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My Big LJ Post

So I'm late to this party. Though I guess "late" doesn't describe it. I think by this point, the drunk couple in the corner that passed out while attempting what could be construed as fucking are starting to wake up, and are almost sober enough to drive, and I'm just showing up.

A recap for those that don't know/care: Livejournal has had three journal ranges for awhile: free, plus and paid. Free is just that; free, as in free beer. Plus gave you a few more perks, but you had to put up with advertisements on your page and any non-paid pages as well. Paid (and permanent/early adoptor) accounts were the backbone of Livejournal, as we provided the financial backbone for Livejournal to support itself, pay for it's servers, and we got perks in the process. When I went permanent, LJ was owned by Brad Fitzpatrick, and it was really a labour of love for Brad and the other employees. I had no qualms paying for it at the time, as my community - my deepest friends - were all here, and I would give paid accounts out for Christmas, birthdays, or just shits and giggles. I spent, estimated, almost $1,000 from 2004 until 2006.

It's hard to believe that Livejournal was sold to Six Apart in January of 2005; it seems so much later, am I really getting that old? But I do remember the wank; Six Apart was going to ruin LJ, they were going to corporatize it, etc. Personally, over the years, I thought they did well with the company, and Brad's faith in the company buying them was not unfounded. They developed a lot of technologies for Livejournal, but as is always the case with publically owned companies, they had to start maximizing profits. So how do you start finding other sources of income when your userbase cries and pitches a fit at the slightest drop of a hat? You find innovative ways. You put free e-gifts up with Pepsi logos. You give users an option to have Plus accounts. You find ways to get it done without alienating the core audience, or doing it as little as possible, because for as loud as the emowhores are, they are also fickle.

Soon, Six Apart started to have trouble. They went through a troublesome period dubbed Strikethrough '07 by the users, where LJ's Terms of Service was taking a WEE bit too seriously, and communities even THINKING about paedophilia or child pornography went away. Not just stupid shit like shouta and loli freak communities, but roleplay communities, SUPPORT communities (as in, "I'm a rape victim help"), and even communities dedicated to the classic book Lolita. I take it Reading Lolita in Tehran would have made people pitch a motherfucking fit! But Six Apart did it's best to fix the issue with it's memberbase (which amounted to a lot of sulking, pouting, and I think one person held his breath until he turned blue), which is funny as I blamed the issue more on overzealousness on the part of LJ Abuse - the one area of the site that should NOT be volunteer run - than anything at the corporate level. The other ways 6A tried getting money all were reacted to as if Barak Berkowitz was personally sodomizing every single member regardless of status. Eventually, Barak was replaced as CEO of Six Apart in September of '07, and was replaced by Chris Aiden, who I can best describe as Capitalistic.

In December, Six Apart sold Livejournal... to a Russian company with questionable ties back in Russia, in what felt less like a business decision than it did surrender. Ironically, most of the emowhores were happy; "No more Six Apart! Yay!", and I was the one sending up the warning flags. I have seen virtually nothing good come out of a Russian business since Putin took over. Nothing, nadda, zero, not one motherfucking thing. Hell, other than Autumn Sacura's art, I cannot think of anything positive out of that plutocracy PERIOD. I remember I made a comment in hezul's journal along those lines, and some Russian chick said I was a stereotypical asshole. Well... I guess I am. I prefer to believe Amnesty International, and the OSCE, and the average income for someone that's NOT in the upper elite - all easily obtainable statistics, thank you - than someone that's been listening to their own state owned news for years. Russian businesses and businessmen are turning their country into their own personal playground, damn the people, and they're now buying out American businesses. I hated the move, and just sat back and waited for the bomb to drop. And just for the few of you that think I'm an asshole, I hate China and their politics and businesses just as much as Russia's - if not more - and if you need any more proof of why that is, go check out what's been happening in Tibet for the past few weeks. It should be noted that this, for me, was the last straw in terms of financial support for the site; as a Permanent account holder, I have nothing to purchase for my old account, but I no longer support Livejournal with paid gifts, and this is significant becuause at last count, I've bought about four permanent accounts (myself, kyuusei, hinata19, and one more I can't remember), and countless paid gifts.

