denise: Image: Me, facing away from camera, on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome (Default)
Denise ([staff profile] denise) wrote in [site community profile] dw_news2017-04-14 05:34 am

Dreamwidth News (and welcome!), 14 April 2017

Hello, Dreamwidth! Goodness, this past week has been unexpectedly exciting, hasn't it? A warm Dreamwidth welcome to everyone who's just joining us: we're glad you're here, and we hope you're liking the new digs.

Before we get into all the things I have to cover, though: Given the reasons most people are citing for not wanting to agree to LiveJournal's new ToS, I'd like to take a moment and ask: if you're able to (and only if you're able!), please consider donating to the Russian LGBT Network/Российская ЛГБТ-сеть. They not only do excellent work across the Russian Federation, but are currently mobilizing to help evacuate LGBT people in Chechnya who are in danger of detention or death. (EDIT: If you're outside Russia, you can donate through All Out; the Russian LGBT Network website won't accept donations from outside Russia.)

To our friends in Russia who are LGBT and those who are against the mistreatment of anyone because of their sexual orientation: We stand with you. Please stay safe above all else, but if it would be safe for you to post that link, the LGBT Network is asking that as many people as possible publicly share the information that the LGBT Network is ready to help. (They also ask that you do not contact people in Chechnya directly to let them know, as there are reports the authorities are searching people's phones and computers for evidence of sexual orientation.)

The rest of this post is primarily to give y'all new folks a brief orientation (or as brief as I am ever capable of; no one has ever called me concise) to help you settle in, although I hope at least some of it will be useful (or at least interesting!) to those of you who have been with us for a while. Come with me as we discuss Dreamwidth's history, a bit of what (we think) makes us special, the answers to a few common questions about how we roll, and a few useful tips that may help you with the transition.




A brief history of time Dreamwidth



Dreamwidth was started in 2008 by me ([staff profile] denise) and Mark ([staff profile] mark), both former long-term LiveJournal.com employees, and grew with the help of many, many people. It's what's known as a "code fork" of LiveJournal: the software that runs LiveJournal was free and open source software, licensed under the GNU GPL, which meant anyone could copy it and improve it. (LiveJournal has since re-licensed and closed their source, but that change isn't retroactive: we're still allowed to use the code that was under the GPL in 2008.)

After doing a lot of modernization work on the code, we opened in "closed beta" (account creation very limited, lots of stuff not yet working) in February of 2009, and then officially went into open beta on April 30, 2009. Which means our birthday is coming up soon!

We've continued to extend and improve the site since then. So, if there's something you're used to being able to do on LiveJournal, and it doesn't work the same on Dreamwidth or you can't find how to do it, it's usually one of two reasons:

1. LiveJournal implemented that feature after the end of 2008. We brought over a few bugfixes that LJ made past that date (as they incorporated some bugfixes that we made), but our codebases diverged quickly enough that bringing over whole features rapidly became impractical.

2. LiveJournal had that feature at the time we forked the code and created Dreamwidth, but we removed it or changed how it behaves. There's a lot of examples, and usually for a lot of different reasons! For an example of a deliberate change because we thought it made things more usable: we don't have a "friends page" where your friends' entries appear, we have a "reading page", where the entries of people you've subscribed to appear, and you don't have to grant access to read your locked entries to someone in order to subscribe to them. (That was probably the #1 most frequently suggested thing when I was working for LJ!) For an example of a deliberate change because we thought the old way wasn't working well enough, instead of there being a text box to type a reply (and a button to submit it) in comment notification emails, all you have to do is reply to the comment email and your reply will be posted as a reply to the comment. For an example of things we removed because we couldn't afford to offer them, we removed phone posting and the ability to interact with the site by text message, because both of those features would cost money (sometimes a lot of money!) for us to offer.

Some of the things LiveJournal implemented after 2008 are things we'd like to add ourselves some day. (Some are things we really don't!) Even if and when we do, though, it likely won't look or behave the same way it did on LiveJournal. Our users are different, and value different things.

People sometimes ask us what our name means! It was a silly suggestion during the brainstorming process that we wound up falling in love with. We decided that if bandwidth is a measure of how much data you can transfer, dreamwidth is a measure of how much creativity you can transfer. (Okay, and it wound up being one of our only ideas that we could still get the domain for. We couldn't afford to buy a domain off someone.) As a style note for those of you who care about that sort of thing, it's all one word, with no capital letter in the middle: Dreamwidth, not DreamWidth or Dream Width. (We won't beat you with wet noodles if you stick the capital or space in, though.)


