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May 31, 2007

On The LiveJournal Thing

LiveJournal annoyed many of its users recently by suspending a bunch of accounts for specious reasons; my major thought on this is is: See, this is why I keep my own space on teh intarweebs. However, my pal Deven Desai, who is a law professor and who follows technology and IP, has blogged about it at length, first here, when the LJ hit the fan, and then here, when LiveJournal backed up and apologized for screwing up. If you want a view of the action from the legal side of things, this is a good place to get it.

Posted by john at May 31, 2007 01:59 PM

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PixelFish | May 31, 2007 02:42 PM

Me, I think somebody at LiveJournal has an itchy trigger finger and group tools that shouldn't be used en masse when investigating complaints. My first thought during this debacle was whether or not it would affect the people who were in rape and incest survivor groups and had those listed under their interests. I'm not too worried that I would be affected now, but if LJ continues to apply their slapdash methods, I supposed I could accidently find my journal suspended for posts on polygamy and child abuse in polygamist households.

(BTW, the justification offered by the SixApart fellow, that interests are only supposed to be "positive" as in I like X or Y....seems silly. They asked for "interests", not "things you like." And as PNH pointed out elsewhere, I could have an interest in debating the constitutionality of something currently illegal, like marijuana usage.)

Speaking of backing up, I just noticed that Live Journal went down altogether. Or at least, I can't get to the front page or my own....and coming on the heels of this post and several others, a nasty horrible thought has just crept into my mind about the possibility of irate LJ users trying to take the site down through unscrupulous means. (Probably not. There's probably just an outage of some kind--though usually there is a temp page to tell us why. But hey, creepy thoughts.)

(Oh, and I would link to both PNH's statement and SixApart dude's....except...LiveJournal is down for the mo. Can anyone else see them? Or is it just me and something with my interweb?)

cherie priest | May 31, 2007 03:00 PM

You're not alone. LJ isn't working for me, either -- though the moment I post this comment, I predict that it will spontaneously reappear ...

If it doesn't, that's okay.
I've got lots of work to do, anyway.

Elaine | May 31, 2007 03:04 PM

I just pulled up my friends list, so I think LJ is okay.

Aside from comments, I don't have anything original on LJ. I use a Wordpress plugin to mirror my blog posts to LJ.

Hmm... time to back up my wordpress files, since I don't trust my host provider further than I can throw them.

PixelFish | May 31, 2007 03:10 PM

Cherie: You've worked magic. I can see LJ again!

Bryan Price | May 31, 2007 03:35 PM

Well, they didn't pull my Journal! Phew!

(Yes, I know I only have one entry...)

Chang, for rizzle. | May 31, 2007 04:48 PM

It's been working sporadically for me. It's okay. I only have enough energy for watching BSG today anyway.

I hear you about keeping your own site, John. Of course my needs are different from yours. I just like the LJ community and what it offers for services. And since I won't be writing about any of the offending topics, I doubt I'll get censored.

Never say never, though.

Shawn Powers | May 31, 2007 04:49 PM

On another note, John, every time I see the name of your friend, Devin, I sing his name to that darn tune...

Devin Desai, Devin Desai, every single one of us is Deven Desai...

I'd just like to thank you for that little brain wrinkle.

Captain Button | May 31, 2007 05:26 PM

PixelFish wrote:
(BTW, the justification offered by the SixApart fellow, that interests are only supposed to be "positive" as in I like X or Y....seems silly. They asked for "interests", not "things you like." And as PNH pointed out elsewhere, I could have an interest in debating the constitutionality of something currently illegal, like marijuana usage.)

I just started a livejournal a few weeks ago. The "interests" section of my "Edit Profile" page says:
Rule of thumb: You should be able to put the interest in the sentence "I like ________".

And I recall it being basically like that when I established it.

Captain Button | May 31, 2007 05:28 PM

PixelFish wrote:
(BTW, the justification offered by the SixApart fellow, that interests are only supposed to be "positive" as in I like X or Y....seems silly. They asked for "interests", not "things you like." And as PNH pointed out elsewhere, I could have an interest in debating the constitutionality of something currently illegal, like marijuana usage.)

I just started a livejournal a few weeks ago. The "interests" section of my "Edit Profile" page says:
Rule of thumb: You should be able to put the interest in the sentence "I like ________".

And I recall it being basically like that when I established it.

Seth Breidbart | May 31, 2007 06:49 PM

I don't see the problems with their TOS (the implementation, yes). Consider: 10 years from now, John decides to archive old responses to tape because nobody reads them and they're taking up space. Sometime after that, I realize that I really want a copy of these wonderful words of mine, and was foolish enough not to keep one. So I ask John for a copy. He charges me for the effort of getting out the right tape and extracting my words from it. Is something wrong with that? He's selling me my words, which I own (the copyright to).

