liv: cartoon of me with long plait, teapot and purple outfit (mini-me)
[personal profile] liv
It seems a bit of a perennial thing with me that every so often I pontificate about the current state of social networking. This latest round was prompted partly by everybody suddenly getting excited about a new tech start-up, Ello. I'm pretty much convinced it's entirely pointless, and probably just vapourware. [personal profile] oursin posted pretty much what I was going to say, including a link to [ profile] notyourexrotic's clear explanation of why allowing pseudonyms does little for privacy if you don't have any tools to restrict who can view and respond to your content. Lots of other people have been linking to Balkan's very well-written piece pointing out that Ello has already sold its as yet hypothetical userbase for venture capital funding. I think Balkan is over-stating his case slightly; not everything that acquires start-up funding is inherently evil, but it's certainly true that you're just as much the product if the customer is investors as if the customer is advertisers.

Aside from those issues, I see absolutely no advantage to Ello. It offers me literally nothing that isn't already available at more established sites, and in particular it's worse in just about every respect than Dreamwidth! I've been wrong before, probably more often than I've been right; I was enthusiastic about Facebook at first, not knowing how evil it would turn out, and also about Google+ as a FB replacement, which was a complete flop as well as evil, even with the Google behemoth pushing it really heavily. I agree with [personal profile] oursin that if I'm wrong and everybody ends up using Ello as their main place, I'll join it whatever its problems may be; I mean, I have a Facebook account, so I'm in no position to value moral purity over using the same networks my friends use.

I retweeted [personal profile] emceeaich who pointed out Unlike Ello, Dreamwidth has a privacy model and you don't need an invite, and someone argued with me that DW is ugly and Ello has visual design appeal. I find Ello extremely ugly and extremely hard to read, but I can't deny that it's trendy. And it's interesting that Ello somehow succeeded in attracting some of my FB friends who are not geeky, who are by no means early adopters of new websites, the kind of people who are sick of FB but don't really know of any alternatives (the same people whose initial response to Google+ was, what's that, it looks like some weird complicated site for computer geeks). So obviously they're doing something right with the marketing and presentation, if they're attracting both bleeding edge Silicon Valley hipsters and middle-aged people who only got online a couple of years ago and rarely venture outside FB.

Of course, Ello benefits from being new, not only in that it looks cool and trendy but in that it doesn't have accumulated cruft. People can be pretty sure their employers and their awkward relatives and those vaguely irritating people they met once through work aren't there. And because it's brand new it hasn't yet been taken over by trolls and spammers. I read a great article some years ago pointing out that, much to my sadness, people don't stick with the same websites that work well for them, because simply being old and established is a huge disadvantage compared to starting again with a clean slate where you only friend / follow the people you actually want to know.

One thing that Ello is, I think, getting right, is encouraging establishment of identity through stable pseudonyms. I really do think that's the best way to have good conversation. Give people identities they're invested in, so that it's more rewarding to behave decently and have interesting conversations than to spew insults and trolling. But don't restrict participation to people who can afford to be googlable under the same name that they use at work and for financial transcations (or even worse, to people who can provide a "WASPonym", an anglo-style name consisting of a first name that isn't a dictionary word and a surname describing the appearance or profession of their English-speaking male ancestors). Those people are not more "honest" or more "polite" than average, they just have enough race, class and gender privilege to be less vulnerable to some types of attack than most people.

But it's not enough to encourage pseudonyms. I agree with [ profile] notyourexrotic that you also need comprehensive privacy and anti-abuse tools. And further, you need actual evidence that the company behind the website is genuinely committed to privacy; it's all very well to say you're in favour of it, but if you're just going to tamely hand over all your data as soon as you sniff the possibility of moolah or a legal-ish sounding letter, that's pretty useless. And evidence that you have the technical chops to actually protect your users from leaks and hacking; as soon as a site becomes successful enough to benefit from any kind of network effect, it also provides a big enough attack surface that blackhats are going to be trying to get their hands on that valuable personal data. Snapchat was supposed to be all about privacy, claiming that messages weren't being stored at all, but of course they were, and of course they fell into the wrong hands.

One thing that gave Ello a boost was that Facebook managed to do something evil enough to break out of the boiling frog effect and actually give increasingly dissatisfied users the impetus to leave. Namely, they suddenly started demanding documentation from drag queens to prove that their performance names were their "real" names. Which got a lot of trans* folk really scared, because it's bad enough if your use name doesn't match what's on your birth certificate or passport, but if your gender doesn't match either, you're really screwed. And however much I'm grieved to see people getting scared of abuse by the site where many of their friends and communities are, I couldn't help being a bit pleased to see lots of my variously Queer friends starting to post at LJ and Dreamwidth again. I do hope this continues, because it's lovely to have more of you around without having to fight against Facebook to be able to hear what's going on in your lives and talk to you! And interestingly this even quite small exodus made enough of a dent that FB actually backtracked about enforcing legally documented names, to some extent, so it is possible to get a response by voting with your feet.

