I have a whole lot of random floating around in my head about a rather lot of this. It's building off my previous post of users as stockholders, and why LJ gets these kinds of wanktastic feedback/complaint-fests when similar and larger sites do not. My viewpoint on this comes from somewhere in between userbase-at-large and heavily involved with LJ. I have been an LJ user since May 2, 2001. I have been volunteering on the Support boards since December 2003-ish (I think), and I have started actively hanging out with the Support volunteer community since the Great Internap Red Button Power Outage Fiasco. Hanging out with the volunteer community involves working and socializing with not just fellow volunteers, but also with actual LJ staff members. This does not make me a staff member. This does not make me an all-powerful volunteer either. This does not even make me necessarily friends with all LJ and 6A staff. (Heck, I don't even know a lot of staff, because they're not spending time in the same places I am.) What this does make me is attuned to the general mood of the LiveJournal support community, including some staff, behind the scenes as well as in front of them.
6A vs. LJ
6A core and LJ core have really merged and they're no longer seeing a difference in "us" and "them". Brad has said at least once that LJ and 6A staffs are no longer thinking in terms of "us and them"; it's all "us". They've been working, blogging, playing, relaxing, and partying together in the same office for a while now. However, the userbase is still thinking in terms of "us" and "them". The userbase has not been in that office, and has not gotten to know and trust 6A in the same way. To the userbase, if LJ core is starting to change their attitudes about certain things, it is clearly through Stockholm Syndrome or other subtle forms of betrayal. There's an "if you're not with us, the userbase, you're with them our mortal enemy," attitude. Since users have not built trust in 6A, any change, no matter how seemingly insignificant, will automatically be viewed in the worst possible light.
6A brought their core assumption of "users will not complain about changes because places like Blogger and MySpace and Y! and Google do not get scads of user complaints about changes" to the table. LJ core know that LJ users will complain about stuff, but not necessarily *why*. (I put my conclusions somewhere that they'd do some good, and I saw some epiphany-reactions on some notable usernames.) LJ core may not be the #1 best communicators, but they're used to knowing how to listen to the users. 6A core wasn't around for the very beginning, and maybe they haven't picked up that same attunement to the userbase. The base assumptions about the userbase are going to be different, and perhaps the fact that it's no longer "us" and "them" is making that harder to see. The base assumptions from the different departments will be different in any case, because technical people and business people see the world so very differently. Since LJ has probably brought a lot of technical people to the party, and 6A a lot of business management people to the table, the viewpoints are going to divide fairly neatly on LJ core and 6A core anyway.
The userbase is used to hearing from the technical people. The userbase is not going to trust polished and slick business management-speak half so much. Of course, the technical people are going to be worse at phrasing things diplomatically. That sort of goes with the territory. Brad is well-known with the core userbase for making enormous verbal fuckups in public. If 6A were not an issue, and it were just Brad and Rah and Burr86 and other LJ core staff posting on all this, I have faith that many, many people's feet would have still managed to get in assorted mouths, not all of them their own.
Anyone who's away from the userbase, or spends most of their time around the bitter and unhappy side of the userbase, is going to have some communications problems with the userbase at large. People who are away from the userbase lose touch with the general mood of the site. Granted, there's enough of the site that it's hard to keep track of things like that. But if you've got feelers in enough disparate communities and social groups, you get to get a feel for these things.
The best way for the userbase to alienate LJ staff:
And I know I'm preaching to the choir, but incessantly yelling and screaming at LJ staff who are trying to do cool stuff is going to make them hostile and not want to listen. Dear Userbase-at-large, you stand the very real risk of alienating LJ staff and having them start wanting all *you* to go away. There are enough problems with disenchantment-with-the-userbase with the people who have to deal with annoyed and angry users a lot. It's that whole tech support thing. If you feel you must go away from LJ, by all means, go.
If you mostly remove your blogging to another site, but stay around and knowingly beat a dead horse to death in the comments of all official posts with public dissatisfaction that you can find, you are being a troll. The admins may not be responding to you, but you would have to work very hard if you wanted to find a way to discredit the position you are supporting even more than you already have. If you have posted a valid concern, gotten a response from a staffer that your concern will be addressed, and then post the same concern again without giving them a chance to address your concern, you are being an asshat. Admins are currently deleting comments from people who are being asshats like that. It would not surprise me if people who are doing this (re-posting concerns that have already been responded to with a "your concern will be addressed: please wait") are also the people who are complaining that LJ staff needs to really start thinking before they speak. That's just internally inconsistent enough to be really fucking obnoxious.
LJ cheated on us, that bastard!
Also preaching to the choir: LJ has a lot of good faith to consistently demonstrate before the trust of the userbase is built back. LJ has got to do that, and LJ has got to succeed in doing that, and it will take a long time for the userbase to build up faith that LJ is going to address concerns and fix things and communicate so that problems like this don't happen again.
