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April 17th, 2009


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07:14 pm - Why I love Dreamwidth even before I have an account there, and why you might not
Blogging about blogging is the lowest form, as ever, but consider this a heads-up that I consider the omens point to Dreamwidth being a great, possibly the best, place to post for the next few years. Nothing lasts forever online, though the Long Now Foundation acts as if it is and Weaver's Week is well over eight, so about quarter of an Internet century old. That said, Dreamwidth looks like it has the sort of momentum in its development and in its nascent culture that it may be as exciting to be a Dreamwidth member as it ever was to be a LiveJournal member, even at LiveJournal's peak. In short, I consider Dreamwidth to be cool in a way that I haven't felt for any other communication platform for the last few years.

Some of you have been reading about Dreamwidth ten times a day on your Flist already and others may not be familiar. The idea behind Dreamwidth is that some of the people who worked LJ once upon a time are producing their own LJ-like web site that, in theory, will benefit from LJ's strengths but will avoid the errors that made LJ suck. It is based on the LJ code but makes the changes that should have been made but never were because they would have broken too many other things. It's not a project arising out of a grudge against LJ management, though frankly that would have been motivation enough. It's not a fandom project, though it will be fandom-friendly. (And, er, non-fandom-friendly, for people who aren't fans of anything.) Most importantly, there will be people working on it, both the owners and volunteers, aiming to make the project better (for their definition of better, which can broadly be considered "more capable" and "more usable") rather than more profitable. The site is currently undergoing closed beta testing, though open beta testing is expected to start around April 30th.

There is a school of thought that the adoption of Dreamwidth will mean "just one more tab to keep open", and I can sympathise. In recent discussions, people have suggested they want to have a single place where they can keep track of everything, and that's not so unreasonable a request - after all, it's how many of us have been trying to use LJ for years. Indeed, I myself have argued (paras 8-10) that there's a social benefit to everyone sticking together on the one service rather than scattering to the four winds, back when GreatestJournal (or was it InsaneJournal, or uJournal, or Blurty, or...) was offering icons up the wazoo. I still do believe that. It's just that these days, I am so dissatisfied with LiveJournal's operation and so enchanted with Dreamwidth's promise that I will do what I can for the discussion I want to follow to all be happening over there rather than over here. The benefits of supporting the DW movement do seem to me to outweigh the costs of splitting the discussion.

It's also relevant that most of us are now used to spreading ourselves over many sites in a way that we weren't, even just a few Internet years ago. I have accounts on InsaneJournal and IziBlog just to see Flocked posts from some of my Friends over there. I have an account on Facebook where I interact with relatives, co-workers and a few classmates. (I have an account on Friends Reunited, the UK cultural equivalent to Classmates.com, which I never use.) I have an account on LinkedIn in the vague hope that that counts as networking. Heck, I've even signed up to Twitter just because so many of you are on it. (After a few months, I've finally sort of got the point of Twitter. I have long insisted that "Microcontent is rubbish", and it is. More specifically, Twitter is for small talk, which is pretty much by definition inherently rubbish, but good for strengthening relationships. As I'm notoriously rubbish at small talk, I ought to start Tweeting just for fun and practice.)

So with this in mind, as soon as I can - and hopefully no later than when open beta starts, currently planned for 30th April - I am going to sign up for a Dreamwidth account and start regarding that as "home". I'm not going to stop reading you all over here, and I'm not going to stop posting things over here, particularly when I want to post content under Friends lock but want my Friends over here to see it. In fact, from the perspective of users over here who aren't over there, it'll hardly look like anything has changed. Culturally, though, I expect to regard Dreamwidth as my new Internet home and LiveJournal as just a mirror of it. Certainly I expect to give Dreamwidth the love that I had for LiveJournal in my first couple of years here, which has long since been frittered away.

This is all subject to change if something else proves to suit me better, of course, or if Dreamwidth proves sufficiently awful in an unpredictable fashion. An obvious problem is that Friends-locked posts will unfortunately work particularly badly when I Friends-lock in two different places and inadvertently split the discussion. This may be less problematic than only posting it to one of the two and requiring those on one to use the other. (Seeing my Flocked posts appear on both services is going to be annoying for some of you, I'm afraid, much like when we see people Tweet with a #fb tag and then see the Tweet pop up on Facebook as well. There's no good solution to this, other than my moving across to one or the other completely.)

All that on top of the fun of the username landgrab, of course, and watch me moan because I haven't upgraded my online home to prime username real estate yet. Sometimes people on my Friends list announce they have codes up for grabs, but these go in the wink of an eye rather than in "forty winks" - you really have not to snooze for more than ten minutes or so before you lose. Incidentally, [info]denise currently subscribes to every new personal account during the closed beta period, so her profile lets you keep count of how many personal accounts there are (2,227 as I type, but who knows how many more by the time I post?) as well as all the usernames that have gone. That could be an opportunity for someone devious if they can work out how to use it.

