Um. They sound rather different to me. If I were to read just the English text, and if I weren't Russian, I would be as Shocked and Outraged as everybody else. The translator took it upon themselves to embellish the text.
This is what I read in the Russian version:
- So you're sure that the boycott won't happen?This is what the translation says:
- No, I won't say that. Because anyone can create a few hundred sockpuppet accounts in LJ, then update their journals with: "On 21st March, I will be silent in protest". After that you, the journalists, will have the ability to list several hundred usernames who were silent that day. And then write, "And this is just the tip of the iceberg!"
- So you're sure there will be no boycott?And that's just the tip of the iceberg. ;) So, uh, I have a problem with the translation.
- No, I didn't say that. Because any person can create several hundred fake LJ accounts, comment in them that on the 21st of march I will be silent in protest. Then you journalists can quote those fake users and list the names of those that were silent that day. And add a cute catchprase like "that's just the top of the iceberg"
Those who want a cave may have one
Anton Nosik, the leader of SUP, explained to our correspondent, what is preventing SUP from revoking the decision that discriminates against users who joined LJ after March 12th.
Q: Those users who are unhappy that the right to the so-called Basic Account is now only available to bloggers registered prior to March 12th of this year, are calling for a boycott of your service. How massive is this boycott likely to be?
A: Of the LJ authors whom I read, the people I have friended and the people who comment in my journal, I don't know anyone who's planning to participate in the boycott. I don't even know any people who take such an initiative seriously. So there's a basis for suggesting that the initiative is marginal, like those that have been proposed previously. It's like the call to phone all the advertisers of the US LJ and demand that they remove their ads.
Q: Did they phone them all?
A: Of course not. Where would one find people stupid enough to call serious companies? It's one thing to call a newspaper in hopes that it'll make you famous on its pages. But a company... They'd just get asked: "Who are you? Why should I listen to you?"
Q: So you're sure that the boycott won't happen?
A: No, I won't say that. Because anyone can create a few hundred sockpuppet accounts in LJ, then update their journals with: "On 21st March, I will be silent in protest". After that you, the journalists, will have the ability to list several hundred usernames who were silent that day. And then write, "And this is just the tip of the iceberg!"
Q: So in your opinion, LJ users don't have any real reason for outrage.
A: At first let's establish what constitutes a Basic account. Back in the day, these accounts were the main offering on LJ. Because the creators were poor and didn't have money to expand. And simply because LJ was not a business -- it was a students' hobby. Back then, users were told flat-out: "Even if you pay, you are not getting anything extra for it. Payment to use LJ is a donation. Like the project? Donate." This model was active from 1999 to 2005. Basic accounts are a legacy of this model and the mentality connected to it -- a part of which is the belief that banners are evil.
Since then, things have happened -- to LiveJournal, and to people with this mentality. Compared to the functionality of the improved Paid account, the functionality of a Basic account from 1999 looks rather prehistoric. To offer this anachronism to new users, I think, is completely unnecessary. Kind of like mobile phones from the early 90s.
Q: But there are people who don't want a Smart Phone, but want the most primitive method of communication at the minimal price... Let's say I want to start an LJ blog, but hate ads being a part of our life and I have no money for a Paid account. I'm out of luck?
A: Today you won't be able to start an LJ blog. Just like you won't at mail.ru, at Google, at Yahoo!. There is no service currently in existence that, without being a charity, refuses to make money -- thanks to user payment and thanks to ad placement alike. This is normal: you don't go into a shop asking for free goods...
Q: So your service is the last in the world that's refusing to be charitable?
A: In truth, it is not LJ that has refused to be charitable by providing Basic accounts, but the user. In the last two years, Basic accounts are registered by about 10% of new users. Additionally, a rather significant portion of these newly registered accounts are so-called sockpuppets, created by existing users for the purposes of spamming, littering the Yandex search database, and leaving the sorts of comments that lead to banning or suspension. In other words, there is practically no regular demand for Basic accounts; the asset's non-liquid. So we took it off the shelf. Current Plus users are not forbidden from reverting to the primitive Basic versions (if they suddenly go mad and decide they want a [insert whatever car model is considered the crappiest in your locale] instead of a Mercedes.
