Some thoughts on LiveJournal, not all entirely related.

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Title: Some thoughts on LiveJournal, not all entirely related.
Creator: Halrloprillalar
Date(s): August 17, 2005
Medium: LiveJournal
Fandom:
Topic:
External Links: Some thoughts on LiveJournal, not all entirely related., Archived version
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Some thoughts on LiveJournal, not all entirely related. is a 2005 post by Halrloprillalar.

It has 63 comments.

Introduction

I have participated in fandom in several contexts: mailing lists, Usenet, discussion boards, and LiveJournal. It's not news that the first three are generally topic-based while LJ is person-based. On LJ, you create your own community out of who you read and with whom you engage.

Some Topics Discussed

  • LiveJournal
  • public vs private
  • fandom and visibility
  • fannish platforms affecting communication and fandom itself
  • "LJ is personal."
  • "LJ privileges the original post above the replies."
  • "You are in another person's space, not a shared space."
  • "LJ is public."
  • "On LJ, we build our own community by reading journals and interacting with them by means of commenting."
  • "The larger the responsive readership of a particular journal is, the less the journal owner needs to go afield to find community."
  • "A large friend-of list, if it is a responsive one, can be isolating."
  • "We want our friends-list to post interesting things about fandom; we want to post pictures of our cats."

Excerpts from the Essay

LJ privileges the original post above the replies. In every design I've seen, the post occupies the main portion of the screen, right at the top, and the replies are below it in their own section. They are, simply by their location on the screen, less important.

In contrast, mailing lists, newsgroups, and discussion boards (for the most part) treat the original post visually the same as the follow-ups, putting it first but not styling it significantly differently.

I think this affects discussion. The privilege of the LJ post, along with the fact that this is a specific person's personal space, means that criticism of the subject matter is more likely to be interpreted as criticism of the journal owner, even if that interpretation is made subconsciously. If you do not agree with the poster, on LJ there is a greater feeling that you should just not read their journal. Again, this might only be a subtle pressure, not explicitly expressed.

You are in another person's space, not a shared space. So, like when you are in someone else's home, there are things you feel constrained not to do or say.

Not to mention, because of the privilege of the LJ publishing model, your readership will be made up mostly of people who agree with you. You may be more likely to find flamers than people who disagree with you in a non-hostile way.

Communities do provide a place for finding discussion with non-like-minded people, but the privilege of the post still remains.
I'm not sure how this impression of public-ness affects what we post under lock and filter, but I think it affects how we feel when some friends-locked unpleasantness is made known. The offense feels greater because it was in a public space, even though the actual public nature of the information was the same as though it had been emailed.

Some Fan Comments at the Post

bethbethbeth:

Regarding the privileging of original comments: yes, that's absolutely true, but there's something LJ allows that mailing list posts don't - or rather, that are far more difficult on mailing lists - and that's the ability to link to related conversations.

Let's say person A posts about some totally original subject, like story warnings (*g*). Person B comments in person A's LJ, but they mirror the comment in their own LJ, sparking a different discussion. By the end of the day, more people have posted (all in response to earlier posts), and when person Z finally gets on line, they end up doing one of those "A through Y have been posting thinky thoughts about story warnings; A says [link and idea], while B says [link and idea], but C..." You can do that to a certain extent but copy/pasting bits of mailing list emails into your own post, but it's difficult for readers to go find the bits you've quoted in context.

And re: going further afield to find communities...I think that's often true. I mean, I have a pretty big readership these days, and even though I read my (also big, but not *that* big) f'list unfiltered, sometimes it *is* as much as I can do to just answer comments in my own LJ. The weird thing, though, is that I *feel* as if I'm part of a larger community (i.e., not just the one that clusters around my own journal), yet it may not seem that way to others, especially if I'm not commenting in *their* journals regularly.

isiscolo:

I agree with most of this - and I think that I feel like a part of a set of overlapping communities (remember the Venn diagram theory of lj from last year?), focused around sets of ljs which have mostly mutual readership.

I also think that community can not be built by reading only your own lj and its comments. If I comment frequently in X's lj, and she comments never in mine (or in anyone else's where I see these conversations going on), I feel like a minion rather than a colleague. Which is why, I think, people who don't get friended back by a person don't comment a lot in that person's journal - that feeling of two-way-streetism isn't there.

prillalar:

The reciprocal thing can be really difficult after a certain point. I've never figured out the best thing to do. Because I can't read the journals of everyone who's friended me and I don't want to friend back but then filter out.