Setting up at a new service will also give me a chance to reassess what I want my journal to do for me; I'm going to bring my userinfo up to date, it being a couple of years stale by now, and my interests no longer need be an attempt to get to exactly 150 forming a full A-to-Z. Hopefully I can get rid of some of my more encumbering notions of blogging as performance art and teach myself that it's OK to post shorter and more frequently. Hey, I've found my one true love through LiveJournal; I don't need (and certainly don't want) to have to go through that again. DW seems to me like a good opportunity for a fresh start and a chance to reinforce the relationships I have - and, no, this isn't a euphemism for defriending or deprioritising friendships with people who don't move.

Technically, currently the biggest advantage of DW is a feature I am unlikely to use in practice, the splitting of the concept of "friend" into "subscribe" (the "appears on your Flist" functionality of Friendship) and "access" (the "sees your Flocked posts" functionality of Friendship). I tend to think that people on LJ recognise that declarations of Friendship are not guarantees of full use of both aspects of the Friend functionality outside filters, and I'm sure that people will quickly make the same realisation on DW; we're going to filter as much as ever, whether or not we choose to use the functionality to make it explicit. (However, not at first; DW doesn't have filtering capability to begin with. It's high on the priority list, though.)

With all this in mind, bear in mind that I love DW to pieces. In the spirit of fairness - quite probably, fairness to excess, by presenting devil's advocacy that I think may overrepresent the opinion of a small minority - I'm going to admit that I don't think DW is perfect and I don't think DW is for everyone. Here are some of the reasons why DW may not be for everyone, but why these objections are not sufficient to put me off.

Before I start, it's relevant to distinguish between the Dreamwidth site and the Dreamwidth movement here, much as it is relevant to distinguish between the LiveJournal site and the LiveJournal codebase. The LiveJournal site runs on a mixture of free / open-sourced code and non-free code, with several different other sites running the free code - plus, usually, as little non-free code as they can get away with, or extra non-free code to make their site a more inviting proposition. The Dreamwidth movement has published a set of Guiding Principles, announcing a commitment to releasing code as open source. "We are committed to making it easy for others to install and maintain their own instances of our server code." Accordingly, I can think of some reasons why some of you might prefer to use another implementation of the Dreamwidth server code, once the DW server code is released.

The skeptical among you might now be reminded of the old LiveJournal Social Contract, which these days has turned into a redirector to a page with core values and technical goals. It's up to you how important a change at LJ this represents. A true pessimist might be similarly skeptical about Dreamwidth's ability to live by its Guiding Principles in the long term - or even feel that the establishment of such principles is necessarily setting the movement up for a fall. Anything is possible; when I say "nothing lasts forever online" above, it's somewhere between plausible and inevitable that Dreamwidth could jump the shark somewhere along the line due to bad fortune or bad decisions. However, I reckon that my near-seven-year LJ run is as long at one location as I might dare to hope for even with a wonderful enterprise. (I kept up physical diaries for about seven years, too, as it happens.) Remind me of this in the space year 02016!

It would be possible to object to the Dreamwidth site on the grounds that it is being operated by a US for-profit company owned by the two technical principals of the site, synecdochic and xb95. There are at least two potential criticisms here.

I think the choice to bind the Dreamwidth site by US law is more dictated by the fact that its two principals are based in the US than anything else. It seems likely that someone could use the Dreamwidth code to start another site in a different country whose legal system might suit you better, and this may be a better fit for your needs. I suspect that some of the DW code will have been written in an attempt to meet the requirements of US law - most specifically, the existence of COPPA meaning that web sites must treat their members under the age of 13 in different ways. Perhaps a Dreamwidth-affiliated site hosted in another country would have to partially rewrite the code to strip out irrelevant COPPA protection and to obey local laws, such as EU data protection legislation. If this is sufficiently important to you, you may find yourself unable to support the Dreamwidth site while still supporting the Dreamwidth movement.

Some might object to the Dreamwidth site on the grounds that it has been designed to operate as a for-profit corporation. This is, essentially, the first issue addressed in Dreamwidth's Business FAQ document. I'll leave it to you to decide how convincing the reasons they give are. I'm not sufficiently expert to know whether there are alternative ways that the enterprise might have been designed within US law which might have resulted in a non-profit or a co-operative while avoiding the 501(c)(3) problems. The company is clear about what it intends to do with its profit, and also clear about the process if the two principals get sick of running the site; a lesson learnt, among other things, from the last days of brad at LJ.

It also helps convince me that the heart of the business is in a place that I like, for-profit or otherwise (though it might not convince you) that synecdochic has written about her background and her intentions for Dreamwidth's place in life. Beside that, even if DW had been set up as a not-for-profit, that doesn't mean that the principals couldn't have acted for their own benefit rather than that of the site - for instance, by paying themselves unduly high wages. The site's commitment to open operations should make such abuses clear and thus almost vanishingly unlikely.

