flwyd: (spiral staircase to heaven)
[livejournal.com profile] brad et al's decision to build LiveJournal code as open source and let folks access the platform as an API helped content and connections formed on the site survive negative decisions made by the folks who would later lead the company. Defense against future management is a practice that deserves more consideration.

Edit, April 29, 2017: the new LiveJournal Terms of Service was introduced and enforced on April 3rd. I was really busy that week and the following, so I didn't have time to read it. On April 10th, without having accepted the terms, LiveJournal automatically billed me for a year's extension to my paid account. Regardless of whether charge-for-a-service-I-haven't-agreed-to is legal, it suggests that Sup Media didn't put a lot of thought into the user impact of the change. For a service that stores a lot of user content, it's imperative to inform users of changes in terms in advance so that they can consider the change and choose to export their content rather than be subject to the new terms. I think Google did an exemplary job of proactive "Our terms are changing" outreach a few years ago; LiveJournal could at least have sent everyone an email a month in advance.

Reading the terms themselves was a slightly surreal experience. I've read at least one hundred terms of service or end user license agreements. They're normally dry, unnecessarily long, and overbroad, but this is the first time I've read one that didn't seem like it was written by a native English speaker. The page ends with ATTENTION: this translation of the User Agreement is not a legally binding document. The original User Agreement, which is valid, is located at the following address: http://www.livejournal.com/legal/tos-ru.bml which adds further unease to the "I have to accept terms with which I disapprove in order to change my account settings to opt out of your service" situation. (To be fair, non-English speakers face a similar problem when agreeing to the terms of most major websites.)

Finally, I'm quite miffed that the new arrangement forces advertisements onto everyone's journals, even though "ad free" was the main feature I was paying for. After supporting the service financially for over ten years, I'll be discontinuing automatic payments and I don't plan to renew next April.

For anyone still reading my writings on LiveJournal, I'm hereby declaring that https://flwyd.dreamwidth.org/ is the primary source for my blog. I'll continue crossposting for now, but who knows when that may break. Userpics will probably revert to a random smaller set once my paid subscription expires, too.

Hello Dreamwidth

Monday, January 9th, 2017 09:21 pm
flwyd: (escher drawing hands)
This weekend I created a Dreamwidth account and copied all my LiveJournal posts there. I plan to use Dreamwidth for future composition, automatically crossposted to LiveJournal. I don't plan to delete any LJ content, and you can leave comments on either site. I'll still read my LJ friends page and will cultivate new connections on DW. For background, read on.

I created my LiveJournal on June 12, 2001, turned on to the service by [livejournal.com profile] slyviolet. In my first post I set an intention of using it to track memoirs and musings, share interesting links, and support the site as an open-source, volunteer-run project. My use has followed this overall tenor, though the style has evolved quite a bit–as has the LiveJournal ecosystem.

In the last fifteen and a half years, I've written 1,429 posts with (I think) at least one in every month during that span. My update cadence was much higher in college than it's been during my professional life, with a significant drop-off in 2010 as I started getting my social media fix through company-internal venues. English-language LiveJournal usage has dropped significantly during the Obama administration, probably due to the rise of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other "Social Networking 2.0" sites. I stuck around because (a) I already had a decade of content on LiveJournal and (b) the site's design and community supports long-form content, which is sorely absent in today's volume-focused social media landscape.

A faction also started leaving LiveJournal after its acquisition by the Russian firm SUP Media. Dreamwidth launched in 2009 using a fork of the open source LiveJournal code base, a modified subscription/access model, a different terms of service, and no ties to Russia. Dreamwidth attracted a significant slice of the English-language geekery and fan fiction demographic from LiveJournal.

Recent weeks have seen a renewed migration from LiveJournal to Dreamwidth. This post summarizes some of the drivers, in particular the fact that LiveJournal's servers now seem to be physically located in Russia and the contemporary political climate in Russia is somewhat bleak on the free speech front.

