LiveJournal

From Academic Kids

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LiveJournal (often abbreviated LJ) is the name of a weblog site allowing Internet users to keep an online journal or diary. It is also the name of the open source 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 Friendster.

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

Contents

Features

A number of features distinguish LiveJournal from other blog sites, one of which is the "Friends Page," a list of the most recent posts from people a user has added to their "Friends List" — turning LiveJournal into a community of interconnected weblogs, and shifting it toward being social network software. Another such distinguishing feature is the employment of the S2 template system to allow users to customize the appearance and behaviour of their weblogs.

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Similar to other online services, users may upload a small graphical icon, referred to as "userpic" or "icon" by LiveJournal users, by which to define one's self to the rest of the community (this user picture functions as the user's avatar). This optional small image may take a maximum viewing size of 100 by 100 pixels. LiveJournal's free users, which account for approximately 98% of the network, have a limit of 3 interchangeable ones. Paid account holders, which account for 1.6% of the network, may have up to fifteen, and can pay optional fees to get a total of fifty user picture slots.

The selected user icon will, if present, appear next to posts on individual user pages, and on the "Friends Pages" of other users who have "friended" them. The user's default icon will also appear prominently on the user's main journal page.

Each user also has a "User Info" page, which is used to describe personal interests. It can contain a variety of data including contact information, a biography, images (linked from off-site sources), and lists of friends, interests, and communities to which the user belongs.

Community

Demographics

As of late May 2005, over 7.2 million accounts had been created, of which almost 1.5 million had been updated at some point in the last 30 days [1] (http://www.livejournal.com/stats.bml). Of those users who provided their date of birth, the vast majority were in the 15-23 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 late May 2005 (based on the information listed by the users):

The following is a breakdown of United States users, by state, as of late May 2005

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), cause new comments to be "screened" (that is, hidden until approved by the author of the entry), or not allow commenting at all. The user has the additional option to have replies sent directly to their registered e-mail address.

In addition, LiveJournal acts as host to group discussion boards, or "communities," encompassing a myriad of subjects. (For example, there is a community dealing specifically with Wikipedia [2] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/wikipedians/).) Each community has one or more maintainers who have access to the options and settings of the community account.

Some areas of LiveJournal rely heavily on user contributions and volunteer efforts [3] (http://www.livejournal.com/site/contributors.bml). 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 continually degrading due to widespread frustration. Many attribute this frustration to a certain lack of involvement of LiveJournal's management in issues and problems.

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] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_dev/493562.html). 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 organisation'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 often stereotyped to be superfluous now because many regular readers feel that LiveJournal have stopped caring about ideas from their users and implement only their own).

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

Notable users

Certain LiveJournals have become famous throughout the years for their especially interesting content, including political commentary and anecdotal advice on subjects ranging from household care to aquariums. Receiving particularly notable attention is the LiveJournal of Rachelle Waterman, known as smchyrocky (http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=smchyrocky), who was arrested on November 19, 2004 for the murder of her mother. Her journal became a source of much discussion among the Internet community and the media, especially her final entry mentioning her mother's death. Another notorious user is John Dallas Lockhart, username ohbutyouwillpet (http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=ohbutyouwillpet), a 36-year-old lawyer, convicted for multiple counts of child molestation involving a four-month-old infant. Hundreds of users have left abusive comments on his journal. Jeff Weise, a high school student in Red Lake, Minnesota responsible for the Red Lake High School massacre, also has a LiveJournal with the username weise (http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=weise). Since the shooting, several posts have been removed from his journal, and the comment feature has been disabled on the journal.

Another user who gained much notoriety in November of 2004 was the still anonymous user known as ea spouse. This user created a journal solely to make claims about unethical and possibly illegal business practices in use at EA Games. The truth of those claims was disputed for several days on such sites as Penny Arcade and Slashdot, until a little over a week later a class action lawsuit was launched against EA over back pay, which is still pending.

Other 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" (http://www.livejournal.com/site/goat.bml) as well as his "journal" (http://www.livejournal.com/users/frank) reflect this.

Sometimes, callers to LiveJournal's PhonePost service are informed "Frank the Goat appreciates your call." This occurs randomly [5] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/75379.html?thread=10040435#t10040435).

Social networking

The unit of social networking on LiveJournal is binary (with only two possible states of connection between one user and another) and one-directional. Each user chooses a list of users they list as "friends".

The term "friend" on LiveJournal is mostly a technical term. A user's list of friends will sometimes 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 "friend groups", allowing for more complex behavior in both of these features.