There are a large category of people who will practically not be able to use the Dreamwidth site, whether they approve of it or not: those who do not speak English. LiveJournal has always placed considerable emphasis on the variety of languages in which the site can be used; this has resulted, among other things, in the site becoming one of the foremost, if not the foremost, Russian-language blogging platforms. However, the site's attitude to translation works better in some cases than others; as new pieces of text are added to the site in the native English language, they may not necessarily be added to other languages for some time, if at all. There are some occasions where phrases may be combined in ways that make sense in English grammar, but may not work so well in other languages. Lastly, LJ tags are designed to make sense and be easily memorable abbreviations in the English language, whichever language you may be working in. It works well enough in some languages for the site to be popular in some countries, but it's clearly not perfect.

The Dreamwidth movement takes an alternative approach to this. The Dreamwidth site will only ever be in the English language. However, the site's commitment to open source means that it ought to be relatively easy for (almost?) the entire code to be run by someone else in another language, who may well want to sort out all the translation issues into a single language at a single stroke. Accordingly, over time, we might expect there to be a Russian-language implementation of the Dreamwidth code, a French-language parallel Dreamwidth site, a German-language one and so on and so on, as well as likely several parallel English-language implementations of the code. Again, this has the drawback of splitting locked discussions among many destinations.

The Dreamwidth movement aims to solve this by a notion sometimes referred to as "federation", whereby users who have accounts on multiple Dreamwidth or LJ codebase sites ought to be able to see posts that they can see under Friends-lock on one site at all sites in the federation - and all this without compromising the security of the Friends-locked posts to the outside world. This has got to be the true killer feature for Dreamwidth, if they can make it work well, for those of us who might not want to have to track several different sites. It's also a heck of a technical challenge, and currently it's unsolved - it's just ("just"!) bug #710 on the Dreamwidth Bugzilla. However, it's listed as a bug that is blocking the open beta, so presumably a cunning plan is in place. The whole operation does rely on OpenID to some extent, which some have argued against, though I'm not sure how current the OpenID criticisms are.

As a thought experiment: could someone start a rogue site using the Dreamwidth code, attract users to it who start federating Friends-locked posts from other sites to this rogue site and then start publishing the Friends-locked posts in public? Surely it's possible, but presumably it's no more of a concern that a site that might make Friends-locked posts that are posted there public.

Iain once posted five tests, as was in vogue at the time, of ways in which he might have liked LiveJournal to develop. I'm fairly sure that some of the above properties of the Dreamwidth site will act as a disincentive towards his participation, but he may have more time for the movement at large. The concept of federation, if well implemented, should go some way towards easing his concerns regarding the legal basis of the site and his concerns regarding the single geographical basis for the servers. It's also been publicised that another feature stopping open beta is the revamping of the journal style system so that people might change their styles by use of the web standard CSS system rather than LiveJournal's rather opaque and proprietary S2.

There is something of a common theme to some of the above: there are lots of developments that are currently blocking open beta, but not in place. You can see the bug counts on a frequent basis, but the race against time is a difficult one. Even when the site enters open beta, ready for prime time or not, there are a long list of plans for features to be implemented. There's so much that's to be done and yet so much not yet done.

But there's so much that has been done; see the bug counts, and see these fascinating descriptions of how much can be done in just one week. See how many people are working on the project! See how many people are volunteering on the project already, and how many more are signed up to volunteer once further infrastructure is in place. The staff page shows that many of these have some fairly ideal credentials, too.

This shows that the project has momentum and talent and dedication and love behind it. Dreamwidth is making so much progress that it's hard not to love it. This is as fascinating and exciting as projects of this type come. That's why it's just damn cool, as far as I'm concerned, and that's why I want to associate myself with it, in whatever way, shape or form. To an extent, I'm not even sure how much I care to what extent the Dreamwidth project meets all its goals, so long as the momentum remains so strong and the project develops in delightful ways, even if they aren't necessarily the delightful ways I'd have thought or requested. It's a delightful case of open source volunteerism against the establishment that LJ has become.

Part of this inevitably reflects a degree of cult of personality; something doesn't become cool unless there are cool people working there. One more reason why you might not love the Dreamwidth project is if you have something against its principals, but I absolutely do not.

It's true, and it may be relevant to some people, that synecdochic (in another guise) ran LJ Abuse for some years, at a time when they did some questionable things. To some people, that may be a strike against her ability to run another similar site. While I don't necessarily agree with all the things that happened, I think it would be blinkered to hold these past events against her; while the "I was only obeying orders" defence is stronger in some circumstances than others, I think that running the site and setting its policy is as good a chance for her to show how she'd like to run a site, given the relative lack of constraints at DW that were in place at LJ. If you must, judge her on how she runs things by choice, rather than how she ran things by compulsion. Her reflections on her time in charge of LJ Abuse and how DW abuse might be different are a revealing starting-point, and I like what I see.