Who owns Dreamwidth, and how do you make money?



Dreamwidth-the-service is run by Dreamwidth Studios, LLC, a Maryland-registered limited liability company wholly (and privately) owned by me and [staff profile] mark, incorporated in 2008. We're the only owners: we've never taken any venture capital or given up any equity in the company, and we never will. (We have very strong opinions on how a lot of the tech industry works and how the venture capital model, especially when combined with the advertising model, can create perverse incentives for social sites to treat their users badly, but that's a rant for a different morning.)

Not only have we not taken any venture capital, we display zero advertising on Dreamwidth, and we don't have paid partnerships or sell or rent your data in any way. The site is 100% financed by paid accounts and other payments made through the Dreamwidth shop, which means the only people whose opinions we care about are yours: our primary business motivation is to keep paid account holders happy so you'll renew your paid time when it expires and free account holders happy so you'll consider buying paid time if and when you can. You'll never have to worry about whether that change we just made was to keep the advertisers from panicking or to increase the number of places ads will show.

It isn't all sunshine and roses, of course. (I avoid the sunshine as much as humanly possible. I am nocturnal.) Because we're small and entirely user-supported, that means we have fewer resources than companies that can spend the venture capital money to add another engineer, so the pace at which we can add new features or troubleshoot complex bugs is slow (sometimes very slow!) compared to other sites. We try to make up for it by designing those features for how you're actually using the site, rather than to fit some hypothetical model of how to double our traffic and attract millions of new users, but some people get frustrated by our pace -- and that's totally okay. (So any long-term DW users who are reading this, please don't grumble at people who find our progress speed frustrating! Heck, sometimes we find our progress speed frustrating.)

I often see people referring to Dreamwidth as a nonprofit. I try to correct that confusion when I do see it, but in case I've missed some: we are not a 501(c)(3) nonprofit company! We are incorporated as a for-profit entity. (That doesn't mean that we're making millions off your payments, though: other than our regular monthly hosting expenses, we keep an "emergency fund" of five-to-six months of operating expenses, pay ourselves a (very) small amount, pay a few contractors to handle additional things, and put everything else back into improving the site, adding more server power, or bringing our volunteers to conferences or buying them reference books so they can sharpen their skills. Okay, and Mark and I occasionally make Dreamwidth buy us dinner when we've been working really hard on something.) We thought about forming as a 501(c)(3) when we first started talking about Dreamwidth, but eventually decided that the overhead, recordkeeping, and reporting required of a 501(c)(3) organization would be impractical, especially since neither of us is the most organized person in the universe.

We consider Dreamwidth an experiment in radical business transparency as well as an experiment in advertising-free/user-financed social media, so if you ever want to know something about how we work, just ask. We'll either tell you the answer, or tell you the specifics of why we aren't going to tell you the answer. We also keep a Guiding Principles document, linked in the footer of every site-skinned page, that covers the way we try to run our business. We don't live up to everything all the time, of course, and we're better at some of those ideals than others, but those are the main principles we try to adhere to when we're running the site or designing new features.


Can I buy a permanent account?



Our version of LiveJournal's "permanent accounts" are called Seed Accounts, and we don't plan on ever offering them for sale again. In fact, we hope we won't have to!

When we started Dreamwidth, we put the number of seed accounts on sale that we believed would cover the cost of our projected first year's worth of operations. That's why we called them "seed accounts" -- they were our seed funding, intended to provide a bit of a cushion in case of disaster or in case we had unexpected expenses or miscalculated what our budget was going to have to be.

About six months after opening, PayPal -- our payment processor at the time -- demanded that we censor some of our users' content (mostly involving people talking about sex, usually fictionally, in explicit terms) that was legal and protected speech but that they felt violated their terms for using PayPal. We didn't want to restrict 'adult' and/or explicit content, so PayPal shut down our account with them. It took us a few months to find a payment processor willing to take money for us without concern trolling about our users' immortal souls or whatever, so we wound up burning through a lot of our emergency fund by the time we were able to take payments again. To replenish the disaster fund, we sold another batch of seed accounts. (And then promptly had to reassure our new payment processor that no, we weren't going to be doing that volume of transactions all the time...)

