December 12th, 2004

mini me

Meet the Demand for Categorization

Hello everyone,

This is my first post to the lj_dev community. I have been using LJ for about two years and support LJ through paid membership.

I used to use other blogware such as b2 and Movable Type; I joined LJ because of the user-base makes it easier to connect to other people.

Like most other experienced LJ users, however, I find myself running into problems that have yet to be addressed by the LJ feature set and are being circumnavigated with methods that aren't necessarily the "healthiest" ways to propagate communication within an online community. I've seen a lot of people start wondering why these features aren't implemented in LJ.

In particular, I'm talking about the most common problem of categorization of entries and subscription access to those entries. The demand for this feature within LJ has been made obvious not by the direct demand of such features but by how people are adopting methods of dealing with the lack of such features within LJ.

There are two ways of dealing with lack of categorization in LiveJournal: The "Friends Only" Journal and the "Multiple Account" scenario. Both methods have serious drawbacks and are not the best way to maintain healthy connections online. The "Friends Only" approach is exclusionary, and the "Multiple Account" approach creates extra management overhead on the part of the user and that user's friends. (I would get into more detail about the problems of both methods of approach but I believe that would be beyond the scope of this community.)

Anyone not using either of these two methods may opt to create group filters for specific entries, but then runs into the problem of playing "Blog God," having to decide and keep track of who really has access to each post. This is okay when we get to know people through interaction, but becomes a monumental headache when we've just added people to our friends list or are unsure what may or may not be appropriate for all readers.

The other option that most people adopt is the "all or nothing" approach, where everyone on the friends list gets to read every entry posted by the user. The problem with this methodology is we are undoubtedly creating bad surfing habits--people left without choice of what to read skim through it all and until something "interesting" hits them. This psychologically objectifies all users into faceless, soulless beings, as what we experience is turned into commodity for mass consumption. Often this leaves both ends of the experience feeling empty, often turning to the aforementioned "friends only" blogs after feeling used and exploited.

An obvious solution to meet the demand of what one might call selective reading (similar to a pick and choose market?), is to allow categorization of entries and allow user-subscription to such entries. Created properly, this feature has the ability to become very powerful for the following reasons:

1. Users can maintain one account and not worry about having diverse interests,

2. Each category can be subscribed to, thus eliminating the need for the user to be exclusive or ignore other users (unless one really must)--in other words, it nurtures the original premise of the internet as it turns it back towards a more "sharing" atmosphere,

3. Eliminates the need for a "Friends Only" journal, as users can feel comfortable posting to categories that are not sensitive, allowing access to a larger "friend" base,

4. Allows users to be selective of both who's journal they are reading and what they are reading about, gives the power to the user to select from what another user is already sharing,

5. Depreciates the "fan lists" by allowing users to gradually get to know other users as they interact, rather than subscribing to an "all or nothing" instant-gratification method of adding friends

6. Can be used as a "front-door" mechanism on the user-info page, and each category can have it's own interests--thus making it easier to choose which categories/interests to share with others.

There are a lot of very dynamic possibilities with a categorization system within LiveJournal. I haven't even really scratched the surface. But I think that if LiveJournal doesn't get on the ball with this soon, someone else will rise to meet the demand of this type of journaling methodology.

I believe the time has come to incorporate human psychology into the software, rather than letting the software dictate how we communicate with others. (I believe it's creating a lot of dysfunction, perhaps?)


johnny :)
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