It's an oversimplification to say that I think Dreamwidth is cool because I think synecdochic is cool, but it would be wrong to say that that isn't part of it. I get the impression that she'll co-run the site with insight, love and an ingrained streak of wisdom that other people just won't have. azurelunatic has this fascinating post about the trials and tribulations faced by LJ over its years, and what sort of things that LJ users might want from someone running a site. She is a tremendous communicator and fiercely charismatic. Furthermore, she has major, major kudos just reflected from being held high in the opinions of some of those whose opinions I trust.

Voting for a place to focus your social networking is like voting for a political party. Anyone can promise anything, but at the end of the day, probably the most important factor is how people react to the developments which could not have been predicted. Due to their backgrounds and the way they present themselves in the rest of their lives, I'm far happier to put my trust in the Dreamwidth principals, their hopes and their vision than I am anywhere else. In short, I vote Dreamwidth. You might not; there are some of you who, I suspect, will only really ever be happy to vote for themselves - or, depending on how you interpret the paradigm, not vote at all. Placing your trust in an organisation with something as emotive and significant as an online home is an issue that many are struggling with; the_shoshanna has this post, well worth reading, about how she came to the decision for herself. Nothing is certain, but I'm convinced that Dreamwidth is as good a bet as anywhere.

That said, it's important to recognise that synecdochic is a fairly frail flower, who - mixing metaphors like a cocktail - piles her plate exceptionally high despite a relatively short supply of spoons. While there's sense to the cliché that "the only way to get something done is to make sure that a busy person does it", I'm glad that it's not just all her; xb95 also looks like an exceptionally competent brain and thus a very strong bet, and the strength of the rest of the volunteer team cannot be underestimated. (The fact that the two disagree on so much, and yet seem to be so good at co-operating to form a consensus from different starting-points, is another major reason for confidence in the site management.) I'm very glad indeed that the "sale of the site" policy has been codified in the Operating Procedures, and it more or less clears my qualms about what might happen in the case of a brad-style burnout. However, LJ lasted a long time and developed a long, long way before the burnout, so I'm hopeful for a good run.

And yet there was a point when I seriously thought that DW wasn't going to make it. Case in point: look at the archives of the dw-discuss mailing list, or - at least - the volume of discussion from month to month. DW was touted as "coming Summer 2008!"; when September rolled around and discussion on the list dried up, I thought it was a still birth. Seems that LiveJournal, Inc. firing people at the start of 2009 - barely legally, but with a horrible lack of class - was just the spark that the project needed. That sort of downtime reminds me that nothing is guaranteed, and every web site out of your control is always, in part, going to be a gamble. You know what? I don't mind that. In fact, it's part of the fun!

The excitement I find in Dreamwidth is watching the development of the functionality and the culture, whose priority I perceive to be more about having a service that the developers themselves want to use and less about making money. Remind you of anything? Could my strong feelings just be nostalgia for the brad days of LiveJournal? Perhaps; after all, the Golden Age of anything is "just before you discovered it"...

Sidenote: the current raw LJ stats make interesting reading, with the newbyday figures being as strong as they have ever been. I don't think LiveJournal's going anywhere, days after its tenth birthday. However, look at the bottom of the stats page and the graph of age distribution. Can't help feeling that an awful lot of those "29-year-olds" aren't going to be legitimate somehow, and I wonder just how many of the new users might be similarly spam-scented.
Current Mood: excitedexcited

(48 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:lindra
Date:April 17th, 2009 07:41 pm (UTC)
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Hi! Was linked here, and thought given your enthusiasm you might like an invite code!
[User Picture]
From:lindra
Date:April 17th, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
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Er, which is to say, I have one and I would like to give it to you!
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:April 17th, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
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Why, thank you; that's extremely kind of you! Please e-mail it to chris-dreamwidth at dickson dot demon dot co dot uk.

If you (or anyone else) really likes the article, my wife would like one too, and she's at shewalksonroses at gmail dot com... :-)
[User Picture]
From:lindra
Date:April 17th, 2009 09:08 pm (UTC)
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I'll see what I can do. :)
[User Picture]
From:meggitymeg
Date:April 17th, 2009 10:29 pm (UTC)
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Thank you - you've just made my husband very happy! His bouncing round the room just now left both our cats rather terrfied. :D
[User Picture]
From:lindra
Date:April 17th, 2009 10:42 pm (UTC)
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I'm glad to hear it! I'm working on a code for you too, by the way. :D
[User Picture]
From:meggitymeg
Date:April 17th, 2009 11:10 pm (UTC)
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Oh, wow, thanks!! :-D It's all terribly exciting. :))
[User Picture]
From:weds
Date:April 21st, 2009 07:57 pm (UTC)
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Apropos of nothing, I need to squee about your username for a moment.

Okay, a few moments.

