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Lord Yupa

February 2010

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Frog Wizard

Thoughts on the journaling community.

Reading back through my earlier entry, I see right off I did a poor job of expressing the ideas I intended. I guess that's what happens when I oversleep a little and I'm not entirely awake or coherent and I'm rushed when I post. ;-)

First of all, for the record, I want to say that I'm not telling anyone that they should stop writing short[1] or meaningless posts (Note that one does not necessarily imply the other), if that's what they want to do. Everyone's journal is their own journal[2], and they not only can, but should, post whatever they want. No one has a right to tell them otherwise. Blah, blah, blah.

Also, most of the thoughts here, though expressed as if I were talking to you, are directed at me. I'm not trying to tell anyone what to do, but just providing my opinion. If you don't agree with me, feel free to ignore me. (In fact, you can even insult me, if you feel that strongly about it. My only request is that if you insult me, please be creative about it. Simple name calling is boring.) It won't hurt my feelings, and you won't be the first. ;-)

I guess my point, which was made very poorly earlier, is that LiveJournal is unusual because of the varied people it attracts, with different perspectives on it's purpose, and the different uses it adapts to.

This is a great thing, as it makes for a very versatile and useful tool for many people. Some people like to detail their thoughts and ideas, others use it as a billboard to communicate with others. I've seen it used for project development, topic debate, question and answer help, and more.

Now, I want to point out what I mean by "meaningless" posts, or "telephone entries" as I mentioned in my previous entry.

This has nothing to do with the length of an entry, the specific content, or even at times, the style. It's not necessarily how intense, pre-planned, pre-thought out, emotionally or intellectually stimulating, or anything else, that an entry is. What I'm referring to is the meaning behind it, and if there is any meaning behind it.

I'm sure everyone has been in a situation where they were talking to someone, and didn't have anything to say. So, instead of being silent, they start chattering. We seem to have a sociological need to avoid conversational silences. They make us uncomfortable. Many people get embarrassed and some truly can't stand to be with someone quietly.

So, what do they do? They chatter about nothing. Meaningless drivel. They're not saying it because they want to, or to make a point, convey an idea, enhance communication, or anything else. They're doing it because they feel obligated to do it. Because it wouldn't be meeting expectations if they didn't say something.

"So, what do you think about them Knicks?"

"Awful warm weather we're having this year, isn't it?"

Sounds familiar, doesn't it?

If you were to make a journal entry, and five minutes later someone asked you what you posted about, would you respond with, "I don't remember.", or "Nothing."? Have you ever posted an entry saying nothing more than, "I don't have anything to post right now."?

I have. I would guess I'm not the only one. And it makes me wonder why. Why do we feel this obligation to entertain everyone else, to the point where we post because we feel we should, instead of because we have something to say?

And, why do we feel the need to be entertained by everyone else?

I saw someone last week who was upset because they went 3 days without posting an entry (they normally post half a dozen entries a day), and when they were catching back up, they discovered someone had actually insulted them, in their own journal, for not "posting to expectations".

This was when I realized that the simple statement, "everyone's journal is their own" isn't adequate anymore. It isn't that it's incorrect, but that it's too limited. It does provide an accurate statement of how things are today, for people who use LiveJournal as more than their own private diary.

Where does the community end, and the individual begin? Does the community have any obligations to the individual, and does the individual have any obligations to the community? If it is true that everyone's journal is their own, period, then why do we feel the need to make comments? And why do we get into arguments and debates in the comments of someone's journal?

This still hasn't covered everything I wanted to say, and it's rather more rambling than I'd planned, but I have another meeting to head to shortly, and I'm not sure I'll get time to touch this again for a while.

[1] There seems to be a misconception going around that when I (and I assume others) say "meaningless" that we're referring to short. I'm not positive about everyone else, but there is often no relationship between the two, in my opinion. I've seen entries that were 4 words long which had more meaning than 400 word posts.

[2] I addressed this at least in part above, but I want to say a few more words about it. In theory, everyone's journal is their own, and they're writing it entirely and totally for themselves.

In reality, I don't think that's entirely true anymore. The community aspect of LiveJournal has begun to create expectations and responsibility. As journals move more and more away from being a private repository for personal thoughts, and more towards a community based communication medium, it changes. People change, their attitudes change, and their perspective of their journals, and other people's journals, changes.

It will be very interesting, I think, to compare the LiveJournal of today with the LiveJournal of next year, and five years from now.



I like this one much better. ;)

In re: to who journals are written for, individuals or communities, let me throw in my two cents:

Just because you have something exposed to the public doesn't necessarily mean you have a direct responsibility to the public. I think there are limits to that - for instance, reading about the latest browser hack and posting a journal entry that took advantage of it and took over the reader's computer, shaved their cat bare, charged their credit card with thousands of dollars of mail-order pork rinds, and emptied their trash all over their lawn would be going over the line. However, posting pointless, meaningless, boring, stupid crap is their right. You can comment and tell them it's pointless, meaningless, boring, stupid crap (as long as they have comments enabled) and that's your right - but they should feel no obligation to change it because of that.

Think of it this way: a professional musician performing in front of a crowd has some basic responsibility towards the crowd, but (at least in theory) what they're doing is expressing themselves. If their music sucks, as an observer, you're welcome to comment and tell them it sucks, but they have no obligation to modify their style because of it. If it hurts your ears, go listen to something else. If it bores you, go listen to something else.

Now, if you're the musician, and your own music brings you to tears, then yes, it's time to re-evaluate. ;)

Now, I'm not referring to community journals where multiple people are posting, or journals that address a specific topic or question, I'm just referring to personal journals. I don't generally enjoy reading totally meaningless drivel (what's meaningless is of course debateable), which is why I try to avoid mindless drivellers when I add people to my friends list. ;)

The point is, I don't have a problem with that sort of mindless chatter as long as I don't have to read it myself. :)

Incidentally I think the comment system is one of the great points about LJ - I've gotten into some wonderful conversations, both over LJ (the ping-pong comments) and by bringing it "offline" (AIM, ICQ, email, phone, etc.). I still don't think giving and receiving comments puts any real responsibility on people, I just think it's a nice way to... well... comment.

(Note: I'm not saying your views disagree with all of mine, I'm just having my say. Many of them agree, I think, and I apologize ahead of time for the redundnacy.)

My .05

(Because I'm notoriously long winded.)

I'm here for selfish reasons. I'm here because I like the way LJ is set up, it's so much easier and more friendly than the journal I used to keep on my home page.

I love the fact that we have a community here and the ability to comment and interact with each other, but I don't feel that I "owe" my LJ friends or "the community" anything. I'm a permanent member. I pay to have LJ host my journal.

I try to keep my friends list relatively small and cozy so that I have a chance to get to know the people who read me and who's stuff I read.

Everyone, obviously, uses their journals for different things. I too am annoyed by seemingly brainless entries that consist of things like: "Eating macaroni for dinner. Yummy." or "Watching Survivor. That fat guy is naked again. Gross." (Actually that's a lot more descriptive than most of the ones I've seen!)

But you know what? If that's what they want to do, good for them! I don't particularly care to read it, but then I don't have to.

Sometimes my journal is a to do list, some days it's tearful tales of personal heartache. I post whatever I feel like writing. It's my way of keeping in touch with myself and my own muse. If I make friends along the way, and I have, that's a bonus. If people have comments and a discussion ensues, that's a bonus too.

Don't know if that addresses anything at all that you are posting about (laughing) but that's what came up for me when I read both your posts.

See you 'round the sandbox,