LiveJournal/our Russian overlords have laid off 13 of 30 staff in the USA.

Valleywag has an “LJ is doomed” story with inaccurate numbers. It looks like no_lj_ads is collating links to other information.

synecdochic (who is involved in the Dreamwidth project, designed as an LJ replacement) reckons nothing dramatic will happen overnight, but engineering staff have apparently been cut, so we might expect maintenance and new features to be neglected. Edited to add: LJ themselves are saying they’re just moving their development team to Russia, which would make sense if your aim is to cut costs: Russians are presumably cheaper than Americans.

The preferred LJ backup tool for Windows is apparently ljarchive. Those of you who use operating systems can sort yourselves out.

Slashdot reports on the demise of something called journalspace, which seems to have been one of those free blogging sites, a bit like this here LiveJournal.

From what Slashdot readers say, and according to the message on the site, the owners thought a setup where redundant drives store the same data as it’s written (known as RAID) was like having backups. The “as it’s written” is the key point. If some program goes wild or someone malicious gains access to the server, you can end up losing the data, because the malicious entity can just write crap, which will be replicated everywhere. RAID’s meant to let you carry on if one of your hard drives packs up (because the same data is on others), not to allow you to go back to old data, which is what a backup gets you.

Unfortunately, Journalspace does not have backups, so all the blogs hosted there are lost.

I trust that LiveJournal (not to mention Gmail and Google Reader and so on) are better organised than Journalspace was, but I bet there’s something in their Terms of Service which says “if we lose all your data, it’s not our problem”. All this decentralised web 2.0 stuff is convenient, but it’s a good idea to keep copies of your stuff on your hard drive, too. I use a little Python script called ljdump to backup my journal (I’m actually using a hacked up version that spits out data to the stuff that generates my comment feeds, but that’s not important right now). There are probably less techie tools that will do the same job (some of the LiveJournal clients will do backups, for example). The important thing is to get one, and use it regularly.

For you Firefox users, I’ve put a new version of LJ New Comments up.

It supports Russian keyboards, courtesy of some code from mumi_0.

I’ve also made it expand collapsed comments when you move to them by pressing the “n” or “p” keys, as my assumption when you do that is that you want to read the comment. The thread expansion stuff needs the style to have an “Expand” link for the comment (literally, a link to the thread with the text “Expand”: if anyone’s got any ideas on how to identify it in a way which doesn’t assume it’s labelled in English, let me know).

Comments/questions to the entry for the script.

Whenever I post a comment on LiveJournal, I get an email containing the text of it. I’ve written a Python program which turns these into an Atom feed, so that people could stalk me more easily by subscribing to the feed. I get into some interesting discussions on other people’s LJs, so I thought such a feed might be useful.

The program checks that the comment is on a public posting and doesn’t publish it if it isn’t (you can do this by submitting an HTTP HEAD request for the entry in question and seeing whether LJ redirects you to login or sends you a 4xx response, both of which I take to mean “don’t publish”). Edited to add: the program also periodically re-checks for posts changing their privacy settings (there’s a cache with an exponential backoff from a couple of hours to a month to avoid annoying LJ: the backoff is restarted if the entry’s privacy changes).

I’m not sure whether to do further checks before publishing the comment. On the one hand, all I’m doing is publishing my own words as they appear in someone’s public posting. On the other hand, sometimes people are quite surprised to find that people read stuff they’ve made public, and I don’t want to annoy my friends. Since I mostly comment on your journals, what do you think?

[ LJ Poll 1242038 ]

As readers of news will know, LiveJournal is in the process of electing representatives from among its users, to sit on the LiveJournal advisory board, alongside various e-luminaries.

<lj-cut text=”Who I think you should vote for”>Originally, I was going to vote for jameth purely because it’d annoy a certain sort of person I find irksome on LiveJournal (“jameth, as hated by ginmar“: what higher endorsement could there be?). jameth is an LJ personality who’s known for, shall we say, a certain unique sense of humour. I didn’t regard him as a serious candidate, so he wasn’t my first choice.

As time has gone on, however, I’ve become impressed with the open discussion of his candidacy which jameth has allowed on his journal: his policy is that he will allow any comment which does not violate LJ’s Terms of Service (he’s screening anonymous comments to help with this). This contrasts favourably with some of the other front-running candidates, notably legomymalfoy, who has been less forthcoming, and who has been deleting/locking posts.

legomymalfoy is on the LJ Abuse Team and does not intend to resign this position if she is elected, which seems a bit like having the fox guarding the hen-house. The post of hers where she confirmed this is now locked (this thread contains two screen captures of the relevant posting). I don’t believe she is a serious candidate. This is a shame, as she’s currently in the lead.

