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FREE SOFTWARE CULTURE
This article is from:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/LiveJournal

All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Text_of_the_GNU_Free_Documentation_License 

LiveJournal

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

 

LiveJournal (often abbreviated LJ) is a virtual community where Internet users can keep a blog, journal, or diary. It is also the name of the open source[1] server software that was designed to run it. LiveJournal's differences from other blogging sites include its WELL-like features of a self-contained community and some social networking features similar to but pre-dating Friendster and MySpace. It is based in San Francisco, California.[2]

LiveJournal was started in 1999 by Brad Fitzpatrick as a way of keeping his high school friends updated on his activities.[2] In January 2005, blogging software company Six Apart purchased Danga Interactive, the company that operates LiveJournal, from Fitzpatrick.

Features

The most distinguishing feature of LiveJournal is the "friends list", which gives the site a strong social aspect in addition to the blog services. The friends list provides various syndication and privacy services as described below.

LiveJournal allows users to customize their accounts in several ways. The S2 programming language allows journal templates to be modified by members. Users may upload graphical avatars, or "userpics", which appear next to the username in prominent areas as it would on an Internet forum. Paid account holders are given full access to S2 management and more userpics, as well as other features.

Each user also has a "User Info" page, which contains a variety of data including contact information, a biography, images (linked from off-site sources), and lists of friends, interests, communities, and even schools which the user has attended in the past or is currently attending.

LiveJournal also allows "voice posts" to their paid and sponsored users, where one can call into the system and record an entry.

Currently LiveJournal has five account levels: free (comprising approximately 95% of the network); sponsored with advertising; "early adopters" who were registered prior to 2000; paid; and permanent. Permanent accounts are normally not available to the "average user"; there have been occasional sale days or special offers, but such sales are not guaranteed in the future.

"Sponsored with Advertising" accounts, whose status may be turned on or off at any given time by the (free) user, do not cost anything extra (the costs being supplemented by allowing advertising) and allow for some of the features normally reserved for paid and permanent accounts. These include more user icons (up to fifteen, as opposed to six for free accounts) and space on LiveJournal's own image-hosting site (one free gigabyte per user). The official name of the status was originally "Sponsored+", but was changed to "Plus".

Social networking

The unit of social networking on LiveJournal is quaternary (with four possible states of connection between one user and another). Two users can have no relationship, they can list each other as friends mutually, or either can "friend" the other without reciprocation. On LiveJournal, "friend" is also used as a verb to describe listing someone as a friend.

The term "friend" on LiveJournal is mostly a technical term; however, because the term "friend" is emotionally loaded for many people, there have been discussions in such LiveJournal communities as lj_dev and lj_biz, as well as suggestions about whether the term should be used in this way; this conflict is discussed in greater detail below.

A user's list of friends (friends list, often shortened to flist) will often include several communities and RSS feeds in addition to individual users. Generally, "friending" allows the friends of a user to read protected entries and causes the friends' entries to appear on the user's "friends page". Friends can also be grouped together in "friends groups", allowing for more complex behavior in both of these features.


 

Privacy

All users are allowed to hide their entire journals from the major search engines such as Google. The popular "friends only" security option, which has since been adopted by Xanga and MySpace, hides a post from the general public so that only those on the user's friends list can read it. Some users keep all their posts friends-only. LiveJournal also allows users to create custom "user groups" within their group of friends to further restrict who can read any particular post, and to allow easy reading of subsets of a user's friends list.

LiveJournal additionally has a "private" security option which allows users to make a post only they can read, thus making their LiveJournal a private diary rather than a blog. The existence of all entries, regardless of security level, are shown on the user's calendar/archive page.

Some sociologists describe this system as an online gated community, similar to Orkut or aSmallWorld, but LiveJournal is far more complex; any individual post can be public, restricted to some unknown group, or entirely private. Anyone can read public posts.

Users may also restrict who may comment on their posts. Comments on a given entry may be allowed from anyone who can read the entry, or restricted. Commenting from anonymous users may be disabled or screened (visible only to the original posters), limiting posting to registered LiveJournal users. Additionally, posting can be limited to only users listed as a friend. The IP address of commenters can be logged as well.

