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December 12th, 2003


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02:12 am - Not forgotten
In memory of Randy Amasia, who passed away on 12th December 2001. I treasure memories of the very kind things he did for me. Randy would likely be pleased with the developments of the last two years and the recent good news that it is no longer lawful for businesses in the UK to discriminate against workers on grounds of sexual orientation or religion.

Lots to write, including "the last sixteen or so overseas holiday cards"; last posting date from the UK to the USA, Canada, Australia, Japan and Eastern Europe is Friday 12th. (Western Europe: 15th, inland: 18th or 20th.) Accordingly, I'm going to keep this pretty short and write other things when the cards aren't forcing a deadline.

Incidentally, it's very difficult to find packs of cards in the UK which deliberately don't say "Merry Christmas" but instead say something religiously neutral like "Season's Greetings". Even mention of New Year is overtly Gregorian; I look forward to being wished a Happy 5765 on Tishri 1.

I accept the point that trying to get away with something secular and avoiding the C-word is a bit of a half-measure; if you know that some of your friends celebrate Hanukkah, it's most thoughtful to let them know you're thinking of them in that context at the time. (A clue for the Gentiles: Kislev 25 = December 20 this year, I believe. Guidance about how this might most sensitively be treated from an outsider's perspective would be most welcome.) Nevertheless, it does seem to be a step in the right direction. If you're wondering, the "Season's Greetings" packs that I did find were packs of charity cards in W. H. Smith's - and, even then, they mention "Christmas" on the back in terms of recycling. Hey ho.

As an even more distant aside, I notice that the only place I saw Kislev mentioned in W. H. Smith's was on the front of White Dwarf magazine, where Games Workshop have inexplicably used the name for the latest army in their Warhammer miniatures war game. Kislev details the army of the north, staunch allies of the Empire and first line of defense against the dread forces from the Chaos Wastes; I look forward to Jewish comedians teaching us the one about the Jewish war gamer. I can't believe that nobody at a global company like Games Workshop thought of checking their latest arbitrary fantasy name on Google to make sure it wasn't something profane in another tongue, but evidently so.

As you may have seen in news, invite codes are about to die. A "trial account" scheme was mooted, but the moot proved unfavourable and free rein will once more reign. The account codes left over look likely to be turned into paid account time at a rate to be announced; this paid time is transferrable, so the likes of zorac can shunt the paid time some other direction rather than being a member until (the end of time + 2 months). I have some speculation as to what the rate is likely to be and how much the scheme will cost LiveJournal; I submitted it to lj_biz a few hours back, but I fear it has been declared insufficiently bizmunguous. Accordingly I shall air it here.



As for the exchange rate, I start the bidding at: first invite code = 1 month, second to fifth invite codes = 1 week each, sixth and subsequent invite codes = 1 day each. That's possibly a little complicated, but I think there has got to be a diminishing return involved otherwise people with scores of invite codes will unbalance the system. People are familiar with a chunk of paid time being two months, so getting about one chunk free is probably psychologically satisfactory (not too little, not too much).

I love LiveJournal and want it to make millions and millions, so anything which encourages people to pay for paid time is undoubtedly a good thing. Giving people effectively a free sample of paid time may inspire them to continue to pay for it in the future, if only for the extra icons. (Incidentally, sometimes expired paid accounts do not seem to revert to the lower icon limit immediately; perhaps this procedure needs to be considered again in the light of this development.)

People who are expecting three months per code are kidding themselves. Let's play with some numbers. Source: 75% the stats page, 25% my ass. Part of the reason I'm posting this to lj_biz is that the people who would know the figures more accurately might tell us them; I suspect the numbers are proprietary, but I'm sure some of you LJ veterans are likely to be able to make far more plausible guesses than I am.

* Free Account: 1327888 (93.9%)
I estimate that 30,000 of these (within half an order of magnitude) will be once-paid accounts. The rest are never-paid accounts.

Of those never-paid accounts, perhaps one third will have generated their free code; of those, perhaps one half will have used it. Thus there are around 200,000 never-paid free users with one code sloshing around, of whom perhaps 15% will find out about and about 10% will take up the offer. Result: 20,000 times "first code" free time.