I’ve seen allegations that large numbers of role-playing journals (where one person keeps lots of journals for each character they play) have been used as sock puppets to block vote. LJ can’t use the obvious defence against this as it does not want to prevent people sharing the same HTTP proxy from voting. I don’t know whether these allegations are true, but this is hilarious.

More seriously, some candidates have recently reported that LJ’s staff has received what they seem to regard as credible death threats against some front-running candidates. It’s possible this is a huge hoax, but it’s currently looking like it’s real. cambler (note: style contains photos of semi-naked ladies: NSFW) has withdrawn from the election as he doesn’t see it as worth risking his personal safety for. He made this post (link will force the style to one without semi-naked ladies, so should be SFW) giving details of what’s occurred. This thread is particularly relevant. randomposting has likewise withdrawn and endorsed jameth.

As these were my other two choices, I’m endorsing jameth, for his platform commitment to free speech, for the way he’s conducted himself as this business has unfolded, and because he’s the only person who can now beat legomymalfoy. Any suggestions for worthwhile second and third choices gratefully received 🙂

Regardless of whether you agree with me, if you’ve moaned about what 6Apart and SUP have done over the last few years, please read the candidates’ manifestos and vote, and encourage others to do the same. If you have already voted, note that it is possible to change your vote until the election closes, on 29th May.

Some of you customise your journal’s appearance using LiveJournal’s S2 system. The whole thing looks a bit baroque, with much mentioning of “layers”, so I thought I’d just ask questions of people who might know how to do what I want.

I have a thingy which generates an Atom feed from the comments on each of public postings (by “thingy” I mean a couple of Python scripts, one of which is a heavily modified version of ljdump and the other of which is a script which generates the feeds using the dumped information. I might publish them if anyone’s interested). Proper blogs have these feeds, so I thought mine should too.

I would like to make people’s browsers aware of the feed when viewing an entry, which means sticking some extra <link> elements into the <head> element of the entry view. I’d also like to link to the feed somewhere on the entry page, probably in the little list of stuff you can do with the entry (you know, permalink, write a comment, add to memories, denounce, and so on). The link would reference, where nnnn is the unique number which LJ puts in the permalink to the entry itself (for example, this entry‘s number is 83644).

At some stage the script is also going to produce a single feed of all comments on my public postings (and maybe all my comments on your public postings, if you don’t object). So I’d also like to know how to stick stuff in the <head> of the entire journal view (which already links to the Atom feed of my postings which LJ generates itself).

Any help you can give in telling me where to start with this stuff would be much appreciated.

The recent abolition of free accounts with no ads on LiveJournal provoked some interesting comments on LJ itself, and on the wider question of how social networking sites can make any money.

In a nice turn of phrase, antennapedia speculates that LJ may have “begun the descent through the levels of credible ownership” (which is presumably antennapedia‘s reason for producing a migration tool to assist in moving your journal to another server which uses LJ code). chipotle has some interesting numbers (although some are probably faulty) and some speculation on where the Russian overlords are heading.

There are the expected “let’s all go somewhere else” projects which will set up a page on Sourceforge/Google Code, argue about what to implement and then die (elsejournal, for example). synecdochic knows a thing or two, having worked for LJ in the past, and may have a credible proposal, although I’m curious about some of the technicalities.

After each fresh stupidity from LJ, a bunch of people bugger off to existing LJ clones which are running the Open Source parts of LJ’s code. GreatestJournal staggered under the weight. InsaneJournal is holding up, except when their hosting provider accidentally turns them off. synecdochic rightly worries about InsaneJournal in the long term, because scaling up your website when it gets popular is a hard problem, requiring equipment and people who don’t come cheap. synecdochic also has some insights into how that worked for LJ itself, if you’re interested.

Wired has a brief piece pointing out that nobody’s quite worked out how you make money of social sites yet. Perhaps you don’t: unoriginal1729 reckons search engines will always have the edge, because they can serve appropriate ads at the point where you’re actually looking to buy something rather than speculatively advertising based inferring things from your interests. Maybe the thing which precipitates a working verison of the geeks’ dream of Usenet-plus-crypto-magic will be all the centralised sites running out of money.

I’ve updated the LJ New Comments script so that it’s a lot faster at marking comments as new. While following the recent shitstorms in news, in which hundreds of angry LJ users are laying into the management, Firefox would seize up for a while and eventually warn me that the script was refusing to let go. Hopefully, the new version fixes that.

I’ve also changed the behaviour of the “NEW” link on new comments, so that clicking it now selects that comment. I think this makes more sense than taking you to the next new comment, as previous versions did, as I like to click to select the comment and then use the “n” and “p” keys to navigate.

Comments to the entry for the script, please.