October 30th, 2009

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30 tweets for 2009-10-30

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Things I'm actually not OK with: LJ news

I know a number of people, myself included, are none too thrilled with the proposed new format for news. I know news-commenters can be an exceptionally conservative bunch about some things, and it does not befit me as a volunteer and a gentleman to blow off too much steam in public about that.

However, after reading the news post more closely, and the company of others doing the same, it came to my attention, and the attention of others, that the compiled top 10 quotes from the Writer's Block appear to be posted without the knowledge or consent of the people being quoted, and (in the absence of their knowledge or consent) also without attribution.

I am actually not okay with this, and it surprises me to realize how intense my reaction is. Granted, they were assuredly all public entries, and the code for the the Writer's Block aggregator looks as if it respects the appropriate site privacy settings.

I can understand the impulse to not link back to the original entry, and why it would be counted as a point in the favor of the author of these news entries. Having a rush of unexpected visitors from news might be comparable to having a rush of visitors from, say, metaquotes or metafandom or perhaps even [info - journalfen.net] fandom_wank. Even if you're willing to welcome the attention, you want to be prepared. However, when I was recently plagiarized by the now-suspended-by-their-service-provider (shout-out to my peeps at GoDaddy, 3rd shift web board represent!) paganjournals.net, the thing that angered me most was not that they were using my content in service of their profit, but that there was no link back to me, so if someone stumbled across it and wanted to engage with the author, they actually were unable to unless they did some Google-digging.

The original entry for quoted selections can still be found by manually going through the Writer's Block answer listing for that question -- or taking a reasonably unique phrase from the quote and putting it into the shiny new LiveJournal search engine. This is enough of a barrier to discovery that if someone in news likes the cut of a featured individual's jib and wishes to subscribe to their newsletter, they're going to have to work to make this happen. On the other hand, if someone else in news decides to take offense and track down the original entry, it's not going to be overly difficult for them.

Either way, the question of whether or not to link back could have been avoided with permission from the original poster or, at the very least, notification.


I rarely feel moved to make an official complaint about a LiveJournal practice through official channels. Most of the time, I feel that I am able to express any reservations I have through entries in my own journal, comments to an official entry relevant to the topic, and chatter in volunteer areas. This time, I was moved to give feedback through the official feedback form. I'm not calling for a write-in campaign. Those generate ill-will and put the burden upon people who often had nothing to do with the original offense and who are not in a position themselves to change policies. I say this to illustrate how deeply troubled I feel.


I'm actually not sure what the exact mechanism is for an entry to appear in the list of Writer's Block entries, aside from the entry having been posted with a Writer's Block module inside, the entry being public at the time the listing page was built, and the journal eligible to appear in latest results and "verticals" around the site. Despite code-diving, I am not sure whether removing the Writer's Block module from the entry will in fact remove the entry from the listing. (Locking it will prevent it from being displayed. If you're paranoid, do go ahead and lock them.) From the looks of things, it would appear that only entries to the newest questions are being quoted in news, and selected by a person (with a sense of humor) rather than being picked in some automatic way.

In any case, I am not okay with this practice. I had been meaning to edit the Writer's Block entries in my own journal so they'd be readable when archived for quite some time, and this provided the necessary impetus.

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