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, a puzzle, or something random with no social significance whatsoever.

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. Since the friend concept on LiveJournal is unidirectional, 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 "ban" facility was created for users to hide others who have listed them as a friend [6] (http://www.livejournal.com/support/faqbrowse.bml?faqid=185).

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." Though many users wanted to keep these terms, it caused controversy with those who had been victims of stalking. [7] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/77588.html)

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.

Controversies

Invite system

From September 2, 2001 until December 12, 2003, the growth of LiveJournal was put under control by an "invite code" system. This was because the number of users was increasing faster than the server architecture could handle. New users needed 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 also had the side effect of helping to prevent abuse 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.

The removal of the invite code system was met with mixed feelings and a surprisingly large amount of opposition. A number of users felt the invite code system gave LiveJournal a touch of elitism, or a closed-community feel. Others, including LiveJournal's management, pointed out that when first introduced, the invite code system was intended to be temporary.

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 [8] (http://www.livejournal.com/legal/tos.bml). 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.

The abuse team at LiveJournal has frequently come under criticism for their handling of alleged violations. Many users felt the abuse team over-reacted to cases in disregard of the actual Terms of Service (or the reverse, that it disregards bltant 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 [9] (http://www.livejournal.com/abuse/policy.bml), as it had been intended to be.

A small number of users who have been affected by abuse team policies have made the decision to abandon LiveJournal in favor of other blogging sites, though the number of such users is very small compared to LiveJournal's total user-base. It has, however, exacerbated the opinion held by some that LiveJournal is a fine host for teenage diaries and social networking but cannot be a platform for serious web journaling. Others feel that the abuse team is performing a worthwhile job, banning only those with ill intentions and histories of clear Terms of Service violations. In their opinion LiveJournal is a viable choice for serious web publishing, so long as one does not wish to cause trouble.

Sale to Six Apart

LiveJournal's parent company, Danga Interactive, was initially formed and held entirely by 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.[10] (http://gigaom.com/2005/01/04/six-apart-to-buy-live-journal/) The rumor immediately spread, as users began to speculate (and some panic) about the prospect of the sale of LiveJournal's parent company.[11] (http://crschmidt.net/blog/archives/13/livejournal-to-be-bought-out-by-six-apart/) [12] (http://crschmidt.net/blog/archives/14/livejournal-and-sixapart-take-2/) [13] (http://slashdot.org/articles/05/01/05/1537257.shtml?tid=95&tid=98) [14] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_maintenance/97600.html?thread=6418240) 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.[15] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_maintenance/99736.html) A few hours later, Fitzpatrick confirmed the sale, and insisted the site's core principles would not be discarded by the new ownership.[16] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/82926.html) 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 [17] (http://www.livejournal.com/~decklin/320551.html), or objecting to changes in LiveJournal's "Guiding Principles" document [18] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/fuzzie/133601.html). 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.[19] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/evan/769381.html) 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."[20] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/evan/769381.html?thread=4897125#t4897125)

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 and GreatestJournal, 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.

LiveJournal timeline

1999

  • March 18, 1999 -- LiveJournal starts (first entry ever: [21] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/brad/29215.html); first version of the server code: [22] (http://cvs.livejournal.org/browse.cgi/livejournal/src/historic/brad-log.cgi?rev=1.1&content-type=text/x-cvsweb-markup))
  • November 17, 1999 -- Creation of the news journal [23] (http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=news&mode=full)

2000

  • April 1, 2000 -- Message boards (comments on entries) [24] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/brad/841387.html)
  • May 21, 2000 -- Subject lines for entries
  • August 2, 2000 -- Interests [25] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/4525.html)
  • August 3, 2000 -- First version of the Directory Search in beta test [26] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/4720.html)
  • August 15, 2000 -- First version of the support board (earliest surviving support request: [27] (http://www.livejournal.com/support/see_request.bml?id=2))
  • August 22, 2000 -- Topic directory [28] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/10109.html) (now defunct)
  • August 25, 2000 -- Text messaging [29] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/10501.html)
  • September 13, 2000 -- First paid-account benefits [30] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/13339.html)
  • November 14, 2000 -- LJ user visions releases first version of his Windows client [31] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/18330.html)
  • December 1, 2000 -- Creation of the changelog journal [32] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/22519.html)
  • December 16, 2000 -- Communities [33] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/23987.html)

