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azurelunatic: The Space Needle by night. Slightly dubious photography. (Default)
Background: So there's a current up-in-arms regarding really skeevy crap on Twitter. It goes like this:

Someone (often female) says something that gets the attention of abusive asshats.
Abusive asshats (often male) say things on Twitter that are entirely possibly legally actionable.
Their target complains, usually to Twitter, with screenshots and links.
Support volume being what it has to be, it takes a while to get notice.
The abusive asshat cleans up their account in the interim.
Twitter comes back and says that Abusive Asshat's account is "not currently in violation" of Twitter's terms of service.
This is remarkably unhelpful to the person who's been the target of all this abuse.


I have never been a member of LiveJournal's Abuse Prevention team. I am not a member of Dreamwidth's Terms of Service team. (I am a Dreamwidth spamwhacker, which is a partner department.)

From my experience in conversing with various then-current and former members of LiveJournal's Abuse team, I can say quite firmly that accepting accuser-sourced screenshots of content that is against the Terms of Service of a website is not, and can never be, a form of evidence that can be solely admissable when enacting penalties against an offending account.

Why? Screenshots can be faked.

I am as certain as I can be without having been personally there and witnessed the whole thing go down that 99% of the women on Twitter reporting that jacked-up asshats are promising to enact various forms of appalling violence to them (most of it rapey) have legit complaints. I've seen enough of it happening to know that it's happening and not being exaggerated a large majority of the time. It's got to be against the rules.

But the jackholes in question are sometimes canny enough to make their violations disappear from their Twitter accounts before it gets taken official notice of, and then all Twitter has is the word of the complainant and the screenshot.

There's a technical solution for this, and it's not a "report abuse" button that can be gamed by someone with a huge following on their side.

The technical solution for this is a "preserve and report tweet" button that caches the offending tweet on Twitter's servers, and initiates the reporting process, where the complainant fills out the appropriate forms, making reference to the secured and admissible cached tweet.

After this, no matter if the offender cleans up his account, there is still a record that he said this thing, assuming someone initiated the reporting process. Furthermore, the complainant could be given a Twitter case number to give to law enforcement, and law enforcement could then request testimony from Twitter that the offending tweet was made, in case it's something deserving of criminal or civil charges. The cached copy would remain accessible to Twitter's speaker-to-cops department even after Twitter suspended the account for violations.
azurelunatic: "#dw (yes, we can)" and a clenched fist (#dw)
(this is long.)


[09:51] <[personal profile] ursamajor> it helps that we have others around here who have been marinating in this stuff for years if not decades to help supplement
[09:52] <[personal profile] ursamajor> but it takes awhile to *get* to that deep understanding, and there's a whole bunch of intermediate understandings to go through in between.

[09:52] <[personal profile] ursamajor> plus it's often easier to communicate to a layman's understanding while you're not too far past layman yourself :)
[09:53] <[personal profile] shadowspar> believe me, when you feel like you have a good grip, on, say, perl, there's nothing like going to a conference with all the Lords Of The Perl Planet to make you feel like a dumbass again.
[09:53] <[staff profile] denise> yeah, i never know what i know until i try to teach it
[09:53] <[personal profile] shadowspar> I speak from personal experience.
[09:53] <[staff profile] denise> (or to brainstorm something with it)

[09:53] <[staff profile] denise> like, i keep startling myself because i make what i think are stupid suggestions to mark and he says "hey, that'd work!"
Read more... )
azurelunatic: (Queer as a) $3 bill in pink/purple/blue rainbow.  (queer as a three dollar bill)
So a number of authors, some I've never heard of, and some I love dearly, were invited to an anthology, "Wicked Pretty Things". Then Jessica Verday announced that the editor had asked her to change a male/male romance in her story to a male/female romance, and was withdrawing from the anthology because that is just not okay.

[personal profile] cleolinda has been keeping track of some of the fallout. Seanan McGuire withdrew.

Please allow me to digress a bit.

It was 1995. I was engaged. We were fifteen and fourteen. We'd met at a summer academic camp; I'd been taking a writing class. We lived some few thousand miles apart: Pennsylvania and Alaska. Around Christmas, I bought matching, interlocking silver rings, and sent one off in the mail with a promise and a proposition -- a proposal: if we still feel this way after we're done with high school, after we're done with college, why don't we get married? The ring I got back didn't quite cross in the mail with the one I sent out, but it was pretty close. We'd been making the same plans. We were officially engaged.

In the ensuing year, I met a local guy in my theatre class. Longtime readers of this journal will know him as Shawn. (That Idiot Shawn, to be precise.) I fell head-over-heels for him. I'd already tackled the polyamory concept at camp, though I didn't realize that there was a word for it until [livejournal.com profile] boojum sent me an email telling me that there was such a thing and here were some starting points for research. So I was polyamorous. So I was engaged, and I was also in love with this local guy, and while it wasn't exactly okay -- I was in denial about the love for the local guy, I let him know I was off the market on account of being engaged, I knew that I was wired polyamorously but the only permissable Other Significant Other in this case would have been [livejournal.com profile] pyrogenic -- it was not something that challenged my identity. I was able to trace the ethical stack that made polyamory, and accepting it where all parties were in agreement, the thing to do, back to preschool. Montessori school. Raffi. "The More We Get Together", "The Sharing Song". I should share my toys. I should share my treats. I should share my books. I should share my friends. So why shouldn't people share boyfriends or girlfriends?

It was a long-distance high school romance. The odds were already stacked against it. I fell harder for Shawn. Shawn started behaving dangerously, scarily, and I went right along with him as if I'd never heard that such thing as a lie could exist. I was a mess, jumping when the phone rang and crying at night, and dragging people into the mess with me.

Eventually (too soon, not soon enough) I realized that my engagement was dead, mostly on account of me being mixed up with Shawn.

1996. Summer vacation. Not even a year from when we'd first met. I felt horrible. I was still in love -- but I loved Shawn more, and it wasn't right to not set my partner free. It was a morning. Tuesday, I think. I was alone in the house, listening to the radio. It was the expensive time of day to call, $0.37 a minute. I'd already racked up a horrendous phone bill with all of the Shawn-related problems. This couldn't wait, and it wouldn't take long.

As I picked up the phone to dial the number my fingers knew so well, a song came on the radio: Roxette, "It Must Have Been Love". It was indeed over now. I made the call. The conversation was short, and a painful relief for both of us. Less than a minute ended the future we'd been imagining for ourselves. I'd already cried myself out. There were no tears, not until much later.

1997. Fairbanks Summer Fine Arts Camp. This year I was enrolled as a writing student, not a visual arts student. It was my first experience of a formal peer critique group outside the halfhearted attempts in my English class, and I craved the feedback of my peers, the more incisive the better. My ego wasn't bound up in the words I'd already produced, but in the determination that with enough people telling me what I got right and what I got wrong, I could write a heartbreaking work of staggering genius. I wrote fearlessly, edited relentlessly, and put out twice as many words as any other member of the class.

It was time for me to lay my soul bare before the rest of the class. I wrote the story of that sickening minute of breakup, simply entitled "$0.37". It was my turn to read. I started. I paused.

"... he ...", I said, and edited myself on the fly as I read aloud.

It was still my story, but it wasn't true anymore. I was erasing my identity as I spoke, afraid that my class would turn against me as my friend Sara, the one from the big Mormon family, had. I was polyamorous. I was bisexual. I was slamming the closet door shut and crying inside it. I felt horrible. My reading fell flat. I was still acting, as I'd been trained to do in those theatre classes, but it was no longer in service of making the audience feel their way through my breakup, but in service of me not crying in front of them, not betraying the edit. The praise from my classmates didn't make me feel any better. My ex-fiancée wasn't named Eric, and she wasn't a boy.

I confessed my crime to the teacher, afterward, in private. She comforted me, and said that she'd suspected when I read it. She told me it was more powerful the way it belonged, and I should not be ashamed of having written it.

1997. Winter. I had a new, local, girlfriend. One fine evening, her father invited a co-worker of his to a family dinner. When he found out that the co-worker had a son close to his daughter's age, the son was invited too. And since both of them knew me, why didn't Azzie come too? So I came. And ... it was me, my girlfriend, and Shawn. Awkward!

Eventually, we three teenagers retreated to her room, letting the grown-ups talk shop. It was quiet in there. Dark. Perfect for sharing the sorts of secrets you can't repeat in the light. You could have cut the sexual tension with a knife. We were on the verge of an enthusiastic bisexual polyamorous snogging session -- my fingers were skating up her leg, Shawn's hand tracing patterns on her arm, Shawn's other hand holding me by the shoulder, completing the triangle -- when her little brother barged in and entirely ruined the mood. It was hot and hilarious and deserved to be written down for posterity. So I did. And then an English teacher asked the class if maybe any of us had any essays or anything that we'd written that we might like to share with the class.

I started reading. This essay started slow, with all the hilarious mishaps of dinner, and my class was giggling and eating out of the palm of my hand. Things started to get hot and heavy, even though I'd only written about how we were sitting on her bed and looking at the stars. The class was totally in the moment, listening to me. I had that flash of awareness you sometimes get when you're performing -- I'm telling this story, I have this power, they are totally engaged, I am making them feel what I felt in this moment, all the anticipation, the sexual potential, the love -- if I finished reading this, the class would be all the way with me, they would know exactly how I felt, and they would probably agree with me.

I chickened out. "And-then-her-little-brother-barged-in-and-ruined-the-mood, the end," I babbled, and slammed the green notebook shut. It was truthful, but it wasn't true. (I lost that green notebook. I have hoped to find it for many years now. I wonder what became of it.)

Before I got engaged, I told my mother I was bisexual. She tried to argue me out of giving up on boys, because she knew boys my age could be trolls. That wasn't the point. If I'd been giving up on boys, I would have said I was a lesbian. She told me to keep it quiet, because people would try to hurt me if they knew, and it could hurt my father's career. I tried asking my friend Sara, daughter of the colleague of my father's who I later suspected Mama was talking about, what she thought of two girls dating, or two boys. She said it was disgusting. I stopped talking to her. She never knew why. I told my fourth grade teacher, the one who I told all about my love life and its complications even years after elementary school, that a girl friend of mine had a crush on me. "Eewww!" she said. I stopped confiding in her.

My fiancée and I looked desperately for signs that we weren't alone in the world. Michael Stipe refusing to label his sexuality was amazingly inspirational to us. There were other hints of respected adults who weren't straight, and it was a lifeline to us. Ginger gave me Dykes to Watch Out For clippings. We existed, no matter how hard other people tried to pretend we didn't. I ignored the chilling implications of "was bisexual: now he's monogamous" for the bisexual part. Aral Vorkosigan was attracted to soldiers, on a planet where heterosexuality was the only acceptable path. He was out there. I just had to survive long enough to see a world where I could live as myself freely and without fear.

Editing my stories as I did was an act of self-erasure: sometimes necessary to survive, but not okay, never okay, merely the lesser of two evils. Pretending that the world only contains straight people is not okay. Teaching your children that the world only contains straight people is not okay. It is a denial of that-which-is, a denial of c'thia. Treating any mention of same-sex romance as inherently more sexually explicit than an equivalent action of an opposite-sex couple is not okay. Trying to pretend that the only possible ethical instance of human sexual behavior is for reproduction is not okay. Teaching your children that is not okay either.

I support Jessica Verday, and the authors who have withdrawn from this anthology, and the authors who are choosing to avoid this editor until such time as she realizes the full implications of what she asked Jessica to do, and makes a meaningful acknowledgment of this. I can hardly do otherwise.
azurelunatic: Operation 'This will most likely end badly' is a go. (end badly)
Apropos of [livejournal.com profile] horizonchaser's metaquoted gander adventures, which led me to Hyperbole and a Half's "Dinosaur", I was moved to give some sage advice to Allie. (Comments there are moderated, so it may be a while before it shows up.) I reproduce it here for your delectation:

Angry geese are immensely scary. Unless you have a hockey stick. In which case they're silly because they're attacking the hockey stick and oh man, do they go to to town. Unless there are more of them than you have hockey sticks, in which case they're scary again.

My parents kept geese. At first they were adorable and fuzzy and liked to hang out under Dad's beard and nibble his eyelashes. Then they got big and they were still cute, but a lot featherier. Then the goose started laying eggs, and the gander turned into an asshole.

Hockey sticks by the door became a fact of life. I learned a lot of techniques for dealing with angry ganders.

Anything can make a gander angry. If you walk past, he gets pissed off. If you mess with his woman. If you mess with his woman's eggs, you're dead, but he'll only attack you after his woman is done killing you. If the feed bucket displeases him. If the wind is blowing wrong.

I would say, avoid taunting the angry gander, but if a gander's already angry, anything you do short of vanishing on the spot will make him angrier. If you back off, it will make him mad that you don't stay and fight like a man. If you just stand there, he gets mad that you're taunting him. If you advance, he gets good and mad because it's time for a fight.

Ganders fight with their wings, not just their fearsome serrated bills. They hold you in place, grinding you with their beaks, and then they start kicking you with their wings, and attempting to rend you limb from limb, or at least tear your clothes off you.

Never fight a gander while naked. I cannot stress this enough.

