December 15th, 2009

thoughtful

The Sowerby resonance

I've been encountering a lot of fictional people called Sowerby lately. The Sowerby family - Martha, Dickon, and their unnamed mother and ten siblings - play a large role in The Secret Garden. Farther south, Mrs Sowerby is one of a number of characters living in Stockbridge played by Susan Brown in Plague of the Daleks the latest Big Finish audio in their main Doctor Who series. And farther south again, I'm also reading Trollope's Framley Parsonage, where there is a villainous Sowerby who I hope will come to a sticky end.

I don't think I've ever met anyone of that name in real life.
orac

Livejournal *doesn't* screw up shock

Like a number of you, I imagine, I woke this morning to find news of the latest livejournal screwup in several places on my friends list. Users, we were told, were henceforth to be forced to specify their gender as either "male" or "female", with no allowance for those who do not want to be identified by gender, for shared accounts, for robots or for Elder Gods. Shocked by this news, I did a post of my own, and emailed one of the higher-ups at LJ to register my dissatisfaction. I got this reply:
thank you for your feedback.

However, the code update that you refer to is not live and did not have any chance to go live. That was a beta release, we always push code to beta to see if everything works correctly. In many cases it does not and we either fix bugs or pull the code from the final release plan.

We were going to add a gender field to the sign up user flow, which is fine, but by mistake it became a mandatory "female/male" field for everyone. This is why this is not going live. And this is what beta releases are for, to see problems and solve them before any user faces a problem.

I would appreciate if you share this information with your friends that are also concerned. I am sorry that you were misinformed.
The source of the original story was here, which is an entry on the Dreamwidth account of a former Livejournal employee who is one of the founders of Dreamwidth, which is in direct competition with Livejournal for customers. Just sayin'.

Edited to add: I also received this response from LJ's feedback team:
Thank you for taking the time to contact us with your concerns. We understand that gender is not binary, and intend to respect that understanding for our users.

At this time, the code you reference is not live on the site, and will not become so in the future. We know that you, and many other users, have serious concerns about any requirement to specify gender, so we'd like to take a moment to explain events and our position further.

The intention of this code was to change the sign-up process to include a field for the selection of gender; that the code would completely disable the "Unspecified" option at the same time was deemed unacceptable. While the code in question had gone to our beta (testing) server, it had not gone to our production server, and will not do so due to this problem. Furthermore, we'd like to clarify that code posted to the changelog community is not always final, as such code must then go through the beta testing process and can often be changed before actual implementation.

Additionally, some erroneous information has been spread regarding the potential public display of the gender field. We would like to clarify that gender is not currently publicly displayed on the profile, nor anywhere else on the site, and there are no plans to change this behavior.

Regards,
 LiveJournal Community Care Team
See also sensible contributions from uitlander in comments below.