Evan Martin (evan) wrote in news,
Evan Martin

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State of the Goat Address

LiveJournal is truly remarkable in the world of businesses.
It started as a personal project, a fun toy, and it grew solely because it was a Good Idea. We've never advertised, and the only effort we've made towards publicity has been the Webbies.

But it grew. Exponentially, in fact, and eventually Brad couldn't support the site out his own pocketbook anymore. Exchange of money entered into the equation.

This was good. The site suddenly worked again. But with money we became a business, a commercial entity with "clients".

Suddenly, it became an "us-versus-them" issue. Sites sprang up telling you how to "work around" some of the limitations imposed on free users. People complained that our new site design (which was donated by grindcore) was too "corporate".

There are few, if any, other sites where you have the intimacy provided by LiveJournal: when the servers don't work, you can read about how frustrated Brad is. The publicity of our journals has been an issue; people have demanded their money back when they were offended by something they read in Brad's journal. I think the openness is a good thing. By seeing that we're all just humans, hopefully we can avoid the sterile facelessness seen at a site like hotmail, and hopefully you can sympathize with our problems.

Those interested in following LiveJournal's development should look at the wonderful comm_news, which directs you to more specific journals.

With the full-disclosure nature of LiveJournal in mind, here are the issues:
  • The site is really heavily loaded. Alan told me that we're getting almost twice the traffic of slashdot, 60 hits per second at peak load times. We're slow-- even unusable for free users.

    This is OK. I have faith in the technical abilities our team. We've managed to get this far, and there are a bunch of ideas towards making things work.

    A lot (all) of the recent problems have been related to the recent relocation of our servers. We moved from a closet at a (very cool) Internet cafe to a very classy Internet business, and there's been a lot of subsequent misconfiguration. Hopefully, this last fix (as of last night) will make things work, but I won't commit to that, because that's what we say every time. :)
  • We are understaffed/underfunded. We have a lot of wonderful volunteers handling a lot of the aspects of support, but we are lacking knowledgeable technical/business people.

    The problems:

    • Anybody who would know enough to be able to help us would know their own worth and be paid a lot more elsewhere.

      This is the fundamental reason we don't just "hire some people" to handle our problems.
    • 98% of the people who volunteer help don't know enough, and of the 2% who do, most don't follow through. The few who do are faced with incredible technical hurdles-- the site setup is pretty complicated.
      For being so young, Brad and Alan
      really know their stuff.
    • We have limited financial resources. It's a chicken-and-egg problem: we don't want to attract more users because the site doesn't work too well, but the money from new users would help make the site work better.

      We have enough money to continue buying new hardware and pay the webhost indefinitely, but we don't have enough to pay anyone a reasonable salary.

      Many people have suggested putting advertisements on the site. Putting ads on Brad's site would be like whoring out his daughter to pay rent; even if it did pay the bills, I'm against it on a matter of principle. I'm proud of this site, and ads ruin the spirit of journalling.
      On a more financial note, ads don't make that much money.

  • We have no business plan. One user compared our business to "riding backwards on a snowboard down a steep hill", which isn't too far off.

    Brad enjoys the programming aspect of LiveJournal, but he's been forced into administering the servers and handling business, which he knows little about. We're trying to alleviate this by delegating responsibilites; hopefully insomnia (who's been handling business-related tasks like our cool new shirts) will deal with business-related things, and I've nominated myself to handle technically-related contact with the LiveJournal masses.

    This is hardly enough, though. It's easy to suggest, "You need [x] and [y]," but it's much more difficult to actually actualize change.

    To preemptively respond to some of your comments: Sentences beginning with "You need to hire..." or "Brad needs to learn..." aren't helpful, for the reasons outlined above.

With all of that said, I have a lot of hope for LiveJournal.
That's what keeps me working on it: it's simply Really Cool.

For all of our businesslike facade, remember that we're still just a bunch of kids (Brad just turned 21, I 20, and Alan's even younger than me) who thought that keeping an online journal was a neat idea. We're doing our best; bear with us.

And again, all mail regarding this sort of thing should be sent to evan@livejournal.com and insomnia@livejournal.com. Brad gets too much mail as it is. I'll get all of the comments on this post, but important messages should be mailed directly.

Update: Many of you have asked how to help. Brad posted this list of things that need to be done; some aren't too technical.

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