I'm kind of reluctant to go back to LJ, because I still really hate their advertising-based business model, (and I dislike a lot of the recent directions in design changes, but that's minor). The problem that started to come up half a decade ago is still here, that bad keyword matching is showing "date hot Asian chicks!" adverts on the journals of people who are themselves Asian, which is really horrible. And yes, it's true that you can pay not to see ads, but needing to pay to have a usable site experience really works against the network effect.

However, I am leaning more towards cross-posting to LJ again, because politically even if not aesthetically I like their recent directions. In particular, the recent news post is really pretty encouraging. They actually asked the userbase what they like about LJ, and made an advert based on playing to LJ's actual strengths, not on trying to be trendy. And even more impressively, when they got sued they actually went to bat for their users, refusing to give up personal details even under legal pressure. (I think the site owners are also somewhat disentangling themselves from scary Russian politics and potential censorship, too, but I'm hazy on the details.) That's what Ello doesn't have, an actual track record of defending privacy even under legal and financial pressure.

However, even Dreamwidth (which I'm still convinced is just better than LJ, better business model, nicer community, better technically, properly open source) has real downsides compared to some more modern social networks. It's not purely the network effect, though that's a big factor. Yeah, FB still has the events and calendaring system as its killer app, but that's minor; people could use FB for events and DW for posting about their lives and having discussions! The real problem is that it's a bit of a pain to read DW from a smartphone and compared to other sites near enough impossible to comment. I have always opposed making sites too flashy with widgets and AJAX and stuff, but really, at this point, DW is never going to attract or retain people until you can comment by just starting typing under the thing you want to reply to, and until it has respectable iPhone and Android apps. I think this is partly because it's an American site and data plans are just ridiculously more expensive in the US compared to other economically comparable countries, so the mostly American developer base don't live in the world we Europeans do, where the huge majority of people's web experience is smartphone based, not desktop based. I'm kind of hoping that this will encourage a shift in priorities, but it may already be too late.

There was also an interesting discussion, unfortunately on FB which makes it hard to follow properly and impossible to link to, about whether it's ableist to expect people to socialize anywhere other than FB. And I can certainly see the argument, for lots of people Facebook is literally essential, they need to be able to get social contact and support where their friends and networks actually are, not on some hypothetically better site with a massive learning curve to use, let alone half a dozen different sites which different balkanized groups think might be better. The thing I don't agree with is that I don't think FB is "easy to use" at all; I think people have learned to use it because they had to, but not only is it really short on accessibility features, it's deliberately set up to be hard to use. I've heard rumours that they user tested an optimized user interface and then deliberately broke it, because with a good, clear, intuitive interface everybody could easily avoid the ads and see only the content they actually wanted, which doesn't make FB money. And yes, change is hard, even for neurotypical and cognitively abled people who have leisure time and energy for learning new habits. But FB itself changes everything around all the time, to nudge people into accidentally revealing information they thought was private, or clicking on ads they thought were endorsed by their friends.

I personally find Dreamwidth much easier to use than Facebook or any of the other modern "slick" sites. Because I can make it do what I want! If it doesn't suit me, I can modify it, I can do things that aren't the default template of what the majority of users are expected to be doing. But I know I'm weird, I've been a power user from the early days of LJ (which is where I first discovered user experience concepts like that), and I positively enjoy going through screens and screens of settings and options, positively enjoy learning to write HTML so that I can make my journal look exactly how I want to. I think DW's deep commitment to accessibility counts for a lot, but it's at a huge disadvantage just because of market share; people prefer FB cos they're used to it, not cos it's better, just as for much of the 2000s people preferred Microsoft Windows over any actually better alternatives because it was common and there was a plethora of resources available and people had already been forced to train themselves into the Windows way of doing things anyway. And also there is such a thing as conflicting access needs; for example, some people need high contrast and some people need low contrast, and many people need not to have to choose from six different options just to be able to look at a page in a way that isn't painful.