At first, they gave a few trifling goodies to the members. They made long comment threads expandable! Oh goody! Every blogging software and their dog does that! But then the hammers started to drop, and faster than even I thought, as I thought they would wait a bit before reminding users how fucked they were if they considered Livejournal some sort of Utopian community set aside from the corporate clusterfuck that MySpace and Facebook are.

The first thing they did was filter out many interests from the front display that I assume shows up on the front page, which is what advertisers see. This really set off a lot of people, but I personally didn't really think it was too bad; everyone wants to scream CENSORSHIP!!!, but in reality the front communities they show on the main page that I see - insipid shit like "in this community, you tell a daily story about your Grandma and kittens!" - are already so bland and banal that nothing even remotely controversial is going to show up there in the first place. Seriously, unless J-List and Play Asia start pumping tonnes of money into the site, then we're not going to see a lot of advertisers advertising yaoi manga, and while I like the idea of something like that making Pepsi run screaming, any buisness worth their salt isn't going to put shit like that as the full face of the community. That didn't bother me too much, though I could see the writing on the wall.

And then they killed free accounts.

See, it's not so much killing free accounts that bothers me, it's the way they did it. Again, SUP decided to be extremely secretive about the whole ordeal, shoving it down into a post that most people can't see. They grandfathered old free accounts, yes, but the implication is simple: if you're going to freeload, have this flashy shit obscuring the entries! Then, when users pitched a right fit about the whole mess, the company decided... to send in the suits. Jason Shellen then proceeded to bludgeon us with legalities, terms of service, lawyer speak, spin talk and a general condescending attitude, actually thinking that saying it was to remove "confusion" was actually going to fly with a terribly cynical crowd. He got rightly killed for it, and I made what I thought to be a very well put comment to him which did nothing but get a few "here here!" replies from others. In short, I got no indication that anyone was actually listening to what the fuck we were saying, and they more or less sacrificed Jason. Is Jason the newest member of their executive team? Did he draw a short straw? Who knows, but more importantly, who cares, as he was obviously there just to be a firebrand.

So it's been made clear how SUP wants to do business; they're going to handle things as opaquely as possible if they can, and wait for the members to notice (bad move; these people have legendary amounts of free time on their hands), and when the users complain, they're going to wait for it to blow over, as the users are more or less powerless to stop it. What are they going to do? Strike? Oh boy! One less day of bandwidth and data storage costs by people that are mostly already paid users! Are they going to leave? Bullshit! Most of these people are roleplayers, and they're not advertiser friendly, so even if they DO decide to leave, fuck 'em! In short, SUP can do whatever it wants, and more or less is doing whatever it wants, and isn't even asking it's "advisory" board about it (Brad Fitzpatrick was 100% against the move, and even stated as much in his own journal, stating he didn't know it happened until it was too late).

This pattern of business will continue, and thanks to the money most of the users have already paid, it doesn't care if they leave or go. They'll bring in new people that have been weaned on MySpace and Facebook, and are therefore a lot more friendly to being examined by the larger sponsors, and the brand on their ass that comes with that.

Personally, I know I'm in that boat. Making a big fuss about taking my ball and going home is just going to get met with "OK! Thanks for the money over the years!", and the only thing I can really take with me is that I supported a different Livejournal then. While I think the other regular users of this site are partly to blame for all of this - their screaming is part of what caused Six Apart's CEO position to change hands, which started this ball rolling - I cannot support the direction this company is going, but it doesn't matter; I'm a permanent account holder, and my leaving would actually benefit Livejournal, as I'm noisy (I've very publically taken on LJ Abuse in the past), and don't bring in advertising revenue, being Permanent and also using Adblock Plus. My leaving would more or less be a surrender.

I think I'm to the point of surrender.

