Tech

On blogging and LiveJournal’s new terms

I don’t remember when I started blogging. It was on AOL Journals so it was at least 2003, but I left before it closed in 2008. I don’t remember what I blogged about, probably nothing. Although there were some pioneers in the space, a blog in the late 1990s and early 2000s was, generally speaking, someone’s online diary. People wrote about family, work, and life in general. The average casual blogger wasn’t optimising their blog for search engine results and Google didn’t automatically crawl websites. There was no Facebook or Twitter to amplify a blog entry. A blog might have been part of a community such as AOL Journals, Blogger, or LiveJournal, or belong to collection of websites called webrings, but the average blogger had a small readership.

Why did people take to blogging? I blogged to express myself, because I’ve always loved writing, to process and structure my experiences, and because I wanted to experiment with a cool new technology. It was nice, but unimportant, if people read my blog. Blogging felt safe. I never received a negative comment, insult, or experienced trolling. And blogging was fun. You can connect with people who share similar interests or experiences, learn, and make new friends

By 2001, blogging was a thing. Several popular blogs emerged, how-to manuals appeared, and journalists began differentiating blogging from journalism. Social media was emerging. Friendster was founded in 2002 before the wider adoption of MySpace in 2003. Facebook opened to the public in 2006. And everything changed.

Social media expanded our reach. Whereas a blog entry in 2005 might not have reached more than the two dozen people in your immediate community, a blog entry today could reach thousands. They can read it, interpret it, and, if their voice is stronger, louder, more powerful than yours, they can colonise it, turn it into a weapon, and make you the target.

The general consensus today seems to be that if you post online, you invite commentary even if that commentary is false, abusive, and turns into sustained harassment. If you can’t take the heat, stay out of the kitchen. There are 3.6 billion Internet users in the world working, learning, researching, collaborating, creating, playing, falling in love, having sex, paying bills, conspiring, recruiting, and people like to pretend the Internet is unessential. Just turn it off. Go back to calling everyone and writing letters. Go back to reading paper magazines, newspapers, and books. Go back to paying bills by writing checks and posting them in the mail. Go back to purchasing CDs, DVDs, and watching programming on TVs. Go back to buying everything you need in person at a local shop. Turn in your smart phone for a phone without internet features. If you need the Internet to do your job, find a different line of work. If you need the internet to attend online classes or do homework, find another school. It’s your own fault if people abuse you online (and if it spills offline).

Blogging grew up and became a business. Instead of a rambling online diary, your blog could be about a specific topic such as fashion, photography, motherhood, or blogging. You could optimise your blog for that topic so that it would rank better in Google. You could use social media to target people interested in your topic. You could integrate advertising, affiliate links, sell products, and monetise your blog in many ways.

Although I’ve never monetised my blog, I’m guilty of the rest. My first blog, which started on Twitter, moved to Blogger, and finally to WordPress, had many designs and names and eventually morphed into a Pagan blog titled Magickly. I started my second blog, Stumble Down Under, to document my journey from America to Australia. For a long time, I didn’t write about other topics there. Then I merged them both into here.

Blogging and social media have also led users to become more cautious about how they present themselves online. Vent about your horrible boss in your blog or drunk-post something stupid on Facebook and you’re likely to get fired.

In 2006, I opened a LiveJournal account. A few close friends were using it for private online diaries. Old school blogging. It was a way I could keep up with their daily lives – the kids, the in-laws, the horrible bosses, the cooking disasters. The real, daily, mundane stuff, the parts of each other we connect to, not the carefully curated image we present. I started journalling there too. I know it’s not truly private, but friendship and integrity prevent my friends from copying or photographing it and sharing it. I don’t use it often. In fact, I haven’t posted since December, but I like having it.

This week I learned that LiveJournal, which was founded in 1999, became extremely popular in Russia and it was sold to a Russian media company in 2007. The service continued to run out of California until 2009 when some operations were moved to Russia. In December 2016, the service re-located its servers to Russia. On 4 April 2017, LiveJournal updated its terms of use, making the service subject to Russian law. The problem is that most American bloggers don’t know Russian law and don’t want to be held to Russia’s legal standards. Under the terms, content deemed as “political solicitation,” or “contradictory to the laws of the Russian Federation” will be banned. This includes, for example, political and LGBTQ content.

LiveJournal’s heyday is long gone, but it still has about 15.2 million monthly users and is popular among writers, including George R.R. Martin. Some users will stay, but many are leaving. Some users, including me, are going to Dreamwidth, a blog platform written on LiveJournal’s source code. I’m migrating my posts over and I’m not the only one. Co-founder Denise humorously posted:

The tl;dr version of my usual longwinded babble: IMPORTER VERY BUSY. MANY PEOPLE MOVING IN. LIKE ON DORM OR APARTMENT MOVE-IN DAY, FREIGHT ELEVATORS VERY SLOW. BUILDING OWNERS RUNNING FREIGHT ELEVATORS AS FAST AS POSSIBLE AND APOLOGIZE FOR THE WAIT.

If you’re a LiveJournal user, are you sticking with it? If not, where are you moving to?

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