If you slide your foot under a gander, then launch him off the top of your foot like you would in a really smooth soccer trick (not kicking, more throwing with your feet) it startles him, and you may have time to run for it before he flies forward and catches up with you.

A gander can't grinch you if his bill is held shut, but he will try and flap. He can't flap at you if you're holding his wings down. He will, always, be able to shit on you. There is a reason they say "loose as a goose", and this is not because geese are adept at yoga. (Some of them might be. They're very good at a particular one-footed posture.)

Our gander took a liking to Mama, and tried to follow her everywhere. Including into her pottery shop. He had to stay outside, where he proceeded to shit all over the porch, and also to chew the temperature indicator off the little pottery kiln. So Mama had to call the manufacturer and order another one -- not the dial, but the metal piece that goes behind the dial and says where 'off', 'low', 'high', and 'incinerate everything' is. They laughed.
azurelunatic: The Space Needle by night. Slightly dubious photography. (Default)
Why I think Dreamwidth is a special Free/Libre Open Source Software Development Environment, and what I think is important about being a Dreamwidth contributor, by Azz, aged 29 3/4

Dreamwidth is a social media platform with attention to diversity and accessibility.

Right, that's the soulless corporate drone version. Let me relate the history as I know it.

Basically, a couple people said, "You know, we're just waiting for you to start up your own blogging site." Dreamwidth's owners looked at each other and said "You know, we could do this." They did this not because the blogging end of social media was where the money was, but because they blog, their friends blog, and they wanted to see social blogging done not just reasonably well, but right.

Denise, the Suit, was previously a manager at LiveJournal.
Mark, the Geek, was previously doing things at Mozilla, LiveJournal, and Google.

Doing things right that other places did halfassed or wrong. )

A year on down the line, I can still point to the diversity statement and say: "This. The site I now use every day called for my contributions, and this is the first mark that I made." Every time I hear someone praising the diversity statement, especially when they mention the part I contributed, I feel the clean pride of a job well-done. I think "It may not be much, but it makes a difference to me, and to other people who use the site every day."

Dreamwidth found itself in a delicate position as a startup, breaking into a niche already dominated by LiveJournal, the original project from which Dreamwidth was forked. The owners knew that while there was a not insignificant audience in users who had been alienated by various of LiveJournal's practices, that this audience alone was not a sustainable userbase -- nor would people (them included) ultimately want to use a blogging site that set out to define itself as "Not LiveJournal". They could not compete directly in terms of volume, and so did not set out to capture the exact same audience or attempt to become LiveJournal's replacement. Instead, they determined that they would become the type of blogging site that they themselves most wanted to use, and incidentally fix all the nagging things they'd never had time to fix when they were working for LiveJournal.

And everybody pitched in. )

Accessibility as priority, not afterthought. )

From the top down, there is very little distinction drawn between "user" and "contributor". The project takes the approach that every user, no matter how technically inexperienced, is either already contributing or has the potential to become a contributor. Anyone can learn, and even some of the smallest things are considered contributions. )

Developers come to Dreamwidth from two sources: existing users of the site who are interested in taking their contributions to the next level, and existing developers who have heard about Dreamwidth from friends who are involved or general buzz in the FLOSS community.

Not all of the existing Dreamwidth users who enter Dreamwidth development were experienced developers at the time they began. )

Dreamwidth volunteer culture has significant differences from the general English-speaking technical community. Consider the sexism, racism, and more in the general culture. )

Because Dreamwidth is a social media site, people who develop for it, work on it, and volunteer for it also tend to spend recreational and social time on it, actually using the site as well as contributing. There is an ingrained reluctance to trust any would-be contributor who is not also willing to explore and use the site. If Dreamwidth development has any hazing rituals, it is this. A new developer has not really had the true Dreamwidth experience until they have run up against something in the site that drives them crazy when trying to use it, then turned around and filed a bug -- or found that someone else had already filed it -- or stomped over to Bugzilla and whipped out a patch to finally fix the damned thing.

But the true meaning of being a Dreamwidth contributor is being able to look at the site and say, "See that? I did that. This, here? That was me. I use this site, and I made it better for not just me, but everybody."
azurelunatic: Dreamwidth and LiveJournal logos, captioned "make love not war" (dw lj otp)
Disclosures: I volunteer for both LiveJournal and Dreamwidth; I keep my journal on both LiveJournal and Dreamwidth, largely mirrored, with occasional posts to InsaneJournal. I condense the ephemera of my impressions into generalizations; if I am lucky, I can remember where I was to have gotten that impression.

I think Dreamwidth has helped save LiveJournal.

No, really; I think that LiveJournal is in a much better place right now than it was six months ago. It may even be in a better place than it was a year ago. I'm feeling more general enthusiasm and hope than I was then, and most especially, I'm no longer experiencing the quickly-repressed desire to pack up my journal and flee into the night (with the exception of my Suggestions duties, as I wouldn't leave Carrie in the lurch like that, as my shoes would be hard to fill).

I haven't been paying steady or close attention to [livejournal.com profile] news comments for a while, not since the level of animosity against SUP, LiveJournal in general, and some actual personal friends reached full shriek. I had better things to do, like kiss a facehugger. I have checked back intermittently, and I have noticed a change in the last two months. It seems to me that the people who had been speaking out with the most anger and betrayal about LiveJournal's decisions have finished migrating off the service.

I just didn't see that same level of pain and outrage the last time I looked. Annoyance? Oh, yes, plenty. A la carte userpics were promised, but there hasn't been much of an update on the progress there. "My Guests"? Oh, yes, that's getting the classic debate, where people who will opt out and never use it complain about its very existence, and people wonder who would use it and why it was even implemented (it's a frequent request in [livejournal.com profile] suggestions, for the record). But the anguish has dramatically lowered.

The launch of Dreamwidth has played a role in that drop-off in a way that no other alternate journal service has. I did not see the same level of drop-off in user anguish with the large migrations to GreatestJournal and InsaneJournal -- indeed, if anything, there was just an additional element to some of the complaints.

GreatestJournal, InsaneJournal, Dreamwidth, ease of migration, backups, Open Source, antagonistic users vs customer service, and my observations. )

And no longer embattled with the same factions of the userbase, LiveJournal responds, with further attention to detail in new feature rollouts, and a high level of responsiveness to beta feedback. LiveJournal is changing. LiveJournal is up and running and starting to actively develop instead of just treading water. I can taste the way the development team is providing output as a fully operational team once more when I look at [livejournal.com profile] lj_releases. Stuff from [livejournal.com profile] suggestions is bubbling through. Releases seem to be happening more smoothly. Promising new volunteers are starting to pop back in. Code patches shuffle back and forth, today Dreamwidth picking up a new feature from LiveJournal, tomorrow LiveJournal snagging a bug fix from Dreamwidth.

The project rolls on, and the userbases of all LiveJournal-based sites are the more secure for having more talent devoted to the project, and another viable option.

Cross-site chatter: Dreamwidth, LiveJournal
azurelunatic: Animated purple vibrator on blue background.  (Divine Oscillations)
This starts out, somewhat predictably, with a bet. My cousin sent me an instant message one fine afternoon.
[12:53] Azz's Cousin: So... I lost a bet.
[12:53] Azz: oh?
[12:53] Azz's Cousin: do you know anything about casting edible molds?
[12:54] Azz: ... my mind just went a very bad place from that. Please tell me that the end result of the loss of this bet is not a chocolate penis.

I was hoping. Alas:
[12:55] Azz's Cousin: How did you guess?
[12:55] Azz: but for edible molds silicone is a common substance
[12:55] Azz: ... oh dear
[12:55] Azz: well, my mind automatically went to the worst place I could reasonably think of.

Since it is useless to fight against the inevitable, I considered my token protest to have been made, and climbed aboard the WTF train. A proper Saga ensued, with pictures. )

(Share with discretion. I don't really need my dad in this if he doesn't read DW.)

[update 6/23: a double-ended one.
Image. )
azurelunatic: The Space Needle by night. Slightly dubious photography. (Default)
So. LiveJournal. Dreamwidth. One of the things that's been striking me, looking around, is how some people are saying that LiveJournal and Dreamwidth are essentially the same, and other people are talking about how different they are. And from an essential functional perspective, they're both social media blogging/aggregation services going in different forks off the same original codebase, and share some of the same main features. Down in the details, though, if you're someone who cares about details and cares about them passionately, there are differences. Which service will suit you? Will both suit you? Will you ultimately just want to grab a copy of someone's working install code and run off to your own server? Only time will tell.

A list of things (largely technical features) that are being done differently (note: there are many things on that list that aren't covered in my run-down; go check it out if you haven't already.)

Similarity: LiveJournal and Dreamwidth are both social media blogging services, having the ability to publish both single-user and communal blogs, with exceedingly granular security features on each entry, a fairly powerful aggregator, with some social networking features.

Difference: LiveJournal was originally conceived and developed by a hobbyist in a dorm room. Dreamwidth was conceived and developed by owners who had experience with running a social media site.

Difference: LiveJournal has a large company owning it, based out of Russia, although LJ's local stuff is handled by the US-based LJ Inc. Dreamwidth is owned by two individuals, and is run out of Maryland.

Similarity: Much of the technical support for both sites is crowdsourced, and any user on either site is welcome to provide technical support for other users.

Difference: LiveJournal's technical support uses a very formal style, which can be seen positively as professional, or negatively as robotic. Dreamwidth's technical support uses a more natural style, which can be seen positively as human and accessible, or negatively as too casual.

Difference: LiveJournal's Frequently Asked Questions style has a level of formality similar to the support writing style, and FAQ entries are lengthy, containing a large amount of information about each feature, collected into one place. Dreamwidth's Frequently Asked Questions style is more casual, and FAQ entries are shorter, with a larger number of different entries on similar subjects. (Dreamwidth's FAQ is also still under heavy construction, while LiveJournal's FAQs are largely completed, but are updated periodically.)

Difference: LiveJournal is funded both by paid accounts purchased by users and by funds from advertisers. Dreamwidth is funded by paid accounts purchased by users.

Difference: LiveJournal's permanent accounts have extra features above and beyond what users making recurring payments may purchase. Dreamwidth's "seed" accounts have the same features as Premium Paid accounts.

Similarity: Any sale of a one-time payment account that is good for the life of the service trades the possibility that the owner of the account would continue to pay past the depreciation point of the one-time payment for the certainty of cash in hand now.

Difference: LiveJournal does not discount the possibility that there will be another permanent account sale in the future. Barring unforeseen circumstances, Dreamwidth explicitly plans that there will be no more seed account sales in the future.

Difference: LiveJournal's architecture encourages a unwritten social contract that to read meant to allow informational intimacy, and vice versa, even though there were existing methods to avoid this. Dreamwidth's architecture breaks this link, and it is yet to be seen what social norms will evolve around the reading/access model.

Similarity: Both LiveJournal and Dreamwidth are open-source software projects, to greater or lesser degrees.

Difference: LiveJournal's code is difficult to install and use out of the box, and several important functions are missing from the Open Source portions of the site. Dreamwidth's software is not yet all the way in the box, but is intended to be usable with only the Open Source bits.

Difference: LiveJournal is running production code, with the occasional small exception when it allows its Support volunteers to beta-test and find the inevitable errors in new code before releasing it into production. Dreamwidth is running beta code for all users, who are finding the inevitable errors in the new code.

Similarity: Both LiveJournal and Dreamwidth are for-profit businesses.

Similarity: Both LiveJournal and Dreamwidth are aimed at a general audience, LiveJournal implicitly by not using exclusive language, and Dreamwidth explicitly, by using inclusive language.

Difference: LiveJournal chooses, when such is brought to its attention, to impose further restrictions beyond those required by law upon the content on its servers, in part for keeping the 'www' subdomain at least at R-rated or under, ideally not over PG-14. Dreamwidth's policies deprecate restrictions other than those required by local law and sanity in the name of keeping things spam-free.

Difference: LiveJournal has operated under several different owners in its online tenure. Dreamwidth's ownership has not changed in its brief lifespan so far.

Difference: LiveJournal is a well-established service with history and reputation, and has managed to stay in existence now just over ten years. Dreamwidth is still in (open) beta testing, has only a few months of actual, active, non-hypothetical existence, and has only the reputation of its various and sundry members, supporters, and detractors.

Difference: LiveJournal has an official mascot, Frank the Goat, which is either pretty cool, or actually kind of cheesy, depending on your perspective (and how much you like chèvre). Dreamwidth has no official mascot, although there is some userbase support of sheep and paper bags; this is either refreshing or a bit disappointing depending on how much you like sheep (and paper bags).

Difference: LiveJournal, starting from the ground up, had to invent many of the tools it then used, without the luxury of being able to wait to design it properly. This led to much innovation, and also a certain number of shambling horrors of the deep. Dreamwidth inherited a certain number of shambling horrors of the deep, which it has been merrily ripping out and replacing, having the advantage of hindsight.

Complete Unknown: Your friends may be on Livejournal, on Dreamwidth, or both. They may be cross-posting, posting one place and directing comments onto the other, posting different things both places, or not posting anything at all.

