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theljstaff wrote in lj_policy
Welcome to lj_policy!

We're glad you're here. This community will be used to gather your opinions about social and community policy.

We understand that there is a lot to absorb and process right now with the creation of LiveJournal, Inc. Since this is a transition for all of us, we want to initiate a dialogue with you, the users. We feel it is very important to hear your concerns before we release any changes to current policies, and we want to start this process right away.

As a starting point, we don't want to just guess what's important to you; we want to hear about it directly from you. Please take a moment to answer the questions below:

1) What is your greatest concern about LiveJournal's current policies?

2) Regarding your primary concern, are you aware of a site that handles that issue in a way that you like?

This is just a starting point to get your initial ideas. We know you have a lot more where these come from, and in the coming days and weeks we will make sure you have a chance to voice your opinions. We look forward to your comments.

Only 300 comments so far? I thought the thing would be flooded by now.

There's a couple of things that you need to do right now, a couple corrections that must be made, and some explaining to do.

First, the good. I've had an LJ account for about 6 years now, recently upgraded to a permanent one. Good times.

One point that can be gathered from this introduction statement is, it took me about 6 years to make it to the point where I actually had $150 to spend on LJ. If you keep customers happy for a long time, they will spend money on you. It just takes awhile, especially since you are catering to a younger audience. If you catered to an older audience, chances are you'd have more cash coming in since adults can afford things better than kids.

Concerns that you need to fix yesterday:
1. The Terms of Service.
Even if you have in fact already updated the terms of service, that isn't going to do anyone any good if We Can't Find It. Don't just update it and make a brief mention in lj community biz, dev, etc, and don't just stick it in a post in here.
You need to update the policy to clarify your stance on what is & isn't allowed to be said.
LJ's guiding policy, in all its gory, graphic detail, needs to be easily accessible, from the main navigation bar.
1a. Also you need to put in something about homophobic speech in there & how it's not cool. I know US law doesn't protect against sexual orientation. I don't care. It's progressive to do so. Do it.

2. This flagging system.
It needs to go.
A mistake was made in the wording when it was released. The release post claims, "We don't want kids seeing content that's not meant for them, and we know you don't either."
The mistake is, you assume I actually care about what kids see online. I don't care. When I was a minor I certainly didn't want to put up with getting blocked at every turn.
The flagging system is going to fail. Eventually it is going to be removed. I have no doubt of this. Reasons it is going to fail:
a. Make more work for staff - makes journals easy to troll. I can quite clearly see the potential for trollin' if you get a big ol' personal army on someone.

b. Some of the bigger & better adult oriented communities already have policies in place regarding minors anyway.

c. That gray area. There are extremely useful sexual health communities that conservatives would probably say, "This isn't appropriate for minors." They talk about sexual wellness & health.
It isn't fair to restrict these communities to minors, because when I was a minor, I really could have used places like that! I learned more about sexual health through 6 months of following LJ's sexual health communities than I did through 4 years of high school sex ed.

d. No one on LJ seems happy with it.
No one is happy with it, because, Who asked for this?
Did anybody on here ask for this flagging feature? Did we ask for this? Does anybody want this? Give us what we want & need.

e. Little warning woulda been nice, "Hay guys we're thinking about releasing this flagging feature, what do you think?"

Either scrap it completely or make it totally penalty-free optional.

3. LJ staff should respond to comments in official LJ communities as often as possible. I can understand passing over the Lulzy (Ex. LOL FIRST POST IN BEFORE MEME) ones but these users, we make good points. This very community is a good start, but I, for one, want to know that you're listening.
3a. I can read through the technical jargon of legal & press releases, but, I don't like to, because it makes me feel detatched from LJ. You speak to us not directly but through some middleman. You can be relaxed & unofficial sometimes.

4. Part of the reason LJ got sold to SUP is to raise capital.
If you're so focused on the community then next time you need capital, offer us up the chance to buy in. I offer a bold proposition: Offer stock or part ownership to users.
Chances are almost no one could possibly afford to do this, but hey at least you offered us. If we do not buy in, then you can still safely say, "Hey you had a shot."

5. I want more details on Who SUP Is, what they do, how much $ they make, what they're gona do with user information.

I had others but I forget them all now.

