Your first fundraiser: how long for, when, and how much?

In 2011, I co-founded the Ada Initiative, a charitable organisation promoting and supporting women in open technology and culture. Between 2011 and 2014, we ran five fundraising drives, four successfully. This article is part of a series sharing what I learned in the hope that new women in technology groups and other activist groups can skip to advanced level fundraising much sooner and spend the least time and the most joy on fundraising that they possibly can.

How long for?

Aim for a campaign length of 3½–4½ weeks, beginning on a Monday and ending on a Wednesday. The Ada Initiative donors told us that they often donated after seeing around three calls to donate from different sources; if your fundraising drive is much shorter than three weeks there’s not time for people to see two or three people telling them to donate, and beyond that and you’re just tiring all the volunteers out and making onlookers wonder when they’ll finally stop hearing about this. Expect almost all donations to come in on weekdays and most between Mondays and Wednesdays; hence a Monday launch and Wednesday conclusion.

Try to straddle a month boundary, ideally finishing the campaign in the first or second week of a month. Some of your donors will need to wait on their payday to donate, particularly if you are asking for donations of significant size, and many people are paid towards the end of a month. Starting on the 1st and concluding on, say, the 25th would miss these donors.

When?

This series is aimed at organisations running their first fundraiser, and the best answer to when is as soon as you can because you need the money to achieve significant goals. Don’t hold off your fundraiser for months trying for the magic right month to run it in.

As a caution: it’s best to just launch a fundraiser, and not announce the dates publicly to donors in advance. There’s two reasons for this: it’s quite likely that your dates will slip (the Ada Initiative’s major slips involved being rejected from Kickstarter on one occasion, and needing to fix payment processing issues on two other occasions); and, as discussed later in the series, you should never encourage people to wait until later to donate, unless you are willing and able to personally follow up with them, because short of personal followup they won’t not come back to do so.

That said, for future fundraisers, when you have time to plan a little more in advance, the conventional wisdom that was passed onto us was, in the United States, to hold fundraising drives very close to the end of the calendar year. In the US, the tax year ends on December 31 and so the time when people want to maximise their tax deductions coincides with the lead-up to Christmas when observers of the holiday are focussed on giving and the pleasure of giving. In Australia, where our tax year finishes on June 30, and Christmas coincides with expensive summer holidays, I am less clear on whether there’s a single best time to run a fundraising drive. A time of year that’s reasonably predictable for your regular donors will be useful; the Ada Initiative settled on the September/October period and had good success despite conventional wisdom around delaying until November/December.

We were also advised that it’s considerably harder to raise money in the US in a presidential election year, as many people direct their donation budget to candidates for office. While it’s not possible to skip fundraising every fourth year, it’s worth having a look around you and try and avoid overlapping with any shorter predictable major political events.

On the other hand, if your donors come from a group that has a significant source of money at a certain time of the year (eg, they work for an industry that pays bonuses at the end of the year), that is a good time to aim for!

How much?

This is where your needs meet your donors’ ability to give. For needs, you should prepare a budget. The details of budgeting are out of scope for this series, but remember: don’t be original! You can look up the budgets of similarly sized organisations in their sponsorship prospectuses, their tax filings (eg, the US 990 tax filing for charitable organisations), and many business and non-profit resource websites. For the Ada Initiative staff salaries were the major expense, as is usual for service organisations. As a very loose guide for small service businesses that are paying staff, your total expenses often come out around twice your staff’s salaries. However for volunteer organisations, or organisations that are going to make extensive grants or do development, salaries will be a much smaller part of your budget and other expenses will loom larger.

To estimate your donors’ ability to give, it’s time to start asking people for money. Specifically, you need to figure out who is very likely to donate, and begin asking them to pledge to donating once your campaign kicks off. The pledge total will comprise a reasonable fraction of your donation total, somewhere between 10 and 25%. Once you have your pledges in, multiply the total by four. Is that enough to do what you need? No? Then you’re at serious risk of not reaching your goal, and you need to either bring your goal down, or figure out who else to ask for pledges.

Building a prospect list and asking for pledges is covered in my next article!

