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What mainstream social network features *should* LiveJournal pick up?
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jducoeur
Having just shared an EW article on Facebook, it crystallized for me a point about LJ's recent "+1 button" flap.

The thing that bothered me about the whole +1 feature, I am now realizing, is that it was a solution in search of a problem. That is, my sense was that LJ was mostly doing it to keep up with the Joneses, with no thought to what the actual effects on the community would be. It was notable that they never said, "Here is a problem we're trying to address, and this is the way we're planning to deal with it" -- they just said, "Here's a new feature", with no rationale presented at any point aside from the fact that Everybody Else Does it.

And the thing is, I don't actually *like* this feature on FB or G+, because it is too ambiguous. I certainly use it, but I am always bothered by it. FB's "Like" is connotationally wrong in many circumstances: what I usually want to say is, "I agree with this post" -- but there are a lot of posts on horrible subjects, where pressing the "Like" button is just plain squicky. And Google's "+1" is (deliberately, I suspect), semantics-free -- it is never quite clear *what* somebody means when they press it. Sometimes it indicates agreement, sometimes it's a cheap-and-quick way to share the link, sometimes it is simply a way to store this link for future reference.

(Of course, the truth is that both buttons mostly exist for the purposes of giving more information to Facebook and Google, so that they can more accurately profile you, to sell you as an advertising target.)

When I ponder it, I find that I wouldn't actually mind buttons with clearer semantics. A simple "I agree" button would have some downsides (in that it would reduce the impetus to actually comment meaningfully), but at least I would understand its purpose. Frankly, an "I read this" would fulfill the social-back-scratching that many people mean when they say "Like". A configurable mechanism, that let you design your *own* buttons on your blog, and choose from a palette of canned options, might be downright spiffy and interesting. (If more challenging to implement.)

This is leading me to wonder which features from the big social networks I actually *want* in LJ. The one that jumps out to me is "Share". I've wound up doing most of my link-sharing via FB these days, simply because it is so damned *easy*: click the button, type my meta-comments, and it's done. I'd love to have something similar for LJ, but of course LJ can't make sites pick them up, and nowadays they're sufficiently minor that most sites won't. I suspect the right answer would be for someone to implement this as a browser plugin that detects the presence of a Facebook "Like" button and injects the LJ version. (Or possibly just adds a right-click that lets you Share any page via LJ.) Does this already exist?

Anyone have other ideas? LJ's comment system is vastly better than FB or G+'s, and it had the concept of distinct flists long before they picked the idea up. Are there any other features of the other social networks, or variations thereof, that you think would be positive additions to LJ? And for that matter, what features *have* you always wanted to see on LJ?

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This is leading me to wonder which features from the big social networks I actually *want* in LJ. The one that jumps out to me is "Share". I've wound up doing most of my link-sharing via FB these days, simply because it is so damned *easy*: click the button, type my meta-comments, and it's done.

This is basically the only thing I want, and I don't need site owners to embed a button -- a js bookmarklet might be totally adequate. But I want something like G+'s amazing click-and-it-summarizes-and-picks-the-illo feature. G+ is leveraging Google's omniscience and awe-inspiring computational power, so unless there's something obviously clever to be done, LJ won't be able to do that.

(As an aside,

of course LJ can't make sites pick them up, and nowadays they're sufficiently minor that most sites won't

I was just an hour agao shocked to see, when clicking the "Share" link on a Youtube video, the last little icon on the list was LJ's. It's been so long since I've seen it, I had to mouseover to make sure it really was a post-to-LJ button, and not that some new company was stepping on LJ's trademark. But I digress.)

That's it. That's the only social networking feature I've ever encountered that I've wanted on LJ.

I can think of all sorts of features I want for LJ, and (1) none of them are social networking features -- if they even exist, they're forum and blog features -- and (2) few of them are in evidence on other sites. I want to see LJ develop the sorts of LJ-specific features that leverage and multiply its strengths, which are not what generally goes under the banner of social networking these days.

I want better comment moderation tools (I have specific requests), so that I (and everybody) can stop misusing privacy (read-access) controls as moderation (write-access) controls, and thus be more public. I want users to be able to appoint other users moderators in their journals.

I want better archive management tools. Right now, LJ's archive management tools, which are terrible in that they barely exist, are AFAIK, best-in-class for social networking.

I want tagging to be better in lots of ways. I want LJ's interfaces to use tagging better, because it was pasted on late and never properly leveraged in user interfaces.

I want LJ to liberate our data. If LJ gives us better ways to download, backup, and maybe even upload our data, then maybe we'll be even more keen to share it with LJ.

I want filter-sensitive search: I want a logged in user to be able to do a google-style word search on every entry and comment they have access to read. I'd compromise on logged in users being able to search single journals at a time.

I want LJ to have community wills and/or other means of planning and implementing ownership succession for comms.

I want LJ to pay down its technical debt and just fix a lot of bugs, because (1) that would be intrinsically awesome and make most of us users infinitely more happy than the latest GUI outrage and (2) making the LJ code not suck means it's not impossible to then make LJ a proper FOSS project, and then...

I want LJ to have an actually developer community. I want LJ to have the benefit of developers out there doing awesome things to the LJ code and submitting them as patches. LJ, STOP BEING SO HARD TO HELP AND LET US GIVE YOU FREE LABOR.

I want an OAuth implementation or some more reasonable equivalent so that third parties can implement means of posting to LJ that don't require users to give them their full LJ credentials. Make a sub-authentication scheme that allows third party apps (e.g. IFTTT, DW's crossposter) to post entries (optional ticky box: and edit them) without also giving them access to read flocked posts in fourth-party's journals, and without giving them delete privs. This also could be used to supply trusted others with limited access to update one's journal should one become incapacitated.

