LiveJournal

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Website
Name: LiveJournal
Owner/Maintainer:
Dates: 1999 - present
Type: Social Networking Site, Blogging Platform
Fandom: Multifandom, Meta
URL: http://www.livejournal.com/
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Contents

LiveJournal is a social networking site and blogging platform where many fans post their fanfiction, meta, and other works, leave feedback, and have personal interaction. It was created by Brad Fitzpatrick in 1999, sold first to Six Apart in January 2005,[1] then to SUP in December 2007. [2] Both sales were unpopular among many fans using LiveJournal for their fan activities.

Other blog platforms arose around 1999-2001, but LiveJournal, with its threaded comments, friends list feature, and self-expression in the form of icons and interests lists, became the home for the "new" fandom.

LiveJournal is also home to many members of Science Fiction Fandom or other writing genre fandoms, including many professional authors, aspiring authors and fans. While there are many people who would identify themselves as part of both fannish traditions, the cultures of the two can be very different. Professional authors usually post under a version of their legal name or publicly link their legal name to their user name on LJ. They have also adopted integration of Facebook and Twitter into LiveJournal more readily than the more traditionally insular transformative works fans have. When the two cultures collide in large fandom discussions like Racefail '09, the culture clash can become part of the conversation as well as forming a barrier to communication.

The Migration to LJ

By the late 1990s, websites, newsgroups, message boards, IRC, AIM, and mailing lists like those hosted on YahooGroups had become more important than zines, cons, and informal in-person gatherings for fannish activity. Fans could now simply search for fiction on the Internet, rather than having to connect with someone who already knew about zines or stumble upon them at a convention or through an ad at the back of a science fiction magazine. (See also fannish mentoring.)

When blogging software started to become more available in 1999, some fans started up blogs on services like Blogger or Livejournal. Blogs on Blogger and similar services offered total control and could be integrated into a fan's personal webpage, for one-stop shopping. Livejournal was restricted to its own site and to specific layouts, but offered something new: the friends list, a site-specific form of RSS feed, and icons, to personalize posts. It also included threaded comments, such as those found on early message boards.

The appeal of being able to easily read other people's posts gathered into one place, and to take part in threaded conversations (plus the continuing service interruptions on the OneList free mailing list service[3]), began to win out and by 2000-01, there was a steady shift to Livejournal from mailing lists, and from other blogging sites.

Invite codes

One of the aspects of the shift that both added and slowed the fannish progress was invite codes. LJ wanted to control the speed of their growth, so initially, the only way to get a Livejournal account was to get an invite code from someone who already had it. While this did slow the fannish movement, on the other hand, if a friend specifically gave you one of their rare invite codes, you might be more likely to make the move than you would be from a more casual suggestion that you make the switch. Some fans with early LJs made a point of inviting writers in their fandoms to come over. Isis posted about an effort that she led in Harry Potter fandom in early 2003:

If you would like to be part of the Seekrit Cabal to bring quality fanfiction writers and readers to livejournal, please send two lj codes to me by email - you can find it in my profile. I promise to use them wisely....And, hey, as long as I'm playing coordinator of the Seekrit Cabal, I'll happily take recommendations from those of you who think a Potterverse writer or reader ought to be on livejournal, but who don't have codes to hand out.[4]

Arguments pro and con

The shift caused some tension (to put it mildly) in existing fannish venues such as mailing lists, with some fans polarizing over whether LJ was a good or bad thing for fandom, and for the next few years there were frequent arguments about it.

Some fans felt that fandom was already too balkanized, and that LJ only increased that; there was little to no organization on LJ, and it was nearly impossible to find anyone or anything there unless you already knew what -- and who -- to look for.

