Archive for Technology

More social networking cuts – this time LiveJournal cuts half its US workforce

Sup, the Russian owners of blogging/social networking site LiveJournal, has slashed just under half of LiveJournal’s US workforce – getting rid of its products managers and engineers, and leaving just operations and finance people. Sounds rather like they don’t intend to do much in the way of maintenance or development now, doesn’t it? Valleywag has the story and describes LJ as being “left on life support”

Note that LJ users – which includes paid customers of the site – didn’t hear this news from LJ, but from the media. Pretty poor, especially for any paid customers of the site who just coughed up $US175 for lifetime, permament accounts as per the company’s offer in December.

The Valleywag story links to the blog of one affected LJ staffer – who is involved with a new open source social networking site called Dreamwidth – which is still in development. Assuming the folk involved in developing Dreamwidth can still put time into it (if they’re now out of work, looking for jobs or starting new jobs they may not be able to) – this could be a good time for them to launch. Especially since other blogging or social networking sites which seem large, active and (at least relatively) ‘safe’ from the current economic climate (such as WordPress or Facebook) just aren’t replacements for LJ.

Most people who haven’t used it extensively don’t “get” LiveJournal, and it kind of stands apart from the way both blogs and social networking sites have developed over the past few years. If you want to know more about the evolution of LiveJournal and just how groundbreaking it was in terms of ahead-of-the-curve features, this is a great read (also good for anyone working on a blogging or social networking site, really): Lessons from the failure of Livejournal: when NOT to listen to your users.

Blogs have changed a lot since LJ’s inception. While they started out as private “journalling” sites often only visited by a few friends of the blogger, generally speaking blogging has now become very much about broadcasting – being public. LJ allows you to broadcast publicly or maintain a private/friends only blog if you prefer – and you can control this on a post by post or whole-of-blog security settings. Also, LJ supports a number of active social communities (yes, including the Harry Potter slashfic community which sadly seems to be all most people know of LiveJournal).

Because LJ has evolved a fairly unique user base, it could be a really good time for Dreamwidth to launch, because I certainly don’t know what I’d suggest to my LJ friends and communities as an alternative to LiveJournal.

It’s going to be an interesting few months ahead. This is not the first time LJ users have faced uncertaintly – as over the course of its life it has gone from being a community site founded by (now-Googler) Brad Fitzpatrick, to a commercial entity owned by Six Apart and now Sup. Many LJers are exploring backup and export options right now – no-one wants to lose years of blog entries, not to mention the contact details of their online friends.

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Check out the cool talks coming up at the "Free as in Freedom" miniconf

If you’re attending in Hobart later this month, I strongly recommend you look at the lineup of talks which Brianna Laugher has organised for the Free as in Freedom miniconf on Tuesday, 20 January.

I’ll be speaking on journalism in the age of citizen journalism at 1.45pm (“It’s all fun and games until someone wants to sue you”). I’m also really looking forward to the other talks, especially Matthew Landauer from, who was recently voted best speaker at the Open Source Developers Conference in Sydney. Matthew won’t be speaking at the main LCA conference – so this will be your only chance to see him speak  – so make sure you come along to Free as in Freedom. 🙂

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RRR tonight – discussion of Australia's ISP filtering "plan"

I’ll be making one of my semi-regular appearances on RRR radio’s technology show, Byte into IT tonight from 7pm-8pm. We’ll be talking about the ISP filtering debacle with our resident legal expert Andrew Fish, so it should be a good one. If you’re in Melbourne, tune into 102.7FM, or you can stream it on the interwebs at

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On Geek Parenting – call for panelists

I’m co-convening the Linux Chix miniconf at (LCA) in Hobart in January. I’ll be able to post the lineup of speakers for the day soon, but in the meantime an overview of the day can be found here. But one of the cool things we’re planning is a panel session on Geek Parenting, which will be open to all LCA attendees.

We are now looking for some experienced geek parents as well as an expert or two (educator, counsellor or other professional who is experienced in matters parental) who would like to share some ideas, tips and discussion on the challenges that being a parent can present.

Read on for details including how to nominate yourself for a spot on the panel.

» Continue reading “On Geek Parenting – call for panelists”

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Interview with Jeff Waugh tonight on RRR

I’ll be interviewing Jeff Waugh tonight on RRR‘s technology show, Byte into IT. Jeff will be giving us an update on the local work being done with the One Laptop per Child laptop, the XO. OLPC volunteers are hard at work in the south pacific region and right here in Australia.

