liv: Stylised sheep with blue, purple, pink horizontal stripes, and teacup brand, dreams of Dreamwidth (sheeeep)
[personal profile] liv
I've seen all of these in the wild, and I admit that people who believe them probably aren't going to accept my rebuttals, but I thought I'd put something out there in case it's useful for anyone to point to it!
  1. Dreamwidth is nothing but identity politics
    There is a loud group on Dreamwidth who are very deeply into identity politics. That's partly because a particular subgroup of online activists were sufficiently pissed off with LiveJournal and its advertisers that they transferred their loyalties to Dreamwidth in the early days. Some of this group tend to be very vocal and very active in public communities, but they're only one group of Dreamwidth users and most people have nothing to do with them.

    Another big group who are very heavily into Dreamwidth and have strong opinions about it and so on are geeks; they left LJ because of concerns about security and ad creep. Oh, also people with disabilities; it's easy to perceive that anybody who talks about their disability online is indulging in identity politics, and it may be the case that some are. But for a lot of people, the fact that Dreamwidth developers put a lot of effort into accessibility, and it's built in from the start (not an afterthought), simply means that Dreamwidth is physically a lot easier to use than many similar sites.

    I'd say that if you don't like identity politics, the main venue to avoid is LiveJournal's [livejournal.com profile] metafandom community.

  2. Dreamwidth is hostile to straight white men
    Dreamwidth likes to point out that one of its owners is in fact a cissexual, straight, married, able-bodied white man. But that's not really the point, because people are interested in the general atmosphere, not the identities and politics of the owners. It is certainly the case that Dreamwidth has a higher proportion of users who publicly identify as female than just about any other site on the internet (though note that that proportion is still under 50%, and still lower than the proportion who are publicly female on LiveJournal (49% versus 61%)). This runs smack into the psychological issue that people perceive a group that is more than 30% female as being female dominated.

    I suspect that versions of this problem apply to lots of different minority identities, and ties in with the "it's all about identity politics" issue. Dreamwidth is committed to diversity, and it's making a deliberate effort to be inclusive of people from all backgrounds. This can make it seem less comfortable for people who are used to everything catering to them by default, but it's a long long way from hostility. And I really do think it doesn't have to be a zero-sum thing.

  3. Dreamwidth is all about media fandom
    Eh, again, there's a fairly noisy fandom contingent here (and it's fairly well known that the other site owner has a BNF alternative persona). But in general I think the great strength of sites built on LiveJournal's model is that you can easily meet people who are friends-of-friends, or who share your interests, and easily have nothing to do with subcultures you're not interested in. Certainly I didn't join Dreamwidth because I want to read or write Dr Who or Supernatural fanfic!

    The other good thing about Dreamwidth is that some work has gone in to discoverability. There's actually a working site search, and site-wide feeds of recent posts with popular tags, at the URL http://www.dreamwidth.org/latest?tag=SEARCHTERM. So if you want to look for people who are interested in, say, science, you can easily find plenty of non-fandom reading material.

  4. Dreamwidth is trying to undermine creators' rights by encouraging fanfic
    I think there are strong arguments on both sides of the debate about whether fanfic of copyright works without the permission or even against the will of the creator is legitimate. However, I'm pretty convinced that boycotting Dreamwidth is a poor solution if you feel that fanfic is morally and perhaps even legally wrong. Dreamwidth is not pro-fanfic, it's just explicitly not anti-fanfic. Now, this is a subtle distinction, and it does have the effect in practice that it's a site where fanfic writers feel safe, compared to other sites which actively forbid sexually explicit and / or copyright dubious material.

    The point is that there's a very important legal principle at stake here, which is that hosts of online material are not responsible for pro-actively vetting the content they host. It would be an extremely bad idea for Dreamwidth to attempt to keep illegal fanfic off the site, because that would make them legally liable for everything any user posts or uploads. That's a completely untenable situation and would make it near-impossible for any site with user-created content to exist. Now, it happens that Dreamwidth doesn't want to do this anyway, even if they could, because they don't particularly disapprove of fanfic. Nevertheless, they do comply with the law that if the owner whose material is being illegally copied makes a valid complaint, they will ask the violator to remove the material.

    I do very strongly believe that people who want to keep others from abusing their creative works need to act within the legal framework. And if that isn't adequate, campaign to get laws changed, not try to punish websites that host content. That would have very bad knock-on effects on lots of things that aren't fanfic.

  5. Dreamwidth is pro child porn
    The argument about this is actually similar to the argument about fanfic, except that child porn is obviously morally wrong and a much more emotive issue than fanfic. Dreamwidth has an explicit policy that they will accept any content that's legal under US laws. IMO that's the only sensible approach for them to have, because otherwise it all gets horribly subjective and honestly DW don't have the staff to make judgement calls about whether material is "offensive", and if they did, their judgement most likely wouldn't agree with yours. In fact Dreamwidth has a positive, in principle commitment to freedom of expression.

