LiveJournal Strike? (Don’t back-down, back-up!)

Today, I logged into LJ (that drug I joined because All my Friends were Doing It), and found out that:

a) As of yesterday (or some other near-term time), free accounts have been discontinued (new users join as Sponsored or Paid accounts)

b) As of about-same-time, some unspecified changes to “Acceptable Content” policies, with the upshot of creating a bunch of new forbidden opinions/topics and unacceptable usernames. I’d really like to know the details of these changes myself*, but they don’t seem to be officially documented and I can’t be ars inconvenienced to dig through five thousand comments on the relevant pressrelease pages to get at the details.

c) Everyone’s going to strike by not reading/writing anything to LJ from 8:00 PM Thursday until 8:00 PM Friday, Eastern Standard Time. A more detailed manifesto is given by the bolded text of this post.

I can well understand the rationale behind discontinuing free accounts**, however, I find the lack of any advance notice or discussion on the matter disturbing (not to mention my content’s wholesale purchase by this “international media company” I’ve never heard of). My main concern, though, is this retroactive “acceptable content” change. This means I and every other LJ user potentially have to go back and sanitize 4+ years’ worth of old posts or have my entire 4+ years’ worth of blog and comments deleted? …Every time they (or parent media conglomerate / ad brokering firm / whomever) decide to tweak the rules? Not to mention anyone whose username or community is now against the TOS; good luck recovering from that. Regardless, the only way a “free” service can turn up the crap and still keep you is if you’re stuck there: you know, like having built several years of content and reputation there that would be immediately forfeited by cancelling your account. Once any “free” service jumps these particular sharks, it’s time to start hedging for the future.

My personal thought is a 1-day boycott would have no more impact than those worthless “buy no gas on (date)…” chain letters – nobody produces or consumes any less, just bumps the usage profile around by a couple days***. And as astutely noted here (and again borne out by the Free Web Hosting era), organizing and participating in boycotts of a service via that service is a good way to get your account whacked.

So fuc inconvenience boycotting. Here’s what I’m doing, and I urge you to do the same. Download a utility such as LJ Backup, rescuing a safe, yours-to-keep copy of your content from the server. You know, just in case. Repeat the process frequently. This way, at some near future time when random popups start coming up on your journal, or your account gets deleted for some uncareful words about some company that’s now a sponsor, or you get a ransom letter saying your own free account is now $5.99 a month, you’re not held hostage by your own content. Spend that few-bux-a-month instead on your own Web hosting, dump the backup to the blog software of your choice and be beholden to no one! RSS feeds are the new Friends Page.

*as someone who blogs stuff an entire category about selling vibrators, plenty of Hate Speech against salesmen, various openly misogynist, racist and homophobic statements under just the right moderator’s eye and/or regexp filter.

**any arguments about whether the company actually needs more money notwithstanding, this is among the most fair of many possible tried-and-true approaches, based on years of experience as a vocal opponent during the heady days when Free Web Hosting companies (and to a lesser extent Free ISPs) were the web 1.0 dot-com bubble rage. Unlike the typical approach, existing members’ pages are not suddenly serving up objectionable and vaguely pornographic popup ads…

***buying your gas a day early isn’t exactly Stickin’ It to da Man. But, if you take this day to put away the keys and air up your bike…

One Response to “LiveJournal Strike? (Don’t back-down, back-up!)”

  1. Gnomon says:

    I suggest, sir, that you investigate jbackup. It is a solution written by the SixApart/LJ coders, and although it is probably the quietest project of which I’ve ever heard, I can personally attest to its effectiveness (I found and used it for exactly the reasons that you outlined above).

    I’m unsure about the continuing status of that source tree because of the buyout, so I’d say grab while the grabbing is good.

    It’s Perl, sure, but that’s not the crippling deficiency that it once was. What with the existence of the Strawberry Perl distribution (which includes an entire C compiler and supporting libraries as part of its add-on components – how sick is that?), even Windows users can get in on the fun.

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