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Death of a Blogging Legend

Steven Den Beste has died. If you weren’t a reader on the very early blogosphere, you may have never heard of him. But for me this is more evidence that the best years of blogging are behind us. Ace at Ace of Spades notes:

I should say that Den Beste belonged to a pre-professional blogging age (such as it may well be), a novice/hobbyist phase, when writers would just write about whatever interested them at that moment, whether it “fit the format” or whatever. Rather like I’ve heard FM radio was when it first came out, as opposed to heavily-programmed/demographically-targeted AM.)

Most of the blogs I still read regularly are the few remaining pre-professional blogs. Instapundit may have rolled into the PJ Media universe, but it’s still largely unchanged in style and format from what it was in the early aughts. There’s very few other blogs still going from those early years. The past decade feels like it’s been a great endarkenment on that front. Most of the commercial venues are vacuous. There are no big ideas. It’s “ra-ra team,” “look at how stupid and wrong those other people are!”, “Gather round the fire and let me tell you what you want to hear.” There’s no more conversation about big ideas, and places to go to read about things no one else is talking about.

I am among a dying breed of bloggers. I don’t do this for a living, and I barely make any money through ads. Most importantly, I don’t care that I don’t, because this was never about money: it was just an outlet. Den Beste’s death feels to me like yet another nail in the coffin of the hobby blog.

The perils of going it alone

Commenter Patrick suggests that using “commercial” social media platforms leaves the user subject to being censored by the platform owner, and that to be more free one should use blogs and RSS.

The problem with this is amply illustrated by the recent (temporary) takedown of Brian Krebs’ self-hosted blog. His analysis is here. At least with a commercial hosting solution, you’re at the mercy of one, somewhat predictable, potential censor. One that can be named and shamed, or even sued for breach of contract if necessary. If you go it alone, you’re a lot more vulnerable to attack.

It’s all very well and good to say “well, this shouldn’t be possible.” But when you get down into the nitty gritty, it gets a lot more complex. And the easiest (and therefore cheapest) way for your upstream provider to protect their own interests is to cut you off. Facebook, Twitter, and Google can afford to pay for world-class DDoS protection. And, in fact, their “normal” traffic would look like a DDoS attack to Sebastian’s self-hosted solution.

There is no perfect solution, no magic bullet. But the reason people have gravitated towards Facebook and Twitter (and the rest) is because it makes a lot of the problems of running an internet presence Somebody Else’s Problem.

So Long Twitter

After reading that Instapundit got suspended by Twitter, I’ve decided I’m done with it. I was angry that they censored Milo Yianopolous, but the fact is that Milo is a provocateur, so he runs the fine line. Glenn Reynolds is no Milo. Twitter is run by censoring fascists, and while I agree it’s their sandbox, I sure as hell don’t have to play in it.

I’m removing the Twitter platform from the blog’s social media, and I will no longer be posting on it. You can still find us on Facebook (for now). This post will be the last that will be posted to Twitter. We are done with it. If you value free speech and free expression, you should think about being done with it too.

Decentralized response to decentralized threat

In comments to an article by Megan McArdle (the article itself is interesting):

It’s basically peer-to-peer terrorism. And that makes it nearly impossible to fight, because there is no military headquarters to bomb, just like there is no single server to take down in a p2p network.

They’ve basically crowdsourced terrorism.

So we need peer-to-peer defense.”

I can’t think of anything to add to that.

FireClean Sues Its Critics

It looks as if Andrew Tuohy of the Vuurwapen Blog is being sued in federal court by the folks at FireClean. I’ve read over their lengthy federal complaint. A good bit of it is their ridiculous patent covering vegetable oil mixes. Generally speaking, the deck is stacked against plaintiffs in these kinds of cases. I believe corporations are considered public figures in these kinds of suits, which means they have to prove actual malice, which means they have to prove Mr. Tuohy knew his statements were false or that he recklessly disregarded the truth. That’s why you see accusations in their complaint like “Tuohy published this disparaging statement knowing it was false, or with reckless or negligent disregard for the truth.” This is a tall mountain to climb for FireClean.

But regardless of that, getting a suit dismissed, or prevailing in a jury trial requires hiring a lawyer, and given the amount of scientific data at play here, I wouldn’t imagine that’s going to be easy or cheap. There is no federal anti-SLAPP law, though there was one introduced in the House last year.

As for me, I keep it old school when it comes to lubes, so I wouldn’t buy FireClean anyway, but I definitely wouldn’t buy it after this. The other thing I believe FireClean may find out is that discovery is a bitch. The Vuurwapen Blog is raising money for it’s legal defense. I’d be sure to contribute. If FireClean wins this suit, the blogosphere’s free speech rights and our ability to criticize products without fear is going to be dangerously compromised.