Some fans felt that the fannish focus on LJ was bad as it shifted conversation from older venues:

I have noticed with dread that an unusual, prolonged silence has fallen on all my mailing lists. It's not just the Pros mailing lists (which in a way is reassuring!), and it's not just me: worried consultations with fellow fans has revealed that this seems to be a widespread phenomenon. After more anxious consultations I think I have pinpointed a possible cause: it's them goddamned blogs and livejournals! ... what is worrying me is that most fans have started dedicating far more time to their LJ than to fannish discussion.... I think what is actually happening is that a growing number of fans are putting all their energies/time into LJ, and as a consequence they're not participating in the fannish conversation within mailing lists. [5]

Some mailing list and bulletin board users disliked LJ for its control of content and lack of enforced manners:

Nowadays people don't go to ASCEM the way they used to. LiveJournal is safer for them. They control the tone, they say what they want and walk away, there's no sense of community or crowding and everything is nice and neat. I hate LJ for that very reason. Here, for better or worse, there is a more personal aspect to everything. You are forced to use a certain amount of respect and etiquette and we do crowd each other but that's not a bad thing. [6]

Some long-time, more established fans were puzzled, and horrified, by the amount of personal information and lack of privacy they saw displayed with LJ;

I may be an old dinosaur, but I am fairly sensitive to issues of privacy, and I have a high embarrassment threshold: so the mere idea of making my diary public makes me queasy.... It is painfully clear that many authors doesn't really understand the difference between public and private writing and self-expression. Time and again, the reader is treated to embarrassing, detailed and utterly personal descriptions of yucky illnesses, nervous breakdowns and sexual dysfunction. I squirm for them, and I hasten to flee the site: there is definitely such a thing as Too Much Information (not to mention the fact that when the author is someone you know it's doubly agonising!)... what is worrying me is that most fans have started dedicating far more time to their LJ than to fannish discussion.[7]

Other fans felt that LJ was invaluable as it gave them the freedom to say whatever they wanted and to mix'n'match their fannish interests in single posts without breaking someone else's rules. They also felt that LJ removed the intimidation factor of posting to a list of potentially hundreds or thousands of people.

A fan in 2008 wrote of increased communication and community:
I've been an LJ user for years, so I'm very familiar with the technology; when I got into fandom, I was really excited to learn that I could join the community by using a format I already understood. LJ makes feedback really easy (and it's part of an accepted community practice already); it makes publishing your work really easy, and formatting is a snap; you don't have to worry about hosting or any of that drama. At the same time, it puts you immediately in touch with a community. I literally spend most of my days that I'm working at home on LJ; I comment back and forth with friends, I laugh at whatever's on the_caps_files, I read fic from communities and squee about Battlestar Galactica and whatever. Because it's a social space as much as a place to post, it really draws me in, as a participant, and I feel more connected to the fannish community because of it. (For example, I'd read everything Dasha K had ever written, but I never said anything to her, because it was too weird to email someone out of the blue and say, hi, you write good. But we met on LJ, and not only have I told her how much I like her work, we've also become actually friendly... See? LJ makes people talk to each other! MAGIC.) [8]

While many individual fans finished having these discussions in the early 00s, people do continue to migrate to and from livejournal, and the arguments in the 2010s remain similar.

Comms & other efforts at organization

Even as some fans on mailing lists were decrying the lack of organization on LJ, other fans on LJ were working to fix that. By 2002, fans were creating centralized places for fannish engagement, either by using a regular journal as a non-personal LJ, or by taking advantage of LJ's community feature[9]. For example, in mid-2002, the dsreporter was created to track due South fandom across Livejournal, blogs, and archives: the moderators effectively turned a single use journal into a community by sharing the password. A few months earlier, Lorelei F. had created metablog, a community where anyone could post a link to a post on LJ or any other blogging system that would be of interest to fandom in general (similar to the later metafandom community).

As LJ-based fandom grew, such communities quickly became invaluable. Communities being formed included fic communities for people to post to a central location, noticeboard communities where fans in a given fandom could announce posts made to their personal LJs to make them easier to find, challenge communities to encourage more fiction, etc. The new infrastructure, echoing centralized mailing list structure in many ways, made Livejournal easier to adapt to, and even more fans switched.

Newsletters, noticeboards, flashfiction communities, and fandom-specific, multifannish, kink-specific, and other rec LJs were all formed to create fannish order out of disorder. In addition to being, typically, fandom-specific, these communities are easy to friend and defriend at will, while individual people are not. Savvy fen also used the community's membership lists as reading lists; this provided a quick and easy way to find people who are likely to have an interest in the same shows as you.