Okay, for about ten minutes.
[User Picture]
From:meggitymeg
Date:April 21st, 2009 09:42 pm (UTC)
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:D It's rare that I find someone who gets the reference!

I thought about audiblesigh and blistersoul, but both were taken. ;)
[User Picture]
From:weds
Date:April 22nd, 2009 01:07 am (UTC)
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Yeah, but your username is cooler. It's one thing to be an album name; quite another to be a song.

Especially that song. :D
[User Picture]
From:meggitymeg
Date:April 22nd, 2009 07:01 pm (UTC)
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I have very fond memories associated with that song - I remember finding out at the last minute about an appearance at the 40watt during my first year at uni, and convincing my best friend to drive me and a new friend back to Athens (and then back to Atlanta!) late one night to catch the show - my new friend had never seen VoL or heard any of their music but as soon as he heard She Walks On Roses, he was hooked. :D That entire album (well, all four versions of it) is pretty much the soundtrack of my first year at uni.
(Deleted comment)
From:ext_181997
Date:April 18th, 2009 09:54 pm (UTC)
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Sure will!
[User Picture]
From:bateleur
Date:April 17th, 2009 09:46 pm (UTC)
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Interesting analysis.

Whilst I have no intention of moving in the short term, I may create a Dreamwidth mirror of my LJ and move there longer term if there's ever a reason for me to do so.
[User Picture]
From:synecdochic
Date:April 17th, 2009 09:59 pm (UTC)
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Just FYI:

(However, not at first; DW doesn't have filtering capability to begin with. It's high on the priority list, though.)

We do have access filters (filtering who can see a post) -- what we don't have are reading filters, where you can read custom-defined subsets of your reading list. When we split "friend" into "subscribing" vs "granting access", we had to break up the filters as well; we could have implemented both at once, but the reason there's a limit of 30 filters on LJ is because it's done as a 32-bit bitmask, and since DW is 64-bit, you can have 60 access filters, but that's still a limit. We put off implementing the reading filters so we can implement them in a totally different way, so you'll be able to have tons of reading filters, not limited by the architecture.

This is an awesome post, by the way. Was linked here by a friend. (Who was v. amused at someone calling me a frail flower, though I totally take your meaning. *G*)
[User Picture]
From:matgb
Date:April 18th, 2009 09:14 pm (UTC)
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We put off implementing the reading filters so we can implement them in a totally different way, so you'll be able to have tons of reading filters, not limited by the architecture.

I like this answer. SB gets all freaky at the sheer number of reading filters I use, but I rarely if ever use access filters.

Complete aside, one of the things that I really like about DW is the commitment to a federated system, I know it's something foxfirefey is keen on as well, it's good to see that being put up as a high priority, I'd like at some point to be able to host a site bound by UK/EU data protection laws, etc.

But that's a medium term thing, right now I'm working on layouts &c, and that the very basic core code is more flexible than any of ht eLJ layouts I've tried is incredibly impressive, I likes.
[User Picture]
From:synecdochic
Date:April 19th, 2009 02:08 am (UTC)
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We very much want mutliple sites running the DW code as soon as possible, yes! "Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow." *g*
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:April 18th, 2009 10:11 pm (UTC)

I wanted to log in with my sparkly chris.dreamwidth.org OpenID but LJ keeps assuming I'm a robot

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Thanks very much for the comment! Glad you liked it.

I'm delighted to hear your plans regarding the reading filters and shall look forward to the powerful implementation that I always wanted from LJ. (Should there be some way to create a filter which features someone's posts except theirs tagged "meme" or tagged "twitter" then I will probably rhapsodise about the feature on LJ at great length.) I shall also assume that there wasn't much else among the factual parts of my post that was egregiously wrong to the point that required immediate correction, so that's a good starting-point.

You are living proof that someone can be both a frail flower and a hard-thinkin', code-patchin', massively-multitaskin', site-runnin' BAMF at the same time, not that proof was required - and the two should certainly not come as a surprise, because they certainly aren't direct opposites.

I keep thinking of wonderful properties of Dreamwidth that I meant to trumpet, but forgot. I'm looking forward to Find Similar Users making a return at some point, and I forgot to mention the part about not having lame April Fool's Day gags, which earns an infrequently awarded Triple Hallelujah.
[User Picture]
From:synecdochic
Date:April 19th, 2009 02:07 am (UTC)

Re: I wanted to log in with my sparkly chris.dreamwidth.org OpenID but LJ keeps assuming I'm a robot

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I've always wanted to do things like subscribe-by-tag, yeah, or reading-filter-by-tag, but that'd be way down the line. (Just what we have planned now would take us out to, oh, 2012 easy ...) And no, I didn't see any factual inaccuracies! And thank you again for the compliments.

I really do hope that we can continue to make DW excellently kickass. I mean, just what we've done already is enough to make me flail when I look at it, but if we can do some more of what we plan to do? It makes me flail, and it's almost all done by the tremendous team we've built already. I mean, Mark and I have done a lot of work, but our volunteers just kick fucking ass.