To a software engineer like me, the idea of mandating a particular piece of the web reside in a particular country is ridiculous. The whole point of the Internet is that people from anywhere in the world can share data with people anywhere else in the world. TCP packets don't need to show their passport at the border and a connection between New York and Los Angeles could pass through London, Dubai, and Tokyo if that turns out to be the fastest route. Yet as the Internet has grown to be of more political and commercial prominence, several governments have taken a keen interest in the geographic location of stored data. Sometimes these laws (proposed or passed) happen because legislators don't understand new technology, so they legislate computing the way they would legislate paper. Sometimes the laws seemed to be based on a desire to drive infrastructure development in their country: "If we require Brazilian users' data to be stored in Brazil, tech companies will build more data centers in Brazil, which will drive jobs and tax revenue."

If these were the only two reasons to require data geolocation, LJ servers in Russia wouldn't be a big deal, aside from perhaps slower page loads from the U.S. Unfortunately, several countries have passed (or would like to pass) data location laws so that user content can be subject to local jurisdiction. And, if you're cynical, the government might also want the data to be available for a police raid where they grab hard drives from the data center. In the specific case of Russia, having data subject to Russian law may be of concern, as the Duma has recently passed laws restricting free speech in ways that would feel uncomfortable to many folks in the west. I'm not sure that the "cops with guns and USB cables" scenario puts your LJ data at significantly more risk today than five years ago: Russian hackers have been plundering data from around the world for over a decade and the Kremlin could probably exert pressure on SUP employees to reveal data they steward, regardless of where it's stored.

If you're a LiveJournal user and care about your content, I think it's wise to create a Dreamwidth account (free or paid) and back up your entries (it's easy). Even if the Russian government or hackers have no interest in your journal, having a backup of your data puts you in a more robust position if SUP goes out of business or turns out to be unprepared for a technical disaster.

Additionally, LiveJournal seems to have turned off HTTPS encryption: https://www.livejournal.com/ now redirects to http://www.livejournal.com/ and likewise for individual journals. This seems like a pretty suspicious setup in 2017, when anybody and their uncle can get an SSL certificate for free. So you should probably assume that somebody's listening in on your LiveJournal traffic, regardless of what you think Russian actors (or anyone else) might want to do with said data.

Ironically, moving data outside the U.S. may actually make it moderately easier for the NSA to get at it, since they have to invent complex procedures to legally snoop on U.S. citizens' data within the U.S. but have more statutory freedom to raid international data. If you want to keep your writings protected from the five prying eyes of the world's spy agencies, your best bet may be pen and paper. If you want to store it digitally, strong encryption and public-key based individual sharing is a good (though not very user-friendly) approach. The best balance may be a major tech company which has the resources to spend on high-quality security engineers and is willing to spend big bucks fighting court orders to secretly hand over user data. The big corp, even though they have a closer relationship with the government, may stand a better chance of defending your data than a small startup founded on principles of pure privacy.
flwyd: (playa surface)
I just spent an hour and change reading old LJ posts from people I know now, but didn't really know when they last updated their LiveJournal.

Back in the day, I picked reading strangers' journals as one of my 150 interests. There's something unique to the culture and style of LiveJournal that got people to write about their lives in a really engaging way. Sometimes strangers journals are full of major life events and insight. Sometimes they're full of the annals of an ordinary life. And since LiveJournal's design rewards people with long attention spans, the latter journal can be just as engrossing as the former.

A series of writings in personal voice gives me a stronger sense of someone's life and personality than hundreds of photos or a mishmash of minor commentary on other stuff on the Internet. Brevity may be the soul of wit, but paragraphs are the heart of expression. Maybe LiveJournal seems like it's in decline because people don't use real keyboards to browse the Internet any more, and writing something interesting is a total pain in the ass on a phone.
flwyd: (escher drawing hands)
This week marks ten years I've been using LiveJournal. I joined on June 12th, 2001 at the recommendation of [livejournal.com profile] slyviolet (mlechan back then). I didn't get around to making my first post until the 16th though. This is my 1280th post; I've received 2364 comments and posted 4389 (there may be some overlap).

My postiest month was February, 2007 with 30 entries, better than when I was doing daily words the year before. I also managed 29 posts in January, 2004 when I'd graduated but hadn't yet started a salaried job. I've had a few months with only two posts, and this April I managed just one.