There are more. There are always more. But that's a bit of what I've seen so far.
azurelunatic: "#dw (yes, we can)" and a clenched fist (#dw)
[19:09] zvi: rahaeli: are you going to have any open to casual driters through support, or is it all going to be cult^h^h^h^h trained support members?
[19:10] zvi: s/driters/drifters
[19:10] rahaeli: yeah, pretty sure we'll do anyone-can-answer
[19:10] rahaeli: well
[19:10] rahaeli: anyone can submi a possible answer
[19:10] rahaeli: that will have to be reviewed/approved by someone experienced ,etc
[19:10] * zvi nods
[19:10] rahaeli: and there'll be a support guide with the support answering guidelines and blah blah
[19:11] rahaeli: if i close my eyes and wish really hard, maybe somone will deliver a fullyfunctional support system staffed by knowledgeable, experienced, professional, and eager people
Read more... )
azurelunatic: (Queer as a) $3 bill in pink/purple/blue rainbow.  (queer as a three dollar bill)

The following is an informal summary of the ruling.

Dude. Even though this state has a large number of bigoted twits who want to keep the gays out of your marriage, it's still fucking unconstitutional, and you can go shove beans up your nose. Let me compare you to people who wanted to keep slavery and segregation around, and keep women from voting.

If you want to discriminate against a group, your ducks has better be very well in a row, and we're going to go right on down and show you where your ducks just ain't.

Same-sex couples can't reproduce? Shove that up your nose. Same-sex couples are adult humans who want to get civilly hitched, and this is about getting hitched, not about getting knocked up.

You want to claim that this is about denying marriage to same-sex couples, not about discriminating against gays and lesbians? Shove that up your nose too. Who the fuck else is going to want to get a same-sex marriage?

Gays and lesbians get discriminated against, despite being productive members of society. You can shove your "ex-gay" therapy up your nose too, because anyone with more brains than a turnip can see that it hurts more than it helps. Despite it being fucking illegal to discriminate in some cases, guess what, it still happens.

Traditional marriage is traditional. If you can't think up a better argument than that circular one, you can bite me.

For the childrens! Um, while we see that you claim that a mother and a father are the best, but let's take a look at REALITY, where all kids DON'T HAVE THIS.

How about no. Deadbeat parents, child molesters, and murderers can still get hitched. Let's think critically about this for a moment. If we don't deny marriage to these people, why again are we denying it to a group that's, see above, productive members of society?

Same-sex couples are still RAISING kids, without being married. Um. So you want to deny the benefit of having MARRIED parents to these kids, while claiming that all kids should have married parents? Bite me.

Lots of same-sex couples don't have kids. Opposite-sex couples who don't have kids can get married. Bite me.

Exactly how is same-sex couples getting married going to stop opposite-sex couples from getting themselves knocked up?!

Exactly how is same-sex couples getting married going to make opposite-sex couples stop getting married or raise the opposite-sex divorce rate?!

It would save the government money if less people got married. Very much so. But why stop at excluding the queers when you could also exclude religions you don't like or races you don't like? Bite me.

"The sanctity of religious marriage is threatened! Our world is crumbling around us!" ...uh, have you read the marriage law? Your religion can define "marriage" all it wants to. This law is about civil marriage. Bite me.

In conclusion: denying same-sex marriage to gays and lesbians is discriminatory, wrong, and above all, unconstitutional. Get hitched, guys and gals. And those opposed? Bite me.
azurelunatic: Watermark of LJ logo, captioned: I accidentally my whole friends list (accidentally)
When you have a weird icon show up all of a sudden replacing one of your own, take heart. You haven't been hacked, and you're not actually hallucinating.

LiveJournal has taken to using a Content Delivery Network (CDN for short) to serve its userpics. This means that instead of all 197 of some permanent user's userpics being served from LJ's servers in Montana, no matter where you are in the world, the CDN will try and have them on a server that is geographically much closer to you. This means that the master copy of your userpic is stored with LJ, but you are actually viewing a copy on the CDN's server.

This ... can lead to a bit of a situation, because now people have started to get served incorrect userpics from time to time due to the CDN's local copy being bad. It's worse than just a completely wrong userpic -- since it's only on one CDN server, your best friend halfway across the continent is looking at a different server, sees the correct userpic, and thinks you're on crack. There is a treatment, but the cause (why the CDN grabs the wrong picture, why it chooses the wrong picture that it grabs, whose stuff is broken, and exactly what piece of programming or equipment is broken) is, as far as I know, unknown at this time.

As seen in metaquotes, and as I explained there:

There's growing support for a mob with baseball bats and/or code machetes fixing the userpics problem. On the one hand, it's good to have the userpics served from someone else's more geographically convenient servers. On the other hand, if they're going to store the wrong userpics for a certain segment of the viewing audience...

Basic rundown of what happens, for those who aren't familiar with the problem:

LiveJournal: 197 userpics is a lot! Ow, my bandwidth!
Content Delivery Network: We can help with that!
LiveJournal: Great! *sets stuff up*
Content Delivery Network: *retrieves original userpics from userpic-origin.livejournal.com* *copies to p-userpic.livejournal.com* Have your userpics, people!
User: Dude, that is not my userpic.
User's friend: What do you mean? That's the same userpic you've had for three years.
User: I'm telling you, mine is supposed to be the O RLY owl, and I've got Goatse!!!
User's friend: Believe me, it's the owl. I would have noticed Goatse.
User's neighbor: WTF, man. Your goatse userpic just showed up on that post when I was showing it to my MOM.
User: SEE!!! *screencaps* *goes to support*
Support: Oh god. Another one. *gets link to userpic* *bothers staff*
Staff: *whacks content delivery network a few times until it drops the goatse userpic and gets the O RLY owl from userpic-origin.livejournal.com again*
Support: There! Fixed! (Until the next time, when My Little Pony gets replaced with naked Amanda Tapping!) *drinks heavily*

It's not necessary to include a screencap when reporting. We know it's happening. You don't have to prove it. Just grab a link to the affected icon, or include its keywords, and let Support know so that Staff can go run the pound-on-the-CDN-with-baseball-bats-again tool.
azurelunatic: "Welcome to the Internet. (Here's your free eyespork.)" Titanium spork.  (eyespork)
(The "you" and "me" here are not actually you and me.)

When you meet me on the internet, you are not entitled to know the legal identity that my local government recognizes me as. You get to see the screen name I am using to interact with you. If I choose to, I may have listed a face-to-face name I answer to. The name I share with you is the one I would like you to address me by. You do not win magic points by knowing the name that was on my birth certificate, or my current legal name. To pick a public and well-known example, insisting upon calling someone "William" when they have repeatedly stated that the name they answer to is "Ferrett" is really a dick move.

You can call someone anything you want to in the privacy of your own head, but when you are speaking to them, or speaking of them in a public forum, it is only basic courtesy to address them by their preferred name. If you address them by a name you know they do not like, you have failed basic politeness and should go back to kindergarten. If you act like a dick to me, you are not entitled to be treated like you are not being a dick.

You are not entitled to know whether I am someone you have met face-to-face. )
azurelunatic: Watermark of LJ logo, captioned: I accidentally my whole friends list (accidentally)
Hi! So you've decided to check out LiveJournal, or LJ for short. You may already have a journal; you may not. If you're looking for a quick resource to do a bunch of common tasks on LJ, check out the Quick Answers section of the LiveJournal Frequently Asked Questions section. If you are unable to find the information you need in the FAQ, or if you have further questions, contact the Support team for assistance. Your fellow users are often a valuable resource as well. As one of your fellow users, I've put together some information about the basic stuff you'll probably want to do, and links to the FAQs and various site pages to learn more about the topic and how to do it.

Creating A Journal
Creating a journal allows you to leave comments on the entries from some journals that do not allow anonymous commenting, join communities, add users as "friends", be added as a "friend" by other users, read entries of others on your "friends page", read certain privacy-restricted entries from other users that allow you to do so, as well as post entries of your own.

If you haven't already created a new journal, you are likely to want to create one after hanging around the site for a while. You can certainly use lots of parts of LiveJournal without having an account, but it's helpful to have one even if you aren't planning on sharing the personal details of your life with the world. This FAQ covers the account creation process in brief. You start out from the Create New Journal page and follow the step-by-step instructions. You will need to have a 15-character or shorter username in mind. This is the username that your fellow users will see. You will also need a valid email address. When possible, use an email address that you will have control of forever, since the email address used to set up the account is important, and the first email address used cannot be removed from the account at this time. You will need to enter your birth date due to US law, although this will not be displayed to other users unless you choose to allow it. It is not necessary to pay to use LiveJournal, although you may do so if you wish. All newly created accounts are by default "Plus" (ad-supported), but can be switched to Basic (displaying ads to logged-out visitors only) or upgraded at any time.

Using Your Own Journal
There are limitless ways to use your account. Use. Privacy and Security concerns. Interacting with others. Technical issues. Click here to read more! )
azurelunatic: cameo-like portrait of <user name="azurelunatic"> in short blue hair.  (_support)
Being a few words of advice to anyone stepping in to a LiveJournal management position.

I have used LiveJournal for over seven years now. I signed up in May 2001. I use LiveJournal as a journal, as a communications service, as entertainment, and much more. I have dedicated countless hours to not only using the service, but also helping make it better.

It is a nightmare to think of LiveJournal in the hands of people who drive it into the ground in a misguided effort to make it succeed. It is easy to make management assumptions that are completely rational given a generic online service, but are entirely the wrong thing for LiveJournal due to its culture and history. This document covers not business management, but user management, as LiveJournal's users are an idiosyncratic group with strong opinions, a history, and disparate factions with different goals and different uses for the service. The unifying wish of all groups of users is for LiveJournal to succeed, still be around into the far future, and to remain a fun and free-thinking place, in the spirit of the way it was under the watch of [livejournal.com profile] bradfitz.

To manage LiveJournal properly, you must be:
  • familiar with the service yourself
  • invested in nurturing and maintaining the current user experience as well as developing in exciting new directions
  • willing to engage with the userbase as people who hold a stake in LiveJournal's development and future, not just content providers or visitors
    (There will be members of the service whose input is misdirected, or who do not have the background to give useful advice, however, this is not the document for covering those issues.)
  • aware of the history that your users will be aware of, even if not in the same detail
  • able to realize that there is no one true way to use LiveJournal

Do not underestimate the amount of time and energy that people put into LiveJournal. There are people who barely use it. There are people who use it a reasonable amount and have no more attachment to it than they have to any other company providing a needed service: SRP for power, Cox for internet, Gmail for mail, LJ for blogging. The real strength of LiveJournal, however, is that the most active users have formed an emotional attachment to the community above and beyond their need for the service that LiveJournal provides to them.

[livejournal.com profile] news posts. If your passionate users are happy and dedicated, this may not show up directly, but accounts will continue to sell, people will express their devotion and love for LJ, and send cookies. Real, tasty ones.


Every staff member joining the LiveJournal family can be issued a permanent account. You are automatically given the first-class experience, whether or not you have any interest in taking full advantage of it. At the time of this writing, Permanent Accounts will soon be going on sale for $175 (USD). I recommend you make use of this, even just to play around every now and then and see what can and cannot be done. Every user won't expect you to automatically know everything about everything, but employees are generally expected to have demonstrated that they know something about something.

Possession and frequent use of an off-LJ blog may gain you more credibility with the rest of the blogosphere, but will not count for particularly much with LiveJournal users. If you want the attention of the average LJ user, you will need to update your journal at least once (even if it is only a notification that the journal does not provide public content if you're using it locked down, or a test post, or something saying that there's not likely to be much here, check there), upload a userpic or two, and use it to comment as appropriate. No one's really going to expect the juicy details of your private life, but the odd professional or silly linkblog entry wouldn't go amiss.

Syndicated feeds can help if you'd like to use any offsite blog to gain you credibility on LJ. To do this, mirror or syndicate it to LJ, and make sure that it is listed in connection with your Official Work journal, ideally explicitly stated in your profile as well as listed as your website. (People's listed website may fall under LJ-specific banner blindness and just plain not get seen. There's also a very real unwillingness to leave the site for some people when exploring around LJ. You don't have to understand why, just realize that it exists.)

Familiarity with the day to day actions of using the site will give you a better appreciation for what your users are doing on a daily basis. You may soon come to form your own opinions about how the site should work technically, if there are aspects of it that you love and would like to see more of, or that you really cannot stand. Share these thoughts with the appropriate people in development. These are the things that your users are going through, except you're in a position to say "Please, sir, may I have another?" and "Stop the pain!"

While it is not mandatory that you do so, I also highly recommend creating a journal that remains Basic or Plus, and can be switched back and forth, to get a picture of the site experience for someone who does not have the advantage of a paid or better account. While people using free accounts of either type may not be contributing directly to the revenue of the site, this does not mean that they have not paid in the past or will not pay in the future. Furthermore, free users who actively participate by posting and commenting, or by recommending LJ-hosted content elsewhere, contribute to the site user experience and draw traffic who in turn participate and bring revenue.

Exploration around LiveJournal above and beyond the official communities will give you a sampling of what people are really here for. There are many different and splendid things that LiveJournal has to offer, and you will get a chance to see what keeps people here. Looking at comments to official communities to try to get a picture of the site as a whole is about as accurate as attempting to suss out the culture of the United States from visiting a political rally. (Sometimes it's more like visiting the kind of demonstration where the police break out the riot hoses.) It's neither an accurate nor a fair picture.