Community

User interaction

As with most weblogs, people can comment on each other's journal entries and create a message board-style thread of comments — each comment can be replied to individually, starting a new thread. All users, including non-paying users, can set various options for comments: they can instruct the software to only accept comments from those on their friends list or block anonymous comments (meaning only LiveJournal users can comment on their posts). They can also screen various types of comments before they are displayed, or disable commenting entirely. Users can also have replies sent directly to their registered e-mail address.

In addition, LiveJournal acts as host to group journals, dubbed "communities" (frequently abbreviated as comms). Anyone who joins a community can make posts to it as they would on a regular journal; communities also have "maintainers", ordinary users who run the community and oversee membership and moderation.

Some areas of LiveJournal rely heavily on user contributions and volunteer efforts.[3] In particular, the LiveJournal Support area is run almost entirely by unpaid volunteers. Similarly, the website is translated into other languages by volunteers, although this effort is running down due to a perceived lack of involvement from the LiveJournal administration.

The development of the LiveJournal software has seen extensive volunteer involvement in the past. In February and March 2003, there was even an effort, nicknamed the Bazaar, to boost volunteer performance by offering money in return for "wanted" enhancements or improvements.[4] The Bazaar was intended to follow a regular monthly pay-out scheme, but it ended up paying out only once, after which it was neglected without a word from the management until about one year later when it was shut down.

Nowadays, voluntary contributions to the software are considered for inclusion less and less as the company has acquired more and more paid employees who focus on the organization's commercial interests. This has led to the formation of several forks, many of which introduce new features that users would like to see at LiveJournal, especially features that are brought up repeatedly in LiveJournal's own suggestions journal (which is sometimes stereotyped to be superfluous because many regular readers feel that LiveJournal has stopped caring about ideas from users and implement only the development team's own ideas, particularly since the buyout by Six Apart).

In some cases legal and administrative concerns have led LiveJournal to prohibit some people from volunteering.

Demographics

As of April 2006, over 10 million accounts had been created, of which 1.2 million had been updated at some point in the previous 30 days.[5] Of those users who provided their date of birth, the vast majority were in the 15-24 age group. Of those who specified a gender, more than two thirds were female.

LiveJournal is most popular in English-speaking countries (although there is a language selection feature), and the United States has by far the most LiveJournal users among users who choose to list a location. There is also a sizable Russian contingent, as many Russians have turned to LiveJournal as their primary blogging engine. The following are rounded figures as of July 19, 2006 (based on the information listed by the users):

  1. 3,008,303 — United States
  2. 317,596 — Russian Federation
  3. 246,944 — Canada
  4. 206,656 — United Kingdom
  5. 97,923 — Australia
  6. 36,413 — Philippines
  7. 35,742 — Ukraine
  8. 33,321 — Germany
  9. 28,666 — Singapore
  10. 27,201 — Finland

The following is a breakdown of United States users, by state, as of July 19, 2006:

  1. 518,462 — California
  2. 338,317 — Florida
  3. 314,774 — New York
  4. 268,652 — Michigan
  5. 235,350 — Texas

These figures only include accounts where the country information is public.

Notable LiveJournals and users

For more details on this topic, see List of notable LiveJournal users.

Frank the Goat

Frank the Goat is LiveJournal's mascot. Frank is treated like an actual living being by much of the LiveJournal userbase, and his brief "biography" as well as his "journal" reflect this.

Sometimes, callers to LiveJournal's Voice Post service are informed "Frank the Goat appreciates your call." This occurs randomly.[6]

Recently, web cartoonist Ryan Estrada has made comics about Frank, updated every Wednesday on the Frank: The Comic Strip community on LiveJournal. As of this date, the community has roughly 8,600 members, and is watched by just shy of 5,000 LiveJournal users.

Controversies and criticism

Invite system

From September 2, 2001 until December 12, 2003, the growth of LiveJournal was checked by an "invite code" system. This curbing of membership was necessitated by a rate of growth faster than the server architecture could handle. New users were required to either obtain an invite code from an existing user or buy a paid account (which reverts to a free account at the expiration of the period of time paid for). The invite code system serendipitously reduced abuse on the site by deterring people from creating multiple throw-away accounts. The invite code system was lifted after a number of major improvements to the overall site architecture.

