Insomnia (insomnia) wrote,
Insomnia
insomnia

LJ United.

So, today I received yet another email regarding the LiveJournal Advisory Board...

"You don't know me, but I'm a long time lurker.

Please, please, /please/ tell me you're going to nominate yourself for the Advisory Board. If it were possible for others to nominate you, I'm sure they would have done it a thousand times over. You're one of the few people on this blogspace that I could imagine doing a good job, and god, the last thing I want is anyone less than you taking a spot on the board."

This isn't the first time I've been asked to throw my hat in the ring, thus far. Several others suggested it in December.

Frankly, I'm considerably torn about this, because:

I love LiveJournal. 

I met noressa on LiveJournal. I've made friends with people from all around the world here. And, through my personal journal and my conversations with myself and others, I've found my own voice.

I have a history with LiveJournal. 

I have been sharply critical of LiveJournal's owners / management in the past, including during the time I oversaw the business side of LiveJournal. The reason I was so critical at the time is because I felt that LiveJournal was taking incremental steps down a slippery slope, away from its roots as a community-run, open source movement... something that each member of LiveJournal could feel proud of, with a real sense of ownership of *OUR* journals and *OUR* community. At the same time, I can understand how my past positions could be divisive with some of those at LiveJournal.

I have moved on, in personally important ways.  

It's difficult to leave something which you have dedicated so much of your time and emotions on, but I don't regret having done so entirely, if only because it has allowed me to spend more time concentrating on the people and things which matter most to me. I don't want to find myself so busy that I put my own personal life and the people who are important to me on the back burner again, for the sake of a corporation... even if that corporation owns an online community I care about. 

While I suspect an advisory position at its most basic would not require such a degree of time and effort, any meaningful attempt to effect the path which LiveJournal follows in any meaningful way would require interacting with LiveJournal's members, with other advisory board members, and with representatives of the company in order to influence and suggest better alternatives to potentially harmful policies.

I would want to see the potential for real change.  

I don't want to find myself an emotional slave to LiveJournal's frequently harmful and hamfisted corporate decisions, especially if I do not feel empowered to help bring about meaningful change that benefits its members. While it's nice that the advisory board will have some members of LiveJournal on it, from my point of view, the number of representatives are insufficient and their actual influence, questionable. 

LiveJournal's founder recently advised SUP against getting rid of rid of free accounts. And while he and I have certainly disagreed in the past, I appreciated his stand on this issue.  However, LiveJournal completely disregarded his advise. So, if LiveJournal's founder is frustrated with his inability to effect this new state of affairs, I can't say I'm enthusiastic my chances to do so... and I *REFUSE* to play the role of a convenient figurehead for the "democratic" approval of policies that hurt LiveJournal. If I were on the advisory board, and I believed that there was a consistant policy of ignoring and overriding the opinions of LiveJournal's members, I would strongly advocate that I and my fellow boardmembers should initiate a boycott of the company's advisory meetings, combined with a grassroots effort to oppose such policies, thereby denying the company any semblance of legitimacy in such decisions.    

I have fundamental disagreements with current management. 

To this day, I feel that the main reason why I was let go from my position at LiveJournal is because I opposed transitioning the business away from being community run and open source, to being centralized, top-down, and, in my opinion, less accountable and less inclusive. LIveJournal's founder did this for what were, to him, the best of reasons... but he also unintentionally undermined what we stood for.

But that said, I also question a some of my own actions as well. Was I happier running LiveJournal?! In the first days, when there was more willingness to knuckle down and concentrate on features that mattered to LiveJournal's users, I would say yes. We were extremely busy, but we got a lot done as a team, putting in very long hours. But in the later days, when efforts to improve the site and to embrace growth and innovation met with obstructionism? No. LiveJournal literally spent years turning its back on the potential of syndication and site interconnectivity features which have grown into the "web 2.0" world that so many new media "specialists" drone on about these days.

And frankly, in retrospect, I regret the fact that those of us running LiveJournal sometimes allowed ourselves to be too entranced by the whole media hype and "cult of personality" surrounding blogging. 

LiveJournal needed to -- and did -- earn respect amongst the media and amongst the digerati types... but it came at a price. Sometimes, there was too much focus on the conventions, the seminars, the gatherings... but we needed to put LiveJournal's members first. Working our plan, and not buying into or being distracted by theirs.

I was understandably proud of LiveJournal, and wanted to see that it was treated with the kind of respect it deserved for being a powerful, feature-rich blogging platform... not treated like a freak show by the daytime talkshows, or attacked by media fearmongers, who argued that, by helping to give teenagers a new voice, we were somehow empowering predators to turn our users into victims. Nevermind that LiveJournal has *ALWAYS* had strict rules against anyone who tried to illegally solicit minors, and that it has a wealth of features capable of empowering conscientious parents to take responsibility for their kids... if they make the commitment to do so.

As we have seen, there is a price to be paid for not taking a strong, proactive stand in defending free speech. LiveJournal's policies have, at times, been unfair, unnecessarily inciting, and damaging to the fandom community, to fully grown adults, and, sadly enough, to the actual victims of sexual abuse. Occasionally, they have been in direct opposition to the kind of freedoms we claimed to stand for. 

The need to stand up for free speech on LiveJournal is especially critical in Russia, where LiveJournal user Savva Terentyev is behind bars today, facing the possibility of two years imprisonment for posting anti-police comments.

Why? Because he said that Russia's police were poorly educated, thuggish, repressive tools of the state... and that Russia would be better off if, every year, the people would publically incinerate one bad cop.
 
Harsh words, perhaps... but criminal?! I'm not too sure about that

We must understand -- for many Russians, LiveJournal *IS* the real media. Uncensored. Unrestricted. And, oftentimes, surprisingly intelligent. They, more than perhaps any other nation, have embraced the full potential of the LiveJournal software, legitimizing it to a degree that most in the West take for granted.   