Go add a comic feed or two, go check out a community that caters to your interests, go read a few journal entries that are heavily linked, help contribute to dragging down the cluster upon which [livejournal.com profile] ohnotheydidnt resides (and then get out while you still have your sanity if you don't like celebrity gossip). Find a journal at random. Find someone whose writing you absolutely love. Find someone whose journal is *not* full of quizzes. Find someone whose style makes your eyes bleed. Find someone whose style you want to steal. Find someone whose content appalls you. Interest-surf. Play profile-surfing where you start out from a random journal and see if you can get back to places you recognize by only clicking on links to the profiles of other users. (Using one of the default communities is cheating.) Cruise by [livejournal.com profile] the_lj_herald. Find a cat macro you like in [livejournal.com profile] news comments. Cruise through http://www.livejournal.com/support/help.bml and poke around in the journals you find in http://www.livejournal.com/support/highscores.bml.

Use of the site will cultivate the users' familiarity with you as well. Unlike many other online services, where the administrative team is essentially faceless and interchangeable, LiveJournal users became accustomed to looking to [livejournal.com profile] bradfitz as not only the founder of the site, but as a real live human being who was actively engaged in doing work on and for the site.

It behooves you to be very careful with your interactions with users if you will be interacting outside of an official context. Anything you say while under the login name of your official employee journal will be taken as gospel, and a promise, unless you are very careful to draw a line between what is an official statement and what is a statement of opinion. Any user-facing position can quickly become an exercise in politics. A few people of note have encountered problems with off-the-cuff statements being taken wildly out of context and drawing fire. You may wish to consider using that second journal to interact unofficially, to better draw a line between your official presence and your presence while off-duty. Brad maintains both [livejournal.com profile] bradfitz, the journal he used for official functions, and his first journal, [livejournal.com profile] brad.

A Question of Character

[livejournal.com profile] bradfitz founded LiveJournal, managed LiveJournal, and was LiveJournal until he handed it over. Brad had his faults, as everyone was quick to point out during his ownership and administration, but there was rarely difficulty in empathizing to at least some degree with the guy whose small project blew up enterprise-size.

There are other colorful and well-known personalities in LJ's history, although there is not necessarily any correlation between internal and external fame. Anyone who says something sufficiently notorious in public can get a reputation. Someone who is well-known and well-loved inside the company may be a complete unknown to the general public. Someone who has fallen from grace internally can still enjoy a soaring reputation with the userbase. However, anyone who does any degree of interaction with users in any kind of official role will develop a reputation.

Over the years, blame has fallen upon the head of the messenger, so that making an unpopular [livejournal.com profile] news post reflected poorly on the person who posted it, no matter who actually made the decision. While I am not privy to any of the discussions behind the scenes, I seriously suspect that there were some good cop/bad cop games being played with [livejournal.com profile] bradfitz and [livejournal.com profile] rahaeli's reputations. The recent creation of [livejournal.com profile] theljstaff to post in [livejournal.com profile] news and official communities eliminates blame being pinned on any one person for a [livejournal.com profile] news post that goes over like a lead balloon, but also removes some of the personal element from LJ management. The inability to associate a particular manager with a decision leads to a certain feeling of insecurity in the userbase due to the loss of transparency. The feeling of personal interaction is an advantage in the age of large and faceless corporations, but does have to be carefully maintained by actual interaction. The shift away from personal involvement has lately been mitigated somewhat by [livejournal.com profile] tupshin's dynamic presence in the development team, and [livejournal.com profile] marta's role in user interaction, among others.


It's necessary to be conversant with the history of LiveJournal's users versus its administration if you are going to be administrating the site. It's not as complex as, say, walking into the Middle East and expecting to make peace between the embattled warring factions there, because you're dealing with generations of ingrained distrust and hatred. However, it's not going to be as simple as deciding to make a fresh start. The collective memory of LiveJournal users is incredibly long. You'll be making a relatively fresh start with new users who are not aware of the site's history, and users who are aware that there is a new administration in town and have decided to give the new administration the benefit of the doubt. However, other users either may not be aware that this is new administration, may simply not care, or may be swept along in the current momentum of the opinions of their friends who are already established users.

Users who have been around since the early days (or have been through enough time to have a rosy view of the past) hold [livejournal.com profile] bradfitz in high (if highly questioned) esteem. However, the more things change, the more they stay the same. The same issues are being raised in [livejournal.com profile] news comments currently as they were six years ago, forever and ever amen.

The userbase has a remarkable talent for analysis and communication. This shows up especially in issues where they feel that proper attention has not been paid to an issue, or that they were wronged, or that they have been lied to. Unfortunately, this talent for analysis is not always correct, and is better for sniffing out the slightest hint of bullshit or snowjob than it is for clearing up controversy. No matter how thoroughly you saturate the site with official communities and links to them, the user gossip mechanism will always work faster, and bad and mistaken news travels faster than good news or the real story. Site rumors start off in the direction of conspiracy theory, and get bizarre fast.

Sometimes this means users will hear of an issue, and never hear how the issue was addressed or if it was resolved. This is exacerbated by a history of issues going un-addressed, and either un-resolved or resolved in a way that did not make the gossip rounds. This means that people will sometimes cherish a grudge over the lack of resolution of an issue that was resolved ten releases ago. Ideally, any problem that crops up should be addressed immediately upon it cropping up, and resolved as soon as practical, rather than waiting to be addressed once there is a resolution.

LiveJournal issues and users do not operate in business time, when decisions can take days, weeks, months, to come to a consensus and get signed off. LiveJournal operates in internet time, where a split-second can make the difference between an awesome comeback and a lame one, and two hours is more than enough time for any business to have noticed that something is wrong and put up a quick message saying that they're on it. Overnight is enough time for the story to get picked up by five tabloids, including Slashdot, the Valley Wag, and el Reg. An entire weekend, or an entire holiday weekend, is simply beyond the pale. If this is important to a user, how much more important should it be to an employee? Days and weeks of edits will save a foot in the mouth, but at the expense of catching issues while they are still relatively small.

A geek aphorism is to "Fix early; fix often," and I cannot recommend that strongly enough.

Major Controversial Events
  • The sale of LiveJournal to Six Apart

  • Ad-supported (Sponsored / Plus) Accounts, and the removal and subsequent re-animation of Basic accounts

  • Assorted notable incidents involving the Abuse Prevention Team

  • Assorted notable technical changes

  • Strikethrough

  • The sale of LiveJournal to SUP

  • The Advisory Board

Wikipedia has a Timeline of significant LiveJournal events; I'm not planning to cover all of them, however, the ones I do cover should provide a basic grounding, and many of the smaller events fit in the general categories of APT/administrative decisions and technical changes.

Almost any change whatsoever to the site or administration will cause a certain amount of dissatisfaction amongst the people who want it to stay the same. Some cause more dissatisfaction than most. While presentation of any change is key, even a well-presented change can fall badly flat if it comes too soon on the heels of a previous catastrophe, or fails to address the issues brought up in the previous catastrophe first. Even if there is no resolution, addressing the fact that there are still unresolved issues from a previous catastrophe demonstrates that the issues are not being ignored. You are dealing with a userbase full of people who will share incredibly intimate personal details with the general public on a website. These are not people who take kindly to feeling as if they've been ignored.

The sale of LiveJournal to Six Apart

As much as Brad made us sometimes want to bap him strongly with a clue-by-four, he was still our Brad, better-known and better-loved than MySpace's ubiquitous Tom. The news that LJ was being sold to another, already established, company, with little to no notice, was the cause of considerable alarm. While users have been inclined to trust Brad, or at least trust Brad to be Brad, Six Apart was treated as dangerous interlopers from the start.

Non-acceptance of Six Apart staff may have been in part because the people working day-to-day on LJ were not as well-known on LJ. The invading Six Apart personnel were not particularly seen to create a strong LiveJournal presence for themselves, preferring instead their established blogs offsite, using their existing products.

There was also no guarantee that Six Apart would keep the same practices and promises that Brad had, although it has always been the general expectation that any administration ought to follow through on the promises of the previous administration, even if they probably will not. The reception by the userbase was uneasy, although possibly accepted best by those people who loaded the [livejournal.com profile] news announcement in the few minutes where Brad had the ill-considered commentary that this was a financially necessary move.

Where Brad's changes could be interpreted in the best light by people feeling a personal loyalty to Brad, people did not collect the same feeling of personal connection to Six Apart. Even as the LiveJournal staff reassured the userbase that there was no "us" and "them" after working together, just "we", the userbase was not reassured, and still perceived a difference in ideas between what they thought of as original LiveJournal staff, and the new, conquering, Six Apart staff. The perceived origin attributed to the features was based on function -- features with a high bell/whistle/web 2.0 content were seen as coming from Six Apart, while low-impact improvements to existing features and any long-requested features were seen as inherently LiveJournal -- static, uncontroversial, practical.

Ad-supported (Sponsored / Plus) Accounts, and the removal and subsequent re-animation of Basic accounts

Ads were one of the first things predicted by the doomsayers when Brad sold LiveJournal to Six Apart. These people were immediately vindicated, albeit bitterly. Brad had formerly promised that there would be no ads on LJ, ever. The userbase took this as a strong promise when it was made, and immediately became concerned that this was going to lead to a lot of other changes that Brad would not have approved of. At this point, Permanent and Paid users were never supposed to see ads, and Basic and logged-out users would only see them on the journal spaces of Sponsored/Plus users.

Gradually, more and more ads crept in, in more places, shown to more people, just as predicted by those who were claiming that the presence of any ads at all was a slippery slope. Ads are a deep and abiding source of resentment for many users, even those who have accepted that it is financially necessary.

However, there was still the ability to create a Basic (ad-free) account. Then some genius decided that it was necessary to get rid of Basic (no-ads) accounts. This went over really badly. Really, really, really, really, horribly badly.

Jason Shellen honestly did not see what the problem with this was. After all, it was not impacting the experience of existing Basic users, and any account created before the cutoff date could switch to Basic. He did not reckon on the propensity of users to create new accounts (for projects, to commemorate events, in lieu of purchasing a rename, to better separate disparate parts of a complex life, and so much more), nor the principle of the thing.

Look, when the original owner of the site loathes ads with all his being, and the userbase generally agrees with him, and then ad-supported accounts are instituted because it's financially necessary, and the userbase loathes it, taking away ad-free accounts is going to be a really bad decision from a public relations standpoint. This would be enough to get even a pretty rational userbase angry. Had it been presented as a question of "Would you prefer ads, or no ads at all ... on no journals?" a rational userbase would have to admit that the priority is keeping the lights on in the data center. Had it been presented in this fashion, the userbase would have likely presented a wealth of alternative fund-raising ideas, and perhaps even embraced ads.

However, this was presented in a way that still leaves me boggling. I understand LJ pretty well, I think, perhaps too well, in ways a manager might never manage. So I decided to get an outside opinion. I have this best friend. He avoids LJ as completely as possible. I described the ad-related history in under a minute, and asked him how he would present the decision to disable the creation of no-ad journals to the userbase. "In a concrete bunker?" he guessed. Wise man. (Smartass, too.)

"Let's try spun as an improvement to the account signup process," I said. "Streamlining it, because it was too confusing, making fewer options."

Neither my friend nor I were able to find a reaction to the announcement that was not profane in some fashion. A sadder but wiser Jason Shellen left within two weeks of the resulting hail of quite justified negative feedback.

The ability to create Basic accounts was later restored, albeit with an ad presence for logged-out visitors viewing all Basic accounts, instead of their prior completely ad-free status, but the original decision and the manner of its presentation have not been forgotten.

Assorted notable incidents involving the Abuse Prevention Team, including the nipple/breastfeeding incident

Every time the Abuse Prevention Team makes a controversial decision, carries out a controversial decision made by people further up the management chain, or riles up a particularly touchy or well-connected user or group of users, cat macros fly. The issue is remembered by people who are directly affected as well as those indirectly affected, provided it's an issue close enough to their heart. This issue will return in the comments of [livejournal.com profile] news posts in the future, either until it is resolved to the satisfaction of those users, or even after, so it is not forgotten.

In some cases, the Abuse Prevention Team has appeared to be working independently of the administrative team, without their backing. This causes paranoia and woefulness in the userbase and most likely in the team as well. A (perceived or real) team of vigilantes with the power to suspend is not good for any site. An internal perception of not having the backing of the administration would assuredly cause morale problems in the team. While from my perspective as a volunteer it is certain that they have oversight that is not apparent to the casual user, the casual user does not have this reassurance. In other cases, fractions of the userbase have perceived or feared that site administrative changes, such as changes in ad sponsorship, could cause site administration to wield the Abuse Prevention Team at targets that do not appeal to an ad sponsor, against precedent and possibly against internally documented Abuse Prevention Team policy.

