It’s Tuesday, October 18, 2022 in Portland, Oregon.
While it’s getting cooler, nearby forest fires mean our air quality index has hit an unhealthy 160 thanks to late-in-season wildfires to the south and north.
For the last 6 months or so, every now and then Twitter dot com would refuse to let anyone post a link to this newsletter (i.e. the domain newsletter.danhon.com). In fact, it’d mark as malware or suspicious any link to the parent domain, too. I’d report this by filling in a form that might get dealt with someone, somewhere, at some time, and then at some point, I’d be able to post a link again.
This would happen on and off, and it would happen at arbitrary times.
Now there was a time, a good nine years ago, I think, and then maybe six years ago, that the self-hosted version of Wordpress that runs on my personal website got hacked. I spent a bunch of time getting it fixed and started paying Dreamhost to run malware scans. They have, of course, always come back negative. “Good news!” says the malware bot, “I haven’t found anything!”
I should back up. My personal website has stuff on it going back to around 1998. Maybe even a bit earlier, I think. Everything on there has been there, uninterrupted, for over 24 years now.
Yesterday, a friend was trying to share a link to s13e07: It’s not a place, it’s what’s in-between; Twitter will be unbundled1 and couldn’t, so I had a look again.
Somehow, something happened with danhon.com that according to virustotal meant 8 security vendors flagged the URL (and I guess, the domain), as malicious. Google, by the way, thinks it’s fine, and so does Apple, otherwise your browser would be freaking out about now. This domain is the combination Wordpress / static Apache site dating from yonks ago.
My newsletter domain – now hosted with the wonderful Justin at Buttondown, is flagged as malicious by 4 security vendors. Again, not Apple or Google either.
I should point out that I don’t how Twitter decides a link is unsafe (they don’t say), or what sources of data it uses as inputs (ditto).
Anyway, the long and short of it is I grabbed a backup of the entire danhon.com domain, a significant portion of my online life for the last 24 years – more than half my life! – and just blew it away, redirecting it to the much more boring and anodyne about.danhon.com (which, long story short, is actually hosted on Github Pages).
It’s all gone, you can’t access it now.
I did all this just so that I can post links to my newsletter, which is the thing that I write regularly and have done for the last six-odd years.
Now, given that Dreamhost can’t find any malware (presumably it’s scanning all the files hosted on that domain), and that the newsletter.danhon.com domain is also inexplicably tagged as malicious, the only theory I can think of is this: at some point during the last six and twenty-four years, a bunch of things that I have linked to have rotted.
By rotted, I mean the domains have expired and been taken over by spammers or other people who’re actually hosting malware on those sites, or the sites have been compromised and are doing likewise.
Which, you know, is really shitty. I already feel a deep sadness and hints of depression about having to deal with everything in this way: i.e. just because I want to link to my newsletter, blowing away and making inaccessible everything that’s had a stable URL for, like, ever.
And the reason why I’m doing this, I think, is because other people also have not been able to keep URLs stable and clean.
(Part of the reason why I know this is that every day I get at least 3 emails from SEO-type people telling me that my blog links are out of date, or that they have much better articles than what I linked to about whatever it is that they’re optimising the search and its engine.)
So. The internet is shitty.
What else could I have done? I mean, I could’ve decided I didn’t really care about letting people know I have a newsletter and that I’ve written some more, but for all my protestations that I write this for myself, I’d be lying if I didn’t want more people to read it. And also, the event that kicked off this action was a reader – someone I respect and have met and consider at least internet-friends and share mutual friends and somewhat overlapping professional interests – wanting to tell people to go read something I wrote. So you know, what, I don’t care that I want to tell people about my newsletter. I should be able to post links to it!
I could go and find someone who will take the time and has the knowledge and experience to figure out what the hell happened and try to undo it, and honestly, that is a lot of effort and the money will probably be worth it given my reaction to how important ~24 years of “content” appears to be to me. But of course, just like many other things these days, “finding a reputable malware fixer type person/organization” is riddled itself with circular reviews that themselves are SEO. Who would I trust? What am I supposed to do, cruise Reddit communities or mailing lists? Ask for recommendations? (I am, indeed, asking for recommendations, if you’ve ever done this and have an outfit you trust and rate)
So, right, I could pay money. Maybe I’ll do that later. I probably will.
And then on the other side, I get that it’s a good idea that Twitter doesn’t let you post malicious links because there are some pretty bad actors out there! And they don’t even have to be that bad! There is crap out there and of course you don’t want that circulating on your network. That is good. But I have also been caught and it feels like there’s not much I can do about it.
As an aside: for a while, I thought it was because someone was sending spam from the shared IP that Dreamhost uses to host my domain. That particular IP (until I went and experimented with shifting over to a dedicated IP – guess what, didn’t change anything) was listed in a realtime blackhole list for… something. The organization that listed it will take money, quite happily, to take a look at your IP and remove it from their blackhole list.
Anyway. What will probably need to happen is that someone goes through all the URLs I’ve ever posted, checks to see whether they now host any malware and then, I don’t know, breaks them. For a good ~15 years worth of blog and then ~6 years worth of newsletter. I mean, fuck that. And yet, what choice do I have?
So great, this is effectively a tax for “hosting content on the internet” and jesus fuck do I have everything right now.
I am a TikTok users in that I am old and thus only watch TikToks and do not make them. Honestly just typing that makes me feel like I’m the kind of older viewer who watches CBS procedurals / for whom CBS makes procedurals and now I feel dirty.
Anyway, here is a TikTok about 2023 design trends. It is SEO content from an outfit that does online training for UI/UX design and you get a certificate and everything. Again, I feel old, because this is what “being into computers” and “around for the growth of the internet” is like for “people in their 40s” who are still coming to grips with typing things like “people in their 40s” and having the statement apply to themselves. (Apologies to my friends who have recently turned 50.)
It is mildly infuriating which I admit is mostly on me (again, Everything! Has! Changed!) but the bit that really, really, really hit me was the term Scrollytelling, which was a big deal when it was called Doing a New York Times Snow Fall2 and that was back in 2012.
Scrollytelling. Honestly. Kids.
That’s it. I’m feeling sad and down. I feel like this is both an unexpected and yet also reasonable, understandable reaction. Depression is something that happens when you don’t see any other options3. While I have agency, they are not options I am happy with. I mean, what, I’m grieving the loss of my internet presence. Jeez, should I pitch this to The New Yorker?! This is, I suppose, fulfilling one of the descriptions of the newsletter: what it is like to be a person living with this kind of technology.
I’m not great.
How are you?
s13e07: It’s not a place, it’s what’s in-between; Twitter will be unbundled, me, 13 October, 2022 ↩
I will not mention what depression turns into when you really feel like you’ve run out of options other than: I’ve been there, and that’s not the way out. There’s always another way. If you want to talk to someone, even if they might be an internet stranger, just reply or drop me a line whenever. ↩