This particular QotD generated some interesting discussion around the Neighborhood, especially at Maya's place (go here and read if you haven't yet). Rather than totally monopolize the discussion there, I figured I would put some more thoughts into a post of my own.
Sometimes, things suck not because the users are slapping up junk, but because… the interface is just lacking. I mean, MySpace is just a web designer's nightmare. Yes, I must sheepishly admit that I used MySpace for a time, mostly because friends and family were using it, at least at the time. I can't count the number of pages there that I found hard to navigate because they were just a slapdash puzzle of HTML code. It would appear that most users don't know HTML, CSS, and other web programming languages because there is a glut of "Pimp My MySpace" pages out there. There are a few notable exceptions where a crafty webdesigner cracked the format, but most are just sprawling collages, i.e. very badly designed.
Maya mentioned eBlogger. I have to admit I have not really checked them out, but apparently they go in another direction– you need to know HTML to get much working.
So a good bet for a blogging company is to put up an interface that is very easy to use. These might be called Rich Text Editors (think of word processing software, like Word), or they might be called WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get— a few of you here will recognize that as a Flip Wilson quote) editors. Either way, they hide the code and make posting easier.
As I said on Maya's post, despite the heavy rantings by LiveJournal users, Six Apart actually did right by LJ by bringing a nice, clean, user-friendly interface to the posting page, which is quite similar to what we have at VOX. It used to be that you had to know HTML to get cool stuff on a post there– I don't think this has been enabled for comments/replies, however.
(I would like Six Apart to enable HTML posting here, but that's another story…)
And then there's user junk.
Now I am no great fan of MySpace, but I am a fan of Count Boogie, a musician that sings primarily about Tom and MySpace. He is so goofy and likeable that I can forgive him his obsession for a site that encourages bad design, but, the banality of user-posted junk is not lost on him:
Drama. Okay, I'll admit that some of this comes with the territory. When the term switched from "weblog" to "blog" to "social networking", which encompasses more than just writings, we were bound to get some of it. But in its extremes, well– posting when you are:
- Shit-faced drunk
- Having a nervous breakdown
- All of the above
- None of the above, but totally wallowing in self-pity
- All of the above (again)
Is never pretty, easy to swallow, or tasteful, for that matter. To me, it would seem that you have fairly little regard for those who are reading your posts.
So Maya and I both mentioned gated communities. This is why I like VOX and LiveJournal (well, when I can dodge the wankery at LJ)– because you can decide who sees what. There are levels of trust implied. You have posts that you don't mind the whole world seeing, posts that you want to restrict to just your immediate readers, and posts for those readers you trust to share things of a more personal nature. LiveJournal has the distinct advantage that you can group those restrictions however you like. But– most VOXers/VOXters here just make a different blog if they want to separate content.
Social networking is a wonderful thing. It brings people together where physical distance, shyness, or other barriers might be in the way. But, if you're not careful, you can still make yourself out to be a total asshole or ignoramus, too.