Chris and I had a discussion about LiveJournal last night, that lead in some interesting directions.

Though the discussion was started by the impending (21st March 2008) day long boycott of the site (which I'm not commenting on, and neither know enough about to pass judgment, nor am particularly moved by the whole deal), but quickly moved on to a contemplation of LJ, and you know, the internet as a whole.

I wrote this entry yesterday but didn't post it. It's since come to my attention that the rhetoric of the strike errs towards anti-semitism, which is a bit troubling. I think I've technically read my friends page since midnight GMT yesterday, and this post will get pushed to LJ, so I guess that I'm not participating.

I'd also say that it doesn't strike me that anything is particularly different this time around. When I joined LJ the first time (with my old handle as the username), you had to be invited/have a code from an existing user, there weren't free accounts. Frankly I think that's part of the reason that the LJ community is what it is. As for the censorship stuff, that's not particularly new and though distasteful, a completely enforceable part of the terms of service. Anyway, on with the entry...

What we recognized was that LJ is basically the only consistently successful social networking site on the internet, ever. Furthermore later social networking sites, like facebook and myspace, have started to look more and more like LJ as time goes on. The facebook "feed" is a lot like the LJ friend's page, the facebook profile and the LJ userinfo page are remarkably similar. And so forth.

The surprising thing is that LJ, though developed and changed over the years, is pretty much the same thing that it's always been, and that's sort of cool.

I attribute the success of LJ to two things: the friends page, and the granularity of security that "friend's locking" provides. The diverse and dedicated (and not unsizeable) userbase seals the deal.

While I adore Wordpress, and think that it's great software, the truth is that and blogger that preceded it, really can't hold a candle to LJ because though there are "community features" (comments, blogrolls, rss feeds) the "blog," they don't have the friend's page. [1]

And admittedly, today, we have things like Google Reader and other RSS services, and Open ID that go a long way to replicate the "f-list" experience, but it isn't the same, and it isn't automatic. Often, in this whole cyberspace adventure, I think independence is the way to go, but I really think that in the case of LJ, there's no way to do the community aspect of blogging or social networking as successful in an independent sort of way [2].

Our conversation ended with Chris' recolection that he thought--years ago--that we should have tried to replicate the LJ phenomena and improve upon it somehow. He/we was/were always unclear of the details. The conversation then moved on to a discussion of programing languages and methods and projects, both historical and future. I will no doubt continue to blog/write about where this train of thought is taking us, but I think the observations about LJ and what constitutes success in terms of software and cyber/social phenomena will prove useful in the future.

Onward and Upward!

[1]I think/fear that "blogs" are seen as too much as sole proprietorships, in a way. Blog publishing is mostly akin to magazine publishing or newspaper publishing, and I think that LJ is a much closer approximation of say Usenet, or the BBS, than any traditional publishing venture. Simply put, bloggers have an audience, online journalers have a community.
[2]We'll note that there's no real independent/autonomous social networking, the beauty of these sites is that they throw all of the data into a single database and run with it. You can't do that on an island.