What I am going to do (or attempt to do) in the course of this entry is explain certain things about LiveJournal that may alleviate this ignorance. Feel free to memory this entry, link it to others, what have you. It is my hope that by the time this entry is over, it will be a comprehensive guide to using LiveJournal for beginners and experienced users alike. This is not, in any form, a way to say, "I know more about LJ than you guys, ha ha". It's merely that I've not seen anyone stepping up to explain these things in an all-encompassing fashion like this.
If you have anything you think would be useful to know that I've missed somewhere, please let me know. The more information I'm able to include in this entry, the more helpful it will (hopefully) be to others.
I'll start by first outlining and describing the subjects I'm covering.
All journals have to start somewhere. Whether you're a new user or making multiple RP journals, there are some things you should do when you first create your journal to help make your time on LJ less stressful. This section will cover message settings, journal settings, and useful browser add-ons.
A short list of, "how do you do this?", answers. Intended more for new users who are just getting started. Experienced users, feel free to skim over this one.
For all those times LJ has issues and you want to know what's going on.
Everyone's usage of LiveJournal begins with making a journal. Maybe you're making one as an online diary/blog. Maybe you're making one to post art or writing. Or you're just making a new journal for a community-based RolePlay. Whatever the reason, we all start at the same page. Here are just a few tips to help you from being annoyed later:
• Choosing a username: be compromising! There are millions of users on LiveJournal, so it's difficult to say if the specific username you want is taken. Adding an "x" at the beginning and end of the name you want may be the only way you get something resembling what you want. I, personally, go through song lyrics and choose short phrases for my personal journal usernames.
• Manage Message Settings: When you create a journal, your email notifications are preset for you. The notifications you receive to your email are as follows: LiveJournal makes a new announcement, Someone comments in my journal on any entry, Someone replies to my entry in a community, Someone replies to my comment, Someone votes in a poll I posted, Someone adds me as a friend, Someone removes me from their Friends list, Someone sends me a message, Email me copies of my comments, Someone I invited creates a new journal, I receive an invitation to join a community, Someone requests membership in a community I maintain, One of my friends uploads a new userpic, One of my friends has an upcoming birthday, and One of my friends receives a virtual gift.
I know, it's a lot, isn't it? Thankfully, you have the option to change this. If you go to the Manage Message Settings page, you can check off the notifications you want to receive. This is always the first thing I do when I create a new journal, no matter what its purpose is. Receiving 15 back to back notifications for uploading my own userpics gets annoying after the first three notifs. What I would suggest? Is only leave notifications for things pertaining to your comments and journal entries. It will save you a headache later, I promise.
• My Account Settings: There are a lot of other settings and options to change, if you so choose! The second page I visit is the My Account Settings page. There, you can change your timezone (which might save you problems later), what LiveJournal style you use, and the language preference. I link you to that particular menu for the journal style option. When you create a journal on LiveJournal, you are automatically given Horizon. Unless you don't mind gaping negative spaces on your pages and having a lot of unnecessary information at your disposal, I would suggest changing to XColibur. It has considerably less loading time than Horizon or Vertigo and the menu is much easier to toggle through. Not to mention the header for XColibur doesn't go through monthly changes like Horizon does. That isn't to say Horizon/Vertigo don't have their good points; I just don't think their pros outweigh their cons in terms of a site design and loading time.
On this same page, I would also suggest going to the Privacy tab and changing some of your preferences there as well. Keep in consideration what you'll be using your journal for when you set the default entry security. What this option does is if you happen to not choose what level of security you want for an entry as you post it, the site will set the entry's privacy level to its default. I keep mine public, so when I make an entry, it's automatically public. If it's more private, you may be better setting it to friends only so you don't mistake not choosing the "friends only" option when posting the entry.
• Journal Style: One last page to visit before going anywhere else! This may sound suspiciously like Account Settings, but it's different. I know, shocking! But be sure to visit the Customize Journal Style (options) page. There are a lot of nifty things here, but first thing's first on this page: customized comment pages. What this is is an option that lets you view the entry itself + comments in whatever style your journal itself is in rather than the default LiveJournal site scheme you have set. While this may seem cool for a while, if and when you start getting a lot of comments to a journal, it looks less cool and more like a mess. So I suggest changing that drop-down menu to "Yes" on Disable Customized Comment Pages. The rest of this page (and its subpages) are just for you to toggle your journal's design settings. They're fun to mess with if you have the patience.
Whoa there! We're still not ready! There's still one more thing we have to do. This next thing will save you so many headaches and frustration, I promise.
I highly recommend you use Adblock Plus. It's an add-on for Mozilla Firefox and I'm sure there's an extension for Google Chrome as well. I apologize, there doesn't seem to be one for Internet Explorer (though why you'd be using IE in this day and age baffles me). If you have that installed, add the following links to your filters:
Adblocking these links will cut down a lot of LiveJournal's loading time for you. There's a lot of controversy over these links and their purpose that I won't be getting into because that's a whole other can of worms, so for now, it's best you adblock them.
