Justin du Coeur (jducoeur) wrote,
Justin du Coeur

On the recent LJ controversies

[I was responding to a posting by liamstliam on the current LJ uproar. Reading through it, I think it deserves a top-post, so here's a slightly tweaked version.]

I kind of fall in the middle, between the outraged and those who think it's all a big over-reaction. I wasn't particularly upset by the free-account change (which I think is a perfectly reasonable business decision, and not likely to make such a big difference in practice), and while I was concerned about the interests filter, I was more worried about it driving people away than anything else. (It was a stupid and rude change, but really mattered mainly on the symbolic level: in *concrete* terms, I think it was pretty marginal.)

That said, I do think the hullaballo is perfectly reasonable and appropriate. At its heart is an important question: who really owns LiveJournal as a social entity?

I mean, it's not that different from the controversies surrounding the SCA, Inc -- or even some of the ones around the federal government. In all cases, there is a legal entity that has all the formal power, but in a sense its *moral* authority flows from the relatively powerless people who comprise that entity. The legal entity has the *power* to change things, but it is less clear whether it has the *right* to do so.

In all of these cases, the "citizens" mostly have one recourse if they disagree: making a big stink about it. It's really a rather decent market-based solution to the problem. If enough people to matter object loudly, the "government" tends to recant unless there were damned good reasons for the change. (Certain recent shameless US administrations being the exception that proves the rule.) If the citizens don't object all that loudly, the government takes their silence as consent, and assumes that it is following an appropriate course.

(Of course, there are often harsher options, including violence against the government or moving out of the entity entirely. Those are sometimes necessary, but usually have all sorts of unfortunate side-effects, so they're generally best not used as a first option.)

So I don't have a problem with the big stink. It caused a very quick revocation of the interests filter, which doesn't surprise me: I suspect that that was a fairly casual stupid decision on somebody's part, and the company wasn't deeply invested in it. They haven't reversed the decision to remove Basic accounts, which also doesn't surprise me: I'd bet that that was a cold-blooded business decision, made with full knowledge that people would be cranky about it, and they're not going to back down.

All of this strikes me as the correct responses of an active citizenry, and I think that's healthy: it indicates that many members of LJ regard themselves as part of a community, not just consumers of a service, and that's important in any meaningful social entity.

(And mind, I say all of this knowing full well that, if CommYou succeeds, I'm going to be on the receiving end of some of those stinks down the road. Best to figure out my philosophy now, so that I can react more consistently and sensibly when the time comes...)
Tags: commyou, lj

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