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quick update for LJers (especially fandom)

i'm really trying *not* to turn my personal LJ into some secret back-channel community support blog, but i'm loving the thoughtful, constructive feedback i'm getting from folks and just wanted to let y'all know what's up. i'm collecting all the comments on my last post or two (and of course the whole team is reading everything written on lj_biz's comments) and will pass them on to the team.

it'll probably be a coupla days until I can do that -- my day job is getting Movable Type 4.0 launched right (yay! it's great! and it's gonna be open source soon, so we can even share stuff between MT and LJ) and assuming that all goes smoothly (HAH!) then i'll circle back with the LJ team and pass on what you've told me.

until then, my favorite LJ post of late is my friend and coworker lisa's post about bradfitz leaving Six Apart. Lisa's the oldest-school member of the LJ team, and i found her post really thoughtful and moving.


I do appreciate your willingness to talk with the lj users!
I'm sure fandom would love to hear about this in the lj-biz community. Not many of them know about this LJ, Anil, not even I. I just found it on an lj-biz post, not the most recent, but the one before it. People are getting a little roudy again and I really do think it would be prudent to write a statement like this one and let them know. I do appreciate you writing about it here. You seem like a reasonable man and I thank you. Just know that fandom is really angry, sad, paranoid right now, and need to be calmed down. A simple, "We're working on it, guys! We've compiled a huge list of all your great advice and are talking over it as I type this! I'll be back!" would calm so many waters.
Yeah, even a new comment in the second lj-biz post would help, if a new post can't be made.
Hey man, thanks for giving us a heads up. Seriously, all that most of us want is just a "We hear you, we're working on it" so thank you for giving us that.

Links Can Get You TOSsed?

I really appreciate that you've opened up this space as an additional forum for feedback.

I'm excerpting this from a post in my journal:

"Today I learned that LJ Support is telling people that you can get TOSsed for merely linking to "prohibited" content hosted entirely offsite. Not hotlinking, not embedded videos -- just posting a link that leads you completely away from LJ if the destination includes content that could get you TOSsed if you'd posted it on LJ. You risk getting TOSsed if you post a link to fanfic or fanart that would violate LJ's policies. And now it really isn't just about fanworks -- not that it ever really was. Suddenly we can get TOSsed for linking to all kinds of websites hosting content that runs afoul of LJ's policies. That's right, LJ's policies now extend to policing the content of other websites.

"This is pretty much unprecedented in the history of online culture. To the best of my knowledge, nobody does this -- because nobody needs to do this. Linking isn't hosting, and the legal liability comes from what you host and how you deal with it. Only the most conservative-to-the-point-of-paranoia reading of the law would construe linking as potential legal jeopardy. Nobody polices links, because the internet is made of links. Cut off the links and you break the internet.

"[disclaimer -- I am not a lawyer and I am not in the tech industry; if you know of relevant caselaw or actively enforced policies for comparable websites or services that contradict my understanding, please do link me to them]"

Anil, I was reading your blog way back before you joined Six Apart. That's why I think you probably know better than just about anyone at Six Apart/LiveJournal just how wrong and damaging this policy would be. It's excessive and unjustifiable, and sets a terrible precedent.

And I honestly think I can understand the rationale behind it. But I believe it's a huge mistake, and I implore you, Six Apart and the LJ team to take a serious step back and reconsider.
I hear you that you don't want to make your LJ where people ask questions, but since you indicate you are willing to take thoughtful feedback back to the team, I have three things I would like to say. I'll be (relatively) brief, and I'll try to be thoughtful. ;)

1. I think you all (I do know "you" the company does not equal "you" individually) are probably complicating the issue more than you want by not being clear about the distinctions (legally and otherwise) between child pornography and obscenity, illegal content and content you don't want to host (the lj_biz post conflates these badly by the end), and creation of questionable content and pedophilia. I think there's a LOT of emotion being needlessly created especially by the suggestion that those last two are the same, and it's not helping anything.

2. The internet is made of links. That's the "inter" and "net" parts of the word. Abuse staff are going around saying links can also get you suspended, which is directly in opposition to the concept that the concern is material being hosted on LJ's servers, and it's freaking people way out, again, I think needlessly.

3. I have seen some fairly rabid speculation that the issue is one of homophobia. I'm not willing to state that myself, but I would like to submit this for the consideration of the group. In our society, the image of the older man and younger woman is fairly pervasive, to the extent that it's nearly invisible. With that in mind, it has occurred to me that the image that got Ponderosa suspended might have been seen very differently if the younger figure in it were female (of equally adult appearance and with no other content changed), simply because there may be some (possibly unintentional) knee-jerk response to homosexual content that makes it harder for some viewers to think critically about issues like artistic merit and ways in which an image is or is not pornographic or representing a child or whatever. I am not asserting that this is all on the part of the reviewer (the Abuse team member or LJ staff); I think such images are also (way) more likely to get reported in the first place. My point here is merely that it may be worth discussing under what circumstances it is important to think about whether the actual sexuality represented (that is, homosexual or polyamorous or otherwise non-majority) is relevant to the content of the image. If the LJ response is overwhelmingly against homosexual content, I'm afraid it comes across in a way that may look fairly bad even if there is no ill intent, and even if this is only because of the way reports come in.

