|Show # 44 - marta - In Depth
||[Oct. 15th, 2008|02:12 am]
Marta: okay, back!
penpusher: Okay, we're all back and talking with Marta...
penpusher: Earlier you mentioned your circle of friends who got you onto LiveJournal. What were your impressions of it at first? Or, maybe I should ask why were you apparently resistant to it at the start?
Marta: I didn't understand what the draw was. We'd be hanging out and someone would say "can I borrow your computer?" and they'd list who was there and some funny things someone said, or things like that then someone else would log on and do the same, or link back to the first person's entry
penpusher: And that didn't have any appeal to you.
Marta: I probably knew about LiveJournal for about a year before I made my account, which I think I did on a whim, or to see someone's friends-locked entry or something then, whenever I was hanging out with folks, I'd find out they had an LJ too, and would add them
Marta: but it slowly became something I'd read every day and then write in sometimes - things that would have only been interesting to my friends at the time like "who wants to go camping this weekend?"
penpusher: It was a bulletin board for you.
Marta: social planning, kind of, I guess. A supplement to what was already going on IRL or on the phone or in email
Marta: but then, slowly, I started writing about feelings or other events in my life, and started meeting friends-of-friends through comment conversations and stuff like that
Marta: I went to my first LJ-meetup in 2003, and that's when I started meeting new people just because of LJ
penpusher: I think this is one of the more remarkable things about LiveJournal. Everyone is at least civil and most are very nice when you meet in person!
Marta: yeah, and you meet people you might not ever otherwise have met - the only thing you have in common is LJ!
penpusher: And yet it all sort of works out in a way.
Marta: it does! Then you find out if you inhabit any of the same corners or know any of the same people - LJ is a very small world.
penpusher: Once you start mindmapping you really start finding out about how interconnected things can be!
penpusher: Ok... so take me on the journey that took you from LJ user to being an employee to being the voice of the liaison for LJ users and the staff.
Marta: it's kind of a windy-road, and I know I'll leave something out, but the short story is that I wrote a letter a very long letter of complaint, kind of
penpusher: What sparked that?
Marta: that was sparked by the mass-suspensions known as Strikethrough last year
penpusher: Those of us who were here remember.
Marta: I wrote it in a very personal way, detailing why it was distressing for me, what it seemed to me the problems were, and what I thought should happen afterwards and, because I never do anything halfway, I overnighted it to several people, complete with some statistics to backup my views
penpusher: If you still have it posted somewhere, we can link it.
penpusher: Ah. ok.
Marta: I wrote it from a very personal standpoint, detailing my journey with LiveJournal and why LiveJournal was so important to me. I think it was about 13 pages, all told
penpusher: Wow. That trumps my letter. Mine is still posted and I can get you the link if you ever want to see it.
Marta: yes! absolutely! it's hard to explain LiveJournal to people you don't think "get it" - so I wanted to be as thorough and personal as possible - not just complaining, but *why* LiveJournal was so important
Marta: I think that everyone has a story to tell about LiveJournal that's personal or interesting or gives a new viewpoint, I think that kind of thing is so very important
penpusher: But yes... I think the SixApart era, which is what we're talking about now, presented some unique challenges for LJ users.
Marta: it did - but what I found out in the few months between when I sent that letter and when I was hired was that things weren't the simplistic, antagonistic way I thought they were.
Marta: we had people who were trying their damndest to do right by LiveJournal and that they contacted many people who wrote letters, and were really engaged with trying to do right by a business and right by us
penpusher: The sense that I got, and you can correct my impression, but what I thought at the time was that 6A was all about finding a revenue stream in LJ. They didn't necessarily care about the users, as long as they could connect sponsors to the site. And anything that might dissuade potential advertisers from coming on LJ was squelched, which is how nipplegate and strikethrough blew up
Marta: the problem is, it's not that "they" didn't care about users, but that there's a fundamental disconnect with all other aspects of any other type of service and the reality here at LiveJournal
Marta: it's so hard to describe, because everything is both much more complex than that, but at the end of the day, also holds some truth
Marta: there's no boogyman who says "oh, an advertiser won't like this" but I do think that also a misunderstanding about how we use LiveJournal, and our definitions of things vs. the rest of the world which can be seen in the "interests = likes" debate which occurred for a week or two
Marta: on any other service, people list things they *like* - but we don't use interests that way
Marta: so I can see how it would cause confusion to someone who wasn't ingrained in our culture
penpusher: That was another questionable decision made by the 6A team at that time.
