LiveJournal, Driving Revenue Inc, and moving my blog elsewhere

LiveJournal are annoying me sufficiently that I’m seriously considering moving this blog to another site. I’d appreciate recommendations for alternative sites or blogging software.

What they’ve done

As jld explains in more detail, LiveJournal are including code from Driving Revenue Inc., an advertising company, in every page they serve (including friends-locked postings). When you move your mouse over a link, the code tells Driving Revenue’s site, outboundlink.me, what the link is. Their site responds with a new link. If you click, your browser ends up where Driving Revenue said to go, which may or may not be where you though you’d end up.

The point of all this messing about is to make money from affiliate links. Some sites will give you money for sending traffic their way. These sites know it’s you sending them traffic because they give you an affiliate code. When you link to that site from your own, you append the affiliate code to the link. Driving Revenue re-writes those links so they’ll make them money instead, and passes a cut to LJ.

If you’ve got a free account on LJ, re-writing links would be fair enough. One of the ways LJ covers the cost of free accounts is through advertising. But I’m paying LJ money so this blog won’t have adverts on it. If they’re going to break that contract, I don’t want to pay them any more money.

Also, even for free accounts, the way LJ/Driving Revenue have implemented this is very dodgy.

Why it’s dodgy

Firstly, this is bad for privacy and security. LJ are disclosing any link you happen to move your mouse over to Driving Revenue, so I hope nothing you link to in your locked entries is confidential. Worse, the way this has been implemented gives Driving Revenue the same authority as LJ: they can more or less do what they like, including stealing your cookies and impersonating you. Even if Driving Revenue aren’t malicious, they are incompetent ( as described below), and security problems at Driving Revenue now potentially become security problems at LJ. LJ went to a lot of trouble to lock down this sort of problem a while ago. Now they’ve given away the keys to the kingdom.

Secondly, Driving Revenue Inc are incompetent. They’ve had multiple attempts at the script now, and it’s still not right. You might have noticed that when you move your mouse over a link on LJ and quickly click on it, nothing happens. This seems to be because moving the mouse starts the process described above, and clicks don’t “take” until it’s finished. On top of this, the script is too zealous. It re-writes links in a way which breaks them (for example, andrewducker recently linked to this article: if you click the link, you’ll end up somewhere random on the same site).

What I might do about it

I’m using Adblock to block the script, so I’m not affected by it, but people visiting my blog are. This isn’t what I’m paying for, so, unless LJ sort it out soon, I’m off. Wherever I end up, I’ll keep reading my friend list here, and I’ll probably cross-post and direct comments to my new home.

The traditional thing to do is to flounce to Dreamwidth, but that seems to be intended for people who enjoy mannerist identity politics and writing about how their fanfiction in which Snape vigorously rogers Harry Potter will inevitably smash the kyriarchy. But seriously, Dreamwidth is in active development and they’re doing some cool stuff, though I’m a bit worried they’ll run out of money. I don’t want to move again, so I’m looking for somewhere stable, preferably under my own domain.

So, I’ve been playing with WordPress, which I’ve installed on the hosting account for my own domain. It looks quite nice. The only downside is a half-hearted implementation of threaded comments: WordPress allows threads up to 10 comments deep and then just stops letting people reply, rather than doing something sensible like folding them. It’s possible to use third party commenting sites like Disqus or Intense Debate with it, though, and those seem to do threading better. Edited: WordPress does “proper” blog stuff like comment feeds and pingbacks, which I’m currently doing with Python scripts and gaffer tape on my LJ, which also gives it an advantage over Dreamwidth.

I’ve got access to scripting languages and MySQL, and I presume there are other blogging packages out there: any recommendations?

20 Comments on "LiveJournal, Driving Revenue Inc, and moving my blog elsewhere"


  1. Subject: DW

    FWIW, I had quick look through the 20 visible posts on my Dreamwidth friends page, and of those only two had any connection to identity politics, and even then one of them was really about journalists doing their usual trick of overselling a quote. And no fanfiction at all (unless you use one of the definitions of fanfiction that actually turns out to include all artistic endeavor). So maybe it’s not as bad as you think?

    It’s still my backup plan, at any rate; and one that I need to think more clearly about in the next day or so, as paid account renewal is coming up.

    Reply

    1. Subject: Re: DW
      Agree – DW is full of fanfiction and identity politics in the same way that LJ is full of midwestern teenage girls whinging about who isn’t talking to them this week. You basically interact with the people you choose to interact with.

      Reply

    2. Subject: Re: DW
      I’m probably biased by Liv’s friending meme.

      Actually, there’s nothing wrong with DW being as I described if it also has the facilities I want. But what I’d really like to do is have more of a “proper” blog, and WordPress seems to have the facilities for that. I’m currently providing a bunch of things (comment feeds, pingbacks) via evil Python scripts: it’d be nice to find some software which just did that.

      I’d also like to keep things under my domain. LJ does do a thing where they let you alias a sub-domain to their servers if you’re paying them, so that’s where blog.noctua.org.uk currently points, but it’s not proper integration: as soon as you click on anything, you’re back on pw201.livejournal.com.