Elimination of the invite code system was met with mixed feelings and some surprisingly strong opposition. A number of users felt the invite code system lent LiveJournal a touch of elitism, or a closed-community feel. Others, LiveJournal's management included, pointed out that the invite code system was always intended to be temporary.[7]

The word "friend"

The dual usage of "friend" as those one reads and those one trusts doesn't necessarily match the definition of the word used in everyday speech. Even the individual users on a user's friends list may contain a mixture of people met through real world friendships, online friendships, general interest, and courtesy (a user friending back someone who friended them). Sometimes a friends list represents something entirely unrelated to social relationships, such as a reading list, a collection, or a puzzle.

The fact that "friend" is used, without qualification, to describe vastly different things in the LiveJournal community is sometimes a source of conflict, hurt feelings, and other misunderstandings. This is intensified by the fact that friending and defriending (adding or removing another user from your Friends list) is as simple as clicking a button, while real-life friendships are formed and unmade over longer periods of time.[8] Since creating a friend relationship on LiveJournal does not require permission or action on the part of anyone but a single user, any user can friend any other user. Many users are sensitive to being listed as a "friend of" a controversial user or someone whom they actively dislike. To combat this, a feature was created for users to hide the entire list of others who have listed them as a "friend".[9]

On April Fool's Day 2004, the LiveJournal staff pulled a prank on all users by changing the terms "friend" and "friend of" to "stalking" and "stalked by".[10] Though many users wanted to keep these terms, it caused controversy, particularly with those who had been victims of stalking.

Despite these problems, the word friend continues to be used to define these multi-faceted relationships on LiveJournal. This possibly reflects the designers' intent to have LiveJournal become more like an off-line community than some other purely on-line organizational structure.[citation needed]

In the Russian LiveJournal community, the word френд (friend, an English borrowing) is often used to describe this relationship instead of the native Russian word that translates to "friend."

Abuse team decisions

As LiveJournal has grown, it has had to deal with issues involving the content it hosts. Like most web logging hosts, it has adopted a basic Terms of Service [4]. The Terms of Service simultaneously expresses a desire for free speech by the users while outlining impermissible conduct such as spamming, copyright violation, harassment, etc. LiveJournal created an abuse team and processes to handle claims about violations of the Terms of Service, violations of copyright, violations of the law, and other issues.

If the abuse team determines that a violation has occurred, the user will be either required to remove the infringing material (as in the case of copyright violations); the journal will be suspended until such time as the material can be removed (e.g., posting of home addresses or other various contact information of another); or, in cases of severe or multiple violations, the journal will be suspended (e.g., account hijacking, multiple instances of copyright violation, child pornography). The offending user is notified by email of any journal suspension or, if any offending material must be removed, the user is given a deadline for its removal. When a journal is suspended, it effectively removes from sight everything the user has written on LiveJournal, including comments in other people's journals; however, the user is able to download the material while suspended. Those suspended users who have paid for LiveJournal's service do not have payments refunded.

The processes followed by the abuse team are criticized by some users as lacking transparency; all team members utilize pseudonyms in their responses to requests and there is no independent ombudsman or mediator. A complaint escalation procedure does exist by which complaints are passed to staff members internally, but the workings of it are not obvious to end users of the system and are not publicly explained. The abuse team at LiveJournal has come under criticism for their handling of alleged violations[11] and some users feel that the abuse team over-reacts to cases in disregard of the actual Terms of Service (or the reverse, that it disregards blatant Terms of Service violations).

A small controversy arose in November 2004 when a policy document used by the abuse team was leaked to a group of its critics before it was due to be released. Comparisons between the policy and the Terms of Service were inevitable, with some feeling that the former were more restrictive than the latter, and others believing that the Terms of Service are very wide in scope and encompass everything within the policy document. The policy document has since been officially released[12].

