It’s the next big thing! Or, maybe not.

April 14th, 2009 by sidewinder Leave a reply »

Last night I remembered to actually check in on my InsaneJournal account, for the first time in quite a few months.

I remember when, in the panic and frenzy of Strikethrough and Boldthrough, it seemed as though everyone was talking about how they’d be “leaving LiveJournal for good!”–yet very few, at least from my personal friends list, actually really followed through on that threat. One or two moved completely to JournalFen, which was cool, as I always check my JF friendslist daily because of certain communities and groups there like Fandom Wank and lol_meme that are highly active and have no equivalent elsewhere. A couple others moved to InsaneJournal, though, where at least in my corner of fandom no communities really took off that “required” my following with any regularity. I found reading repeatedly-mirrored posts from some people annoying, so as long as they were still copying all their posts between InsaneJournal and LiveJournal, why keep both on my friendlist? It was easier to just keep following them on LiveJournal. Though I thought about random different uses for my InsaneJournal, I never found the time or real push/need to use it. The #rss feeds I tried to set up on LiveJournal to read the two or three journals of people who’d moved elsewhere didn’t seem to work all that well and were an awkward solution at best. So in the end, I just lost touch with the people who moved entirely to InsaneJournal (though at least in one or two cases, they ended up coming back to LiveJournal after all…) As a separate website/social network, it had nothing compelling to offer me that I didn’t already get primarily on LiveJournal already, where all my non-fandom and wider-ranging-than-media fandom friends had remained.

So now, here it is some time (almost a year) later, and it seems that everyone is all abuzz about a new journaling site about to start selling accounts, Dreamwidth Studios. At least, everyone in certain corners of media fandom and the metafandom crowd, many of whom are praising the site up to be the best thing since perhaps the beginnings of the internet! And it’s where all the cool kids will be at! No, more than that, it means nothing less than the “parting of ways” of “LJ and fandom”! (Making that assumption, as some often seem to do, that LiveJournal media fandom is the be-all-and-end-all and only part of what constitutes “fandom” that matters.)

Admittedly, Dreamwidth Studios are making a lot of promises and talking about/implementing features that do give it strong appeal–not just to fandom but to most people who use any of the journaling clone sites. Changing the “friends” feature to differentiate between those you wish to follow and those you wish to grant access to reading your own posts, for one. A promise to operate completely without advertising support. The ability to follow, without needing to use rss, friends on other journaling sites. These are all great ideas and features that make getting an account there very tempting, and I no doubt will purchase the cheapest level account I can to give it a try (and reserve my username, of course.) And yet, the issue remains: if they build it, will people really come? Enough people to create real, active communities? Communities not found or still more active elsewhere?

A portion of media fandom may begin–and have already have begun–to migrate. But the apparent assumption by some of those moving that all will follow (or at least, all who matter) seems disingenuous, and quite a bit premature. Some people have already been put off by the overwhelming hype being put forth vocally and repeatedly by the site’s most ardent supporters: just like over-”pimping” a specific fandom to the point that some have grown sick of hearing about it before even seeing it or checking it out for themselves. And there is, albeit apparently mistaken, an assumption by some as well that Dreamwidth is part of or associated with the Organization for Transformative Works–which may not be the case, but the fact that some of the most vocal supporters of both groups are the same people has lead to this misconception and turned off some because of their already established negative-or-cautious feelings about OTW. There are those who have wondered if Dreamwidth will suffer from a smalltown mentality, and who worry because the site is apparently run by former members of the LJ Abuse team.

For me, personally, it just comes down to an issue of where my friends are, and where are the communities I want to participate in. Most of my friends are on LJ, at least my closest friends and the people I share the most interests with currently. I’m not really active in media fandom any longer; my main fandom is music and it took long enough to get some of my music-fandom friends to set up on LJ and find each other there. I can’t see trying to relocate my small communities like xmas_rocks, pinkfloydslash, hungry_4_you–nor having any real urge to do so–when they are just taking root on LiveJournal, and when I’ve seen little indication from members of those communities that they are planning on migrating to DW.

People who are moving are trying to assure everyone that it’ll still be easy as pie to communicate with them, whatever journaling site you remain based on. But like it or not, whenever you add any new step or barrier to communications–whether it’s having to sign-in via OpenID, or getting a new account, and oh yeah gotta remember that new password too and am I signed in or not and–oh, who cares!–people are going to be lazy and a lot are not going to bother. I’M horribly lazy, and I consider myself reasonably tech savy. But I’m LAZY. So any time you add another step in making me follow you to engage in feedback/conversation/etc, I’m less likely to do so. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. This applies especially to those who are turning off commenting on their x-posts except to go to DW. I can understand the reasons for doing that, in wanting to keep a conversation in one place, but…it has a slightly exclusionary feel to it that I don’t care for, and again, it’s that extra step that makes me less likely to engage. I’ve heard from others who find it offensive and a turn-off to engaging in a discussion they otherwise would have taken part in.

So…I suspect, what’ll happen is, just like I stopped regularly keeping up with some folks who moved off LiveJournal to InsaneJournal, I’ll probably lose some more folks if they move off to Dreamwidth. But I see the bulk of my friends-list staying right where they are for now–heck, no one outside of media fandom circles on my LJ friends-list is even mentioning DW, let alone talking about moving there–so I’m gonna stay right where the bulk of my real-life/music/rockfic/Philly/etc people are. If for no other reasons than a) being cheap and b) yeah, that laziness again.

I wish the folks at Dreamwidth well and, certainly, if the site takes off and ends up offering communities that interest me that I can’t find elsewhere, I just might start using the service as a regular part of my on-line time. But there are only so many social networks a person can spend their time on in each day, and each one, for me, has to offer something unique I can’t get elsewhere in actual content. Otherwise it’s nothing but a shiny new toy that may appeal to some, but should be assumed to appeal to all “just because”.

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  • Lapillus

    I'm planning on opening a DW account but I really don't expect that many folks to follow any time soon. If it proves true that I can easily follow the folks I want to who chose to remain elsewhere it will probably be where I read out of simply because it has the best tools. GIven how little I post it's much less of an issue and I have no idea if I want to crosspost or not at this point. I'm sure I won't be getting rid of my LJ but I suspect it will be allowed to lapse into an unpaid situation - there are enough communities that I don't expect to move that I'd like to be able to post to for me to be likely to get rid of it.

    All that being said I can certainly understand having no desire or plan to move. It's a hassle and with minimal payoff if most of your social circle is also staying put.

  • sidewinder_FH

    >It's a hassle and with minimal payoff if most of your social circle is also staying put.

    That's the main issue for me, really. If I were still really active in certain fannish circles, I probably would have more desire or impetus to move. If DW really is able to implement reading of all different journaling sites via a friends page, like I've heard is in the works (but probably not ready in time for April 30?) that would be a HUGE plus to me and I could totally see using DW to *read*, if not post regularly as long as the bulk of my friends stay on LJ.

    And it's also a financial thing; I spent $100 without thinking back in the day to buy a permanent account on LJ and I have no regrets for all the years I got out of it and plan to still get from it. I jumped to buy a permanent account on IJ during the big frenzy last year...and that really got me nothing. And, shoot...I'm user 37 on JournalFen and despite some of its issues, I still find it useful to me. I see no great impetus to buy a seed account at DW though at $200 until I know if it's really going to offer me something I need (and I actually HAVE that kind of money to burn, which right now, I don't. But I'll buy a month at $3.) I want to see something more than just Yet Another Journaling Site for my money this time around...and I'll play the waiting game to see what really ends up happening.

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