Darkrose (darkrosetiger) wrote,
  • Mood: cranky

The Rodney McKay Principle of Consumerism as applied to LiveJournal

Let's be clear: I realize and understand that Live Journal is a business, which SUP bought with the intention of making money. And even though I miss the open-source ethos of the original LJ, I do understand that the internet is about change, and it's not the same as when I was on Usenet on my 1200 baud modem and Gopher was the Next Big Thing.

However, as with any business, I have a choice about whether or not to patronize them. When my paid account expired last year, I chose not to renew it, because I felt that I no longer wanted to give my money to a company that repeatedly tried to implement changes that they knew would piss of their user base under the radar, only to lie, backpedal, and scramble when the inevitable happened and they were caught out. For me, it boiled down to this: I prefer not to give my money to complete morons. Call it the McKay Principle of Consumerism.

There was one thing I was missing, though. Someone in telesilla's most recent LJ post said, It's typical business. Welcome to the internet, circa 1998. But that's wrong. LJ is the internet, circa 2004.

One of the truisms about print media is that you don't make money from subscribers. In order to just cover costs, you'd have to charge more than most people are willing to spend on something they're going to read once and then recycle. The real revenue generator is ad sales. Ads drive print media and network television. Why do the networks hate TiVO? What they have to sell is ad slots, and those slots become much less valuable when people can zip past the ads.

LJ's business model is Web 2.0, which expands on the print media paradigm: the "publisher" doesn't have to pay reporters and photographers and artists and writers. The users do all of that. Without the users--free and paid--there would be no reason to come to the site, and therefore, no reason to sell ads. It's a symbiotic relationship that in theory, benefits everyone.

6A and SUP, however, seem to forget that without the users they would have no product to sell to advertisers. With 6A, the primary problem seemed to be incompetence on their part: they bought LJ because they wanted the next MySpace, and didn't understand the problems with MySpace and who their user base was.

With SUP, unfortunately, the problem seems to go deeper than that. In a recent interview, Anton Nosik made his contempt for his users blindingly clear. To read a translation from Russian to English (Thank you, russianswinga!), click the cut.




Anton Nosik, The director of the blog division of SUP corporations, explained to the reporter of "AND" magazine what is preventing the administrators of Livejournal from cancelling the decision which discriminates new users of LJ that joined after 12th of March


Users that are unhappy about the fact that the right to a base account is reserved only for bloggers that registered before the 12th of march, are calling for a boycott of your resource. How massive do you expect this boycott to be?

I don't know any of LJ posters familiar to me, those I have friended and commented, that would want to join said boycott. I honestly don't know any people that would seriously take up that initiative. So I am presuming such an idea to be marginal at best. Something like calling all the advertisers in the American section of livejournal and calling on them to cancel their ads


Have they actually called them?

Of course not. Where will you find such idiots that will call serious companies? It's one thing - to call a newspaper in hope that they will give you 15 minutes of fame on their page. But a proper firm? The first thing you'll get asked is "so who exactly are you trying to reach? What is this about and why the hell should we care?"


So you're sure there will be no boycott?

No, I didn't say that. Because any person can create several hundred fake LJ accounts, comment in them that on the 21st of march I will be silent in protest. Then you journalists can quote those fake users and list the names of those that were silent that day. And add a cute catchprase like "that's just the top of the iceberg"


Do you believe then that there's no real reason for LJ users to be upset?

First let's try an understand what constitutes a base account. At one point those accounts were the main offering on LJ. Due to the poor financial situation of the creators, the lack of money for development. And that's when LJ was not a business, it was a hobby for students. Then users were told, and I quote, "Even if you pay, you will receive NOTHING extra for it. Your money is a donation. Do you like the project? Donate!" Such a model was in place from 1999 to 2005. Base accounts are inherited from this model and the mentality that went with it, a part of which is the fact that banners are evil.

Since then a few things happened, both with LiveJournal, and with those that carried with them such a mentality. Compared to a paid account, the features offered in a base account are Spartan. To give such anachronistic features to new users should not be standard practice. Kind of like mobile phones of the early 90's.


But there are people, who don't need smartphones, and just need a communications device for the minimal affordable price. Let's say I want to start a blog in LJ, but I hate advertising as a concept in our lives and I have no money for a paid account. I can't?

Today you will not be able to start a blog in LJ. As you would not, for example, on mail.ru, google, yahoo... There no longer exists an entity on the web, which, without specifically being a charity, would refise to make money - be it from users or from advertising. This is normal, you don't walk into a store and ask for free products.


