February 1st, 2001

Front end vs. back end

Interesting debate, yesterday.

When I decide to join LiveJournal by signing up for a password, the issues that concern me are ease of use and the password-protected privileges I acquire -- namely, maintaining a journal, commenting under a recognized name, joining communities, and reading protected entries. These tend to be "back-end" issues, for the simple reason that front-end software could be written by anyone.

The ultimate goals of LiveJournal's plans should be to expand and publicize the privileges I just listed, while improving ease of use. To achieve those goals, LJ should:
  1. improve server performance whenever possible.
  2. make it easy to create and update a journal. (Let's call this done.)
  3. make it easier to move a journal from another site to LJ.
  4. expand LiveJournal's content, with an eye to attracting journals of quality and strong appeal.
  5. support discussion of (i.e., commenting on) other sites' content.
  6. promote LiveJournal's communities.
  7. encourage and assist the development of client software, including non-proprietary clients for distributed weblogging.
  8. encourage users and developers to promote LiveJournal.
The more I think about insomnia's suggestion, the more I'm impressed with his vision. The key to making it work is to ensure that the comments we're storing are comments by our users, who logged in using a LiveJournal password, not a password to some other site. If a popular journal writer happens to have signed up with another site, but his 300 readers are commenting on an LJ discussion board, I think it's obvious which site has built the better community.

I don't suppose LiveJournal can expect much co-operation from direct competitors like Blogger. Nevertheless, many websites (as well as Blogger's users, while commenting isn't supported there) would enjoy being able to add discussion boards easily. And the Friends page, which is the heart of the LiveJournal experience, could be adapted to allow the inclusion of friends who post on Blogger and other sites. These projects would be worthy priorities. Everyone who signs up to post on a LiveJournal discussion board, or to create a LiveJournal Friends list, adds strength to our community. Attempts by other sites to restrict access to public content would only make LiveJournal more appealing by comparison.

What about the front-end software? It's important, and useful for marketing purposes, but ultimately, LiveJournal can't retain control of it as it can the back end. In a distributed world, which for weblogging could be upon us by next year, more of the HTML presentation code will be generated by client software proliferating beyond the control of the server. The biggest challenge facing LJ as a result will be to ensure that users aren't forced, or even tempted, to use a competitor's proprietary client. So, it's important to foster development of an open client for distributed weblogging. As I understand it, we're already at a point where any other weblogging service could incorporate LiveJournals into its own output, so the need to reciprocate is real and immediate.

LiveJournal's true identity, however, is tied not to client software which anyone can write, but to the password-protected services it provides, and to the people who sign up for them. Friends lists, discussion boards, and communities are central to this identity, and that's where in-house development and marketing efforts should be focused.

Other opinions?

T-shirts and stuff...

I need to get them made. Why? Because LJ just spent a bundle on new servers... and frankly, the coffers are running low.

If we want to make LJ everything it should be, we need to pay for it... We shouldn't be slowing down our implementation of new features constantly, just to play catch-up games with the server infrastructure... if we want LJ to achieve its full potential, we need power to burn. For those that haven't become a paid member of LJ yet, now is a good time to consider it.

As for those of you who have created artwork for T-shirts, cups, etc., please get me your images ASAP. Send them to insomnia@wco.com ... I know that Roshi's full-size image is available online, so I will have to pull that off soon.

Brad - I will talk to a few companies and just get the stuff made. If I have to pay for getting the shirts made, sell them out of my house, and mail checks up to your mom for her to process, fine. I have thousands in the bank right now, so this is no problem. I could cover my costs out of the first shirts sold. It's not as convenient as Cafe Press and I would rather have a company take care of the whole process, if possible, but the quality of the shirts, etc. will be much better and we wouldn't be reamed out of about $4-5 per shirt, either...

Meanwhile, maybe I will take one more stab at thinkgeek.com. They don't answer their e-mail... grr.

from the peanut gallery:

What about starting small?
buttons,stickers, then shirts?
maybe get a merchandise page done first?
perhaps poll the users on what they would buy?
alternatives to paid accounts, buy 50$ worth of cool junk with our name on it, and get a year paid account?

from the peanut gallery:
just thought I would throw that out there for you.

Suggestion -

What about a support point based "volunteer" account that would have some of the same essential features of an early adopter account?

Implement :

  • Set a certain quota of support points a month. 20 per se.
  • Quota must be met monthly to keep status.
  • Would be admin'd to make sure that people aren't replying with "this request has been open for some time, please close"

"Volunteer" account abilities :

  • 6 user pictures, not just 3
  • Access to paid account styles, but not creation of new styles. <-- (incentive to get paid account)
  • 30 to-do list items

I mean, the features and responsibilities would have to be sorted out of course, but it would be for people that just don't have access to money for a paid account. And we wouldn't have to limit it to the support area either, we could get more people to work on the topic categories and bring them back to life; the userpics area if it ever needed help, etc.

I don't know. There are ways we could get people to help, and there are people who can't get a paid account. Why not put the two together?
  • roshi

(no subject)

late night insomniac brainstorming resulted in these things. for t-shirts, or banners, or whatever. some suck, but, it's what i ended up with.

1. The Internet's dirty little secret
2. Just like reading your sister's diary... but hers isn't on livejournal... is it? [insert search box here]
3. Everything you never wanted to know about people you've never met.
4. An as yet untapped source of news, information and.... gossip [or scandal, or dirty jokes]
5. LiveJournal. Hey, its not like you have anything better to do?!
6. I poured my life into LiveJournal and all i got was this lousy t-shirt.
7. LiveJournal. Like the Borg Collective, but completely disorganised [random?]
8. Tell someone who cares. Livejournal
9. Warning: contents may contain unadulterated honesty.
10. Harriet the Spy was a wuss.
11. Keep it all to yourself. Or don't.
12. Geeks. Girls. Goats? Livejournal.

i dunno. use them if you like.