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Halrloprillalar

You can call me Hal.

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Some thoughts on LiveJournal, not all entirely related.
apples
prillalar
[ This is NOT a "good old days of mailing lists" post. Just some thoughts. ]

I have participated in fandom in several contexts: mailing lists, Usenet, discussion boards, and LiveJournal. It's not news that the first three are generally topic-based while LJ is person-based. On LJ, you create your own community out of who you read and with whom you engage.

LJ is personal. Again, not news. Your journal is your space, to do with what you will. Your fanfic, your art, your work news, your pictures of your cat, your comments on politics and TV shows. It's about you, like my journal is about me.

LJ privileges the original post above the replies. In every design I've seen, the post occupies the main portion of the screen, right at the top, and the replies are below it in their own section. They are, simply by their location on the screen, less important.

In contrast, mailing lists, newsgroups, and discussion boards (for the most part) treat the original post visually the same as the follow-ups, putting it first but not styling it significantly differently.

I think this affects discussion. The privilege of the LJ post, along with the fact that this is a specific person's personal space, means that criticism of the subject matter is more likely to be interpreted as criticism of the journal owner, even if that interpretation is made subconsciously. If you do not agree with the poster, on LJ there is a greater feeling that you should just not read their journal. Again, this might only be a subtle pressure, not explicitly expressed.

You are in another person's space, not a shared space. So, like when you are in someone else's home, there are things you feel constrained not to do or say.

Not to mention, because of the privilege of the LJ publishing model, your readership will be made up mostly of people who agree with you. You may be more likely to find flamers than people who disagree with you in a non-hostile way.

Communities do provide a place for finding discussion with non-like-minded people, but the privilege of the post still remains.

LJ is public. The nature of a web journal -- a publishing model rather than a discussion model -- makes it feel more public to us, even if it is filtered and locked. Here's an example of what I mean:

Suppose I went to visit kestrelsan and while I was there, she only ever made me oatmeal for breakfast, even though she knows I hate oatmeal. (Of course this is hypothetical; probably she'd make me get my own breakfast. *g*) After I got home, I really wanted to complain about it to ten of my closest friends, but not let kestrelsan know I was doing it. I could:

* send private email to everyone in the group, either individually or all at one go
* send email to our private and exclusive mailing list
* post to LJ and filter it to only those ten people

In any of those cases, someone could easily tell kestrelsan what I had said about her and her oatmeal. (And there could be technical glitches or operator errors as well.) But which instance feels more public to you, on a gut level? To me, it's LiveJournal, because it's published on the web. It feels more visible and permanent, even though it's no more so than the other two. (A web-based forum or discussion board is also public in this way, even if it is restricted to certain members.)

I'm not sure how this impression of public-ness affects what we post under lock and filter, but I think it affects how we feel when some friends-locked unpleasantness is made known. The offense feels greater because it was in a public space, even though the actual public nature of the information was the same as though it had been emailed.

On LJ, we build our own community by reading journals and interacting with them by means of commenting. I'm sure most of us have journals on our lists that we consistently read but don't comment in. It's interesting for the reader, but it doesn't build community between the poster and the reader. (I frequently admonish myself to be a more frequent commenter, but haven't had much success.)

We post, by and large, hoping to receive responses, those little strokes that let us know that people care about what we say (or, more likely, care that we are still alive). We may also be hoping that those replies contain advice or praise or smart discussion on the topic at hand, but at root, we just want to know that someone is reading. And by replying to those comments, we build relationships and community with our readers, just as we build relationships and community by commenting on the entries of others.

The larger the responsive readership of a particular journal is, the less the journal owner needs to go afield to find community. This is something I just figured out recently. If there are a lot of people responding to what you post, a large part of your social needs from LJ can be met right there, without you having to go out and comment in the journals of others.

Further, you may not have time or social energy to do more than keep up with the responses in your journal. So I think that in a way, a large friend-of list, if it is a responsive one, can be isolating.

And one more thing: We want our friends-list to post interesting things about fandom; we want to post pictures of our cats. Okay, that's a sweeping generalization, but I think it has some truth at the core.

And you, what do you think?
Tags:

(Deleted comment)
This would be me.
Also your puppy. <3!

obComment: This, in particular, struck me - the less the journal owner needs to go afield to find community - because in not going afield to find new people, stagnation can (does?) set in sometimes.

I agree with all your points. Plus, the graphics at livejournal are very easy on the eye. I followed you here from the archives and your website for just that-- your oatmeal. I love oatmeal.

Hee! I hope my hatred of oatmeal isn't off-putting for you. *g*

I think...you're right!

[...]

But wait! There's more!