By the mid-2000s, LJ was a thriving center for fandom, as large sections of fandom had moved to Livejournal, and new fans were starting out there without ever having been on mailing lists or newsgroups. Those who consider LJ their fandom home generally conduct all or most of their fandom activity there.

Fan Activity

LiveJournal's casual, unmoderated approach to self-publishing changed the way fan writers shared their work. Most mailing lists had strict rules about what could and could not be sent to the list. For example, some lists didn't allow WIPs, some lists didn't allow stories with more than a PG rating, and some lists were slash-only, or no-slash allowed. Mailing lists were also restricted by their text-only format. LiveJournal allows writers to post whatever they want, regardless of whether it's rated, titled, or even finished. This gave writers the freedom to experiment with form and length, posting multimedia pieces, or stories that were under 500 words. It also meant that a lot of the formality had been taken out of publishing a piece of fic. Writers on Livejournal habitually post snippets of works-in-progress, deleted scenes, and chatroom fics, things that would have been rare or unlikely in the days of centralized archives and mailing lists. For a more in-depth discussion read the series of essays The Impact of Blogging on Fandom posted across Livejournal and dairyland in 2002.

One consequence of the fannish shift to Livejournal is that comments were no longer linear--that is, in the order they were posted. A comment could be addressed to whichever comment it was in reply to, but unlike on mailing lists it would not be sent to everyone automatically. This facilitated sub-discussions that could be joined or ignored, and it was no longer necessary for the entire line of comments to shift discussion together. (It is possible to dethread a comment page on Livejournal; add ?view=flat to the end of the page's url.)

Memes

A major facet of LJ community is participation in memes. Out-of-fandom memes include things like quizzes and surveys (e.g., What Color Are You? or the iPod Tarot), and once they catch on they tend to spread very quickly across a user's friendslist. Fannish memes have a similarly rapid growth. Whether a format (like 5 Things) or a challenge (like the first kiss drabble challenge), it is easy for one idea to propagate rapidly across fandom. This usually sparks a backlash after a certain point, with users complaining that the bulk of the posts on their friendslist are just duplications of the meme. Format memes are considered part of the lemon-garlic hummus syndrome.

The friendslist replaced the mailing list, which immediately broadened the scope of a fan's participation because she might have friends who wrote in different fandoms from the ones she participated in off-LJ. As more and more fans migrated to Livejournal, people were commonly "getting into" new fandoms, as well as becoming multifannish and writing and participating in multiple fandoms at one time.[10]

LJs as archives

Livejournal's "memories" option, and later its "tag" option, allowed people to archive their stories on their Livejournal, without worrying about additional domain space, and because of that, many writers started "fic LJs" -- journals or communities that existed simply as archives for their fiction, tagged by category, fandom, etc., at the author's choosing (and not necessarily that of some central archivist's.) Many fan artists, vidders, and more LJ-specific fan participants like icon-makers, and fanmixers created similar journals for their fanworks.

Disadvantages of LJ as a fannish home

  • On mailing lists, you could usually count on people talking about stuff you found interesting, since you were all there to talk about whatever the ML was made for. On LJ, people talk about a variety of topics, not all of which every person who has them friended will find interesting. So if you want to friend someone because of their posts on A, but they also talk about B, C, and D, which bore you to tears, you're kind of stuck. This problem remains even when all the journals are fannish -- the LJ multifannish culture means that you can have fourteen Supernatural fans friended and all of them will talk all week about American Idol RPF. One fan summed it up this way:
    So when you post in your LJ about something that happened in your life -- do I owe you a story of my own? Even if I don't know you, and don't particularly want to invite you into my life? I mean, I was reading your LJ hoping to see your reaction to last night's SGA, not to hear you talk about your life.