There is also a problem that the people who care about things like electronic privacy often make it a point of pride that they don't care about usability or design. I mean, Diaspora was a disaster from that perspective; even I got fed up with having to debug each post to make it appear sensibly, and I can quite see why there was no mass-exodus of non-geeks from FB to Diaspora even though the open, federated model of social networking has obvious advantages. I've been vaguely paying attention to Ada Initiative campaigns recently, and Valerie Aurora's feminist kernel programming story kind of horrified me. Like, literally wanting your OS to work reliably is portrayed as some kind of silly little girl or pussy n0ob preference. There's this weird machismo in having stuff that's unnecessarily hard, and needing to know all the kludges and workrounds to be able to use a tool effectively. And if interacting with that culture (let alone the even more toxic manifestations of violence and harassment against women and anyone who objects to said culture) is the only way to get social networks with actually meaningful privacy, well, we're doomed. We're never going to get a replacement for proprietary, walled-garden, sell your personal data to the highest bidder Facebook style model.

DW I think cares about usability, but just doesn't have the manpower to actually make it happen, so we end up with a site where the backend and general principles are way ahead of the user experience. But I do think it's noteworthy that although it was started by exactly the kind of geeks who think it's all about technical effectiveness and doing things the hard way, the stereotypical LJer or DWian is in fact a teenaged girl or young woman who self-teaches HTML, CSS and even coding to be able to make fanworks and prettify her space. That said I very much respect people who explain that DW is just too hard and too confusing to use, whether that's because of disability or because they have better things to do with their time and they're going to use the slicker sites in preference.

I was also going to talk about women using the internet professionally, and misogyny and crowdfunding, but I think that's probably a separate post in fact.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 11:56 am (UTC)
kaberett: Overlaid Mars & Venus symbols, with Swiss Army knife tools at other positions around the central circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] kaberett

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 11:58 am (UTC)
rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
From: [personal profile] rmc28
I am always slightly amazed by people that say Facebook is easier to use because I gave up on it because I found it hard to use (and ugly to look at).

I got an Ello account but I've done sweet FA with it and may continue to do so.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 12:48 pm (UTC)
jack: (Default)
From: [personal profile] jack
I think there's some of both. People are used to facebook, but I also think it's easier to do some things, just not easy to do anything *well*. Even just things like, facebook has a box right on the home screen to make a new post, some people may not even know which link on DW to click to do that, or FB is proactive at showing you people you might know, and choosing what to show in your feed -- if you've never used a computer before, that "it just happens" might be easier than having to choose.

I think this might (pure speculation) be the case with accessibility too: if you have some very specific need (eg. a screen reader), anything-other-than-facebook is probably better. But if you have an extremely limited amount of attention to spare, just going with facebook might be easy, and signing up to a new website might be a giant hurdle.

I probably ought to sign up for Ello so that I'm established there and can get a decent username in case it takes off.

I wouldn't bother now. I did, because I wanted to support _any_ FB-alternative just in case. But if I haven't heard anyone saying anything more positive about it since a couple of weeks ago, I doubt it'll go anywhere.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-10 07:01 am (UTC)
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
From: [personal profile] lavendersparkle
I don't think that everyone dislikes the algorthmically generated feeds. Offbeat Empire's founder has a love/hate relationship with Facebook and pointed out that, based on her most recent reader survey, Facebook has been really good at showing her readers who experience her content through Facebook just the right amount of stuff for them.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 01:40 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
Another very interesting post - thanks!
I agree that people who find Facebook easy find it so because they're used to it. Working on development of a new intranet at work, I encouraged its being made as much like FB as possible because almost everybody knows FB, so that reduces the additional training requirement to almost zero.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 02:52 pm (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
That's cruel! :)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 02:56 pm (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred
I'm not broadening their horizons much but that means I don't have to spend all my working hours on horizon-broadening training!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-10 06:43 am (UTC)
sfred: (Default)
From: [personal profile] sfred

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 02:45 pm (UTC)
jae: (internetgecko)
From: [personal profile] jae
A few thoughts:

* I am totally onside with dreamwidth being better than everything else on offer (obviously). But I think the real stumbling block to getting people to join dreamwidth as a social network is that the look-and-feel is very 90s. I also become more and more convinced (and more and more despairing about) that this is what will eventually kill dreamwidth.

* Because of this "look and feel" issue, lots of the users Ello is after are never going to consider dreamwidth, so that's not really the best comparison here. But I don't understand what Ello offers that Tumblr doesn't. Why are the people who want to flee Facebook not turning to Tumblr en masse? I loathe the site, but it's hard to argue that it's not a) pretty in that trendy way, b) easy to use from a phone, and c) friendly to people who use pseudonyms. Also, d) primarily a vehicle for sharing pictures and links. I look at Ello and I think "Tumblr can do all of this, but better." (Note to the Ello folks: if someone who hates Tumblr is thinking that about your site, it's doing something wrong.)