Thank you for your consideration in these matters.

Edited at 2007-12-03 11:52 pm (UTC)

e. Little warning woulda been nice, "Hay guys we're thinking about releasing this flagging feature, what do you think?"

We had warning. The code for it was announced a while back. Several people asked questions about it. The official replies boiled down to "that feature is not yet live so we're not answering any questions about how it works."

They specifically refused to discuss it before it went live--they *wanted* to spring it on an unsuspecting userbase with no explanation.

It occurs to me that you (whoever the "you" is that's reading this) might be concerned that there are "only" 300 replies in just under 24 hours, compared to 4300+ in news. Someone might be thinking "see, we give them a place to voice their concerns, and we get trickles... but they're certainly willing to post endless cat macros and In Soviet Russia... jokes. They don't really want discussion; they just want a place to vent and rant."

Keep in mind that:
  • Not a lot of people know this comm exists. Its creation was buried in the middle of a LOT of text about new business activity; there wasn't even a "highlights roundup" paragraph at the intro or close of the News post;
  • After the initial rush of comments... we're waiting for replies and feedback. There's no point in two thousand more comments about how we want more clarity and less censorship; if you don't reply to the first hundred and fifty requests, extras won't help.
  • We don't really expect any changes; we've posted our concerns and ideas about fixes mainly so we can tell ourselves we tried.
  • </u>>For this comm to be useful, to be an effective place for communication between LJ staff and its userbase... you have to do a substantial portion of that communicating.

    Discussions on LJ move fast. Very fast, sometimes. If the staff doesn't know that, and isn't ready to react at that speed, they have drastically misunderstood their userbase.

    This is not a "we'll study that issue and get back to you, hopefully within a week" kind of setting. Make a post, and assign maybe three people to reply to it for the next three hours: one to deal with the "official" end of answers, and the other two to clarify details and answer technical questions that are currently being handled by random users (e.g. questions about how to change the adult filter settings).

    Definitely assign *someone* to reply to stuff *often* for the next day or two.

    Or, you know... don't, and this community will be pointless; you'll tell your advertisers you opened a venue for staff/user interactions and it didn't work; don't tell them it's because the users wouldn't change their communication styles to match standard business venue methods, which LJ is profoundly unsuited for.

Thank you for posting this - much more eloquent than I would have been, and very necessary information for the new owners.

Let's see -- my list in no particular order, in varying degrees of specificity, and not always directed at 6A/LJ/SUP.

1) I think the single biggest problem that 6A has suffered from is the consistent inability to roll out new items/features with all of the 'implications' already thought out beforehand. There's always the initial post, then followup posts, then clarifications, and often ending with a rollback to exactly what things were before 'X' was ever announced. This does not instill confidence in even the most forgiving of LJ users, to say nothing of the more cynical ones.

As an example -- the adult content flagging system was rolled out without even the barest hint of an actual concrete example of what type of content would justify getting an 'explicit adult content flag'. This is ridiculous. How can users be expected to understand what a new system is about if one of the very basic parts of it isn't even explained?

I know that no one can anticipate all the possible questions and concerns. I am not trying to imply that there can always be a post that is so comprehensive and fabulous right out of the gate that everyone is left saying "I have nothing to ask about that." To think that would be possible is, in itself, ridiculous. But, to roll out a system where content can be restricted from underage viewing without giving any indication of what *type* of material would qualify as such? That just seems to be a huge lack of understanding about what the users will be concerned about.

2) It is also my opinion that the upper management of 6A had a fundamental lack of understanding about how LJ works, how it functions, what its users do every day on LJ. And that's because virtually none of them actually *used* the site. Oh, they might have an account, but they don't post entries, they don't interact, they don't join communities and participate in the everyday usage of the site they were trying to manage.

And more upsetting than that was that they seemed to refuse to listen to the opinions and cautions of those staff members who *do* use the site every day. People who have used the site for years telling them "Seriously, this cannot go out in this format, in this fashion, with this write-up, without thinking about XYZ, without having an answer for ABC" or any number of other concerns -- these were repeatedly swept under the rug. And then out comes The Thing (whatever example you want to use), and nearly everything that was predicted by these people comes true.