Similarly, they're saying "We don't promise to remove anything bad, nor do we promise not to."

As for interests, "I like ___" needn't be true, merely meaningful. For instance, I don't like exercise, but I do like the results, and I'm interested in exercise (learning to do it more efficiently to get better results in less time/effort).

Firebyrd | May 31, 2007 07:22 PM

I like LJ lots for one primary reason-friends pages. I am lazy and don't want to have to open up another page, so using my friends page to feed whatever I want to look at is great. Add in that most of my actual friends (as opposed to people I just enjoy reading) use LJ, and eh. I'm not going anywhere. They apologized, they at least seem to be trying to fix things at the moment, I'm willing to give them the benefit of the doubt for now.

As for service issues, my stuff is pulling up, but with lots of errors. I wonder if the servers are having load issue problems due to everyone being reminded by this to backup their journals? I know I did that last night, realizing it had been months since I had done so.

Julia | May 31, 2007 11:00 PM

LiveJournal was crashing earlier for the following reasons:

Their servers are not actually meant to handle the traffic of all the users at once.

We users officially broke the five thousand comments cap in Berkowitz's tapdance of stupidity post...5002 before the software closed it. There were a load of broken inter-tubes for about ten minutes after because the software alterations that Six Apart has made were not the most intelligent. (Much like their entire organization, I find.)

But yes, everything seems to be okay now. As I noted on my own LJ post, Berkowitz is perfectly okay with causing a massive uproar *so long as the boss-man, Brad Fitz, isn't looking.* Brad is on vacation. Poor man, he had to have his trip ruined by a call from Berkowitz bleating "Dude I effed up heeeeeelp!" Not the nicest thing to hear on a Memorial Day weekend, I'd imagine.

I'm disgusted with the whole thing and while I'm not *calling* for Berkowitz's resignation per se, I feel it would be an appropriate gesture for him to send himself to the mailroom for the next five years.

PixelFish | May 31, 2007 11:06 PM

Captain Button: Hrm. I don't recall it being like that when I entered my interests, but that was a long time back. Point conceded.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden | June 1, 2007 01:17 AM

Your pal Deven Desai may be a professor who "follows technology and IP", but if he really thinks Six Apart is a "business that own[s] up to mistakes," he hasn't been "following" them very closely. We've been here before. Six Apart "own up to mistakes" roughly the way the Bush administration engages with substantive criticism.

Deven Desai | June 1, 2007 02:33 AM

Patrick, nice to hear from you. I think we met at a conference. In any event, I do not claim to follow Six Apart nor do I claim to do so in the post.

To be clear, my point was a general one regarding companies claiming to admit to a mistake and wanting to rebuild trust. When such a position is taken, companies should be given room to do so. Still, recall that I stated, "They must of course live up to the apology and rebuild trust with future good acts, but before that failure, giving them some benefit of the doubt about the events may encourage future cooperation between the company and its customers." NOW if you have particular history to share, please do. That sort of information is most useful as it would go to the idea of living up to claims and maintaining trust, and of course it would undercut the current apology.

Indeed, if you have such information, market ideas might indicate that people would reject the position and go to other services. In addition, my main concern was that users pay attention to the TOS language as it is not favorable to writers who may use the service. Put differently, I suggest people look for the way online services behaved in the past and their current acts including how they write their contracts. That will help one see whether the claims match behaviors, and one can then make a better choice about what service to use.

Julia | June 1, 2007 03:29 AM

Deven: Try Googling "Nipplegate 2006". This is Six Apart's second time alienating a large section of LiveJournal's users. Only with Nipplegate, they did have the backing of some LJ admins (including one who had a rather suspicious icon herself) and they did NOT back down. Yes, the whole thing is rather silly, but you can see they have done this crap before.

What's going to come next, really?

Oh, and then there was the big backlash during the time when SA initially bought out LJ. You can Google for that too, although I don't think it was given a trendy name.

Deven...PNH is right. How many actual LJ users' posts did you consult? Most of my friends are referencing all kinds of different, smaller slights given by Six Apart in the rocky times since LJ sold out. I just gave you the biggest two. You've got to do a little more research next time, perhaps inside the ElJay World and not so much in the "blogosphere" (as someone who's had a Blogger account since 1998, I consider blogs and LJs to be two different animals).

chang, myspacier than ever! | June 1, 2007 09:40 AM


...as someone who's had a Blogger account since 1998, I consider blogs and LJs to be two different animals...