Regarding the privileging of original comments: yes, that's absolutely true, but there's something LJ allows that mailing list posts don't - or rather, that are far more difficult on mailing lists - and that's the ability to link to related conversations.

Let's say person A posts about some totally original subject, like story warnings (*g*). Person B comments in person A's LJ, but they mirror the comment in their own LJ, sparking a different discussion. By the end of the day, more people have posted (all in response to earlier posts), and when person Z finally gets on line, they end up doing one of those "A through Y have been posting thinky thoughts about story warnings; A says [link and idea], while B says [link and idea], but C..." You can do that to a certain extent but copy/pasting bits of mailing list emails into your own post, but it's difficult for readers to go find the bits you've quoted in context.

And re: going further afield to find communities...I think that's often true. I mean, I have a pretty big readership these days, and even though I read my (also big, but not *that* big) f'list unfiltered, sometimes it *is* as much as I can do to just answer comments in my own LJ. The weird thing, though, is that I *feel* as if I'm part of a larger community (i.e., not just the one that clusters around my own journal), yet it may not seem that way to others, especially if I'm not commenting in *their* journals regularly.

I see what you're saying about linking to discussion. And the fact that you have to link at all shows that the discussion can so easily become fragmented. (And I'm not trying to say that email discussion is better, just different.) But easier to reference, yes. Which is great.

And I get why people want to mirror their comments in their own LJs too. Because it's their opinion, so it should be in their space.

Of course, a few times I've posted something, asking for thoughts, and then seen someone post their opinion in their own LJ. And my thought was, hey, stop sucking the discussion away! Keep it all together! (Together in *my* LJ!)

And sometimes when I've linked to an interesting discussion, people who read my journal but not the one linked to will put their comments on *my* entry (even though I just linked and didn't comment on the issue). It's made me think that next time I do that, I'll disable comments so that people go and join the main discussion.

I'm with you on pretty much everything but the cat thing. I'm... hmm. My entire fannish experience, starting on message boards and usenet and moving through mls and blogs and, now, lj has been all about building an audience, *having* an audience, and *keeping* that audience. It informs the stories I write -- even as I write, these days, more stories tailored to my own kinks -- and it informs what I post.

I pretty much always want responses, so I don't feel any real need most of the time to do... hmm... purely personal posts? If there's not fannish content, then there's probably metafannish content. Or book reviews or something. But, well, I'm neurotic like that.

As to the isolation factor -- I agree wholeheartedly and I thank God for it. For two reasons:

1. In my experience, the best way to make fandom into a positive space for oneself is to find your niche and stay there. The Balkanization of fandom started some years ago, and has continued apace. I think that's been, by and large, a *good* thing. We have metafandom when we want to branch out, and I think people use it fairly often. I get all the engaging discussion and cheerful disagreement I need from my f-list, and while I had to put some effort into doing that -- *having* that -- it wasn't, in the end, all that much.

The people who honestly will get some good out of diversification, in my experience, are also the people who will do the work to have it.

2. The availability of things like friendsfriends and just plain *links* to other people's f-lists. It's so easy to find a whole new world outside your own... if and when you're ready for it/want it.

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And you, what do you think?

I think I love you. Except, I disagree with this part.

We want our friends-list to post interesting things about fandom; we want to post pictures of our cats.

Because I'm hyper-aware of my friends' cat posts, I am acutely aware that I do not wish to inflict cat pictures on my friends, and so my journal is almost always cat-picture free, and cat pics are confined to a filter of people who like my cats. If I had any, that is, instead of hypothetical pinkpolkadot example cats.

You're making a deliberate effort not to post your cat pictures, but don't you really want to post them, deep down? (All fuzzy and cute, come on, admit it! *g*)

That's how I feel, anyhow. It would be easier if I just blogged about my cats. (If I had any cats, which I don't.) But since I would rather read interesting fandom stuff than look at cat pictures, that's what I try to post. I could have been more clear on that point.

Ha. You will eat my oatmeal and like it.

yum! but I wanted to say that it is a lot of fun to go through an interesting person's f-list, and try new flavors. that is my own way of keeping things fresh.

[...] a large friend-of list, if it is a responsive one, can be isolating.

Before the Web became mainstream, most opinions were published in newspapers, journals, and magazines as "Letters to the Editor" (albeit with a screening process). The old maxim was "Each letter received represents only 10% of the interested readership for that topic." If an LJ member applies that 10% Rule to LJ, multiplying the feedback for a post by a factor of ten will yield a nice ego boost.

Therefore, those Live Journalists who post comments in a popular LJ may secretly hope to increase their LJ visibility if their own readership is scant. ;)

I'm not sure how this impression of public-ness affects what we post under lock and filter, but I think it affects how we feel when some friends-locked unpleasantness is made known. The offense feels greater because it was in a public space, even though the actual public nature of the information was the same as though it had been emailed.