Now, 6A is out of the picture, so this is a comment geared more towards the future at this point -- SUP representatives and employees, please, please, PLEASE listen to the longtime LJ users you still have at your disposal, really *hear* what they are saying and take those statements into serious consideration when features or systems emerge.

3) I think the Abuse Team (yes, please, can we go back to calling it that -- nothing is being 'prevented', it's being dealt with after the fact) needs to stop being thrown under the bus, both by the management and by the users. Users are always saying "The LJAT is incompetent, they keep making these new rules, etc". The Abuse Team itself, in the history of the universe, has pretty much never come up with a new policy or system on its own -- the LJAT didn't come up with adult flagging, they didn't come up with stricter policies on possible depictions of underage sex, boobgate, none of it. The team simply enforces the decisions put in place by management. If nudity isn't allowed in default userpics, then it isn't allowed in default userpics -- so when we receive reports of such items, we investigate and take the action necessary (if any). That some users have a grudge and do mass reportings of things like that so that it looks like an LJ witch hunt? Well, there's not much we can do about that. We don't get to not accept reports just because someone's being an ass about something.

And when we disagree with something coming down the pike, we DO speak up. Seriously. We often hate things just as much as the users do. But like all companies everywhere, that doesn't mean much -- when management decides This is The Way It Will Be, well then... there you are.

(and with that said, continued in Part II as a reply...)

4) Add the character count of a comment to the Preview function -- let people know before trying to post that they're over the limit. ;)

5) And to those users saying that there should be a set of policies so absolute and clear that no two people would ever, EVER come to a different decision about wheter the material is in violation? Well, I respectfully say that you have no idea the sheer variance of material that comes across our desks every day. There will *always* be a case here and there where people will have different opinions -- this is the nature of actually being *people*, not robots (as we are often accused of being, LOL). So we do what all people do when there's two ways to look at something -- we post it up for review, we talk about it, we go back and forth until a decision emerges.

To put it another way -- if we make a list of "X is a violation, but Y is not," then trust me, someone will find a way to come with 'X.5', so to speak. Something that is right on the border between the two. That's why policies must always have a certain degree of 'unknown' in them. There *has* to be room for stretching or shrinking the policy to cover the situation that's never occurred before. The world is not so black and white, and LJ isn't either.

6) That said, I believe there are a number of ways that the Team's workings can be made more 'transparent/understandable' for the general userbase. We'll never be able to give specific information on why User X was suspended -- this violates the involved users' rights to privacy. But there can be more detailed explanations/examples of *why* X is a violation but Y is not. Because I think that's what many of the users are actually demanding, regardless of what they call it -- *why* is Situation A a suspendable offense when Situation B, something that seems very similar on the surface, is not? People do not see or understand the differences, not because they are idiots but because it's never actually been explained with examples and so on.

7) In a general sense, more opportunities for user input in the design and creation of new features, from simple things to more site-wide affecting items. More polls, more opinion gathering, the pre-announcement of something every once in a while -- I think all of these things would be good.

8) More implementation of user suggestions. I know full well that 6A suffered from a lack of development staff for LJ, so this isn't anything more than just a future thing. If SUP brings more developers to the table, then use them. Tweak the features, come up with new ones, completely revamp the old ones so that they really work the way they're intended, etc. I don't think a feature has to be used by some massive majority of the userbase in order to be worthwhile. As long as a way can be found to separate the most 'common' items (so that they are most easily found and navigated by all users), then there's no reason not to implement a lot of things that now get rejected.

9) Echoing some comments made by others -- the DMCA sucks and we have got to find a way to stop being forced to act on copyright complaints when the user is in no way shape or form the copyright holder of the image. That you took a House image off your TV and cropped it down and shaded it blue does not make it *your* image. Not in the DMCA sense. I'm happy to help protect people who are honestly having their true copyright violated, but there's got to be a way to stop being forced to act on the stupid stuff.