Would you care to clarify? Thanks!

Mia | June 1, 2007 10:12 AM

Not Julia, but I think one of the differences between LJ (where I have an account) and the generalized blogs, is the whole "friendslist" thing. I think LJ started out as, and still is more of a social networking/virtual-community-constructing space than blogs are.

At least, that's the most obvious difference.

Lis Riba | June 1, 2007 04:42 PM

Also not Julia, but I concur with Mia that LJ is much more social.

In the early days, the only ways to get an LJ account was (a) buying one, or (b) getting an activation code from an existing user. That meant that LJ use often followed existing social networks.

Friends lists (what an emotionally-loaded term) and the ability to lock posts encouraged people to get LJ accounts to follow along with their RL friends. And usericons made it easier to notice and recognize fellow users, leading to "friending" of people who you meet through your friends and communities.

Of course, they've since lifted the bar on LJ account creation, but by that time the seed took. You friend a person or community, and you eventually hook into someone with a social network worth following...

In contrast, in other blogging services, each blog is relatively isolated. Sure, you can add a blogroll, but you're not connected to one-another in the same way that LJ is.

That said, I *DO* consider livejournals to be blogs, because I believe blogs are a format, independent of the content. [My definition here. If you've read Scott McCloud's Understanding Comics, he describes something similar.] Personal journals are just one possible subject people can put into blog formats.

Deven Desai | June 2, 2007 03:00 AM

Julia, thanks for the help. My post was not really about LiveJournal's history and that obviously struck some nerves. Really, I do not defend its current or past acts. My point was more about the wild conduct and trying to alert folks to the contract side of the problem.

I do have a follow-up for you and readers: Given that there is all this information about LiveJournal and its past acts, why do people still use it? In theory, the events that this community seems to think everyone knows should have a large negative impact on the company. Yet that is not the case if members are a sign of success. I have a theory as to why the continued large membership exists but would love to know this readership's views.

As for the folks who point to the social aspects, how do you all think this affects LiveJournal's acts? In other words, suppose someone cut you off from your social network system (whatever it may be). Suppose also that the TOS allowed them to do it. Does that make a difference compared to cutting off a more static, hosted site (which LJ may or may not be but please think of an abstract hosted site where one posts writings)? Is there a bigger claim if one cuts off access to a social network site? I could see an argument for that view but could also see the argument that it does not matter.

Chris Gerrib | June 2, 2007 06:23 PM

Deven - I can only tell you why I am a LiveJournal user. First, it's free. Second, it seemed more reliable (in terms of uptime) then Blogger. Third, I liked the threaded replies.

I have to admit, although I was aware of both the Nipplegate and this recent incident, since they didn't affect me, I didn't worry about them.

Deven | June 3, 2007 01:17 PM

Chris, that is great information. User perception within the market and user choices help understand how companies and consumers behave. Thanks so much for the feedback.

Dan | June 3, 2007 08:44 PM

Deven, I use LJ both because it is, or at least has been, a nice place to connect with people with similar fandom interests to mine and because it's easy compared to registering a domain, finding a hosting service, and setting up my own blog. And even if I did the latter it still doesn't connect me to fandom people the way LJ does. In fact individual blogs don't have nearly the community type atmosphere one can find on LJ, unless one becomes very well known and popular within certain circles.

I'm certainly not happy with the way LJ handled things but I don't see fandom as a whole moving elsewhere unless LJ/6A continues to royally screw up, and even a move to individually hosted sites will change the community atmosphere I like. Maybe with a large enough motivator we could create a non-corporate owned community somewhere but I don't know. It's always easier to stick with the status quo than to try something new requiring lots of effort.

DJL | June 4, 2007 02:23 PM

Not to take things off topic but....

Keeping your own "space on teh intarweebs" is no guarantee that your Internet presence won't suddenly disappear on you. Almost every ISP has something in their terms of service that says they "may terminate service to the subscriber at any time, without notice". And even if you are dealing with an business that really does put its customers needs in front of their own, technical problems do still happen. And of course, you might be dealing with a great ISP who just happens to be lousy at accounting and suddenly find that they've gone out of business and taken your content with them.

So make sure that YOU are backing up your own content to media you control. If you care about your data, don't rely on somebody else to ensure you continue to have access to your stuff. Deven makes a comment that only techies will be the ones backing up their content. I REALLY hope that's not true.

John Scalzi | June 4, 2007 02:35 PM

I'm not particularly worried about my host provider disappearing, but yes, I back up my site on a regular basis.

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