I received an email this morning from Annelies Van Den Belt, CEO of SUP congratulating me on being elected to the Livejournal Advisory Board. I ran only because I have very serious concerns about the future of LiveJournal and feel personally deeply invested in its continuation. I’m looking forward to whatever opportunity I may have to get my own concerns and the concerns of other users to a place where they can be heard, whether they are acted upon then is up to SUP, but I am optomistic.
LiveJournal is unique among social networking sites because of the user generated content with drives it and the communities which can bring people together. The people using LiveJournal are creative, they’re producers, they’re writers, they’re commentators, they’re crafters, they’re fans, they’re novelists, artists, actors, students, parents; they’re sharing their lives, or keeping them secret, but daily they are creating. This is what sets LiveJournal apart and what I admire most about it.
The things that concern me most about LJ are issues of functionality for long-term users, people who have been generating content for years and will continue to do so. The greatest of these are:
1) The lack of a server-side backup and restore feature that keeps comments intact. Recently we've seen a wave of attacks by malicious individuals or groups who delete people’s accounts and replace them with links to malware websites. In the grand scheme of things, this is probably to be expected. But it is inconceivable that LiveJournal has no way to restore deleted accounts.
2) The lack of ability to search through one’s own journal and to globally search and replace text in entries.
Both of these are critical if LJ seeks to be a tool used by people for any length of time.
Communities also drive LJ, being able to find and share with groups of like (or un-like) minded people is the core of social networking. Two key features are lacking in LJ’s implementation of communities.
1) After all these years there is still no community directory. The “search by interest” feature is useful, but belies the discovery which would occur if one was able to page through group names and descriptions.
2) The moderators toolkit comprises a single item: “delete”. As the moderator of photographers I’m often faced with a post which violates a rule but doesn’t warrant deletion. If moderators were also given an option to place an entry behind a cut, with text similar to “this entry has been placed behind a cut by the moderator” it could make things a lot easier, reduce the drama which sometimes follows a post being removed and also save the original poster the work of typing it back in when making corrections.
I realize that the bottom line is that SUP needs to turn a profit and their motivations will be driven by this. I believe that continuing to provide services unduplicated anywhere else and improving their functionality is in not only the user’s best interests but SUP’s as well. I hope to be able to look back to this journal in 40 years, and to those of others kept as long, and see lives as they grow and develop, people as they meet and evolve, the things they do, the things they’ve done and the ways in which we’ve all changed the world together.