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Your first fundraiser: how long for, when, and how much? by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Your first fundraiser: don’t be original!

In 2011, I co-founded the Ada Initiative, a charitable organisation promoting and supporting women in open technology and culture. Between 2011 and 2014, we ran five fundraising drives, four successfully. This article is part of a series sharing what I learned in the hope that new women in technology groups and other activist groups can skip to advanced level fundraising much sooner and spend the least time and the most joy on fundraising that they possibly can.

Learn from others

I’m an ex-postgraduate student and I know that hackers and academics are accustomed to not feeling that we’re working hard enough, or even behaving ethically, unless we either do something entirely novel, or at least learn everything from first principles. In business and fundraising, that’s not true. Save your originality for your projects and your approach to your mission.

Instead of trying to do original, innovative fundraising, look for best practices and copy them. Search for successful fundraisers and don’t be afraid to mimic their timeline, reward structure, and total goals closely. Eg, if you are launching a feminist hackerspace, you could look at what Double Union and Seattle Attic did for fundraising goals, rewards, and stretch goals, and learn from them in designing your own campaign. If you’re raising money through sponsorship, get hold of other sponsorship prospectuses and learn how they’re formatted, what their usual contents are, and what level of sponsorship is required for each sponsorship benefit.

And of course, also ask the founders/fundraisers of organisations similar to yours which bits of their fundraiser didn’t work for them.

Beyond that, there’s professional advice. At the Ada Initiative, our fundraising strategy was informed by working with four experienced fundraisers with different styles and insights; one for each of the four successful drives, in fact. If your goal is to raise enough money to pay staff (or your fundraising needs are otherwise $50k+), I strongly recommend you engage a fundraising consultant. Here’s some things to look for:

  • investment/alignment with your mission; perhaps not a close enough match to be an advisor or a board member, but the prospective consultant should be pleased with your mission and your major programs and interested in learning more about them
  • alignment with your core fundraising ethics (eg, at the Ada Initiative we didn’t work with consultants who bought or sold donor contact databases)
  • experience with online campaigns, eg, writing or editing blog posts, social media experience, experience with Kickstarter/Indiegogo/etc
  • experience with donors similar to yours (at the Ada Initiative we worked mostly with consultants who had experience raising money from tech workers)

Some of the things you could discuss with a fundraising consultant:

  • basic best practices they advise everyone on (eg, time of year to raise funds, weekdays to make major announcements on, the kind of thing I’m going through in this series)
  • doing donor outreach before doing any fundraising, such as phone calls to former/likely donors checking in on how they feel about the organisation (donors may feel more comfortable being critical of the organisation to a consultant than they would be to a founder, and the consultant will be able to hear the criticism non-defensively too)
  • doing, or subcontracting, or instructing your staff on, the detail work of the fundraising, such as writing copy, staffing social media, recruiting matching donors
  • choice of platform, eg, which crowdfunding site to use, which payment processor to use, which CRM to use, donation page UX (although these are rarer skillsets than fundraising best practices)

Organisations similar to yours are the best source of recommendations for fundraising consultants. It’s also something a good board may have advice on.

A good board are themselves invaluable. At different times we got key advice from both board members who were fundraising experts and board members who had run other kinds of businesses. Seek out board members, committee members, or informal advisors who have successfully raised money in any form in the past. They may not have much time to volunteer to help you with the nuts and bolts, but should be open to a few hour-long advice giving and war story exchanging conversations before and during your campaign.

Many brilliant and hard-working people have run fundraisers before you, and fundraising norms are generally well-established. Look for what works, and use it to get your organisation off to the best possible start.

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Your first fundraiser: don’t be original! by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Sunday 15 January 2017

There comes a time in any life partnership where you learnt to recognise the tone behind “Mary, come here?” which means “you need to come urgently, but not in a way that displays visible alarm or it will make the whole situation worse.”

