Free, very temporary, very restricted "trial" account (no invite code needed)
Short, concise description of the idea
I'm posting this as the beginning of an idea. I've bounced it around to some support people and I'd like others to look it over as well and post suggestions/ideas/improvements.
Effectively, what I'm suggesting is that we allow an *extremely* limited, free, short-term, trial account, that doesn't require an invitation code or money, but will allow people to scope out the service.
Full description of the idea
Before invitation codes were implemented, a number of people were able to generate accounts and check out the service. At the time, the people I knew on LJ, I had, eh, "issues" with their morality on a lot of things, and I would *never* have asked them for an account, or paid $5 for it.
I generated a free account because I wanted to comment to something someone had said...and now look at me! ;p
I think this could allow people who legitimately don't know anyone on the service, or legitimately aren't sure of what the service is like, to check it out and see if they like it.
The trick, honestly, is balancing the benefits, restrictions, usability and coding.
I think it can be done, I think it *should* be done "fairly soon" if it's decided it's a good idea, but I don't think it needs to be done to the exclusion of site development.
An ordered list of benefits
Allows potential customers to look at LiveJournal and decided whether or not to invest in the project. This is particularly important as LJ is getting more press.
The restrictions can be made stringent enough that it seriously discourages throwaway abuse accounts. For example, if trial users can't commnet unless they're "friends" of someone, that restricts the likelihood of abusive comments.
Growth of the site, hopefully in paid users (which is why I prefer the 2 week trial, must upgrade to paid account to download journal to new username idea)
Income, allowing more services/servers/etc.
An ordered list of problems/issues involved
Coding may be really difficult. A lot of this already exists, though; users have the option now to turn off non-friends comments, the programming to delete/purge accounts exists, and I know we don't delete/suspend accounts after a certain time period but I can't imagine that'd be all that difficult to code. Automated purging may be another matter, but I don't honestly know why (neither am I a programmerm, however)
There is probably going to be some (and some even legitimate!) backlash if we refuse to give trial accounts to known throwaway e-mail services.
Abuse potential, but again I think this can be worked around. If they can't make comments, that cuts down on it. Abuse reports about trial accounts can have a somewhat stock answer. ("blah blah, we don't deal with this, have a nice day", or something, unless it's an actual threat to kill someone or other serious threat.) If it becomes too serious an issue (I have no idea how many users are serious and/or chronic abuse problems out of the over one million accounts we have)
You'll get users whining about how they have a trial account and can't customise, but that, again, should get the stock answer.
An organized list, or a few short paragraphs detailing suggestions for implementation
Account is generated only for 14 or 30 days or something
Users with trial accounts have 14-30 days to check out the system, but at the end of their trial, they either must upgrade to a paid account, or...I don't know, get an invite code for someone. I'd honestly rather a paid account, but some people have mentioned they don't think the site business people would go for it.
Account is *terminated* (deleted/purged) after the trial period is over. Immediately. At the very least, suspended. Automated system.
All trial accounts are "trial_username".
Trial users cannot post comments. I don't, actually, like this idea, personally, but it cuts down on abuse issues. Maybe they can't post comments to people they aren't "friends" of?
Absolutely no customability. Default colors, default style, no overrides.
Trial accounts are limited to users with some reasonable tracability of address...i.e. - No Hotmail/Yahoo!/etc e-mail addresses.
Trial accounts cannot export their journals until/unless they have upgraded to an "actual" account.