I wanted to do finch's 21 Days of Dreamwidth meme, but I am generally hopeless at daily prompts, so I will just fill in the whole survey at once so I have at least some contribution to the Three Week fest!
- Why did you sign up for Dreamwidth?
- I'd been desperately seeking an alternative to LJ since about 2008. I had been dissatisfied for some time already, but the removal of the ad-free option was the last straw for me. There just wasn't anything suitable out there, though. The LJ clones were all too amateurish, and nothing else had the killer features which make network and audience building happen. So when denise started talking about HypotheticalJournal I was all over it. I pledged money, I got involved in the mailing list discussions, I was generally an enthusiast. It took LJ sacking most of its US staff to tip the project over from a hypothetical suggestion into an actual business plan, and the more I heard about it the more I loved it. I particularly love the fact that there is a long term financial and development plan; much as I love hobbyist sites, I don't want to trust my social life to them.
So I didn't so much sign up as throw myself into it, I wrote quite a lot of the early version of the documentation, I have been an enthusiastic advocate from the beginning, and I have even done some development. I'm irrationally proud of having account number 26, because I was in right at the start.
- Why did you choose your journal name?
- When I joined LJ in 2003, I thought I was picking a title for my blog, not the name that would become attached to me as an identity. I chose "livredor", because my blog was intended as a livre d'or, a commonplace book or visitor book. Many people parsed that as Liv-Redor, so they started calling me Liv for short, especially on IRC. I like Liv, it is plausible as a name but a bit unusual, and I later learned that it's the equivalent of Eve in some Scandinavian languages (though Eva also exists).
Since I was one of the first people to join DW, I could have had any name I wanted. I toyed with the idea of registering my given name, Rachel, but I concluded that I didn't want too close a connection to my offline identity, and I also didn't want to be confused with the millions of other people with that first name. I also considered my initials, cos three letter usernames are cool, but in the end I went with something that would maintain my connection to my old LJ journal. Nowadays Liv feels like just as much my name as Rachel; even my fiancé sometimes calls me by that name!
- Do you crosspost? Why or why not?
- I don't crosspost; every so often, usually about once a month, I make a post to LJ with a list of links to my posts on DW since I last remembered to do the round-up.
The main reason for this decision is because I don't want my content to support the kind of businesses that advertise on LJ these days. But also, I've been determined from the beginning to make DW my primary place. I don't want to lose touch with my friends who are still on LJ, of course, but it quickly became clear that keeping a foot in both camps means you end up stuck on LJ through inertia. People who crosspost get all the comments on LJ, find they have far more activity on their LJ friends pages than their DW reading pages, and generally default to using DW as little more than a mirror for their main journal. That's fine if that's what you want to do, of course, but for me asking people to make a couple of extra clicks to comment here, and making an effort myself to meet new people on DW, have helped make DW my home, which is what I wanted.
- What do you do online when you're not on DW?
- Not a lot, to be honest. I have a handful of non-DW blogs in my RSS feeder, mainly friends who have branched out into proper blogs. I regularly visit Yucata, which has asynchronous semi-abstract boardgames and is generally awesome. Other than that, I follow links, mainly from my reading list or Twitter, I use Google and Wikipedia to check up on questions I'm curious about, I sometimes do various kinds of online shopping or travel planning. There are a few sites I use if I'm seriously procrastinating, a mixture of browser games and huge group blogs like Making Light and Alas, a blog. But honestly I've been reading those for most of a decade now and they don't have much new to say any more, I get more out of surfing around my Network and the DW Latest Things page.
- How about when you're not on the computer?
- My full-time job is being a university lecturer. This involves teaching first and second year medical students some bioscience, and all the peripheral activities around teaching like marking and admin, and also trying to get money so I can get my eventual cancer research group started. A lot of my free time goes to Jewish community organizing, particularly at the moment leading services for the very small but very enthusiastic local community. I also try to see my friends in person as often as I can manage, which does depend a bit on geography and how busy they are, but I try. For the past half year I've been making a point of going to the gym twice a week, which is not much fun but I hope is good for me. Most of the rest of the time I'm either reading or playing board games.
- What do you wish people who read your journal knew about you?
- If I wished people knew stuff I'd probably just tell them, rather than sitting around wishing! It probably helps if you know that I'm hopelessly didactic; I love explaining things, and I often come across as patronizing when I accidentally explain something that my reader already knows. Being highly verbal and generally a confident person, I also sometimes seem more convincing or forceful than my level of actual knowledge justifies. I generally love disagreement and challenges to my views, so please don't refrain from arguing just because I seem a bit dominating.
- What is your favorite community on Dreamwidth?
