livejournal

LiveJournal coughs to their crimes, sort of

So, LiveJournal finally sort of owned up to getting blacklisted for helping spammers, as mentioned previously. This posting is their response to the situation. They say they’re doing the right things, although you do have to wonder what took them so long.

They didn’t name Spamhaus or properly explain why they’d been blacklisted, so I explained in the comments.

The spice must flow

Notifications are coming through now because LJ have changed the IP address of their outgoing mail server from 208.93.0.128 (the address of www.livejournal.com) to 208.93.0.49 (which calls itself mail.livejournal.net, but isn’t accepting inbound mail). The blacklisting for the old address is still in place. The spammy journals specifically mentioned in the SBL listing seem to have been suspended, though.

It’s not clear if this change of IP address is part of some agreement between Spamhaus and LJ or whether LJ think they can avoid the blacklist and continue to ignore complaints. If it’s the latter, I’m fetching popcorn. It’s the work of a few keystrokes for Spamhaus to block LJ’s entire address range, and I vaguely recall they’ve been happy to do that in the past for people who’ve taken the piss.

(Disclaimer: I’m not Spamhaus, I just used to hang out on news.admin.net-abuse.email in the 1990s, when it was cool).

Postings in news have been a bit cagey about what’s going on with comment notification emails. They’ve mentioned that there’s a “third party” involved. It turns out that LiveJournal have got themselves blacklisted by the Spamhaus Block List for providing spam support services, in this case, hosting websites for spammers.

This is why comment notifications aren’t getting through: the SBL is a widely respected and widely used email blacklist. They’re not saying LJ are spammers or indeed sending spam email, they are saying that LJ aren’t taking down journals set up by spammers, so they’re effectively helping the spammers to spam. Most email spam directs the mark to a website, so providing those websites is a serious matter to Spamhaus.

This is worrying: it means LJ probably aren’t responding to complaints about hosting the spammers’ sites. I think Spamhaus would have tried sending email to abuse@lj, though possibly not under their own names, as you want to be sure that reports from ordinary users are handled correctly, same way as restaurant reviewers don’t book saying “I’m Jones from the Times“. The detailed information from Spamhaus lists a huge number of spammy journals, and at least a couple of them were still there when I tried them. This doesn’t bode well for LJ’s future, to my mind.

livredor brought this to my attention. There’s a thread on a news posting discussing the problem. azurelunatic (who is head of anti-spam for Dreamwidth) has more here, and I’ve commented on their posting.

Here are what I think are my best posts of 2010:

As I hinted at in that last post of mine, this has been a difficult year for me, culminating in my ongoing divorce proceedings after my then wife unexpectedly told me that she considered that whole “forsaking all others” thing as less of a solemn vow and more of a guideline. I’ve taken a long look at my priorities as a result, and resolved to spent less time arguing with idiots on the Internet (so, if you see me back on the Premier Christian Radio forums, remind me of my resolution) and more time going out dancing. There’ll probably be fewer posts of substance from me in 2011; however, I’m perfectly happy to argue with sane and sensible people, and I doubt I’ll be able to resist that urge entirely.

Thanks to my friends and family for all their support, and to the strangers who wrote to ask where I’d gone during the hiatus in my postings. May 2011 be a better year for us all.

LiveJournal are annoying me sufficiently that I’m seriously considering moving this blog to another site. I’d appreciate recommendations for alternative sites or blogging software.

What they’ve done

As jld explains in more detail, LiveJournal are including code from Driving Revenue Inc., an advertising company, in every page they serve (including friends-locked postings). When you move your mouse over a link, the code tells Driving Revenue’s site, outboundlink.me, what the link is. Their site responds with a new link. If you click, your browser ends up where Driving Revenue said to go, which may or may not be where you though you’d end up.

The point of all this messing about is to make money from affiliate links. Some sites will give you money for sending traffic their way. These sites know it’s you sending them traffic because they give you an affiliate code. When you link to that site from your own, you append the affiliate code to the link. Driving Revenue re-writes those links so they’ll make them money instead, and passes a cut to LJ.

If you’ve got a free account on LJ, re-writing links would be fair enough. One of the ways LJ covers the cost of free accounts is through advertising. But I’m paying LJ money so this blog won’t have adverts on it. If they’re going to break that contract, I don’t want to pay them any more money.

Also, even for free accounts, the way LJ/Driving Revenue have implemented this is very dodgy.

