LiveJournal: Behind The Scenes Drama Isn't Restricted To Facebook


You may not have even heard of LiveJournal: a blogging site that's been active and popular for over a decade now. But it ranks above The Daily Mail Online and even Reddit in the Alexa 500, and it's a social network that I've been a part of before Facebook was a twinkle in Mark Zuckerberg's eye.

Everyone knows the drama behind the creation of Facebook (or at least David Fincher's version); but the drama that surrounds the ownership of of LiveJournal is more obscure. Like any company, LiveJournal was founded, bought and sold several times but in 2009 current owners, SUP Media moved the company from San Francisco all the way to Russia.

Yet, since the company has moved it's operations to Russia, it's the English speaking side that is ever so gradually getting left behind. Discussions of the site's development is now entirely shared between Russian communities on the site, oft-times leading to bewildering confusion for users that LiveJournal once took under its wing; but has now almost entirely forgotten. This week, comments from LiveJournal staff were wrongly auto-translated, making it seem like paid accounts (a feature where users can upgrade their accounts and pay a yearly fee for extra services) were to be cancelled. As someone who has a paid account I understood the member of the community that expressed their concern.

The latest (English) update from a LiveJournal customer service representative said the following:

"Some comments by staff members there were being auto-translated as saying we would be 'cancelling paid accounts next year'. The Russian terms used in these comments were being translated as the English word 'cancel', which of course has a specific negative meaning. That is not what will be happening -- no accounts will be cancelled or revoked, no already-purchased paid time or paid features will be lost or anything like that."

This seems like they're trying to push the blame onto the user. LiveJournal user "lied_ohne_worte" thought the same:

"I think many of these misunderstandings would be reduced if some form of communication to the English-speaking user-base could take place at the same time as things are being discussed on the Russian site - or more specifically, if informational entries could be made at the same time, and if people's questions and comments could be replied to here as well. It's not exactly the first time this happened, and one can't blame people for using machine translation if no one talks to them directly."

When LiveJournal, a company that prides itself on community involvement, decides to disregard the opinions of a huge portion of it's user-base on the grounds of the owners' decision to move operations half way across the world, it is, frankly, a dick move. Discussion of new features is happily brought to the Russian speakers; but as for the rest of us, LiveJournal seems to have the policy of 'like it or lump it.'

Personally I'll never want to leave LiveJournal, although that doesn't stop me feeling a bit betrayed at the lack of care from the company since it changed hands.

So, what do you think? Do companies have a responsibility to make sure the new buyers look after the existing user-base, especially when some users pay for the service? Or should we just shut up and let the developers do what they want when that's already the case for most websites?

Suzy Aldridge