(Honest, that was relatively brief)

Thank you for soliciting feedback.
I don't know much about the first two points, but I can say categorically we're not a homophobic company and that the policies we create are always neutral in regard to orientation. Honestly, we're an extremely LGBTQ-positive organization and I think most of the complaints in that regard have been because people are (understandably) upset, because statistically so much fic *is* homo slash, and because the totaly number of actual suspensions is so tiny (I think I was making the argument in an earlier post that it's literally one in a million users) that it's impossible to draw any statistically valid conclusions.
No, I understand, and this is why I say I'm not particularly of the opinion there's something bad at the company in this regard. In case I wasn't clear, I really do mean, it may be worth talking about the problem of it being more likely that slash material will get reported (because people doing the reporting may in general have an objection), and whether there are ways to make sure that because those images are not as so-common-as-to-be-invisible, they aren't winding up looking more shocking to a reviewer than they really are--talking about it as an awareness issue, rather than as an issue that is a current problem. I hope that makes sense, because I do understand that in terms of percentages, there's no good way to make any kind of statistical case, and I also do understand that you can't help what people report.
Anil, if you haven't seen this post yet, you really should get a look at it, print it out, and take it into the very next meeting you have. I don't personally agree with the bit about making Abe the scapegoat, but everything else in there about corporate communications is very, very, very dead on.
Thanks for the link, I'd definitely agree with many of the points there, except perhaps about the scope of the issue. there are (i'm pulling numbers out of the air here) probably ~20,000 people aware of this issue in any significant sense on LJ, and ~1000 people who were upset enough to comment on the lj_biz posts or via abuse or other venues. It's a sizable number of passionate people, and of course everyone in the community is valued for their participation, but it's something that perhaps 1% of active users are engaged in, and that perhaps .1% of users are really talking about actively.

None of that is to minimize the seriousness of the complaints, or to diminish the validity of people's concerns. I just point it out to say that I'm certain there are other issues (not going to list them in detail because I don't want to invite "our problem is worse than theirs!" comparisons) that also affect the same percentage of users, and those have been handled well enough to have *not* become such points of antagonism between us and the community.

It's probably also a tribute to the media-savviness of fandom that they're able to get regular coverage of their perspective by the mundanes in online media. :)

Anyway, it's not impossible for us (6A/LJ) to get things right, we just didn't with this one section of the community over the past few months. I have confidence we'll figure it out, because I look at communities like Paid users, and they're overwhelmingly happy, statistically speaking. So we have the ability, we just need to be more consistent with it.
I suspect that if it were possible to run the numbers, those (let's say) 20,000 journals would be, on average, be used significantly more than the average active journal. (In other words, I'm saying fandom users are among the site's most active, and somewhat of its core. At least, it feels that way.)

While I appreciate that there must be issues affecting other portions of the userbase, I have to point out that ALL of the recent problems that have attracted a lot of attention on lj_biz and news -- the ones requiring statements, Q&A, filled up posts, and so on -- have been fandom related ones; before this recent batch of problems, most of the complaining was usually of the "how dare you give us new features x, y, and z when existing features a, b, and c still don't work right, and ps, give us more icons" variety. And of course, complaining about ads. Plenty of complaints, and none should be ignored, but none seemed to rise to this level of crisis.

As a paid user myself, I'd say I had been perfectly happy -- but what happened to those two users, and the way it's been handled so far, is really, really bad. I'm too lazy to pack up and move just because of that -- like I said elsewhere, I'm used to dealing with companies like Sprint that completely fail at customer service, and while it's sad that LJ has lately been giving Sprint a run for its money on that front, that alone isn't enough to get me to switch sites -- but like everyone else, I already have accounts on JournalFen, GreatestJournal, and InsaneJournal, and as my more motivated friends leave LJ, I'm going to have to make some decisions. At the very least, I'm going to be spending time at those other sites commenting on my friends' entries -- and if most of my friends end up on one of them rather than the others (it's looking like JournalFen is leading at the moment), I'm not going to have a lot of incentive to continue paying for extra icons and polls and such here.

That's the blessing and the curse of LiveJournal. The community aspects are what makes it awesome and unique, but when the community is angry and starts to leave, there's not much reason to stick around and talk to yourself. I think you collectively have the ability to fix it, but I don't know if the will is there. I really hope it is, because that would probably stem the tide and keep everyone where they are, which would be nice.
I totally agree with all of these points. But listen: The will is there. It'll just take time to win back everybody's trust.
'Accidental spokesperson', indeed. :) Thanks for being receptive to us!
Anil, I wanted to thank you for your help with the recent issues; I think your presence and your willingness to accept comments here served a really valuable purpose, and gave a few of us a small forum to discuss the issues, which was beneficial on both sides -- we got out concerns heard directly by someone who matters, and LJ got thoughtful input without having to pay someone to wade through dozens of pages of cat macros to get to them.

And I think the resulting post at lj_biz was very well-put-together and, all in all, a success.

All that being said, however, the LiveJournal employee who appears to be in charge of client communications appears to continue to fail horribly in that role, and anything you can do on that front would be immensely appreciated by many of us.