So, if we ever do sell seed accounts again, it will be because we've exhausted our disaster fund and want to replenish it, and we really hope that won't happen. We think that selling permanent accounts even semi-regularly is bad for you and bad for us. It's bad for you because it means you can't vote with your wallet and stop paying us if we piss you off, or move to another site that you like better without feeling like you're losing value. (We don't want people to feel like "well, you got my money a long time ago, so my opinion doesn't matter to you anymore", and we always want people to feel comfortable with leaving if we annoy you too much or if somewhere else suits you better. It's another benefit of not having to chase the almighty metrics to keep advertisers happy.) It's bad for us, because we may get a chunk of money from a seed account sale up front, but we lose the ongoing revenue over time -- and because we're entirely user-supported, ongoing revenue is very important, because we have ongoing costs.

The good news is, seed accounts don't get any benefits, features, or higher limits that premium paid accounts don't also get -- you can have access to all the same features and limits a seed account does by buying premium paid time for your account. (Except, of course, for the benefit of not having to pay us again!) A seed account is just a premium paid account that never expires, with another year of service being the "interest" we pay them for being willing to take a chance on us at the very beginning and fund our implausible dream.


So is that why don't you accept PayPal? And how else can I pay you?



*points up to third paragraph of previous answer* That? Yup. PayPal (and also eventually Google Checkout) wanted us to impose content restrictions on what people could post to Dreamwidth other than "is this legal". (Okay, we have a few content restrictions other than "is this legal", but I'll get to that in a second.) We weren't ready to accept outsourcing the final say on our content restrictions to a huge company with a habit of confiscating your money first and only reconsidering with enough loud bad press, so our account with them remains frozen.

I know this isn't ideal for some people, especially people without a credit card and some people outside the US! I do research alternate payment methods every year or two, to see what other options are out there that might let us take other forms of payment like bank transfers or even just credit card types, over and above the VISA/Mastercard/AmEx that our payment processor supports, that are widely in use in other countries. Pretty much every service I've ever found has unacceptable content restrictions or charges fees that are high enough that we'd lose money on small payments, though. (Our existing payment processor is juuuust at the edge of "fees high enough that small payments lose money", which is why you can't buy Dreamwidth points in blocks fewer than 30 points ($3).)

If you don't have a credit card and want to upgrade your Dreamwidth account, there are a few options:

1. You can get a prepaid VISA card and use that. (We recommend prepaid VISA over prepaid Mastercard; our payment processor sometimes has problems with prepaid Mastercards that make it just enough of a pain in the ass that it's better to use a prepaid VISA.)

2. You can send us a check or money order in United States dollars. (If you do, drop me a line by opening a support request in the Account Payments category if it takes more than 10-14 days for your payment to be applied. Our post office has hellaciously inconvenient hours and we don't always check the PO box as often as we should unless we know that somebody sent us a check and we're late picking it up.) If you're from outside the US, the check or money order does have to be in US dollars. We will also accept cash US dollars, if they make it to us -- but cash has a tendency to disappear in the mail. If you do send cash, use a security envelope or wrap it up in a few sheets of paper or both, since checks and money orders can be recovered if they go astray, but cash can't.

3. Finally, you can partner up with a friend who does have a VISA/Mastercard/American Express card that they can use on Dreamwidth, and make arrangements to send them money in whatever way works for you. They can buy you Dreamwidth points in any amount you agree on, and you can use those points over time to pay for any order in the shop. We can't get involved in any disputes if someone takes your money and runs, so choose your payment proxy carefully!


So, what is your acceptable-content policy, then?



I've seen people wondering about this, and several people have asked us about it directly, so I thought it would be a good time to go over it again! For the most part, and with a very few exceptions, our content policy is as hands-off as possible. As long as content is legal in the US, and specifically in the state of Maryland where we're incorporated, we generally don't care. Likewise, we don't require people to flag any of their content as 18+ or NSFW: we give you the option if you want to, since lots of people don't want to worry about minors reading their content or want to let their friends know not to unfold that cut tag behind which gloriously smutty fanart lies at work if they're someplace their boss could look over their shoulders, but we'll never force you to flag a particular entry or flag it for you.