Such it was when Andrew saw what he thought was a cat in our living room, turned on a light, and instead discovered a possum.`Not that a cat would be all that much different in terms of what comes next, it’s just harder to picture a big dark eyed brush tail possum being what gazes back at you. Luckily it was a Sydney possum, so fairly tame, not a rural scared possum or their aggressive introduced cousins in New Zealand. Sydney possums are selective in their aggression; they save it for each other when two or more have got into the same rubbish bin. It wasn’t tame enough to be handled and even if it had been I’d have been uneasy with that, but after a few failed attempts to herd it out the back door it shot upstairs, out our balcony door and into the frangipani. Sydney: native animals and introduced trees.

Otherwise, it’s hot and humid. The sort of hot and humid where the big story about the weather is “we normally have [negligible] days over 35° in Sydney each year and this year we’ve had [really quite a lot]!” This year is the first in many that I haven’t been working from home in an unairconditioned home office so it’s a lot easier to let the days glide on past from my gilded cage. It’s harder to sleep even with airconditioning — Friday night was the hottest January night on record — because of the heat that leeches out of the bed over the course of the night, but of course unairconditioned past Mary is unimpressed with my complaints. So far there’s been precious few Sydney storms to break the tedium.

This is usually the season of ceaseless weekends, and this weekend Andrew and V went to the cricket, and today we went to Greenwich Baths with J, S, and L. But it seems like after our holiday next week we’ll be having a quiet summer. Quiet, and maybe at times a bit cooler, but I rather doubt it.

Your first fundraiser: why fundraise?

In 2011, I co-founded the Ada Initiative, a charitable organisation promoting and supporting women in open technology and culture. Between 2011 and 2014, we ran five fundraising drives, four successfully. This article is part of a series sharing what I learned in the hope that new women in technology groups and other activist groups can skip to advanced level fundraising much sooner and spend the least time and the most joy on fundraising that they possibly can.

Why you should have a fundraising drive

In 2014, in the Ada Initiative’s article on choosing a funding model we wrote:

Often activists will reach for every funding opportunity they can: individual fundraising campaign, yes! Government grants, yes! Selling stickers, yes! Sucking up to wealthy potential donors at lavish one-on-one dinners, absolutely! But it is crucial to pick just two or three funding sources and concentrate on them.

Raising money in any form takes time, practice, dedication, and skill. Pursuing too many forms of funding will just mean that you’re bad at all of them. Some diversification of funding sources is often recommended, but the base requirement is a reliable funding source[…]

Since mid-2011, the bedrock of the Ada Initiative’s funding has come from a few hundred individuals within the technology community. Being accountable to donors who are primarily interested in culture change even when it has no direct benefit to themselves allows us to take on more radical programs. This includes work that is not directly connected with hiring or careers, or that is connected with gift and alternative economies like media fandom with little direct connection to corporate profits.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to adopt an individual donor funding model is that donors often become advocates for diversity in tech themselves…

These are great arguments for individual fundraising. Another one is that individual donors are often the most willing to take a risk on a new, untested, project; corporate donors/sponsors are more conservative and often want to see at least an informal track record to figure out what they’re associating their brand with.

If you’ve chosen individual fundraising for these or other reasons, the next question is: why do a drive as opposed to popping a donation form or Paypal donate button on your website and waiting for donations?

The first reason is simple: a drive will earn a lot more money. The Ada Initiative was a reasonably well known organisation with a reasonable amount of web traffic, but spontaneous donations outside a drive were at the rate of one or two donations a month. Our last few fundraising drives on the other hand earned hundreds of thousands of dollars and attracted as many donors in a day as we would get in the entire rest of the year. Our experience was that fundraising revenue exceeded spontaneous donation revenue by a hundred times.

There’s a tempting line of thinking around passive fundraising — I’m prone to it — which is that if your mission was truly great and your approach to it truly excellent, then the world would discover it spontaneously. Asking for money would then prove the inferiority of your mission or your organisation. Here’s a counter-argument: in order to be successful, you need to be the most invested person. If you aren’t committed to your mission, your donors won’t trust you to fufil it. Taking a risk by openly asking for money, explaining why you need it and what you’ll do with it, is one of the best ways to convince your potential donors that you have a chance at doing what needs to be done.