Of the once-paid accounts, I would wildly guess that one third of them will be used again in the future - so there are about ten thousand people (again, within at least a factor of four) who have paid for LiveJournal in the past and continue to use it for free in the present. I would guess that half the active once-paid-but-no-longer LJ users have one or more invite codes left; of those who do, I would estimate the mean number at 2. Of those, perhaps 30% will find out about and about 25% will take up the offer. So we're looking at about 2,000 times "first code plus a few more codes" free time.

* Early Adopter: 14154 (1.0%)

I would guess that about 2,000 of these will be used again in the future and remain with this status rather than having moved to a paid account. I would guess that half the active LJ early adopters have one or more invite codes left; of those who do, I would estimate the mean number at 4. Of those, perhaps 90% will find out about and about 75% will take up the offer; you don't remain an early adopter to today without knowing about news. So here we're looking at about 750 times "first code plus a few more codes" free time.

* Paid Account: 69494 (4.9%)

I would guess that about 64,000 of these will be used again in the future. I would guess that 80% of active LJ paid account users have one or more invite codes left; of those who do, I would estimate the mean number at 4. Of those, perhaps 60% will find out about and about 50% will take up the offer. So here we're looking at about 25,000 times "first code plus a few more codes" free time.

* Permanent Account: 1600 (0.1%)

I would guess that about 1,500 of these will be used again in the future. It seems fair to assume that almost all of these will have invite codes left and I would, with very little confidence, estimate the mean number at 21. (20 yesterday, but 20% of permanent account holders will rush to generate this month's five extra codes based on this news.) Of those, perhaps 90% will find out about and about 70% will take up the offer - a low proportion because lots of permanent account owners will hear about this and actively decline the opportunity. So we're looking at about 1,000 times "first code plus lots and lots of codes" free time here.

Adding it up, I think we're looking at about 50,000 people taking up this offer. Perhaps half of the 50,000 would never have paid for paid time under any circumstances and half of the 50,000 will pay for paid time in the future after the free paid time has expired - so, we're looking at a financial loss to LiveJournal of 25,000 times the value of "first code plus a few codes". If the average value of free time awarded is, say, $4 (a shade under two months) then this represents a $100,000 revenue hit over the next year or so - hopefully, to be recouped by people who wouldn't have purchased a paid account in the past doing so in the future, as well as from the expansion attributable to the removal of invite codes.

All these estimates are within about a factor of five or so at best. Frankly I suspect that the amount of goodwill to be gained and lost by this exercise is probably pretty substantial in comparison and this is more a goodwill exercise than a financial one.




Also, the local dialect survey that was doing the rounds last week, in the style of the Two Ronnies' only funny sketch.

In the style of the two Ronnies' only funny sketch? What do you mean?

Yes.

Er... and from whom did you yoink this?

Answering the question you asked before last.

1. A body of water, smaller than a river, contained within relatively narrow banks?

titanic_days.

2. What the thing you push around the grocery store/supermarket?

Beck if it's really small, stream if it's bigger.

3. A metal container to carry a meal in?

Trolley.

4. The thing that you cook bacon and eggs in?

Lunchbox.

5. The piece of furniture that seats three people?

Frying pan.

6. The device on the outside of the house that carries rain off the roof?

Most often couch, less often settee or sofa.

7. The covered area outside a house where people sit in the evening?

Gutter.

8. Carbonated, sweetened, non-alcoholic beverages?

Yard.

9. A flat, round breakfast food served with syrup?

Fizzy drinks.

10. A long sandwich designed to be a whole meal in itself?

American pancake, but we almost never have them.

11. The piece of clothing worn by men at the beach?

Baguette.

12. Shoes worn for sports?

Swimming trunks.

13. Putting a room in order?

Trainers.

14. A flying insect that glows in the dark?

Tidying up.

15. The little insect arthropod that curls up into a ball?

Glow-worm.