A (non-exhaustive) list of the exceptions:

* How a site must handle reports of copyright violation is set by US law. You can read our DMCA policy for specifics on how we comply with that law.

* We get rid of accounts that were just created for spam purposes, whether that's "leaving spam comments" (if you get one, delete it and check the "mark this comment as spam" checkbox; our anti-spam team will handle it from there!) or "posting links to other sites in order to boost those sites' search engine rankings". (If you see what you think is one or more of those, open a support request in the Anti-Spam category with a link to the journal(s), and our anti-spam team will take a look.) It's okay to use DW to host the blog for your small business where you tell your customers what you've been up to lately, for instance, but it's not okay if your account exists only to post those bite-sized, auto-generated things stuffed with keywords and links that exist only for gaming search engines. There's obviously some human judgement involved here, and occasionally we mistakenly suspend an account that wasn't a spambot or a SEO-bot (and then we apologize and fix it!), but most spam accounts are very much a case of "you know it when you see it".

* We don't let people reveal other people's addresses or phone numbers. Again, there's some human judgement involved here: if someone posts their own phone number, we're not necessarily going to penalize someone else for pointing it out or linking to it. But generally speaking, "don't post other people's addresses or phone numbers" is a good rule to follow.

* We will suspend accounts that were created for no purpose other than harassing or impersonating someone. This is another judgement call sometimes: it can range from things like making an account with a similar username to somebody else and posting stuff that insults them or tries to make people think the account belongs to them, to making an account that posts nothing but entries that rant about how awful one specific person is and encourages other people to go and tell them how awful they are. It does not include accounts that provide commentary and criticism about the actions of a person or organization, as long as the commentary doesn't include personal information like address and/or phone number or encourage readers to go bother them. (The line between "commentary and criticism" and "harassment" absolutely can be blurry, but we try our best to reduce it to a bright-line test with as few subjective judgement calls as possible.)

* The above point applies to individual entries, too: you can post entries that are critical of someone's actions, but you can't post their personal information like address/phone, and you can't encourage other people to go pile on them. In other words: you can post "goddamn do [staff profile] denise's news posts suck, who the fuck does she think she is", but you can't post "goddamn do [staff profile] denise's news posts suck, if you agree go leave her a comment telling her that". Again: This is fuzzy! We try to take as much subjectivity out of the decision-making process as possible, but there's always going to be some.

The vast majority of our other restrictions are along the same lines: we try to strike a balance between stopping the worst of the terrible things people can do to each other on the internet and letting people post without having to worry that their accounts are going to be closed because someone objected to the content they were posting. We try to err on the side of permissiveness as much as possible, though. That means you may find people on Dreamwidth posting horrible opinions or beliefs, but it also means you can be confident you don't have to censor yourself. (And we do make it easy for you to block people from contacting you, and have plans for the future to make it more possible for you to never see anything That Person has posted anywhere on the site.)


Will you ever offer the site in other languages?



We have no plans to officially translate Dreamwidth into other languages. The three big reasons why not are:

1) The translation system we inherited from LiveJournal is very clunky and difficult to use, and translators on LJ hated working with it. Since our policy is to make things as easy as possible on our volunteers, we'd have to rewrite the translation system from scratch, and we have many other things we need to be doing.

2) Because the translation system is so horrible, and because most translation on LiveJournal was completely volunteer, translations would be out-of-date quickly and translation of new features would be very slow. You can see LiveJournal's translation status as an example; very few translation teams are still active. Because of that, people who load the site in those languages get outdated or dangerously wrong information and instructions, mixed with not-yet-translated text from new features. Translation is something that should be done professionally and regularly, and we don't have the resources to keep translations current and accurate.

3) When a site speaks to someone in their own language, they expect that they can ask for help in that language and get it. None of us who work on Dreamwidth are fluent in any other languages enough to provide help, and again, we don't want to rely on volunteer translation unless we absolutely have to. If someone can't speak English and really needs help, we'll try our best, but we don't want to give people the impression that we can offer customer support in any other languages!

Ultimately, we know we can't provide good customer service and support in any language other than English. I know a lot of Russian speakers have moved to Dreamwidth lately. (And we're glad to have you, even if we can't communicate in your language!) Those of you who speak both English and Russian and are willing to help people whose English isn't as good, please let them know!