Good lord, I went on for a while there, didn't I. LOL. I'll stop now, as I've got to be about ready to hit the comment character limit with that. I will end by saying that I appreciate the pretty 'cordial' level of discussion that is taking place in this community so far -- even dissenting opinions are being given 'nicely' and with background and followup, instead of just screaming and ranting and endless jrock and cat macros. LOL. I, for one, very much appreciate it. ;)

(Deleted comment)
Five solutions to solve almost all LJ problems:

1. Bring back invite codes.

2. Do away with the ads.

3. Hire actual abuse and support staff. Stop relying on volunteers.

4. Make paid accounts worth having again - ie; you pay and you get tons of extra awesome features, you don't pay and you have a basic limited-feature account.

5. Quit deleting journals and communities just because a few people can't handle the concept of, "If you don't like it, don't read it." - Granted, there are exceptions (legit child porn, encouraging illegal behavior, etc.), but unless there's a LEGIT law against it, leave it alone so the furries and fanfic people quit making ridiculous icons decrying some allegedly horrible community slaughtering that sane people really don't give a damn about.

I second your list wholeheartedly.

1) Stop doing dumb shit without talking to actual site users first.
2) ...

No, actually that is it.

Edited at 2007-12-04 12:16 am (UTC)


ilu claire

1) the flagging system has got to go.

2)the continuance of violations against our right to free speech and free expression as determined by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution needs to be ended. LJ has no business catering to right-wing paranoid homophobic christian groups, it is very much not acceptable. It's my journal. I pay for mine, some people don't and that's fine, but the content within it is the property of the individual user. I don't care if it's fanfiction, slash, porn, icons or an entry bitching about the state of these United States it shouldn't be subject to biased censors or easily offended people.

3)It bothers me that this company was sold to an over-seas company with a dubious track record without imput from it's users (your customers). Like I said, I pay for mine and maybe I don't want my American dollars becoming Russian rubles. It's too late to change the past, but I am hoping that SUP (LJ, Inc.) is not going to continue the previous practices of Six Apart.

That being said, I also hope that you are really listening to me and my fellow ljers and taking our concerns seriously.


Edited at 2007-12-04 01:27 am (UTC)

1) What is your greatest concern about LiveJournal's current policies?

a.) Lack of CLEAR and CONCISE Terms of Service, as to what is and is not allowed to be posted, which users have been promised and jerked around about for the past six months.
b.) The ability for third parties to flag personal journals without the journal owner's knowledge, and indeed the whole flagging policy, which would be better executed with a CLEAR and CONCISE Terms of Service. (I for one like the ability to rate my own content, but I DO NOT appreciate others applying vague terms [like] "offensive" toward my personal journal, due to lack of clarification and a decent TOS. And as rm has said quite eloquently, lack of inclusion of gender and sexual orientation in the abuse reporting process sickens me. I'm trans, and I do not wish to be targeted because my existence is "offensive" to some people.)
c.)SNAP, ads, and other obnoxious garbage needs to be opt-in, so [paid]users do not have to run adware/spyware searches after simply checking their friends page.

2) Regarding your primary concern, are you aware of a site that handles that issue in a way that you like?

YES, several. JournalFen, GreatestJournal, InsaneJournal are all three sites I currently prefer to this one, the exception being my friends are here, and they have not yet decided which of the abovementioned sites (if any) to migrate to. Notice these sites are all using the same interface, but did not have 6A fucking with their policies for years.

Thanks for asking, but I'm honestly not expecting to be read or considered.

Edits in the [brackets]

Edited at 2007-12-04 01:58 am (UTC)

I've been a paid LJ user since 2001. I don't say that to be all "listen to me, I should be important!" but to give perspective. I've seen LJ transform from a very small community blogging site to the gigantic worldwide connectivity site it is today.

My concern is that the main purpose of the site-- journals and communities-- is lost in this huge mess of "must make money, attract more users, have the coolest gizmos." The more LJ is managed, the worse it's become. The more interference with content, the angrier people have become. When LJ was just there to maintain the servers and answer a few reported abuse problems, things were a lot nicer around here.

To me, LJ works best when you don't know it's there. That is to say, when you log in and everything is where you left it. There are no rearranged pages or links disappearing from menu bars. There aren't shiny new features blasted here there and everywhere, hiding the streamlined layouts that used to exist. When you load a friends page and can actually read the entries in between the million of buttons that have shown up in the past few months (link! tell a friend! track! flag! memories!). My concern is that all of these things that have been done to make the site easier to use have actually made it much more complicated and harder to use.

