The Null Device

2009/1/7

Atheist bus ads roll out across the UK. Having raised £135,000, the Atheist Bus Campaign has broadened its scope considerably, and rather than the original 30 bus ads in London, they're rolling out 800 across the UK, with interior ads giving quotes from famous atheists including Douglas Adams, Albert Einstein and Emily Dickinson.

A similar campaign has run in the USA, not a country typically associated with atheism. However, when the local atheist society tried to run one in Australia (not usually a religiously strident place), the advertising company knocked them back, considering promotion of Godlessness (with the scandalous slogan "Celebrate reason", no less!) to be a bit too much for Australian morés.

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I'm old

As of today, I am no longer in the prime advertising demographic. In theory, nobody's ever going to try to sell me an iPod or a backpacking trip to Thailand again; from now on, it's only foot lotions, lawn-care products and insurance.

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LiveJournal sacks almost its entire US workforce, including all US-based engineers, leaving only a few financial and support staff. Panic ensues, with perverts worldwide stocking up on emergency supplies of Harry Potter slash fiction in case it disappears.

Chances are, the obligatory jokes about disturbing online subcultures aside, LiveJournal won't disappear overnight. For one, the cuts are in the US office, and LiveJournal is now Russian-owned, and is much bigger in Russia (in America, the typical LiveJournal user is a thirtysomething goth-scene veteran with an IT job, whereas in Russia, it's a mainstream media site). Given that most of the money and ad revenue come from the Russian operation, it presumably won't cost them much to keep running an English-localised rump site on the same servers.

In any case, I hope LiveJournal survives, because it has one thing none of the other sites have: no, not Harry Potter slash fiction; fine-grained social-network-based access control, i.e., the means to specify that posts are not just friends-only but only accessible to a subset of friends. Which might sound like a symptom of some kind of geek social neurosis, but is actually useful. (Consider, for example, a Facebook friends list, containing everyone from coworkers to family members to people you met at a party or festival; as on Facebook, you can't control who can read a posted item (it's all your friends or no-one), there are a lot of things you cannot or should not post; from boasting about faking illness to planning surprise parties for contacts, to discussing personal situations, so your Facebook stream becomes a stream of lowest-common-denominator banalities.) Something with Facebook-level usability and LiveJournal-level access control would actually be useful; maybe once the world emerges from the New Depression, someone will write something like that?

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