    That means that textual descriptions of underage sex, explicit images of underage fictional characters, and plenty of other things that people may find offensive, such as racism, are allowed on Dreamwidth, and won't get removed if you complain about them. The US has in some ways remarkably liberal laws about free speech, though with all kinds of odd twists regarding what counts as obscene. Basically, though, if you have a problem with this (either because it's too permissive of things you think should be banned, or because it bans things you find acceptable), take it up with the US legislature, not with Dreamwidth. If you're not in the US, this is obviously a bit of a problem, but Dreamwidth is an American website which follows American law, and that's just the way it is.

  6. Dreamwidth hates LiveJournal and wants to see it fail
    This is a difficult one, because many people have in fact moved to Dreamwidth precisely because they were fed up with LJ for one reason or another. If LJ were perfectly adequate in every way, there probably wouldn't have been a niche for Dreamwidth in the first place. So obviously, lots of these people, including me, have negative things to say about LiveJournal. And Dreamwidth does tend to get an influx of new users when LiveJournal commits some horrible screw-up.

    That said, [staff profile] denise is absolutely insistent that we should emphasise the positive things about Dreamwidth, and not the negative things about LJ. She often intervenes in discussions in News to shut down any possible negativity about LiveJournal. The vision of the site is that it should be complementary to LJ, not a rival, and hence the big emphasis on interoperability. For example, you can use your LJ account to log in to Dreamwidth and do anything a DW user can do apart from make your own posts. DW's implementation of the OpenID system isn't perfect yet, but it's still a lot better than it was before Dreamwidth started tweaking it.

    In some ways this is a bit Utopian, because two sites that cover so much of the same ground are fairly obviously going to be rivals to some extent. But it's very much not the core mission of Dreamwidth to bring LJ down, or even to poach users and bring them over here. Dreamwidth wants to attract people who had nothing to do with LJ in the first place, and is going to a lot of effort to make it seamlessly possible to use both sites at once.

  7. Dreamwidth is just another fly-by-night LiveJournal clone
    It's very easy to look at the history of things like GreatestJournal and uJournal and CommieJournal, (DeadJournal I think is still just about clinging on) and the more recent crop of things like InsaneJournal, Blurty, Inksome aka Scribblit and what have you, and assume that Dreamwidth is another one-minute wonder, with a flurry of people flouncing out of LJ in protest or snagging usernames, but no real ongoing development or growth.

    Dreamwidth is different for a couple of reasons: firstly, it's not a clone, it's a true fork. That means that there have been significant changes to the LiveJournal codebase, including adding a lot of new features, removing unwanted features, and an ongoing effort to make the code more robust, rational and maintainable. The most important difference, though, is that Dreamwidth is run by people who know what they're doing, and who see the site as a full-time job. Many LiveJournal clones have been run by competent programmers, yes, but they were still running the sites as a hobby, and anyway, they were defeated by the labyrinthine mess left after 10 years of extremely haphazard development on LiveJournal itself. [staff profile] denise has an actual business plan for sustainable growth (she's not trying to make millions overnight, either), and is stubborn about running the site in a way that's actually viable, even if that means refusing features like unlimited icons that many users want. [staff profile] mark was employed by LiveJournal for many years, so he really has a thorough understanding of the code.

    Also, Dreamwidth has a really good volunteer culture, which means that bugs actually get fixed and new features actually get coded on a reasonable timescale, even though the codebase is frighteningly huge. There are still some questions about its viability long-term, of course, because this is the internet and it's impossible to predict what will happen to any site long-term. But there are good solid reasons to bet on DW being around for a few years at least.

  8. Dreamwidth has compulsory adverts
    I have no idea where this comes from, since the whole point of Dreamwidth is that it has absolutely no adverts at all, for any account level, and no plans to ever introduce adverts. I have tried asking people why they believe this but never received an answer; perhaps people are confusing DW with one of the other LJ clones?

  9. Dreamwidthians can't handle criticism of the site
    Lots of people are very passionate about Dreamwidth, and I'm sure there are some people out there who are over-sensitive to criticism of anything they're passionate about. But I think in general Dreamwidth is very much open to criticism. In fact, because of the Open Source thing, a lot of criticism is really positive, because things that are wrong can get fixed (as long as they don't go against the whole philosophy of the site). Also, an aspect of the volunteer culture means that there are a lot of passionate power users who have the geek tendency to correct misconceptions about their beloved project. I'm taking part in that exercise myself with this post; that doesn't mean I can't deal with criticism of my favourite site, it just means that I want people to criticize things that are actually wrong, not false rumours or skewed perceptions.

