Wednesday, 10 July 2013

DIY

Believe it or not, I know more than you'd think about selfhosting. These words you're reading now are hosted on Blogger, and that immediately puts me into some sort of negative spotlight (although I'm not sure why - Blogger seems to be mistrusted by a lot of people in the sex blogosphere, but I've never had any problems with it), but the current debacle with sex blogs being taken down by both Blogger and the previously-revered WordPress (oh, how the mighty have fallen) has led to various discussions on selfhosting.

I'm not going down that route.

But I do know a lot about it. In my "other life", I'm the creator and maintainer of several websites, one of which is relatively popular (although, of course, ILB remains my pride and joy). Although I probably lose massive geek points for using Word to edit the sites (yes, really), I perhaps redeem some of those through the host I use. It's completely ad-free, supports PHP and CGI, is fast, reliable and limitless in terms of storage space, and - crucially - doesn't cost me anything. I'm incredibly lucky, in fact, to have this space. It's hosted by a good friend of mine, and I am eternally grateful.

(In theory, if I wanted to host my blog elsewhere, this space would be a good place to do it. But this friend doesn't know I am ILB. I potentially have space on 47's server - a similar deal - although I don't want to host this there either.)

I also know quite a lot about domains - where to get them, where to point them, how to fiddle with mailforwards and even a little about setting up an IMAP if needs be (although my friend, the aforementioned host, is more the person to talk about that with - or @DomSigns is a good choice too). I have a few .co.uk domains (another thing generally not advised by sex bloggers: although none of them point to my sex blog) and I've never had any problems with those either. Nearly everything I've learned about webmastery comes from trial and error, but since I've been doing this since I was 12, it's not too much of a problem for me.

So why am I not moving this entire blog over to some form of self-hosted dealie, when it would probably be relatively easy to do so? Apart from the fact that I plain don't want to? Well, to be frank, I don't think I'm at a high level of threat. I actually think that the issue at hand is a much smaller one than it's made out to be anyway - although obviously for those who lose their blogs it's a massive one - and Blogger at least sends you a warning e-mail or puts an adult content confirmation page if they think there's anything objectionable there.

I don't really think what I do here is particularly objectionable, either. I don't really go in for all-out nudity to any great degree, graphic depictions of sex are here in abundance but very tastefully so if I do say so myself, and there's zero commercial content (with the exception of reviews) with no click-through links or anything that monetises this blog at all. A lot of the situation at hand seems to be stemming from the fact that bloggers can advertise sex toy companies with affiliate sidebar links - something I both dislike and purposefully avoid - and this is possibly what constitutes the "pornography" that WordPress have suddenly started acting upon.

(Albeit in small measures. Like I said, I haven't seen much evidence beside about three blogs, although more have been reported. Still, the sky isn't falling.)

Insofar as where to go from here, it's not clear, but there are alternatives to selfhosting available too. Venus in Slurs uses LiveJournal, which has a more sensible approach to adult concepts (although some blogs have ad support, which is very annoying). Its main rival, Dreamwidth, has nothing against adult material, and by all accounts I've heard it's a good service to use. The problem with both the .BML services is that there's no sidebar available, so there's nowhere to put your hideously-coloured links to sex toy companies or blogroll (the "friends" feature doesn't really cover it that well). It's not ideal, but it will do in a pinch. Although I hope nothing will come of that.

There are even other alternatives like my-diary.org and that thing that MSN runs, but I wouldn't use that. if you really want to, you can set up something using Joomla! (although you may need space for that) and there aren't any restrictions there. And then we have Tumblr. There's always a way out, and if there isn't, there's always a bigger fish.

But for those of you who are worried that your blog is suddenly going to vanish, the best advice I can give you is to merely CALM DOWN. Precautions are one thing - taking backups of your blog in .XML format, for example, on a regular basis - but I can see this becoming something close to a massive panic without regulation, and in reality, I really don't think there's much to worry about. Ruby Goodnight's excellent post makes a very valid point on the subject: making your voice heard about freedom of speech is a positive thing you can do about this. I've always been a passionate anti-censorship activist myself, and as Ruby says, there's nothing to stop you writing to your MP, either. It may not make a blind bit of difference, but it's something you can do.

But seriously. There is no "war on porn" (apart from in the Daily Mail), and certainly no "war on sex". There's a lot of adult material out there, there are hundreds and hundreds of sex blogs, and a few being deleted for monetised content isn't the start of a plague of Biblical proportions. Just be careful, take some backups, keep an eye out... and calm down. It may not happen and, to be honest, it probably won't.

If you want to selfhost, do it. But don't just do it because you think you have to. As any good psychologist would tell you... sometimes you really have to want to change.

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