July 12, 2008

Boing Boing Silently Ununpublishes A Few Violet Blue Posts

[Original research! Not an echo! News!]

In a long MetaFilter discussion about the incident, user "xchmp" noticed that a few of the Violet Blue related posts which were deleted, ahem, "unpublished" from Boing Boing were now back on the website (let us call this "ununpublished").

After investigating, I've found it's true, they were indeed silently ununpublished. Check this out (do it now, since the cache will change over time).

In the following page, compare the Google cached version ("Jul 6, 2008 19:11:10 GMT") with the current version. Look at the lower left-hand "Older" link on the two pages. The current version links to the "ununpublished" post mentioning Violet Blue, the version of July 6 cache links to the previous post. The cached version links to a different, previous post, since the Violet Blue related post was not present at the time the cached file was generated (note that could be sometime earlier than the cache date).

Another example:

Compare the Google cached version ("Jul 9, 2008 15:10:58 GMT") with the current version, again at the lower left-hand "Older" link. Same effect.

You can even see Google picking up the posts now. For example right now for a Google search on [site:boingboing.net "MondoGlobo podcasts"] I get just two hits. Neither is the post, both are other items on boingboing.net (this will change in a few days, so look now - that's how you can tell the posts are new).

Moreover the *cached* copy ( Jul 3, 2008 18:25:01 GMT) of http://www.boingboing.net/2006/10/15-week/ doesn't have the post, even though the string is showing up in the snippet (it's known that the snippets and index update faster than the cached files)

These posts, all by David Pescovitz, seem to have been rewonderfuled:

http://www.boingboing.net/2005/05/17/bdsm-dolls.html http://www.boingboing.net/2005/05/27/transparent-tape-scu.html http://www.boingboing.net/2005/12/21/violet-blues-top-ten.html http://www.boingboing.net/2006/10/19/mondoglobo-podcasts-.html

[ Source lists: http://files.bangshang.com/unpublished.php ("cillit bang") http://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=pzVyO44trg7ys2C31Bt3pCw&hl=en (Violet Blue) ]

[Note: This post may change to elaborate or add additional material]

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at 10:09 PM | Comments (3)
July 07, 2008

More BB/VB notes: A personal disclosure, Google-effects?, NYT

Full disclosure: I had a length conversation with Xeni Jardin (the Boing-Boinger part of the controversy). I don't know anything more about the mystery reason than I did before (I didn't ask, and she didn't tell). The discussion was more an exchange of perspectives about (my paraphrase) A-lister power and responsibility. I mention this, with permission, as the personal core of my blog is/was chronicling the difficulties of net-activism (that endeavour didn't work out so well, but that's another topic).

There's an interesting post from a sexuality films site which lost some links as collateral damage, about possible Google implications (NSFW - don't follow this link if you're at work) of the events:

Back in late 06/early 07, when we realized just how vague, eratic, and fallable Google's ranking methods could be, we moved to uncouple our fortunes from the whims of Googlebot. This Boing Boing "unpublishing" things suggests that it's time for a re-evaluation of our PR tactics.

I'm not sure how much of an effect there really is, as the pagerank/keywords don't seem all that substantive. But there may be a "trust"/anti-spam Google effect which could be especially significant for sites which deal in sex-related material.

Memesterbation (linking so that this post shows up on trackers) - NYT article on the topic

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at 09:04 AM | Comments (7)
July 02, 2008

Boing Boing / Violet Blue notes

Regarding speculations about what Violet Blue did to be, well, dewonderfuled, note she was still considered properly Boingy as late as 2007-07-27, in a now "unpublished" post about "Short link amuse bouches for Friday". Her offense must have been after that date.

The only thing that seems to fit the timeline is the trademark case she brought against a porn star using the name "Violet Blue", which was filed in October 2007. But there still seems to be something missing, given the very intense personal feelings on display. I don't put much stock in the lovers-spat theory _per se_, that's just attention-seeking by tabloid blogs.

Again, I am so disappointed. For all the argument-Olympics of hairsplitting over rights, it all comes down to power, to might-makes-right. Boing Boing is not notable for extending charity and understanding to those they accuse of having committed ethical transgressions against openness and transparency. Being A-list means being able to set the terms of discussion (to a good approximation). Nothing more for me to say here, it wouldn't do any good.

And it makes me very, very, wary of Boing Boing as any sort of attention-source supporting anything I do. Yet another sad argument (if any were needed) for the ultimate wisdom of giving up.

My previous blog post was in the top ten Google results for searches on [Violet Blue Boing Boing]. It got around 210 hits from Google on 7/1 and 40 hits on 7/2. Whoopee.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at 11:59 PM | Comments (4)
June 30, 2008

Violet Blue "unpersoned" from Boing Boing ?

The Violet Blue / BoingBoing incident, where many posts mentioning popular sex writer Violet Blue were suddenly deleted from one of the biggest blogs around, has been garnering more and more notice in the relevant fan-bases. The strangest aspect is that it seemed to have happened out of the, err, blue.

"I've been racking my brain thinking of what issues I might've come down on the wrong side of," Blue told [the latimes.com writer] on the phone. "There's been no argument, there's been no disagreement, no flame war, none of the usual things."

Which makes it all very, very, odd. Generally when something like this happens, the parties involved know the general reason (... even if they don't agree on the specifics). And none of the obvious speculations fit (sex-related material? There's still plenty of that on Boing Boing. Copyright? No, doesn't seem to be an issue). The Boingers aren't talking, not even to newspaper inquiries per above. Which is another weird part of the story. That sort of behavior generally indicates a legal problem, but nobody can figure out what would apply here.

I dug around earlier, and the post removals definitely seem to be real and deliberate. That is, not only have the HTML article files disappeared, but someone seems to have gone into the article database and deleted the entries there, and then rebuilt the associated HTML article files (so that the previous-post and next-post links didn't show the now-deleted post). It's not clear when this happened - I couldn't find cached versions that narrowed down the timeframe enough.

I kept thinking this has got to be a bug, that somehow Violet Blue's website ended up on a spam blacklist by accident. But the stonewalling seen over the last few days makes that theory less and less likely.

People are now trying to sneak comments about the event into various Boing Boing threads, and obviously having those comments removed. You can just imagine what sort of post you'd find about all this on Boing Boing if it were someone not favored, instead of themselves ("Megasite erases hip sexy blogger, readers use The Internet to protest!"). Plus the supercilious apologism from certain quarters, is a sight to behold.

I have a saying: It's Always Different When It's You :-(

Update: Boing Boing speaks. WOW! Say it isn't so :-(. They really did wilfully and deliberately unperson her. It's all true: "Violet behaved in a way that made us reconsider whether we wanted to lend her any credibility or associate with her.". I wish I could convey vocal tone, to underscore the sincerity of saying I am so disappointed.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at 11:55 PM | Comments (12)