* Are dataplans more expensive in the U.S. than in other countries? I hadn't heard that. In any case, I don't think this is the reason why we don't have a way of easily reading dreamwidth on a phone, because livejournal is a Russian site, and they don't really have a good way of reading that on a phone, either. I think the reason must be that there's something about the livejournal code that makes it inherently difficult to turn into a mobile site. (And I agree that this is a pity--it's kept a lot of my friends who are mothers off of dreamwidth since they had kids.)

* A WASP-y name (or English-in-any-way name) is actually a disadvantage on Facebook if you're trying to mask your real-life identity. A lot of my Dutch or German Facebook friends have just chosen random words from their own languages as their "surnames" on Facebook, and none of them have ever gotten booted. One of them even chose their language's equivalent of "Notmyrealname" as the surname, and Facebook seems to be just fine with that. Meanwhile, people who use really common English surnames sometimes get the side-eye from Facebook under the "no fake names" policy (or at least did before they decided not to enforce it).

Edited Date: 2014-10-09 02:48 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-10 10:22 am (UTC)
wildeabandon: photo of me with wavy hair and gold lipstick (Default)
From: [personal profile] wildeabandon
The thing about Dreamwidth is that you basically never have to look at the site skin if you hate it, your own pages can be as trendy or as retro as you care to make them.

Ah, but if we're talking about barriers to people signing up, we need to care about what they see as a default, not what they'll see if they can be bothered to make time to customise.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-11 04:33 pm (UTC)
ursamajor: Luna, expostulating (a different kind of wisdom)
From: [personal profile] ursamajor
if we're talking about barriers to people signing up, we need to care about what they see as a default, not what they'll see if they can be bothered to make time to customise.

This, this, this.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-22 05:06 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
Regarding US smartphone uptake -- no citation for this, but people who commute in the US are more likely to do it driving, I think...

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-11 09:51 am (UTC)
cxcvi: Red cubes, sitting on a reflective surface, with a white background (Default)
From: [personal profile] cxcvi
But I think the real stumbling block to getting people to join dreamwidth as a social network is that the look-and-feel is very 90s.

I'm not entirely convinced that this is a bad thing. Things made more sense in the 90s...

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-11 11:38 am (UTC)
jae: (internetgecko)
From: [personal profile] jae
Oh, I'm not either (witness: I am still here, still loving it). But I am also not young. I had a bunch of very young friends who used livejournal, dreamwidth, or both toward the tail end of their secondary-school careers. They are now all gone--moved to Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter for different purposes. Communities have even reformed at those other places in some cases. It makes me worry about dreamwidth--I think that will be its downfall in the end.


(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 02:54 pm (UTC)
lovingboth: (Default)
From: [personal profile] lovingboth
The real problem is that it's a bit of a pain to read DW from a smartphone and compared to other sites near enough impossible to comment.

Really? I find its mobile version much much easier than anything else I use.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 03:57 pm (UTC)
merrythebard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] merrythebard
I pretty much agree with all of this!

Incidentally, I'm not sure whether it might have been my thread on FB that you were referencing? But the point I at least was making was specifically about a small number of people saying that everyone should use *Diaspora* rather than Facebook, and that anyone who objected to Diaspora had no right to complain about Facebook. That I found disablist (as well as problematic in other respects), for precisely the problems with Diaspora that you note - not everyone could ever learn to use it, not everyone who theoretically could has the energy and/or time. Not even all healthy people with a reasonable amount of free time do! I certainly find Dreamwidth vastly easier to use than Facebook, but I can see one reason why it is an extra challenge to people who aren't used to a blogging-heavy social network. It suits longer, more involved posts, and I think a lot of people lack the confidence to believe that they have anything worth saying in this sort of setup - whereas a single line Facebook post is less... intimidating, possibly? Plus a little bit of html knowledge is generally required, and I think a lot of people overestimate how hard that is. (I think the attitudes of some computer geeks towards non-computer geeks really Do Not Help there, though I don't think it's the only problem.)

For myself, though? I'm really glad to be using LJ and DW more often, and I would really like to start tempting some new people to join too...

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-11 09:58 am (UTC)
cxcvi: Black on white, the words "it's complicated", in unconnected handwriting, below by complicated line art drawings (Complicated)
From: [personal profile] cxcvi
I certainly find Dreamwidth vastly easier to use than Facebook, but I can see one reason why it is an extra challenge to people who aren't used to a blogging-heavy social network. It suits longer, more involved posts, and I think a lot of people lack the confidence to believe that they have anything worth saying in this sort of setup - whereas a single line Facebook post is less... intimidating, possibly?