    In some ways I think there's an element of projection going on; people who have made the positive choice to stay with LJ feel implicitly criticized by anyone expressing enthusiasm for Dreamwidth. Indeed this is not entirely unjustified, since some people do directly go around criticizing LJ. I admit I'm partly writing this post in response to [livejournal.com profile] yuki_onna's pro-LJ essay, which ended up with a lot of arguing about DW in the comments. Things like people claiming that DW doesn't have email notifications of comments, and when people corrected this false impression, a hue-and-cry ensued about how that just goes to show that DW people are over-sensitive and smug and can't deal with criticism.

  10. Dreamwidth is going to save the world
    Of course not! Dreamwidth is a blogging site, which has some advantages over LiveJournal, that's all. (I hope I haven't caused everybody to blank out everything else I've said because I compared DW favourably with LJ!) At very best, it's going to be a medium-sized, rather niche blogging system, and blogging itself is a phenomenon that has passed its heyday, being superseded by multimedia stuff like Tumblr, true social networking stuff like Facebook, and microblogging like Twitter and all its friends. (In fact, one of the reasons LJ did so well in the mid 2000s is that it combined all these different types of creating content, rather than separating them off into different sites and then recombining them using modern aggregation tech.) And it's making very small ripples in the very small pond of FLOSS, by creating a developer culture that is welcoming to people who don't fit the typical demographic of guys who've been fiddling with computers since they were teenagers. I think that's very cool, but it's still a very small thing.

    For me personally, I like traditional, mainly text-based blogging, I like LiveJournal's system of very fine-grained privacy plus access to an instant audience, and I don't like LiveJournal's business philosophy, so DW is the obvious choice. But for most people it's either irrelevant or not obviously better than the alternatives
If you're sceptical, that's totally fair enough, but I invite you to try one thing: compare Dreamwidth's Latest Things page with LiveJournal's Latest Posts. Note the new features, particularly the tag cloud. Yes, you will see a snapshot that includes quite a lot of fanfic, but also plenty of other stuff. (To get a valid comparison, you probably want to skip the porn, spam and Cyrillic that make up the majority of LJ's latest feed; Russian-language LJ is a very different creature that happens to share the same infrastructure.) And more to the point, you'll get a much better idea of the sort of content that populates Dreamwidth, than you would get from the skewed sample that is people who make a lot of noise about Dreamwidth in fandom communities.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-11 09:23 am (UTC)
green_knight: (Dragonfly)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
pressure to volunteer

Wow. I hadn't even seen that one around, because if you're not interested in DW-the-community, you can log into your own journal and read your rlist and never interact with DW at all. (And part of me thinks that if people are looking for bad things to say about DW, and that's the worst they can come up with, we must be doing pretty well over here.)

I think the [site community profile] dw_suggestions community is one of the best features about DW: a place where people can not only make suggestions and discuss them, but which has a fairly close feedback loop - they're not just made into empty space for someone to review 'eventually', but accepteed (or rejected for reasons) fairly quickly.

LJ almost isn't doing feature development these days

The last big change was the 'user representative' and that backfired badly (and it says something that LJ needs one in the first place). Oh, and the code push that made most javascripts unusable on my elderly version of Safari, including in-page replies. It's one reason why I choose to read and comment on DW first - LJ increased my page loads by a third.

(no subject)

Date: 2010-07-14 12:07 pm (UTC)
green_knight: (Drama)
From: [personal profile] green_knight
Some people like Dreamwidth a lot, and that can come across as smug or evangelizing or implicitly negative about people who don't use DW

Indeed. As a long-standing Mac user, I am familiar with the problem, but if you really love something, you want to talk about it. Doing it without implying that other people are stupid for not having seen the light yet can be challenging, depending on your personality.

For most (paid LJ) users, the difference between LJ and DW is going to be reasonably minimal on a day-to-day basis.

It probably says something that I hadn't heard about the 'repost' feature - anything that breaks flock is a VERY BAD IDEA because whether it's done accidentally or maliciously, it could have serious consequences. I trust LJ to safeguard my privacy; if it doesn't, I'll turn crossposts of even mildly sensitive stuff off.

As for backwards compatibility, there's a very important thing to remember: while people with five-year-old computers/browsers might not be interesting to advertisers, there's a direct link between being disadvantaged and not being able to keep at the forefront of technology. I think it's vital for DW to - as much as possible - keep including people who own old computers, handed down computers, who use library and school computers as their only access, etc. Forcing users to upgrade in order to keep basic functionality will leave a lot of people behind - and while someone who wants a userbase suitable for advertising might see this almost as an asset (we know that everybody who sees your advert is likely to have the cash to buy your product), a social site like DW will suffer from it if you accept that getting less affluent people and people from less affluent countries involved is a good thing.

As for the Russian bloggers, the only ones I am aware of is a circle of incredibly talented and generous photographers. I don't speak Russian, I barely read enough to make out image captions, but wow, are these guys *good*.

Soundbite

Miscellaneous. Eclectic. Random. Perhaps markedly literate, or at least suffering from the compulsion to read any text that presents itself, including cereal boxes.

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