…..Xanga. (Or… The Social Media Zombie That Just Won’t Go Down)

Two years ago, Xanga, a ship desperately trying to use a tiny bucket to bail water out of a sinking ship with holes the size of Australia, was in it’s final death throes unless it could raise $60,000 (which was later dropped to $50,000 because one of the people who couldn’t even pay a single penny suddenly miraculously came up with $10,000 to chip in with). Some, at the time, compared Xanga to the Titanic.  I’ve blogged about Xanga’s downfall before. This is not that post. This is a post about the [lack of] recent events.

See, there’s this liason named Joel, aka “edlives”. IRL I’m sure he’s probably a really great guy. He’s a dad, has an autistic kid (and believe me, I understand that one from a brand new perspective from the me of 2 1/2 years ago), and currently is unemployed. He’s got this big project that began on Xanga (Autisable, for anyone who’s interested. It’s a blog about autism, and they’ve just started doing a video series) and I can understand the reason for brand loyalty. He spent so much of his own personal time and effort on that project, and losing your webhost is NEVER easy, especially when years an years worth of data is in limbo and risks becoming lost. However, here’s where I see a potential problem…

There may have been a conflict of interest going on.

See, as I said, Mr. Joel is the Xanga liaison, and he’s unemployed. He doesn’t get paid, he’s a volunteer. He’s also the ONLY point of legitimate contact between the remaining Xanga userbase and The Xanga Team.  The only other point of contact is a help page that is hit and miss and constantly filled with users complaints – the majority of which are to do with either getting their old blogs, deleting their accounts, problems with the archives they’ve managed to get hold of, and sudden deactivation of their accounts despite having paid for a full year. Let’s not forget the reactivation of accounts that could take up to 2 months to get done, and trust me, users who have this happen to them don’t get those 2 months of blogging back. They pay for 12 months, only get 10, and then their account is deactivated because it’s time to pay up again for another 12 months… which makes the user confused because they were expecting the 12 months to kick in when the account was activated, and are caught off guard when it’s centered around the original date of that first payment.

Anyway, so there’s all these issues on the help page, and nobody can get legitimate answers because the ONE person, Eugenia, is so bogged down or otherwise busy (this is also a constant problem, as in all of this time excuses have been made for her absences, and there is NO ONE ELSE who takes over for her when they happen), that it takes months and months to get an answer at times via e-mail from her.

So, the only other point of contact is Mr. Joel… who’s been working on getting Autisable back in operation. As liaison, and as someone in DIRECT CONTACT with The Xanga Team, I think you can see how this can be perceived as a problem for the average Xanga user. While this may not be the situation, it does appear that Xanga Team has played favorites, and spent far too much time on a single project rather than doing their actual jobs – getting Xanga 2.0 up and running again.

Joel, again an unpaid volunteer, has a vested interest in Xanga’s survival. As liaison, he’s been lambasted from all sides by naysayers, former Xangans who keep tabs on things in the hopes that they will be able to turn back to the service, and users who become increasingly disappointed by the service.

I’m gonna take this time to point out that literally the only reason Joel is the liaison is because anyone who was actually qualified for the job pretty much washed their hands of the site and moved on from Xanga, already seeing that it was not salvageable. So Xanga was rather desperate for someone to do this job and played the “we can’t pay you because we’re broke” card. Joel stepped up to bat and filled the slot, and honestly has done a very lackluster job of it this entire time.

One user, who was an early immigrant to WordPress, Soullfire, has been from what I can see the most vocal about the problems Xanga faces, and has been championing for the users for quite a long time. Time and time again he has pointed out the continued issues, the fact that Xanga promised a service and have yet to deliver despite 2 full years of time, and has repeatedly been told that his concerns will/have been passed on to John (John Hiller). There are 2 standard responses I have observed over 2 years of time that users who turn to Joel receive:

  1. Their concerns have been passed on to John, and now Joel waits for answers. (Problem – the answers either never come, or the answers are never passed back to the users.)
  2. Joel completely agrees with the user’s concerns, says they’ve been passed on to John, and then blames the user for not being proactive and volunteering to help rebuild Xanga. (This is straight up VICTIM BLAMING, and it is NOT OKAY in any situation.)