16. The children's playground equipment where one kid sits on one side and goes up while the other sits on the other side and goes down?

Not sure which one you're talking about here.

17. What's it called when private citizens put up signs and sell their used stuff?

See-saw.

19. What's the evening meal?

Garage sale or car boot sale, depending on where the used stuff is being sold from.

20. The thing under a house where the furnace and perhaps a rec room are?

Tea until about 5:30pm, dinner until about 10:30pm, supper afterwards.

21. The bit of the street the people walk on?

More often basement, less often cellar.

22. The bit of the street the cars drive on?

Pavement.

23. What water comes out of?

Road.

*beep beep beep* Have I confused you all yet?

Tap.
Current Mood: prayerful
Current Music: $25,000 Pyramid theme tune (just changed to Randy on Whew!)

(21 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:meggitymeg
Date:December 11th, 2003 07:15 pm (UTC)
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I actually just found the time to purchase holiday cards today (if you'd care to recieve one, you can find my (rather belated) address poll here), and I managed to find some pretty nice cards even at this late date, at Barnes and Noble. They've got a huge snowman on the front, arms open wide for a hug, and inside they simply say, "Joy." Having a number of friends who are Southern Baptists/Catholics/Jews/Pagans/Atheists, I try my hardest to steer clear of anything with Bible verses, Santa Claus, and the like. I'm happy with the ones I found tonight - I think the idea of joy is something we can all relate to, no matter what we're celebrating this season. :) So, yeah, my $0.02.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 11th, 2003 07:48 pm (UTC)
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Ooh, they sound ideal!

I have to admit that I wasn't looking in what I think of as book shops for boxes of cards, but it's by no means at all a bad idea. Not sure whether you have W. H. Smiths in the USA outside airports, but it's a big newsagent which sells books, music and video, toys and games, gifts and cards as well.
[User Picture]
From:meggitymeg
Date:December 11th, 2003 08:07 pm (UTC)
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I don't believe I've ever seen a W.H. Smith outside of an airport, but from your description, it sounds very much like Barnes and Noble.

I'm planning to do my international holiday cards first (tomorrow), so hopefully you'll recieve yours before 2004. :) I'll email you my address, as well!

Random side note: There's a very small town about 45 minutes from where I grew up (also in a very small town), called Bethlehem. They're too small to have their own schools or grocery stores - the last census reported just under 700 residents - but every year, their tiny post office postmarked over 100,000 pieces of mail between Thanksgiving and Christmas. People apparently send sacks of cards from all over the country and beyond, to get that postmark. I've always found it rather fascinating, in a completely weird sort of way. :)
[User Picture]
From:sincelastjuly
Date:December 11th, 2003 07:27 pm (UTC)
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As for the exchange rate, I start the bidding at: first invite code = 1 month, second to fifth invite codes = 1 week each, sixth and subsequent invite codes = 1 day each.

Meh, not enough for greedy me. ;) I am liking the idea of one code = two weeks. *has 15 stored up* B-)
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 11th, 2003 07:58 pm (UTC)
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Yyyyeeeahhh - I fear you may be setting yourself up for disappointment there if you're hoping to score seven months or so from your codes. Let's run through the numbers for comparison.

Never paid: 20,000 * 2 weeks = 40,000 weeks.
Once-paid: 2,000 * 3 weeks = 6,000 weeks.
Early adopter: 750 * 5 weeks = 3,750 weeks.
Paid account: 25,000 * 10 weeks = 250,000 weeks.
Permanent account: 750 * 44 weeks = 33,000 weeks.