Perhaps the offense feels greater because of the sense of belonging to a subset of a very large network of communities. Even on an active email list, I don't sense a connection to greater community the way I do with LJ.

Therefore, those Live Journalists who post comments in a popular LJ may secretly hope to increase their LJ visibility if their own readership is scant.

That's an interesting thought. It must be very hard to pick up readership if you're new to fandom. I wonder what the best strategies are.

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I almost never use LJ like a diary or journal, but as "public communication space."

Yes, this is pretty much what I do as well. I'm always a bit puzzled when people post "notes to myself" type posts. (Especially since you could just make those private and see them yourself just as well.) But as I said to Te above, I do think a certain amount of personal info can help with building relationships. I sometimes think I don't post *enough* cat stuff.

However, in a sense comments are privileged because New Stuff is privileged over Oh That Again.

And there's a tension between "let's keep all these comments in one place" and "ZOMG I'm spamming your journal, I'm going to take this over to mine."

That's true. There's a weird feeling when you've got tons of 'strange' people discussing thing in your LJ. Everyone pops in going, "I've come here via so-and-so!" (or sometimes they don't, and I always try and find out where they come from) and you feel like your journal is open house for a bit. It's an unexpected extra readership that you may not have accounted for when you wrote your particular entry.

Because we all write our entries for a particular audience, like Hal said. And if I write a post about how cute Draco Malfoy's pinky finger is because I know my flist would appreciate that, and then have people crashing my party saying that the topic is superficial and useless? No, I'd rather said people start their own topic in their LJ called 'DM's pinky is superficial and useless'.


I no longer have that conscious decision to make my LJ interesting anymore. I'm well aware that what I'm doing is just posting about my 'cats' and it still boggles me that I haven't been defriended en masse. The thing is, posting about my cats gets a whole different section of my flist commenting, so who knows? :)

I like LJ because I can go scan through and read without committing to anything. Without subscribing to a mailing list that I have to commit to for a few days before I work out what it's really like.

I can see at a glance whether I'd fit into a certain community, or would get along with a certain LJ'er but not so with Mailing Lists.

Also, I think that it is much easier to join a new community, or even leave a comment on someone's journal whom you've never heard of before, than it is to reply to your first email in a Mailing List. I don't know why.

It boggles me that I haven't been defriended en masse since all I seem to post about is Prince of Tennis. *g* Though I do notice that every time I make a major "new fandom" post, I lose people. Which is totally fine -- I'd rather people felt free to go.

I do try to make my LJ interesting, though not necessarily with each and every post. I'm sure cat posts would get responses from different people. I'm just kind of private about my cats, you know?

I agree that it's easier to jump in on LJ than a mailing list. It's a more casual space, I think.

The larger the responsive readership of a particular journal is, the less the journal owner needs to go afield to find community. This is something I just figured out recently. If there are a lot of people responding to what you post, a large part of your social needs from LJ can be met right there, without you having to go out and comment in the journals of others.

Absolutely. I figured out this a long time ago with regard to my own journal--I am totally and completely spoiled. I can pretty much ask for anything I want/don't know/need help with and someone out there is likely to be able to assist me or give me what I want. And because of that I think that I have come to develop a really high tolerance for people's feelings and stuff with regard to how they interact with me on my lj. I don't comment nearly enough on my friends list, but I also make a point of trying to make everyone feel welcome when they comment on mine, because I don't want anybody to feel like they're just another voice in a crowd and don't matter to me, you know?

I don't know whether any of your post was a response to my spiel yesterday in response to people saying I should stop posting about Prince of Tennis, but anyway, I did make a statement, which I hope wasn't too ingracious considering it's been, what, three months now since the POT thing started, and I think that's plenty of time to have to deflect comments like that without making some sort of public statement.

Something I read earlier this week has really been sticking in my head a lot, because it seems like the whole 'lj is public/private' discussion is making the rounds. Basically, it's a quote I read somewhere with regard to the political life: Thomas Jefferson said, "When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property." This was one of the hardest and most important things I have learned since being in the fandom. When you step into LJ, when your LJ becomes something that lots of people read for a specific reason, you are, in a sense, assuming public trust.

Maybe you did it by choice, maybe you didn't, but at some point you accepted the role you had chanced upon, and that's the reason that the debate between what is public and private on lj still goes on: because people do expect things of you, and they don't feel they're wrong necessarily to expect those things, because for better or worse, your lj is public and you, yourself, have a kind of responsibility to the people who read it. There are limits to how far that responsibility extends. In my view, when the lj owner becomes uncomfortable with what people are asking of them, that's the moment when they need to step back and draw a line. Which is what I did yesterday. But I hope that I also did so in a way that was considerate of other people's feelings, and that I also reassured people who felt I wasn't living up to my end of our whole 'public trust,' er, thing.

does that make any sense?

