October 2nd, 2006

animated bunneh icon
  • burr86

we're listening!

I know we haven't gotten a chance to answer all the concerns you raised in comments to the previous posts in this community, but I'm just posting to say: we're reading your comments, we're listening to what you have to say, and we're changing things based on your feedback.

The entire LJ team met this morning to discuss this, and I'm personally very happy with the results. We think you will be too, but we'll let you decide when we post those announcements over the next few hours and days.

Keep an eye out, and I'm sorry we kept you hanging this weekend.

And, yes, for the record, we unanimously agreed not to post any radical announcements on a Friday night. :)
animated bunneh icon
  • burr86

new community icon

I have a really, really long post about sponsored communities that we're still working on, but we wanted to go ahead and post an announcement about one of the changes we made already. A lot of people brought up concern about being able to distinguish between sponsored communities and regular communities. We were already planning on changing the little community icon, but we didn't actually do that before we posted the announcement, and I'm very sorry about that.

To that end: when you link to a sponsored community, you'll see it listed with a green icon (that is, you'll see sponsored_comm instead of community). This icon will also be used in interest searches (more about those in a subsequent post) so you can scan through the list and immediately identify which communities are sponsored and which ones aren't.

More to come: separating them out on people's list of friends on the profile page (where there aren't icons next to the usernames).

More more to come: We'll be posting about other changes and answers to your questions -- stay tuned. And point your friends here, if they want details.
me, fearless leader
  • burr86

how a sponsored community is different

Okay, one of the first things we wanted to address is all the issues relating to sponsored communities. A lot of you are (very understandably!) upset about this, and I think it's partially due to confusion about how things are going to work, and partially due to us screwing up some of the implementation. (And, yes, some of you hate the idea entirely. We've heard you, and we're going to try and work out a compromise so that everyone can get a little of what they want, even if all they want is to be left alone.)

What makes a sponsored community different than a regular community?

Basically, nothing. :)

They're different in that sponsored communities are highlighted both on the main LJ homepage and in interest searches, to both Basic and Plus users. (We'll talk about Basic users seeing them and how we're going to fix that problem in a later post.) The sponsor might also want to run regular ads on the site, through the existing ad rotation, so they'll have that option available to them. They do get access to paid account features; after all, they are paying us to advertise on LJ. And the obvious: they're run by representatives from that company, with a bit of help from some of the LJ staff.

Besides that, they're just like regular communities. In many ways, we're actually going to be a lot more aggressive about holding them to a certain standard. We're writing up a list of "behavior guidelines" that we're going to ask all our sponsors to agree to. It's still making its rounds around the office to make sure we've addressed the biggest issues that have come up, and we'll post it here once we finalize it.

In particular, some of the concerns we're going to clarify:
  • Spam and community invites
  • Visibility in interest searches
  • Concerns about access to user data
  • Fears of censorship (see also: fandom)
  • Getting usernames
  • Fake accounts
  • ...

So ... can't they create the community for free, like normal?

We've always allowed people to engage in a little bit of "commercial activity" in their journals -- if someone knits sweaters for gerbils and wants to sell those, we let them sell those in their own journal. We don't want to prohibit you from doing that; that would anger a lot more people. However, we do prohibit larger companies from doing this -- companies that obviously turn a profit of at least a million dollars a year (we're not going to be auditing you :P) aren't permitted to just set up a community and profit from creating a community here. By requiring that they go through us, we'll be able to hold them to higher standards, so you know what to expect.

The distinction between the regular community icon and the sponsored community icon isn't clear enough

Thanks for the feedback -- and special thank you to those of you who offered up alternative icons! It seems changing the color isn't distinctive enough (and I'm inclined to agree with you guys), so we're going to come up with a different icon entirely. We'll let you know when that's ready.

More later, probably tomorrow, etc etc. Keep an eye out. :)

Alternative Name for Sponsored Communities... Forums?

Love 'em, hate 'em, or really hate 'em..... sponsored communities aren't going away.

But nobody (not us, not the companies) wants to trick you about what they are ... these companies want a place to communicate with you. Yes, with you. Not at you. If they wanted to communicate at you they'd make a website or advertise on a billboard. (which they also do) But they want a forum in which they can talk with you. Maybe you have no interest in talking to them ... that's fine. Don't go there.

But done right (which we haven't done yet), they can be good in two ways:

1) they give us money, so we keep going and doing things which you do care about,
2) if you care about the company, you have a place to talk to them, on a site you already use.

Sure, maybe you don't care about the current company(ies) which have sponsored communities, but maybe your favorite wonderful company (not an evil one like us), comes along and you actually would like to talk to them ..... then you might care.

Help us make it not suck. Asking for it to go away won't help, so give us something constructive ....

-- if we can rename it, let's rename it
-- if we can hide it better from you, tell us where (and we will hide it for Basic users... subsequent post coming on that)

Basically we screwed this up. The feature could've been great, but everybody thought, "What? Companies want to pay for LiveJournals to talk to their customers? Uh, sure.... we already have that!" But obviously we didn't already have it, because it needs more disambiguation loving.

So about renaming it...
I was thinking today about calling them "forums". As in, "a forum for companies to talk to its customers". The the icon could be a little greek forum w/ columns and stuff.

Or maybe "Sponsored Community" everywhere is enough, if we don't forget anywhere. And maybe still keep the forum icon.

Thoughts? We don't want you to think it's a trick. That's totally not the goal. We're also fine branding employees that maintain the "forums" too ... the more you know, the better.

Brad just does damage control....
And yes, I do only come out for damage control, but that's because I care about LiveJournal a lot... it's been my baby for like 7 years. The reason I sold LiveJournal, to retell an old story, is because I was too stressed doing LiveJournal alone (it's a ton of work), and I was on the verge of shutting it all down. I sold it to the least evil company I could find, for a lot less money than I could have if I had no standards. I was looking for help, and Six Apart's been great. They let me work on the things that interest me, and generally that's the more technical backend details ... the plumbing that makes LJ tick, not the user-visible things. But when I see the users in distress, I care and get involved with the community again to fix. Let's fix this together. We have a lot of cool shit coming down the pipe.... IM/Jabber integration, SMS, another round of ESN (notifications) improvements, etc...

More later
As Abe keeps saying, this is far from over. More later.

Please reply, but constructive, please.... it's a lot for us to read.