- I have a great fondness for agonyaunt, which essentially picks holes in bad advice columns. It's not purely negative, the group often comes up with much better advice for the situation described in the letter. It just helps me feel better about the world seeing other people who share my views that relationships should be based on honesty and communication rather than game-playing and gendered assumptions.
- What community do you wish was more active?
- I'd really like to see people using theladiesloos over here. It's a great community on LJ, but has never really managed to get off the ground on this side. I don't much care about the fact that it's an all-female community, but the community has a system where members have to "vouch" for new members by saying that they know the applicant is female IRL. This has the side-effect of creating a pretty diverse community, but one where everybody is at most a few hops of real life acquaintance from you, which is better than either a completely random mix or a community of people with very similar views. So it's a really interesting place to discuss random topics, many of which are not particularly specific to being female.
It's well known that active communities are one of the areas where DW is weak. I think it's partly just the youth of the site, but also it's a downside of the ways that DW makes individual connections really really easy and convenient. I would say that DW has a better sense of community than LJ in many ways, but they are loose, informal communities of people who read eachother and link to eachother, not official journals with type "C" according to the database. I don't honestly know if this is fixable, and I'm not doing as much about it as I should because I've always been more interested in individuals than communities anyway.
- Are there two people on your reading list that you think should meet?
- Absolutely. I think I might do that game again where I recommend people to read eachother, but I'll save it for another post because it takes ages. Especially when you consider my reading list has 150 people on it...
- Tell me about your default icon.
- When I first joined LJ I thought icons were more like traditional avatars, where you'd have one picture to represent you. I used to have such an avatar on some very old, pre Web 2.0 site, Friends Reunited I think, which was created using a little web toy from the site that was the ancestor of WeeWorld. With the help of darcydodo I fixed it up so it actually looks something like a cartoon version of me; apart from anything else, the site didn't have the option of hair longer than shoulder length, or a single braid as opposed to more trendy hairstyles. I have actually been recognized in person by people who've only seen this cartoon image of me.
- What features do you think Dreamwidth should have that it doesn't currently?
- Ability to comment using an identity from another site without massive faff.
- A system that allows you to use DW for curating content, eg sharing partial reading lists, interactive memories / bookmarking, things like that. I do believe that the future of the web is curating as much as it's producing content, and DW does have plans related to this but it's a bit behind the curve.
- A decent system for handling media, preferably including native photo-hosting. I don't personally care very much about that, I'm much more of a text-based blogger than multimedia, but it's a killer feature, people are abandoning DW for technically and socially inferior sites like Tumblr and Facebook because it's an unreasonable amount of faff to include a picture in your posts here.
- The ability to back up your journal, including comments, in a machine-readable and human-readable way. It needs to be native to DW, not a third-party client, and it needs to be user-friendly, not requiring you to know several programming languages. I really regret importing my old entries from LJ because my journal is now too big for LJArchive to handle, and I am getting more and more twitchy the longer I go without any copy of my posts on my own desktop.
- What do you consider the five most "telling" interests from the list on your profile? Why?
- Teaching. Being a teacher is probably the most important part of my identity, before being female or English or bi or anything like that.
- Friendships. I care very much about my friends, I'm intensely loyal and I also love making new friends. (This interest should be friends but I didn't want people to think I was a fan of the TV show.)
- Communication. It's what I do, making connections with other people, expressing myself as clearly and honestly as I'm able, writing blog posts...
- Science. I'm a professional scientist, and also scientific thinking infuses how I look at the world constantly.
- Stories. My mind works by casting all my experiences as stories, I love reading, I love hearing other people's stories.
- Do you have any unique interests on your user profile? What are they? How'd they get there?
- I have lots of unique interests, namely: BBC computers, buzzer quizzes, chevruta, decadence poets, drug discovery, Everett Fox, fond and lascivious thoughts, GB Edwards, grey area Judaism, Hengrave Hall, Impressionist music, Kate Greenaway, langue française, making geography history, myc, nucleoli, p53, Renaud, Siedler, spinal injury, and Weizmann.
They got there because I imported them from LJ; some of them are unique because DW is a relatively small site which doesn't have enough people to share my more obscure interests, and some of them because they're personal to me. There are a bunch of professional ones, drug discovery, myc, p53 and nucleoli. A bunch of people I admire who aren't particularly famous, Everett Fox is a translator of the Bible, GB Edwards is a very good but undeservedly obscure author, Kate Greenaway is an early 20th century illustrator (responsible for my background image of a girl reading, among other things), Renaud is a French singer, sort of a bit like the French equivalent of Billy Bragg I guess. Some stuff that's purely obscure, BBC computers are because I had a home computer of that model in the 80s, buzzer quizzes is games like University Challenge where you have to be faster than your competitors to answer trivia questions (as opposed to pub quiz or Trivial Pursuit style games where the competition is to see who knows the most and speed is mostly irrelevant), chevruta is the traditional style of studying Jewish texts by arguing intensely with a partner, langue française is French for French, Siedler is the board game Settlers of Catan. Some stuff where I was overly specific in my genre preferences, decadence poets and Impressionist music.