The Abuse Prevention Team is largely not trusted by the userbase, as they are the executioners, even if they are not the executive, legislature, judge, or jury. They must be seen to act consistently at all times, however, this is complicated by the requirement of privacy for all parties involved in an Abuse incident, by all situations being different, by people misunderstanding or incompletely understanding LiveJournal's Terms of Service, by people who have violated LiveJournal's Terms of Service misrepresenting the situation when complaining in public, and possibly even by policy changes that are not publicly documented. There are obvious problems with making the workings of the Abuse Prevention Team more public.

It is vital to maintain open and helpful communication between the Abuse Prevention Team and the administrative team, as the Abuse Prevention Team has valuable insight on the actual views and reactions of the userbase, and it would surely be a bad idea for the Abuse Prevention Team and the administrative team to be unaware of what the other is doing. (As I am not a member of either, I have precious few concrete examples of times this did not happen and Bad Things resulted. Please consult your local Head of Abuse if you would like more information on the ways this can go badly wrong.)

There is very little public buzz about the positive actions of the Abuse Prevention Team. Even actions such as the Abuse Prevention Team attempting to track down and contact the local emergency services of users who are reported as likely to be in immediate physical danger (attempted suicide, voice posts interrupted by violence, sudden illness) for welfare checks is either very little known, or seen in the worst possible light (how dare a web service attempt to interfere with someone's personal choice to kill themselves, and/or send emergency services needlessly), despite the Emergency Contact Info First Post meme.

If it is ever necessary for the Abuse Prevention Team to go against any policy or precedent that has been established for them, either in the Terms of Service, in the interpretation of the Terms of Service, or in any other way, someone must be accountable for that change. Not just privately accountable. If an action was dictated by management, there had god-damn-better be a public statement by that part of management that the actions of the Abuse Prevention Team were dictated by them, and for good and necessary reasons. If it would not be wise for that member of management to take ownership of that action, then that action had better be reconsidered.

Assorted notable technical changes involving inadequate notice and insufficient opt-out options

No matter how absolutely awesome a particular change is, you are guaranteed that someone is going to really, really loathe it. No matter how awesome and bulletproof the entire team of developers thinks something is, both ordinary users and people interested in exploiting it will get more creative. There is also a significantly vocal faction of users who would really prefer that any and all bells and whistles never be allowed to cause any ruckus on their end of LiveJournal, and would like not just an opt-out from each and every new bell and whistle, but a permanent opt-out for all bells and whistles, ever. Yet other users have grand desires for bells and whistles on such a vast or risky scale that, just as bagpipes are inevitably shared with one's neighbors, the effects of these bells and whistles might be too far-reaching to implement safely.

Any change must both be technically feasible, and in line with the gestalt of LiveJournal so that it would not put a crimp in the style of any common use. (Remember, everyone uses their LJ differently.) Here are some general classes of changes, and some of the issues that will arise from them.

  • User Interface Changes

    Any change to how users view the www.livejournal.com/ areas of the site will be controversial. Period. Even if it's the greatest thing since pre-buttered cheesy toast, someone is going to be allergic to wheat, dairy products, and on a low-sodium diet. Take this as a given for all changes. The existing developers and user-interaction specialists will have practices in place for being able to tell what an acceptable tradeoff is.

    Any time a new site scheme is put out, this is going to be notable. Any time an old site scheme is retired, this is going to be especially notable. Include a link to the master override site scheme changer any time when announcing the retirement of a scheme, so the people who love it won't hate you forever.

  • User Profile Changes

    These are a fun grey area, because they have historically been considered part of the www.livejournal.com/ area, although they are in fact under the user's subdomain. This means that users have more of a feeling of ownership over the profile than other, non-subdomain areas.

  • Journal Display

    Anything that affects the way a personal journal displays for the owner had better be carefully thought through. People get really attached to their journal styles, and spend many hours getting things just exactly right. The esteemed [livejournal.com profile] rahaeli joined Support to learn more about styles. If a change knocks some alignment a millimeter out of place, people will be upset.

    While styles may come and go, anything that messes with a user's actual journal entry is cause for outrage. The Snap.com graphical previews were an example of this -- messy javascript was being inserted into the text of a journal entry when the user did not put it there. To people who are sensitive about tampering with their entries, this was equivalent to having a "friend" scribble on them with permanent marker at best, and having the "friend" give them an unwanted tattoo on a very public part of the body at worst. Any proposed change that involves altering the display of the content of a journal entry (markup too, not just words) should be treated with caution. Any change that proposes to do so by default, to the journal owner, in a way that does not have a strong opt-out option, should be greeted with a warm and friendly trout across the face.

  • User-Initiated Display Changes to Others' Journals and Entries

    Some people are really attached to the idea of their content appearing in the exact format that they have written it in, and can get grumpy if someone else alters the display of it, even if it's for that person's own reading convenience. The idea that other people could flag a journal entry as containing adult content and the adult content status of that entry could then be changed by someone who was not them is anathema to these people, and not especially comfortable to others.

    Some people should not experience, do not like to experience, have difficulty reading, or physically or technically cannot handle some of the gawdawful things that people do to their journal styles and entries. These people need things like ?style=mine, ?format=light, content screening, login-based preferences over cookie-based preferences, and strong, persistent but reversible control of what is displayed to them. A subset of this faction still actively loathes the navigation bar, as it is clearly control-content, rather than user-content, but can be forced upon them by someone who wants to display it to all visitors to their journal.

    These two factions will always be at war, however, it is possible for someone to be in both camps on different issues, and in the case of preference over accessibility, accessibility should always win.

  • Easy Subscription vs. Stalking

    Any time any event, no matter how public, is converted into something that can be tracked with an LJ-side subscription, people will get upset about how it is a tool for stalkers. Have fun with that.

    Practically speaking, many things should come with the ability to make events private or protected, even if it would be really awesome to subscribe to for socially-networking-minded users. Privacy-concerned users are more worried about anonymous people or non-friends subscribing to events than their friends subscribing to events, in general.

    Particularly privacy-minded people freak out if people are seen to be watching something, even if it is private or otherwise locked, although this is one of the things that may have no actual solution other than vigorous user education. Unfortunately, LJ-side security events such as anything that displays a secured entry to someone who was not meant to see it gives credence to these fears.

  • Journal Owner Access to Visitor Data

    This is the other side of the privacy coin. Any tool giving journal owners more information about their visitors is going to raise an uproar among people who would prefer to not have their non-commenting surfing in arbitrary journals detected by the journal owner, for reasons both good and bad. Some of these people are aware that a server admin would have access to this sort of data. Some of these people are not yet that aware of how websites work, and think that one can actually be truly anonymous on the internet.

  • New and Inventive Means of Inter-User Communication

    Any means of inter-user communication brings with it the ability to be abused by trolls and other forms of lowlife such as spammers. The lower the barrier to communication, the more likely it will be used for spamming; however, no barrier, no matter how high, should be considered troll-safe, because there are some pretty determined trolls out there, and the people who have a devoted following of trolls will be sure to think of the ways that any given feature could be abused. (If they fail to think of it, the trolls will, and then the targets will report it in the hopes that LJ will fix it.)

    Any means of user communication should have an off-switch for the recipient. Any means of user communication should respect a ban. Any means of user communication that can, should respect the basic security settings of LJ, at a minimum private (none), friends-only, and registered users only (non-anonymous). Ideally, it would also include custom friends groups.

    Any means of user communication that allows a user who has been banned from a given journal to contact that user should be considered a security hole.

  • Any feature that has been previously seen on MySpace or Facebook

    No matter how awesome a feature actually is, if LJ does not have it and MySpace or Facebook had it first, someone will complain that the management or developers are attempting to turn LiveJournal into one of the above. In general, any feature that is primarily intended for social networking should also be able to be deactivated or ignored by someone who is not on LJ to collect the whole set of the people who they may have once punched in kindergarten.

  • Ad-Related Changes

    Any change that is primarily to benefit an advertiser or other source of external (not user-paid) revenue is going to create an uproar amongst the users that it inconveniences, especially if it is billed as a user improvement. Any change that is primarily to benefit a partner, even if it is not a partner who generates revenue, will be treated the same. See: Snap.com.

    A site that had ads from the get-go would not face this kind of issue. As LJ was created ad-free, any change in the direction of favoring advertisers over users will be met with open hostility. Don't look at me for sympathy either.

  • Administrative control of user content

    Content flagging. Interests censorship. (To a lesser degree, controls on content of default userpics, although this is a pure administrative issue, not technical.) Any time a new tool is created to allow administrative control or censorship of any user-generated content, there is a strong reaction from people who are perfectly willing to self-police, but resent any form of control imposed on them from an administration that they do not trust or particularly like.

  • Ass-Covering for Prior User Relations Fail

    If you're ever tempted to make a technical change to remove access or make data less available as the result of a dumb move you made that was called out using some of LJ's features ... don't. Censored interests and boldthrough, both of which have since been removed, are shining examples, although the shine from those can be better likened to the gloss measurement of polished turds. Please see your local damage control experts, and hope that they take mercy upon your soul. Generally, effective damage control to a technical crowd will involve owning up that you made a mistake, and detailing what is being done to a) fix it, and b) make sure it doesn't happen like that again. This may be counter-intuitive to catlike marketing instincts that insist that no, really, you meant to do that, but as much as geeks and LiveJournal in general love cats, they like their cats as is cats, not as is managers.

    Run any proposed technical changes at all that are planned for the near future of a user relations fail past an expert in userbase reaction. No matter if it was something that has been planned for three years, if it is released in close connection to user relations fail, it will be seen as connected and a reaction on the part of LJ to that failure. You may not want to connect these two things in the eyes of the userbase. If it is necessary to roll this out right then regardless of the connection, consult an expert in userbase reaction anyway, in addition to whatever spin doctor you're about to consult.

The current technical team has learned the hard way that no changes should be made right before people will become unavailable, and that fixes should be applied early and often. Some marvelous technical creations have come from fixing the problems inherent in LJ, and it's exciting to the developers to find these fixes, and it's exciting to technically-inclined users to see so much of the nuts and bolts of what makes the site work.


Any service that allows user interaction will inevitably gather its share of creeps. This is a given. The creeps on any given service will start out at people that no one really cares to be around (but who aren't really doing anything wrong) and go all the way up to people who are genuinely doing things in real life that are so vile and loathsome that they have no business on any internet service, ever. It is the job of the abuse prevention department of any service to separate the people who are unpopular but doing nothing wrong from the people engaged in wrongdoing upon the service.

The LiveJournal event known as "Strikethrough" is the result of a massive, clustered, and cascading failure to accurately tell the difference between unpopularity and actual wrongdoing. (This is also referred to as "Boldthrough", after technical changes were made to attempt to dampen the hysteria. That was a bad move that did not work.) [livejournal.com profile] barakb25 featured prominently in the chain of fail, although he appears to have spun his news appearances to lay the blame at the feet of anyone but himself, despite having been advised in exhaustive detail at many points, but not choosing to take the advice that would have stopped the clustered failure from failing further.

There are a couple LiveJournal-specific things that you are going to have to understand before you even try to wrap your head around Strikethrough and the attendant festivities.

First, the interests list. While it may originally have been intended to represent things people like, and the suggested format is that things for the interests list fit in the sentence "I like ___", the presence of something on someone's interests list does not automatically mean "I like ___." Rather, in context of any given journal, it means closer to "I like discussing and/or reading discussions of ____", or even, "I would like to be found by other people searching for ____ in LiveJournal's interests system."

Unfortunately, there was a disconnect in management's understanding of the feature and actual users' use of the feature. This was compounded by ignoring the advice of those who knew better.

Second, not all journals represent actual human beings. Perhaps the majority of journals are of human beings. However, some journals are complete public works of fiction, with LJ as a medium. Some of these works of fiction are kind enough to state publicly in their journal that they are, in fact, not real, and directions for how one can reach the author (or player, in case of an LJ-based role-playing game). Journals representing fictional human beings who are very vile human beings do not write under the same kind of restraint that an actual human being would write as. This includes their interests. Most real people who like beating people up are smart enough to not go online and state in a public and indexed forum, "I like to beat people up."

Third, LJ has become home to an online community of predominantly women who have open and frank discussions that involve unabashed sexuality. It is an online "safe space" that, regardless of its internal politics, is a widespread community drawn together by a common love for the creative arts and a wholesomely hedonistic wish to share resources in a common pool for the private pleasure of each, and defended vigorously against outsiders. In the relatively anonymous environment of LJ, women can safely explore fictional scenarios that they find scorching-hot, without fearing real-life retribution or exploitation for their exploration of their sexuality. Women who might feel uncomfortable visiting a sex shop or renting an adult movie (one that might not be suited to their tastes, anyway) participate in public and cheerful exchanges of customized porn that is in its own way as hyperspecialized and practiced as the adult film industry. Unlike the adult film industry, there is no budget, no actors, just a lot of people writing, drawing, painting, and then sharing. This is a gift economy where "bake you cookies and write you porn" is a standard gesture of comfort for someone who is going through a tough patch in their offline lives.

The community is largely fan-based, and highly networked, adapting to the LJ environment by creating communities, creating separate journals devoted to their life as it affects the community (as opposed to their regular online life or offline life), linking communities together by affiliations posted in the profile, linking together by specialized interest keywords, and integrating off-LJ elements for things that LJ is just not built to handle.