When changes are made, they should be announced BEFORE implementation so that people know they're coming. It'll give time to work out kinks and end a lot of the "WTF, where's my button?" complaints.

Look back to how LJ operated before 6A took over. That was what I would consider a successful online journaling site.

A few items of concern:

1. Staff Identification. Reading through LJ staff posts such as this one, it is very difficult to identify actual staff members. I would like to see a staff identifier on a post by a staff member when they are acting as a staff member (i.e. answering commenter's questions about LJ policy). A separate identifier for Volunteer staff would also be appropriate when that volunteer is acting in an official capacity.

2. General Information Comms. Posting Policy statements or terms of service changes should be posted in a separate Comm. LJ Policy (finally) is the right Comm for such discussions. LJ BIZ has never been an appropriate venue for such topics, as you well know.

3. Policy Clarification. When you have in excess of 5000 comments to an LJ Biz or News post, and your staff members have promised clarification, please communicate those clarifications to the whole of your user base, not to a select few users.

Edited at 2007-12-04 04:47 pm (UTC)

As someone who has dialup at the moment, I would love it if there were a way to opt out of those mouse-overs that show up on my friends list. It slows the loading time down, and it's distracting and unnecessary. I know most websites aren't really paying attention to the fact that some people out there still actually have dialup, but the same thing was true even when I had high-speed Internet.

I also think that the policing and morality-enforcing has got to go. I have no problem with the idea of being able to classify certain entries on my own LJ as adult content because that leaves it up to me, but I was very unhappy to see that LJ had set my adult content filter settings for me. I'm legally an adult, and therefore I am more than capable of choosing what content is appropriate for me.

I would also like to see more information about SUP and about how this relocation will affect what is and is not legal. I know that US laws were used when LJ was owned by a US company, and I'm assuming that SUP will be using Russian laws because they are a Russian company. However, knowing very little about Russia and its laws, this puts me at an almost complete loss. Is there a website that someone can point me to, or can there be some addition to the FAQs about this? And at what age is someone considered an "adult" in Russia, anyway?

I would also like to see more support for fiction, both original and fanfiction. 6A did a lot to isolate fandom during their tenure. I currently do not write fanfiction, but some of the issues that cropped up in Strikethrough and other incidents are issues that also show up in my original fiction. I want the freedom to be able to post about my writing (to my all-adult flist) without having to worry that someone is looking over my metaphorical shoulder.

You can disable seeing Snap pop ups in your journal (if you're a paid account holder) with a tick box in the "Viewing Options" page, and seeing them in your friendslist and elsewhere by choosing the cog wheel in the pop up and disabling it for all sites. *That* will last until the cookie expires.

Explained with steps here:

Yeah, it's ugly and unnecessary.

Edited at 2007-12-04 08:30 am (UTC)

My concern first and foremost, is "fandom" and how those in charge view it. Remember, "fandom" helped make lj what it is today and all we want is to be left alone to be creative and to talk amongst ourselves. This includes fandoms with adult themes and fiction as well as artists and vidders.

What can we as communities expect from this newest takeover?

As far as handling, I hear Insane Journal is "fan friendly" and leaves everyone alone. I'm hoping for the same here.

I am an ex-member of the LJ Abuse Team.

My only complaint is that I wish the Abuse Team's policy document was freely available and their policies were transparent.

I wish there was a place I could go to (much like the FAQ) to consult and see whether or not something for sure is, or isn't, against the LiveJournal Terms of Service.

I realize that sometimes there'll be grey areas, however, this is what I believe the role of LJAT is supposed to be; to make a decision inside those grey areas. Every single other large online service has a clear listing of what is not acceptable on the service. In developed countries around the world, the law is written down in plain language so that one may consult and determine whether or not what you're going to do is allowed. Why not at LiveJournal, with a population that rivals that of some cities, countries? Why so secret-secret?

My greatest concern about LJ is one that's been long-standing for many years. Having been a paid user for more than 6 years, I have consistently seen the paid userbase ask for simple, functional features: the ability to search one's own journal, the ability to search comments one has left for others, the ability to mass-view past posts based on their security level and make nuaunced mass changes.