And with those initial setup stages over, you are now free to do as you will to your journal! GO FORTH! UPDATE AS YOU WILL! Though I should get into those silly Mechanics things, I suppose.
There are so many things you can do with LiveJournal and what we're given, sometimes it's hard to know what everything does. The LiveJournal staff has done a decent job of making the site as userfirendly to new users as they can, so I'll be keeping this section short and to the point.
For those working in Rich Text format, I'm afraid I have no information from you. My eyes are so conditioned to working in HTML that Rich Text is a foreign thing to me.
For those wanting to know certain HTML commands, a very basic HTML command list is here. And I mean basic. Things you would learn in a highschool webdesign class' first two weeks type basic. But hey, some people don't know some of these commands, so there you have that.
There are also some LiveJournal specific codings that are useful:
• < lj user=" username " >: This code lets you interlink someone's username in livejournal. How you would probably write it is <(no space)lj user="username"(no space)>, if that makes sense. When you use it, it will look like this: fairyblue.
For paid and permanent account users, you can do extra with that. < lj user="username" title="whatever" >. This lets you have that interlink, but you can put whatever name you want rather than it appearing as the username. Such as: Kat. I think this was probably one of the coolest features LiveJournal has offered so far (I'm easy to please, can you tell?). As a sidenote, if you're interlinking to a community, the coding is still the same.
• LJ cuts: This one needs a little more explaining. LJ Cuts are a way to change how someone views your entry on their friends list. It's particularly helpful when you're making a long entry so they don't have to scroll down a lot more than they really have to.
The code for this is <(no space)lj-cut text(no space)> your journal entry text here <(no space)/lj-cut(no space)>. Whatever text you put within the lj-cut codes will only be visible by clicking a link on the friends list. That link will appear as "(read more...)". When users click that link, they'll be taken to the entry itself and able to read whatever text you put in/under that livejournal cut. It's often courteous to put long winded entries under one of these cuts.
If you want a little more variety in your LJ cuts, use <(no space)lj-cut text="stuff under here"(no space)>. Rather than, "read more", your cut text will show up as "stuff under here", or whatever text you put in the coding.
• Uploading Userpics - one of the main staples of LiveJournal that has carried on to other journaling sites is the addition of userpics. They're those little 100x100 pixel images next to your username when you post or comment anywhere. You can upload these icons at the Manage Userpic page. When you create your journal, you have a slot for 15 userpics, or "icons" as I'll be calling them. You upload them, put in a keyword that will help you find them in your dropdown menus and you can add a comment -- this can range from something witty to a credit to whoever made the icon. The comment won't appear when you pick the icon, but it will show up in your userpics page. (Sidenote: having credit to someone who made the icon is considered a high courtesy. Please do it and save yourself a headache later.)
These icons can be any size, the maximum size being 100x100 pixels. The file size itself can only be as high as 40kb -- to get that high is to be really pushing the effects on the icon. They can be any format (.jpg, .png, .gif) so long as they meet those two size standards.
If you pay for your journal account, you're given 30 slots. If you buy extra userpics packages, you can have 100 slots, 200, or up to 300 if I recall correctly. I can't give you a correct number since my permanent account numbers are different from normal paid account options. But they're just fun little things to have alongside your entries and comments and aren't necessary for your LJ experience (some will argue this but shhh).
• Polls: This is more a paid/permanent account user option, but you can create polls for your journal! They're pretty handy from time to time (I don't use them nearly as much as I really would like. Haha I never have anything to poll). It's kind of long and indepth, but once you know what you're looking at, it's easy enough to breeze through it. On the "Post an Entry" page, on the top right corner, there are some other posting options. "Create a Poll" is at the very bottom. From there, you can decide who sees this poll, who can vote, and who can see the results. I don't have any choices really since I don't have filters, so I have either "All", "Friends Only", or "Just Me". "All" means it's a public poll to a public entry and even people you don't have friended can vote. "Friends Only" means only the people you have friended, and "just me" would mean only you can see the results. At the bottom of that page, you're given a drop down menu to choose what kind of poll you want. The majority of LiveJournal love check boxes, or "ticky boxes". It lets them choose multiple choices. Radio buttons is one choice only, a drop down box is similar to what they're given you (though I've never used it hm), and a "text area" gives them a block of space to write their answers in. I've never seen anyone or used "Scales" myself, so I'm not sure what that's about.
From the next page, you input the question you want polled into the first box, and each box will have the answers they can choose from. After you finish that, you can preview the poll or "see code". From there, you hit "post poll", and it will put the poll information into a Post An Entry box and then you can post it like a regular entry.
I made the mistake the first few polls I made by writing a full entry out, then making the poll, and losing my entire entry in the process. I suggest making the poll first, then writing the entry around it. I know, logic, how does it work, right? I was young! I didn't know how polls worked! It was 2005! We all learn eventually.