Some of the vast quantity of porn that is produced runs into some areas that would be exceptionally sketchy if someone wanted this in real life. This, however, is a non-issue for any member of the community who can successfully separate fantasy from reality. Prior to Strikethrough, no one thought twice about including any of the specialized keywords related to their happy erotica community interests into their searchable LJ interests, because everyone who would be searching for other users interested in that same keyword would be part of the community. Any member of the community would take as a given all the assumptions that the community held when viewing the interest keywords. Right? Right?

Fourth, Abuse had historically not done several things that were done during Strikethrough. First, to preserve LJ's common carrier status, Abuse did not seek out content that was potentially violating the Terms of Service. Second, upon receiving a report of violating content, before making any suspension, Abuse would carefully review the matter, and dismiss the report if there was no violation found. However, even prior to this point, Abuse was feared and mistrusted by the userbase in general.

Prior to the mass suspensions, there had been rumors floating around the fan community that there was going to be a crackdown based on interests. People who were paranoid or merely cautious heeded the warnings, removed interests from their profile, locked down their journals, and passed on the warnings.

The fact that the Abuse Prevention Team was forced to suspend journals found through a search rather than an individual report with evidence condemning each journal, was forced to suspend solely on the strength of items entered into the interests area, and was not given the opportunity to individually review those journals for evidence of wrongdoing above and beyond listing a sketchy interest, was a violation of the already-shaky trust that the userbase had for the Abuse Prevention Team.

It was also a profound and knowing betrayal by the management who ordered this action: against the people who had directly advised that this not happen and cited the reasons that it should not, against any member of the Abuse Prevention Team who was forced to enact suspensions against all precedent and their better judgment, and against the entire userbase.

After the suspensions started hitting, the entire fan community of LJ got into a panic state comparable to the panic state created by a massive, unplanned, persisting outage of LJ. Unlike an outage, LJ was up and running, so rumors could spread faster. Also unlike an outage, there was no authoritative source of information or comfort (such as the Status page). By the time any official statement was made, fears were running rampant that this was the beginning of a new era of censorship and control of LJ by external special interests, and any misstep, no matter how slight, could lead to the irrevocable destruction of what was in some cases years of creative work and hundreds of socially networked contacts.

After Strikethrough, some nameless genius decided that the best way to treat suspended or deleted users was not to show their usernames struck through, but still as a clickable link, but as a bolded, but not linked username. This made it more difficult to access the profile of a user that had been deactivated to tell whether they had deleted themselves, or whether they had been suspended. This led to more paranoia and hard feelings.

There were "only a few" journals suspended as a result of this action. However, it is not fair to say that they were the only people who were affected, as the suspended journals had friends, and people who had no reason to be suspended were nonetheless fearing that they, too, would be suspended. This set an alarming precedent. If some special interest could put pressure on the administration to remove journals that had an interest in content that was fictional, and legal, although edgy, what if another special interest put pressure on the administration over other legal but edgy content? We had thought that something like this could never happen, but then it had. That meant it could happen again.

The community [livejournal.com profile] fandom_counts has at the time of this writing 34966 members. It was created on May 30th, 2007 to attempt to provide a rollcall and count of the people who self-identify as fans. By June 3rd, 2007, it had a membership of 32,000. There are people who are not part of the community who identify as fans, and I am among them. Not all of the members of this community would have been affected by Strikethrough, but this provides a better sense of scale than the numbers of the suspended only. The reinstatement of struck-through but clickable deleted/suspended usernames after SUP's advent was welcomed, but in no way mitigated the effects of the event.

The exact chain of decisions leading to Strikethrough is still not widely or at all known, so there is little to no faith among many affected users that it will not happen again someday. The direct result of this is a large shift in activity from LiveJournal to other venues. Some people have moved entirely. Some who have mostly moved to other venues remain active on LiveJournal, sometimes getting involved in current issues. You would be hard-pressed to find people more angry than those who feel that they were persecuted and forced from the community.

I did not believe the rumors prior to Strikethrough, since they were so obviously hysterical and stupid, since they went against all precedent and sanity. I believed, with the insight that I had gained from volunteering, that there was no way that the Abuse Team that I knew and trusted could possibly do something so profoundly stupid and punitive. I knew that there were members of the fan community on the Abuse Team. I knew that all the team members that I personally knew were good and thoughtful people, and would not take ill-considered action. I have never doubted or hated my friends, but I will never forget or forgive the betrayal that led to the actions they were forced into.

The sale of LiveJournal to SUP

LiveJournal's sale to SUP came at a point in time when the current Six Apart-headed directorship had made enough blunders to permanently alienate a significant chunk of users, but after the departure of the key player in the Strikethrough imbroglio.

SUP had already gained notoriety among Russian users who wished to opt out of SUP services.

Reception was very mixed. On the one hand, this was a Russian company that might or might not do worse to LJ, and it looked like Six Apart was ditching LJ like a redheaded stepchild. On the other hand, some of the same daily operations staff would be staying, which could provide either stability, or continuity of bad decisions, or both. On the gripping hand, this was a company that was not Six Apart, who were largely blamed for most of the random crazy and unpopular decisions. Some people had already been lost, but some people who had been on the verge of leaving stuck around to see what would happen. Some people who really did not like SUP may have had this as their final straw.

The Advisory Board

So LJ created an Advisory Board to be seen listening to in the absence of the previous administration's appearance of doing anything that resembled listening, and promptly managed to not consult it when making drastic changes, and ignore the advice that was received, not even acknowledging that the Advisory Board brought up issues X and Y, but LJ did N anyway because of Z. Then there were the elections, which quickly turned into a trollfest as hotly contested as the 2004 US elections on LJ, in a close race between a known instigator with a large trollish following, a member of the Abuse Prevention Team, and a very competent regular user as a favored third. The elected board member received death threats from a party or parties unknown. And then, after all the hype, while there was a community ready and waiting for the representative to set up office, the issue was frozen for externally and perhaps internally unknown reasons, leading pretty much everyone to conclude that it was all an over-hyped scam to make the userbase think that LJ was listening, and causing the elected representative to have to lock down completely and not show her userpic in public lest she be jumped upon and accosted for not fulfilling her duties.

No One True Way

People use their LiveJournals in all sorts of bizarre and brilliant different ways. There are, I have been assured, internal studies on how people do the stuff they do with their LJ. It can be a completely private journal, a personal publishing platform, an interaction hub between you and your admiring fans, a salon with a hundred different unrelated conversations between an array of people, a closed meeting place for just a handful of friends, an open letter to the world, an update point for far-flung associates, a work of fiction, an experimental art project, a comic, even an adventure game.

But the point is, the way that you use your LJ is not the way that everyone uses it, and using that assumption in making business decisions and decisions about what the userbase will and will not put up with is doomed to be wrong. Keep tabs on how people actually are using LJ, and make sanity checks with the people who are in touch with the userbase to see what any change will fuck up.

On Bullshit

Please don't attempt to lie to, bullshit, snowjob, or blatantly spin LiveJournal users. People have done this with varying degrees of success, but in general it does not tend to go well, and rats get smelled out fast. If the primary purpose of a feature is fundraising, with some bells and whistles to make it desirable, call it like it is. If something is a development or financial issue, sure, put a good face on it, but if people are going to take it badly, acknowledge that, don't try to ignore that and pretend like everyone is going to be happy.

Brad's habit of blunt and developer-flavored speech was familiar and direct, and the contrast between that and smooth marketing speech was taken ... poorly. Brad provided competent technical sense. LiveJournal desperately needed people more inclined to business. However, the userbase is still not comfortable dealing with the results of cold hard financial calculating without knowing why things that are Not Fun are happening.

Virtual gifts were taken particularly poorly upon their introduction. They fill approximately the same niche as US-based schools selling flowers and candy to be delivered on Valentine's Day -- a fundraiser for whatever group is selling them, you could get pretty much the same things on your own cheaper, but people choose to buy them because it's a status symbol to be seen to get them and it helps support the good cause in question, namely the school. They were oversold at a particularly cranky time.

The removal of Basic accounts was a major, if not the major, spin incident. This did not go well at all.

Each instance of blatant spin that does not at least take dominant userbase feelings into consideration is marked down and noted by the people keeping track of these things, and future announcements are trusted that much less.

Technical Transparency, Whimsy, and General Geekery

Geeks are a tremendously whimsical lot, and require a certain sense of play in order to stay happy. LiveJournal appeals to the geek crowd not because it offers the amount of control that the average geek needs. In fact, it's far less flexible in some ways than other blogging tools to be installed on your own server. However, LiveJournal is open source, was developed communally, maintains an active suggestions community to take input from the peanut gallery, maintains an active feedback line monitored by real people, and has things like Frank the Goat, the named clusters, the 404 pages, and a thousand little touches around the site that say that this place was not set up prefab by some place that doesn't want to let people see inside, it was built from the ground up by real live geeks, and is maintained by real live geeks, and you are given enough basic information about how things work that you too could hop on board and help keep LJ running. The support board has always been volunteer-powered. People have been hired from volunteer positions. There's a very real sense that you can get involved and make a difference. People who aren't quite technically inclined enough to run their own blogging installation, or don't care to go to the trouble, or who prefer a larger community over more control, are happy here.

People who aren't technical at all come to care about the little touches. Someone who had mail with Yahoo does not care what cluster their emails are stored on, so long as they can get to them without delay. People on LJ started out wanting to know what cluster they were on when LJ was having growing pains, but came to love (or loathe) their whimsically-named clusters, even people who didn't really care what a cluster was, but did care that they were on Cartman. (People got upset at the switch from a South Park naming scheme to a meat-based naming scheme, even though nothing about that switch would affect the technical operation of the site. Go figure.)

The more technical and fun details that can be made available to the general userbase without compromising any security, or revealing any internal business information, the better. Granted, this is not going to be front-page breaking news if there is now a blood/sausage cluster, but it is the sort of thing that will make people smile when it's included in a news post as a fun fact to round out an announcement.

We want to be for the users, by the users. LJ users want to know that we're being managed not by a bunch of suits who are going to take away our playground and make things Not Fun Anymore, but by people dig what we're doing here because they are users themselves, and will do their best to keep glass bottles out of the sand and unbroken, drinks in the cooler where they belong, and are not averse to kicking back, enjoying a Cold One, and watching the kids run around and scream and throw sand at each other and play.

Trust Your Experts.

When in doubt, review [livejournal.com profile] rahaeli's Painful Lessons I Have Learned About LJ. Read it. Love it. Learn it. Live it.
([livejournal.com profile] tupshin should have a copy. Poke him.)

Us and Them

When you are tempted to throw it all in a ditch because you are being bombarded with cat macros left and right, your fellow employees are possibly not talking to you, your volunteers are screaming, and you are going to need the company to either pay for the blood pressure medication you did not need prior to this position, or the vodka you are drinking to help cope with said high blood pressure, it is time to take a step back. You may think now that the day will never come when it is this bad, but the day may well come, and on that day, it may be cold comfort to know it, but any job that involves relating to the userbase in general is a high-stress job that can be quite frakking thankless, and even when you are doing your very best, sometimes it does not seem like enough.

It's very easy to wind up in an embattled us vs. them mindset when the stress goes up. If you possibly can, see if you can take some time for yourself. If you can't get that, or even if you do, seek out someone else who has been through the same kind of firestorm and let them know how you're taking it. They may be taking it pretty hard too, but they will probably have a few words of wisdom, and at times like those, one hangs together rather than hanging apart.

Care and Feeding of your Volunteers

LiveJournal's technical support and several other departments are handled through some employees managing a network of volunteers. There are quite a few trusted and seasoned volunteers, and new volunteers, and come-and-go volunteers, and people who have volunteered in the past, can't make room in their lives to do so now, but still stick around. You can meet them on IRC if you'd like. This is also the hot place to be when anything interesting is going down on LJ. There are several main channels, and random back-channels get created based on current need.

Volunteer culture has its own slang and history.

In any issue where site management conflicts with the majority views of the userbase on an issue, the volunteer team is likely to be caught square in the middle. The volunteer team, given that they interact so closely with the userbase as a whole, is also likely to have a feel for what reactions might result from any given change, and what other things might be affected.

Us and Them Redux

It is tempting to look at the employees and long-term trusted volunteers, look at the userbase, look at the history of conflict, and huddle up with a small circle of like-minded people and wonder how it is that so many people can be so very wrongheaded to have gotten on the wrong side of whatever major controversy is going on. That kind of viewpoint can save your sanity if you're in a tight and embattled spot, but it will not have good results in the long term.

By all means, pick out your allies and the people you work with best, but never stop listening to the userbase. Turn off comment notifications when making controversial posts in official communities, by all means. Skim over anything with a font size more than one point larger than default, and anything with a cat macro. Get a minion or someone not as emotionally invested to sum it up for you. Take the time you need to work on something that doesn't require interaction.

But don't stop listening.

Blast scathing commentary in a secure back-channel, don't let them see that they hit a nerve, and figure out what nerve of theirs this hit, and how to not hit that one in the future. Figure out the genuine business need behind the technically appalling implementation request for what someone fondly believes to be a shiny new feature. Ask why. Ask what could be done better. Apologize when something got done wrong. Apologize at least that someone was hurt and upset, even if you can't apologize for the decision that led to them being hurt.