However, that brings another set of problems: security. I make most of my posts here friends only, as I talk about things in this journal that I only want my friends to see. I'm notorious for telling people what I think of them, but there are times when caution is needed; I make staff posts for the staff of FESS, I write things that I don't think everyone and their dog need to comment on, and I make work related entries that might not hurt my CURRENT job (which hired me AFTER reading my old articles, which are controversial at best, and already accepts that I more or less speak my mind), but could impact future employment, and while I wouldn't want to work anywhere that goes to the lengths of Googling me up and not hiring me because I could say mean things, I can't necessarily close that door, either; it wouldn't be fair to Aileen or any family I may have in the future, and with the world plus dog blogging and writing nowadays, making money off of this sort of thing - especially enough to live comfortably on - is a futile dream, and one I don't have to begin with; I write for freedom, not for money.

Basically, if I can find a way to incorporate the friend-level security into Wordpress that Livejournal has, I'm more or less gone, and I'll just syndicate my entries the way Alex Lucard does. But that also brings along the problem that I will also be cutting my readership on filtered entries; I predict maybe 30% of my friends would sign up on my site to read filtered entries, if that. Livejournal is a community of convenient, and once I become less convenient, I will become disposable.

Either way, no matter how this shakes out, I hate what those Russian pieces of shit are doing to this place just as much as anyone, though the impossible to reach standards of a lot of our users are partly to blame for how we got into this position in the first place, and the way they're going about their protest is foolhardy at best. If you want to make noise, make the one I'm trying to make... silence.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 22nd, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
To tell the truth, I don't have that big a problem with them nixing "free" accounts. Banner ads are annoying as always, but they pay the rent and the cost of running a sizable website these days is only going to continue to increase.

That being said, I can't say I'm very happy with the way they handled it, especially considering how worthless "plus" accounts are. I've got mine for the extra userpics; that's about all they're good for. Not only can non-paid accounts not do something so basic as edit a comment for simple spelling errors, but now they have to look at ad banners without anything given in return--and without being told! They could have at least thrown the community a bone. Bah...

If this was a one-time thing, it wouldn't be a big deal for me. But I only see things getting worse from here.

I know I'm just being obnoxious at this point, so I'll cut to the chase: my friends only are the *only* reason I'm still here--and heck, I'm not even here that often anymore. If they're gone, I'm gone. They're the only tie I have to this place anymore.

On second thought, forget that. If someone else came along with a blogging system that included the convience of LJ's friends-page system, I'd probably abandon ship regardless of who left or stayed.

And now I'll shut up; my neck is killing me. -_-
Mar. 22nd, 2008 11:55 pm (UTC)
That's essentially a Cliff Notes version of exactly what I'm thinking. The lack of free accounts doesn't bother me; I'm permanent, don't role play (therefore, I don't make new journals for no reason), and have no other reason to notice someone being paid of not paid. Personally, it doesn't affect me. But this was very sneaky on Livejournal's part, and like you, I wouldn't be as hard-up about it if it wasn't for me looking ahead and seeing more shit like this occuring. In short, if Livejournal was handling this like a first date, it's hands would be inside our collective bras while we slapped the shit out of it, and then it justified itself by stating that sometimes it just loses control of itself.

This is why I'm looking for Wordpress plugins that allow me to have the convenience of a Livejournal friends-page system - or at least allows me to post stuff "friends only" and have it be read by people in their RSS readers or something along those lines - so that I CAN abandon ship.
Mar. 23rd, 2008 12:11 am (UTC)
And, just to add to that, it's not just that it happened--LJ has done many things I don't agree with--it's also the way that it's reacted to it. Say what you will, but LJAbuse aside I always thought Six Apart handled things very well in instances like this, usually admitting their mistake and often setting things right.

But this? Bah... Before, I was just uncomfortable with the new regime, now I've lost all faith in it.
Mar. 23rd, 2008 03:52 am (UTC)
Personally, I'll move on where FESS significants do. I just don't use livejournal to socialize all that much any more, for better or worse.

Mar. 23rd, 2008 06:32 am (UTC)
Sometimes, I just want most of the striketrhough retards who put us in this mess to suffer under the new USSR. >:(
Mar. 23rd, 2008 04:29 pm (UTC)
Practically all of my friends and associates are LJ users, and, for that reason, I cannot leave, though I will be willing to go to a separate blog site if you set one up.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )


Mr. Met
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