I was reading a post by our own peri-renna earlier where he noted LiveJournal’s new policy of removing the option to create new Basic accounts and he mentioned how it might just be time to leave LiveJournal as a blogging base.*
I can’t agree more, but not for the reasons you’d expect.
Let me say up front that having a membership to most of the places below is certainly worthwhile, because it allows you to a) comment on folks’ posts, and b) establish a web presence of your own because your comments will thus link back to your blog (your real one, or a LJ page that tells folks where to find your real one), thus giving you a consistent face across the web. If you don’t want a consistent face across the web, then you don’t have to worry about it.
And I practice what I preach. I have jump pages on Geocities, Comcast, Xanga, LiveJournal, and Blogger…. I have a profile on Facebook if you can find it, I sure as hell can’t…. I have a WordPress.com login but their software is smart enough to point straight to my WordPress.org blog so I don’t have to maintain an extra jump page there. I think that’s all of them. Probably.
But the ‘net’s a lot like maintaining residency. Except for this site, all those pages above are just PO Boxes that forward contacts to my home, which is here. And why is my home here?
Well, let’s look at the options.
I always viewed Myspace as a co-ed high-school sleepover when the parents were out of town. When I was old enough to hold those kinds of sleepovers, we held them on Prodigy’s chatboards, not on our own web space, because most of the planet didn’t know what web space was. So I don’t have a Myspace account — and I’m a snob — I’m proud of that.
LiveJournal’s like living in the college dorms – more civilized, but you’re still sharing a bathroom with your 20 closest neighbors, even if you don’t like them. (Xanga’s the same, only at a small private junior college that doesn’t advertise well.) Livejournal is totally about community, which is why I’m amused that they’ve shut down basic accounts. My only (totally uneducated) guess is too many “kids” (who turn out to be 35-year-olds who aged well) who move in, slip ads for the latest stock/penis/Canadian drug scam under everyone’s door 35 times a night, get kicked out, add a fake mustache, and then try it again.
Blogger is LiveJournal’s sister university, only with a different password.
Facebook is a college in the middle of the city with six separate campuses that require me to learn both the bus and the subway in order to get to class, buy groceries, hang out with my friends, or even I swear to God find the bathroom. And they tore up all the maps. There must be some skill to navigating that place that only those under 25 are privvy to, because damned if I (or most of the people my age at work) can figure it out. What’s the cheat code to see the map? Up up down down left right left right select start? The only way I find anyone is to wait until my sister’s friended them and then steal her friends.
Anyway, at some point, you graduate. Sometimes you get your own place before they boot you out the door and charge you $30 for your own damn diploma, and sometimes you don’t. I moved out early, to Geocities, which like its sister tripod resembled having your own studio apartment over a bar in a rowdy section of town — and the landlord had hung neon signs for the bar and exotic dance studio right outside your window so everyone who visited could see them. Plus, it turned out that much like MySpace now, most of your neighbors were colorblind and addicted to the blink tag drug. So regardless of how many pretty flowers you planted or how clean and usable your apartment was, just living in that neighborhood left the impression that you were just as bad.
So I moved to Earthlink, and then when we physically moved, to Comcast. But I still don’t have any address of my own on either of those (in fact on Comcast I had to use my husband’s webspace because he’s primary on the account – teh suxxors!) and like an apartment with a laid-back landlord, I’m not allowed to gut the wiring or tear out the walls even if I can paint, install shelving, and upgrade the coffeemaker. Plus, I knew that the next time I moved, I’d have to change my address *again* and after moving all these boxes and files 3 times, that was getting old.
I could have moved to WordPress.com. They’re a nice dorm-style apartment with free blogging similar to Livejournal, lots of features, and a generally mature set of neighbors. In fact, they’re mature enough that the primary topic of most posts and blogs appear to be politics and news, so maybe they’re less dorm and more graduate housing.
But honestly, I needed to feel like I had a permanent place of my own — one where as long as I pay the mortgage on time every December, and don’t break the law (read: terms of service) I get to keep my address and all my stuff. I’d been blogging for close to 5 years by then if you count Geocities, and I had pictures, thoughts, and memories from all that time stored up. (Someday I really am going to get all of them imported into here btw.) So I shopped a lot of hosts, using Google as my real estate agent, and finally settled down here.
And even having moved here, we changed mortgage companies once, from Midphase hosting to Hostmonster. Maybe mortgage company’s a bad analogy, because they also own access to all the utilities — rabid homeowner’s association maybe? — and once Midphase had cut off my power and water one too many times for no good reason, I signed up with Hostmonster. I have only excellent things to say about Hostmonster.
As for the actual house, well, your host doesn’t provide a very good one, just a foundation and connections for all your pipes. (OK, maybe it’s more like an RV park?). So for a while I built all my own walls all the time, but that’s inefficient, especially when you’re ready to do something like change the fonts. That’s when I decided to hit the hardware store, and boy, WordPress has been awesome. (I hear Drupal is just as good, but I haven’t tried them.) You go to their website, download their software, install it, and then you’re free to do virtually anything you want. You can download someone else’s interior decoration or build your own, paint, tear out the walls, redo the piping, add free furniture, it’s all available. I’ve even found a way to add an addition (what the rest of you call a forum) and as soon as work settles down I’m going to look into perhaps building that addition.
Granted, just like finding a residence, the more features you want, the more responsibility you need to take on. I wasn’t allowed to replace the floors in my apartment, but on the other hand a guy came out to fix the leaky toilet and didn’t charge me, either.
So there you go: the hierarchy of hosting options, dressed mostly-cleanly in a housing market analogy. If you’re one of the many folks getting the itch to upgrade your digs and find yourself a new home, give it a shot! There’s no reason to torch the old place yet… but maybe you just don’t need to live there anymore.
*Editor’s note 2017: since half of these sites have disappeared since 2007, former links are now underlined.