So you're saying your service is the last in the world that turns down charity?

Actually the charity was turned down, in effect, not by LJ but by its users. Over the last 2 years base account registrations cover about 10 percent of new users. And a good portion of those are virtual, created by already existing users for spamming, increasing search engine ratings, leaving comments that would get their account banned. So there is no real demand for base accounts, it's not a viable product. So we took it off the shelf. Users of existing accounts are still not forbidden to make their accounts base accounts (if they want to switch from driving a Mercedes to a Zaporozets [car shittier than a yugo -translator])


So why would you not grant new users the opportunity to lose their mind in such a way?

In my opinion, they should be given that option. But since the new rules there hasn't been a single verifiable person who would have claimed that his right to a base account has been violated. Nonetheless, I don't believe we should forbid bloggers that join after the 12th of march to downgrade sponsored or paid accounts into base accounts. I hope we will make the matching change. But this does not depend on me, it will be the collective decision of the company.


When will that decision be made?

That's the problem. Because of the blackmail that has begun, our hands are tied.


Why?

Let's say, I say to you, mr. Journalist, "I think you put an extra comma here". Your natural reaction is "Oh, you're right" or "Let's ask the editor". But if I come to you and say "Take away the comma or I will beat you" Will you really go checking your spelling after that?

In a situation where people are trying to scare and blackmail us, threatening to destroy our business, there are business reasons for not rewarding such behaviour. This is not just human psychology, which retaliates more the more it is pressed. Problem is that there's never been a successful company whose success was based on bowing to collective resistant forces. No decision - no matter how correct -should be based on pressure.

It would be more prudent to review this decision in the coming days. But smart corporate politics dictate that we must now wait for the boycott. Let it come. So that the subject of people's frustrations, threats and scares will be closed. And then we can discuss the problem in detail.

This is not the first challenge issued to LJ in the last few years


How effective are these challenges?

So effective, that during the first year (from October 2006 until the end of 2007) of our work with LJ, its user base (who were actively persuaded to stop using LJ because the "Kremlin" and the "KGB" were now behind it), has doubled, from 700 thousand to 1.5 million users.

The audience of LJ is divided into 3 groups. There is the silent majority, which uses LJ for their own needs and is indifferent to who, when and with what money made such a resource and supports it. There are the positive minority (7-10 percent in the Russian LJ), these people like LJ, they consider it useful and want it to develop further. They help us, including constructive criticism, thanks to which we correct our mistakes. And there is the third category. They endlessly, during the entire existence of LJ promote lour initiatives, whose only purpouse is to bring harm to LJ, its founders, their goal is to criticize, destablilize and ruin our reputation. They are usually motivated by wanting to attract attention to themselves. And they are successful every time.

Their rhetoric is always the same - regardless of whether one blogs in English from California or in Russian in Moscow. These are the people that at one time wanted Brad Fitzpatrick to resign, when he was the sole lead of LJ. They asked to call each advertiser which cooperated with LK and to threaten them with harm to their reputation, if he doesn't stop putting ads on LJ. They advocated going to competing platforms first for one reason, then another.

It's understandable that journalists need sensations. A scandal in LJ -it's good material. The amount of corrections that LJ received, the amount of improvements and time spent on development, of course noone cares about that.

The administration has reversed or corrected decisions, published apologies, restored accounts which were blocked due to differing points of view, made corrections to rules of use... With constructive dialog with LJ users, we can reform anything.



So if you disagree with LJ policies, if you are unhappy because of issues ranging from deletion of journals to the censoring of the popular interests lists to the proliferation of ads to the removal of basic accounts and you say so, if you're annoyed with LJ's habit of making significant changes and trying to slip them under the radar, you're a problem. Unless you can give "constructive criticism" by Anton Novik's definition, you're out to "bring harm to LJ, its founders" and to "criticize, destablilize and ruin our reputation". You're not a partner in a community, you're not a content provider: you're a consumer, and a good consumer shuts up and doesn't complain.

I've never been good at the whole shutting up and not complaining thing. I don't see any reason to start now.


ETA: An alternate translation can be found here. While it may be slightly less inflammatory, Nosik still makes it clear that he considers the proposed strike to be "blackmail" by an "aggressive, hostile force". He is also very wrong about the original LJ model, and his contention that paid users never got anything extra for their money and that it was considered a "donation" indicates that he doesn't understand the nature of LJ and what it means to the users--and that he doesn't care to learn.
Tags: 6a asshaberdashery
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