If you’re in Melbourne, you can tune in from 7pm til 8pm on 102.7FM. Or you can stream the show from the RRR website. The show will also be available as a podcast at a later date (but I’m not sure how much later). 🙂

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GetUp's SMH article subtracts the transparency from eDemocracy

I was pretty disappointed to read this article in the SMH yesterday on the birth of eDemocracy in Australia. Written by someone from GetUp, it failed to mention, while spruiking GetUp’s forthcoming website, Project Democracy, which will actually run on’s software and use data.

Here’s the article I wrote for Crikey today about the incident:

GetUp’s SMH article subtracts the transparency from eDemocracy

Credit where credit is due is a basic etiquette and underpins both the ethos and licensing of Open Source software. I hope GetUp has learned their lesson.

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Open Season – an MIS feature on open source in Australia

MIS magazine (Australia) has just published a feature I wrote for them on the uptake of open source software in Australia. A lot of the feature was based on research & interviews I undertook at earlier this year.

Open Season

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Interview with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits on open source as a model for online publishing

One of the fascinating things about open source, to me, is the way that its ideas about freedom of information have inspired everything from software licensing to music mashups. The possibilities, but also the problems, of applying notions of open source licensing to other areas such as publishing were brought home to me on the day that the Zen Habits blog announced it was going open source.

On 7 January 2008, visitors to Leo Babauta’s Zen Habits blog were greeted with a simple message: Open Source Blogging: Feel free to steal my content.  It was a cool moment – a high profile blogger taking the chance that by taking a potential hit in Google rankings/ad revenue, the free & open distribution of his work would actually benefit him more. As he said when he announced the move:  “I think, in most cases, the protectionism that is touted by “anti-piracy” campaigns and lawsuits and lobbying actually hurts the artist. Limiting distribution to protect profits isn’t a good thing.”

(This was before high profile musicians like Trent Reznor turned the major label music distribution model on its head by releasing free music on the internet and still selling out of the “special editions” of the same music packaged for fans and sold at premium price. Another example of copyright being dismantled for the benefit of the content creator.)

I was intrigued to find out why Leo had decided to embrace the open source distribution model for his online publishing, and curious why he’d elected to relinquish copyright altogether rather than opting to use the Creative Commons model (I’d note that my blog, is published under Creative Commons). So I interviewed him to find out more.

I’d also note that at the time of this interview, Leo predicted that if he landed a book deal with a traditional publisher, he expected his book would have to be published under copyright in accordance with the traditional publishing model – and he has in fact since landed a publishing deal. Congrats Leo. 🙂

On with the interview!

» Continue reading “Interview with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits on open source as a model for online publishing”

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For women thinking of attending or presenting at 2009

[crossposted to Linux Chix, Linux Australia,  LCA  and GGD lists, apologies if you see this a few times.]

How would you like a mentor to help you improve your proposal for a talk at

If you’re a female geek (professional or student) and thinking of submitting a tech talk to LCA, then I’d like to tell you that a couple of experienced speakers have volunteered to make some time to read draft proposals & give feedback to women who are interested in presenting at LCA. The idea is to encourage women (especially ones who haven’t applied or presented before) and hopefully increase their chances of getting selected. (I’m not part of the LCA 2009 organising committee, this is not an “official” thing just something I’m organising with the help of a couple of volunteers.)

I’m trying to get this message out to lists frequented by technical women & students, please forward to any mailing lists or friends/colleagues who you’d like to see presenting at in January. 🙂

The timetable I’d like to work to is:

1) You contact me asap ( to let me know you’re interested in having someone vet your talk. I will provide you with contact details of your “mentor” and you will forward your draft proposal to them by this Friday, 25 July (yes, this Friday!)
2) Your mentor will get a week to look at your proposal, and will be asked to send you some feedback by August 1. (so you’ll then have a week to do any further tweaking before submitting your proposal).
4) Call for papers ends on 8 August, hopefully many excellent proposals will be submitted including a record number by women. 🙂

Please note: There are a lot of things you can do yourself to improve your proposal before it even goes to your mentor. Please check out the following.

Information on LCA for people wanting to give a paper: » Continue reading “For women thinking of attending or presenting at 2009”

Comments off 2009 – Call for papers is heading down south to Tasmania in 2009, so if you fancy a trip down south and you have some technical knowledge you’d like to share – put your name forward as a speaker! Ben Powell from the “March South” organising team emailed me to let me know that the Call for Papers is now on. Check out the details at the LCA page. You can also suggest a “mini-conf” topic.

I tried to get some more tidbits of news out of him, but could only get this: “We have two international speakers confirmed so far and I’m currently chasing the final one who is likely to be local.” So it looks like they’re continuing the tradition of having 2 overseas keynotes and 1 local keynote. That’s good to hear. 🙂

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