Recently, a third type of answer has popped up. Joel just completely agreeing. No statement about passing on the user’s concerns, no victim blaming. Just… agreement. Here’s the thing though. When your comment is reassuring that Joel is at absolutely no fault whatsoever because he’s the liaison and isn’t accountable for anything at all, he happily agrees and thanks you for the encouragement. However, if you make the same exact points, and don’t constantly reassure him, then you get something a bit more. He’ll agree, but he’ll also go on this long diatribe about how he agrees and understands and sympathizes, but he’ll also take any criticism of his role in the process as an attack. The more direct someone is about the issues, the more he feels it’s an attack. And it will go on and on until finally he’ll get in his last word about how it’s been passed along, he understands and agrees. This tactic I’ve seen many times in internet debates and conversations. The “Fine, I agree with you, now will you stop and go away”, even if it’s legitimately a debate about an issue and not a back-and-forth argument.

Regardless, he’s more of a PR type of person rather than a liaison. A liaison represents the interests of both parties, not just the one. From Joel, over a period of 2 years, there have been nothing but excuses from him on behalf of the Xanga company. Both on his personal blog, where people are forced to come for ANY news about what’s going on with Xanga (btw, that’s a shady as hell tactic to drive up web traffic, just so people know) and on the official Facebook page that guess what, Joel also runs. Often people who turn to the FB page have ALREADY EXHAUSTED all other avenues of communication, and have ALREADY been having to deal with Eugenia over a period of weeks and months, with no success. Guess what people who turn to the FB page are told?

E-mail Eugenia.

Yes. Email Eugenia… who has already failed to solve the problem, hence why people are turning to the next open channel of communication: the FB page run by a volunteer who’s gotten preferential treatment from the Xanga company and has been their top cheerleader from the beginning of this long 2 years of digital wasteland.

Xanga just needs to toss in the towel already. Just lay down, accept defeat, and move on. It’s a relic. A derelict ship with less than a skeleton crew that pillages it’s users and refuses to give them the features and tools they need to connect to one another again. Why is that, anyway? Are they afraid that if the community were to be rebuilt, and people started to tell one another of their experiences on Xanga 2.0 they might realize they’ve been royally fucked from the start and mutiny?

Currently Xanga’s Alexa rating is 61,360. It has FALLEN 12,663 ranks in the last 3 months. The numbers, unlike The Xanga Team and by extension Joel himself as their official volunteer liaison, don’t lie. Xanga is dying a long, slow death like Boramir in Fellowship of the Ring, and planet Namek on Dragonball Z.

I would also like to point out something that’s been bothering me for quite some months now. Joel has discussed a few times now that Xanga 2.0’s security features are superior to those of the Free WordPress. Yet, he does not state HOW they are superior. I would like to point out that Xanga has a Xangalock feature, which only allows people signed into to Xanga to see a blog, and even then, you’ve got to find the ruddy thing AND be approved for viewing by the blog owner.

This is IDENTICAL to how the Private security setting of a Free WordPress blog works. I know, I’ve been on both sides of that setting. One of my favorite blogs to read uses that setting pretty much as standard. But the Private setting takes it a step further. It puts control of who can see your blog directly into the hands of the blog owner by using an invite system. The blog owner MUST SPECIFICALLY INVITE YOU to view their blog in order to see the private posts. You don’t get that feature on Xanga.

There is also an additional feature on Free WordPress that allows a blog owner to password protect the posts. One must have the password to be able to view or comment on anything. This password, again, must be given to you by the blog owner.

These 2 different security features are JUST AS EFFECTIVE as the Xangalock feature. However, they are user friendly and more easily navigated by BOTH blog owner and blog viewer.

I would also like to point out, these VERY SAME WORDPRESS FEATURES are also available on Tumblr, another popular blogging platform that is far easier to use than most, and boasts features that even a 12 year old or a 60 year old can navigate and use with absolutely NO experience on ANY social media whatsoever. The UI is self explanatory, just as with Free WordPress (though the UI is completely different, they each are very straightforward in their use) and is completely 100% FREE. ALL other blogging sites ALSO offer the feature of owning/running/writing multiple blogs WITHOUT having to sign up for multiple accounts and having to have a different e-mail address for each individual one, something Xanga NEVER had.