And oooh, a Triple Hallelujah. I should frame that and put it on the wall. ;)
[User Picture]
From:hedwig_snowy
Date:April 17th, 2009 10:24 pm (UTC)
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Probably lost me: Difference/definition of DW site vs DW movement?
[User Picture]
From:matgb
Date:April 18th, 2009 08:47 pm (UTC)
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Site: The server and business run by Denise & Mark that hosts journals and accepts payment for such.

Movement: The whole bunch of people, currently coordinated by Denise and Mark but with many other volunteers, who are working on a complete codebase that anyone else could install and run their own version of a Site.

Comparator: Livejournal.com/lj Inc is the site & business. InsaneJournal, GreatestJournal, etc all run off of the code that was provided as part of the LJ movement.

Comparator2: Anyone can quickly and effectively sign up for a public blog at wordpress.com. In addition, there is a seperate movement, in part funded by wordpress.com, that allows anyone to download and install seperate software to have their own self-hosted blog on wordpress.org.

The latter is a massive movement with volunteer developers worldwide, many of whom also make a living in whole or part by installing and supporting other sites for people. The former is a single business run off the codebase from the .org movement.

I have a dreamwidth account, and plan to move my journal there. However, medium term, I want to set up my own server, and run the code there, and host a small part of the federation for friends &c, as part of the movement.

Does that make sense?
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:April 18th, 2009 10:13 pm (UTC)
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Exactly what I wanted to say, better expressed than I would have done. Thanks, Mat!
[User Picture]
From:hedwig_snowy
Date:April 19th, 2009 02:51 am (UTC)
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Yes, it makes sense. And thank you for the explanation.
[User Picture]
From:julietk
Date:April 18th, 2009 02:54 am (UTC)
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FWIW, on the COPPA stuff: the DW code as it now stands just outright will not give an account to anyone who is under 13, to avoid having to deal with COPPA. (I was the person who did the ripping out of the COPPA code :) ) If one wanted to allow u13s, e.g. on a non-US site running the same code, it would now be a fairly straightforward change, as there's just one small function in the account-creation stuff that would need to come out, rather than a big hairy mess of dealing-with-underage-users. (Which is what it was before.)
[User Picture]
From:soph
Date:April 18th, 2009 09:03 am (UTC)
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True... except that if that person set it up in the US, they wouldn't be *able* to just do that legally; they'd need to reimplement any changes needed for under-13s.

(it's still gotta be simpler than the solution as it was, though.)
[User Picture]
From:julietk
Date:April 19th, 2009 01:45 am (UTC)
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Yeah; if you wanted to run a site which allowed u-13s in the US, you'd need to shove all that crap (or something better :) ) back in again. But it really was a Big Mess, & I am entirely behind the decision to just rip it out & say "this code as stands is not suitable for u-13-allowing sites in the US".

There's all sorts of paperwork which goes along with the COPPA as well (& AIUI if the code is in place, then you have to have the paperwork trail in place, even if you never actually have any users that young... Big Hairy Mess all round).
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:April 18th, 2009 10:15 pm (UTC)
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Excellent!

The long-term question is whether it would be possible for someone to sign up for a non-dreamwidth.org (and non-US) site running DW-compatible code without ever giving their date of birth if they didn't want to. Sure, they would miss out on age-restricted content, and there would have to be the fairly straightforward code changes you mention on this other putative site, but it would be good to know it were an option for someone sufficiently protective of their DoB.
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From:julietk
Date:April 19th, 2009 01:52 am (UTC)
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From recollection of wading through this bit of code, you'd have to do a couple of things:
- remove the "tell u13s to go away" code (small chunk).
- remove the "you must tell us your age" check in the create-account flow (IIRC not much effort).
- *possibly* change the DB - I can't remember if 'real DoB'[0] is a required field or not - or stick in a line giving a fake 1-1-1111 (or something) DoB for ppl who didn't give theirs.

It would be work, but not huge amounts of - couple of hrs at most for a competent coder, I think. The site would still be DW-compatible in terms of federation and all that stuff.

(That would leave all the age-restricted stuff in place, so yeah, someone with no DoB provided wouldn't get that. One could also rip that out (another hour or so of effort - it's all if-clause display stuff), but that would leave the site-owner much more at risk of getting into trouble for the whole minors/inappropriate content thing, even outside of the US. Consult-a-lawyer time, probably.)

