Chris Walsh (chris_walsh) wrote,
Chris Walsh

Back from the content strike

Silence happened. Silence for a cause. I'm back from the LiveJournal "content strike"; I commented in a few places last night after it ended, and now I feel ready to post again. Others are returning, and seeing the lay of the land now. We didn't shut down LJ; that was not our goal. We didn't leave en masse; that wasn't our desire, either. We wanted to make a point in an odd way.

Yes, it was an odd action, but not unprecedented. I decided on the way home from work last night that it was kind of like how radio gods Don Geronimo and Mike O'Meara would punish listeners for being bad callers by intentionally making their show boring. These great talkers would all of a sudden be dull and just marking time on-air; and here, this time, a lot of us (including several of my favorite LJ writers) shut up and simply had our first page of our journals, for 24 hours, say we won't be "on-air" for a bit, and here's why. And most of the people I know who struck were eloquent about their reasons; unfortunately, I have heard of obnoxious people (can I call them "Obnoxios," like Cheerios?) who also took part and were loud and obnoxious about it in the lead-up to strike time. I wish that hadn't happened, but if free speech doesn't sometimes make you cringe, it's not really being practiced properly. Still, wrong way to spread the message, those of you who were being obnoxious.

And a lot of people got very, and, in some cases (I feel), disproportionately angry about the strike. (I only skimmed a few of the comments (361 so far) in beckyzoole's first post after the strike ended. Becky proposed the strike, and has gotten a huge amount of flack for it -- some genuine criticism of the strike's effectiveness, but also a big troll attack.) Some people who agreed with us about LJ's recent actions felt it was at least a needed gesture; many who felt we had cause for concern thought it was a bad idea, and explained why in understandable ways; and many who felt we didn't have cause spoke up, too. Many of them loudly, some of them angrily. From what I've seen, LJ has been a louder, pissier place for the past 48 or so hours.

In a strange way, I think that's both good and bad. It meant people were thinking about the issues that led to us striking -- the mishandling of the change in Basic (ad-free) accounts, SUP's double-speak in response, a SUP spokesman insulting a large portion of the user base (so they're "freeloaders," huh?), awkward attempts at "sanitizing" parts of LJ, at least one lie (about what caused the hiding of certain "uncomfortable" interests in the Most Popular Interests list), and a general dismissive attitude about a lot of user concerns -- and whether or not the commenters felt that was enough to anger us or that we were just whining, they had to think about it. But of course we can't affect how deeply they thought about it. People could jump straight to thinking "The strike won't change anything, it's pointless, and anyone who participated is stupid." Calling something "stupid" is a short-circuit in thought: if you're saying something is stupid, you mean "This is not worth thinking or arguing about, so why are you thinking about it, or wanting to argue about it?" But we feel it's worth thinking, and arguing, about.

The thing is, as cantankerous a place as LJ can be, it can be (and usually is, in my little corner of it) a loving, positive place. I want it to stay that way.

The thing is, this action can't be the only action, or the naysayers can claim victory (a "victory" they'd've "earned" only by saying "Won't work, won't work, won't work..."). We had x number of people decide to protest LJ's direction by striking in this odd, non-traditional way; what happened, we need to understand, was a start. We can start to find each other, network (hey! One of the strengths of LJ!), and then protest and try to effect positive change more directly. I, a paying customer (finally), will be in touch with LiveJournal; I hope others will be, too. My friend shadesong (who's spoken eloquently about the content strike; scan her last few days' of entries) is looking into the possibility of creating what she calls elsejournal. We'll figure out more actions to take. We can do better, whether here (I hope) or elsewhere (if need be).

To quote a line from the wonderful last episode of Sports Night, "Quo Vadamos. It means 'where are we going.'"

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