Listen to industry experts. Listen to your co-workers. Listen to your volunteers. Listen to your users. Listen to people who never have used your service and never will. And don't stop listening.

Imported from http://azurelunatic.livejournal.com/6177092.html
azurelunatic: Oblong coin with image of building, inscription 'IEEE 20 cents'.  (ieee coin)
So, Twitter. It's been around for a while, but there are evidently enough people curious about it, and specifically how it works with LJ, that I ought to hold forth upon it.

Twitter is a stand-alone microblogging service -- you don't have to have an LJ to use it. You make teeeeenytiny posts to it. You can do this from their website, from text message, or from a dizzying variety of clients. Twitter was not originally intended to be fed into LJ, but people are just crazy like that, so naturally things evolved.

In common use, stuff gets posted to Twitter that one might never consider making a full LJ post about -- location of the moment, weather, fleeting moods, passing thoughts, and daily trivia. [livejournal.com profile] museumfreak sums it up quite accurately:
The original function of LJ was to answer the question "What are you doing today?" Twitter answers the question "What are you doing right now?" The former is of course the integrand of the latter. I post these to LJ because I want to archive them better and I want my LJ friends to know what's going on with me even when I don't have time/energy to post.

I find that since starting to use Twitter, I post much of the same content to Twitter that I would ordinarily save up for a link soup post, and the same not-topic-focused thoughts-of-the-moment that I would usually unload irrelevantly to whatever IRC channel I happen to be in. It's not often important enough for its own post, but put it all together and you have a post. However, since I am a feedback junkie, I want to get these thoughts out there NOW to my people, not wait for enough content, or focus long enough, to have an actual LJ post. It's only after tumbling things around in my mind for a while that there's enough coherent to create a real post.

IRC is designed to support multiple channels on multiple focused topics, even though we stray from them and stray from them badly. Since a lot of the usual suspects on IRC are now also on Twitter, the general focus in the usual channel has improved, while conversation has dropped off somewhat. IRC will generate side-channels to support conversations that the general channel isn't interested in following, although when moving to a side-channel a lot of the conversational momentum gets lost in ensuring that everyone is on board.

IRC is for my topics. Twitter is for my people.

Granted, a lot of my people on Twitter are also my people from IRC, and I don't think that's a coincidence. In turn, IRC has pretty much replaced most of the single-person chatting I used to do (there are exceptions).

How To Use It (technically), and Stuff You Should Know

To get started, first you sign up for twitter here: http://twitter.com

Figure out whether you're going to want it to feed into LJ or not. If you are, find a service that will do that. One of the most popular is LoudTwitter: http://www.loudtwitter.com/ -- but you can also run a script on your own server if you prefer that, and have a server available.

You can choose to make your Twitter updates Twitter-friends-only, however, doing that generally interferes with your ability to post them to your LJ unless you're doing something really fun with your scripting.

If you don't mind a public Twitter, but your journal is friends-only, you can post stuff from Twitter friends-only; the easiest way that I know of to do that is by setting your minimum security, which you should do if you have a friends-only journal anyway.

Regardless of your settings, you then update from Twitter, and make sure that stuff is coming through when scheduled to (sometimes Twitter, or LoudTwitter, or both, are flaky).

People on your friendslist who also use Twitter will notice that you are now doing this, and either add you on Twitter (or not). Socially, some people may choose to not follow you on Twitter on the grounds that they will be reading it all on LJ anyway. On Twitter, it's called "following" rather than "friending". You can also block someone from following you, unlike LJ. Like LJ, however, public is still public.

The convention for Twitter usernames is to preface the username with the @ symbol. Twitter will autolink this for you. If you want to flag someone down on Twitter (comment to them), start a tweet with the @ symbol and their username. They will see it if they check their replies. (If you just put @whoever in the body of it, even if it is the second thing like there are 2 people, they won't necessarily get it, even though it autolinks. Them's the breaks. Other things that don't work: @ whoever, because they're not touching.) Some people also don't check their replies on Twitter, so it's not safe to assume that someone has actually seen a Twitter-reply. Some people choose not to watch the @somebodyelse updates in their Twitter stream, so don't assume someone has seen something if you've put it in a message to someone else, even if they're watching you and it's public (unless, you know, you know otherwise).

You can get the firehose of twitter-friendslist via text message, nothing via text message, or many settings in between.

Twitter allowed subscription to certain words. This isn't available via the web right now; I'm not sure if it's still available via SMS. Stuff has grown up around that, though, to allow somewhat of the same function via different routes. If you are making an announcement to the world on a topic, you can include the symbol # in front of the name of the topic to make it easily searchable. Optionally, add @hashtags as a friend. This was notably pioneered during a 2007 California fire, with tweets including the keyword #sandiegofire. The syntax is reminiscent of IRC channel definitions, but can be used anywhere in the tweet.

Some commentaries and utilities:
http://twitter.pbwiki.com/ -- huge wiki of Twitter-related stuff
http://a.wholelottanothing.org/2008/11/why-im-blocking-you-on-twitter.html -- good rules of thumb for dealing with spammers and the like
http://paulstamatiou.com/2007/01/26/stammy-script-rss-to-twitter-using-php -- syndicate stuff (from LJ) to a Twitter account. (Note: I do not recommend syndicating stuff from your LJ to your Twitter, and then importing your Twitter right back into your LJ, because the scripts will keep each other going until something dies, albeit on a daily basis and not realtime like an email loop.)
http://tweetscan.com/ -- search public Twitter and other microblogs
http://www.twittermail.com/ -- post by email (why?!)
http://twittervision.com/ -- view random recent tweets mapped
http://www.hashtags.org/ -- search opted-in twitter accounts (people following @hashtags) for topics marked with #topic
http://twemes.com -- hashtag search without opt-in
http://twitterless.com/ -- track twitter defriending
http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/17139 -- LJ Twitterless Greasemonkey script for stripping LoudTwitter posts from your friendspage
http://flourish.livejournal.com/253762.html -- excellent introduction
http://jott.com -- transcribe voice stuff and send it somewhere (like twitter. or LJ.)
http://ping.fm -- update multiple places at once
azurelunatic: University of Alaska Fairbanks's Elvey Building (UAF)
The hills are high and I am queen of the world on this rock. Dad points out the microwave installations and talks history. I listen to the wind singing in my ears and look across the river valley so wide I can't see the end of it all.

Dad reads us fairy tales at bedtime, all tucked up snug in thick blankets upstairs with the wood stove stoked with a few last slow logs for the night. Sometimes there is a princess, and usually her name is Marya. I thought that Sasha is a girl too, but Dad explains that was a boy's name. We fall asleep dreaming of magic as the house cools with the snow falling quietly outside.

Dad brings home a portable computer. It is so tiny. His computer at work is larger than a refrigerator with so many blinking lights and tape reels. This is only a little bigger than my little suitcase, even though I can't lift it. The bottom folds off and turns into a keyboard. It plays music when you put the right disk in it. I am enchanted. Dad uses it to compose bogus memos that he posts by the elevators at work, and comes home with tales of the stir he's caused this time, well-pleased with his cleverness at making everyone laugh and (usually) not getting caught.

It's well past bedtime when the phone rings and keeps ringing. Dad thuds downstairs to answer it as we all start awake. His voice booms upstairs to come down and come outside. We pull coats over our nightgowns and stuff our bare feet into boots and rush outside to watch the lights in the sky circle and dance. My nose gets cold, but we watch until the ripples fade out into blackness and stars.

Another night, Dad is the one to see the Northern Lights and make the call.

They called it "Seward's Folly", "Seward's Icebox", and only changed their tune after they found gold and then oil. We go over this every Seward's Day at school. He got a great deal when they bought us from Russia. Teacher tells us that they paid more in dollars for our school than they did for Alaska, even though money is worth less now and Alaska was really worth more. But it was still a good deal.

They're sending up rockets again, to get a better view of the Northern Lights. Dad's work stories are less office gossip and more rocket range. Dad stays late again. Mama puts leftovers away. When I wake up, I hear Dad downstairs making coffee. He's gone again before I come down for breakfast.

First it was the Berlin Wall come down, and my stolid 5th grade teacher traced over the line on the roll-down map with tears streaming down her face. Then pieces of Russia tore themselves away, and my 6th grade teacher sighed and talked about new maps. Even fragmented, you could still fit Alaska inside Russia whole and entire.

My sister plays violin with the group every Wednesday before lunch at the museum. I bring a book. Sometimes I steal away into the depths of the museum and look around at the displays. There's usually an aurora display, with the movie playing. I recognize the names in the credits from the stories Dad brings home from work. Mostly, I read as music fills the high echoing hall with its vaulted windows on the sky.

There are some new names coming home from work. Some of the old names have retired or moved. Some people will always be there, old friends and old thorns in Dad's side. Dad sends electronic mail back and forth with other scientists in the frozen North. The fast-talking fellow from Boston has gone to Svalbard for some weeks. The office stories are less entertaining in his absence.

Russia, Dad says. Mama gets upset. We kids go to bed early. Downstairs, he says once-in-a-lifetime scientific and cultural opportunity. Mama says instability, imprisonment, death. We say nothing, as quietly as we can.

Dad packs his warm clothes, plenty of batteries, and even buys cigarettes. We kids are disgusted, but he explains about customs guards and checkpoints and inspections and bribes in the same practical way he explains how charged particles excite atoms in the upper atmosphere to create the Aurora. We subside, still privately thinking that he could have bought more batteries instead of cigarettes.

Mama worries until she gets the telegram from Sweden. Then she worries about what else could happen. We don't understand it. We crawl into the big bed on Dad's side, and she doesn't send us off to our own beds until late. Usually Dad comes upstairs to kick us out sooner.

Dad comes home in a clatter of baggage and stories. Next time, he says, he will bring tea, because when traveling abroad you have to make sure the water is boiled so it will be safe to drink. When he asked for boiled water, they made tea for him, and tea is expensive and people there are so poor. He has perfume for Mama and books for us.

It was always the third youngest brother who succeeded at the quest, got the girl, found the treasure. He was usually named Ivan or Sasha. Baba Yaga, the witch in the hut with the chicken feet, was by turns kindly and malevolent, but never safe. Her gifts had a sting in the tail. Usually Ivan (or Sasha) could avoid it, but sometimes clever Marya had to rescue him from his foolishness.

Dad packs up the old portable and takes it back to the office. Then he brings home a new computer. This one can talk. I christen her Majel (after Majel Barrett, of course, the voice of the only talking computer I know) and we play with her voice-recognition software for hours.

Dad comes home from work chagrined, in receipt of an irate email from his host on the Russian trip. He has sent a care package, with the old Compaq portable and sundry other little comforts from the corrupt capitalist empire. He thought it would be funny to add "To Russia, With Love" in the addressing. Russian customs officers don't have a sense of humor. They also know about James Bond. Dad's host was questioned closely, and while unharmed, was shaken and upset.

This year, it's our turn, and Dad's colleague, his wife, and their two boys come in time for summer. They stay in the cabin that Dad built shortly after he and Mama married, before he built the big house. Dad and the doctor spend time at the University, while Mama plays hostess. I am shy and the boys are wary. We do tourist things together. They go home, finally, and I have peace to read again.

I swear up and down to Mama that as soon as I am old enough to move away, I will not spend another winter in this godforsaken cold land. Maybe I'll move to Florida. Mama goes quiet and looks old and hurt. I pretend not to care. I just want out.

My fiancé and I plan a road trip, just the two of us and our roommate (his best friend) for this, our last summer for a while in Alaska, before we go away to college. We drive down to Valdez, then through the mountains to Anchorage, then back up through the Park to Fairbanks, a grand triangle encompassing only a small part of the state. Each leg takes a day, and that's by blowing the speed limit out of the water on the long straightaways. I have forgotten my camera, but my brain soaks in the expanses of deserted land. We will come back after college, and settle down somewhere outside of town, close enough to work but not too close.

Three years stretches. I have neither a degree nor a husband, but I'm reasonably happy in Arizona on my own. It's not all that different, once you get over the culture shock -- you stay inside where the climate is under control, during the bad months. I still encounter cultural stumbling blocks, references that only another Alaskan will get, or someone who's lived so long in the cold it's crept into your very bones. I don't call home enough.

I have only a few words of Russian left from my elementary school classes. The company I volunteer for has been bought out by a Russian company, and the 'in Soviet Russia' jokes fly thick. I learn a few more words here and there in self-defense, but not much changes except upper management, too far above me for me to get to know them.

Someday I will come back to Alaska, I think. Someone will have to take care of the property once my parents are too old. My sister can't; she's in the Seattle music scene too deep to come home. It will fall to me, the eldest. We could sell it, but the thought is unbearable. It's home.

Someday, perhaps, I will visit the Diomede Islands, and gaze across the Bering Strait at Russian soil.


Jul. 29th, 2008 09:37 pm
azurelunatic: Fudge swirled with the LiveJournal logo.  (LJ fudge)
This actually deserves a separate section, spun off from my previous Social Rules of LJ post. Friending is such a simple thing on a technical level, and such a horribly complex one on a social level.