This is certainly one of the barriers to entry that I experience. I'm rather used to the whole LJ and DW style of how things work. And yet I still can't find a way of writing posts that works for me.

Words are a constant struggle, for me. It's... part of it is that it feels like I'm thinking and writing in two different languages, but there's... something more... something that I can't quite words...

I do wonder if this is part of what makes Tumblr so popular, even though I understand the whole... flow of Tumblr less than I do of Facebook, and I haven't used Facebook in a couple of years, now.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 03:58 pm (UTC)
merrythebard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] merrythebard
Oh, and also? With you on Ello. I'm glad I joined it, because I get the impression that FB's partial back-pedal on attacking drag queens and others was partly a fear reaction to the mass joining of Ello. But it is *hideous*, and I've basically given up on it until it starts having proper privacy and filtering options.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 06:32 pm (UTC)
merrythebard: (Default)
From: [personal profile] merrythebard
*nods* Yes, I think you're right.

(I ended up giving up on Twitter after my first death threat there (as part of a group attack on me by UKIP supporters). I wanted to come back and carry on being brave and saying things in public, but then decided that actually picking my battles and not exposing myself to things that make me really ill is probably best! But, yeah. I think Twitter's become a horrible place to be a vulnerable person in, and it's going to be less diverse as a result. DW is so reassuring in comparison...)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 05:34 pm (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
I entirely agree with you about 95% of this.

But I believe you're substantially incorrect about DW and mobile, especially the motivations you project on the dev team, because you start from an incorrect premise.

I regularly use DW on a mobile device, and DW is far and away the most useable and most attractive such site on my device. When I say "useable" I don't just mean "easy to figure out", I mean "the navigational controls all actually work" (which is not the case for e.g. LJ.)

But my mobile device is not one of the dominant mobile devices, and therein lies one of the real issues: it's not mobile vs. desktop. It's ioS+Android mobile vs. all the other kinds of mobile.

Doing some sort of slick ioS+Android AJAXy interface for DW is totally doable[*], without sacrificing the more democratically accessible (that is, to a much wider range of devices) interface -- but it takes developer time and probably money that I don't think DW is swimming in.

[* In fact, the very templating/skinning theme feature you mention enjoying being able to customize brings the possibility of more AJAXy themes as options for thems that want them more into reach.]

This is a social justice issue in the domain of socioeconomic status: slick AJAXy interfaces work on the more expensive mobile devices. They fail entirely -- and lock users out of using a site at all -- on cheap phones.

If you want to check this out for the US market, you can try the following -- I don't know if it'll show right for a UK user, but if you want to try... Go to It's one of the most ubiquitous pre-paid phone companies, favored by those looking for cheap phones. Find the link "Shop Phones". Use the US zipcode 02128, which is the impoverished area I work in (East Boston).

Right now, the cheapest Android phone they have is $80. Every other phone on that page that says "Mobile Web" but doesn't mention being Android? You can assume that if it doesn't advertise being Android, it's the manufacturer's in-house OS and browser. And you can reliably assume that it works terribly, if at all, with AJAXy web sites.

Their browsers are typically older, and the capacity to do on-screen partial redraw, which is what AJAX relies on, didn't use to be universal. I also have a hunch that it's processor intensive in a way that the cheaper phones can't support. That's part of what makes them cheaper: less powerful and/or simply less hardware.

And something that is frustrating to me is that most people buying low end phones have no clue about Android vs. not-Android, and don't realize that the price of buying lowest end means you're going to get locked out of a lot of the web. How would they learn this? The way I learn these things is... via the web. Catch-22.

But I disgress.

I assure you, mobile is all the rage in web development in the US right now, but there are serious class issues around it. Developers and their white-collar pals sit at desktops, so the demand from them for mobile accessibility (of any kind) isn't what it is from the rest of the population, who would like to primarily use their handhelds to internet; fortunately, their bosses have smelled the money, and aimed them in the direction of supporting mobile, but, of course, the mobile their bosses are most interested in supporting is that which is possessed by those with the most money.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 07:46 pm (UTC)
woggy: Dom (from the webcomic Megatokyo) talking on a phone (Dom)
From: [personal profile] woggy
(this seemed like a relatively good place to hang this)

I also find DW the easiest website to navigate on my phone. It doesn't crash the browser, the layout displays well, and things look good. I'm a bit puzzled at 'needing multiple clicks'; suspect that my phone is capable of dealing with AJAX stuff?