Why don't you have a mobile app available?



We know that "better mobile access" is probably the #1 thing that people (myself included) want right now, and has been for a while. There's a lot of very complicated prerequisites we have to before we can do a mobile app, though, and we're still on step one of like twenty. (We're further along on step one of twenty than we have been! But step one is really complex and has like a million sub-steps.)

We're also still in the process of converting all of our site pages to use our new responsive-design framework so they automatically rearrange themselves on smaller screens and mobile devices. (That effort is slow going because it involves reprogramming every page on the "application" end of the site and converting them to the new framework and auuuugh so many paaaaaaages.) Some pages are done already; you'll notice them because they're the ones that aren't tiny and squished on your phone screen. :)

If you're looking for a journal style that works well on mobile, meanwhile, Mobility is designed specifically to scale down well on small screens, and you can customize what it considers a "small screen".



So, I've moved in. What else do you want to tell me?



Oh, I could keep going all day, since Dreamwidth is my baby and I'm really proud of it, and like any proud parent, I will show off the baby pictures at the drop of a hat. But in the interests of this not getting too long (too late), let me just cover a few things really quickly:


Consider ditching your imported style



Lots of you who are moving in are following tutorials to bring your LiveJournal layout with you! I'd like to encourage you to try one of our native layouts. They're all highly customizable (and if you get stuck, the nice people in [community profile] style_system are usually happy to help, if you don't find your question's already been answered) and every style supports every feature we have: you don't have to choose between a style you like the looks of and a style that has the features you want.

Imported styles don't have access to a lot of the features we've added (and won't, unless you do a lot of work on them) and we can't give you support if anything ever breaks, which it has in the past when we fix or improve things. So, although we keep around the version of S2 that exists on LiveJournal -- which we call "core1" -- and will continue to leave it in place as long as possible and will give you plenty of notice if we ever have to remove it for any reason, it's provided on an "as is" basis and using an imported LJ style will mean you miss out on a lot of stuff.

(Mind you, I just switched my personal account over from my old imported custom LJ style to a DW-native style after nine years, so I'm hardly one to talk.)


Claim your LiveJournal OpenID



Since many of you are deleting your LJ account after your import finishes: before you do, you may want to undelete it and claim your OpenID URL before re-deleting. Claiming your OpenID URL will update all your imported comments, in your journal or in other people's journals, so they're owned by the Dreamwidth account that claimed them: that way you can still manage your old content without having to authenticate to LiveJournal, which you can't do once your LJ account is deleted and purged. (If your account on LJ has already been deleted and purged, unfortunately there's no way to authenticate and claim your OpenID.)

We do have a known issue that we're trying to figure out the cause of: if your OpenID URL (your username on the other site) has a hyphen/underscore in it, sometimes the job will silently fail. This bug has been driving us up the wall for ages, and we haven't been able to find and fix it yet. If comments made by your OpenID haven't updated to show your DW account 24 hours later, you've been hit by that. We aren't sure yet if we'll be able to rely on your first authentication attempt once we fix the bug, so to be absolutely on the safe side, it's best not to delete your LJ account until we're able to fix it.


Check out our beta features



When we make big sweeping changes that are likely to produce a lot of bugs that we can't find all of during testing or major redesigns that have the potential to mess with the way people use the site, we run them through our Beta Features system first! That lets adventurous people be our guinea pigs, lets us gather your feedback and refine the feature over time, and lets us introduce new code to the messy, chaotic ecosystem that is real-world user data (which is always messier than anything we could possibly mock up in testing) and a variety of browser/operating system versions.

We currently have two beta features in testing, both of which are reasonably stable:

* The new update page is a flexible, customizable, modular system that lets you rearrange the modules (and hide the ones you never use) so you can build your own perfect version for your particular use of the site. It also has access to a few features we've only implemented for the beta update page, like the ability to customize an entry's URL. The only downsides, and the only reason it's still in beta: it doesn't yet have draft support, and it doesn't have a rich text editor (so you need to type in HTML manually). (It also doesn't yet have a "don't autoformat this entry" tickybox; we haven't built the preference pane for that yet.) Still, if you can live with those missing things, go activate the "New Create Entries Page" beta, the first button on the page.