But you're right. Without the reciprocity, it's hard to feel part of things. It seems so imbalanced sometimes.

thete1:

I'm with you on pretty much everything but the cat thing. I'm... hmm. My entire fannish experience, starting on message boards and usenet and moving through mls and blogs and, now, lj has been all about building an audience, *having* an audience, and *keeping* that audience. It informs the stories I write -- even as I write, these days, more stories tailored to my own kinks -- and it informs what I post.

I pretty much always want responses, so I don't feel any real need most of the time to do... hmm... purely personal posts? If there's not fannish content, then there's probably metafannish content. Or book reviews or something. But, well, I'm neurotic like that.

As to the isolation factor -- I agree wholeheartedly and I thank God for it. For two reasons:

1. In my experience, the best way to make fandom into a positive space for oneself is to find your niche and stay there. The Balkanization of fandom started some years ago, and has continued apace. I think that's been, by and large, a *good* thing. We have metafandom when we want to branch out, and I think people use it fairly often. I get all the engaging discussion and cheerful disagreement I need from my f-list, and while I had to put some effort into doing that -- *having* that -- it wasn't, in the end, all that much.

The people who honestly will get some good out of diversification, in my experience, are also the people who will do the work to have it.

2. The availability of things like friendsfriends and just plain *links* to other people's f-lists. It's so easy to find a whole new world outside your own... if and when you're ready for it/want it.

harriet_spy:

My entire fannish experience, starting on message boards and usenet and moving through mls and blogs and, now, lj has been all about building an audience, *having* an audience, and *keeping* that audience.

Yes, but most people think they are *infinitely* more interesting to others than they actually are.

I've noticed lately on LJ a number of people who are at that college age when you're convinced that your personality is a unique and dazzling butterfly, your in-jokes with your friends are the cleverest things ever, and your drunken fits are epics worthy of chronicling by Horace...and post accordingly. We all go through that stage, I think, but I'm deeply grateful that mine antedated LJ, because although their immediate social circle probably does enjoy those posts, for anyone outside it, the effect is overwhelmingly boring and precious. Not because the writers are setting out to be boring and precious, but because college is the peak age for self-absorption and failure to realize how little most people who aren't your friends actually are interested in what you think.

campylobachter:

[...] a large friend-of list, if it is a responsive one, can be isolating.

Before the Web became mainstream, most opinions were published in newspapers, journals, and magazines as "Letters to the Editor" (albeit with a screening process). The old maxim was "Each letter received represents only 10% of the interested readership for that topic." If an LJ member applies that 10% Rule to LJ, multiplying the feedback for a post by a factor of ten will yield a nice ego boost.

Therefore, those Live Journalists who post comments in a popular LJ may secretly hope to increase their LJ visibility if their own readership is scant. ;)

I'm not sure how this impression of public-ness affects what we post under lock and filter, but I think it affects how we feel when some friends-locked unpleasantness is made known. The offense feels greater because it was in a public space, even though the actual public nature of the information was the same as though it had been emailed.

Perhaps the offense feels greater because of the sense of belonging to a subset of a very large network of communities. Even on an active email list, I don't sense a connection to greater community the way I do with LJ.

executrix:

However, in a sense comments are privileged because New Stuff is privileged over Oh That Again.

And there's a tension between "let's keep all these comments in one place" and "ZOMG I'm spamming your journal, I'm going to take this over to mine."

wickedcherub:

There's a weird feeling when you've got tons of 'strange' people discussing thing in your LJ. Everyone pops in going, "I've come here via so-and-so!" (or sometimes they don't, and I always try and find out where they come from) and you feel like your journal is open house for a bit. It's an unexpected extra readership that you may not have accounted for when you wrote your particular entry.

Because we all write our entries for a particular audience, like Hal said. And if I write a post about how cute Draco Malfoy's pinky finger is because I know my flist would appreciate that, and then have people crashing my party saying that the topic is superficial and useless? No, I'd rather said people start their own topic in their LJ called 'DM's pinky is superficial and useless'.

prillalar:

I think that so many of these tensions exist because of the "my space" - "your space" nature of LJ. We don't know whether we should be following public or private space rules or what. The more popular a discussion becomes, I find, the more public it becomes as well, in regard to acceptable posting behaviour

bookshop:

The larger the responsive readership of a particular journal is, the less the journal owner needs to go afield to find community. This is something I just figured out recently. If there are a lot of people responding to what you post, a large part of your social needs from LJ can be met right there, without you having to go out and comment in the journals of others.

