astolat (astolat) wrote,
astolat
astolat

journaling alternatives

Some people have been asking otw_news about a journaling site in particular, but it's going to be a while yet before an informed decision can be made on what projects are going to be pursued, because we're getting the committees together now that will be studying the resource costs of a lot of the proposed projects, and also seeing what kind of human and financial resources we can rely on, not just in an initial burst, but moving forward.

I do have some thoughts about journaling alternatives myself, that I think might be valuable to others who are considering putting one together, but I want to emphasize that this is my own personal rambling, and not something from the organization.

Realistically, I just don't think any other journaling site is going to successfully replace livejournal as long as livejournal is maintaining the codebase that both sites use. If you're running someone else's software, you're always at their mercy and playing catchup. If you really want to produce a full-scale livejournal competitor, then you need a team of developers to either build a new journaling system from scratch, or dive into the LJ code and learn it as well as the LJ developers, and then branch and start your own version.

Putting the open-source livejournal codebase on a server and letting people sign up for it is relatively easy and cheap. Building a server bank that can support a large and active journaling audience, maintaining the servers and the code, defending against the regular attacks of spam and DDoS, and supporting the users, is the difficult and expensive part. Livejournaling is much more resource-intensive and expensive than archiving, for instance.

On top of that, the potential benefits are limited by external forces. All the alternatives I've seen so far are in the same boat as LJ so far as US laws are concerned; because they are small and obscure, people are currently less likely to go over there and report content, but that benefit will go away as soon as they become large. I don't know how much better in concrete terms of leaving stuff up a fan-run LJ could safely be with the laws as they are. However, the major benefit that we would get from a fan-run version would be at least the *desire* to protect fan works, and hopefully better community service and more understanding and more respect.

But so far, the four main alternatives all have some significant issues:
GreatestJournal: They are looking to be a full-scale ad-driven LJ competitor, are owned by a for-profit company targeting teens and young adults; not likely to be much more permissive than LJ. Does not support OpenID, behind on the software, ads.

JournalFen: owned and run by CKR Webhosting, a small webhosting company that has fannish roots, is specifically for fans.

ETA: See more details on JF's ownership from one of the admins, zorrorojo, below in the comments.

The negatives are the limit to 18-and-over, the restriction on free accounts. The servers are often overwhelmed. Also, the community has developed a general impression of connection to fandom_wank, so there are a lot of people who just won't go there. Behind on the software, no OpenID.

InsaneJournal: owned by an individual (About IJ) who is described as the only server admin.

DeadJournal: Started on a lark as a parody, owned by an individual, details of administration sketchy. (About DJ)

(Aside from the technical issues of running a major journaling site with only one real admin, I am immediately wary of getting invested in anything owned by a single individual, because the existence of the entire site hinges on their not gafiating, for whatever reason.)

None of this is, by the way, intended as a defense of LJ. I do think LJ has at this point gone past clumsiness to actively unfair treatment of its users. The sequence of strikethrough07, followed by the restored accounts and excessive reassurances, followed by the permanent account sale, followed by more deletions without any warning or notice, is a very ugly one, and the people talking on behalf of LJ are terrible communicators. Removing strikethrough and adding the "Report Abuse" link at the exact same time is just ridiculously dumb from a community relations standpoint.

I don't think any of this is deliberate malice, but it is sufficiently stupid to be indistinguishable, and there is no sign they are going to improve anytime soon. I don't blame anyone who's unhappy about continuing here, whether they are at risk personally or not. I'm not too thrilled about it myself. But I think the alternatives currently available are not adequate.

So before I personally would move, I would need to see a replacement that addresses the problems these various sites have, that isn't going to just rely on livejournal to maintain their open-source code, and that has real permanent advantages other than obscurity, as well as a fan-friendly atmosphere. And a realistic estimate of the costs and a plan to meet them over time. IMO, those are the key elements, whether such an alternative is worked on within otw_news or by anyone else.
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