In the early days, the way you found an LJ post again was through memories, which is the easy way to find my erstwhile project of interest haiku. Since then, they've added per-post tags, which is a more streamlined way for me to find all the posts I've written about, say, unicode. The tag which probably hast the most interesting entries is shower meme, which is one of the best ideas to come out of LJ-land. There are also some nice posts about the economy, travel updates from China and Central America. My most popular tag is pun, but I still don't write them all down as my mom always insisted. (Of course, my mom doesn't read my LiveJournal, so she doesn't see the puns I do record.)

As I was randomly poking around posts in preparation for this one, I found a note from my school's tenth graduation:
I have a special reverence for ten year reflections, due to the line from Pink Floyd's song Time: And then one day you find / Ten years have got behind you / No one told you when to run / You missed the starting gun.
The web has changed a lot in the last ten years (half its life). LiveJournal was one of the first WWW social networks, and it's still my favorite, even though (or perhaps because) it hasn't kept up with all the trends of interactive web applications, arcane privacy, face tagging, and Like buttons littered throughout the web. Yet unlike many of these new-fangled things, it's open source, standards-supportive (RSS, OpenID, FOAF, etc.), easily-indexed, and JavaScript-optional. I can be as verbose as I want, mark up my posts with (almost) any HTML I want, write about anything I want, follow a threaded discussion, "friend" a stranger, pick my own name and photo, filter which friends I want to read, filter which friends can read me (even though I keep everything public), and throw as many links around as I want. So there :-P

In spring 2007, LiveJournal was as big as Facebook; as of summer 2010 its near neighbor was Tumblr. I've recently been less than frequent with updates, in part because my life's been pretty regular and in part because my social networking instincts are often satisfied at work by Buzz. But I intend to keep blogging here, and maybe some day I'll get back from a festival with enough energy to talk at length about my crazy adventures.

In a sense, I'm kind of glad that other sites have drawn away the users with short attention spans: my friends page these days has as high a signal-to-noise ratio as ever, full of posts by folks focused on thoughtful writing. When I come back from vacation, I make sure to catch up on email and LiveJournal; everything else can slip through the stream.

So hey, thanks for reading me all these years. And thanks for sharing your own words. Together we make a great place. And feel free to add tags to my old posts.
flwyd: (mail.app)
I was using Firefox with NoScript for a couple weeks and noticed that following links from my LiveJournal friends list generally required two clicks. I chalked it up to either misclicking my MacBook's trackpad or something funky with an overloaded Firefox (I had a lot of crap open). I recently quit Firefox and opened Chrome and noticed that my friends page would often spin in the tab bar, not thinking it was fully loaded. I also frequently saw "Contacting outboundlink.net" or "Contacting outboundlink.me" in the status bar, typically when I hovered over a link. WTF?

I figured it was a Chrome Extension issue (I installed an extension to resolve bit.ly links without following them), but I disabled that extension and reloaded my page and outboundlink was still showing up. A little Googling found a lot of LJ users complaining about this. Here's a discussion from March when the "feature" was temporarily introduced, including comments by staff. This post by [livejournal.com profile] caffeinepuppy is a good explanation. As noted there and this support request, you can go to the LiveJournal admin console and enter the following to opt-out of outboundlink messing with your HTML, causing clicks to fail, and generally being lame:
set opt_exclude_stats 1
Unfortunately, there's no checkbox for this anti-feature on the LiveJournal settings page.

There's been a lot of drama in the past about changes LJ has made, but this is the first one I can remember that doesn't feel like it's either warranted or the result of a well-intentioned mistake. They're degrading browser behavior and changing links delivered to folks, even paid users, to make money for themselves with absolutely no benefit to the user. In other words, it's worse than ads, which sometimes have information of interest to a user.

LJ Discount

Thursday, December 17th, 2009 11:09 pm
flwyd: (currency symbols)
LiveJournal gave me ten $10 coupons. If anybody (who doesn't already have one) wants a discount on a paid account, let me know. You get more userpics, higher quotas, don't see ads, etc.

Tern of Frays

Thursday, March 6th, 2008 07:58 pm
flwyd: (drum circle w/ fire)
I just exercised my LJ interest inventing obscure interests. I got rid of "gathering the magick," since I came up with that cleverness long ago. Instead, I am now the first LiveJournal user to be interested in lucid drumming.

I am also one of two users interested in (stone). The other, [livejournal.com profile] snowleopardito, has the following great line in his profile: "I am a Japanese man who lives in Tokyo. I work as a government." I'm all for government by the people, for the people, of the people...

