Anyway, the next day, they announced in news that they were having a party in San Francisco to celebrate. Predictably, wank ensued, but the very best part of it all was this completely hilarious Portal-inspired thread that got me featured on metaquotes. If there's one thing I like, it's making references.
Now, cofax7 had already given me the heads up about the party before I'd even found out the news, and I figured it was my sworn duty to go simply because I could. Besides, brad promised "Free booze and a goat," and I was going to hold him to his word about the goat. I didn't care so much about the booze.
I got to 111 Minna Gallery about twenty minutes early because that's the way the BART train crumbles. I told the bouncer I was there for "the LiveJournal thing" and showed him my ID. Once inside, a guy asked me to sign in with my name, company, and e-mail address (and title if I wanted), which was odd, but, hey, maybe they'll send me special LJ coupons or something.
There were about five people inside. I was a little wary. I slounged, not sure what else to do. An Indian man addressed me in Hindi, and I didn't know what he was saying, so he asked if I spoke Hindi, which I didn't; I mostly knew Gujarati. He asked me what was going on in Gujarati, and I said nothing much. And then for the next twenty minutes or so he decided that because we were both Indian, he should talk to me for about twenty minutes about how Indians rose in prominence in the job market at the turn of millennium, how common the name "Patel" is, how I liked Texas, and any number of things I had no interest in talking about. Okay, maybe it was only ten, but it felt like twenty. I didn't think he was there for the LJ party; I think he was a normal customer.
They unveiled the catered food, and I got some cucumber-and-avocado sushi, a goat cheese-and-mushroom samosa, and a chicken skewer. My new Indian friend motioned for me to sit with him, but I motioned to the bar, as I needed to get some water. When I got to the bar, I saw that I was out of his eyeline, so I, um, hid from him and ate my food peacefully, watching the people enter.
Eventually, people wearing LiveJournal.com shirts came in, and at first, I thought they were just really big fans, but as I paid more attention, I realized they were staff. And for about ten minutes, I remembered that I was totally not equipped to bring back any useful intel because that would require talking to people I didn't know, which is not my strong point except when it is. See, my technique is to just stand around while other people talked in the hopes that at some point I would be noticed and perhaps implicitly added to the conversation. And this is how I met coffeechica, ferrell, and arie, three-quarters of the Support/Abuse team. (That's right. There are four people handling all of those requests. This is why volunteers are helpful.)
I asked them how they felt about SUP, and they were all very positive. Oddly enough, the three people involved in the deal were Andrew, an American; Ben, a Brit; and Sergei, the only born-and-bred Russian. And they were all apparently great people, and, more importantly, they had really thought about what they wanted to do with LiveJournal. The staff had had no idea about the purchase; it was just sort of sprung on them a day or so before it was just sort of sprung on us. And they had then spent hours and hours and hours (ferrell said something about fourteen hours on Sunday alone) asking them questions...and SUP had an answer for everything. And not just any answer, the right answer. ferrell said it was great to have them say things he was thinking before he'd even had a chance to say them.
When I asked arie about the possible directions SUP might take LiveJournal, she said that they wanted to make LJ what it was like in Russia: the very definition of blogging (seriously, the Russian for "blog" is the same as "LiveJournal"). They certainly didn't want to be Facebook or MySpace (thank God). One of the first things they did was set up lj_policy so they didn't have to guess what users wanted and didn't want. And the 100 Day Plan they had cooked up was no joke; unfortunately, she couldn't tell me the specific cool things that were to come in the future because of the NDA, but there would be cool things in the future!
If I had a better memory, I could properly report what coffeechica said regarding all the Russian government conspiracy theories, but I don't, so I suppose you can just settle for "Whatevs." Besides, I find the more interesting part of that discussion—which, like the one in the paragraph above, is temporally out-of-place with regards to my linear narrative—to be the amusing, unrelated side comment about the fact that there had been a sudden rush in requests to be volunteers. Because there were many people who would not volunteer for Six Apart but would volunteer for LiveJournal, Inc. Which currently consisted of about seven people or so, because that's the number of people at Six Apart who were focused solely on LJ: the four Support/Abuse people, two engineers (one of whom, janinedog, I met), and a designer (whom I also met). The gist I got was that breaking away from Six Apart and forming LiveJournal, Inc. was a very good thing.
A note on the recent tag limits: arie told me that there was apparently someone who had 20,000 tags. And all he had to do was attempt to open the tag management page to crash the server. So they had to make a tradeoff.
After some talking, ferrell asked me if I'd seen the goat. This was about five minutes after I mentally called shenanigans on the lack of promised goat. The goat was right outside, he said! I hadn't seen it because I had come so early. We went outside, and sure enough...there was Frank!
Although the goat was actually female. "Francine," someone suggested.
Back inside, I wandered around some more, continually checking on the illustrious marta, who was still deep in conversation with a green-haired woman. I didn't want to disturb her.
By this time, it was apparent that the turnout was pretty decent, though I had no idea what the ratio of LJ/SUP personnel to LJ users was. The little party seemed more like a gathering for them to which we were also invited.