This has been the old Xanga user Kamikaze_Zealot, weighing in on that old blogging relic yet again.

I leave you with this screenshot, taken this morning, of the wonderful latest update from The Xanga Team.

xangaXanga is a social media relic. A zombie that no matter how many times you bash it’s skull in, it just will not lay down and die.

EDIT: 8/16/15 – 12:27AM: Soullfire is a man. Pronouns changed accordingly. (Sidenote: Sorry mate!)

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5 responses to “…..Xanga. (Or… The Social Media Zombie That Just Won’t Go Down)

  1. One correction- Soullfire is a “He”. =)

    I remember doing an Alexa scan before the transition- Xanga was rated in the 4000’s, which was a high number compared to WordPress, but miles better than what it is now.

    “Regardless, he’s more of a PR type of person rather than a liaison.”

    Yes, I think he may have been confusing the duties of his assigned role.

    To be fair though, a true liaison whould have had to give Xanga and ultimatum and just walk away when they continued this information blackout. Xanga isn’t owning up to any of their responsibilities or promises made, so I feel compelled to call them out on that type of behavior- especially done with pledge and sub money of folks who believed in them.

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    • I shall go back and correct pronouns. 🙂 Thanks for the heads up on that.
      I’ve done PR, more on the Face-to-face level (my role was, after all, to push products on people especially if they were really truly terrible), and I’ve had to liaison before (different job, and wasn’t even part of my job description. Saw a need, did what was needed to solve the need. Hence, I liaisoned.)
      I’m glad there’s people like you trying to hold them accountable for their actions. Sad fact of the matter is though, it’s going to crash and burn. There’s no way the business model they have going is sustainable at all. It’s completely reliant on a userbase made up of geriatrics and naiive college students intent on reliving the “good old days” of when they were teens. Both groups are demographics that are often hit the hardest in the pocket when financials go all screwy. Well, you’d know that since you’re all about economics and all. By not allowing even new users to sign up for comment and read-only accounts, it’s cutting off their own nose to spite their face. Xanga CANNOT survive without opening their doors, providing the features and service they promised for the price tag, and on the size of staff they likely have. I mean come on, Eugenia goes on holiday for a week and there’s nobody to even respond with “hey, she’s out of the office until Xday.” None of the higher ups bothered to listen to ANY suggestions prior to the financial issues that began to plague them, which legitimately started in 2006/2007 with the 1Mil settlement they had to pay out for the lawsuits and FCC fines. They NEVER recovered from that, spread themselves too thin by coming up with so many niche sites (Gods I HATED the -Ish craze. I REALLY did!) And the fact that they will only release data as far back as 2009 speaks volumes. Myself, I backed up my data 1 week before the shut down. Backed it up, then downloaded the next day. Everything, literally EVERYTHING was there. From my first post to my very last. Every audio post, every video link, every single time I changed the HTML coding on my blog. All of it saved for posterity. And yet, they cannot recover anything prior to 2009? Rather fishy considering these are supposedly the same servers that I had pulled my own data from 1 week prior to the shut down. (For the record, my posts go all the way back to March 2005.)
      Multiple times I suggested that if they filed for bankruptsy at the very least, it would freeze the company’s assets and give them at least a year to work out the problems – and due to that it would lock their server location into place because debtors CANNOT BY LAW evict, or in any way toss them from the premises until the process is over. I guess, since it was the logical thing to do they couldn’t possibly be expected to do so. Either that or Xanga had lost so much money by that point they couldn’t afford to even do that much.
      Whatever the reason, I’m still pissed that in order to get them to delete my blog (before they added the delete option that didn’t work for about 2-3 months btw) I had to actually report them, their fundraiser, and John Hiller himself to the FBI fraud division. (Seriously, I HAD to take it that far simply because they put me in a loop of passing the buck, and I had a LOT of personal information on my blog that at the time it was VITAL that I get rid of it, and they would not do so short of a court order.)
      As for the Alexa scan, yeah. It’s pretty sad to see such a drop. It’s all down to the way management is mishandling the product. There’s NO advertising whatsoever for Xanga out there. Pretty much it’s word of mouth and those who remain on the site. That’s it. And since they will not allow new users for the read only/comment either, there’s no fresh money coming in. For christ’s sake, I ended up reading through a comments section on a Xanga just before the guy’s account expired where a girl was trying to figure out if she still have enough on one of her Visa gift cards because she didn’t have a job, was in college, and her parents weren’t going to pay for it. Another woman talked about having to choose between her medication and her Xanga subscription, and was lamenting the fact that you can’t pay by the month anymore because it was the only way she could afford both at the same time.
      THIS is what they’ve done to their most loyal users. The ones who continue to be optimistic that maybe they’ll update. These are the people I see most frequently commenting on Joel’s blog. These are the ONLY ACTIVE PEOPLE I EVER SEE!
      Meanwhile,. the poor bastards in Hong Kong don’t have a clue what’s going on because the HK arm of Xanga’s defunct and they’re having to not only figure out what’s going on, but figure out how to sort it out ALL IN ENGLISH. So even a minor hiccup in translation and bam – they just got charged 480 instead of 48, AND only get 1 year (or rather, 10 months due to the time it takes Eugenia to respond to email/come back from another unexplained absence).
      I keep checking back in with the site mainly out of morbid fascination for the most part. It’ll never be what it was, no matter what people hope and want. There’s better products out there that are easier to use, but people keep torturing themselves with Xanga’s interface because of “the good old days will rise again”.
      Meanwhile, Joel sure is quick to note that RATHER THAN WORKING PRIMARILY ON XANGA ITSELF they’ve been working on HIS PET PROJECT and that it’ll become it’s own entity. Good for him. I’m genuine in this, honestly good for him. He took advantage of a situation, and it’s come out in the positive for him. In all honesty, I’d have done the same thing.
      All it says to everyone else though is he’s the favorite and they’ll bust their ass to give him what he wants instead of doing their REAL JOBS and working on what they’re supposed to be doing. So, go Joel. You have a working Xanga site and soon your own company to work on. Hope it works out well while everyone else sits in digital blogging hell waiting for the suffering to just finally end.
      (Sorry for the REALLY REALLY LONG RANTY REPLY. I get REALLY passionate about things I love/loved. And Xanga was, for the most part, my heart and soul for one of the darkest and most confusing parts of my life, and I get really pissy when people go messing with things that actually work and make them not work.)