A Sly Stone

Sunday, January 20th, 2008 11:32 pm
flwyd: (Default)
The Great Firewall blocks LiveJournal and many blogs (perhaps even every URL that starts wit rss. or feed.). But I should be able to post through this handy proxy.

I make no promise of update frequency, though. I'd rather be having adventures than writing about them. The latter can come later.
flwyd: (escher drawing hands)
Longtime RPG writer [livejournal.com profile] doccross is the author of an interesting project which is sort of like a cross between democracy and choose your own adventure: On The Road With Violet.

Clever Journal Titles

Tuesday, June 5th, 2007 10:59 pm
flwyd: (fun characters)
The following are amusing titles/subtitles for LiveJournals I've thought of. I think I'll stick with Trevor Stone's Journal/Thoughts of a Flwyd Mind, but you're free to use or adapt the ideas below. Add your own clever phrases as comments.

These Notes Are a Tender Ledger of All Thoughts Public and Private

There's a Frog With a Blog on a Log At the Bottom of the Sea

Living Reflections of a Dream (from Led Zeppelin, "Tangerine")

When You're Not Reading It, This Journal is in Spanish

If You Stare Into the Void Long Enough, LiveJournal Stares Back

Journal to the Center of the Internet

If You Lived Here, You Would Have Blogged By Now

Those Who Can, Do. The Rest Hyperlink.

Am I Ranting? My Ranting Gets Rave Reviews. (I first heard this from the fortune program)

See No Evil, Read No Evil, Blog No Evil

Our Blogger Who Art On LJ, Flwyd Be Thy Name...

In Which We Learn What the True Meaning of "Is" Is

An Army of One from the U.S. Navel Gazing Academy

Edit 6/6/7: Oh, now I remember the others:

When the Going Gets Weird
I Blog It

Revel Without a Cause (credit: [livejournal.com profile] clarsa
flwyd: (pentacle disc)
388 communities and 420 people are interested in bad religion, but only five people are interested in good religion.

Vegan Spam?

Monday, February 26th, 2007 11:24 pm
flwyd: (spam lite)
In the past few weeks, I've received a few random comments on recent posts (1 2) unrelated to the subject at hand.
Great design, useful info!This resourse is great!Keep it up!With the best regards!
Frank (not [livejournal.com profile] frank, natch)
Hello, thanks a lot, You'v done a great job.I can only realize how much time and resources does it take to create such a resource!Great work, I am impressed!
I got another one today on a sweet and geeky post not in the most recent 30, but from all the way back in 2003.
Hi! Author, I'll just agree with you.
And just cool design, interesting site name flwyd.livejournal.com :), I see you you're are not newbe. Don't stop the nice job!
This post came from According to my IP Locator Dashboard widget, that's in Jiangsu, China. The others came from Shangdong ( and Beijing (

This has all the hallmarks of spam except one: where's the potted meat? They're not selling anything. They're not linking anywhere. There's no way to contact the poster. Just generic positive comments in odd English.

I can think of two explanations:
  1. Chinese Internet users are practicing their English. They've learned some stock phrases, but their comprehension isn't very good, so they don't say anything about the content of the blog.
  2. The comments originally contained links with cross-site-scripting attempts and LiveJournal silently removed the Krusty-Os from the Spam, leaving a nice wholesome product.

Wherefore I receive them I care not, because it gave me an opportunity to read a touching post from the past. Do any of my readers have amusing examples of this phenomenon?
flwyd: (fun characters)
I've changed journal settings such that anyone I list as a friend can create tags and add them to entries on my journal. If I don't list you as a friend but you have some strange desire to go through all my old posts and add tags, let me know.


Friday, December 8th, 2006 09:41 pm
flwyd: (fun characters)
Considering how much spam I get by email, I'm impressed how little comment spam I get on LiveJournal. I'm not even sure if the random comments are spam. There's no way for the poster to profit from that comment, but if it's legitimately someone who wants to learn English there's no contact information to start a conversation.

Regardless, I doubt the person is in the UAE:
host domain name pointer ns.km21811-02.keymachine.de.

keymachine.de appears to be a web hosting company in Germany.
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