Azure Jane Lunatic (azurelunatic) wrote,
Azure Jane Lunatic

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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 -] 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!), 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.

I have gone through my Writer's Block entries and edited them to remove the Writer's Block module (and replace it with a copy of the question and a link to the archived answers of others). Conveniently, the Writer's Block feature attempts to tag all your Writer's Block entries with appropriate tags. Writer's Block entries for azurelunatic: substitute your own username to find yours!

When loading an entry containing the Writer's Block module to edit, the text of this module will appear over the entry editing text box when in HTML mode. If in the Rich Text editor, the Writer's Block module will appear inside the entry editing text box. If you are following my instructions and set out in Rich Text mode, switch to HTML mode with the tabs at the top right of the entry editing text box.

You can recognize the Writer's Block module easily in HTML mode. It is typically at the top of the entry and looks like this: <lj-template name="qotd" id="####" /> (The abbreviation "qotd" is short for Question of the Day, which may have been the original development name for the feature.) Delete this line.

The text of the Writer's Block question, and a link to the other answers to it, will still appear above the entry editing text box. Select the Writer's Block question. (If you want, select the whole box that the question and the link to other answers appears in. I start right behind the end of 'Create a Poll' and end right in front of 'Subject'.) Copy what you have selected (Ctrl+C, Apple+C, right-click and copy, the edit menu and copy, however you care to do it).

The next step depends on how fancy you are going to be about this. You can paste the text straight in to the entry editor and have it show up with no frills and no fuss.
I do something a little different, so my entries still look neat and polished. I switch to the Rich Text editor, and then paste. Since I have selected the whole box surrounding the question, a tidy box appears.

I switch back to the HTML editor. This is what it looks like in there:

<div class="pkg" id="entry"><div id="qotd_html_preview" style="margin-bottom: 10px;"><table cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0"><tbody><tr><td><div style="border: 1px solid rgb(0, 0, 0); padding: 6px;">Text of the Writer's Block. This may include someone's username.

<a href="">View 500 Answers</a>

I find the link to the other responses. It looks kind of ugly, and is the sort of relative link that may stop working on people's friends pages or in my own journal -- not to mention how it definitely will break if I ever export this journal entry to another place such as a file on my own computer or even another blogging site. It's likely to look something like this:

<a href="misc/latestqotd.bml?qid=###">View 500 Answers</a>

Locate the link portion, in this case misc/latestqotd.bml?qid=### -- I've also seen it as ../../../misc/latestqotd.bml?qid=###.

Copy the link location from the View 500 Answers portion of the Writer's Block module shown above the entry editor text box. (Right-clicking, or Ctrl+click on a Mac, generally gives you the option to copy the link.) When you hover over the link, you should see that the link points to

Carefully replace the link:

<a href="">View 500 Answers</a>

Save your newly-cleaned Writer's Block entry.

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