The problem with LiveJournal

March 17, 2006

The problem with LiveJournal is that you can't stop partway through reading your friendslist; unless you have a better memory than me, once you start reading it you need to read all the way back to where you last stopped. The result is somewhat like Space Invaders; a stream of entries comes at you and you have to read them all or die. In turn, this makes reading LiveJournal friendslists not a casual activity; if I can't commit enough time to read all of the new entries that have built up, I have to stay away.

This isn't just LiveJournal's problem; it's the problem with all blogs. LiveJournal has it much worse because the LiveJournal friendslist is an aggregator, so you get lots of volume in one place.

Blogs have to use reverse chronological order mostly because the web is effectively stateless (technically you can use different URLs for different states, but very few visitors will change the URL they use to get to you). With a single URL and without state, you have to land visitors at some arbitrary point in a stream of entries; any of your choices are going to be crappy for someone.

(Blogs aren't alone in having this problem; consider webcomics, where not only may the latest comic not make sense without the previous one, it can even be a serious spoiler.)

One of the big wins of syndication readers is that they do have state, so they can keep track of unread things for me. This makes it possible to dip into a feed, read five or ten entries, and then stop; as a result I am far more up to date with Planet Debian than I am with my LiveJournal reading, despite being much more interested in the latter.

Unfortunately, LiveJournal does not offer friendslists in syndication form. And I suppose that is the real problem with LiveJournal.

(Obligatory attribution darnit: the Space Invaders analogy is due to whoever called nn the Space Invaders of Usenet newsreaders back in the days of yore; at the time it had similar issues.)

Written on 17 March 2006.
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Last modified: Fri Mar 17 02:22:47 2006
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