Did Twitter Help Destroy the Small Blog?

Gun news is short today, so I’m going to link to an article over at Instapundit talking about whether Twitter helped destroy the conservative ecosystem. I’m not so sure. I started blogging in 2007, before Twitter was really a thing, and I noticed trouble for the ecosystem before Twitter started getting really popular.

If I had to point out two factors that killed the small blog, it was two things. The first is the disappearance of reliable and timely inbound link tracking like pingbacks. Google can do this, but it’s not as good as what used to be out there. So it’s harder today to tell when a blog is linking to you, in order to keep a conversation among a community going.

The second factor that killed off the small blog was the arrival of commercial blogging. It’s hard for hobbyists to compete against people who are getting paid, and most of those commercial operations came with competent and well-executed SEO strategies that sucked all the Google love out of the room for people who did not have the time or inclination to compete.

I’ve never noticed that Twitter is all that consequential traffic wise for blogs. Maybe other people have different experiences. While my largest referrers are still other blogs, Facebook has been licking the heels of other blogs for a while in terms of where my traffic comes from. A lot of conservative bloggers are abandoning Twitter, and just using it to push links, since Twitter has chosen to take sides in political debates and ban or stifle opposing thought. I never honestly embraced Twitter all that much, except for very brief periods of time. I’d be pleased if the platform went away. It’s tough say anything intelligent in 140 characters or less, so I’m not surprised it tends to appeal to the worst kinds of people.

My Apologies for the Server Hiccup

I had to do an unplanned upgrade of Ubuntu on the system that runs the blog for reasons unrelated to the blog. My home server does other chores, and I had something break that required an upgrade to fix. Sadly it was a more urgent priority. I debating waiting until late tonight to do the fix, but not being able to decide, I tossed a coin six times, and sorry to say the blog lost all six times. Don’t know how that happened. Must have been an Iowa quarter.

I’ve gotten spoiled since all the other machines I work on have SSDs or RAID arrays with nice big battery backed-up caches. The blog server at this point is six years old, and still runs on spinning platters. I had forgotten how slow software mirrored platters really are. At some point it’ll be time for a new server.

Blogaversary: Number Nine

It was nine years ago today, January 6, 2007, that I got started with this blog, and I do intent to make it to a full decade. That’s a lot of photons under the (FiOS) bridge. For those of you who have been reading from the beginning, thank you. For those of you who haven’t been reading that long, thank you too.

I always imagined my graceful exit from this genre would involve some decent protections for the Second Amendment from the courts, and the political fight headed in the right direction. I’m feeling pretty good about the latter, but not at all about the former. The latter could be unraveled with one bad election. The GOP won’t be in power forever, and at this point the Dems are fully dedicated to gun control.

I might not have the time anymore to do 10 posts a day, but it is not yet time to throw in the towel. We’re in a better place than I would have thought we would be after eight years of Obama, but there are very real threats on the horizon if the GOP continues to be a three ring circus.

By the time my Tin anniversary rolls around next year, we’ll know who the next occupant of the White House will be, and God help us no matter how this goes. But I will say this, if it’s Hillary Clinton, the Second Amendment will effectively be dead. The one thing I’d hate is to retire from this blog at some point in the future because all is lost.

Polite Society Podcast

Polite Society Podcast

I made an appearance on last Wednesday’s episode of the Polite Society Podcast, speaking about anti-gun folks being after your guns, despite the fact that they constantly say they aren’t. You can find my clip here. The rest of the episode, which includes a fine interview with Jeff Knox of the Firearms Coalition, talking about the Social Security fiasco, can be found here.

Actual Common-sense

Albeit with a side order of a”I’m a gun owner but…” and of course the condescension that the NRA wouldn’t support punishing people who actually misuse firearms, or that the laws he wants generally already exist, or would represent a loosening of the existing laws.

The post proposes (after a lot of political bumph) in a fairly sane way, that the NRA’s safety rules be enacted as federal law and that be it. And, shockingly enough, that safety education be left to a free market, not forced.

Punishing the people who actually misuse a tool, and leaving the innocent users in peace. It’s a radical idea whose time has come, I say.

I can quibble with some of his details (the safe storage requirement he wants is a little too much pre-crimey for me), but it’s a hell of a lot better than anything I’ve seen come out of anti’s recently. And a lot of it should be done by enacting uniform state laws, not action at the federal level. And a lot of his anecdotes would not be changed by changes in law, but by changes in culture – that people be prosecuted for negligent discharges, not allowed to call it an accident and go on. But that’s a problem with drunk driving (his comparison) as well. I have no issues with treating NDs as DUIs, assuming we don’t go to MADD-level idiocy. And he doesn’t mention that the reduction in DUI was achieved not only be increased penalties and enforcement, but by PSAs and other societal education.

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