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Ramblings on the awesomeness of Dreamwidth

Posted on 2009.04.08 at 03:51
Tags: ,
Well, I've spent some time over at Dreamwidth now, and I have to say I'm continually impressed.

It's in closed beta testing right now. So there's a lot they don't have up and running. But there's so much that is. And the speed at which more stuff is happening is impressive. Meanwhile, people are getting to know each other and everyone is happy and excited and it's all so bright and new and shiny.

It feels cool. It feels historic. Watching this thing coming together. Being a part of that.

But it's more than that. It's... everything you wished was better about LJ? Odds are, they want it, too. And they're making it happen.

And... it's in closed beta. They're testing things out, looking for bugs, controlling site growth... and they have a full OpenID interface. LJ created OpenID. It's a way to log in to one site using an account from another. You log into, say, your LJ account. Then you go to a site that accepts OpenID. When it asks you to log in, you give it your journal address. LJ verifies with you that you want to use your OpenID, and then verifies you to the other site. So you can do stuff there without signing up for a whole account.

Of the sites that let you use OpenID (MySpace and Facebook not among them), most allow only minimal function. Over at, say, Blogger.com, you can use your OpenID to post comments... and that's about it.

At Dreamwidth, an OpenID user can do just about anything a basic account holder can, short of posting new entries. You get a profile page with bio and interests and everything. You can adjust pretty much all your site and account settings. You get 6 userpics. You can send and receive private messages. You can friend people. People can friend you...

Oh, I should mention... Dreamwidth split "friends" into two seperate lists. There are "subscriptions" - journals and comms you want on your "reading page" - and there's your "circle" - the journals who have access to your f-locked posts. (Amusingly, they call this the "Watching, Trusting, Friending" system... or "WTF" for short.)

Back to OpenID, though... it's closed beta. Not everything works. They're running around trying to make things work. They're worried about how fast they can expand before stuff breaks or resources (server processing, bandwidth, etc) get overtaxed. And they've given just about full access to OpenID accounts. Any LJ user can go over there right now and be a part of things. Do everything short of posting full entries. It amazes me.

And it's not just that. It's the loving, geeky care the People In Charge have for all this. I mean, check out this news post. It's the latest weekly progress report. One of the site's co-owners taking the time to let everyone know what's up... and barely managing to hold to a proper professional tone without bursting with squee. Take a look at this, where she's talking about the weekly bugs identified and/or fixed report:

This post -- it's long, but I think it's really fascinating -- details every bug we resolved this week, along with a brief description, hopefully understandable by the non-technically-inclined, as to what it does and why we thought it was important. It was a very diverse week. From small improvements (OMG you can preview a comment directly from the inline comment form now, thanks to allen) to big projects, from backend cleanup to new features (you can now add links to your Twitter and Delicious accounts from the profile, for instance -- that was totally me), it was a banner week all around. Look over the list; you'll probably find one or two things on it that will make you jump up and down and go "OMG, THAT." (My own OMG, THAT list is about half of those...)

It's a freaking bug report list, and she's bouncing up and down over the awesomeness.

And you know what? It is pretty awesome. Nearly a hundred bugs fixed and/or improvements made, largely by a volunteer development team (though the site owners do still claim about 1/4 of those fixes). That's impressive. (And I should highlight the fact that the "bugs" include improvements - not just things that aren't working right, but "Hey, wouldn't it be cool if...?" postings.)

It's a management staff that cares. That responds. That is working, not just to make everything work, but to make it awesome.

Dreamwidth has the main site and the mailing lists and a development wiki (which, BTW, includes feature wishlists) and an IRC channel/server (irc.dwscoalition.org, port 6667, channel #dw) and a Twitter feed and a Bugzilla thingy and... Let me put it this way - they're open to input. And they actually listen. And then respond. And, often, if it's called for, do something about it (if not, it's because they're scrambling around trying to get everything off the ground and working).

And there's the whole attitude. Of openness, of positivity, of... well, you know how LJ has a few of its own HTML tags? Like, say, [lj user]? Dreamwidth supports that. You can use lj-cut and lj user and all that. Just so you don't run into trouble from force of habit. But they also opened it up. Well, in two ways. First off, you can do [lj user=pgwfolc site=livejournal.com] and create a link from Dreamwidth to my LJ journal. Which is awesome. But the main command for that doesn't include the letters "LJ." It's just [user name=pgwfolc site=livejournal.com]. Do it without the "site=" and you get a local DW link. And, for the record, there's no "dw user=" tag. The main tag is just plain "user" (just as the cut tag is [cut text=] ) ... because they want it to work - simply, easily, and all-inclusively. A cross-site welcome. It's part of the general philosophy.