Why it’s dodgy

Firstly, this is bad for privacy and security. LJ are disclosing any link you happen to move your mouse over to Driving Revenue, so I hope nothing you link to in your locked entries is confidential. Worse, the way this has been implemented gives Driving Revenue the same authority as LJ: they can more or less do what they like, including stealing your cookies and impersonating you. Even if Driving Revenue aren’t malicious, they are incompetent ( as described below), and security problems at Driving Revenue now potentially become security problems at LJ. LJ went to a lot of trouble to lock down this sort of problem a while ago. Now they’ve given away the keys to the kingdom.

Secondly, Driving Revenue Inc are incompetent. They’ve had multiple attempts at the script now, and it’s still not right. You might have noticed that when you move your mouse over a link on LJ and quickly click on it, nothing happens. This seems to be because moving the mouse starts the process described above, and clicks don’t “take” until it’s finished. On top of this, the script is too zealous. It re-writes links in a way which breaks them (for example, andrewducker recently linked to this article: if you click the link, you’ll end up somewhere random on the same site).

What I might do about it

I’m using Adblock to block the script, so I’m not affected by it, but people visiting my blog are. This isn’t what I’m paying for, so, unless LJ sort it out soon, I’m off. Wherever I end up, I’ll keep reading my friend list here, and I’ll probably cross-post and direct comments to my new home.

The traditional thing to do is to flounce to Dreamwidth, but that seems to be intended for people who enjoy mannerist identity politics and writing about how their fanfiction in which Snape vigorously rogers Harry Potter will inevitably smash the kyriarchy. But seriously, Dreamwidth is in active development and they’re doing some cool stuff, though I’m a bit worried they’ll run out of money. I don’t want to move again, so I’m looking for somewhere stable, preferably under my own domain.

So, I’ve been playing with WordPress, which I’ve installed on the hosting account for my own domain. It looks quite nice. The only downside is a half-hearted implementation of threaded comments: WordPress allows threads up to 10 comments deep and then just stops letting people reply, rather than doing something sensible like folding them. It’s possible to use third party commenting sites like Disqus or Intense Debate with it, though, and those seem to do threading better. Edited: WordPress does “proper” blog stuff like comment feeds and pingbacks, which I’m currently doing with Python scripts and gaffer tape on my LJ, which also gives it an advantage over Dreamwidth.

I’ve got access to scripting languages and MySQL, and I presume there are other blogging packages out there: any recommendations?

Experimental Theology: How Facebook Killed the Church

Richard Beck reckons Facebook killed the radio star, erm, church: "Millennials will report that the "reason" they are leaving the church is due to its perceived hypocrisy or shallowness. My argument is that while this might be the proximate cause the more distal cause is social computing. Already connected Millennials have the luxury to kick the church to the curb. This is the position of strength that other generations did not have. We fussed about the church but, at the end of the day, you went to stay connected. For us, church was Facebook!"
(tags: facebook church society religion christianity social-networks generation-y internet)

A nice cup of rabies – What is LJ doing to my links? Part 4

LJ has been messing about with links to Amazon and other online shops: there's some Javascript which they're serving which re-writes the links (possibly to get LJ some money as an affiliate) and then makes the browser display the old link when you mouse over it. The script source is posted here: it's illuminating.
You do wonder how long LJ can keep cocking it up like this. I'm still here because I don't think Dreamwidth is financially credible and I've noticed that people who've moved tend to get fewer comments, but I'm annoyed that this script was also served on the journals of paying users and boggling at LJ's excuse that they didn't check what the thing did before they started serving it: putting unknown Javascript on your site is such a good idea.
(tags: livejournal internet dreamwidth javascript programming)

A Trailer for Every Academy Award Winning Movie Ever – Funny Videos | Cracked.com

"LEAD FEMALE'S NAAAAAME!"
(tags: funny video movies trailer humour comedy parody cracked movie)

Persecute me – I’m after the Brownie points | Frank Skinner – Times Online

Frank Skinner (who's a Catholic) on whether Christians are persecuted in the UK. "We’re a bit like Goths — no one can remember us being fashionable and we talk about death a lot. I love the glorious un-coolness of that"
(tags: catholic christian christianity church culture religion politics uk society funny)

Made from Truth and Lies – The TRUTH about Livejournal

"LiveJournal is 95 percent female. Like an acting club or cheerleading squad, the minority of males who use it are either gay or there for the chicks. The all-female atmosphere means that 95 percent of LJ comments consist of people hugging each other, and the other 5 percent consist of people apologizing for judging someone’s Harry Potter rape fanart." I'm there for the chicks, obviously.
(tags: livejournal funny parody)

As promised, the link blog stuff is now working. It’s pulling links and descriptions from my Delicious bookmarks and posting them to LJ in batches of 10 or more, or when there’s stuff to be posted and nothing’s been posted for 4 days. Let me know if it becomes annoying.

