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Dreamwidth

I've been doing a little (very little...) coding over the last couple of weeks for Dreamwidth, which went into closed beta at the weekend. (Which was/is very exciting!).

It's a code fork of Livejournal, but they're taking the opportunity afforded by starting up anew to rip out large chunks of code by the roots & rewrite things *better*. The biggest example (for me, anyway) of this being the replacement of the friends system by a system which explicitly separates "people I want to be able to read my stuff" from "people I want to read". For me, that's pretty much the Killer App right there. The increase on the comment limits from 4,300 char to 16,000 (there's a similar post size limit increase, but I've never hit the post limit so that bothers me, personally, less :) ) is also shiny. Plus: no ads. And one of the owners (synecdochic) has discussed at length why ads on social content sites Do Not Work, financially speaking, so I believe that they actually mean this.

The meta-things that I'm impressed with:

- a commitment to openness (of business practices and site-running) and consultation that I believe in. Possibly in part because I've been involved with and/or witnessed discussions about proposals or ideas that have resulted in decisions being changed :)

- a diversity statement that doesn't read like corporate bullshit.

- the business plan is along the lines of "small, stable, functioning, ongoing business" rather than "let's flog it in due course & bathe in web2.0 cash". An interesting post on the subject of business aims & so forth.

So, yeah. I shan't be moving off LJ altogether unless/until various things change[0], but I'm certainly going to be doing a certain amount of moving across. I gather there is a crossposting tool, for starters. I'm very fond of LJ, but only in the sense of being fond of the things it enables me to do. DW feels like a project I can be fond of in a more specific sense, and I like that.


[0] The real Killer App would of course be full interoperability - i.e. being able to read one's LJ friends-list, even locked posts, on DW via OpenID. This is a Difficult Technical Problem for which there is at present no decent fix, but it is being contemplated. Full import of your own LJ will be in place before open beta; OpenID already allows cross-site reading & commenting on non-FL posts.

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babysimon
Feb. 16th, 2009 05:48 pm (UTC)
I am in general quite excited about Dreamwidth, but:

It's a code fork of Livejournal, but they're taking the opportunity afforded by starting up anew to rip out large chunks of code by the roots & rewrite things *better*.

this really scares me! I'm sure we can both think of plenty of OSS projects where "let's have a big rewrite!" has been the precursor to never delivering and gradually fading from sight...
synecdochic
Feb. 16th, 2009 07:02 pm (UTC)
Well, as one of the DW owners, I can pretty comfortably say that both xb95 and I are totally aware that You Never Rewrite From Scratch, Ever. *g*

For the most part, we're doing all of our rewrites in a small, contained fashion -- mostly with iterative changes -- if they're pulling out old crap functionality and replacing it with new. (The exception to this: we just nuked to-do support in the codebase entirely. Actually, julietk nuked to-do support, in fact. And it was just so old, and so broken, that it was easier to pull it entirely and replace it with Something Else down the road.)

For instance, take memories -- we want to completely redo them, but until we do, we'll keep the Old Way around. Etc. We have a roadmap that goes out about 18 months, and our bug tracker has a clear list of everything we're going to change and how (and most of them even already have a spec!) You can also see a list of what we've added/improved -- and what bits of LJ we won't have.

Our reason for forking absolutely isn't the "this code sucks! let's have a big rewrite!" that you get so much in the OSS world -- our reason for forking is that the people who've had the commit bit on LiveJournal-the-code-project for years and years never caught on to what the users of the site were actually looking for, and so many of their decisions steered the codebase down (in our opinion) the entirely wrong direction. So we're forking so we can Do It Right. And since both of us worked for LJ for a really long time (me from 2003-2007, Mark from 2003-2006, with both of us having put considerable volunteer time in beforehand), we actually remember all the forks in the road where LJ turned right and we'd like to go back and turn left instead ;)
babysimon
Feb. 16th, 2009 08:47 pm (UTC)
Wow, thanks for a really interesting comment. It seems like your goals are reasonably sane ;)

Out of curiosity, is the roadmap public? I searched but couldn't find anything.
synecdochic
Feb. 16th, 2009 08:55 pm (UTC)
The roadmap currently exists as a bunch of scribbles in pencil in the notebook next to my computer, so no. ;) It's on the "list of stuff we will dump on the site before launch", though.

You can check our open-beta-blocking items, though, which is the roadmap for the next two months. There's also the planned enhancements and planned bugfixes. (The Priority flag on those is roughly akin to how much we care about them at this particular moment, at least for the enhancements. Anything that's keyworded why-bugfix is pretty much functionally P1.)
julietk
Feb. 16th, 2009 09:16 pm (UTC)
And nudge. You forgot to mention that you killed nudge ;) Although, obviously not to *replace* it with anything, just to be able to dance around on the code-corpse.
synecdochic
Feb. 16th, 2009 09:24 pm (UTC)
Sometimes I consider rolling back to the changeset before just so I can kill it again.
julietk
Feb. 16th, 2009 09:19 pm (UTC)
synecdochic has obviously said all of the useful stuff. But also: just from the small amount of work I've been doing, this does not have the feeling of that sort of OSS project. There are plans, and people doing lots of active work, and a very sensible attitude to what needs to be done/fixed *now*, and what has to go on the "put this in down the road" list.

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