Maybe Its Generational

I was thinking about this on the vanpool to work. Maybe it’s generational.

Let me rewind. I grew up in the broadcast television era. We didn’t have cable back then. All TV was ad supported, except NET (oops) PBS, which was either educational or showing “Upstairs Downstairs”. It was also the era when Heinlein was still writing, so my generation understood there wasn’t a free lunch. Nothing was free: it was all paid for in some manner, usually by advertising (commercials during a show, underwriting by sponsors, product placement). We also learned that businesses are rarely in business to lose money (except non-profits, and even then they aim to break even).

Add to that the fact that I’ve spent over 25 years either playing board games, or working in a business where I interpret written requirements and published criteria. Thus, I have learned the importance of speaking correctly, of not using ambiguous terms, and of teasing the meaning of out discussions.

So it is with interest I’ve been following the current bru-ha-ha about LiveJournal Inc.’s decision to stop offering new “Basic” accounts (i.e., ad-free no-charge accounts). Those who created their accounts before March 12, 2008 can still downgrade to “Basic”, but no new ones have been created. This has been “discussed” (I use the term lightly, as discussion is two-way) in recent news posts, and has been predictably entertaining. Folks in those discussions are upset about Livejournal breaking promises, about Livejournal eliminating free accounts, or about Livejournal taking away free accounts. If you read it, you get the sense that the end of the world is upon us because of this, as if the Strikethrough activity of 2007, the Breastfeeding Icon activity of 2006, or the Six-Apart Purchase of 2005 didn’t do it already.

Of course, I just had to jump into the frey fray, pointing out the misuse of terms. Of course one can still create free accounts — they just have ads on them. No one is taking away free accounts: you can always downgrade to ad-supported no-cost, or if you created your account before March 12, ad-free no-cost. But they still complain, arguing that there is still a cost to ads in the fact that the brain cells have to process them. Sigh. Further, I’m called names or insulted as a Livejournal lackey when pointing these things out.

As I said, perhaps this is generational. My generation is used to advertising supporting media — be is newpapers, radio, or television. Why should forms of entertainment on the Internet be different. One can pay cash if one doesn’t want the ads. But the younger generation (who didn’t even have to walk 20 miles through the snows of Southern California to get to school) perhaps doesn’t see things that way. They come from the era of cable and satellite television without ads (of course, they do pay the cable bill), from the era of videotapes and DVDs (with limited ads), of Tivos and iPods (where one can fast-forward through the ads). Perhaps ads are an unacceptable cost to them.

The commentors on the news posts are also upset that Livejournal broke a promise to provide ad-free no-cost accounts. Generation comes into play here. Those of us who are older know that businesses change hands, and that guarantees and warantees made by the previous owner are typically not honored by the new owner. A lifetime guarantee is not your lifetime or the product’s lifetime, but the guarantor’s lifetime. So when they talk about Livejournal breaking their promise, that promise was made by Danga Inc and brad. Six-Apart had no legal obligation to honor it, but they did. Livejournal Inc. has even less obligation to honor it, and they view it as providing no-cost, not ad-free accounts. They bought themselves a businesses, and people are in business to (all together now) make money.

Has Livejournal Inc made mistakes. Yup, they didn’t announce it before hand, and they were not transparent on their rationale for doing it. That’s really a large part of the problem. But they seem to be more aware of this mistake than the previous owners were (who did the same thing, but didn’t fess up). So I still look positively on the new owners.

What makes Livejournal my home for blogging is not the no-cost accounts (I’m permanent, and most long-time users I know are paid). What makes it is the people that are on here. Those of you on my friends list (at least those of you who comment regularly, hint, hint) have grown into a close set of rarely-met friends. Other forums may be free or may not have ads, but they don’t have the key ingredient — you. I think that’s why, for all its foibles, we all stay at LJ.

And now, this is out of my head, and my tea is cool, so its off to my nib pen and inkwell to bleed all over another document…