As we wrote in 2014, a good fundraising drive has a complementary goal: raising awareness of your organisation, and getting people involved. There’s at least two possibilities here. If you’re raising funds from the same community you’re going to benefit, your launch donors are likely to be among your key volunteers or members shortly thereafter. If you’re raising money from a different community from the one you’re going to benefit, your launch donors will be key in reaching other donors, and developing your fundraising strategy in future.

In designing your fundraising campaign, you will raise the money you need, and building a community of members and volunteers, or ongoing donors, at the same time. Good fundraising is hard work, but it isn’t a tiresome distraction from your mission. It’s how you will build the community you need to fulfil your mission.

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Your first fundraiser: why fundraise? by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at https://adainitiative.org/2014/06/10/the-ada-initiative-founders-on-funding-activism-for-women-in-open-source-from-model-view-culture/.

Flickr features I’ve known and loved

As the planning for the sale of Yahoo!/Altaba to Verizon continues, I’m not the only person worried about the fate of Flickr, which has been owned by Yahoo since 2005:

I’ve got a tediously backed-up local copy of my photos and won’t have to kiss them goodbye, but as a happy Pro user of Flickr I’m really worried about its future and beginning an active search for replacements. I’m going to start evaluating possible replacements on the basis of these specific features, roughly in order of importance:

My favourite Flickr features

Embedding my foremost use of Flickr is as a photo host for my parenting blog and, increasingly, to show off my best photos. The ability to embed photographs in third-party websites is essential to me.

Locking at the photo level and guest access. It’s not easy to find non-recent photographs of my children on my Flickr account. That’s because I have a script that marks photos as private once they’re a certain age. Some other types of photos (for example, photos of other children) I often mark as private immediately.

Much of my web life runs this way: just because you can find my recent stuff doesn’t mean you get to casually browse everything I’ve done on the Internet since the beginning of time (circa 1999). I’ve taken full advantage of websites with individual locking every time I’ve used one, including WordPress sites, LiveJournal&Dreamwidth, Pinboard, and, yes, Flickr, and strongly prefer it.

At the same time, the chance of people who care about me obtaining a login to Flickr, or to social-photos-site-of-the-month in order to view pictures of a party we were at is basically nil, so the ability to share links to photos via Flickr’s guest pass system has made it useful to me for semi-private events and photos.

API access. I’m not locking all this stuff on all these sites down by hand! It’s all scripted and done via APIs.

Multiple albums for a single photo I look at my photos through several different types of, uh, “lenses”. There’s events, there’s individuals in the photos (mostly my children), and there’s my show-off albums for my favourite photos or ones most I’m likely to want to share with other people if only they’d ask to see more of my photos. I use albums for all three ways of looking at photos, and thus many of my photos are in both a “my kid at age 3” album and a “visit to the beach in November” album.

I also use tags and I might be able to modify my workflow to use tags to replace some of these features, although the result of a tag search would need to be viewable as a first class album, rarely true in my experience so far.

Creative Commons licencing. I like easily dropping my photos into a big pool of photos that might someday find good uses elsewhere and licence a lot of my non-portraits CC BY for (nearly) maximum re-usability. I fear that even sites that support CC licencing won’t end up being searched by anyone in practice, and if I note a CC licence myself in the description, it’s never going to happen.

Features I’d reluctantly sacrifice

Chromecast support. It’s been really enchanting having our TVs display great photos of our kids throughout their lives, travel we’ve done, and a lot of clouds, all via Chromecast’s support for using Flickr photos for background images, but I’m willing to give it up for my core set of features.

An app. Don’t get me wrong, I do like being able to peruse my photos on my phone, but I’d give it up if I had to. Because I do about half my photography with a DSLR, and edit essentially all my photographs, I don’t upload photos via apps in any case.

Less important

The social ecosystem. I started using Flickr regularly after a lot of people stopped, and I’m indifferent to the social features, eg favourites, comments, following other folks, putting my photos in group albums. I do use some of these, but I won’t be looking for them in a replacement.

Locking to different sets of people. I do use Flickr’s “friends” and “family” distinction a little, but in giving up social, I’m also happy to give up locking other than “locked” and “not locked”.

And now, I’m afraid, it’s well and truly time to go shopping for a new photo host. My favourite. Only not.