Here comes the science

It turns out there’s a PHP script called Delicious Glue to do this, but that would involve using PHP, so no (gateway drug: next thing you know, you’ll be using Perl). It looks like that script also doesn’t cope with the brave new world of Unicode terribly well, doesn’t tag the LJ post using the tags from Delicious, and doesn’t support the elaborate posting scheme described in the previous paragraph. Also, it wasn’t invented here.

So I did it in Python. Mark Pilgrim’s excellent Universal Feed Parser module does much of the heavy lifting. Posting to LJ using XML RPC turns out to be surprisingly easy using the built-in xmlrpclib. Most of the faff comes in getting it to persist state between runs of the script, which I’m doing using pickle. Here’s the code: you’d need to be a programmer to adapt it for your own use, but if you are, it shouldn’t be hard. I’ll probably run it daily using cron.

Link blog?

I keep a sort of mini blog over at Delicious. It’s a collection of links I want to save, plus a short description. On LiveJournal, there’s a feed of it at pw201_links, but there’s no point posting comments there, as I won’t see them. andrewducker regularly posts batches of his links to his LJ, and they often create some interesting discussion. I wondered whether I should do the same, or whether that would mean death was too good for me, as it is for those people who use Loudtwitter to post their “tweets” to LJ. I’d probably post links once a week or in batches of 10, whichever happened sooner. What do you think?

[ LJ Poll 1462193 ]



LJ links up with Google ads

As you might have seen over on news, LJ have formed a partnership with Google, allowing users who pay for their journals to place Google ads on them and earn a bit of money (LJ itself probably makes money off people who sign up, they’re not taking a cut of the money for people viewing the ads).

I won’t be doing this, as the small amount of money I might make from ads isn’t worth the annoyance to my readers. As someone whose comment I can’t find said, it looks like LJ have done this to keep up with other services like WordPress, who offer ads as an option. SUP bought out LJ because LJ apparently is blogging in Russia, so perhaps this is part of a trend. I hope they might do more “serious blogging” stuff as opposed to social networking stuff: I’d like to see LJ on my own domain working properly, comment feeds (so I don’t have to do it myself with Python scripts and gaffer tape), Google Analytics, and a pony.

Of course, the best thing about news postings is the hordes of whining commenters and the responses mocking them for whining. Pages 6 and 7 are particular rich in put-downs and image macros. It’s interesting to see that the “bugger off to Dreamwidth” response is getting popular: DW has made a name for itself as the place where you flounce to because The Man is keeping you down, Man. Fandom folk are pretty self-aware, so they mock this stereotype themselves. All good fun.

In another place, I’m told that in my postings here I seem more interested in annoying Christians than in genuine dialogue (if you happen to know where the other place is, don’t harass the management there, comment here instead: this post is not calling in an air strike from the United Atheist Alliance).

In this blog, when I’m writing about religion, I try for a mix of serious discussion posts and cheerleading for atheism (“give me a D, give me an A, give me a W” etc. etc). The last couple of posts are examples of a serious discussion post. Comparing EvangelicalGod with Cthulhu and the Bishops Gone Wild series are examples of cheerleading. The recent stuff on C.S. Lewis is a mixture of the two.

What’s the value of the cheerleading? It’s light relief from the serious stuff, seeing other people doing the “theists do the funniest things” stuff gives others permission to doubt, and it’s cathartic for me when I’ve just read about some bishop saying something stupid.

I don’t believe that someone’s religious opinions are morally worthy of more respect than, say, their politics (another reason for the cheerleading is to promote this idea: would people be bothered if I were laying into Gordon Brown?) However, religion is currently a more sensitive subject than politics and this is not going to change overnight. As a matter of tactics, I don’t want to annoy people so much that they don’t bother reading the serious stuff, and as a matter of empathy, I don’t want to actually upset people.

So, I’m interested in what the people reading this think of my postings on religion. Here’s a poll about it (if you’re not an LJ user, you’ll need to login in with OpenID or create an account to fill it in). Let me know what you think:

[ LJ Poll 1380432 ]