2001

  • January 12, 2001 -- Introduction of the Dystopia site scheme [34] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/27817.html)
  • March 18, 2001 -- User polls [35] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/35072.html)
  • March 24, 2001 -- LiveJournal server code goes open-source [36] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/35752.html)
  • May 16, 2001 -- First support privilege: supporthelp [37] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_support/53489.html)
  • September 2, 2001 -- Invite codes are introduced [38] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/46664.html)
  • November 4, 2001 -- avva becomes first full-time employee [39] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/48745.html)

2002

  • January 5, 2002 -- First purging run (freeing deleted usernames) [40] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/50639.html)
  • February 2, 2002 -- Database clustering [41] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/52336.html)
  • April 1, 2002 -- New support category: Communities [42] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_support/215645.html)
  • April 14, 2002 -- Switch to UTF-8 [43] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/54041.html)
  • May 3, 2002 -- Web interface starts getting translated into other languages [44] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/54970.html)
  • July 3, 2002 -- Zilla (bug and project tracking database) created (first entry: [45] (http://zilla.livejournal.org/show_bug.cgi?id=1))
  • July 8, 2002 -- RSS syndication [46] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/58000.html)
  • August 22, 2002 -- Support introduces interim privileges [47] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_support/281660.html)
  • November 26, 2002 -- Support category Customization closed [48] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_support/318141.html)
  • December 29, 2002 -- New support category: Syndication [49] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_support/334970.html)

2003

  • January 16, 2003 -- Style System 2 (S2) enters beta-test [50] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/61988.html)
  • March 18, 2003 -- Introduction of the XColibur site scheme [51] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/65335.html)
  • April 11, 2003 -- One million accounts reached [52] (http://www.livejournal.com/userinfo.bml?user=1000000&mode=full) [53] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/67511.html)
  • October 24, 2003 -- Post by e-mail [54] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/72431.html)
  • October 29, 2003 -- New support category: Style Systems [55] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_support/427197.html)
  • November 12, 2003 -- Post by phone [56] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/73345.html)
  • December 12, 2003 -- Invite codes are removed [57] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/74165.html)
  • December 12, 2003 -- LiveJournal begins airing commercials in movie theatres in San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and Denver. [58] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_biz/202653.html)
  • December 17, 2003 -- Unused invite codes can be used to obtain LiveJournal coupons until December 31 [59] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_biz/205605.html)

2004

  • January 2, 2004 -- Secure logins and password changes [60] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/75379.html)
  • January 29, 2004 -- Two million accounts reached [61] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/75899.html)
  • February 12, 2004 -- First colorbar created [62] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/shared_boxers/578528.html)
  • May 12, 2004 -- LiveJournal wins "People's Voice" Webby Awards in "Community" category [63] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/79150.html)
  • July 22, 2004 -- LiveJournal opens up photo hosting with FotoBilder [64] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_biz/230346.html)
  • November 19, 2004 -- Rachelle Waterman's LiveJournal achieves notoriety when she is arrested and accused of orchestrating the murder of her mother

2005

  • January 5, 2005 -- Brad Fitzpatrick sells Danga Interactive and LiveJournal to Six Apart for an undisclosed amount over $1 million [65] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/82926.html), [66] (http://www.sixapart.com/press/weblogging_software_leader_six_apar.shtml), [67] (http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/index.ssf?/base/front_page/110510304755450.xml)
  • January 14 and January 15, 2005 -- The co-lo company where the LiveJournal servers are stored, Internap, suffers a major power failure. This results in the entire site being unavailable for over 24 hours whilst Fitzpatrick and his fellow sysadmins work to bring 100 servers back online. The news makes the news site Slashdot at 03:30 GMT. [68] (http://slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/01/15/0311214) [69] (http://www.livejournal.com/community/lj_dev/670215.html)
  • April 22, 2005 -- 2nd annual template-design contest winners announced: A Novel Conundrum, 3 Column Style, Tranquility II, Flexible Squares and Nebula. [70] (http://news.livejournal.com/84868.html)
  • June 1, 2005 - Several updates : Phone posts now default to .mp3 format, majority of winning templates from Style Contest added as options for users, deleted accounts now deleted from servers after 30 days instead of "indefinite". [71] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/85751.html)
  • June 7, 2005 - LiveJournal holds a 24-hour permanent account sale for $150 per account. [72] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/85793.html)
  • June 15, 2005 - LiveJournal introduces full support for tags. [73] (http://www.livejournal.com/users/news/86492.html)

See also

  • LJ Drama, site that details and satirizes events within the LiveJournal community

External links

Media attention

eo:LiveJournal ia:LiveJournal la:LiveJournal ru:Живой журнал

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