A dedicated app would perhaps be useful, but I don't see it as providing basic functionality that we don't already have. I've not gotten anywhere my data limits, either, and my phone's never not on 3G.

For what it's worth, I am a white-collar relatively well-off geek with a three-year-old Android phone.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-10 03:07 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
I think I'd got the impression you were frustrated because you couldn't display journal layouts properly

Oh, I think most of the themes look terrible on the desktop. Profligate waste of white space which makes the nesting (which, as I think you've seen me discuss elsewhere, is terribly expensive of processor time to do, so you want to make the most of it) hard to read. I fussed with my own theme to improve it.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-17 08:11 am (UTC)
marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)
From: [personal profile] marahmarie
Oh, I think most of the themes look terrible on the desktop.

This, this, this! I agree so completely. But for mostly opposite reasons: the designs look cramped, line-spacing is zilch, <--entry/comment padding hovers at or near zero-->, sidebar info is scrunched together, "design" itself consists mostly of color and borders, or lack thereof applied to varying degrees, CSS3 is mixed right into 90ish designs, hiding the text descriptions of various elements (like an entry's tags) is considered a thing, scrollbars appearing on resize, transitions to mobile resizing that feature mind-boggling breakpoints, resulting in no resizing at all until it's too late...just stuff like that. It's why I either roll my own designs or re-roll other people's. I just can't take the pain.

(Also, we inherited every one of these design shortfalls from LJ except for perhaps the CSS3-on-90ish design mismatch. Every single one. Not that it really helps anyone to realize we inherited the source of most of our troubles directly from DW's predecessor.)
Edited Date: 2014-10-17 08:14 am (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-09 09:37 pm (UTC)
ephemera: celtic knotwork style sitting fox (Default)
From: [personal profile] ephemera
*reads with interest* I have been somewhat swamped recently, so this has helpfully caught my up on the Ello situation (from a position of being vaguely aware it was a thing and there was drama happening, but no more)

(My experience, working with Americans, is that they are frequently surprised by the low cost of UK phones and data costs, but also unfamiliar with the data package limits, leading me to assume that 'unlimited data' packages are the norm. Mind you, they're also largely unfamiliar with pay-as-you-go, rather than contract phones, and I suspect that's more a class/financial resources issue than reality at large.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-10 03:21 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
Many years ago I read a thing about market research into phone plans, that claimed that American were exceptionally averse to metered services, compared to other developed countries. I filed that away in my head. I'm not in a position to be able to compare, for myself, Americans' and other nationalities' service buying behavior, but I can say I've run into aversion to pay-as-you-go services in clinical discussions. Most recently, a patient of mine volunteered how he went from a pre-paid phone to a contract one because he found knowing a meter was running discouraged him from using the phone (this was clinically relevant because anxiety disorder). And he's a wicked smart guy who knows perfectly well he's probably ultimately paying more on a plan, but is willing to do that not to have the stress of a meter.

Having heard this interesting datum about Americans, I challenged myself on that score, and have a pre-paid metered cell phone for work. It's still hard for me to make myself use it instead of some other phone. In a great example of stubborn irrationality, I found myself opting to use my contract personal phone for discretionary text messages instead of my business one even though I was winding up paying overage fees on my contract phone. I think I'm getting over that. Do other cultures not have this problem?

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-10 07:23 am (UTC)
lavendersparkle: Jewish rat (Default)
From: [personal profile] lavendersparkle

I really like pay as you go over contract because I like to know that if I made a mistake in my usage it's limited to being a £10 mistake and then the device disconnects rather than a several thousand pound mistake that makes it into the newspapers. Years ago I benefited from that feature because I forgot that the person I'd called was on a different network.

At the same time, I like buying monthly giffgaff giggabags for my tablet and I buy the one that is more than I use on average even though that's more expensive than buying the next smaller one and buying some of the data on proper pay as you go, because I like not having to think about whether it's worth paying to look a buzzfeed page on the train.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-10 02:52 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I wonder if part of it is how screwed you can end up in the US for overage limits; other places might have better consumer protections. For instance, my younger sister got banned from the computer for a period of time but figured out she could browse on her phone (which my mother wasn't really cognizant of) and went hog wild. Next thing you know my mother is slammed with a phone bill over $2,000. I don't think she ended up having to pay the entire amount, but she had to pay quite a large amount that she couldn't afford, and it was very stressful.

(On my part, I'm signed up with Ting because that way I can get a small data plan but keep my cell bill around $21 a month.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-10 02:58 pm (UTC)
foxfirefey: Fox stealing an egg. (Default)
From: [personal profile] foxfirefey
Oh no this was me! Forgot I'd been logged out.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-10 04:03 am (UTC)
silveradept: A kodama with a trombone. The trombone is playing music, even though it is held in a rest position (Default)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
I read this with great interest, and hope the follow up posts appear.

