opusculus: Black hole (Default)
2011-12-30 08:50 am

Igrick's interview on the future of LJ

I found the translation here.

After reading it, I actually found it really fascinating because... 1) it makes me really interested in seeing where LJ goes, and 2) it absolutely confirms to me that moving to DW both personally and voting for CFUD to move was the absolutely right decision in a way very few things could.

LJ's been moribund for a while now, and was and is on the downslide to obsolescence. It was mostly coded...what, a decade ago? And hasn't been significantly updated since. It has some great features! As far as I can tell, there's no other site that isn't based on LJ that is basically focused on the ability to wordvomit on your social network at length and to turn that into a thriving discussion. Nowadays it's tags and followers versus communities and flists, and while I have feelings on that (that come down to I would really like some site someday to give you the option for both, I'm more likely to spend more time in communities because I prefer the social environment that creates), none of them really seem to take tags to their logical full extension for the purposes of actualfax discussion. So to me, the idea of updating LJ to take advantages of all the possible improvements code has allowed for in the last update has the potential to be great.

But the problem as I see it with Igrick's vision for LJ is…well, there's two problems, really. One's on the small scale of how I like the site, one's on the larger scale.

The large scale one is this: It sounds, to me, like he's treating it as a…startup isn't the right word, but I don't know what the right word is. He wants to completely change every last bit of how LJ does business. Paid accounts aren't important any more. Advertising will no longer exist on LJ. The focus on LJ sounds like it will be to get users to pay to make their content rank higher, basically, and that's…in a very small scale I don't mind it? But the way he describes it an entirely new business based on the Livejournal domain with some inspiration from the old one and all the old content, and that doesn't really strike me as the way to revive LJ. Yes, LJ needed a full-scale redesign. But he's throwing out the old business models and completely revamping how the site's actually used at the same time, and… I don't actually think the core of the site was so weak that that is actually necessary, or even a good decision. If he were envisioning adding new ways to use the site, without subtracting the old ones, that would be one thing? But his vision of a revamp is pretty clearly about subtracting features as well as adding them, and generally not quite respecting how people already use the site if it conflicts with his vision, and that's…it's not only drastically increasing the risk, it's pointlessly drastically increasing the risk. Subject lines don't harm anyone. Tweaking the FB and Twitter features so that they were blocked in any locked post doesn't harm anyone, although I'll grant that it takes more work and I have no idea if it would be technically feasible. But from the sounds of it, there's going to be more changes that don't respect the way LJers currently use the service.

And that more than anything is what makes me think that this endeavor is going to fail. Your best bet in an endeavor like this is to keep a close eye on how your customers actually use your service, and respect that as much as possible so long as it doesn't actively get in the way of how you see the future of the site. You have the advantage of the most intimate possible knowledge of how people actually use a large social media site, and a large existing user base, and you should be working to extract every last bit of advantage to that. And Igrick's throwing that away. I actually have immediate family history of someone taking an existing company and completely reworking it working quite well, so I'm really not going to say that it's impossible. But…it's something that should be an absolute last resort. it's basically a well-funded startup with a built-in userbase. Startups, even ones with advantages, have a high failure rate. It's the nature of the beast. Even if they succeed, they're not necessarily going to attract the same target market that LJ formerly did.

And on a more personal level, I don't like it because it sounds like it's heavily emphasizing the broadcast model of social internet sites, which first off isn't my preference, and second off isn't even LJ's strength. If I wanted to broadcast my thoughts to as much of the world as I could reach without caring about discussion, I'd be on Twitter with the popular hashtags and on Tumblr. It's just not what appeals to me.

But more importantly, to me, LJ's biggest strength in the way it's currently designed is that it's both extremely flexible to how people want to use it, and has really strong community-creating features. Tags don't form the same sense of community, as far as I can tell. And I realize Russian users do emphasize the broadcast features of it much more strongly than the LJ side, which is undoubtedly why he's focusing on that in his redesign considering he's coming out of that usage tradition, but…I'm having a hard time believing that the community building features are as unimportant a draw for LJ as he seems to think. He actively doesn't seem to like flocks and communities that are isolated from each other, and that doesn't give me much hope for the redesign to succeed anywhere outside markets where that is completely unimportant to how people use it. And considering most people do use services proffered, I think that's fewer than he thinks.

I'll be interested in seeing how it goes, I suppose! In pretty much the same way I poke around Twitter and Facebook and Tumblr just because I'm interested in how social systems like that work. But at this point my desire to actually use LJ is basically nill. It just doesn't sound like it's planning on turning itself into a site with any draw to me. I was there on 2003, and didn't really think I'd ever fully leave it. But I barely read my flist nowadays, don't respond to anything, and mostly have only stuck on there to play on CFUD. And now that that's moving, I'll probably continue to check my flist and crosspost for anyone staying on there and maybe one or two other things, but that was the last thing keeping it as my internet home.

It's funny, I would have thought that if I was going to have the last of my interest in using LJ killed by anything related to a major wank of theirs, my feelings would have been of profound irritation at very least. Instead, it's disinterest. I guess it's the difference between quitting because I hate what they just did and still fundamentally enjoy using the site, and quitting because it simply looks like it's turning into something that doesn't interest me, and I no longer have any reason to stay.
opusculus: Black hole (Default)
2011-02-10 07:42 pm
Entry tags:

(no subject)

So I was reading The Tell-Tale Brain by VS Ramachandran, and incidentally before I get distracted, it's awesome and everyone should read it. It has a fairly large section on art and theories of why it appeals to us based on what's known about the brain and instincts, and it occurred to me to apply it to fanfiction.

One of the reasons it appeals that was mentioned was amplification of the differences from a theoretical average. I think we all have heard about that? It's why caricaturists are popular, why it's fairly common for women to be drawn so stacked with such a narrow waist that a real woman's spine would snap, etc. Basically, you take the things that make what you're drawing special and unique and amplify them.

And I realized that that's what the fanfiction that really appeals to me does - it takes the story tropes that appealed to the fanfiction authors and amplifies them. As an example that's stuck in my head since I've read it, take [livejournal.com profile] harukami's Symbolism, an Utena drabble. Utena is enough of a fantasyland of symbolism and sex and sexual symbolism that it really just works for me in a way that not much fanfiction manages. My favorite sort of fanfiction almost always takes something that really appealed to me about the original series, and amplifies it.

I actually realized this in part because I was poking around for Grand Guignol Orchestra fanfic, and basically realized that I have no idea how anyone could possibly amplify it. I mean. Once canon has crossdressing nuns (one of them arguably double crossdressing) investigating powerful music that will let them slay zombie dolls and possibly destroy the world, where else do you go? I'm sure there's some people who could find a way, but I find it weirdly uninspiring when a series is so over the top that I can't imagine how you could amplify it and still be appealing. ...Come to think of it, I heard that Gurren Lagann have almost no fic for a fandom its size. I wonder if that's why?

I mean, it's not limited to fanfiction in that tons of original works pretty much do the same thing. The entire urban fantasy genre could be said to be started by people reading Anita Blake and going "Why don't I amplify the non-sex parts? I miss them." But it's fairly unusual for original work to be mostly about doing that instead of writing their own story, while a lot of fanfiction I've read and pretty much all I've written is mostly about doing that.

I don't know, what do you think?