|An Open Letter To The People of SixApart
||[Jun. 2nd, 2007|10:10 pm]
lj_abuse didn't work out
Hi there, and thanks for taking a few moments from your schedules to read this.|
You don't know me, but I am a LiveJournal user... one of the millions that holds an active account. I happened to have opened mine in March of 2001, so I'm not an "Early Adopter," but I do have a five digit ID, so I've been around awhile. I became a paid user almost immediately, and purchased a permanent account at my first opportunity, so I have no intention of leaving.
I need to take my time with this. Please understand, that, as a writer, I treasure my journal, and the people who have read and made comments to it over the previous six plus years I've had it. So, understand that I want to be completely fair here.
First, let me begin by congratulating you on your acquisition of LiveJournal. Of all the blog services, this is the one that was the best. It spawned several "knock-off" versions thanks to some brilliantly written open source code. It was the most compact, most highly organized and best functioning blog host, and that was due to some very logical thinking and some consumer feedback. In other words, LJ became LJ because of the people who used it, through their requests, through the customer service that the staff provided, and because that staff remained focused on constantly being in touch with the users and knowing what those users needed, and adapted the site by listening to what those users wanted.
During the time before you 6A people arrived, in fact, the vast majority of the staff of LJ were bloggers themselves first, and support for everyone else second. So, they were cut from the same cloth as we were. That's no offense to any of you, some of whom are bloggers, and others who are coming to this communications form for the first time here. All I'm saying is that when you are immersed in something and it's a part of what you do, there's a "second nature" quality to it. There's no need to consider what needs to be done; it is simply handled.
Now, as soon as it was announced that you were taking over ownership of LJ, some people immediately got upset. We were assured that nothing would change. But, let's be completely candid here. That was a promise that was never intended to be kept, much like Brad's "never an ad on LJ" promise. 6A didn't spend all that money to acquire LiveJournal to NOT attempt to make it profitable! So, those of us in the know were aware of the score. We knew advertising was going to be a part of the scene.
The trouble, of course, when you have sponsors, is that they become the top of the food chain. In other words, when you are running a site that is advertising driven, those ads become more important than the people involved, namely, the users.
Basically, you have downgraded the entire community of LiveJournal users, simply by adding ads! Now, obviously, you didn't intend that side effect, but it is a natural occurance. There can only be one "most important" element to the owner of this site, and as far as the company goes, that MUST be the element providing most of the capital. And that's not the users.
This is a fact that perhaps some people instantly understood, other people had a nagging feeling about, and still others may not have noticed. However the situations have borne out that fact. After "Nipplegate" and now, "Strikethrough," it's easy to understand how the zealous reaction of the 6A staff is geared away from users and toward sponsors, for the big money is coming from them, not us.
And that brings me to the issue of resentment. When each individual who signed up for an account here, whether free or paid, they felt as if their blogs would be their own. Yes, they are hosted on servers that don't belong to us, but we were assured that we had the right to say what we felt, to do what we wanted, to spill our guts, to write stories, show our body parts, demonstrate our vocabularies and to reflect on our lives without fear that someone would step in and tell us that isn't permitted.
In addition, most of the people who created accounts here were not intending to use them as direct "commercial" fodder, even if we wanted to do so. Of course, as the owners of the site, you may do as you please, but the point is, everyone here, on some level, knows that you are profiting (or planning/hoping to profit) from the writing that we do, and that we, the writers, are not only not sharing in that, but we are PAYING (either in cash or in ad viewing) for you to do it!
There is also a nagging rumor that 6A is planning to go public and offer stock options. Granted, this rumor has been floating around almost as long as you have owned LJ, but recently, it has developed some fresh legs.
The point here is that this blog site is not the same as a television network. On a CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox... you have the network providing content for viewers to see. Sponsors and independent producers pay the costs to create that programming and keep the network on the air. So, within that model, it makes sense that commercials are a big part of how television works.
Here, the content is provided by the users! We do the work; you earn the profits. In the most exaggerated scenario, that would be like a television network making its writers pay them for the privilege of writing scripts.
But this is exactly where we find ourselves now. The question is, can there be a resolution to what appears to be an irreconcilable situation?
1. STOP. LOOK. LISTEN.
Whatever you think you should be doing, don't do it. Wait a moment. Then examine what's going on, and start to form an opinion. But not before you talk with people and hear what they have to say.
2. ASK QUESTIONS.
Not saying you aren't expert in the field, your field of running a business, but OUR field, blogging, is a different fit. You need to stay in touch with those of us who are directly involved in that for you to not only make better choices in the decision making process, but to understand how the audience reacts to what you want to initiate or change.
3. FIND SPONSORS WHO "GET" IT.
Not every product should be sold via LJ. And those that are squeamish about content should be avoided. There are a lot of products out there; surely you can canvass for ones that understand the freedoms of saying and doing what we please. LJ should not change simply to cater to advertisers.
4. TELL US FIRST, THEN DO IT.
If some change in policy is being instituted, if there's some reform that needs to be made or some tweak you have planned, make sure we aren't surprised. Surprises are bad. Very bad. If you don't warn us, the instant reaction to a change will likely be one of shock, and then anger. Ideally, coming to us and asking what we think would be the most ideal, but even I don't believe that's a viable method any more. Just give us a heads-up, preferably with at least two week's notice.
5. UNDERSTAND US, AND WE, YOU.
Companies tend to think in terms of demographics and number stats, not individuals. But if you intend to get a grip on how we think, what we do, who we are, you need to know us. Take some time. Friend our journals. Read us. Let us read you. Share. Comment to things. In other words, become one of us. Once you get into the process of it, a lot of this will become clearer. I can't emphasize this point enough, so I'm going to capitalize it, bold it and separate it for you:
IF YOU AREN'T IN TOUCH WITH THIS COMMUNITY, YOU WILL DESTROY IT.
Was buying a permanent account a mistake? At least at this moment, I have hope that it wasn't.
Also, I would invite anyone who would like to appear on talk_show, to discuss any issues as pmmarcov did, last spring. Any and all of you are welcome to chat at any time.
Again, thanks for reading, and good wishes.