Jesse Proulx (jproulx) wrote in news,
Jesse Proulx

State of the Goat 2004

Happy New Years! It's 2004, and time for another State of the Goat Address!

Wrap-up from State of the Goat 2003
Last year we mentioned hiring some new employees (denisep and ryanfitz). They're still with us, and we've picked up some more throughout 2003: lisa got the sysadmin job we posted about and started shortly after the last State of the Goat post. nbarkas is also doing sysadmin stuff, and he started about mid-year. Those two are both in Seattle, with all the servers. In Portland we've picked up markf to work on the support and abuse departments and mahlon as a programmer. whitaker is still programming part-time while in school, but he'll probably go back in the summer to full-time again. xevinx was hired to do web design and styles and graphics and lots of pretty things (like this network chart), and daveman692 is doing an internship from a local high school. deveiant is in Colorado writing code, and I'm stuck in PA for the time being, but we both have plans to move to Portland soon. One of our minor goals for 2004 is to have most of the employees working in the same physical location, which'll be nice.

Another goal of ours for 2003 was performance, which we feel we've improved on quite a bit. We developed memcached, which we're now using like crazy (even other sites across the net are starting to use it, like Slashdot and Wikipedia). Even though we've come a long way, we haven't gotten it perfect yet. Things fly most the time now, but there are occasional glitches. Our goal for 2004 is reliability: we want to be consistently fast, even if a bunch of servers crash at once. In lj_backend we talked about our new master-master DB setup which we're starting to reconfigure everything to use. Over the next few months we're working on shuffling users around between DB clusters and upgrading old hardware and setting machines back up in the new config.

Moving on: we talked about S2 beta testing last year (our new style system). There are a few things that aren't complete, pages that aren't customizable (like the "your comment has been posted" page), but it's largely done. xevinx and I have been making new styles for all users, and we'll continue to do so throughout 2004. We also might sponsor an S2 design contest like we did for the old style system.

And finally, we talked about wanting to remove invite codes, which we just recently did. It feels so good now. All the work that led up to that was really nice, too: moderated communities, screened comments, community invites. It's all stuff that lets people have more control over their account.

Highlights of 2003
Lots of events and new features happened in 2003 which we didn't foresee at the beginning of last year:

Questions addressed
I recently asked people if they had anything they wanted address for this year's post. Since we've only given you a limited time to comment (and in that time have garnered a healthy number of replies), we'll be answering all of your concerns in another news post in the near future. However, here are some of the topics that caught our eye:

What is the status on some of the much talked about projects like journal statistics, photo-hosting, etc?
Photo hosting: We have disk space and bandwidth handled now, so we just need to do quota integration since both fotobilder/picpix and LJ have their own system. We've already integrated the different systems' authentication methods via modules for the two services, so it should be a fairly easy task.
Statistics: Nobody's working on it, but it'd be nice. we really need more manpower or hours in the day.
How far along is S2? What's left to do, and what will we see from it?
S2 is pretty much done. We're happy with what we've done so far, but we can see what is left to finished. We need a lot more decent styles, and we need to start helping translators translate the styles, since that's one major thing that S2 supports that S1 doesn't.
Do we plan to sell more permanent accounts? When?
There are no current plans to sell more. It's a delicate issue: we don't want to sell them too cheap, or too expensive, and finding the right number to sell isn't easy. Although selling more permanent accounts isn't entirely out of the question, we don't have any plans for another sale.
Will we start to purge deleted accounts more frequently? Do we plan to delete inactive accounts? How will we handle namespace pollution?
That's one thing about our new master-master DB setup that's nicer: we can perform mass deletions much safer and do optimizations on the database that's offline in the pair. We'll start doing that in the next few months. As for inactive accounts, we have a plan outlined in lj_biz.
What's the current climate around encouraging people to buy paid accounts? Are we going to see really compelling new features, or free-user limits in the next year? Or is 5% paid accounts an acceptable rate?
We don't want to limit or bug free users, coercing them to upgrade. Our plan is to offer enough fun stuff to paid users to make people want to pay. 5% paid accounts includes the inactive accounts. If you look at active accounts, about 10-12% of users are paying, and that's perfectly acceptable. Those 10-12% pay for everybody else just fine, and the site doesn't have any financial problems. We spend money very conservatively and make sure we keep spare money around "just in case".
What were the real cost of the commercials, and what effect will that have on the service?
Brad has written a reply concerning this in lj_biz

Plans for 2004
Things we're interested in working on this year:

  • Secure logins and password changes using SSL and challenge/response (This is now live on the site)
  • Reliability improvement, mentioned above and in lj_backend
  • Photo hosting (we have the hosting portion already written, now it's a matter of integration)
  • Posting by camera phone (waiting for the photo hosting)
  • Subscribe to get email/other notifications on any type of event: comments in any thread/journal/action. (ESN system)
  • Raw data access, fetching comments and downloading your entire journal
  • More new S2 styles
  • Increased interoperability between LiveJournal-based websites (opt-in roaming authentication, separate namespaces)
  • RSS and Atom syndication improvements

As usual, we'll be posting about these goals here in news as the year progresses.

Have a Happy New Year!

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