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What ails the Sarai Reader List? (August 2005)


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An examination of how form affects community formation, contrasting LiveJournal with the Mailman-powered Sarai Reader List (August 2005).

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What ails the Sarai Reader List? (August 2005)

  1. 1. What Ails the Sarai Reader List? Learning from LiveJournal’s success Kiran Jonnalagadda <> August 24, 2005, at Sarai-CSDS, Delhi
  2. 2. Formerly: Studying How Form Affects Online Community (With insights from coffee shop culture)
  3. 3. Contrast in Participation My participation in the Reader List and LiveJournal,* Dec 2004 to August 2005: Total posters on Reader List: 520 Total posts to Reader List: 1546 Commentators on LiveJournal: 333 Comments received on Reader List: 0 Comments received on LJ: 3076 (0-77) * LiveJournal’s nature makes it hard to do a one-on-one comparison; this is an approximation 3
  4. 4. Typical Complaints Too many posts; hard to keep up Too many posters; hard to get familiar Hard to follow individual threads Flood of posts every 25th So how does LiveJournal sustain so much traffic so effortlessly? 1546 overall versus 3076 comments addressed to a single person! 4
  5. 5. The Sarai Reader List is crumbling. The list needs to figure out how to effectively channelise traffic so readers are not burdened. Imagine reading a newspaper that prints all the news in the world in a single narrow, long sheet.
  6. 6. Problem 1: Linearity and Unread Flags are for Memos, not Communities
  7. 7. Threaded Discussions Standard feature of mailing lists But LiveJournal makes participating easier LiveJournal’s user experience frequently emphasises restricted views of a greater community. 7
  8. 8. The Friends Network: Seamless Subgroups
  9. 9. Problem 2: Identity and Self-Representation
  10. 10. Identity on LiveJournal Globally unique id User profile with contact and participation details Reference via <lj user=“”> User pictures linked to keywords (emotions) Choice of picture when participating anywhere 10
  11. 11. Problem 3: Intimacy and Possession The mailing list is not personal space LiveJournal provides personal journals Are you addressing one while a thousand peer at you? Or are you addressing one while a thousand go about their own lives? LiveJournal achieves the latter 11
  12. 12. Problem 4: Archival Hard to find an old post; No search Threading unreliable and broken across months LiveJournal: the archive is the primary interface LiveJournal also lacking when searching for posts 12
  13. 13. Rescuing the Reader List Initial plan: make LiveJournal installation for the Reader List. Abandoned for technical difficulties Blue sky plan: make new system But who’ll create and maintain it? Current plan: make better interaction system on top of existing MailMan list 13