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  2. I cannot really add more to this post as this is exactly how I feel. To be honest, I never paid for the continuation of Xanga because the idea of having to pay for a WordPress clone with no extra features didn’t sound too appealing. In hindsight, it’s a pity how “they” (whoever that exactly is) destroyed a functioning community. They should have killed it with one stab rather than slowly bleeding it out.

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    • I think the first time i ever actually straight up asked the Team if they were really thinking things through was when they started giving premium features for free. Primarily the one where you could start choosing “themes” for your blog instead of adjusting the basic color scheme and adding pictures/headers. One of the biggest draws for people to pay for premium at the time was the additional storage for their photos and pics, as well as the ability to literally alter the code of your page to make it look however you wanted. When they gave these features out for free, I messaged them. I was angry, mainly because I had literally just bought a year’s worth of premium specifically for those features and a few days later BAM! everyone gets them. So after that I was literally paying a year’s worth of premium just so I could have 99 user icons. That was it. The response I got was that they welcome all feedback and thanks for using Xanga. That’s it.
      After that, I never paid for premium again. What was the point if I could get the features for free? That was one of the biggest mistakes they made. Because it also gave people the ability to remove and hide the ads Xanga put on the free blogs. People started putting in their Google Adsense ads, getting revenue for themselves rather than generating money for Xanga like they were meant to be doing.

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  3. Pingback: Xanga 2.0 Celebrates its “2.0” Anniversary With Eerie Silence | Soullfire

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