    If I make a filter for NUMB3RS, I want everything that appears in that filter to be about NUMB3RS, and I would really like it if the posts were related to each other, part of a single ongoing conversation with many voices, full of tangents and offshoots but all connected. I don't want a dozen posts on a dozen subjects written by people who happen to be interested in NUMB3RS. [11]
    This issue has been alleviated somewhat by the introduction of tags and tracking, allowing someone to follow a fan's posts about a given topic without having them friended. Nevertheless, the diffusion of the culture and the voyeurism inherent in the system remain.
  • Livejournal is not optimal for archiving fiction (or any kind of fanwork), as many people don't tag properly (or at all) or keep a master list of their fics. Fanworks can also disappear whenever someone temporarily deletes their journal to gafiate, or when someone migrates to an LJ clone.
  • The unfortunate "friends" terminology. Because of the (real or perceived) connection when calling someone a "friend" on LJ -- which elsewhere would simply be considered someone whose blog you enjoyed reading, or someone who read yours -- blurs the line between social connections and simply culling fannish information. Therefore "friending" or "de-friending" someone comes with unfortunate emotional connotations and can cause anger and resentment and sadness and woe. As an additional negative side-effect, you can end up with huge, unwieldy flists out of fear of hurting someone's feelings by not friending them back or by culling them.
  • It can be difficult to find the right balance between public and private on an easily searchable blog site. If you friends-lock an entry, sure, your dad won't find it, but then neither will a fan not on your flist who might be looking for fic in that fandom.
  • On Livejournal, there's no neutral ground; everyone feels qualified to comment on everything else, because they're making posts in their own journals. Fights skip here and there like wildfire, making wank harder to control.
  • In December 2011, igrick, the SUP staffer responsible for LiveJournal's design announced on his Russian-language LJ that soon it would no longer be possible to give comments a subject line and that existing subject lines in old posts would disappear. This was listed as "non-negotiable." Many fans immediately commented to explain the importance of subject lines to fannish communities such as RPers, kink memes, and anon memes.[12][13][14][15]

Fannish backlash and availability of other sites leads to splintering

There have been many occasions (see Strikethrough, Boldthrough, and Nipplegate as examples) when a large group of fans spread across many fandoms has threatened to jump ship to other journaling services, such as DeadJournal, InsaneJournal, Journalfen, or Dreamwidth. Some communities, especially those whose members were directly affected by the content restrictions, e.g. Snape/Harry communities allowing chan fanart, saw large number of fans move to other services or switch to a crossposting model, where the content itself is not on LJ, but an announcement is still made. Some fandoms are more splintered across journaling services, while others, especially those not affected by the bans because their content wasn't problematic, just remained on LJ.

Fans and fan communities have moved to new sites because the sites have features they like, such as Dreamwidth's split friends list or Tumblr's ease of image posting. Fannish avoidance of sites is sometimes because of features or site rules too. While many fans have Facebook accounts, or have tried out Google +, those sites policies on pseudonyms have kept them from becoming major fannish homes, while Twitter has siphoned off some of the casual fannish chat from other sites because it is open to pseudonyms and is easily integrated into Livejournal itself.

As of 2011, there were still fans who conducted all their fannish activity on LJ, but there were also fans with multiple accounts across many sites loosely interconnected by mirrored posts, crossposting features and interoperability features like OpenID.

In 2012, some journal fans began noting an overall decrease in fan activity on journal sites. A Slash Report podcast speculated that the decrease was due to fans posting their fanfic to AO3 instead.[16] In December, another fan started a friending meme specifically to encourage more discussion on Dreamwidth and commented, "It's pretty clear, though, that fandom has been migrating again, this time to tumblr, and that this means that there are fewer fannish posts here on the more text-based journaling sites."[17]

In a 2013 interview with the MIT student newspaper The Tech, Flourish remarked,

I think there’s a lot of things that have changed since fandom moved off of LiveJournal and on to Tumblr. For about 10 years, fandom was really centered about LiveJournal. Moving to Tumblr has made a lot of changes in terms of how you get involved in fandoms, and how you can build communities or not. I think that fandom has become a lot more decentralized and there’s less of an emphasis on fanfiction now than there ever has been, and more of an emphasis on GIFs, on a lot more visual stuff.[18]