Q: So why don't you just let your new users go mad if they wish to?
A: I think it's necessary to give them that ability, though since the time the change was made, there hasn't been a single actual person who said that his individual right to using a Basic account has been violated. However, I believe that it's not worth it to forbid bloggers who come to LJ after March 12th from changing their Paid and Plus accounts to Basic. I hope that we will make the appropriate correction. However, this depends not on me, but on the collective decision by the company's management.
Q: When could such a decision be taken?
A: That's where we have a problem. In these current conditions of blackmail, the company's hands are tied.
A: Let's say I tell you, the journalist, politely: "I think you put an extra comma here." Your normal reaction: "Yes, you're right..." or: "Let's ask the editor..." But if I show up here and say: "Hey you, get rid of that comma, or I'mma break your face!" Would you really check the comma placement, after that?
In a situation where people are trying to blackmail and intimidate us, threatening to destroy our business, there are business reasons not to reward this sort of behaviour. This isn't just the psychology of someone who becomes more stubborn the more they're pushed. The issue is that at no point in the history of any successful business, success was not reached by bowing to aggressive, unfriendly force. No decision -- even the most correct one -- should be taken under duress.
It would probably be right to reevaluate the [ToS] passage regarding March 12th in the following few days. But from the point of view of sound corporate politics, we'll have to wait for the boycott. Let it pass. So that the topic of public outrage, threats, and intimidation can be closed. And then we can discuss the problem thoroughly.
By the way, this is not the first call for an LJ boycott that I've heard in the last few years.
Q: How effective are these calls?
A: So effective that in the first year of our work with LJ (October 2006 to the end of 2007), the userbase (which was being persuaded not to go to LJ because it was "Kremlin" and had "bloody KGB tactics") grew to twice its size: from 700 thousand to nearly 1.5 million.
The LJ userbase is divided into three groups. There's the silent majority, who use LJ for their own needs and don't care who and where created and maintains this resource, with what money, and why. There's also the "positive minority" (in the Russian segment, about 7-10%) These people like LJ, they find it useful, and they want it to grow. They help us, which includes constructive criticism, thanks to which we, by the way, correct mistakes we make. And there's a third category of people. They constantly, throughout the history of LJ's existence, come forward with loud initiatives whose purpose is to harm LJ and its creators, to bankrupt them, to ruin their reputation. For the most part, these people are driven by a need for attention, and that need is always validated.
Their rhetoric is the same, regardless of whether they write in English in California or in Russian in Moscow. At one time, these people demanded the resignation of Brad Fitzpatrick, when he was the sole owner of LJ. They demanded that everyone phone every advertiser working with LJ and threaten their reputation, if the advertiser doesn't stop placing their ads in LJ. They demanded to get rid of every new addition to LJ. They called users to switch to competing platforms, first for this reason, then for that.
It's understandable that journalists want a sensational story. An LJ scandal is a sensational story. Nobody is interested in writing about the many mistakes we've corrected in LJ, how many improvements we've made, how much time and effort was spent on fixing errors and introducing new functions.
The administration cancelled or corrected their decisions, published apologies, reinstated accounts blocked due to a lack of foresight, introduced corrections to the ToU... Anything can be reformed, with constructive dialogue.
Nosik is certainly being blasé, but contempt? KGB? Oppression? I don't know. It doesn't sound like that to me. Russians in general tend to be more direct in speech (and use stronger language) than English-speaking Westerners are used to. Translating a Russian interview into English directly will make pretty much any Russian sound like a complete dickwad, because cultural expectations are completely different. It just really frustrates me that people are not taking into account that we're dealing with a different culture here, not just a different company. Business and economics are built on pretty much the same principles the world over, but they are never divorced from culture.
I'm not going to participate in the boycott. Because interview or no interview, whether you believe the translated version or find someone unbiased to translate for you, LiveJournal will do as it likes, whether you're a paid user, a permanent account holder, or an early adopter. The message is pretty clear, guys: if you don't like it, leave. And I don't think that message is going to change no matter what we do.