Where Some Ideas Are Stranger Than Others...
Web Garbage Really is Hazardous (2017-11-21)
No, this is not an oblique reference to social media posts a person may or may not want to have tagging them for the rest of their foreseeable life online. Since The Moonspeaker is not a blog, there are a range of features and options that I don't need to manage one way or the other, ranging from comments to various sorts of pingbacks. On the comments side of things, there are specific reasons I have never enabled those which interested readers are welcome to have a look at. In summary, I simply don't have the time to give comments the type of care and feeding they need (and deserve) to add to the site experience and materials as a whole. That was the most I ever thought about it, and seemed to be about all that needed thinking about, for now. Much to my surprise, it turns out that for all those bloggers out there who have lost interest in their shingle on the web, it is quite possible that your blog may be the latest platform exploited by trolls online. Apparently bots can be used to create new commenter accounts which can then be turned against other blogs connected to the same blogging software and comment management services.
I remember back in the "good old days," between approximately 1994 and 2002, when it was possible to try your hand at building a website on an officially "free" service like angelfire.com, or the original xoom.com. Many of these services didn't merely plaster the "free" site with ads, their terms of service also claimed that they owned all copyright to whatever might be posted on them, in case the things ever made money somehow. Such sites could be abandoned at will, left to clutter up the web like so many crumpled bits of paper and other biodegradable debris. Most of them vanished forever in the course of the dotcom bust, and I know that the loss of my own contribution to those lost sites is well gone. Not because I'm embarrassed about what it said, but because it was ugly enough to make a poor visitor's eyes bleed – it was built when I still had an officially four grey but actually three grey screen. Unfortunately, today's website debris, quite apart from its actual content, is far from biodegradable, and no one can just ignore whatever they may have set up on tumblr or wordpress anymore.
If you're using a hosting service that is "free" and therefore not likely to delete whatever you built just because you're no longer updating it, it's important to take steps to minimize its virtual plastic content. Figure out how to shut down commenting and signing up for comment accounts, especially. It would probably be a good idea to clobber any email addresses associated with them as well if they are also being left to their own devices, since if they aren't attended to they can easily get hijacked into transmitting spam and other nasties. Probably the hardest part is paying attention should it turn out that the wordpress instance or whatever has an unpatched plugin, in which case it behooves you to remove it from use on the site if it looks like it is not going to be patched. Or if that's easier than getting it patched, which is unfortunately a very common situation. In my experience, the best places to watch for a heads up on those are Krebs on security and ars technica.
That this is necessary to be a fully responsible contributor to the web sucks. (I'm as happy to be irresponsible where I can get away with it as anyone!) After all, the hype is all about how footloose and fancy free everyone is supposed to be online, how the various "web 2.0" things are supposed to make it ludicrously easy to present thoughts and projects to the world. No strings attached! Unfortunately, this is one of those "if it sounds too good to be true, well, it's false" things. If it's any consolation, to my knowledge it is not difficult to turn untended plugins and services off, once a person sets out to do it, and there are many savvy fellow users of the same services who are happy to help.