It's... "Let's not trash LJ. Sure, most of us are ex-LJ people. The development team consists largely of people who used to work for LJ. But why trash them? Let's learn from their mistakes. Let's do it the way it should be done. The way we've always wished it were done. And let's do it for everyone. No matter where they come from. Let's build something new and open and beautiful and exciting."

Really... it makes me think this is what LJ must have been like, back in the day. Back when it was just starting. Except that now it's being done by people with experience at the job and a practical eye towards sustainable business (which does not include ads... except, maybe, a classified ads section... a special area you can choose to visit, where you can pay a small fee to put up an ad/announcement/request/offer/whatever).

Oh, and did I mention the Cool Hunters? It's a community dedicated to finding nifty things people are doing (or want to be doing) with the service so that the developers can help make it easier to do nifty things.

And with all that said, there's still more that's awesome. And more yet that you may find awesome but which doesn't excite me quite as much.

But... think about it. No ads. A management team that cares. About big improvements. About little tweaks. About bringing in people from other sites, even if only to bolster the existing community (without getting any additional direct funding from doing so). About... about doing whatever it takes to make the site as great as it can be. It's all of that and more.

But, as LeVar Burton used to say... "You don't have to take my word for it." If you're reading this, odds are you've got an account that works with OpenID (LiveJournal, Yahoo, Google, AOL, Blogger, Flickr, WordPress... there's no shortage of options). Go take a look for yourself.


Hello Kitty, Destroyer of Worlds
rahaeli at 2009-04-08 11:20 (UTC) (Link)
I saw this post after half an hour of screaming at code that was not doing what I wanted it to do and frustrating me all to hell and gone in the process, and I have to say, it totally fixed my grumpy mood, immediately.

Thank you. :)

Okay to link on the wiki page?
pgwfolc at 2009-04-09 01:39 (UTC) (Link)
Well, I'm glad to hear that. :) Thanks for letting me know. :)

It was for this post, BTW, that I asked the deathbed question. I posted it, got ready to go to bed for the day, and suddenly the thought struck me that hey, maybe that'd be a nice line to add in. But in my sleepy stupor, it seemed like a good idea to get official confirmation before saying it. And the little voice that was supposed to say that's maybe not a good idea and, at the least, I should wait until "morning" (by which I mean 6pm or so... at least, this week) before acting on it... that little voice was too tired to speak up properly. Ah well.

Okay to link on the wiki page?

Look again. I added it there right after posting. :)

I'd been thinking about writing a post like this for a while, but it was on the back burner until you posted about that wiki page. I'd already come across it, but your mention that it was doing some real good bumped it up on the priority list. (In short, I got off my virtual butt and wrote the post in the vague hope of exactly this comment.)

So... this post links to the weekly update post which links to the Wiki page which links to this post. It's the circle of life. Or something.
Hello Kitty, Destroyer of Worlds
rahaeli at 2009-04-09 01:50 (UTC) (Link)
It's certainly the circle of the internet. :)

And i hear you about 'morning' being 6pm this week. I woke up at 6:30pm my time ... yesterday. It's now 9:45 pm my time today. I think perhaps I should sleep at some point.
pgwfolc at 2009-04-09 01:55 (UTC) (Link)
... Ouch.

Sleep is good.

Especially if one is attempting to write functional code.
Hello Kitty, Destroyer of Worlds
rahaeli at 2009-04-09 01:58 (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I'm not allowed to code after having been awake for 16 hours or after having taken my third dose of painkillers, whichever comes first. ;)
pgwfolc at 2009-04-09 02:04 (UTC) (Link)
That's a good policy.

Though I'm sorry to hear about the third dose of painkillers. Not sure what's up with you, but I've had fibromyalgia half my life (along with a bunch of other auto-immune fun, not all of it diagnosed/named). You have my sympathy. And the makers of the pills have my eternal gratitude.
Hello Kitty, Destroyer of Worlds
rahaeli at 2009-04-09 02:19 (UTC) (Link)
Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, actually, which means that I can dislocate most of the joints in my body on command! But oh, I sympathize; I have a few friends with fibromyalgia, and it sucks too.

When I figure out how to upload myself into the Matrix, wanna come?
pgwfolc at 2009-04-09 02:33 (UTC) (Link)
Amazing the things our bodies can do to themselves.

Totally with you on the Matrix thing. Especially if it means getting cool powers. And directly-uploaded knowledge and skills.

Until then, Dreamwidth will have to do... ;)
pgwfolc at 2009-04-10 11:55 (UTC) (Link)
Yes, I logged off. But then I realized that if I didn't write this up before going to sleep, I'd forget about it. And/or it would nag at me.