• One more thing I'll point out is Customizing Friends Groups, or filtering. I know this may seem like I should put in the Getting Started area, but I think it's more an afterthought than a setup thing. I mean, you can't filter friends if you don't have any when you start, right? I personally don't use filters at all. I post either public, friends only, or private entries to myself (which I rarely do anymore anyway). Filtering friends has its advantages (like if you're planning a surprise for someone and need help but don't want that person to know) and it has disadvantages which I think you can figure out on your own. The menu on this page is self-explanatory. I just delete the given groups, make my own and name it what I want and move people over and save. When you write an entry and want to filter it to those people, in the dropdown menu where it says "Post Entry Public/Friends Only", you'll have the option to post, "Custom...". There, you'll be given ticky boxes and you check off whatever group you want the post to be visible to. Easy enough, but some people don't know how to filter because they've never done it; a friend of mine that's been on LJ for as long as I have asked me how to do it a week or so ago, so you never know!
Contrary to popular belief, LiveJournal is, in fact, run by humans! They're bound to make mistakes, technology does fail from time to time, servers get overloaded. It happens. And sometimes, the mistakes are even our own fault. Go figure. The most common errors that occur are:
• Invalid markup: this means you likely forgot to close an HMTL tag somewhere in your entry, so it gets displayed as the raw content without all the nifty HTML effects. Just go back through your entry and figure out where you miss something.
• "My mood theme isn't showing up!" -- I didn't cover custom moodthemes in the Mechanics section because it's really a lot of technical mumbo jumbo and a lot of hoop diving, but it's possible! The most common mistake people make is linking the images as one format and having the images as something else. I can't tell you how many times I've had ".jpg" linked when the image is actually ".png". Also be sure you check the right pixel sizes on the images when you input the command on the admin console as well. If those don't fix your problem, then you have to scrap the theme and start the series of commands over from scratch. It sucks, but it happens.
• "Notifications aren't working! Are they working for anyone else?" -- Right now, this is the most common question as far as LJ working goes these days. Before you run to your journal/plurk/twitter/OOC community and ask this, ask yourself: did you accidentally mark a notification as spam? I've done it a few times by accident and it's an easy fix. If that's not the case, then we have to go into a different discussion.
LJ notifications are set up in the server by que. The servers are constantly being updated to handle the massive amount of information that gets sent through LJ at any given moment (because let's face it, we're all really damn active on this site), and notifications are a big part of that. I'm sure you noticed when you looked through the message settings that LiveJournal has an automatic notification sendout for their news posts. Almost every week, the LiveJournal staff puts up a news post that millions of people get automatically notified about. Not a big deal, right? Right.
The problem is that these automatic notifications back up the que for other email notifs (comments). I will tell you the tell-tale sign that a news post is coming up: Usually on Wednesday, LiveJournal will start to lag or load slowly. With about 6 hours or less, notifications will start delaying and you'll receive notifications for a comment made hours ago. This usually goes on for a day or so, and then you'll get a news post notification by Wednesday night or Thursday. Sometimes Friday, if they're running a little late on posting. The lagging notifications will continue for another day or so while the que tries to catch up and usually by Friday or Saturday, everything's caught up and back to normal.
The best you can do in these situations is have some patience with LiveJournal and their staff, and try to help clear that que up by disabling news notificatons on any journals you have. Do I wish the LiveJournal staff would do something about it? Yes. But there's really not a lot they can do unless they disable site-wide news notifications themselves (which I think would be best in the long-run, the posts rarely have anything worthwhile) or have the posts less frequently.
• "Accessing a page too fast" - This is an error I'm actually not sure what the cause is. If you refresh the page after receiving this error, it loads just fine, but I have a feeling it has to do with the server recognizing your username/IP address with multiple tabs open. I'm looking into this myself because I'm curious, I'll be more specific if I find out anything.
• "Page lags in loading time" | "Browse icon feature lags while an ad loads in the background" -- It's possible it's your internet, or it may just be that you don't have all the right links put in your adblock filter. It's most likely the latter, and I suggest you go reapply your filters. After adding those links to my filters, I haven't had any loading problems.
• "Frank is nibbling the wires!" -- This is purely a server overload and it clears itself up in a few minutes. This happens most often with RP Anon Meme goes up and people rush to it. I wish I were kidding, I've seen it happen every meme. Just give it about two to five minutes and try again.
There are a lot of other problems that you may have run into that I haven't, so if you have a question, let me know and I'll look into it.
Some of you may be new(er) to LiveJournal and think these problems are new and horrible, but I promise, these sorts of errors have been going on since I first joined LiveJournal seven years ago. So don't think it's a new problem; I promise, us old folks have been through it all countless times before.
As I stated at the beginning: If you have anything you think would be useful to know that I've missed somewhere, please let me know. The more information I'm able to include in this entry, the more helpful it will (hopefully) be to others. I hope this can help users, new and old, learn something and that it can make your LiveJournal experience smoother and more enjoyable.