The last item was partially addressed - now I can make my whole journal private, or friends-only. But I can't go back and make only my public posts private, or only my friends-locked posts viewable to "friends filter A." It's all or nothing. When I made the call, for professional reasons, to protect my journal entries, I had only the choice to convert 5 years of material into private entries, unless I wanted to risk something private or filtered becoming available to my entire friends list. So, a partial solution, but not a good one.

The issue of searching has never been addressed. As of a couple of years ago, we would sometimes hear "it's coming, no really, we're working on it." Meanwhile we got all kinds of bells and whistles like S2 style sheets, phone posting, internal messaging, and virtual gifts. As far as I know, no one has ever asked for the ability to send virtual gifts, but the long-standing request for a working search feature continues to be back-burnered.

I see LJ's greatest issue as one of empty promises, and "solving problems" that don't exist with bells and whistles that do nothing to improve the usefulness of the site for what it was originally intended to do: provide a forum for keeping a journal that one could network with one's friends.

You look familiar. What troupe are you with?

It seems to me that as long as it's not outright illegal, it should be ok.

Progressive, conservative, yada yada speech. Both are against freedom of speech in some way.
If it offends a user, they can very simply either A)not read it, B)block comments from users, or C)contact their community maintainer. There is absolutely no reason why LJ should be the conservative or the PC police, just because people don't know how to get along. Unless somebody's being stalked, it's not that goddamned serious. I've had hate crimes committed against me and I have the scars to prove it. Unless said LJ user can reach through the screen and jump me, I don't give a crap.

Adult content filters. Not a bad idea. Thing is, you need to change the cuts. If an entry already has a cut that gives, say, a spoiler warning about a show or movie, but the entry has an adult cut, it defeats the purpose of warning the person. Perhaps you can allow members to make their own custom adult content cuts? I see nothing wrong with members being able to rate their own journals as adult. Yahoo, last I checked allows users to give their profiles an adult setting.

Content flagging is bullcrap.

Hmmm, perhaps rather than cuts, you could invent a way that users can choose which users, posts or communities they want to view cut? Like say I go to my friendslist and OMG!, there's a huge picture of goatse(worst case scenario), I can click an icon at the top of the post and make it so that one post is always cut and I don't have to see it when I refresh my page, but nobody else is the wiser to my viewing options. Or say I'm a member of wtf_catmacros and I only want to see those particular macros after dinner. I can hover over the community icon, and get the option to expand or contract all postings.

I don't know why you even mentioned politics and religion. I'm diverse, I'm of an alternative religion and I don't give a crap what anybody says about it, as long as I have the right to tell everybody what I think in exchange. If you want to censor all of that, you're really going to screw up LJ. There's three things that you should never talk about in polite company. Sports, politics and religion, but blogging is partially about discussing what people aren't comfortable with. If we wanted to talk about comfortable things, we could talk to our parents, our priest or the old lady in the house on the corner.

Edited at 2007-12-04 01:50 pm (UTC)

1) What is your greatest concern about LiveJournal's current policies?

I've been using livejournal since 2000, and I've been a paid member for something like 5 years, and more and more I wonder if I should leave. I have regular blogs elsewhere, and a facebook account--I use livejournal because of its differences from those services. The well-implemented community and privacy aspects make it unique among internet services, and there used to be a lack of useless features like say facebook or myspace had that helped too. More than anything, I want to be sure that my private and friends-only information will stay that way, and that the site will continue to function without tons of add-ons that make it worthless. (This is especially directed at facebook--I avoid it now that it has all those third-party apps cluttering up the site. Terrible crap.)

I am concerned about the lack of clarity and communication, but this has been said so many times elsewhere, and so much better, though.

Someone else pointed out the silliness of all the different communities for news. I stopped following any of them because it got so confusing as to which was actually relevant to me. So I agree with a suggestion to cut comments from news, post links to ALL updates in any of the official communities there (maybe a weekly roundup?) and be consistent in getting the news out and what the purpose of each official community is.

2) Regarding your primary concern, are you aware of a site that handles that issue in a way that you like?

Livejournal 3 years ago. Other sites like insanejournal are decent, too.

(Sites not to emulate include flickr, which has serious problems dealing with the issue of adult content and inconsistencies in accounts marked NIPSA.)