Friends on LJ

Unlike sites that are pure social networking (collect your existing friends, define the hell out of your relationship to them, and maybe collect more friends), LiveJournal is a social media site, where the main technical focus is on your journal entries and letting (or not letting) people read them, or reading other people's journal entries. The "friends" label for the relationship could just as easily be called "watching/trusted". This means you can add anyone, and they can add you, regardless of whether or not you are actually really friends.

Real friends vs. LJ Friends
Rule number one: Just because you have added someone on LJ as a friend doesn't mean that you're actually their friend offline, or even on other websites.
Rule number two: Just because someone has added you as a friend on LJ doesn't mean that they're actually your friend anywhere other than in that little label on LJ that says that they list you as a friend.
Rule number three: Just because someone does not list you as a friend on LJ does not mean that they're not your friend in any other arbitrary context. It just means that for whatever reason, they either have not yet added you on LJ, or there is some portion of the multi-faceted happy funball that is LJ-friendship that they do not want. If speculating on this makes you crazy, either ask them point-blank, or try not to speculate so much.
Rule number four: Just because someone is your friend in some other context does not necessarily mean that you will or should add them as a friend on LJ. It may mean that you have to have an uncomfortable conversation on the topic of "why my LJ interests are accurate and the erotic fiction I write would probably disturb you very deeply so let's just avoid going there", or a slightly-less-awkward conversation about cat pictures and knitting minutiae.

Friends on LJ means: (Technical bits, cut for those who already have this down cold)
For purposes of this illustration, let's first say that you have added them, but they haven't added you.
Read more... )

Friends on LJ doesn't mean: (More technical bits)
Technical myths about friending! )

Rules of the Road

Friending Rules and How to Find Them

The first thing to do when you're thinking of adding someone is go and check out first their profile, and then their journal. This is generally where friending rules can be found. )

Reasonably Common Scenarios

People use their journals in all kinds of ways. They set their personal friending policies to complement the way they use their journal, which may or may not be the way you use your journal. Read more... )

Getting Friends

There's a Frequently Asked Questions entry on how to find people on LJ! Read more... )

Ways People Use Their Journals

This isn't all-inclusive, of course, but I think it provides a pretty good sampling. These are often mix-and-match, with a journal being used for a mix of scenarios, as sometimes it's simpler to use one journal for a variety of uses. Then, there are the people who keep their journals divided, and have one for each of several uses or projects. Read more... )

Ways People Use their Friends List

Read more... )

Weird Scenarios

Read more... )

Yeah, there's a lot more.

LJ friending is a complex, complex, and really interesting thing. Each of the topics I've mentioned could probably fill an essay. But if you see something I've missed completely, give me a shout in the comments.

Event Planning
People use LJ to plan events, issue invitations, and manage invitees, as well as write up the events afterwards.

Issue Tracking
While a community is no substitute for an actual issue tracking system for something that's large enough to need one, it can work as a makeshift one for a small organization, or a staging area if not everybody has access or there needs to be discussion before items are entered. LJ volunteers use communities this way a lot, in fact.
azurelunatic: Fudge swirled with the LiveJournal logo.  (LJ fudge)
  • People in LJ tend to cluster into the same sorts of social groups that people face-to-face do, with the same kind of evolved social standards. Be careful about talking smack. )

  • That "friend" thing. If I list you as a friend, it means either a) I like to read your writing, b) I trust you to read my locked-down stuff (at least some of it), or c) both.

    It doesn't mean that I think that you think of me as a friend. There are people who I have listed as friends who may not have ever noticed my presence, or who may not remember me well and think of me as a cordial distant acquaintance.

    Or we may actually be friends. Who knows.

  • When you add someone as a friend, it's generally polite to inform them. )

  • [Edit: that friend thing. "Hi! I saw you and you're nifty! I'm adding you!" is absolutely not the same as "Hi! I saw you and you're nifty! Can I add you?" The former is an optional courtesy. The latter is a big red stamp across the forehead that says either NOOB, or DUMB-ASS NOOB WHO CANNOT READ, depending on whether the person being asked has a friending policy in their profile that says that anyone may add without asking. More discussion in comments. ]

  • [Edit: Friend rules. Different social groups have different friending/defriending standards, and if you assume that the standards that hold true in your group are obviously going to apply to their group, you're in for a world of social awkwardness. A stated friending/defriending policy from another user, usually as written or linked from their profile, trumps all other points of etiquette that you may have learned elsewhere. Their journal, their rules. ]

  • That "friend" thing. If I remove you as a friend, it may mean that I just don't need to see you on my friends page for whatever reason. tl;dr and other sins )

  • It is considered polite to let a person you're removing as a friend know why you're doing so, under most one-on-one circumstances with no hard feelings involved. )

  • Non-mutual friending! Some people actually care about making their friends match up with their friend-ofs. The existence of non-mutual friends drives them up the wall. I have no insight into this, and I don't think I want any.

  • Serial adding, and other forms of unrequited love! Some people think it reflects badly on them to have someone acting like a twit on their profile, but that's them. On the other hand, drama-mongers pick up detractors with supernatural speed. )

  • Someone's LJ is a little bit like their living room, or at least their garden party. Gatecrash politely, and don't brawl. )

  • If someone has disabled comments on a journal entry, chances are they don't want to have to field comments from the general public or the viewing audience, if the viewing audience is smaller than the general public. Unless you know them well enough to be reasonably assured that they won't take it ill if you contact them through other channels, don't. (If you do know them well enough to feel it's appropriate, or if you know that they have other standards, act accordingly.)

  • In a flat message-board environment, comments are presented in strict chronological order... and on LJ, they are not. Respect the threading. )

  • Signatures. Not bad, just foreign. )

  • Consider what you're going to say before you post to a community with people you don't know. You can save yourself looking stupid in front of a large audience. )

  • Commenting with unrelated material to a post, either in a personal journal or in a community, is generally some form of misstep. It's worst in a community or trying to sell stuff. If you're friends, you can get away with it. ) LiveJournal is not a commerce-friendly site.

  • Intrusive text formatting is frowned on. Sometimes it's acceptable, but certain things are considered horribly rude. ) Yes, it may just be that you're making sure that your text shows up as pitch-black wherever it's at.

    Congratulations. You've just rendered your text unreadable to the person with the black background. Not only that, but you went out of your way to do it. Yes, they may be able to read it with a little work, but the fact remains that you made it harder for them to read, and it was a change you made deliberately, and they won't thank you for it.

    Some people may not be affected or only minimally affected; some people would only have to squint a little; some people would have to go out of their way to make it readable; some people, especially visually impaired people and blind people with screen readers, may be completely unable to read whatever it was you wrote.

    Any imagined cool-factor your precisely-chosen size/font/color combination is intended to create will be overshadowed by the fact that you're violating the social standard. Something like this can be overlooked in your own journal, but it still is not a good idea. ) Posting to a community with altered text, or posting comments with altered text, is a profoundly antisocial activity. There may be isolated pockets where altering text is accepted or even encouraged, but it's a standard that even known trolls rarely violate.

  • Excessively long, wide, markup-intensive, and/or bandwidth-intensive entries get <lj-cut> under most circumstances. So do items that are of dubious safety. LJ has a lot of standards about being responsible to the community as a whole.

  • Userpics. They're everywhere! And they actually mean things! )

  • Respect the lock. What happens behind locked entries stays there, under most circumstances. ) If in doubt, don't spread it around. You don't want a reputation for not respecting locks and filters. Really.

  • Journals are for posting in, if you live here. If you don't post in your livejournal, like, ever, you're treated as if you don't belong here. ([livejournal.com profile] barakb25, I'm looking at you.) This is because you mostly don't belong here. You don't know the culture, you don't know the people, and you're not driven to chronicle the same way the rest of us are.

    Even if you only do have the journal for the purpose of commenting, or of reading the locked entries of your friends, it is polite to post to your journal at least once to announce this. Comments may be set in any which way, but there should be at least one public post. Even completely private journals should be posted in. It really unnerves LJ citizens to see a journal that has never been posted in. The casual user may never notice, but we'll know.

  • [Edit: replies! When replying to someone's comment to you, always hit the "reply" link to that comment, and never the main "reply" link for the whole post. Sometimes weird issues will cause you to accidentally reply as a top-level comment, and that's regrettable, but not your fault. "Replying" to someone else but not using the reply link on their comment means they are never notified that you have replied, which is an integral part of LJ social interaction. People depend on these notifications to continue discussion, and may not ever revisit the post without that notification. Plus, it breaks threading. There are legit reasons to reply to the main post and address issues brought up in comments, but if that is intended to be a reply to any of the commenters, at least drop them a reply letting them know to see the full reply at top-level.]

  • [Edit: I have a whole separate post on friending now.]

  • [Edit: If you aren't reading someone regularly, and they don't know about this (and you don't really want them to know), and they say something that baffles you, go get caught up on their recent entries (if the context allows it) before you ask what's up. Otherwise you risk blowing your cover about not reading them.]
azurelunatic: Vivid pink wild rose.  (wild rose)
Mary Sue as Feminist Icon; Other people's wish-fulfillment fantasies are often boring to read unless you share the selfsame fantasies. I wonder if the world needs a guide intended for young fanfic writers on the topic of "So you want to write Mary Sue stories" -- I probably could have used one, and I know a rather lot of the young ladies out there writing them could use them.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to put yourself in the story and writing about wonderful and beautiful things happening. Nothing at all. It's a great deal of fun for you; if you're writing your friends in it, it's a great deal of fun for them as well. It isn't likely to be a universal classic, though -- unless everyone knows you and your friends, and likes you and your friends, they're probably not going to be interested enough to read it, and would probably prefer to avoid it if given the option. It is possible that you've written a universal classic, but the odds are very much against it.

Whatever you do, don't stop writing. All this writing that you're doing is helping you hone your technical writing craft, even though there will be places that very much need some work. Read more... )

If you have scenes that have to be cut, for gods' sake save them somewhere! Read more... )

Consider where you're sharing this story. Given that this is no longer the Century of the Fruitbat, you probably have it up online in some fanfiction archive or other, or in your journal, and you have the summary of the story written to be aimed directly at your intended audience -- your closest friends, the ones you're writing this to share with. The trouble with this is that while the story is your private little party, and you really wouldn't mind if the general public became friends with you and shared in the fun, the general public is not likely to share in your happiness with your shiny and would-be utopic (or dark and grim and would-be dystopic) bit of fanfiction. They're expecting fanfiction shared in that much public to be fanfiction intended for sharing with a wider and less specialized audience (all Harry Potter fans who like Hermione/Harry, for example, rather than all Harry Potter fans who like Hermione/Harry and are also your friends). If someone expecting a story of wide appeal comes in and winds up mistakenly reading your story of very narrow appeal, you may wind up in possession of a stinging review. And oh, how those fuckers hurt.

Instead of sharing on a fanfiction archive where anyone looking for the pairing you like can stumble across your fic by accident, consider archiving it only in your journal. The people who matter are going to wind up there anyway, and you can always post it to your favorite fanfiction archive site later, if the response you get in your journal from people who aren't close friends of yours is good enough to suggest that your story has wider appeal. Consider labeling your story with a summary that includes "Original character who is an idealized version of me", or "How would my friends and I fit into canon?" If people who really don't want to read those sorts of stories know this up front, then they'll be more likely to avoid your story and move on to something more to their taste.

Consider what you want to convey with the story. Read more... )

A lot of idealized characters are stunningly beautiful, with perfect skin, lovely bodies, unique eye color, perfect hair in unusual colors, and so forth. If your idealized character has any of these things going on, or other things like special powers or something, consider giving some of these things (or if not those exact things, things similar to them) to those around your idealized character. Read more... )

If you're playing with characters who are people you know, but they haven't told you that they want to be in the story you're writing, insert some plausible deniability into the situation by renaming everyone. Read more... )

If you're writing this not just because you're telling a story that's fun, but because the story has a lot of deeper meaning to you, be careful about who you share it with and how you share it with them. Read more... )

Showing it off in public is inviting criticism. If you can't take criticism, don't share it in public. There are many ways to share it that aren't in public, though. You can share it one-on-one with someone; you can share it via e-mail to a person or a group; you can put it up online in a restricted-access area (like a locked, perhaps even filtered post on LJ). If you do share it with someone, let them know what kind of feedback you're looking for, before they start looking it over. [livejournal.com profile] synecdochic gives good advice on how to get the most out of someone looking the whole story over and making broad suggestions about it.

One of the most stinging quasi-constructive pieces of advice out there is the raw statement "Get a beta." The usual unhappy flailing response is either "I have a beta!" or "I can't find a beta!" Either way, that review means that there are so many technical and structural flaws in the piece that it shouldn't be let out in public on its own. Read more... )

If your reviewer suddenly winds up screaming and flailing at you and coming out of nowhere with a very strong and personal reaction that leaves you hurt and spinning, it may not actually be you or your work. You may have just managed to push the hot-button of that particular reviewer, one of the things that is guaranteed to drive them completely insane. Get a second opinion from someone who you don't think has that particular hot button.

Above all, just keep writing. You may only ever wind up writing for your own amusement; you may wind up at the top of the New York Times' Bestseller List; you'll never know unless you keep writing.


azurelunatic: The Space Needle by night. Slightly dubious photography. (Default)
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