Common LJ Terms

  • The name of the site is styled variously as LiveJournal, Livejournal, LJ or sometimes as el-jay.
  • Icon - A small graphic that displays next to a user's posts and comments. (The official term used by the site is "userpic.") Livejournal icons are limited to 100 by 100 pixels.
  • GIP - Gratuitous Icon Post. A post or comment whose entire purpose is to show off an icon the user likes, is proud of, or finds relevant to the conversation.
  • Flocked - Friends-locked. A post that can only be read by other Livejournal users on one's friendslist.
  • Flist - Friendslist.
  • Commentfic - A short fic posted in a comment to a friend's LJ post, or in your own with another person. (See also tigging.)
  • Comm - Short for community, an LJ discussion forum.
  • Friend - v., To add someone to a friendslist.
  • Defriend - v., To remove someone from a friendslist. This, obviously, may be the cause or result of some tensions.
  • Master Post
  • ETA - "edited to add" (commonly used when a post is updated after commenters have already started responding to the original version)
  • Banner - an image (often of fannish favorite BSOs) at the top of a user's journal.
  • lj-cut - a way to hide most of the text of a longer entry or post behind a cut tag (some other blogging platforms use "jump"). Often the lj-cut tag's text will say "read more." Used to avoid cluttering up one's flist with the entire text of a fic or long post, or to hide NSFW items behind the cut. Not using cuts is seen as a sign of newbie-ishness at many LJ comms.

Meta

Additional Reading:

References

  1. Young Web whiz blogs his way to a bundle, from The Oregonian and posted to LiveJournal (Posted January 7, 2005. Last accessed November 16, 2008.)
  2. LiveJournal FAQ: How did LiveJournal get started? Who runs it now? (Accessed 1 October 2008.)
  3. Several posts on a private list mention blackouts through June 2001 -rache
  4. invite codes, business models, and community: a historical perspective
  5. from Discovered in a Letterbox #23 (Summer 2002)
  6. comment by Jen in 2008 at ASCEML
  7. from Discovered in a Letterbox #23 (Summer 2002)
  8. from How Will It End? Interview with Amal Nahurriyeh
  9. Livejournal had begun offering a community function as early as December 2000 (official announcement, accessed April 11, 2009), but fandom didn't really seem to notice until 2002, possibly because that's when a support category for communities was created and announced (accessed April 11, 2009), and by then there was a big enough fandom base for that knowledge to start spreading.
  10. See Busker, Rebecca Lucy. 2008. On symposia: LiveJournal and the shape of fannish discourse. Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 1. Busker discusses how LiveJournal caused fans to acquire a "peripheral, and sometimes even very specific, knowledge of other fandoms."
  11. from Arduinna's essay LJ and Me/WebCite, written 2004, posted 2005, accessed 24 April 2012
  12. "Soon-to-be-implemented changes in lj comments: no more subject line" thread at Fail-Fandomanon, 12 Dec 2011 (Accessed 15 Dec 2011)
  13. Livejournal to do away with subject line in comments post by heeroluva, 12 Dec 2011. (Accessed 15 Dec 2011)
  14. Oh, LJ post by havocthecat, 13 Dec 2011. (Accessed 15 Dec 2011)
  15. Новый ЖЖ. Шаг первый — комментарии - original post by igrick from 12 Dec 2011, with an English-language addendum from a day or two later that says "A note to users of RP, Meme and other communities, where subject line is crucial for operation: for the moment we are developing only standard commenting representation, well know in LiveJournal as S1 styles, but we will keep subject lines, both in terms of form and representation, in advanced — S2 — styles, and provide an ability to keep it forever for certain communities, as well as, by request, will develop an extra functionality for such communities thru OpensSocial applications going public next year." (Accessed 15 Dec 2011)
  16. 218 Mobile Fandom. Slash Report. July 22, 2012. LJ discussion starts 32 minutes in. Mklutz also reports that "The way that I use LJ and Dreamwidth is so minimal compared to three years ago."
  17. kouredios. Being the change I want to see in my f-list. Posted to Dreamwidth 6 December 2012. (Accessed 21 December 2012)
  18. Deena Wang. Fandoms, the Internet, and Harry Potter. The Tech, May 14, 2013.
  19. reference link.
  20. reference link. You can read the draft post with a list of suggestions from the community here; reference link.
  21. reference linl.
  22. reference link.
  23. reference link.


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