D'Glenn (dglenn) wrote in suggestions,

Extend <lj user=""> tag to point to other sites that use LJ software

Extend <lj user=""> tag to point to other sites that use LJ software

Short, concise description of the idea
Extend the <lj user=""> tag or create a similar one, for referring to users at other LJ-like journalling sites as easily as we refer to other LJ users now.

Full description of the idea
With more and more cross-site relationships forming, I've been seeing folks on LJ trying to use <lj user=""> to refer to InsaneJournal or DeadJournal users, and vice-versa. I've been pasting in the full HTML that the <lj> tag expands to (so this suggestion would only be a minor increase in convenience for me personally) and I've had several less-geeky people ask, "Hey, how'd you do that?" and I've seen even more folks attempt to refer to users on another site and accidentally link to the same username at their own site instead.

This is related to the 2008-02-11 "make lj user linking to OpenID users easier" suggestion and similar to (but more limited in scope than) the 2005-02-13 "New LJ tags for people who are not on LJ" suggestion.

My InsaneJournal readers seem to appreciate seeing LJ-heads on links to LJ users and my LiveJournal readers seem to appreciate seeing IJ-symbols on links to IJ users; and I in turn appreciate knowing when a username link is going to a different site. So I think that this would be a useful feature.

Since all the journalling sites that use LJ software generate similar HTML from the <lj user=""> tag, and use similar URLs for the profile and the "this is a username" icon, limiting this to LJ-like sites simplifies implementation -- AFAIK there are no special-cases to worry about, just plug the right domain into a template.

For example(s): [info]chickgonebad, [info]lizardlich, [info]dglenn

The template I used there was:

<span style='white-space: nowrap;'>
<a href='http://USER.DOMAIN.TLD/profile'>
<img src='http://www.DOMAIN.TLD/img/userinfo.gif' alt='[info]'
width='17' height='17' style='vertical-align: bottom; border: 0;' /></a>
<a href='http://USER.DOMAIN.TLD/'><b>USER</b></a></span>

though that does lack the pop-up thingamabob when hovering over the icon (which I didn't include in the template I've been using because it always annoyed me anyhow, but it'd be trivial to re-include it). To make this work with sites that don't implement user.domain URLs or reserve them for paid users, the following ought to work:
<span style='white-space: nowrap;'>
<a href='http://www.DOMAIN.TLD/userinfo.bml?user=USER'>
<img src='http://www.DOMAIN.TLD/img/userinfo.gif' alt='[info]'
width='17' height='17' style='vertical-align: bottom; border: 0;' /></a>
<a href='http://www.DOMAIN.TLD/users/USER/'><b>USER</b></a></span>

I expect that implementation of this feature will be trivial, and that most of the effort will go to deciding the optimal syntax to use so as to not break anything else, and be easy for non-technical users to consistently get right.

To start that ball rolling, here are a couple of forms to consider:
<lj user="USER@DOMAIN">
<lj user="USER" site="DOMAIN">

An ordered list of benefits
  • Ease of referring to non-LJ users on other LJ-like sites.
  • Ease of identification of references to users on other sites (for those sites which have replaced the default LJ-head symbol).
  • Fewer accidental links to nonexistent journals on the same site as the poster or different users than intended (when the same name is used by two people on different sites) when attempting to cite a user on another site.
  • A solution that does not require modifying every client in use, because it's handled on the server and thus instantly accessible to everyone.
  • Easier linking to LiveJournal users by users at other sites that keep their software updated in sync with LJ!
  • Simplified crossposting, for folks who mirror an entry to journals on more than one site.
An ordered list of problems/issues involved
  • Introduces additional icons that mean similar things (a criticism of the "let us make our own heads" proposal); possibly confusing to people who haven't seen a particular site's symbol before. (Though I think the meaning will nearly always be obvious from context.) Possible solution: add one new icon, resembling the LJ head+shoulders, to indicate "off-site user", instead of linking to each alien site's icon. (This also addresses the issue of other sites that use the same symbol as LJ does.)
  • Some sites either do not implement USER.domain URLs or restrict them to paid users, so a one-size-fits-all implementation will have to revert to domain/users/USER links.
  • Unless LJ implements a sitename->URL lookup table, users will have to keep track of which sites are .com, .org, or .net, possibly leading to a new batch of user errors.
  • Until the code propogates to other sites, anybody crossposting will still have to paste in the HTML by hand anyhow. (Other users will benefit immediately.)
Tags: external services, lj-specific markup, § no status, § patch available
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