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User discontent casts a shadow on LiveJournal's annual State of the Goat

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Late Wednesday, the LiveJournal staff delivered the State of the Goat. Since 2003, this annual address,—named after the site’s mascot, Frank the Goat—has given users an assessment of the previous year and what’s coming next.

This year, however, the statement served a secondary purpose—to quell user discontent.

“[W]e are eager to keep things working effectively and in a way that best embraces the ideals of LiveJournal and its passionate members,” the staff wrote.

2011 was a tumultuous year for LiveJournal. There were DDoS attacks from Russian hackers that rocked the site for weeks at a time. A new redesign was unveiled. And users got riled up over updates to the commenting system.

In the State of the Goat, the staff reminded users of the good additions the community saw last year, such as a mobile app and a revised community directory, before addressing the negative. According to the address, users should see a turnaround on parts of the Release 88 commenting revamp that users generally disliked.

As you read this year's State of the Goat, we're preparing fixes, looking over your comments, and we'll provide updates as new information is available.

Looking forward to 2012, the address promises a significant decline in pop-up ads, a purge in inactive accounts that distract from the community, and new ways to mitigate DDoS attack downtime. Once again, the staff stressed that community feedback is key.

Users, still bruised from the recent Fast Company slight, were skeptical. Several asked openly for the staff to specifically address both the article and the unpopular Release 88 comment redesign.

“Honest to God, you almost make change sound non-horrible this time,” wrote rainbowstevie. “I am immediately suspicious.”

“i notice that there isn't any mention of the ‘we don't care about existing users’ interview/article,” wrote shutter.

“You've acknowledged that Release 88 was quite unpopular, but do you plan to do anything about it?” asked masu_trout. “There's been a huge lack of communication between staff and users (other than thinly-veiled insults to our intelligence on Twitter, of course) and it's very frustrating.”

The audience has spoken. If LiveJournal wants to regain the community’s trust, it’s going to have to take action. This will be the year that either confirms users’ suspicions or wholeheartedly wins them back. 

Or as LiveJournal spokesperson Tom Byron put it:

"We have to keep to our word."

Photo by kkirugi