I also want to mention (as others do) that social media often draw different audiences based on what they are. Dreamwidth and other "blog" type sites are supposed to be where long-form posts and comments appear, Twitter is short and driven a lot by links and very mobile-friendly, Tumblr is a lot about the pictures and memes, and Facebook is great about developing big networks and firing off status updates that collect passive likes. To capture those audiences, I think Dreamwidth would have to successfully appear like the service they want, being equally good with long form, image memery, short mentions and status updates, as well as that idea of collecting lots of +1 elements (which, in my circles, is often used as a "I read it...and I can't come up with a coherent comment.") as a measure of popularity. I think Dreamwidth could potentially do all those things (except maybe Twitter), but people then start to complain about a service that does lots of things only so well, instead of a service that does one thing well.

That said, I access DW through a tablet, mostly, as my phone, while smart, is too small for my fingers to work effectively. And I use a third-party tablet app for sites based on the Livejournal model that can handle my DW credentials, and also saves drafts and other such things, so I have a mobile access model. But I wouldn't have done it with the Mobile Web-type phone (which I think have me a small glimpse of what it might be like to access the web through a screen reader), because the browser wasn't good enough to handle the scrolling of the entries.

It's probably also telling that the majority of my online experience has been through message boards and forums, where you have to pick up code to make the text do the things you want it to. I'm glad that there's a rich text editor on DW to help the person who doesn't know code, but my experience with RTEs is such that I soon end up ditching it for the code interface because it doesn't actually do what I want, just a crude approximation thereof. So some form of "having an interface where I can just dash off something and it looks good when it posts" might be helpful in gathering the people who use other services.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-12 08:29 pm (UTC)
cjwatson: (Default)
From: [personal profile] cjwatson
Like [personal profile] liv's, my phone's recent enough that it's quite happy displaying the web site, but I often find that it doesn't make brilliant use of limited screen space sometimes, any post with a wide image means that I have to scroll left and right a lot in order to read things, I have to poll the site rather than getting phone notifications of replies or any of the other things I've got used to now, and generally the ergonomics are a bit of a pain. AJAX stuff can certainly help make a site feel "modern" or whatever but as [personal profile] siderea points out above it has its own set of problems, even on modern devices it can easily end up rather hard on limited battery power, and I don't think it ever stands a chance of doing notifications well (OK, I could probably work around that part by having the e-mail notifications sent to gmail). Much though I'm unhappy with the divisions they create - speaking among other things as a developer of a minority phone OS, albeit a high-end one! - the local maximum for me for now would be a reasonable Android app.

So, I tried out a few LiveJournal-model-based apps recently in the hope that they would make it easier for me to use LJ/DW on my phone. The official LiveJournal app feels very pleasant to use (much to my surprise, to be honest, as I've stopped expecting great things from LJ). Unfortunately, as far as I can tell, it only supports ElJay supports multiple LJ-style sites and seems OK for itself, but its friends page support doesn't work for anything else "due to lack of support from those sites". After that the available apps seem to get very dubious very quickly.

I'd be very interested in specific recommendations of apps, or whether there are known workarounds for this kind of thing. In some ways I really miss the LJ/DW-style community, and have been thinking that some effort to fit it into the way I tend to use most of the web nowadays might be the best way to get myself back into it more.

Ironically, while I still read LJ, I find that various bugs in the web site usually conspire to make it impossible to post comments ... from my desktop!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-12 08:59 pm (UTC)
silveradept: A head shot of Firefox-ko, a kitsune representation of Mozilla's browser, with a stern, taking-no-crap look on her face. (Firefox-ko)
From: [personal profile] silveradept
It's true - the mobile experience is not always good at recognizing screen real estate or in paring things down to the point where someone on a tiny phone screen can have an excellent experience. Having notifications sent to a mail account that does know how to pop notifications on tablet and phone is very helpful, and the DW reply-by-email option might be a better one to use for conversations.

So, yes, a good app would probably be a good thing. I use ElJay only for composition and saving draft entries, since I have the tablet to do the browsing with. A more complete experience would be great, but I would also want it to be able to handle multiple sites of the same type, instead of having to go out of the DW ago to the LJ all and back. So it will probably have to be someone outside the companies that can put it all together.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-13 10:28 am (UTC)
heliopausa: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heliopausa
I post to Dreamwidth and crosspost to LiveJournal, on a laptop. I've never been on FB, and wouldn't in a fit, because of their shamelessness, and I'm not interested in chasing after whatever's new, mostly because in eighteen months it won't be. But conversation among the not-terribly-many people I know o DW and LJ has diminished markedly over the past year, mostly as they switched to a different conversational style on tumblr and twitter.