[0] A note: in the current code, there's a real DoB, which must be given at account creation, is never shown, and can't be changed; and then a display DoB, which can be whatever you want, or not shown at all, and can be changed. Age-restriction is based on the real DoB, not the display one.
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From:puppy_tenchan
Date:April 19th, 2009 09:14 am (UTC)
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Jumping in to say the content of that note makes me insanely happy, especially in regards to character blogs for roleplayers.
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From:julietk
Date:April 19th, 2009 09:26 am (UTC)
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Precisely that use-case was one of the thoughts in mind when setting things up that way!
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From:synecdochic
Date:April 19th, 2009 09:58 am (UTC)
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That and I realized that one day, my cat might want a journal. ;)
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From:jenett
Date:April 19th, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)
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One other addition - the actual COPPA legal requirement is about whether those under 13 can hand over identifying information (which includes an email address or way to contact them, not just things like legal name) - they can't without parental permission. It's meant for privacy protection, and to help discourage sites marketing to kids who don't know they shouldn't give out identifying info when they're quite young.

A lot of sites, including Dreamwidth, choose to just not deal with that parental permission piece, because there is currently no good way to actually determine if someone on the other end of an email or support request is actually the parent of someone accessing an account. It gets messy in practice really fast. (Yes, you can do things like have them send in a driver's license, letter, etc. But it's still messy.)

Also, the law requires making public the name and contact info of the people handling the COPPA requirements, which I understand in principle, but which is a bad fit for a volunteer-based support system. (It would certainly have made me think several times about the volunteer work I did on the LJ Abuse team back when, since I use my journal to talk about things like religion and relationships that I don't want easily accessible by searching on my legal name.)

Access to content not suitable to those under 13 is obviously related - but it's not actually part of the COPPA law, just a logical consequence of an age limit.
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From:matgb
Date:April 18th, 2009 09:00 pm (UTC)
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Several points. Re Denise's history with LJ—yes, as part of her job, she made some decisions and enforced some stuff I wasn't happy with. I've done that as part of my job as well, not every single bad decision is worth quitting over, especially if you mostly think the decisions are good. But it's worth noting that she did, eventually, leave—I've always got the impression that eventually the crap got too much for her.

Re the original Sept start date: When SUP took over, it was palpable that they actually 'got' LJ as an actual product and a platform, they wanted to move it forward and were pushing in a direction that looked very good (co-location being originally listed as a high priority for example). That put DW on the back burner. Then Mark's fiancée and other got fired at almost zero notice. Up until that point, I was very hopeful about the future of LJ—an example being the way the hookup with The Independent was being handled, gorman had the intention of allowing all of us to map our own domains persistently in the way Indy journals and Comms are mapped.

The very unexpected staff losses, so badly handled, scared and annoyed a lot of people, which caused a renewed impetus to DW. That's good.

Regarding the federation and the option of having a seperate server operating under UK/EU law—I want this, as a medium term goal. I don't have a server to install it on, and it isn't a high priority, but I think it'd be doable, especially if the federated aspect of it takes off. If you, Iain or others would be interested in that, that'd be useful. That reminds me, Setting up a feed for so/so and his personal stuff should be doable, right.

Re privacy and similar—it's already possible for someone you have given access to on LJ to get a feed of your private content using &auth=digest. There are web based feedreaders that support this, and some of them allow republication of material.

I never got around to installing gregarious, but might do so at some point, and that definitely allows for it. So yes, valid concern, but ultimately a position of "who do you trust", if a friend of yours switches toa dodgy site with possibly poor practices, then it's your relationship with that friend that is the ultimate issue.

Also, re translations, two of the people I most trusted on LJ stuff are in the Docs team, and rewriting the translation system to make it actually viable has been a high priority for them.

Meh, long, rambly comment in reply to a long rambly post: I share your enthusiasm for DW, and hope that it lives up to our expectations, initial signs are good. I'm MatGB on there, I understand the not granting access thing, but I'd like to continue to read your public stuff, are you pokery there as well?
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:April 18th, 2009 10:21 pm (UTC)
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All that sounds extremely promising at worst and gladdening to read at best, particularly the high regard in which you hold the docs people. Can't say I fully understand the subtleties of the Indy tie-up, though.

My DW incarnation is [info]chris because I am a great big poser. :-)
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From:matgb
Date:April 18th, 2009 10:26 pm (UTC)
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The bit about the Indy tie up I really like is this:

j_rentoul

Look at what the link actually is and where it's going to. That seems to apply across the board to all Indy users, and if you type j-rentoul.livenournal.com you get redirected to the subdomain thing.

I want that, I really want that. I could register myname.tld and point it at a Wordpress account easily, but I much prefer LJ based stuff. But at some point I might want to leave and keep my domain name, etc.

