I'm going to stop here and say, her essay is better, clearer, extremely informative, and objective as hell. I am objective one hour out of every week, and it is not that hour. If htere's one post you read about Dreamwidth, read hers.
That said, I never miss an opportunity to write at length about something if I have a laptop and free time and tea, and look at that, I have all three.
the_shoshanna, like many of the commenters, has a long ongoing and personal relationship with Denise, or at least a long-running awareness, which I have had far less, and so with far less historical precedent, I do trust her, but my reasons are sometimes a little different.
[They also have nothing to do with the utterly incredible massage at con.txt. I mean, none.]
Most of you who read here knwo I was a welfare caseworker a few years ago. It wasn't a thankless job--sometimes, your supervisor remembered to take her estrogen shots and you got to go home and not take a really big dose of Ambien--but you know, sometimes it wasn't great.
No matter my feelings on LJ policy, or abuse, I never made the mistake of assuming the most public face had any control over what was always decided, just as I had to explain to my clients over and over I was not in charge of food stamp policy, that was the legislature and congress; my job was a very, very narrow kind of interpretation with very little room for flexibility.
To uphold a policy you don't agree with but do your best to make reasonable, to interpret as broadly as you can, to work in whatever way you can, isn't easy. And it's harder the stricter, the more ridiculous it is. I have no expectation that anyone will quit a job because they can't stand the policy if they feel that they can find ways to make that policy palatable. Most especially if that job is also part of more than their work life, and even more so if they feel they can make it better in ways that someone else couldn't. It's the reason I stayed a caseworker. I do believe Denise did her absolute best until she couldn't anymore. And to me, Dreamwidth is the culmination of all the years she spent watching LJ go through it's growing pains, all the mistakes made, and all the problems that exploded.
So for me, at least, the fact she was LJ Abuse, that she was able to work under so many different owners, that she was there to see everything that could go wrong as much as right, and from possibly the most thankless job there is--I mean, that's the highest recommendation that can be made. She knows what she's doing. She know exactly how explosively bad this could go. She knows the tech because she helped write it; she knows the userbase becuse she's been a user as well as an employee; she's as much one of us in her interaction with LJ as she was one of LJ's employees.
She's made herself the visible face as well as the buck stops here of an entire networking site. People tend not to conflate their online presence with their personal presence, much less be an active user of it; this is a statement, and in some ways, it's a challenge. She thinks she can do better. I'm going to say, she could not do worse. And I believe, honestly, she will do brilliantly.
In a community, especially in livejournal, especially in fandom, there are a lot of ways to establish credibility, and only one of those is one on one interaction. In my entire time on LJ, which is coming on eight years, no one whose judgment I trusted and whose counsel I would ask for has ever had less than respect, trust, and admiration for her. I say this about a group of people who occasionally don't even like me consistently. And some who actually actively dislike me. In a very, you know, friendly way. I don't take lightly that kind of recommendation.
So I'm going to bring up Strikethough, since that is probably for a lot of people the biggest tipping point for users, especially in fandom.
I did a lot of public posts on it, but I also did several flocked posts. One of them, at the time, was questioning Denise's role in it. There were comments in the entry that were equally mystified; all of us in general are willing to give the benefit of the doubt to one of our own, but even that could be shaken a little. I don't think, though I'd have to look, anyone condemned her, but there was uncertainty on what exactly had happened and how much blame could be apportioned. Denise is, at least for a lot of media fandom, the public face of LJ and she knew it. She knew it. And if the users couldn't get a quick response, well, some of them (a lot of them) went straight for her.
A few hours after I posted, I received a private email from a mutual friend. Apparently, the lurkers support in email is not an urban legend--and it wasn't the last I'd get.
So I watched her for a while, as the emails were persuasive and also, people I trusted absolutely. And friended last year after we met at con.txt. Over the last year, there's been nothing in her behavior, public, private, or IM that was inconsistent. She also narrated dreamwidth to me in a way that had me dreaming about the damn thing.