Those who make up the Russian LiveJournal community have legitimate concerns that LiveJournal's new owners, Russian business SUP, will not adequately protect their privacy and rights. There is a chill that hangs over many Russian users... a fear that LiveJournal could become the pawns of what some view as an increasingly controlling government. These members are a large, vibrant part of our community, and their rights to privacy *MUST* be safeguarded, regardless of their personal beliefs or political views.  Their concerns are not going to be addressed without firm, verifiable commitments from both LiveJournal *AND* SUP, in order to guarantee their protection against government access to their private information.  And LiveJournal should make it clear to them that they will *NEVER* comply with any subpoena related to freedom of  speech.

There is much that needs to be done to safeguard the rights of LiveJournal's members, and sadly, a limited amount that any one person by themselves can do. 

But the big question I keep coming back to is this one.

If not me, then who?!     

Seriously... I don't have an answer to this question. At least not yet. There are a few individuals who I greatly respect who I wish were on the advisory board, but they're hardly excited about the idea... they know the difficulties firsthand. And if not me, and not them... then really I don't know who else with the kind of experience you'd want has given the position much serious thought. 

I have, out of circumstance, been forced to think about it... and frankly, I'm concerned that this position, in most people's hands, would empower LiveJournal essentially saying:

 "Well, we have heard the feedback from the members... and we're going to do things our way, anyway."

I don't want to see these positions be filled like some kind of beauty contest... a LiveJournal's "most popular blogger of the year" award. That's a recipe for inexperienced, unprepared, halfhearted candidates, who lack the determination to stand up for our rights, and the kind of united movement needed to put real teeth behind their opinions... and without building a strong opposition to oppose bad policies, it is likely that LiveJournal's elected representatives will be steamrollered, just like LiveJournal's founder recently was.  

As many of you know, a few months back, I hoped against hope -- and fought for the idea of -- Al Gore throwing his hat in the ring and running for President of the United States again. 

Frankly, I understand that it would've been a hard decision to make for him, and that he would risk that which he had been able to accomplish, in order to attempt to effect change at the highest level. Had he chosen to run, some would've inevitably accused him of being political or egotistical. That said, I wish he had answered the call. Obama's great, but given the choice between judgement and experience... well, though judgement is critical, I would prefer to choose both.

So, when people are expressing incredible frustration to me about where LiveJournal is heading, and want me to step forward to help... well, it's damned if you do, and damned if you don't, isn't it?!

No. There *IS* an alternative.

Unity.

Unity based on a shared ideal for what LiveJournal should stand for.
 
That is the policy *I* stand for. The policy that matters. The one that reflects the promise of LiveJournal, and the promises that were made in perpetuity to ALL of us. 

They are promises that were meant to last forever. They cannot be changed, or rescinded, or revoked. Not without our willing consent.

They are what we should stand for.  All of us.  Always.  Even if they are not always what we can get.

That is why I am anouncing the creation of ljunited.  A coalition of concerned LiveJournal users who believe that the best, truest, most honest encapsulation of our shared aspirations for LiveJournal have their roots in the promises we started off with.

A LiveJournal that is at its best, when it is:

Working with the community, for the community.
Honoring the status of every account.
Maintaining the uptime and performance of the site.
Staying advertisement free.
Never sending us unsolicited e-mail.
Supporting the Free Software movement. 

...and their final promise,  to safeguard our privacy.  

It is our goal to make this platform the gold standard by which all others are measured. One which we will encourage *ALL* LiveJournal members and all potential candidates to sign up for. A strong, unified movement of LiveJournal members, each commited to the premise that the promises that were made to us then should be our aspirations now. 

Our immediate goal is to:
1> Work as a team, to seek out other LiveJournalers and encourage them to join our movement, and to build our community at ljunited.

2> On Monday, May 5th, the first day of nominations, we will post to lj_election_enand lj_election_ru, letting people know about ljunited's platform, and about our coalition's goal of fielding a "ticket" of two candidates, encouraging all of our members to endorse and vote for them. We will encourage people who visit the various lj_election sites to join ljunited and play an active role in our community, letting them know that they should make a post to the community if they are particularly interested in -- and feel up to the challenge of -- being on the advisory council.

3> On Wednesday and Thursday, May 7th and 8th, we will encourage people to vote, recommending their top three candidates for the ljunited community, in order of preference, both for the Russian and the "everything other than Russian" ticket. If necessary, we will create ljunited_ru beforehand, in order to facilitate this process and jumpstart the Russian LJ United community.

4> On Friday, May 9th, the ljunited nominees will be posted to the respective lj_election sites, and LJ_united's members will be encouraged to endorse their nominations, as a voting bloc. 

5> LJ United will leverage our strong, populist platform, our combined ticket (in which we will ideally get both Russian and "English" users voting twice, as a bloc, for each of the candidates),  our grassroots efforts, and, ideally, some kind of strong, consistent visual theme to establish our platform and candidates as the most authentic and legitimate representation of LiveJournal's aspirations. I suspect our candidates, who will be nominated based on merit, will stand out from any "beauty contest" candidates. 

6> If / when we have people from LJ United on the advisory council, we will make sure that our advisory council boardmembers regularly communicate with, and receive feedback on upcoming votes, etc. from, the members of LJ United.  They will be expected to accountable to both the platform and to the will of the members, explaining their feelings regarding upcoming votes, and seeking out feedback, in order to best advance our position. Polls will be posted, when appropriate, to make decisions, seek out feedback, etc.         

Please. Join LJ United, and help fight to safeguard and, whenever possible, restore, the rights of LiveJournal's members. 

Thanks,
Mark 

   



 
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