Your first fundraiser: what the Ada Initiative learned the hard way

In 2011, I co-founded the Ada Initiative, a charitable organisation promoting and supporting women in open technology and culture. Between 2011 and 2014, we ran five fundraising drives, four successfully.

We made a bunch of bad decisions along the way. For example, after our first drive in 2011, we stopped accepting donations, and moreover assumed that folks who had been denied the opportunity to donate in mid-2011 would still be there and keen in early 2012 (spoiler: no they weren’t). We offered t-shirts as a donor thank you gift. Worse: we offered t-shirts twice.

We also got a lot of excellent advice from fundraising experts and from our fabulous boards of directors, and through a combination of hard work (both ourselves and our volunteers!), good ideas, and good luck, had a lot of success. For several years I’ve been informally advising other women in technology groups on fundraising for the first time ever,

Over the next several weeks, I’m publishing a series of articles with my fundraising wisdom, with the hope that new women in technology groups and other activist groups can skip to advanced level fundraising much sooner. May you spend the least time and the most joy on fundraising that you possibly can!

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Your first fundraiser: what the Ada Initiative learned the hard way by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Friday 6 January 2017

Between my weak right shoulder, my total dependence on thyroid replacement hormone and my extreme sentimentality surrounding changing anything at all for my children, I’m something of a soft target for anyone bent on my destruction.

In early 2014 I dutifully trotted teeny floppy little baby A, aged 11 weeks, to her new daycare, and yesterday she ended her time there with last snuggles with the carers who looked after her as a baby, and I think I felt exactly the same both times. It feels like less of a “my baby, her first/last day of daycare/school!” cliché when you’re in it, and I haven’t always been this change-averse. It’s new as of about a year ago when even adventurous V was not happy to be starting a new school.

People tell me kids cope just fine, but I was in my fifth school by my ninth birthday and I think it’s not a coincidence that I feel like this about jerking my kids around between institutions and Andrew, who changed school only once other than the primary to high school change, doesn’t. V has recently become very curious about the whole idea of moving, and asked about all the houses I’ve lived in. So I tallied up all of them for him, and the grand total is twenty, ten of them in adulthood in Sydney.

It’s the season for looking back again. Sure, yes, New Years. But I compounded that for myself by having children in January. Since the children are very nearly exactly four years apart in age, I’m doomed to spend my entire parenting journey reliving the events of four years ago but in January it’s extra acute as both of their birthdays approach. Seven years (two moves) ago, it was a hot hot hot summer and I hadn’t received the memo about taking it easy in late pregnancy, even though I was also having regular monitoring for V’s health. Four years (one move) ago, we were free of nappies for a brief window and commencing our second lonely year in that suburb. (For all that I intensely miss it now, it really did take about two and a half years to feel at home there. Don’t move, kids.) Three years (also one move) ago, I was having very stressful late late late late pregnancy monitoring with A; is it that you need a coffee, or your baby needs to be surgically removed? So hard to tell.

I’m not looking forward very far at the moment, but Monday is A’s birthday, and her last day at another daycare I’m far less sentimental about, and then Tuesday is her first day at a daycare across the road from V’s school, where he’s finally been for just as long as his first school, and I’ve almost finished converting my former home office into a TV room for me and Andrew, and I’ve cleared out a bunch of giveaways from the attic, and our baby things will soon be trucked over to a pregnant relative, and maybe, just maybe, the house move we made in May 2015 is finally finally done.

Ten years

Andrew and I got engaged ten years ago, on December 23, 2006. We were married in May 2007.

Sailor’s Thai, where I proposed to him, closed earlier in 2006, so we went to Longrain on the 22nd.

Engagement anniversary

Longrain wound up being similar in spirit to my two visits to Sailor’s Thai (the second was on our first wedding anniversary) in that the entrees were much more memorable than the mains, and the betel leaf one most of all. After we were done, we still had two and a half hours of A’s babysitter time left, so we did a very us thing, and walked around in the nighttime, catching a ferry to Kirribili, walking through the backstreets of Kirribili and down the harbour walk on the southern point (past at least four other couples sitting in the darkness), and around to Luna Park. We then caught a ferry to Balmain and then walked from the top of Balmain over to Rozelle. Between the two walks, it captured a lot of our time in Sydney; we used to live up the hill from Luna Park.

It’s been a long and difficult two years, but a good ten. Happy anniversary Andrew.

If you’re still maintaining a LiveJournal, your journal’s now in Russia

Signal-boosting this news as I know a few people still maintaining a LiveJournal who might choose to delete it, or change their use of LiveJournal after learning about this.

LiveJournal is now hosted in Russia

As of late December 2016, the LiveJournal servers (computers) are now hosted in Russia. While LiveJournal has been owned by Russian company SUP since 2007, the servers had until now been hosted in the US and access to them somewhat controlled by Californian law.

SUP has, to the best of my knowledge, not announced or commented on this themselves, but there’s more information at rahirah’s Dreamwidth journal with links to different evidence of the new location of the servers.

A Russian-language LiveJournaller appears to report that Russian law then allows that all the confidential information of [LiveJournal] users is available for [Russian] domestic security services in real time [note though that that’s a automated translation].

A BBC report on Russian law regarding social media in 2014 seems to confirm this:

A new law imposing restrictions on users of social media has come into effect in Russia.

It means bloggers with more than 3,000 daily readers must register with the mass media regulator, Roskomnadzor, and conform to the regulations that govern the country’s larger media outlets.

Internet companies will also be required to allow Russian authorities access to users’ information.

Thanks to my original source of information about this (found via @anatsuno on Twitter).

siderea expresses several important concerns with this:

  1. if you’re in Russia or vulnerable to Russia, and a political opponent, you could now be more easily identified by Russian security
  2. regardless of where you are, your LiveJournal could be possibly be deleted without notice for expressing opposition to Russia or its interests or for other content censored in Russia (eg LGBT-related content)
  3. the flight of LiveJournal users from LiveJournal following this news could simply kill the business and cause everyone’s journals to disappear without notice (Archive Team is storing public entries, regarding it as an at-risk site)

Readers’ connections to LiveJournal aren’t private

LiveJournal redirects secure https links back to insecure http. For example, if you visit https://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/ your browser will connect, but it will be instructed to head to http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/ before loading the page. (Info from this Dreamwidth comment by mme_hardy, confirming my personal experiences with LiveJournal RSS feeds over the last several months.)

What this means is that the content of any entries you read, including locked ones by both you and other people, are trivially visible to anyone who can eavesdrop on your net connection, including (often) other people on your local network, and anyone on the path between you and LiveJournal such as your ISP and anyone with access to the data flowing across international cables or access to the data as it enters the Russian hosting facility, whereas https connections are encrypted in a way such that those people can see that data is flowing but can’t read it absent considerably more niche and intensive technical measures. (Even if HTTPS were turned on by LiveJournal, you wouldn’t be safe from the Russian law, since they can ask LiveJournal itself to turn over your data in addition to whatever nation-state attacker level techniques they can employ.)

Given my experience with LiveJournal RSS feeds, I’m fairly sure this has been true for some time, predating the move of the servers to Russia. (Here’s one other report that this was already true as of September 2016.) Regardless of timing, this speaks of, at best, disregard for the privacy of their users’ explicitly private (because friends-locked!) information. It’s 2017, mandatory HTTPS for transmission of any data that is sensitive or might, conceivably, somehow, maybe, be sensitive is an absolute minimum standard for user safety. LiveJournal doesn’t even have optional “if you have HTTPS Everywhere installed” or “if you remember to stick the s into the URL yourself” HTTPS (which would still be insufficient as you cannot control whether your readers use HTTPS when reading your journal).

Getting your content out of LiveJournal

If based on this you choose to delete your LiveJournal, here are some options to keep your entries. This list isn’t comprehensive.

If you want to move the content to another website, here’s some blogging platforms that provide imports from LiveJournal:

If you want to download your entries for private use, you can:

  • use LiveJournal’s own export tool but rather painfully (you’ll have to do one download per month), and without comments
  • use ljdump on the command line, which worked for me as of 2015 when I deleted my LiveJournal, but will require that you’re an experienced command line user
  • use BlogBooker to export it to a Word or PDF file (disclosure: I haven’t used this site in quite some time, and would appreciate hearing if it works, but I suggest people at least try it because it exports to a non-programmer friendly format that people could keep as a private archive, and claims to include comments and images)
  • Archive Team lists other backup tools

If your LiveJournal made use of their photo hosting, I am not sure which backup solutions will import your photos or how they will be stored. I am also not aware of any import tool that replaces LiveJournal entries with a “this entry has moved to URL” message or similar. If anyone is working on a competing LiveJournal import/export tool, photo export and redirection text are both features that my friends and I would have found useful at various times.

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If you’re still maintaining a LiveJournal, your journal’s now in Russia by Mary Gardiner is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Sunday 1 January 2017

Our history with Sydney fireworks is mixed.

Sydney Olympics 2000: Andrew and I waited patiently at Circular Quay for the closing fireworks from around 2 or 3pm, initially sitting mostly with bored families. I remember watching a kid teach another Towers of Hanoi. Later in the evening, as more and more people flowed in, it was standing room only, and eventually there were waves of pushing and stumbling in the crowd as people cried in fear and sick people were crowdsurfed out. I’ve never seen fireworks from the main foreshore since although it seems like their crowd control is more intense now. I think it was that time too that we queued in crowds for about an hour for a train home from Central.

I also remember how odd and stuffy talks of counterterrorism preparations seemed at the time.

New Year’s Eve 2000: we met friends at Balls Head around midday, and after securing a mediocre spot, found a rock platform to clamber down onto so that it was just us and the fireworks. Andrew and I had brought bikes to the park and rode them home; hairy across the Bridge as drunken people partied on it and through the city amidst taxis and unpredictable traffic, after that it was a

New Year’s Eve 2003 and 2004 we were living in North Sydney with a good view of the Bridge and Opera House. We hosted mediocre parties both years. I started 2005 by being hit on the head with a falling bottle dropped off the roof of our building onto our balcony. Living there, we found that there are a lot of fireworks on the harbour all through the year; Lucy Turnbull was the Lord Mayor of Sydney during this period and was quoted saying that being tired of fireworks was like being tired of life, and I did wonder if my soul had vanished. Half the joy of New Years Eve there was seeing waves of people flowing down the hill to McMahons Point all afternoon and evening and not having to be among them. I clearly passed my twenties in style.

In 2005 we moved away from the harbour and away from doing much on New Years Eve, especially once V was born in 2010. We’ve had a tradition since around 2001 of making pancakes on New Years Day, which has gradually evolved somehow into specifically pancakes, mango smoothies, and lounge music. We used to invite other people to it but haven’t for a few years now.

Google lets employees watch the fireworks from their offices. We watched the 9pm family fireworks with V on New Years Eve 2012 and 2013. 2013 was a struggle for us all; I was almost 42 weeks pregnant with A, it was an unexpectedly cold night, and V had a toddler’s hatred of cold winds and whinged inside the whole evening. Then we uncomfortably stuffed ourselves on the light rail home. Those years we watched the midnight fireworks from the partial view our balcony had, and in 2014 we had a friend over for the evening and did the same. Last year we’d moved to somewhere without a view and I fell asleep before midnight in any case.

But like the rest of Sydney, I have to try and try again. One of my new colleagues has a good view of the Bridge from Kings Cross, so we took the kids there for the 9pm fireworks last night. We expected transport to be hell but it was very smooth in both directions. The train and bus after the children’s fireworks are much less hellish than the light rail, it seems. Town Hall station was clearly prepped for 12:30am with barriers to herd the public out of the station, and groups of police but V must think we are panic merchants after being carefully prepped for body-to-body crowds and finding himself led carefully through a brief twenty person halt. The kids got really worked up staying up late for the fireworks, so thank goodness for 9pm fireworks and a quick retreat home. They really enjoyed them though. For 2017 or 2018 we’re considering camping at Cockatoo Island over New Years and maybe then our Sydney fireworks story will be complete.