And yeah, both foxfirefey and rho are Good People, it was 'fey I was working with a few years back on the lj2wordpress project—the idea of forking LJ itself hadn't occured to us.
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From:foxfirefey
Date:April 20th, 2009 07:48 am (UTC)
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Well, forking the LJ code for me or anyone I knew would have been a near impossible task. Vanilla LJ code runs on Apache 1.4 and is a poorly documented byzantine maze. I just plum did not have the experience or resources to dig into that code, and neither did anybody else I knew to work with on it. What the DW devs have done with it is nothing short of amazing; hundreds and hundreds of man hours of everything from tedious clean up to major rearchitecturing to wee little detail fixes. When people look at DW and think it's just an LJ ripoff, I have the urge to somehow make them understand exactly HOW MUCH has been done to this code that NOBODY else has before.
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From:pengolodh_sc
Date:May 3rd, 2009 10:27 pm (UTC)
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There is, however, a community on DW that is called jiggery_pokery.
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:May 5th, 2009 06:13 am (UTC)
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How interesting!

I kind of deliberately didn't choose to namesquat j_p on DW because I'd sort of like to get to know the next person to think of using the name, but I hadn't expected it to come up as a community. Seems odd that she might start both timey_jiggery and jiggery_pokery, but it's all good, and will hopefully avoid confusions. Sort of.
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From:julietk
Date:April 19th, 2009 01:58 am (UTC)
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Re privacy and similar—it's already possible for someone you have given access to on LJ to get a feed of your private content using &auth=digest. There are web based feedreaders that support this, and some of them allow republication of material.

This is true. The problems with straightforwardly using this for federation over to DW (AIUI) are:
- to not be Bad, you should repoll whenever you want to display the content, in case the auth level has changed since the last time asked.
- similarly, to not be Bad, you shouldn't be storing this content on the remote side, which means you need to poll LJ userX every time any one of the DW-users-withX-friended refreshes their reading page.
- which means lots & lots & lots of hits, which leads to the LJ- (or whoever-) side server telling you to go away kthxbye.

I gather that a solution has been found, though, but that this may or may not actually make it in at open beta, given that that's about 10 days away (!).
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From:elfwreck
Date:April 18th, 2009 10:02 pm (UTC)
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A recent post at lj_advisory mentioned that * Russian and ROW traffic growing, US traffic growth down from 2007 ("ROW" means "rest of world.")

So... LJ never did recover from Strikethrough backlash. They effectively killed their growth in their original market with bad customer service. The stats page doesn't show that because it (1) doesn't segregate by language and (2) has, of course, no way of showing spam accounts.

Hmm. There's supposed to be an LJ Advisor election coming up soon. I wonder how they're going to do that this time?

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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:April 18th, 2009 10:24 pm (UTC)
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As much as DW is explicitly not an elitist venture, and as much as it is explicitly open to everyone: part of the reason why I'm shifting my emotional allegiance away from LJ and towards DW is so that I don't have to care if the... er, people whose sense of humour I don't share end up "representing" the masses. I somehow feel that's less likely to happen at DW, and somehow they're less likely to be irritating (in terms of future functionality giving us the chance of avoiding being irritated by their antics) if they do make the jump.
(Deleted comment)
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:April 19th, 2009 02:33 pm (UTC)
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Sadly no invite codes here; with respect, if I somehow get exactly one invite code then my wife is getting it. :-)
(Deleted comment)
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From:beck_liz
Date:April 19th, 2009 09:03 pm (UTC)
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Most of the "regular folk" are only getting 1 or 2 invites per, so far. They're slowly testing the load on the servers this way. If you sign up for an OpenID account over there (and validate your email), you have a much higher chance of receiving one randomly. Also, as of the start of open beta on April 30, all OpenID accounts will receive an invite code.


(Here from metafandom, in case anyone's curious.)
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From:foxfirefey
Date:April 20th, 2009 07:51 am (UTC)
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To be fair:

* They said US traffic growth is down, not US traffic.
* Honestly, LJ was leaking active users since 2005 when Six Apart bought LJ, even before Six Apart did ANYTHING objectionable.
* SUP actually stabilized the active users, and it's been increasing--it's just not the US accounts that are increasing the user base.
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From:thewhiteowl
Date:April 20th, 2009 09:04 pm (UTC)
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5 active users and 1000000 bots :-P
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From:chrisvenus
Date:April 20th, 2009 10:39 am (UTC)
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This is all making more sense now. I'd seen a few posts going "ZOMG! DreamWhatever!!!" (for some reason dreamwidth as a name keeps slipping out of my head - is there any meaning to it?).

But yeah, thanks for letting me know what it was all about and stuff like that. It does sound interesting and will likely be something I'll play with though I suspect I'll wait til after launch.

And I'd curse you for getting the "chris" username but thinking about it I think I'd prefer Chrisvenus to chris anyway now. :)
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From:jiggery_pokery
Date:April 21st, 2009 09:31 am (UTC)
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The allusion behind the name Dreamwidth is towards "bandwidth", with a vague implication that the site is for documenting whatever you can dream up. Sadly, I think the not-so-intuitively-obvious name is my least favourite part of the whole enterprise (and reinforces what a great name LiveJournal happens to be) but it may well be too late to change and I don't really have any better suggestions. To be fair, other sites using the LiveJournal codebase also frequently have fairly terrible names.

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