Being a program tester (and who knew this job would end up being this insanely useful for some practical understanding of how programs work?) and watching how she's worked on Dreamwidth, both before the Closed Beta began and after, was, at least to me, precisely the way testing a new system should be done. I don't know if she uses the same methodology I do at work during testing, but the way the site is being introduced, starting with a firm base and growing from there, adding functionality, users, and bells gradually, slowly, and warily, with every step double checked and immediate posting to the users what has been done so we know what's changed, what to look for, what to test--it's fantastic.
This isn't a site thrown up in a few minutes as an LJ clone--this is a fork, with the same baseline but choosing a different road, and carefully building exactly what they want that road to be, and making sure they can do X before moving onto Y (but think of x and y as many related variables instead of single variables). There are going to be mistakes and problems and doubtless outages, because that's how it happens. The thing is, the precedent they're setting in how they deal with it, the methodical, careful, and above all else, practical way they are dealing with smaller things shows that when the big things hit, they'll have a system in place from habit to deal with it. The big breakdowns are inevitable, but the important thing to know is that when they do--and they will--the same care, the same method will be consistently applied to fix it and fix it correctly so that particular problem doesn't happen again.
Consistency, a clear policy, a very clear and transparent methodology are all--well, kind of unprecedented, to be honest.
Let me point out, I just got my code this week, so it's not like I had any particular investment before that.
I admit it--the second my friend started insta!migrating without me, I was totally (not objectively) cranky and feeling very much ill-used with wee hurt feelings and possibly a theme song on my emo pain and whatnot. Objectively, I was perfectly well aware that a.) they were inviting slowly for a reason and b.) I sort of stared at the posts saying to comment if you want an invite and not doing so. This is my issue with this huge body of weirdness about how I didn't want anyone to think I thought I was entitled, and also because I'm functionally unable to ask for things bigger than an icon or a beta, and it's like, a twenty minute argument with myself for either of those. Let's say fandom wank did a very good job at grounding in that kind of lesson with their examples.
Is it elitist? Not exactly--it's communal. The idea behind it--to test slowly, to bring people in slowly--also relates to those people bringing their people. It's an invite-meme. They bring people they know and trust over, and those people bring people they know and trust, and everyone is slowly and carefully seduced with things like "explanations of s2 layers" and "oh, look, it's shiny!" and "jenn, I'm sending you a code, stop sulking for the love of God, you could have asked".
And in my opinion, and this is completely just from watching migration patterns (I, well, do that kind of thing to entertain myself), it also works to get people who not only want to be there, but are invested in wanting it to work and be active in making it work.
It will get people who are already familiar with it and what it is and will be, because the person who invited them has been going on about it forever and a day. They know it's in progress, they know they are coming in on something that's going to be extraordinary, even if the previous button is in the middle of the list of posts on the reading list right now. So for the newly-invited user, it won't be a shock; there will be familiarity already. And as it grows, slowly, more and more people will already have that familiarity, and know what Dreamwidth is and what it isn't. And they'll come in with friends who have been around from the very wee gleam in Denise's eye all the way to the chick who came yesterday. For those who come later, it will be easier than those who came during Closed Beta, and even easier than those testing before it; there will be a huge wealth of experience to draw on from fellow users, and per capita, enough people to share that experience without breaking down the reporting system asking questions that aren't, to them, obvious.
No one is going to be left behind; just some people will get to take later flights, where the plane won't squeak as much, and the seats are bigger and more comfortable, and the pilot and stewardesses all know what they're doing and can make your experience that much better. Maybe in-house movies? Better wine, definitely.
And finally, for the fannish people on my flist.
There were zines, and usenet, and mailing lists, and messageboards, and diaryland, and then livejournal. We're not static; we're bad at standing still. I've been in fandom ten years this summer, and seven years in LJ as of last November. We've been here for a while, and it's been--great, and terrible, and fascinating. We've never been afraid to try everything once, and sometimes everything a few times. It's kind of what we do. We like things that are new.
Or hey, I'll say this:
Be a lemming. Jump blind over the cliff because your friends are doing it. Sure, the jump is scary, and you can't work out why the hell they thought this was a good idea, but the rush is unbelievable. You'll love what you find on the other side.
Open beta starts April 30th. Try it.
...and to point out, I started writing this an hour ago and just realized I've written shorter fic. Jesus.
Dreamwidth Wiki - all you ever wanted to know as of now.