Andrei Freeman (lordandrei) wrote,
Andrei Freeman

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It's been a while, so it's controversy time.

6 Apart and LiVEJOURNAL (I hate the capitalization from the logo) announced new child safe policies and tools for the site.

The full post (and 3800+ and growing comments) can be found in lj_biz

New functionality opens up a big can of "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" these factors once again feed into an innate problem of LJ.

I can type more freely with intent to limit audience rather than self censoring.
I actually go out of my way to use child safe material in my posts. I will often use the comic-book symbol text to void out letters of bad words. For example: s$%t, f&#k, and of course G-d. This mechanism gives me the ability to not have to sugar coat my language. I can basically say... no one under X will be reading this so I can write as I will.

I have tiers of filters based on age that I don't need to maintain.
I have filters. Most of my regular readers know that I have filters. A metric f*$&load of filters. I like the idea of having 2 new ones that I don't have to maintain. I can mark my post and it can be public yet filtered. I can talk about things that I'd normally put under a filter and not have to f'list everyone who'd be interested in it.

I can not opt out the age restrictions for my child.
I can fully respect that someone does not like their child seeing violence, sexuality, etc. Inevitably however, for my child it should be MY call. (My being all legal guardians of the child in question). The problem here becomes when people feel that Book X is inappropriate for children. Perhaps I'm okay with my 12 year old reading Angelou's "I know why the caged bird sings" or that oft reported sexual and occult travesty, Rowling's Hairy Potter series. If you want to report me for child abuse for my choices that's one thing. But do not stop the process before I get to make my decision.

We're so early that there are many unanswered questions:
At this point we don't know what the appeal method is or even if there is one. There is no way of knowing what the quota for reports are. And we still have little knowledge of the abuse evaluation process which has been one of the least respected parts of LJ from its earliest days. I applaud 6a/LJ for trying something.. But they've never been exactly responsive to the open questions.

Can I trust the age constraints of LiveJournal
I think this is going to bite 6A/LJ far faster than it will any user. Unless the company does due diligence to not only validate all new accounts, but the accounts of previous users; the company is taking on the responsibility of doing the child-protection. "My child saw your nude pictures and I'm suing." Go ahead... I'm sure LJ's lawyers will be glad to talk to you. I filtered. Either the child hacked or LJ didn't protect. As a result... if we really can't verify the age... Is this glory of technology really gaining us anything beyond a way to p**p** on the posts someone doesn't like.

How abuse proof is the mechanism:
By this point if you've used LJ for long enough youve heard the terms: ljdrama, snark, and any list of users who's life's purpose seems sadly no more than making trouble on the site. Add to that the unending supply of emo, depressed, bipolar, schizophrenic, bored, and irate users (besides me). All these users that think that red flag buttons are just fun to punch to see if they can make posts unreadable. I don't even want to go into the current horror that has been caused by HS students making MySpace accts for teachers they don't like that purport to make the teacher out to be a Sex criminal.

When you put the power of censorship in the hands of the community, you give that community a new tool. Tools can be used for good. Tools can be used as weapons. As a software engineer I will state firmly, often and with conviction
"You never know how your creation may be used."
Feel free to watch Real Genius a few times for the parts that aren't funny.

So, what is the innate problem?

6A/LJ and LJ before it has lived with one major issue since its inception. It's the site's biggest draw and the site's biggest drawback.

LJ is a technology with MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder... or is it Associative Identity Disorder... or whatever the politically correct term is this decade)

What is LJ?

Is it Bloging site with Social Networking? Is it a Social Networking site with Blogging?

Because, dear friends (and that doesn't mean everyone who I've subscribed to)... New Shimmer may be a dessert toping and a floorwax, but inevitably it won't do both well.

Over the past years of LJ usage... I've watched mini exoduses (thank you spell check, I had no idea how to pluralize).
"I'm tired of this as a SN site... I'm going here."
"I'm tired of this as a blog site I'm going here. "
"I'm tired of MySpace, it sucks.. I guess I'll stay here."
"Ooh, DeadJournal is soooo Emo, I love|hate|don't care about it"

The innate problem comes down to the tribal nature of community.

When I worked at E*#&hL#&k (Hail Xenu) one of the architects came in and told us, "We're going to make an IM client." Everyone was excited and I raised my hand and said, (Direct quote), "Why in the love of God would we want to do that?" (Yeah.. I don't work there anymore) The architect (didn't) asked me not to sugar coat my opinions and(er but, did ask me to) elabourate.

I explained that IM is a group of people that communicate, thus.. Community. Getting someone to switch IM's is like asking them to move towns they've lived in. I use the example of the picture of a station wagon packed with boxes, the 6 year old girl in the back waving good bye to the 6 year old boy on the street with a dog and an overturned tricycle. The car pulls away. (Yes, I took advertising classes in college; I can be evil with the Pathos)

The point was that at the time this proposal came down there were three: AOL IM (who'd eaten ICQ) and Yahoo and MSN. The latter two of which were talking about combining to get onto equal footing with AIM. (Opinions mine and do NOT reflect those of any company I might share with MSN)

So what's the problem and what does this have to do with a Goat named Frank?

LJ is stuck in that middle ground. It wants to be a Blogging utility. Unfortunately, it also wants to be a social networking system. Any LJ user who's looked beyond their own journal can tell you about the controversy about calling it a friend's list.

So.. it is a place for you to exercise your free speech, as long as your community doesn't object.

Much like tobacco, and software... once you get hooked, it gets harder and harder to walk away. People gawk at me because I have 6 emails and 10 IM accounts. Trust me... I'd rather have 1. 1 account that is Andrei @ world. And I say who reaches me on what terms. Unfortunately, I have yet to master the ability of saying, "This is the site that does it. EVERYONE ELSE CHANGE"

I know this because only about .5% of the people I track have come to Facebook after 3 1/2 strong recommendations (the 1/2 one can be viewed as self referential to the statement before the parenthetical. ha!)

So... what are your choices?
1) Keep adding IM's and SN sites and blogs and deal with the fact that you will need that to track everyone and get the freedom you want.
2) Find one that meets your needs and stay with it hoping that you will be followed and tracked by the people who don't follow
3) Figure out what you need in the online world that will solve the problems and make it or get someone else to make it.

Personally, I am sticking with LJ for blogging because I don't really think I'll ever post anything that's really going to raise legitimate hackles. I also think that if this system gets abused it will be fixed before it harms the average user. (And by average I don't mean 14 year old girl with issues

And for the record... I'm doing #1 while I try to find my magickal answer to #3

There's probably more to be said.. but it's been a long post already. I'm bound to have unintentionally annoyed people *shrug* and will either get lots of comments, or more likely most people will shrug it off, not read the cut, and 3 or 4 friends (the real kind) will post, "Amen", "yeah" or the like.

I wrote my opinions. I've been doing SN for a "Long" time (measured by the concept)

I'm always happy to discuss the concept. Even happier for a paycheck.

P.S.: Yes.. New default icon to distract you from the actual content of this post.
Tags: child protection technologies, lj, meta, social networking

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