      Reply

    3. Subject: Re: DW
      as paid account renewal is coming up.

      BTW: If you don’t renew, and it’s because of the Driving Revenue nonsense, I’d advocate getting in touch with LJ and telling them why.

      Reply

  2. A friend has just moved away from WordPress because she had too many security issues with it, but YMMV, of course. Unfortunately, in the process of moving to new hosting, the article explaining why seems to have vanished…

    Reply

  3. I’m in the midst of migrating to Dreamwidth, which seems (to me) to be just as diverse as Livejournal ever was. I’ve imported all my posts to there, and will be setting up posting over the weekend.

    I really like the security model and commenting systems that come with the LJ codebase, and I don’t really want to move away from it.

    Reply

    1. I agree about the security model – I can see why a more bloggy less networky system would appeal if you’re not using that and are treating it more as a broadcast blog.

      Re migrating, can I pre-emptively beg that you keep all your comments in one place, not half here and half there, (which really damages discussion as well as making readers do more work)?

      Reply

      1. I agree that it damages discussion. I suspect I’ll start off with them here, but then migrate over to them being _there_ at some point instead. Because it’s over there that I want to be.

        Reply

    2. Yep: if you want an LJ replacement, DW is clearly it. As I’ve just edited the post to say, I’m using my LJ more as a blog than a diary these days: I do most of my “social networking” on Facebook, I hardly ever make locked postings on LJ. So I’m interested in the blogging features that something like WordPress has.

      Mind you, DW is cranking out code pretty quick. I’ve not been following it: do you know whether they plan to implement stuff like comment feeds and pingbacks?

      Reply

      1. I’ve never seen the point in comment feeds. Adding an RSS for each place you leave a comment seems insane to me. I use email subscription on WordPress.com sites, and comment tracking on livejournal/dreamwidth.

        Pingbacks, last I checked, were 70% spam. Is that not still the case?

        Reply

        1. Adding an RSS for each place you leave a comment seems insane to me

          I prefer to do that for random sites rather than giving them an email address I actually read (I’ve a separate Yahoo account for throwaway stuff). It’s cheap in Google Reader. I imagine there are other people who make use of such feeds if they also don’t like giving out their address.

          Not sure what the spam content of pingbacks is, as LJ still don’t support them (despite putting the header in saying they do into their server responses). Outbound pingbacks are useful, though: I’ve had a people come back here as a result, I think (though they could just be doing a search for people linking to them, I suppose).

          Reply

  4. My first thought on reading the start of your post was to suggest Dreamwidth, but you have already ruled it out.

    I would still say give it a chance though, I am incredibly happy there. It’s all the good bits of LJ without all the crap, and the development they are doing is awesome. There are features that they have introduced that I now miss on LJ – I keep getting frustrated when I try to use said features on LJ and LJ fails to act accordingly. I would be incredibly happy if everyone on my flist moved to DW so I could stop using LJ.

    The community is awesome; the staff are real and accessible and are active users of the site. They make it better because they want to make it better for themselves as well as the user base. It’s easy to forget sometimes that they are staff at all, and I think that makes some people nervous that they are just in this for fun and that everything will come crashing down around them soon enough but I really don’t think that is the case. They both have a lot of experience in LJ and similar projects and they have through everything through IN DETAIL. They have been transparent in everything through their development process – it’s a refreshing change from LJ! And if you have concerns or questions then you can ask them for clarification or explanation – they invite such discussion and they will respond to you. And they will LISTEN too. Read a news post on LJ and you get a bunch of “first comment” posts, interspersed with bitching and macros. Read a DW news post and you get happy comments from happy users inspersed with questions from curious users, with feedback from staff.

    As for the userbase, I think that is unfair. As with any social networking site, it is what you make of it. These sites have a userbase with such diverse interests that you can be guaranteed to find someone with the same passions as you. You seek out what you want to leave the rest. If you want to find Snape/Harry fic, then I’m sure can find plenty of it over at DW should you so choose. I don’t believe it’s a requirement that you read it to open an account though.

    Reply

    1. DW is the logical choice if I want an LJ replacement, but I’m also thinking about whether I want a “proper” blog, hence the flirtation with WordPress. If DW is gearing up to do some of the features that WP has, it’d be the best of both worlds, but I’m not sure it is at the moment.

      I was kind of joking about the userbase, although that’s my perception based on what I’ve seen, so maybe ha ha only serious.

      If you want to find Snape/Harry fic

      Nah: Harry/Draco, OTP! (Though Eliezer has said that if people keep saying that about The Methods of Rationality, he’ll ship Harry with McGonagall…)

      Reply

  5. I know you can block that outbound code stuff, it’s just a simple ticky-box to opt your LJ out. However, I can’t remember where the ticky-box is… Sorry, I’m too busy to look right now.

    And I sort of vote for DW as well. I would definitely vote for it if I remembered to use it. :/

    Reply

    1. I think the opt out only stops the script being shown to me when I’m logged in, it doesn’t stop it affecting other people. I’m hoping LJ will see sense on this one, but if they don’t, I’m not sure what I’ll do: still dithering between WP and DW.

      Reply

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