Livejournal is like Blog, only better. In my experience, it's incredibly simple to set up; because they host it on their own server space, you don't have to spend all that time fiddling around with getting your own site, or Geocities, to accept your uploads properly and format it right. It has a variety of journal entry tools, like Logjam, for most operating systems in use today. And it makes it easy to build a sense of community, by linking in your friends list, so that you can see what your friends are doing at a glance, or other people can see who your friends are and what they're like.

True, it's a bit hard to get into because of its popularity--you either have to get an access code from a current member, or buy a paid membership--but once you do, it is worth it!

As for webjournalling or blogging itself (though I've never really liked the term "blog;" it reminds me of the sound one might make if one's breakfast did not agree with him), I feel it is one of the greatest new uses to which the Internet has yet been put. Now everyone can be a journalist or editorialist, reporting on how he feels, what he thinks, or other things that affect him. In the wake of the WTC tragedy, hundreds of people posted news updates from near the scene, their feelings, or other comments. If not the most reliable information source, it will at least be incredibly useful to sociologists in days to come--a way of instantly taking the pulse of America, learning what the people thought, not just the pundits and the press.

I also feel that it is a good way of getting into the habit and practice of writing, so that you become a better writer and an easier writer. Building good habits, such as that of writing a little bit every single day, is a key to becoming a successful artisan of prose.

And finally, if I might dare add in a little plug, my own Livejournal can be found at

  • http://robotech_master.livejournal.com
  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/robotech_master/
  • (if I've let my subscription lapse)
    What is LiveJournal?
    LiveJournal is an online journaling community built around personal journals started in March, 1999 by Brad Fitzpatrick. Mostly written in Perl and using MySQL for it's database back-end, it's an open source project that has drawn over 1,000,000 users in addition to hundreds of volunteer developers and technical supporters who are dedicated to supporting the project. Overseen by a small paid staff, it is funded entirely by its members and kept running by its volunteers. It has spawned a few other successful online communities, most notably DeadJournal and uJournal.

    In the summer of 2001, LiveJournal.com put an invitation code system in place to regulate growth because the site had slowed to a halt and the creation of journals solely to harass users had become a common problem. In order to create an account you had to obtain an invitation code from a current user or purchase an account. Although LiveJournal was still growing very quickly, invitation codes slowed the growth and have eliminated a lot of abuse.

    Invitation codes were removed on December 12, 2003 and you can now create a free account without anything more than a valid E-mail address and after either a visual or audio test to try to prevent mass account creation.

    Who's Frank the Goat?
    When Brad was living in the dorms at UW, his roommate decided to make a few joke banners to put up on Brad's site FreeVote.com. Brad and his roommate ran out of ideas after banner #4 and started making banners saying "LiveJournal.com... because goats are cool." So, Brad went and found a picture of a goat and he became the unofficial LiveJournal mascot. You can find the original banners here: http://www.livejournal.com/banners.bml and read Frank's story here: http://www.livejournal.com/site/goat.bml

    Why LiveJournal instead of all these other web log tools?
    LiveJournal caters to Internet users of all levels. It simplifies the process for the computer newbie and makes it possible for anyone to create the journal of their dreams, complete with flashing graphics and flashing links. At the same time even the experienced programmer can find something new to play with and contribute to the project. People can comment on each other's entries, log in securely, download their journals, tag entries from any journal or community as memories, form communities, filter their entries so only select people can see them, and update from a number clients that have been developed for a number of platforms and include the very popular logjam client developed by Evan Martin. In short, the difference is that LiveJournal is a community and not just a site that hosts personal web logs.

    LiveJournal.com has received a number of awards, including two People's Voice Awards, one each for "Service" and "Personal Web Site", during the 5th Annual Webby Awards.

    It's also worth noting that LiveJournal supports RSS feeds and entries from both other sites using the LiveJournal code and feeds from sites such as Slashdot and Dilbert can be read via LiveJournal, making it a more useful place to center your Internet life around. Recent features inclue audio posting via the phone, a rich text web client, posting via E-mail with PGP encryption, a number of different styles to apply to your journal and an inproved creation and customization system, increased file capacity and the ability to purchase more user picture icons if desired.


    Sources:
    http://www.livejournal.com/doc/server/
    http://www.livejournal.com/support/faq.bml
    Information also gathered from my experiences volunteering for LiveJournal.com and conversations with other volunteers and staff members.

    It's worth mentioning that the LiveJournal is open source, so people who complain about the poor service but still want the same functionality can, if they are technically savvy enough, run their own clone of the system.

    However, the main attraction to LiveJournal for many people is the large user base and the friends list feature. The former merely means there are a lot of people already writing there, so there's a lot of people to read and interact with, especially since LiveJournal lets you comment on posts that people have made. The latter makes it easy to read a a set of people's journals. Certainly, the user base can't be duplicated just by running your own site, which means starting my own LiveJournal system is an incomplete solution at best.

    If you are considering a weblog for yourself, there are many reasons to look closely at LiveJournal.

    For starters, it is free. The free LJ service is extremely flexible, but has some limitations that only paid accounts can access.

    Free accounts have:

    Subjected entries, spellchecking, the ability to change the dates of your posts, mood and music indicators, message board style comments, post archive, memories list, friends post lister, the ability to lock your posts to specific groups of people, the ability to ban people from posting comments, limited ability to customize the look of your LJ and to embed it in another website, archiving and downloading of posts, to name just a few.

    Paid accounts have everything the free ones do, plus more flexibility in customizing your LJ, the ability to post by phone and email, an LJ subdomain (http://yourname.livejournal.com), an LJ email address, more user icons, photo storage and embedded polls and surveys. There are other added benefits, but these are the ones that I am most familiar with.

    The ability to keep track of your friends' day to day lives is a wonderful thing. Simply clicking on the "Friends" link in your LJ takes you to the most recent posts made by the people in your friend list, where you can read and comment.

    Many people enjoy the RSS feed feature, which enables them to keep up with syndicated sites, such as their favorite comic or news servers.

    There is client software available for every operating system currently in use, all of it, to the best of my knowledge, free for the download. Additionally, heavy duty LJ fans can download the open source code and run it on their own server.

    Perhaps the best thing about LJ is the sense of community. Through reading friends' posts and commenting, you will find other LJ users (and they will find you) who you find that you are sympatico with. A great way to build friendships and help to make the world a better place.

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