Rather amazing, the things you miss when you disappear for a few days.

Over the weekend, Dave Winer suddenly decided that due to a number of factors, he could no longer support the weblogs that he, along with Userland Software, had been hosting for free under the weblogs.com domain. Rather than do something reasonable, like contact the people about to be affected by the change to warn them or give them time to archive their posts in preparation for a move to a new hosting solution, he simply pulled the plug, replacing the affected sites with a tersely-worded notice:

This site is for people with sites that used to be hosted at weblogs.com.

  1. I can’t afford to host these sites. I don’t want to start a site hosting business. These are firm, non-negotiable statements.
  2. There are several commercial Manila hosting companies, including weblogger.com. Thomas Creedon maintains a transcribed Dave’s audio post, which (to me) really doesn’t do that much to clear things up.

    What blows my mind about this is not that Winer/Userland decided to stop providing free hosting services — that’s certainly within his/their right, and to a certain extent, you should expect to get what you pay for. However, his methodology here was flat-out ridiculous, as is his proposed “solution”. I have no idea just how many weblogs.com sites were affected by this, but I’m sure that nobody was pleased to see their weblog just suddenly up and disappear, with no method of retrieval beyond kissing Winer’s ass (he started off the comment thread for the announcement with “Personal comments, ad hominems, will be deleted. And no negotiating or whining.”) and hoping that he gets their site exported sometime in the near future (just what sort of timeframe might people be looking at here, anyway? “Sometime after July 1” leaves a lot of wiggle room) so that all their past writings don’t just disappear.

    It’s difficult for me to even conceive of doing something like this. While I don’t host anywhere near the number of sites that weblogs.com did (whatever that number might be), I do host a few friends sites for free, and I can’t imagine simply pulling the plug on their sites. Not only is it an amazingly callous thing to do, but the guilt alone would have me up at night — and that’s just for three other people!

    But then, I’m not Dave. Good thing, too, I’d say — I’d hate to have engendered such fear in people that they’re afraid to say anything bad about me

    Some bloggers contacted for comments for this story said they didn’t want to make disparaging comments about Winer’s actions, for fear he wouldn’t provide them copies of their blogs.

    “People have been really afraid to discuss this,” said a New York blogger who asked that his name be withheld. “There’s a lot of concern that any nasty comments will result in Dave not getting around to making a copy of your blog. I think a lot of the politeness and ‘We love you, Dave!’ sentiments that you’re seeing in some Web posts is just pure paranoia.”

    The biggest lessons to learn from this? I see three.

    1. Back up regularly. Make sure that the online copies aren’t the only copies of your work. Never hurts to be safe.
    2. If at all possible, host on your own server. Don’t trust your work to a third party — no matter how trustworthy they may seem, there’s always the chance that something might go badly in the future.
      • Of course, I say this while I post my entire website to TypePad — a third party — and as I act as a third party for the friends that I host on my server. Hypocrisy is the greatest luxury, after all. ;)
    3. And lastly…Dave’s being an ass.

    iTunes: “Mr. Johnson Takes A Bow” by 12 Rounds from the album My Big Hero (1998, 4:03).