I want the Scrapbook to support other file types, like PDF, so musicians can share scores on here.

I want an email receipt when one posts via email, a receipt which includes the URL of the new post (h/t Wordpress).

[continued]

But I want something like G+'s amazing click-and-it-summarizes-and-picks-the-illo feature.

True. I tend to take that for granted, since both G+ and FB do it decently, but it's not at all easy.

I want better comment moderation tools (I have specific requests)

Would you be willing to say what those are? Besides my usual deep interest in this topic, I'm thinking about Querki's moderation design pretty actively these days -- it's going to be a crucial feature, and I'd like to get it right.

Right now, LJ's archive management tools, which are terrible in that they barely exist, are AFAIK, best-in-class for social networking.

Sad, but probably true.

I want LJ to liberate our data.

Mmm -- yes. The inconvenience of backing up my LJ bothers me regularly.

I want LJ to pay down its technical debt and just fix a lot of bugs

Yeah, I've long found it curious that the only people seriously working on the LJ codebase seem to be DW. (And I gather that, by now, they've diverged pretty seriously -- it sounds like a lot of the LJ code is grungy enough that they've scrapped it and rewritten.)

I want an OAuth implementation or some more reasonable equivalent so that third parties can implement means of posting to LJ that don't require users to give them their full LJ credentials.

Heck, a first step would be documenting the APIs they *do* have. (IIRC, the DW-to-LJ crosspost feature is based on a more or less completely undocumented API.)

I tend to take that for granted, since both G+ and FB do it decently, but it's not at all easy.

I've wondered if there was a way to use google's -- an API that let's you submit a url and get back that info in JSON format or something similarly useful.

Would you be willing to say what those are?

First on the list is the ability to set the commenting and comment screening levels to custom security settings (i.e. filters). One should be able, e.g. to make a post public, to allow comments on it from all authenticated readers, but only the comments of people on a filter (or in the union of multiple filters) to post unscreened. Voila, white-list moderation. Someone doesn't play well with others? They can be removed from your privileged commenters list, but still read, and still comment though screened. New people can be friended without having to worry how they'll interact with the other guppies in the tank: they start out with their comments screened, until they prove themselves by how they comment.

Similarly, one should be able to make a post (public or locked) where the only people who can comment at all are those on a filter. Other people can read the post and discussion, but they aren't allowed to participate. The day I get that is the day y'all get to find out what's been happening on my clinicians' filter. Almost nothing in there's secret, I just use a filter to prevent n00b questions and Dunning-Kruger suggestions, so we shrinks can chat about our lives.

I expect this feature would also be very useful to many social justice groups, that could allow discussions among people in oppressed groups to happen where they can be read by others who might benefit by it, without opening those groups up to derail; it allows the software to enforce the "the first step is to shut up and listen to us, instead of talking over us" paradigm.

It would also be keen if it were possible to set the comment area, as a whole, for a post to a different (more restrictive) security level than the post, such that users don't even see the comments (looks like comments turned off) unless they are authorized at whatever permission level (friends lock, filter) the comments are set to.

Second, disemvoweling.

Third, the ability to review all of the comments a user has made in your journal. It's easier to figure out if someone is being a subtle problem if you have some way to go back and check.

Fourth, the ability for the owner of a journal, or the moderators they designate, to rate comments +1 or -1, and for a running tally to be kept on each user, so that the owner/moderator of a journal can see at a glance, "Hmmm, this user's making a lot of -1 comments." This would be particularly powerful combined with the above, so that when new people show up, their contributions can be noted, so that it's evident, "Hey, this person is contributing well; we should white-list them." It's hard for humans to track the quality of comments across new usernames. But these scores would not be visible to anyone except the owner/moderators of a journal, and would not be aggregated across journals.

Edited at 2014-06-19 05:35 pm (UTC)

Very useful thoughts -- thanks! I hadn't actually thought about the way that LJ conflates the "Read" and "Comment" permissions, but you are certainly right that it would be very useful to be able to separate those.

Querki is going to have some of that out of the gate (eg, "Can Read", "Can Read Comments" and "Can Comment" are already completely separate permissions, with fine-grained control), and others are coming (eg, whitelisting is going to be a first-class standard feature), but the latter suggestions are good food for thought for me.

I don't think any of it is fundamentally hard to do -- most of the effort would probably be the UIs to make those features easy and clear enough for non-experts to use them effectively. One lesson Querki is driving home to me is that architecture is relatively easy; good UX is hard...

Disemvoweling can be done with a bookmarklet, but I guess you'd want a way to undo it or "remove the filter".

??? How could disemvoweling be done with a bookmarklet?

Oh heh, I had my WordPress brain on. In WP you can edit people's comments. So disregard that.

Oh, okay, carry on. :)

(You can? Huh. WP.org or WP.com?)

Wordpress.org, I guess -- as installed on my own server. This is the userscript I wrote back in the day, dunno if it still works:

https://gist.github.com/timmc/c697c31e8ca6ff29b38d

True. I tend to take that for granted, since both G+ and FB do it decently, but it's not at all easy.

But there are some easy ways to get close. Amazon does this with their universal wishlist button. Searches for a dollar figure and presents that as the cost amount. Grab the pictures on the page and present a thumb. Grab the page title as almost every eCommerce site puts the name of the item in the page title for SEO reasons. Etc. All being editable fields so the user can comment/alter the data pre-posting.

I agree parsing and summarizing is hard, but presenting a workable option at all isn't, and so it shouldn't be pushed down the wishlist because we let perfect be the enemy of good.

And there is a (somewhat) API documentation at http://www.livejournal.com/doc/server/ljp.csp.protocol.html

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