The main thing that I don't like about DW is how hard it is to post photos, compared to LJ. (Also recently it opened some friends-locked posts of mine and others to public reading; I'm supposing that was just a passing glitch.)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-13 06:45 pm (UTC)
syllopsium: Carwash, from Willo the Wisp (Default)
From: [personal profile] syllopsium
I'm pretty certain a large part of Ello's initial popularity (personally I'm expecting it to crash and burn) is because it is Not Facebook. Given a choice of something that definitely isn't what you want, and something that might be what you want, people can tend to choose the latter.

I like DW, but there's a *lot* wrong with it. Leaving aside my personal opinion that we should all be using something a lot more like CIX/good forums, where the service is subject/area centric rather than person centric (quite probably a lost battle), it's not difficult to see why DW doesn't succeed.

It takes up too much space. Tags are so 90s now. I would suggest that being able to skin each user's space is not a good idea. Also, post formatting and layout is enforced by the poster - which is wrong. It isn't easily possible to search for people. Mutual friends are difficult to navigate. No Events. You've already mentioned mobile access - it's dead in the water without that.

It could, perhaps, relaunch itself - but it'd need major engineering and a re-design.

If I may draw an analogy to the open source community, which you mention above. Although there is a degree of achieving technical competence and sneering at those who do not, the reasons are more complex than that:

1) It's built by people who want the product to fit their needs. If that happens to meet other people's needs then fair enough, but if not, they should take the code and create their own version - it's not up to a volunteer led system to provide what certain people want. (yes, this does create the problem that the community becomes self selecting and re-enforcing)

2) Things are not made difficult deliberately. It's either due to lack of resource, history, design decisions or maintaining flexibility.

There's a whole host of stuff happening in the open source world, and particularly Linux, balancing history, performance and support for older configurations. As a result instead of the Unixes coming together, they're currently actually diverging.

Also, whilst various projects need large-ish numbers of people to come to fruition, this typically consists of a large number of small groups, containing people who are not always easily replaced.

The end result of this? Where each project ends up can be substantially different from where it starts, and that can create an awful lot of drama in the meantime.
Edited Date: 2014-10-13 06:46 pm (UTC)

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-22 05:32 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
I *can* use DW on an Android phone/tablet but it's hard work. Scrolling within a comment box, for example, is intensely frustrating. If I make a mistake in the first sentence I may abandon the whole thing rather than try to go back to fix it. As I type this comment there is a lag between when I type and when the words appear, which is unhelpful. And, yeah, multiple clicks to comment on entries or post a new one... Not great.

I think even a fairly rudimentary Android client would help me use DW more. Strip out all the visual stuff save images in posts and user icons and some kind of comment threading indication, enable offline caching (,I like to read on the Tube).

There are a few reasons I stopped posting here so much but I would probably use it more if an Android client existed.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-22 05:34 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
Thefunny thing is that despite Twitter's short format I often post very long sets of tweets. Clearly I still think in more than 140chars, at least some of the time.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-10-22 05:37 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] ewt
Also I'd love to read your thoughts on using the internet professionally, misogyny and crowdfunding -- subjects very near my own heart at the moment!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-11-02 10:13 pm (UTC)
From: [personal profile] swaldman
"DW I think cares about usability, but just doesn't have the manpower to actually make it happen"

That's true, I'm sure, but there's also a more specific problem: DW doesn't have any UX people. There are back-end hackers, and there are people who love (and are good at) making styles beautiful, but AFAIK there's nobody involved with development with actual UX expertise, and there are very few who want to take on UI work if it isn't styles.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-23 03:58 pm (UTC)
fascination: A photo cropped that it only shows a woman's legs amongst a pile of books. (High-heels and books.)
From: [personal profile] fascination
This is a wonderful, insightful post, and one I agree with - it's a shame that journalling sites are perceived as 'old-fashioned', because I prefer the community they foster, and the level of control that users have over their interface in contrast with places like Tumblr, Facebook and the new LJ friends-feed.

I've also noticed the misogyny/stereotyping when it comes to ease of use v customisability. If something is customisable it's 'for geeks', but if it's not or is easy to use for beginners it's 'for girls' (*rolleyes* at blatant sexism) or 'not serious'. I wish there wasn't so much 'either-or' between the more dismissive elements of geek culture and people who create simpler networks only to sell people's data.


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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