A controversy arose when more than one thousand users complained after an unknown number of users were asked to remove default user pictures containing images of breast feeding that were considered inappropriate as they contained a view of nipples or areolae.[13] The incident attracted the attention of breast feeding advocacy groups such as Pro-Mom[14] who publicized the issue to gain larger media awareness.[15] LiveJournal responded by changing the FAQ on appropriate content for default user pictures. The current FAQ 111 says that nudity[16] is not appropriate: the original FAQ 111 said that graphic sexual content[17] was not appropriate. Breastfeeding was not banned by the original FAQ, but is under the new FAQ.

LiveJournal and advertisements

In April of 2006, a user type was added that gave free users some of the features available to paid members in exchange for ad sponsorship, initially called Sponsored+, and later renamed to Plus. Some long-time users criticized this move, saying that it was against LiveJournal's founding principles, one of which explicitly stated there would be no ads on the website; however, the Plus account has been a popular choice for its added features.

The strongest criticism of ads on LiveJournal occurred when ads for Kpremium began installing malware and triggering pop-up ads on users' computers, against the LiveJournal ad guidelines.[18] LiveJournal responded by removing the advertisement from the website and issuing an apology to its users.[19]

LiveJournal and Education

This article or section may contain original research or unverified claims.
Please help Wikipedia by adding references. See the talk page for details.

For some users, LiveJournal is a very efficient tool for the teaching of linguistics. The above mentioned features allow LiveJournal to serve as a virtual textbook, or even virtual classroom where "students" from different countries can share their essays or points of view and have other users comment to them in the target language.

Licensing in Russia

In October 2006 came news that LiveJournal had licensed its Russian community to the Russian publisher Sup-Fabrik,[20] a startup financed by Russian oligarch Alexandr Mamut with close ties to the Kremlin. The move was not particularly well received by some Russian LJ members.[21]

Sale to Six Apart

LiveJournal's parent company, Danga Interactive, was initially formed and held entirely by Brad Fitzpatrick. However, as LiveJournal's popularity gained, Fitzpatrick was approached by many others to sell the popular journaling service. He initially resisted many of these offers, not wanting his pet project (which he has characterized as his "baby") in the hands of those who did not understand the site's core principles — reliance on paid memberships to fund site operations, the absence of advertising, the volunteer support model, and LiveJournal's support of the free software movement. Nonetheless, as the administrative aspect of LiveJournal began to consume more of Fitzpatrick's time, which he would have rather spent working on the site's technical workings, he began to take the acquisition offers more seriously.

Finally, Fitzpatrick was approached by Ben and Mena Trott, co-founders of Six Apart, who gained his trust and seemed to understand LiveJournal's core principles. He felt that a sale to Six Apart would allow him to focus on technical aspects of the site, while Six Apart's usability and design expertise could improve LiveJournal. Six Apart was interested in buying Danga and LiveJournal to complement their other blogging products.

Community reaction

Rumors of Danga's impending sale to Six Apart were first reported by Business 2.0 journalist Om Malik in his blog, on 4 January 2005.[22] The rumor immediately spread, as users began to speculate (and some panic) about the prospect of the sale of LiveJournal's parent company.[23][24][25][26] By the next evening, speculation of major changes, including a rumor that LiveJournal would require non-paying users to purchase memberships, had caused enough users to backup their journals to impact the site's performance.[27] A few hours later, Fitzpatrick confirmed the sale, and insisted the site's core principles would not be discarded by the new ownership.[28] He also stressed that he and other Danga employees would still continue to manage LiveJournal and that he had determined that Six Apart was committed to the site's core principles before selling.

While the userbase was generally supportive of Fitzpatrick's decision, a few have questioned the deal, objecting to Six Apart's sale of proprietary software, or objecting to changes in LiveJournal's "Guiding Principles" document.[29] In addition, some users had developed a trust of Fitzpatrick, but felt that the sale of Danga to an outside company meant that Fitzpatrick was not ultimately in control of the site.

Fitzpatrick's supporters offered rebuttals to many of these arguments.[30] They noted that the bulk of the code running LiveJournal at the time of the acquisition would continue to be open source, as it was licensed under the GPL. Furthermore, it was noted, most of the changes to the "Social Contract"/"Guiding Principles" document were minor rewordings to prevent legal problems. (The document was never a binding legal contract.)