Marta: to their credit, after much public and private debate, that was resolved with understanding it just isn't what it appears to be to anyone who's not "us"
penpusher: The overriding sense I got was that the people at 6A, as well meaning as they were, just didn't have a handle on what LJ was really about, and they weren't communicating with anyone who did.
Marta: that's not entirely true. One of the things that happened over the time I spent corresponding with people is that it became harder and harder to use "them" - as in "oh, *they* did this or that" it's a team, a group of people, who have a variety of opinions or views on a subject and a lot of good ideas too!
penpusher: Well, at least you got hired, so they weren't completely out of the loop!
Marta: also, that we, as LiveJournal users, come in so many different forms, with so many different uses of the service, cultures we follow, and social norms, that it would take a graduate-level social anthropology class to understand!
penpusher: How did you get added to the team?
Marta: Over several months, lots of phone calls, emails, consultations, etc. and a lot of waiting *g* I was eventually offered a job
penpusher: So, wait. You were harassing them by phone and email? Were you asking for employment or just sending criticism?
Marta: no, no, nothing like that! After writing a letter, I got an email asking for a phone call.
penpusher: this was that first letter you mentioned?
Marta: yes. I was prepared to be stubborn and have a fight, but it wasn't like that at all!
Marta: Plenty of people understood the problem, and everyone wanted to find a solution - to the immediate problem, and to the understanding of what caused it so I did a lot of answering questions and asking questions and advocating at first.
penpusher: So, they asked you if they could call?
Marta: yes. then, that would branch off into other conversations and emails
penpusher: What sort of branching are we talking about here?
Marta: well, just how situations could be handled - what kind of things go into the explanations of why a certain thing is one way somewhere else and why it's different here
Marta: everything from forms of art to journaling, creative writing, why users felt so connected to the service, and what the core concerns were.
penpusher: Ok. Give me a little time line. When was that happening?
Marta: oh, probably from August to October-ish.
Marta: yes. not that this was constant - 6A was going through leadership transition then too I was hired just weeks before the sale to SUP
penpusher: The other very noticeable thing that occurred was that from the 6A members that posted things in various places on LJ, there suddenly was a shift to this automatous theljstaff journal. What do you know about that?
Marta: well, I think that it was a way for a collaborative effort to go into making top-level posts. I think it may have always appeared that whoever posted the announcement was the one who was making it, when, in fact, it was not quite like that
penpusher: the impression, especially after the series of choices made by the staff, was that this was a way to diffuse blame in case of another gaffe.
Marta: quite to the contrary, I think it actually, perhaps may have corrected the idea that the individual staff member made that choice
penpusher: The other part of the situation at that time was that it suddenly became very difficult to contact anyone on staff about those sorts of questions... and then you appeared!
penpusher: I admit, I felt badly for you, since everyone was agitated and you seemed to be the only person willing to talk with anyone about these issues.
Marta: another thing that I think maybe I could correct or add to the conversation was that staff who did other roles, like tech support, or engineering, or product work, were answering questions when they saw them and trying their best to help out but answering comments or questions wasn't their primary job -
penpusher: It was kind of an "all hands on deck" situation.
Marta: so it was a new idea to bring in someone who could do that primarily when announcements were made, that kind of thing
penpusher: Clearly the smartest thing 6A did was make you their LJ staff spokesperson
Marta: what I'm called most of the time is "liaison"
penpusher: Yes. That is the word. Though we went through a few descriptives on your billboard!
Marta: my title on the staff page is "Community Relations Manger" - my title on my business cards is "Community Liaison", but my internal title (which has never been said outside of staff) is "Lubricant"
penpusher: haha! Well, LJ Lubricant needs to be explained. At least as far as a title!
Marta: just that I communicate between all the departments and do a little of everything to make things run smoothly is the joke
Marta: just to represent the community to management and to provide communication from what I know as an employee to users so it's not really "spokesperson" because it goes two ways
Marta: but there are actually far fewer staff than everyone thinks, so we all help out on and do lots of things
penpusher: You are a condu-wit, as it were.
Marta: yes, and maybe "translator" too
penpusher: And that's a perfect segue to the SUP era of LJ.
penpusher: Give me a sense of what was going on as 6A was about to sell LJ, what was happening behind the scenes?
Marta: ha! I don't know! I was a brand-new employee!
penpusher: Oh, they kept you locked out as well?
Marta: that's actually an interesting story. want to take a quick break and get back to it?
penpusher: fair enough. We love to tease. More interesting stories with Marta... next!
Continue to Segment Three