Total ~= 330,000 weeks ~= 6500 years. Assume half of this would otherwise be paid for and we're looking at about $80,000 of lost revenue again. Which is, to be fair, less of a hit than the "first code = one month, second to fifth code = one week, sixth code onwards = one day" scheme that I was suggesting. So you are right and I am wrong and will shut up.
[User Picture]
From:sincelastjuly
Date:December 11th, 2003 08:03 pm (UTC)
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awww, *cuddles you*
[User Picture]
From:ringbark
Date:December 11th, 2003 09:17 pm (UTC)
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Like zorac, I ponied up with some moolah for a permie account.
I have 42 invite codes left and will ignore anyone who asks for one based on this comment. If you want one, go to invitecodes and answer one of my questions.
One of the reasons I got a permanent account was to get the invite codes, another was for more syn points. Not sure what I'll do if invite codes disappear or become worth something else.
[User Picture]
From:bateleur
Date:December 11th, 2003 10:22 pm (UTC)

GW's Kislevites

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FWIW, Games Workshop have had the nation of Kislev in their game backgrounds since waaaay back. Certainly it appeared in the first Warhammer set I ever owned in the 80s.

Back then, GW were shameless plagiarists and I'd guess the apparent coincidence you've spotted was actually their source.

So the decision they face now is more complex: change the name and irritate their entire customer base with their lack of integrity or keep the name and risk charges of making light of people's religions.

When Wizards of the Coast faced a similar issue with their trading card game 'Jyhad' they opted for the change (to: 'Vampire: the Eternal Struggle'). I have to say I think they made the wrong call in that case. The game's name was on the card backs and this meant that everyone's old collections were no longer playable. Certainly lathany and I both stopped playing the game at this point. It has certainly not thrived since, particularly when compared with the RPG line from which it derives.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 11th, 2003 10:38 pm (UTC)

Re: GW's Kislevites

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This is tragic - you have been to bed and got up, and I'm still thinking it's Thursday night. Just twelve more international cards to go and then I can rest. *sigh* (Do them in the morning? Won't work, I can guarantee it.)

Thank you for the explanation of Kislev - extremely interesting. I was faintly hoping it was a new discovery, but there is little new under the sun. On the other hand, this means that there is likely to have been some discussion of this issue somewhere along the line already, if only I can find it.

If it's very old GW, I wonder if the famous Steve Jackson or Ian Livingstone themselves have anything to do with it? Certainly there was some strange (trans.: ripped-off) pseudo-mystical stuff in the original The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain so I wouldn't put it past 'em.

Incidentally, one of the kids at the games club has a copy of the all-new The Warlock Of Firetop Mountain which was given away with one of the young people's papers not so long ago. It's effectively about the first half of the old gamebook (everything up to the river, I think?) - possibly (hopefully!) rewritten and improved for logic, sanity and game balance. I am nostalgically amused to see Fighting Fantasy coming round the pike once more, though it's not as if Steve or Ian need the money. *whistles innocently* If it means that some of the other writers and artists get some unexpected royalties for work from almost twenty years back, that's got to be a bonus.
[User Picture]
From:bateleur
Date:December 12th, 2003 02:02 am (UTC)

Re: GW's Kislevites

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I wonder if the famous Steve Jackson or Ian Livingstone themselves have anything to do with it?

Very far from impossible !
[User Picture]
From:ericklendl
Date:December 12th, 2003 12:52 am (UTC)
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...in the style of the Two Ronnies' only funny sketch.

Hmm. I would have to say you're wrong here, although I'll grant you that it's their funniest, and your version does it a reasonable amount of justice - Q7 entertains particularly. Four Candles is pretty overrated, Nuts M'Lord isn't, and many of the Barker individual skits are excellent. In fact, I think I might add a Two Ronnies DVD to my last minute present list.

Last time I looked, the original version of the Mastermind sketch wasn't listed anywhere on the interwebthingy. Can we reconstruct it here?
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 12th, 2003 02:53 am (UTC)
(Link)
jiggery_pokery in "overstates case for sake of catchy-looking lj-cut text" shock!

Ton Tvelf Ronnief have always looked very old for the last few times I've seen them; it's my perception that their humour was very much of their age and does not travel well through time. Should the BBC repeat them again this Christmas I'll sit for at least five minutes of an old show, but I suspect I may not be able to sit fifteen out.