Others argued that Fitzpatrick, as the sole owner of Danga Interactive, had every right to sell the site, without first consulting the users.

Finally, Fitzpatrick himself noted he was growing tired of the administrative aspects of the site — to the point where he had contemplated shutting down the service — and "I knew I would've shut down the site on my own if I didn't get help."[31]

Other sites running the LiveJournal engine

The software running LiveJournal is open source and primarily written in Perl. Because of this, many other communities have been designed using the LiveJournal software. However, with the exception of DeadJournal, GreatestJournal and Blurty, these tend to be unstable and short-lived. An example of this is the August 2004 closing of uJournal, which temporarily left approximately 100,000 accounts without hosting before the content was moved to AboutMyLife. Another is Journalfen, which for much of its existence has suffered from frequent downtime and now is assailed by spam in the comments of journals, despite its main focus being a single group of communities. Another, slowly growing but not dying, journal is Insanejournal which has been around since 2001.

LiveJournal timeline

References

  1. ^ http://www.livejournal.com/code/
  2. ^ a b http://www.livejournal.com/support/faqbrowse.bml?faqid=4&view=full
  3. ^ http://www.livejournal.com/site/contributors.bml
  4. ^ http://community.livejournal.com/lj_dev/493562.html
  5. ^ http://www.livejournal.com/stats.bml
  6. ^ http://news.livejournal.com/75379.html?thread=10040435#t10040435
  7. ^ http://news.livejournal.com/2003/12/12/
  8. ^ [1]
  9. ^ [2]
  10. ^ [3]
  11. ^ http://community.livejournal.com/abuse_lj_abuse/
  12. ^ http://www.livejournal.com/abuse/policy.bml
  13. ^ http://community.livejournal.com/boob_nazis/1763041.html
  14. ^ http://www.promom.org/bf_info/pr.html
  15. ^ http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/06/01/livejournal_kerfuffle/
  16. ^ http://www.livejournal.com/support/faqbrowse.bml?faqid=111
  17. ^ http://www.greatestjournal.com/community/bfistd/1225.html#cutid1
  18. ^ http://www.livejournal.com/support/faqbrowse.bml?faqid=265
  19. ^ http://community.livejournal.com/lj_ads/4176.html
  20. ^ http://www.livejournal.com/users/lj_biz/239637.html
  21. ^ Side-Line Blog: LJ license sold to Russian company
  22. ^ http://gigaom.com/2005/01/04/six-apart-to-buy-live-journal/
  23. ^ http://crschmidt.net/blog/archives/13/livejournal-to-be-bought-out-by-six-apart/
  24. ^ http://crschmidt.net/blog/archives/14/livejournal-and-sixapart-take-2/
  25. ^ http://slashdot.org/articles/05/01/05/1537257.shtml?tid=95&tid=98
  26. ^ http://community.livejournal.com/lj_maintenance/97600.html?thread=6418240
  27. ^ http://community.livejournal.com/lj_maintenance/99736.html
  28. ^ http://news.livejournal.com/82926.html
  29. ^ http://fuzzie.livejournal.com/133601.html
  30. ^ http://evan.livejournal.com/769381.html
  31. ^ http://evan.livejournal.com/769381.html?thread=4897125#t4897125

See also

  • List of social networking websites

External links

  • LiveJournal.com

Media attention

  • Structure and Evolution of Blogspace, a December 2004 analysis of LiveJournal, published in the Communications of the ACM
  • Journals might be gaining ground, a September 2002 article from the San Jose Mercury News
  • Young Web whiz blogs his way to a bundle, a January 2005 article on the sale of LiveJournal from The Oregonian
  • Youth craft new world on Web site, a January 2005 article on the impact of getting more news from online sources such as LiveJournal instead of mass media, written for The Oregonian
  • Detailed Changes in Support, from LiveJournal.com
  • Pulling sense out of today’s informational chaos: LiveJournal as a site of knowledge creation and sharing, from First Monday
  • LiveJournal tells lactating mums to put 'em away, from "The Register"
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