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Brad Fitzpatrick

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LiveJournal, SUP, Russia links [Nov. 1st, 2006|02:29 pm]
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Good links to understand why people are concerned about the LJ/SUP deal, and to understand blogging in Russia in general:

http://www.iht.com/articles/2006/10/25/opinion/edmorozov.php
(found via this post, also good)

I wish I could calm people down, but I realize the political fears/implications of this are way too big for me to make much of a difference.

But I'm a sucker for pain, so....

Let me present another point-of-view, based entirely on my own views/observations, that's a little less of a conspiracy theory:
  • The Russian Internet boom is overdue. There's a lot of money to be made.
  • Andrew Paulson is a businessman. He likes to make money. He recognizes the above.
  • Andrew Paulson sees LiveJournal is really popular in Russia, and LJ could be used to bootstrap a bunch of other Internet services (do you smell "portal"?). Imagine: LJ accounts are also XXXX accounts. Or LJ usage is a "service of SUP", so when SUP does something different, you now know/trust SUP ... "oh yeah, SUP, the LiveJournal people, they're cool! I'll try out this other SUP thing...." etc. But needs money to do it. Talks to Mamut...
  • Mamut, more than anything, likes to make money. He owns a bunch of stuff. Him investing in SUP is probably chump change. Why not do it? Sure, he's politically connected, so you can make the argument that investing in blogs is just a way to shut them down, but then how does he make money? Lay on the conspiracy theories, but I don't care... it doesn't make any sense. I believe Mamut at the end of the day wants to make money, not shut down blogging as a favor to the Kremlin. Because shutting down blogging is futile and he'd realize that.
  • SixApart recognizes how popular LJ is in Russia, but we can't make any money from it, nor can we make it much better. The service is still so slow, hosted entirely in the US. (latency of 260 ms * 20-30 requests in series.... not fast!). Even if we hosted the public images and css/js in Russia and kept the private data/databases in the US and served the private data from the US, the performance would go up a ton. It'd be one 260 ms request and 19-29 30 ms requests.... do the math. We could then compete better with Russian-hosted services which would feel faster to Russians. Also, we can't do SMS or voiceposting in Russia. And we've never successfully dealt with a credit card processor in Russia. Or Yandex Money, which only has docs in Russian. Or Russian advertising for Plus users. Working with a Russian company for this makes total sense for us. They promote LJ in Russia and sign up users for us, deal with payments, SMS/voicepost/etc ... everybody wins. We get happier users that can actually pay if they want, and they get promotion for SUP, which later will be something bigger than just LJ.
  • ...
etc.

A lot less interesting than the KGB doing a crack-down on bloggers, sure, but you can follow the money at least:

LJ promotes SUP, so SUP can be popular and make money later.
SUP promotes LJ, so LJ's both better in Russia and can also make money there.

Do I expect this post to calm people down? No. Not entirely. But I'll post more later. And the more you know, the less interesting it'll all seem.
LinkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: ppk_ptichkin
2006-11-02 01:39 am (UTC)

(Link)

Brad -

Thanks for trying :-)

From where I've been sitting for the last 15 years (a very nice Philly suburb), this does not look good on two counts.

- I don't like being singled out based on the language I choose to use in my blog. I've been a US citizen for about 10 years, and that's the only way I'd like to be classified, thank you very much. I'm here by choice, not because I've been born here. This choice ought to be respected.

- I want to define my relationship with Mother Russia on my own terms (which basically are "fsck off"). Making my name available to a Russian company based on cyrillic in my lj will make me very unhappy indeed. Would you let a Havana-based company handle lj accounts of Florida Cubans?

I realise these aren't exactly rational reasons, but then we humans aren't exactly rational.

What you do in Russia isn't really any of my business. I'm pretty sure this whole thing will fail miserably, but your MBAs are welcome to find that out the proper - hard - way. I'm primarily concerned about US residents of xUSSR origin like myself.

As a way to move on - could you clarify the criteria for marking up an lj user for that exciting SUP offer? Or even simpler than that - how do I make sure I have absolutely positively definitely nothing to do with this? You know, no opt-out, no opt-in, just nothing.

Thanks,

NS
[User Picture]From: brad
2006-11-02 01:56 am (UTC)

Re: On Latency

(Link)

I understand your point of view 100%, and it's my point of view too.

Let me get back to you with a good answer, and one that I'm allowed to give.
[User Picture]From: forgers
2006-11-02 02:16 am (UTC)

how can LJ prove that SUP will not touch us?

(Link)

The problem here is that you give DB access to linux boxes and DBs. As we software engineer folk know, it's sooo easy to look into things once you're next to a box. We want the hairy SUP sysadmin hands out of our 'hood. BTW, if we use a credit card to pay for an account in the US, it's under Sarbanes-Oxley mess. You really have to build a Chinese firewall between SUP and those who need none of it. There should be a system in place which will satisfy SOX and even the most paranoid US-based programmer types that SUP does not have access to the US data of any sort. That's the hardest part to prove, IMHO.
[User Picture]From: brad
2006-11-02 02:24 am (UTC)

Re: how can LJ prove that SUP will not touch us?

(Link)

They don't get acccess to our network at all.

They can't get on to our databases, our network, our webservers, ANYTHING.
[User Picture]From: forgers
2006-11-02 02:25 am (UTC)

Re: how can LJ prove that SUP will not touch us?

(Link)

Cool. That's good to know. Let's keep it that way!
[User Picture]From: ppk_ptichkin
2006-11-02 03:19 am (UTC)

Re: how can LJ prove that SUP will not touch us?

(Link)

Lyosha,

Relax. These guys may not know much about 1/6, but I'm pretty sure they know something about SOX. Keep it simple.
[User Picture]From: roy
2006-11-02 05:07 am (UTC)

Re: how can LJ prove that SUP will not touch us?

(Link)

You're trying awful hard to prove a non-existent point.
[User Picture]From: cmm
2006-11-02 09:32 am (UTC)

Re: how can LJ prove that SUP will not touch us?

(Link)

6apart is not a public company, so you can hold the SOX FUD for now. :)
[User Picture]From: mme_n_b
2006-11-02 03:45 am (UTC)

Re: On Latency

(Link)

The horrible thing about this is that one really, really _wants_ to trust you.