based off a fork of the open-source LJ code, but with a whole bunch of neat changes and additions on top.
The two main people behind it are xb95
both of whom used to work for LJ, having been users and volunteers before they were staff. They're good people, and they have a whole lot of relevant experience, both technical and administrative, that makes me confident that they can pull something like this off. There are also a whole bunch of current and former LJ volunteers involved with getting it off the ground, and a bunch of people who have just been users on LJ but have got excited enough by the new project to want to get involved. Personally, I'm getting involved mainly with documentation, because I want to be able to make something that sucks a whole lot less than LJ's FAQ.
We're not trying to go back to some sort of golden age of LJ. There never was a golden age of LJ. You'd have to have pretty impressive rose-tinted glasses to long for the days when the site would often move at the speed of a tranquillised sloth and when brad
was left making business decisions that he was completely unqualified to make.
Instead, what we're trying to do is to be what LiveJournal could have become. We can look back with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight and avoid some of LJ's mistakes, and we can make the site that we want. LJ used to be my home. Now it's just a site that I use. I'm hopeful that DW can turn into my new home.
It will be a site for the users, by the users. It will be run by Our People. It will be open source, open expression, and open operations. It will be and is a labour of love. Hanging around with all the other people who are busting their asses to make this real is showing me just how much of a labour of love this is going to be, from a lot of people.
To be topical, Dreamwidth is a lot like Obama. There's a lot of hope there, and everyone has high expectations, that it's never going to be able to meet entirely. In both cases, I don't care. Obama won't be a perfect president. Dreamwidth won't be a perfect website. Both of them have high potential for awesome though, and I'm not going to let the things that will inevitably go wrong sour my opinions.
The other thing I've heard is that Dreamwidth may fall flat on its face. A whole lot of startups do, and trying to create an Internet startup in the current financial climate is possibly crazy. Sure. It might fail. It'd take an idiot not to acknowledge that that was at least a possibility, but I'm optimistic. And really, there's only one thing that you can say with absolute certainty, and that's that it will fail if we don't even try. That's why I'm getting involved and volunteering. That's why I'm going to move over there once it's up and operational. I believe in it, and I'm going to do my damnedest to make sure I do my part to see that it doesn't fail.
(I'll also add that I'll be keeping my LJ account for the indefinite future. I know there will be a bunch of people who can't or won't switch over, and I don't want to lose touch. After all, the whole endeavour is, ultimately, about people. They're what's important now and what will continue to be important throughout.)