I am in full agreement with you about being conscious of the public side of LJ, and I think this is a very perceptive post on all points. I don't feel guilty, however, for the content of my journal, because I don't feel like I am very consistent with what I post about. The biggest exception is that I was really taken aback last year when all those people friended me after the run of political posts I made. Most of them, I felt, weren't from the fandom, and most weren't slash fans; they friended me for political posts, and they weren't the intended audience of my journal. It was very difficult to adjust to that for a while, but I finally just had to trust that they would figure it out and make a decision one way or another. And I was pleasantly surprised and lost a lot of fear when it came to the question of giving people what they wanted to hear. My motto is still, just give them yourself. Whatever that happens to be at the time. :)

I can pretty much ask for anything I want/don't know/need help with and someone out there is likely to be able to assist me or give me what I want.

Part of me likes to think that because of the lovely nature of our part of fandom - that even people with much smaller readerships like myself have that.

I've tried everything - "how do I get the stain out of my carpet?" to "what's the address of my brother's high school bookstore?" to "I need blow job tips" and "someone buy me a paid account".

And likewise, I'll try to help out with as much as I can on mine. I think we just know all the nice people :D

To date I have not filtered or locked any of my posts. I figure if there's someone out there I don't want to see my words, I shouldn't put them up at all, for exactly the reasons you cite.

*nod* I think I've locked two or three over time, which were mostly "I need a beta" type things. I respect people's desire to lock, but I dislike it. I like being able to click on someone's name in a comment and seeing what they're like.

Actually, I have this fantasy that one day someone will be editing the LJ code and mess something up and all locked entries will become public. Because I'm mean. Well, no. But because I think trusting that these things are safe for ever and ever is foolish. Same as I don't really have much sympathy for people who lose their computer info because they have never backed it up. And now I have wandered off-topic.

I just posted a response to some of the things you talked about above. And the funny thing is, why did I post it in my journal and not here in comments, especially since my discussion was more about comments?

Strange, really, but you raise some very interesting points that I've been thinking about lately, driven by the need to "meet" new friends for a newish fandom.

Even though I've found some people who I want to read, I don't friend them b/c I don't see a connection forming. I'm probably isolating myself from getting to know some people, but you're right in that those with a large friends-of list may not need to search out, or even allow in, new people.

Anyway, I really enjoyed your post.

I think we want our own thoughts to be in our own space -- no mystery there. :)

As well, people treat LJ in different ways. Some people consider their friends list a, well, list of their friends. Others consider it a list of journals they like to read.

There's so much emotional baggage attached to "friending" that it can be difficult to add someone, read them for a while, then drop them again, especially if their own friend-of list is not large. You feel that you'll be hurting them. Tricky, very tricky.

We want our friends-list to post interesting things about fandom; we want to post pictures of our cats.

Not me. My LJ started out being fandom-focused, but hasn't stayed that way. Nearly all of the personal journals I have friended now are on the list because we have a personal friendship of some kind (in real life or online). I now follow fandom through newsletters and communities.

This could be a side-effect of my primary fandom being HP, which is too huge to keep up with via personal LJs. It's also probably to do with moving fandoms, leaving behind the journals which only talked about fandoms I'm no longer interested in, but keeping friends with whom I had built a broader connection.

Interesting! For me, HP fandom is very much about personal journals, more so than a lot of my other fandoms. But the fandom is so freaking huge that it stands to reason different segments of it have different behaviours.

I think most people in fandom like a mix of personal and fannish content, but the perfered ratio differs widely.

O_O whoo interesting discussion

We want our friends-list to post interesting things about fandom; we want to post pictures of our cats.

Hehe i'll guess i'll be in that category ^_^. But since i pretty much make clear why i friended somebody, I didn't mind if they didn't friend me back [so they are safe from my 'cats' pic' posts] ^)^
Anyway if a person was friended due to fandom reasons , i rarely comment in personal posts since i don't think i know them well enough to do so coz i may just be poking my nose in and that person may not be comfortable with strangers commenting on that.
But the variety of it all is one of the thing i love about LJ . A scroll through your flist may offer goodies from various fandom as opposed to specific fandom based forum etc
This has been a food for thought and one that've been on many pepole's mind as well , i should say. Just that nobody ever came out and say it.

I think everybody gets different ideas of how well they know each other on LJ. You can start to feel you know someone really well from their posts when they don't really know you at all. It's difficult to keep it all straight sometimes.

And I agree about the variety! That's how I get new fandoms most of the time. :)