Things have been frustrating for many of us on LJ. The site's changed owners from one group that seemed not to quite "get" us to another group that seemed not to quite "get" us even more. Last year the Russian company SUP, pronounced "soup," purchased LJ from the San Francisco company SixApart, which had bought LJ from its creator brad in 2005, and set up a new San Francisco corporate office and a US-based holding company called LiveJournal, Inc.
(LiveJournal's actually become a very big deal in Russia, which is partly why SUP was interested in buying the service. "LiveJournaling" is to many Russians what "blogging" is to many Americans: the slang term for what we do. The U.S. has the most active LJ community by far; Russia is second-most active, and SUP handled that very large community for about a year before buying LJ en toto.)
As Russia, of course, doesn't have the free speech guarantees the U.S. Constitution has -- and LJ has the wild-and-woolly feel of a place where people blog about almost anything, including potentially uncomfortable subjects -- the worries of a culture clash between owners and users grew bigger. And we've had clashes.
Most recently, SUP took these particular actions that maddened lots of us:
1) On March 12th, SUP eliminated the option to create a "Basic," no-cost, ad-free account, the way the majority of LJ users got into the service: currently the options for new accounts are the ad-supported "Plus" and the "Paid," which is what I have. SUP eliminated Basic against the advice of the LJ users' advisory board, including brad; and (the more maddening move) SUP didn't tell any current users about the change. We found out by word-of-mouth, because current users happened to check the journal-creation FAQ. When we started yelling, the staff replied in news that it doesn't affect you, only new users, forgetting that many of us create additional accounts for different purposes (I know people with three, four, five or more separate LJs) so it would affect us. It smacked of SUP trying to sneak in the change, and that left the worse taste in our mouths. SUP's hinted that it might restore the ability in some cases to create Basic accounts, after we'd screamed about the change.
2) Weird editing happened on LJ's "Interests" search. Each user creates an "Interests" list as another way to link our accounts, by what we like. (My list is on this page.) Suddenly the "Most Popular" list that LJ compiles was missing several popular interests, interests that might look controversial or just uncomfortable to non-LJ users or advertisers. (More details here.) Porn-related topics disappeared from the list; so did "bisexuality," "depression" and "fanfiction." I'm not bisexual or depressed, and I don't write fanfiction, but friends of mine are and friends of mine also write fanfic; their interests don't deserve to disappear. And since that editing happened, the interests in question have been restored...after, again, we'd screamed about the change.
We need to change the discourse from the screaming-about-what's-been-done to making it less likely that the owners make boneheaded moves from now on.
In trying to figure out a more comprehensive way for us to express our annoyance, and to (we hope) make a positive change, many people considered leaving LJ for other journaling systems. However, for all its flaws and the not-thought-through actions of the owners, LiveJournal is still a great system: intuitive for not-as-computer-literate people like me (seriously), comprehensive, easy to navigate and use, all that. Many of us finally decided: LJ is driven by content, by our writing essays and posting videos and other cool links. What if one day we gave far less content than normal? And the strike was born. I'll be taking part. (Some of what's led to this is summarized in this post by cleolinda; she includes links about an interview with LJ/SUP's Chief Blogging Officer Anton Nossik, who believes the one-day strike is an attempt at blackmail, a charge we vehemently deny.)
The LJ user who's pushing the one-day strike, beckyzoole (and who's had good dealings in the past with Nossik), explains further behind the cut:
The one-day content strike is on for this Friday, March 21, from midnight GMT to midnight GMT.
For 24 hours, we will not post or comment to LJ. Not in our own journals, not in communities. Not publicly, privately, or under friends-lock.
This is a protest that will have long-lasting effects, showing up forever in the daily posting statistics.
This is a protest that will not harm LJ in the long run, as leaving LJ might do.
This is a protest that will demonstrate the power of community, as all users unite to support Basic users, the concept of ad-free space, and our right to enjoy any interests we choose.
This is a protest that will educate the new owners that LJ is driven by user-created content.
How Can You Help?
DO post about this in your own LJ.
DO post and comment about it in appropriate communities.
DO turn off LoudTwitter and your RSS feeds for 24 hours.
DO feel free to friend me for updates, and defriend when the strike is over.
DON'T forget to get permission from community mods before making an off-topic post or comment about the strike.
DON'T be spammy with your posts or comments about the strike.
DON'T forget to turn your LoudTwitter and RSS feeds back on when the strike is over.
The 24-hour strike will begin at the following times for the following locations:
Thursday, March 20, 2:00 PM -- Honolulu
Thursday, March 20, 4:00 PM -- Anchorage
Thursday, March 20, 5:00 PM -- San Francisco; Los Angeles
Thursday, March 20, 6:00 PM -- Mexico City; Denver
Thursday, March 20, 7:00 PM -- Chicago
Thursday, March 20, 8:00 PM -- Montreal; New York
Thursday, March 20, 9:00 PM -- Buenos Aires
Midnight -- London
Friday, March 21, 1:00 AM -- Paris
Friday, March 21, 2:00 AM -- Istanbul
Friday, March 21, 3:00 AM -- Moscow
Friday, March 21, 4:00 AM -- Dubai
Friday, March 21, 5:00 AM -- Islamabad
Friday, March 21, 6:00 AM -- Bangladesh
Why Are We Striking?
We are holding the Content Strike because we want the new owners of LiveJournal to better understand the power and resolve of the LJ Community of Users.
We are holding the Content Strike because all of us, Paid, Permanent and Plus users as well as Basic, want to demonstrate our solidarity as a Community of Users. We do not consider Basic users to be freeloaders, we consider them to be valuable content-providers and Friends.
We are holding the Content Strike because we ache to do something to show our displeasure, and commenting on the news post -- even with cat macros -- just isn't powerful enough!
The strike has four terms:
1. Restore basic accounts for new account creation.
2. Inform users before any change to the site that affects how we use the site or demands on our resources.
3. Run change proposals by the Advisory Board and take their advice into account before implementation of any change.
4. Homophobia, misogyny, and racism must not be a part of the decision making processes about appropriate content of the site, including what user interests are deemed appropriate.
NOTE: We are aware that there may be good business decisions for eliminating Basic accounts. If Basic accounts are to be eliminated, though, that action should be taken only after approval of the Advisory Board and consultation with the LJ Community of Users.
Will This Make Any Difference?
The protests are making a difference. Within the last three hours (as of 3pm March 17, '08), the censored interests have been restored! If you look at the Popular Interests page, you will once again see the formerly filtered "fanfiction", "depression", "bisexuality" -- even "faeries." LiveJournal is once again presenting its true face to the world, not a sanitized blandness.
Please continue to spread the word about the Content Strike. We are not merely consumers. We are a Community of Users, and we will be heard.
Один день без контента
No posts. No comments. No content.
Whew. Lots just got covered. Sorry if any of that's confusing to anyone who hasn't been following it; it's getting late and my explaining powers are waning as I get closer to sleep.
But to sum up: I'll be gone from 5 p.m. Thursday to 5 p.m. Friday. I'll see how things are when I get back.
3/20/08 9:15 a.m. update: As beckyzoole says here, we're getting attention, and an apology (though not in news) about the handling of the Basic account situation.