And some of them are personal to me. Fond and lascivious thoughts is a reference to my sweetie (I used to have "flirting with Jack" there, but a slightly socially clueless person thought it would be funny to copy that interest from me, so I changed it to be unique again). Grey area Judaism is a term that some of my crowd use for people who are relatively traditionally observant compared to most of the Progressive world but reject the philosophical basis of Orthodox Judaism. Hengrave Hall is a (now defunct) Christian community which had a great deal of influence on me as a teenager. Making geography history refers to my hatred of the way that so many of my friends live are scattered round the world in ways that make it practically hard to spend time with them. Spinal injury I'm interested in because my brother is paralysed as a result of a spinal injury in 2002. Weizmann is the Weizmann Institute of Science where I spent a summer as an undergraduate and was inspired to purse science as a career.
- Did you have a gateway fandom? Still in it? Why or why not? Is there a community for it on DW?
- I'm not really in fandom much. I'm aware of it, and I read quite a lot of the meta discussions, but I don't really participate. I suppose you could say that my gateway fandom was Buffy, because my dear friend darcydodo joined LJ in order to participate in that fandom, and I joined LJ in order to keep up with her. But I've only just this year started watching Buffy myself, and have so far only seen the first season, and it's not exactly what most people are talking about these days. On DW I'm part of prime_integrals, which is designed as a reading list of people who post about non-fandom topics.
- What's your current obsession? What about it captures your imagination?
- Apart from the stuff that I've been obsessed with for years if not my whole life, currently I'm a bit addicted to a funny little game called The Wonderful End of the World. It's basically a Katamari Damacy-inspired game, which I bought because I wanted to play Katamari but I don't have a console. It's not technically or conceptually perfect, it's very much a half-finished indie game, but it's very playable in spite of its problems. I love games where you explore a rich world but there's a goal you're trying to complete, it's not just a simulation of wandering around for no reason. And it's easy enough for me not to get bored with it before I actually master it enough to get the point, which is a problem with many games that are objectively much better (eg Myst).
- What are you glad you did but haven't really had a chance to post about?
- Read lots of good and lots of thought-provoking books I haven't reviewed yet (and may not get to at all, by this stage). An interfaith event that I should probably post about under lock because I have mixed feelings about it. Vote, though my post about that will probably overlap quite a lot with what lots of other people have already said.
- How many people on your reading list do you know IRL?
- About half I think. One of the reasons I like LJ-based sites is the way they make it so easy to mix personal journalling with more abstract blogging, and I tend to subscribe to people about equally for both reasons. I also use DW as a way to get to know people I meet socially; if I've only met someone once then emailing them or asking to get together seems intrusive, and Facebook doesn't tell me enough about their life to actually build a relationship, but adding them on DW means I can get to know them without putting them in an awkward position. That in turn has led to "IRL" friendships, though honestly I don't consider DW to be unreal. It's how I got to know jack well enough to have said yes when he asked me out, for example.
- What don't you talk about here, either because it's too personal or because you don't have the energy?
- I limit talking about other people's personal lives; I'm always tempted to repeat anything that isn't actually a secret, but I know this can cause resentment and often real harm, so I try to cut back on it. I talk about work stuff only in the most general terms, and only behind an access lock; as a teacher, I really can't afford to talk about my students in any way that might even remotely be identifiable. I don't exactly not talk about fat politics and body image, but I tend to do so fairly indirectly because I don't want to have the stupid fat is unhealthy or "calories in, calories out" arguments. I pretty much don't talk about Middle Eastern politics or the Holocaust, except indirectly.
- Any questions from the audience?
- Well, are there any? I'm always happy to answer any questions or fill any (non-fiction) writing prompts you care to offer, and the more so during the Three Weeks for DW fest!
- Yes, but what are your thoughts on yaoi?
- I don't really think about it much! I think people are welcome to fantasize and create fiction and art about whatever topic they like, but I feel that such fantasies and art shouldn't be imposed on non-consenting audiences, basically.
- What's your favorite thing about Dreamwidth?
- I'm as happy here as I was on LJ when it was an Open Source community building project. Happier, in fact, because DW is much more stable and much more fully featured than LJ in the early 2000s, and although it is a benevolent dictatorship the dictators are much more responsive to community needs than bradfitz ever was. When LJ started turning into a platform for selling ads I wasn't sure I'd ever find anywhere as wonderful again, and the fact that I have is really pleasing.