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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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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

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