Mastermind sketch: not from my memory, alas.
[User Picture]
From:bopeepsheep
Date:December 12th, 2003 01:05 am (UTC)
(Link)
I'd be interested to find out how many paid account members did what imc and I thought of last night - we paid for 18 months more (between us, so our accounts now expire at the same time - but see below). His was due to expire in 2 weeks anyway, and now he has 12 more invite codes, which may work out to a reasonable chunk of extra time for 'free'.

Of course, at present our accounts are supposed to expire on the same day, but since he now has 2 more invite codes than I do, presumably we'll be out of sync again once the adjustment is made!
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 12th, 2003 01:22 am (UTC)
(Link)
Mmmmm-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-m. I certainly thought of it as a wild 4am idea (so you probably thought of it about six hours before me!) but decided against doing it in practice. I broadly approve of gaming the system and getting something for nothing when I can, but LiveJournal isn't the sort of giant faceless conglomerate from whom I would derive satisfaction in getting one over.

Order of magnitude estimate: let me see. news is read by, say, twenty thousand; one percent of those will have thought of the idea, half of that one percent will put it into practice, so about a hundred. Of course, for each person who does it and mentions that they have done it, this will inspire *plucks figure from thin air* one and a half more people to do so before the codes-to-time swap actually occurs, so 250 people all told, for a total of (say) 2,000 extra codes. If you get three days per extra code, that's approaching twenty years, so a $500 hit to LiveJournal; if it's more like two weeks per extra code, it's more like a $2,000 hit.

It is currently 21pm on Thursday night. Two more cards then I can go out and post them all and possibly get to sleep by half past twenty-two or thereabouts. (Which, I hope, explains the terribly mangled sentence construction in the last sentence of the first para.) Strength, strength...
[User Picture]
From:bopeepsheep
Date:December 12th, 2003 06:53 am (UTC)
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I think if imc's account hadn't been so close to renewal we wouldn't have bothered, but since it was... besides, the Paypal exchange rate was rather good last night. When you're paying for stuff in dollars such things can make a difference.
From:daweaver
Date:December 13th, 2003 03:15 am (UTC)

Cards, codes, and tyrannies

(Link)
Cards: I spent longer looking for cards without monotheistic religious motifs and messages than anything else this year. Eventually found packs in those cheap book shops, with pictures of trees and baubles, and the message "Best wishes for happiness at this special time of year." And at 79p for 12 cards, one can hardly go wrong.

Codes: I have nine codes remaining, and I'd expect at least three months from them, but no more than six. Perhaps exchange them at
3 codes - 2 months
2 codes - 1 month
1 code - 14 days

Tyrannies: UK OLD repeated some Two Ronnies a year or so ago. Disregard the newslines, perhaps leave Corbett's monologue, and the rest of the show has aged fairly well. Ronnie and Ronnie are back on UK OLD in the Antan Dec-tastic 0220 slot from tonight, and they're taking up most of the daytime Boxing Day schedule. Jolly good stuff.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 13th, 2003 04:16 am (UTC)

Re: Cards, codes, and tyrannies

(Link)
Eventually found packs in those cheap book shops, with pictures of trees and baubles, and the message "Best wishes for happiness at this special time of year." And at 79p for 12 cards, one can hardly go wrong.

Not bad at all. Evidently the major chains, other than the restricted and apologetic selection at WHS, are missing a trick. Have to admit I spent some time pondering whether any or all of santa-hat, present, stocking, red-breasted robin, holly-wreath or holly-wreath mounted upon the quote "deck the halls with boughs of holly" were religiously specific or not; the first three are indicative of gift-giving traditions, but I think that's just about OK.

I am looking at that paragraph and frowning. Surely there's more to life than this?

I have nine codes remaining, and I'd expect at least three months from them, but no more than six.

Why? What has established that expectation and what makes you think it's a reasonable one? I have a gut feeling that that sort of level of generosity could well be very expensive.

UK Gold: hadn't thought of that, though it does seem obvious in retrospect. Can't remember whether you can still get UK Gold on OnDigital ITV Digital Freeview or not any more, though I suspect not. We effectively use our Freeview box for News 24 only, largely for reasons of parental difficulty with remote controls.
From:daweaver
Date:December 13th, 2003 07:31 am (UTC)

Re: Cards, codes, and tyrannies

(Link)
any or all of santa-hat, present, stocking, red-breasted robin, holly-wreath or holly-wreath mounted upon the quote "deck the halls with boughs of holly" were religiously specific or not

Santa hat, yes, St Nicholas.

