Why is LJ putting subject lines in comments a big deal?
Sure, why not! I was there! I can mostly answer this.
First it’s important to understand that they’re not simply putting subject lines into comments, they’re putting them back.
Second, let’s backtrack a second here.
There’s a quote going around tumblr that I love. About how fandom is the most technically rigorous test you can ever give your product.
Because fandom is actually fairly large, we’re smaller than some people think, but we’re larger than most assume. AND most of online fandom makes heavy use of interaction. We don’t just create output (fic, vids, gifs, etc), we don’t just ponder meta to ourselves, we don’t just wonder in our shower if that really WAS a monster cock under those tailored trousers. We go online and ask for second, third and twelfth opinions. We bounce ideas, squee, glee, anger, sadness, righteous fury, EMOTIONS, we bounce emotions and ideas off each other in ways I think other groupings don’t.
The question that comes up often is “why did fandom nest here and not there?” Well. A lot of it is what’s available at the time. Freely. (There can be paid options as well, but there needs to be a decent network of free services and capabilities.)
Fandom is incredibly adaptive. They don’t need (or at least have historically not gotten until recently) places designed exactly for their needs and unique forms of communication. Fandom is usually pretty happy with a 60% - 80% overlap of features originally implemented for the platform’s original use and what fandom wants from its platforms.
Fandom can adjust, adapt, test the limits, break it and then come back and go “okay we can do X, but only until Y and then we have to do Z” and we can make it work for us.
What happens is, options that fandom uses are not always considered vital options. Or cause maintenance issues that the maintainers of the product never expected and don’t know how to handle, or just don’t want to.
THEN invariably, an option disappears. Maybe the product is attempting to update for the times, maybe they have new management and want to go in different directions, maybe there really is a very small hint of ‘oh god get the porny weirdos out of our hair before the buyer comes in and kicks the tires!’.
BACK to the original question now.
On livejournal, subject lines were incorporated into the workings of many fannish pursuits because they were a way of being upfront about the content of the coming comment. Subject lines could include things like: fandom, pairing, rating, word counts, kink and/or meme prompt, trigger/content warnings. THESE were all especially helpful for active posts because eventually conversation threads were collapsed to save space and loading time. Fanfic memes meant to respond in comments became easier to search on your own. Etc.
When LJ took the subject lines away it was in the middle of a series of decisions that were very alienating to fandom already, from what I recall there was no warning and the reasoning was along the lines of ‘facebook doesn’t do it’. It’s what finally caused one of the larger mass migrations off LJ to other social networks and certain memes that had been born within the structure of the LJ comment page either came up with style work arounds that were pretty imperfect, rules to help compensate which were difficult to get right sometimes or they just moved entire because they liked the format they already had.
Basically when comment subject lines were removed, it literally broke about 1/3 of the fannish infrastructure.
As usual, there were thousands of comments asking why (from what I could tell the answers never really got better) and for opt outs or reversing it, but LJ staff remained firm that it was for the good of the Empire or whatever (yeah I’m getting pretty sarcastic here, LJ was being especially empty headed in some of its decisions at that point.)
This all happened before I completely dropped out of fandom for a while, so, YEARS ago. The reason why it’s so hilarious is it’s just a bit of too little too late and it’s fairly easy to imagine that a platform designed for interaction making it HARDER and then taking this long to figure maybe that’s not a great idea.
Preserving the tags, as a reminder to myself.
It made Kink Memes especially difficult to navigate, and also RP. There were a tonne of RPs on Livejournal at the time. Big ones. An subject lines were really quite important to how those RPs functioned. You use subject lines to show characters, interactions, warnings. Pretty useful stuff.
Useful enough that nearly every RP switched over (mostly to Dreamwidth, some to InsaneJournal). Someone actually worked out how much money in paid accounts LJ lost through this (RPers often have multiple paid accounts for the icon space). For one game alone, CFUD (Camp Fuck U Die), they lost something like $40,000 dollars in paid accounts and icon-addons.
But yeah, massive deal. LJ has never been the same since. It’s super quiet in fannish circles. It was the straw that broke the camel’s back in a series of really really bad decisions and bad treatment.
Yeah, I really do feel like the changes that LJ was going through about that time helped to exacerbate the shift in the focus website of fandom from LJ to DW/IJ and Tumblr. I remember the first Great Migration— I think it was right after the removal of the subject lines, actually— and how things really quieted down. It completely changed the face of the RP meme over there and made it super tough for RPers and prompt-based communities to work properly.
And then there was the ridiculous number of DDOSes that occurred— as a result of their shifting control to some of their Russia-based servers, IIRC?— and that’s when I think the vast majority of those who remained made the second Great Migration, mostly over to DW as zalia pointed out.
And I feel like that particular point was actually when we had a divergence in the locations for fandom shenanigans. Most of the RP stuff went to Dreamwidth, while the more meta/art/fic stuff came here. I know that’s when I really started getting into Tumblr for fandom purposes, because it seemed more available, while sticking to RP on DW because Tumblr RP was (and is) a bit daunting.
So I guess tl;dr is fall of LJ = series of bad decisions and website failure —-> shifting of where fandom was located = rise of Tumblr as more of a fandom hub for most things other than RP (though there is a thriving number of them on here!)
The loss of the RP crowd was a big one for LJ. I don’t think we make or break a platform or anything, but tons of roleplayers buy paid accounts, and then there’s the icon packaged. Motherfuckers love extra icons.