Put in poly-type terms: LJ said they were going to be in a relationship with us, the userbase, and the advertisers were only going to be secondaries, and the paid users were going to be primaries. And they'd volunteered to not get all affectionate with the secondaries where the primaries could see them, unless of course the primaries deliberately barged in on them. Of course, this followed close on the heels of LJ saying that they were going to get married with 6A but still be primaries with the userbase, and the userbase didn't know 6A and didn't really get a chance to process it before it had already happened.
The "poll # 6666666" post that I linked essentially said "We're going to make wild monkey love to our secondaries right in the middle of the living room floor, whether or not our primaries happen to be watching Lost right then! It was our spouse's idea, and won't that be awesome? Making love rocks so hard!" Rather understandably, the primaries stood up in revolt, and wanted a total veto of the secondaries right then and there. Since the idea of LJ getting secondaries was proposed by the spouse in the first place, the primaries were kind of all "Um... shouldn't you have discussed this with *us* first?"
Of course, the primaries were not actually given veto power over the secondaries to begin with, and while LJ was not *actually* standing there going "La la I'm not listening" with its fingers in its ears while the primaries were screaming, it did come off a bit that way. (However, "la la I'm not listening" is perhaps a more mature choice of communication than the Rant McRantypants response that instinct says some of LJ-staff was dying to implement.) Clearly, the "communication, communication, communication" rule is not being followed...
So what can be done to fix some of this brokenness?
- 6A people need to have a more visible presence on key parts of LJ, parts with user exposure.
- LJ people who have the trust of the userbase need to have visibly good interactions with people who are known to be 6A. In public. Which could mean having guest bloggers from 6A core put comments in news posts and announce things that are unlikely to be controversial, and are highly likely to be cool. It could mean having 6A people and LJ people having silly threads on the first page of news posts, after having identified those people as 6A people in the post above. Yes, people will know that the silly thread is probably very carefully orchestrated behind the scenes, but the point is, we don't know these people, and we need to.
- At least a vague org chart, complete with public usernames, to acquaint the userbase with who does what. (I asked for this in the latest round of lj_feedback questions and answers, though I expect that to take a bit of a while, since Stuff Has Cropped Up, and LJ staff will be busy putting out fires and repairing trust, rather than answering less-relevant questions just yet.)
- Past issues from the time of 6A up until current actively addressed. The big two I can think of right off the bat are the navbar and the boobies.
- It would be really nice to respect individuals' navbar choices, and take away the force-on option. I can see no bloody valid reason to have the navbar forced on. People who have it turned off have it turned off for a reason, and people who don't have it turned off should be seeing it on your journal if you have it displayed on your journal. What I'd really like is a global force-on for the navbar for those who like it. That would make far more sense.
- It would be really nice if LJ were to make rules consistent with the laws of California, which stipulate that nursing mothers may legally nurse anywhere that said nursing mother has the legal right to be. Including the default userpic. (Note that non-default userpics can be pretty much anything.) However, the Angry Breastfeeding Army of Doom earned such vast badwill with LJ on that one that I don't think it's ever going to happen. If it had been a polite write-in rather than a flamefest, it might have gotten somewhere, but LJ does not negotiate with flamers and trolls. I feel bad that it went down that way, and I wish there was something I could do. Check back in another five years, and this time be nice about it, and maybe enough people will have calmed down to be able to consider it.
Random Misconceptions I am seeing:
- Comment-spam is related to the sponsored communities. No. It is not. I love y'all to death, but no. Not LJ, and not endorsed. The abuse team cracks the fuck down on spamming, one of the services that they provide that they do not get much public credit for. Delete the comments, and select the "report spam" button. That will send the comment straight to the anti-spam review team, and if an account is genuinely spamming (and not, say, a legit user leaving legit comments who is being deleted by enemies) it will be banned the fuck out of Dodge. I hang out in the virtual break room with some of the people dealing with this, and if 6A ever dreamed of endorsing companies to go around and spam, there would be mass beatings and then sackings.
- This all should have gone in news. Well, maybe. But news is more like the monthly newsletter, rather than the daily newspaper.
- This wouldn't have happened if 6A hadn't taken over. Brad was on the verge of burnout. He says so in one of the recent lj_biz posts. None of this would have happened, because LJ would be not here anymore.
- Corporately-created maintainers of sponsored community accounts are LURKING AMONG US!! Well, yes. Sponsored communities are created just like regular communities. Therefore, they need maintainers. Therefore, corporately-created maintainer accounts.
- The corporate sockpuppets are impossible to detect! Um, no. The maintainers of the sponsored communities should be listed on the community profile, just like the maintainers for every other community have been since the code push a couple months ago that supported that.