Is your life stressful? Exams and papers getting to you? Are you finally fed up with your messy, annoying roommate? Has your closeted-gay boyfriend broken up with you for the third time this week while you were engaged in a campus-wide hunt for your AWOL chinchilla?
That’s all well and good, but we all know that angst and suffering isn’t really any fun unless you can share it with each and every single one of your friends, whether they want it or not. We learned this lesson by watching Dawson’s Creek.
Thankfully, the Internet has provided a solution ? the online journal.
LiveJournal, located at www.livejournal .com, is a Web-based service originally designed in early 1999 by a computer science major named Brad Fitzpatrick.
In order to make his own online journal easier to use, he designed a database system to manage it.
Once his journal was using a database, it was easy to expand the system to let his friends use it as well. The Web site quickly became extremely successful, and now boasts over 400,000 members.
While simple journals and Web logs (usually called “blogs”) can easily be created on LiveJournal, the site’s popularity is largely due to the fact that it is more than a collection of unrelated journals – LiveJournal is a complete online community.
Users can comment on others’ posts, so everything from compliments on writing to all-out flame wars can occur.
Each user can compile a list of their friends, and view a single page with all their friends’ recent entries. There are also communities, which are groups of multiple users all posting to the same journal on a common interest.
After LiveJournal began getting extremely popular, Brad decided that he couldn’t manage the site on his own any longer, so he changed the site into an open-source project.
If you are a programmer who wants to get involved in anything from writing database code, client software, or developing an interface to cellular phone text messaging services ? all of which are features LiveJournal provides ? it is easy for you to get involved.
If you’re interested in getting a LiveJournal of your own, you currently have two options. First, you can get a paid account, which costs only $25 for a full year. Second, if you have a friend who is a paid user, you can get an account code from them which will allow you to make a free account.
There are some features, such as creating custom styles for your journal, having large numbers of photographs associated with your journal and embedding your journal into another Web page, that are only available to paid users.
LiveJournal is not the only Web site which will let you create an online journal – its archrival is Blogger, the service which helped start the blog explosion on the Internet.
Blogger, at www.blogger.com, allows free users to embed their journals into their own pages, and is a little faster and easier to configure than Live Journal, but does not have commenting or community features.
If you’ve never tried keeping a journal before, if you have anything interesting to say or if you just need an outlet to vent your frustrations, set up a LiveJournal and put it out there for the world to read.
And they’ll read it, whether it’s against their better judgment or not, because LiveJournal is Internet crack – once you start blogging, it’s impossible to stop.
Berry can be reached at email@example.com.