* The HTTPS Everywhere beta, when activated, will cause all your traffic to and from Dreamwidth (while you're logged into the account that has enabled the beta) to be sent via HTTPS (secure, encrypted) instead of HTTP (unencrypted). Our implementation of HTTPS Everywhere is in final testing and is considered a "release candidate": we're running it through beta to make sure everyone gets a chance to try it and yell at us if having it turned on breaks your ability to access the site. We will be enabling it for everyone and making the site all-SSL by default very soon, so please go activate the HTTPS Everywhere beta, the second button on that page, and then holler at us if shit breaks.

(One caveat with the HTTPS Everywhere beta: we're still tracking down the last places on the site that use http links instead of https links, so sometimes you might see a mixed-content warning in your browser's toolbar. We're also still working out ways to proxy images that are loaded in your layout such as header images, background images, or custom mood theme images if you've added them, so if you're using any of those, your journal may give you mixed-content warnings until you switch to using HTTPS links instead of HTTP links for your images. Everything else should work without warnings, though!)


Check out some of our other new and/or unique features



I covered a list of stuff we've added over the past eight years in our last news post. If you're new, go read that list! My favorites are the "reply to a comment by replying to the comment notification email" and "replying to a screened comment doesn't unscreen it but your (also-screened) comment does stay visible to the person you're replying to, so you can carry on a private conversation in a public entry", but there's really something there for everyone, I think.


*

Whew! That was a lot to throw at y'all at once, I know. (Yes, I always am this longwinded. And I always use this many parentheses.) Everybody who's been here for a while: thank you for your patience as I got our new arrivals up to speed! We'll be back in a few weeks with a code push and a bunch of new features and fixes, so the next news post should be more broadly applicable.

In the meantime, let's have a welcome party in the comments:

* If you're looking for new people to subscribe to you, leave a comment with some basic info about your journal and what you tend to write about! Then everybody can browse around and meet each other. (There's also [community profile] 2017revival and [community profile] addme, both of which are unofficial but bustling lately; holler if you know of any more.)

* If you've been here for a while and have a favorite community that's active, drop a link and a brief description!

* If you're new or you've been here for a while, and you're looking for an active community on a particular topic, leave a comment with what you're looking for and people can recommend you some options. (We've done this a few times before, as "the great community rec-o-matic", and it's never a bad time for another round.)

* If you know of any scripts, resources, extensions, tools, or toys that will help someone make the move, get settled in, or customize their DW experience once they're here, drop a link and a description in the comments. (We can't be responsible for unofficial tools, scripts, extensions, etc, so use at your own risk, but I know there are a bunch of them floating around!)

Finally, a quick note on the importer queue: it's still going, I swear. The jobs finishing now are the ones that were scheduled around 48 hours ago, though, so we really appreciate how patient y'all are being!

As always, if you're having problems with Dreamwidth, Support can help you; for notices of site problems and downtime, check [site community profile] dw_maintenance and the Twitter status account. (We can't do support through Twitter, though! Open a support request instead. Me trying to fit into 140 characters is not a pretty sight.)

Comment notifications may be delayed for an hour or two, due to the high volume of notifications generated after an update is posted to [site community profile] dw_news. This was posted at 5:30AM EDT (see in your time zone). Please don't worry about delayed notifications until at least two hours after that.
twilightshade: (Default)

[personal profile] twilightshade 2017-04-14 12:13 pm (UTC)(link)
Please, don't sell this service someone of russian benefitiars, even $1000000. Lj was bought only for control of russian blogosphere that finally kill it. Thank you.
vladicusmagnus: (Default)

[personal profile] vladicusmagnus 2017-04-14 03:28 pm (UTC)(link)
To understand your interlocutor, it is enough to recall the legend of King Midas. Just replace the gold to s... )))
Edited 2017-04-14 15:32 (UTC)
twilightshade: (Default)

[personal profile] twilightshade 2017-04-15 04:03 am (UTC)(link)
Thanks for answer, and espetially thanks for all of your great work
sami: (Default)

[personal profile] sami 2017-04-17 04:34 am (UTC)(link)
Be reasonable, [staff profile] denise.

If someone offers you eleventy bajillion dollars for Dreamwidth, sell, then use some of the money to make us a new platform that's just like DW only with sequins, or something, and build yourself a volcano lair to cackle from or something.