First: Curious... how did you find this post, anyway?

Second: For the record...

1. Making people happy is my purpose in life. That's not a platitude. It's not some saccharine assumed altruism. It's fundamentally, inexplicably how I'm wired. If there's anything in this world that makes me happier than knowing that I made someone else's life better, even just a little, I haven't found it.

1a. Thanks to the fibromyalgia (which, about 10 years ago, started impairing my brain as well as my body), my entire life has been on hold... meaning that I have precious few outlets for that.

2. I believe in Dreamwidth. It looks awesome. And it's going to bring happiness to a lot of people.

3. You, in large part, are Dreamwidth. One of the major driving forces behind it, and one of the people most responsible for pulling it together and getting it off the ground.

4. What you're saying is that this post helped keep you going at that task.


I have not only made you happy, I've helped you make lots and lots of people happy.

This, in a deep personal sense, makes me very happy.
Hello Kitty, Destroyer of Worlds
rahaeli at 2009-04-10 12:12 (UTC) (Link)
I can't remember if I found it by checking Dreamwidth's referer logs or through Icerocket, which is like Google for blogs -- I keep a tab open with an Icerocket search for "Dreamwidth" all the time, so I can see what kind of things people are bringing up, what questions they have, what they're saying about the project, what they're confused about or getting wrong, etc. (That's how i know what points i need to address in mailing list posts or in posts to the site somewhere.)

I hear what you're saying about the happiness thing. I've said for a while that my goal is not to change the world -- I mean, if that happens, obviously, bonus! But it's not what I consider my real goal, which is: Leave everything I encounter a little better than it was when I found it. I've been living my life by that tenet for a really long time, and some of the most worthwhile moments I've had, some of the things I will be able to point back at and say "this, this is what I lived for", arise out of that.

And in a real way, DW is part of that! I just -- there's so much that online community can do to help people, from the big world-changing sweeping things to the small, quiet stories of change and growth that everyone carries with them, and that's what I want to do with DW. I want to make community. I want to do it right. I want to learn from all the mistakes I made on LJ, that LJ made without me, and do it over again and get it right this time. (Or at least get it better. Nothing is ever perfect; everything can be an improvement over what you did last time, though.)

And yeah. This post, reading this post, helped pick me up at a time I needed the boost. So thank you for that. :) I'm so glad to have met you through this, you have no idea!
pgwfolc at 2009-04-11 04:10 (UTC) (Link)
Ah. Probably the referer logs, then. I have the little "minimize search results" ticky checked. Well, good to know people were actually clicking off my entry, then. :)

As for happiness... Yes. That. Exactly. I wrote up a whole post about (non-mystical) karma in my other, more private journal. But yes, it boils down to exactly that.

And yes, that's how I see DW, too. Which is why it's so exciting to see it coming together and, in some small way, to help make it happen.

Finally... very glad to have met you, too. :)
piranha @ dreamwidth
pir_anha at 2009-04-08 11:28 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ramblings on the awesomeness of Dreamwidth

awesome post. and yeah, what you said!

Edited at 2009-04-08 11:29 am (UTC)
pgwfolc at 2009-04-09 01:40 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Ramblings on the awesomeness of Dreamwidth

Thank you. :)
cesy at 2009-04-08 12:43 (UTC) (Link)
Hear, hear!

(Technically, it's [user name="someone" site="insanejournal.com"]. They've also done it with [lj-cut text="blah"] which is now also [cut text="blah"].)
pgwfolc at 2009-04-09 01:40 (UTC) (Link)
Ah, thanks. That's important. Will correct that.
htbthomas at 2009-04-08 12:51 (UTC) (Link)
Do you have a beta account? Or are you just poking around with an OpenID? I've been doing that so far (I'll purchase paid time on April 30th, I think)
pgwfolc at 2009-04-09 01:42 (UTC) (Link)
No, no beta account yet. Just OID. And yeah, plan to purchase on the 30th.
stellar_dust at 2009-04-08 17:21 (UTC) (Link)
OMG, reading rainbow. *wallows in nostalgia for ten seconds*

Yes. DW=awesome. I haven't done too much there, because I don't want to get all attached to my OpenID account and then do everything all over again when I get there for read. But yes. Awesome.
pgwfolc at 2009-04-09 01:42 (UTC) (Link)
Hee. :) I loved that show. :D

I'm working my way around slowly. But come Open Beta, I might end up just upgrading the OID account. Or buying a new account and then linking the OID profile from the new one.

Whatever works.
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