yarffaJ nalA (jnala) wrote in lj_biz,
yarffaJ nalA

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Blogger: Who cares?

The whole LiveJournal vs. Blogger rivalry bugs me.

Who the hell cares about Blogger? It's boring.

We do everything that Blogger does, faster, better, and more reliably. In addition, we have the client, we have the friends system, we have comments, we have ad-free hosting. And most importantly, we're open source; we don't lock anyone in, we let people improve the system, we let them run it themselves if we want.

Blogger's a nice site, and if they were open source and LiveJournal didn't exist, I'd probably use them. But as far as I can tell, the only things Blogger does better than us are marketing, buzzwords, and site design. These are important; I'm not trying to dismiss them. Blogger has some good ideas in these areas that we should rip off, or at least take a cue from. But overall, this is not a site that offers interesting "competition".

How about Slash, the software that runs Slashdot? It's open-source, so it's certainly not an enemy. There are people selling Slash-site configuration and hosting out there. It's also being used for a lot of smaller community sites, such as use.perl.org, which are using the journalling and friends subsystems which are really weak, and have little use for Slash's extremely strong comment posting/scoring/metascoring system.

Should sites like that be using LJ instead? Does Slash offer capabilities that we don't, and if so, do we want to add them? Do we want to push into this "market", so to speak? Do we maybe want to try to integrate with Slash with some way, or work with the Slash people? Do we want to try to get better at some of the stuff Slash does well, namely the "one big moderated front page with countless weenies commenting" scenario?

How about ezboard? This site claims to have four million users and be one of the top 100 sites worldwide. It offers primitive nonthreaded discussion boards burdened by heavy amounts of advertisements (two banner ads, an ad for the paid service, and six trailing text ads per page), and needless to say it's not open-source. It bites.

How did ezboard get four million users? We do everything they do; do we want that kind of userbase? Do we want to build a smaller, more close-knit community of people who will use the service more heavily? Do we want the LiveJournal software to support this sort of usage, but for non-livejournal.com sites to carry much of the userbase?

How about Yahoo! Clubs? I hate their message-board interface, and their ads, but they do some nifty stuff with integrating every other Yahoo! service in existence into the clubs system ... what good ideas do they have?

Hell, what about Usenet? The old Unix trn is 11 years old, and it still has power-user features and interface refinements that I haven't seen in any web-based discussion system; and the voting system for Big 7 newsgroups, as lame as it was, did a decent job of organizing groups into some sort of browsable hierarchy.

That's just the technical aspects. The "marketing" or "positioning" aspects are even more interesting.

All these systems have subtly different notions of "publishing" and "community". Consider "page", "blog", "journal", "log", "diary". Consider "club", "community", "board", "group". These concepts may be technically the same, but there are subtle differences in how people think about them, and how people approach the software is everything.

How do we want people to think about LiveJournal? How can we make them think that way?

How can we make people think about the site that way if they only visit the front page, and skim it in like 20 seconds? (This is the one thing I think Blogger does really well.)


Anyway, I'm not trying to dis the "whee! beat Blogger!" crusade, because it's fun, everyone loves to cheer on their team. But Blogger is just one system, and not an especially large or interesting system. I think we have more to learn from other systems, and I don't see us looking at other systems much, let alone learning from them.

(And this rant is half-baked because I started by saying "who cares about Blogger", and wandered into "why don't we pay more attention to lots of other systems". But I think it's important to post it now rather than in a week or so, when it'd be dismissed as either gloating or sour grapes depending on the Webby results.)</b>

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