Since it seems that the news about LiveJournal and SixApart becoming one really is true, I’ll toss some more thoughts out there. Someone will probably read through all these posts eventually, especially if they want to avoid another snafu like the one that Movable Type’s licensing changes caused.
Despite all my praises of LiveJournal and the effect that it’s had on me and that I’ve had on it (in my own small way), there are a number of things which could definitely use some work to get up to “snuff” on a customer service level. User interface has never been a strong point for LiveJournal, and although with the addition of some new developers in the past year it has improved greatly, it is still not nearly as easy to use in many respects as something like Typepad.
Here’s what I expect to see, if Six Apart decides to take an “active” role in continuing the development of LiveJournal as a seperate service from its currently existing products, while still maintaining a position as “stewards” more than corporate whores:
- Implementation of some “basic” parts of site usage for “weblog” type users: I expect Categories and Trackbacks will make their way into the code. (Sadly, I wrote and submitted 90% of the code needed for Trackback starting a year ago today, which has been ignored since then.)
- Improvement of User Interface in some key areas, especially the customization area.
- Improve customer support. Sadly, I fear this will be the end of the LiveJournal Volunteer support system which I strongly support: I met the love of my life via doing support for LiveJournal, and it will be sad to imagine that others will not have that same oppourtunity. However, I expect that will go, along with most volunteer development.
I also hope that some other sites will wake up and realize that there are several things that LiveJournal offers that almost nobody else does. The key to me that I have not seen in any other situation has been threaded comments, with email notifications built into the interface. The lack of threaded comments, and the lack of email notifications, is something that I believe has led to the fact that most other blogs have much less interaction than LiveJournal does: you have to remember to read a post again to see the comments someone sends to you, and that’s just not the right way to do it. Push, not Pull, is the way to improve communication.
The way I see it, there are several ways that the LiveJournal project could go, if it is aquired by SixApart:
LiveJournal is left as is. All employees are being retained, so LJ is really just under the protection of a corporate entity. Some things that would get the company in trouble may change slightly: for example, Abuse reports may shift to being employee-answered only (as it should have been for quite a while anyway, in my opinion). Other than that, LJ doesn’t change: the same development practices stay in place (which means that almost all development is done in house, nothing ever gets done in a timely manner, etc.) and the site continues on as it did before.
LiveJournal is taken under Six Apart’s stewardship: Brad, who owns LiveJournal, leaves to pursue more interesting projects, and LJ’s employees eventually move into Six Apart and do whatever they’re best suited for. LJ administration changes, and the development efforts externally move internally. The volunteer community basically dissapears as LJ becomes 6A, and at the user-level, nothing changes. For people closer to the administration, they see changing faces and things like development and support close their doors to outsiders.
LiveJournal and SixApart merge completely, and the Typepad and LJ platform become one. I don’t expect this, and don’t expect that it will be successful if attempted.
SixApart migrates all current LJ users to their Typepad platform. Again, most likely not a successful move, as Typepad is very different in usage than LJ, and is lacking many of the features LJ has.
I’m honestly hoping for option 1: that LiveJournal doesn’t really change, and that this “merger” is just a “handing over legal control to someone else who is there just in case”. However, I expect that it will probably be something nearer to number two, meaning that there will be no more development like what I experienced in my time at LiveJournal. I do not leave much trust to hope on this one, unfortunately.
Will volunteer development really go away? That would be really sad to me, because before personal issues (such as the fact that I think development should have a method to its madness) left me outside of the social circles, I really did like developing on LJ. The code is a mess, but it’s fun. And that’s one of the reasons I have stuck with LJ: because I can do things like that, to help get the site to do what I want. Similar feelings on support. Being a part of a site is way cooler than being a user of one.
My primary hope is that SixApart is smart enough to realize that the “blogging” and “journalling” users on the web are very different, and doesn’t try to mash them together in one mold. Doing so can only result in bad things, not good. Please, to whoever might be reading this: I implore you. Think before you act. Ask the people you’ll be affecting before you do anything, and you’ll have much happier users on your hands.
However, maybe now Brad will be able to buy his Porsche.