I will do my best to make the feedback I leave for LiveJournal developers constructive in nature.
If you wouldn't do it in fandom, don't do it to the devs. I know that this is the choir section here that I'm ranting at, but I've spent the past couple hours in a room with some rather irritated engineers who are really code people, not people-people. They've been busting their asses for months to track down random crap that goes wrong. This site is so bloody huge and robust that Bantown could not take it down for long, even though they tried. Slashdot fails to have the Slashdot Effect on LJ. LJ is thriving and functional thanks to the developers who put it together and the engineer-types who keep it running day-to-day and the people who keep the money coming in to feed the monster bandwidth and all the rest of it, and the people who make sure that other people know how to use it, and the people who stay here and hang out and talk with friends. The developers work hard to keep things working and keep the site evolving so it doesn't become a great big code dinosaur. Lately it's been seeming that the harder they work to fix things that are broken and update things that are out of code (building code metaphor, not computer code; work with me here), the more they get screamed at for trying to ruin LJ.
In every news feature-type post where something new and bell/whistle is announced, there is the inevitable complaint that things like virtual gifts are a waste of developer time that would be better spent on problem X, Y, or Z. And when LJ has been having a couple weeks where there are problems, and the problems stay there even though people are complaining about them, and the problems are still there, and still there, and still there -- yes, it does seem illogical that developers would go and do something like make it possible to put a flaming bag of poo on your least favorite serial adder's profile page. But sometimes you have to step away from a problem to get it back in perspective. I'm not in LJ Central, so I'm not there watching them bang their heads into a stubborn problem until headaches ensue, but I trust that they are allocating their time reasonably.
You know what I think the number one biggest waste of developer time is?
Dealing with unaccountably rude and hostile users.
LJ as a culture has the hugest sense of fandom entitlement ever.
LJ users want the same thing they've always had from LJ, namely, a place to put their journals and communicate and be with friends, and a geek-friendly, open, caring, open-source, user-supported, small-town environment.
LJ geeks want pretty much that same thing. Really. Truly.
Somewhere along the line, LJ users as-a-collective got the idea that if the development team did something that they didn't like, the best way of solving this was not to give constructively critical feedback and debate it with vigor and the knowledge that the developers had the good of the site in mind, but to jump on any available surface and flame away.
Imagine the utter fucking joy that the LJ developers must be having, wading through gods know how many hundred comments of flame to find the legitimate kernels of actual problems in between the complaints. Go through one of those posts announcing changes to LJ some time, and pretend that the changes to LJ are a fic that's already been beta-read, and the comments to those posts are comments in response to the fic. Read those comments with an eye to constructive criticism. The analogy doesn't stretch particularly far, because the core site pages of LJ are not a piece of fanfiction, but the principle of effective communication holds true.
Dear users, the way to get the development team to listen to your concerns is not to scream abuse at them and then expect them to abandon their ideas of what is right for the site and adopt yours. The louder you scream, the louder they're going to hit the delete key and say "Na na na can't hear you na na na." I don't actually think they're doing that now, but the temptation is very much there and very much real. LJ is a maverick site in that it has such open forums for user feedback and discussion. Plenty of services do not have anything resembling that. Do you really want to convince the developers and volunteers that an open forum will only collect whining and flames?
Hint: Bantown tried forcing the issue by attacking LJ. We all know how that turned out. Pwned, craxx0rbitches, pwned. In a similar case, visible nipple is still not allowed in the default userpic, and the flaming tantrums thrown at LJ's support staff by assorted self-proclaimed "boob nazis" have assured that visible nipple will never be allowed, on the principle that it's bad precedent to cave when the toddler has a meltdown because they didn't get their little way. Even though there are many people who do love the boob.
Tell them what you like about the shiny new stuff. Let them know what they did right. Sit on your hands for a few hours until you try using it a few times before you flame off at them. If you have to say something immediately, remember what you learned in those sensitivity training sessions and use your "I" statements. "I'm frustrated with this new user interface, and I'd really prefer something with the look and feel of the older version" comes over a whole lot better than "What the fuck did you do to my user interface, you morons? I liked it the way it was! Put it back!"
LJ, even current LJ under 6A management, is capable of recognizing if something goes really badly. The developers actively ask for reports of broken or unusable behavior. Things may not be fixed immediately, but there are little things coming out every here and there to make things better, things that you may not be aware of unless you're watching lj_releases or changelog.
LJ really is a group effort. I do not have Super-Secret Inside Information that no one else has. I'm a relatively average occasional Support volunteer. (Very occasional, since Life Attacks.) I put time and effort into making LJ a better place, and I see the results of that effort. Things may not always go my way when LJ policy and I disagree with each other (I wouldn't mind seeing nipples in any boobtacular default user pictures, for example), but at least my technical suggestions are often dead-on, and my social suggestions are at least listened to respectfully.
I really do think it all boils down to three or four questions:
- Do you trust the people who are running LJ, including Six Apart core and the developers?
- If you do not trust the people running LJ, what can they reasonably do to demonstrate that they're worthy of your trust?
- If there is nothing the people running LJ can do to gain your trust, why are you still here?
And you know? I find that I'm never short on database handles after this update. How about you?