Absolutely. I figured out this a long time ago with regard to my own journal--I am totally and completely spoiled. I can pretty much ask for anything I want/don't know/need help with and someone out there is likely to be able to assist me or give me what I want. And because of that I think that I have come to develop a really high tolerance for people's feelings and stuff with regard to how they interact with me on my lj. I don't comment nearly enough on my friends list, but I also make a point of trying to make everyone feel welcome when they comment on mine, because I don't want anybody to feel like they're just another voice in a crowd and don't matter to me, you know?

I don't know whether any of your post was a response to my spiel yesterday in response to people saying I should stop posting about Prince of Tennis, but anyway, I did make a statement, which I hope wasn't too ingracious considering it's been, what, three months now since the POT thing started, and I think that's plenty of time to have to deflect comments like that without making some sort of public statement.

Something I read earlier this week has really been sticking in my head a lot, because it seems like the whole 'lj is public/private' discussion is making the rounds. Basically, it's a quote I read somewhere with regard to the political life: Thomas Jefferson said, "When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property." This was one of the hardest and most important things I have learned since being in the fandom. When you step into LJ, when your LJ becomes something that lots of people read for a specific reason, you are, in a sense, assuming public trust.

Maybe you did it by choice, maybe you didn't, but at some point you accepted the role you had chanced upon, and that's the reason that the debate between what is public and private on lj still goes on: because people do expect things of you, and they don't feel they're wrong necessarily to expect those things, because for better or worse, your lj is public and you, yourself, have a kind of responsibility to the people who read it. There are limits to how far that responsibility extends. In my view, when the lj owner becomes uncomfortable with what people are asking of them, that's the moment when they need to step back and draw a line. Which is what I did yesterday. But I hope that I also did so in a way that was considerate of other people's feelings, and that I also reassured people who felt I wasn't living up to my end of our whole 'public trust,' er, thing.

does that make any sense?

I am in full agreement with you about being conscious of the public side of LJ, and I think this is a very perceptive post on all points. I don't feel guilty, however, for the content of my journal, because I don't feel like I am very consistent with what I post about. The biggest exception is that I was really taken aback last year when all those people friended me after the run of political posts I made. Most of them, I felt, weren't from the fandom, and most weren't slash fans; they friended me for political posts, and they weren't the intended audience of my journal. It was very difficult to adjust to that for a while, but I finally just had to trust that they would figure it out and make a decision one way or another. And I was pleasantly surprised and lost a lot of fear when it came to the question of giving people what they wanted to hear. My motto is still, just give them yourself. Whatever that happens to be at the time. :)

cellia:

*strokes*

One thing I've noticed about my use of LJ is that my decision on whether to comment or not is much more social/complex than on MLs. On an email list, or giving an author feedback (private email) it's mostly all about how much I feel I can add or do I have anything of value to say.

With LJ, I've noticed myself factoring in "how many comments" much more in some weird ratio that calculates my interest vs how many comments a post already has. Ex: Sure I thought x fic was great, but there are 85 comments. Why bother. On the other hand, y fic was pretty good, not quite as good as x, but... what's this? only 1 comment? I'll definitely post.

[snipped]

Selfishly, I do like the feel of LJ like yours more than places where there are already 200 comments. An author or artist can't help but become a little detached and "yes, thank you" to so many comments. A more manageable number means there could possibly be some interaction, and perhaps they'd have time to read something longer than 2 sentences. Feels less like a queen holding court and more like a nice fanfic/fanart salon.

Of course, I don't expect a writer ever reaches the point to think after posting a story, "oh I hope there aren't too many comments." I assume they want as wide an audience as possible. Meanwhile, the audience is torn between a favorite getting the popularity they deserve and enjoying the smaller circle that comes with liking something/one less "mainstream."

arallara:

...I wanted to say was that I think this should be required reading before attending any panels at Escapade or ConneXions or whatever other cons have all the panel discussions bog down in repetitive discussions about LiveJournal: How it Works and What It Means For Fandom. Not that I think your points here are beyond debate, but they're true enough, and if we could all just start with these eight givens, we might have some chance of moving the discussion forward. Or possibly even talking about something *other* than LiveJournal. *g*

References