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It's time to pack up and move

I've been blogging on LiveJournal since August of 2001. And what a long, strange trip it's been. In the past fifteen and a half years, I've seen a lot of changes in the way people use social media: the rise and subsequent fall of a whole host of blogging services, the gradual fading away of USENET and email lists, Facebook's march to supremacy.

In all that time I've continued to use Livejournal, partly because a lot of people know about my blog and follow me there, and partly because after more than a decade it becomes exceptionally difficult to move.

Today, when I signed on to LiveJournal, I found the writing on the wall:

LiveJournal was bought many moons ago by a Russian company, but only recently moved its servers to Russia. And since doing so, it's been required to update its Terms of Service to comply with Russian law, which is rather odious and, well, Russian.

I don't intend to go into a full analysis of the implications of the new ToS. That's been done already in many places on the Web, including here, here, here, and here. (Interestingly, there's no discussion of the change on the official LJ Policy community, and in fact there hasn't been any discussion there since 2015.)

The bits I do want to talk about are those bits directly relevant to me and this blog.

The new Terms of Service have two provisions that directly impact me: in accordance with Russian law, any blog or community read by more than 3,000 readers is considered a 'publication' and is subject to State controls on publications, including the provision that the blogger or moderator is legally liable under Russian law for any content posted by any user; and blogs are prohibited from "perform[ing] any other actions contradictory to the laws of the Russian Federation."

This blog is routinely read by more than 3,000 people, making me a "publisher" under Russian law.

And, more worrying, the Russian "gay propaganda law" forbids discussion of "sexual deviancy," which includes LGBTQ issues. "Propaganda of non-traditional relationships" is forbidden by this law.

I'm not concerned that the Kremlin is going to demand my extradition to Russia to face trial. I am concerned that there's a very real possibility this blog may disappear at any time without warning.

For a couple of years now, I've kept a backup of this blog over at blog.franklinveaux.com. The blog there is a mirror of the blog here, though links over there point to blog entries here rather than there. (Fixing that will be a massive undertaking, involving changing many hundreds of links in thousands of blog posts.)

I moved my LJ to WordPress, a process that was extraordinarily painful. There is an LJ importer for WordPress, and a tutorial for moving your LJ blog to Wordpress here, but, as I discovered, there are a few gotchas.

First, the LJ importer plugin was not tested on large blogs. It requires enormous amounts of memory to import a LiveJournal blog with more than a couple hundred entries; at the time I did the migration, I had north of 1,600 blog posts. Second, it chokes on blog entries that have more than 100 or so comments.

Many, perhaps most, Web hosting companies place limitations on memory and CPU usage that prevent the WordPress LJ importer from working on large blogs.

Second, it won't move images. If you have uploaded images to LJ's servers, you must download them and re-upload them to your new WordPress blog.

I was unable to use the LJ importer to import my entire LiveJournal blog. I finally discovered a workaround, but it's cumbersome:

  1. Create a free WordPress blog at WordPress.com.

  2. Use the importer there (it's in the Tools menu) to import your LiveJournal blog.

    If you're okay hosting your new blog at Wordpress.com, you're done. If, however, you wish to host your blog on your own server with your own WordPress installation, there are a few more steps:

  3. Use the Exporter to export a WordPress XML file of the blog.

  4. Set up your own self-hosted WordPress installation on your own server.

  5. Import the file you exported from Wordpress.com.

Images you have uploaded to LJ will, as I've mentioned, need to be uploaded to your WordPress blog. (Thank God I've never done this; I've always put my images on my own server and linked to them there.)

The problem is compounded by the fact that LiveJournal has never wanted you to move. There's no graceful way to export your LJ blog. There is an exporter of sorts, but it only exports a month at a time. The Wayback Machine at archive.org doesn't archive LiveJournal posts, at least not consistently (it has crawled my blog only 37 times despite the fact that I have some 1,700 blog entries).

This is a huge problem. LiveJournal was one of the first blogging platforms, and a tremendous amount of very valuable information about the rise of social media is in danger of being lost.

This is, of course, the curse of the modern age. A diary written with pen and paper can be lost in an attic for centuries and then, once discovered, provide insight into the lives of people in a long-gone time. But we don't record our lives that way any more. Today, our journals are kept on computer servers--servers owned by other people. And there's no leaving these journals in an attic for a century for future people to find. They require constant, and sometimes very difficult, work to maintain. Anything you host on someone else's servers for free is subject to someone else's whims.

I am dedicated to doing the work to preserve my journal. From now on, I will not be posting new journal entries here. This blog will remain for as long as it can, and I will post links here to blog updates over on blog.franklinveaux.com. I encourage others to do the same. Anything here is subject to the vargarities of Russian law and should be assumed to be unstable, subject to deletion without warning.

From this point forward, please link to new blog posts on blog.franklinveaux.com, not LiveJournal. Over the next few months, I plan to work on linking my most popular LiveJournal entries back to their mirrors on franklinveaux, and updating links there to point ot blog posts there rather than here.

Oh, and the last person to leave LJ, please remember to turn off the lights.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Apr. 12th, 2017 02:52 am (UTC)
No chance of migrating/mirroring on Dreamwidth? The importer works more smoothly, and I can tag people who I follow, which allows me to get e-mail updates when they post.

And, yeah -- this sucks like hell, but you're wise to do it.
Apr. 17th, 2017 02:59 pm (UTC)
Dreamwidth's import from LiveJournal is astonishingly painless. I'll second or third that.

I'm moving my LJ over there now.
Apr. 12th, 2017 04:19 am (UTC)
There is a 3rd party patched version of ljArchive that will pull down your entries and comments to your local machine, if you ever want a local copy of it.
Apr. 13th, 2017 10:43 am (UTC)
Dreamwidth too, please?
May. 1st, 2017 12:06 pm (UTC)
For the python nerds, there's ljdump.py, by Greg Hewgill (http://hewgill.com). I'm not sure how supported it is, since I haven't had to dump my LJ in forever (no new content), but when I did use it, it did the job.
Jul. 8th, 2017 10:03 pm (UTC)
And this is why the only halfway reliable way to keep a website up permanently with something like the same URL, at least whilst you're alive, is to host it on your own machine and negotiate with your ISP over outbound bandwidth... Though these days, I'd be surprised at an LJ type setup with a few thousand readers routinely troubling even the 1 to 2mbit outbound I tend to see, if it has coding that concentrates on HTML efficiency (a dying art it would seem, if you ever look at the source behind a typical modern webpage - see those few dozen Klines? That's why your browser renders slowly and all your RAM is vanishing). And setting up something WordPress grade on a private machine is a piece of piss.

Ok, the security side of things sure isn't, but there's a learning curve.

Funnily enough my brother works in Web design and has had to deal with things like migration to or from WP and the sheer bone headed mess that is the typical blog database (which makes my college ICT course fumblings trying to put decent Access files together look like the height of sophistication)... Would there be any use in me giving you his company's web address to enquire over whether they can help? They might find the subject matter amusing, but, who knows...
Nov. 14th, 2017 10:04 am (UTC)
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )