Weblogs.com

I wrote a post yesterday about the weblogs.com shutdown and then thought better of it and never posted it. In general, I think shutting it down if it was costing him more than he could spend is completely reasonable. The stranding of people is what is highly uncool, I think. Here’s a guy who has been pushing how important weblogs are and been working to get them acccepted as journalism, as important to democracy and has essentially flipped a switch and made 3000 of them go dark without warning. I understand the technical reasoning behind it, but if I was one of those 3000 I would be understandably pissed off.

The reason I didn’t post is because the last thing I need is to be feeding into Dave Winer’s persecution complex. In his audio statement he said “On the internet people criticize you no matter what you do.” That is a masterful statement, one that properly applied can absolve anyone from anything because, hey, people on the internet criticize a lot. Never mind whether or not it is deserved, we can handwave it all away. Beautiful!

Jeff Jarvis posts a link to the newly updated Rexblog insight that the big thing here isn’t that weblogs.com is no longer free, it’s that the URLs now have to change. Here’s a quote, including the Doc Searls quote he responds to:

Ironically, Doc Searls, who quickly jumped to Dave’s defense on this issue, is focusing on server space rather than on the philosophical issues he help articulate in the first place. Last September, for example, Doc said the following:

When none of your stuff can be found on the Web – either by search engine crawlers or by the countless writers who are denied the chance to link to your good stuff, you fail to exist in the largest and most vital business environment civilization has ever known. Links are what make the Web a web. Preventing them is the height of folly.

My frustration is not with losing server space. I am a fortunate person who has access to abundant server space and bandwidth. The fact that Dave Winer took away my access to his server space has absolutely nothing to do with my read on the significance of this event. My frustration is with those who should know better not recognizing that the Cluetrain issue here is about links: That when someone does something, either innocently or with malice, that disrupts the efforts one has made to allow others to find “your stuff” on the web, then they have done something that says, “you don’t exist.” And then, when others are allowed to keep their nearly identical links and therefore their “existence,” it says, “others deserve to exist, but not you.”

Here is one thing I wrote yesterday that I will reclaim:
There is a take home lesson here. If you are relying on a free service for something that is mission critical to you (or even a non-free service), always be prepared for that service to go away in the next few minutes. Your hosting company may go bankrupt and switch off the power tomorrow, so have local copies of everything that matters to you. While I feel a little for the folks who are left high and dry and have many posts that they can’t access, much of the fault is there own if they don’t have their own local copies. One of the side effects of weblogging with Blapp and the way it publishes via rsync is that I have multiple complete copies of my whole weblog at any time.

Also, pay the $8/year and own your own domain name. You can always set it up to forward to another URL at another service, but if you are dependent on the XXX.weblogs.com URL always being valid, then like Rex above you are screwed when it is no longer available. I see this whole thing as a valuable lesson in control. It’s always better to control as much of your footprint as possible, When you have an identity wrapped up in weblogging yet don’t control the storage of the content nor the web location, your online identity is always at risk. Think this through before you establish one, how much risk is in your current blogging situation and is it more than you are willing to bear?

Update: There is now a 90 day transition plan for the hosted blogs. This ought to serve anyone fine – those who have no intention of continuing beyond the end of the free 90 days have lots of time to transfer elsewhere and leave pointers at the old place. Those who want to pay Rogers Cadenhead and keep the same URL can do that. Everyone ought to be happy with this. Kudos to Dave Winer for finding a good path out of this and to Rogers for stepping in.