Present, stocking, don't think so.

Robin, yes, features in the crucifixion.

Holly, yes, pagan.

What has established that expectation and what makes you think it's a reasonable one? I have a gut feeling that that sort of level of generosity could well be very expensive.

Expectation? Good PR, a thanks for previous supporters, something of benefit to the community will be of benefit to the .com. And I'll argue deferred consumption: having these codes indicates generally they've not been used, and explicitly that they weren't used when the site struggled to cope with extra users.

Here's how I'd make that generosity available: make it contingent on a future purchase of paid time.

Free members when codes were removed will get one month free if they purchase paid time by an arbitrary date (say, 12 March next year.)

Paid members will get one month free when they renew, plus one month per three unused codes.

Permanent members get one month per three codes to donate to other paid members, and they must make that donation by an arbitrary date (say, 12 June.)

Paid members with huge numbers of codes: perhaps cap the scheme at (say) 18 codes for six months, or invite those paid members to purchase permanent accounts at a discount.

That produces:
- an spike in income now from free members converting.
- another spike just before their arbitrary date.
- a higher level of renewal amongst paid members, so higher income over the next year.
- slightly reduced income for about two years while the free months take effect.
- slightly increased income as more people choose to remain paid members.

The net effect will be to make more income now, less in the future. Over the duration of the two year plan, I suspect the change in income would be marginal, and possibly positive.

Can't remember whether you can still get UK Gold on OnDigital ITV Digital Freeview or not any more, though I suspect not.

You suspect correctly. On the other hand, you do get UK History, the only channel more boring than the test card.
[User Picture]
From:jiggery_pokery
Date:December 14th, 2003 10:53 am (UTC)

Re: Cards, codes, and tyrannies

(Link)
Excellent answers about the non-secularity of the sundry icons, thank you very much. The robin really didn't register, but it might cause a problem and I'm trying to remember who I sent the robin cards to. On the other hand, if the robin was felt to be innocent enough to include on the front of an overtly "Season's Greetings" card, perhaps most people who inadvertently get a robin won't mind too much.

Incidentally, I have since heard that the Red Cross are only stocking secular cards in their shops, so that must be the place to remember to look next year. (Not sure if the + have a shop in Middlesbrough, but I shall look into it.)

I'll put a link to your thoughts in the discussion in lj_biz. They certainly seem perfectly sound, but I have reservations about changing the implied "free paid time for invite codes" to "BOGOF paid time for invite codes".
[User Picture]
From:imc
Date:December 17th, 2003 05:26 am (UTC)

Re: Cards, codes, and tyrannies

(Link)
I doubt that robins on Christmas cards have anything to do with the old legend about the robin at the Crucifixion. More likely that they are a symbol of an English winter, like snowmen and frosted windows.

I think looking for religion-neutral Christmas cards to the extent that they don't mention the word `Christmas' is going far too far, personally. However, the ones we picked up in Asda more or less at random (a box of 50 for £1.49) say `seasons greetings' on them. I can't remember what's on all the pictures (and clearly I don't have them in front of me at the moment) but they are a mixture: some have a Winter scene with a house and some geese, while there are others that have three wise men on them.
[User Picture]
From:imc
Date:December 19th, 2003 07:17 am (UTC)
(Link)
Addendum: one of the possible advantages of living in Oxford is that you can get some quite pretty local-view Christmas cards (The Works seems to be the place to buy them, though WHS has a few too). They are rather more expensive than a box of 50 from Asda, though less expensive than buying individual cards for various family members (which is also something I did this week).

Anyway. The greeting inside these cards says (guess what) "Season's Greetings". (And the back of the card also informs you that for every card sold a donation is made to three Oxford charities: Sir Michael Sobell House, Helen House and SSNAP.)

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