I spied arie and found myself in what appeared to be a fandom circle. She stressed that, contrary to what people might think, many LJ folk have been and are members of fandom; hell, a former staffer had left to go write science fiction novels. We started naming shows we were into. "Dexter," said a short redhead across from me who I would come to know as allsunday. "Yes!" I said, giving her a thumbs up. And we proceeded to bully arie into watching it.
Then, allsunday sort of meekly suggested, "I don't know, but does anyone watch...Avatar?"
And I let out an exceedingly unattractive shriek and gave her a high five.
More time passed, and marta was finally torn from her conversation. I took the opportunity to tell her she was doing a great job fielding comments in news. She was extremely appreciative, and she tried to peg my username; I described my most recent comments to her. She had been a regular user for five years before, and she had been one of those people complaining and bitching and cat-macro-ing in every news post, so she knew what they felt like.
The reason she had been torn from her conversation was to join in an LJ Staff picture with the goat. I offered to take the picture before I was asked (amusingly, some guy was asking marta something like, "Could you convince this guy here to perhaps take this picture?"), and it proved somewhat difficult because Frank kept moving around and putting her head down, making it hard to clearly get the entire group and a recognizable portion of goat in the same frame. But I took a bunch, and maybe one came out good that they'll post somewhere.
marta noticed Ben (the British SUP member) and introduced me as spectralbovine, who at this moment was one of her top ten favorite users because I was saying nice things at a time she needed them. Hearing my name clearly, coffeechica suddenly said, "Wait, I do know you!"
I was confused because I don't normally comment in news, but she meant the most recent couple, which I had been more active in. "Were you in the thread about whether Frank's okay?" I wasn't sure what she was talking about, but I had been on the first page of the latest post. She said that when the majority of comments are rage and nonsense, they cling to the nice comments for all they're worth. (That's not to say they don't pay attention to the rest; they were reading a lot of the comments out loud last night and discussing the suggestions.) I admitted that sometimes that's the reason I comment at all, just to put something positive in the mess. It seems I had the right idea.
Anyway, I got to talk to Ben, from SUP. He asked me how long I'd been on LJ, what I posted about, how often I posted, what I did for a living, etc. To be honest, I didn't feel quite at ease. While he seemed like a decent enough guy, the staffers talked me to like a person, and I felt like he talked to me like a user. He asked me when I found out about the deal. I told him around eleven, to which he replied, "Late, huh?" By...four hours? It's not like I missed the news by a week or something. Weird. So I talked really fast and probably sounded stupid in front of LJ's new boss, go me! He left me to go talk to the Russians. marta tried to get Sergei (the CTO) to talk to me too, but he was busy. She had been sitting next to him for those fourteen hours, and they had bonded.
Inside, I saw allsunday across the room talking to folk, so I moseyed on over. Now that we were near a light source, she recognized my shirt as a Threadless shirt (that had fortuitously arrived just that afternoon). The Bay Area loves Threadless; I had just seen a woman wearing this one. A woman on my right was not wearing a shirt. Instead, she seemed to be wearing a red corset top underneath her jacket. I introduced myself.
"This is going to sound really weird," she said, "but did you ever live in Houston?"
Then she said something I didn't catch about "Independent School District," and I said I went to Rice.
"I've seen you!" she said. She was visiting the campus, possibly thinking of attending. I looked familiar, and when I said my name, it clicked. I don't know how she knew my name if she had only seen me.
I was at Rice from 1999 to 2003, I said. She'd visited in 2000. Her name was Jennifer. I had no idea who she was. But she was convinced she had seen me before. This was one of the weirder things that had ever happened to me.
Although I had intended to jet at 8, that time had already passed, and I didn't mind so much because people were interesting. I hadn't anticipated meeting so many LJ staffers; it was neat.
For the record, there eventually was vodka. Vodka shots for the LJ/SUP folk.
Around 8:45, though, I decided to leave before the rush. I said goodbye to allsunday.
To Jennifer, I said, "I guess I'll...see you in another seven years?" She smiled and laughed and threw her arms up for a hug, and even though I still had not a blinkin' clue who she was, I hugged her anyway. If there's another thing I like, it's hugging women.
"It was good to see you," she said.
"It was good...to be seen by you," I said.
I poked coffeechica (ferrell and arie had already disappeared, unfortunately) and told her I was leaving and it was nice meeting her. I said they should have more LJ parties.
Finally, I found marta on my way out, who was compelled to give me a hug.
All in all, I'm really glad I went. It was great to see theljstaff as real people with their own lives and opinions. I think the most revelatory thing was that they really are just like us. They really can and do see our point of view, and it's tough to find a balance between what you ideally want and what you need to do to survive as a business. They're not perfect, and they know it, but they also understand how we'll react because they've been in our shoes before. They actually do read those thousands of comments, and they are listening. Take my opinion with a grain of salt if you wish, since I was biased toward them and am generally a nice person to begin with, but that's the feeling I came away with. Thankfully (or perhaps uninterestingly), there were no real-life wanksters holding up posters of cat macros and launching into tirades about how incredibly wronged they've been.
Plus, I got a free lj_2008 T-shirt and the opportunity to pet a goat. Win-win-win!