Note: I’ve updated this post as I gathered information allowing me to see more clearly in this whole mess. Please read the comment if you’re going to jump in the conversation or blog about this.
Wednesday night, my friend Sanja from BlogOpen (she was my very kind and competent hostess) pinged me on IM. She had less than 24 hours to export her blog before her blog host shut it down.
It was a blog hosted by WordPress
multi-user [Edit: not WPMU]. Easy enough, I thought. There is an export function. Unfortunately, when I logged in (the interface was in Serbian, but I can find my way through WordPress with my eyes closed), this is what I found:
Even if you don’t understand Serbian, you can see there is a missing tab. I tried calling
/wp-admin/export.php directly, but the file had been removed.
Well, after a bit of poking, prodding and thinking, this is what I came up with (
reminder: WPMU means that you can’t install plugins and no direct access to the server):
I went into Options > Reading. I set the feeds to “entire post”. As there were 110 posts in this blog, I set the home page to display all of them, with a little margin for error. There were more than 1400 comments, so I set the maximum number of items in a feed to 1500.
Then I did three things:
/feed (an RSS dump of the blog posts)
/comments/feed (an RSS dump of the comments)
- scraped the blog (with single blog post pages) as an extra backup by running
wget -r -l1 -w1 BLOGURL (thanks, John) from my server (also to save the images).
The blog was saved. I couldn’t import the RSS dump of blog posts into WordPress.com, where I told Sanja to open a new blog account, so I quickly set up a regular WordPress install on my server, imported it there, and exported it in WXR format. Great.
Comments, however, are another story. If you’re in a hackish mood, any help would be appreciated.
We’ll probably have to deal with the images too once the blog has been completely wiped off the 381.com server — for the moment it seems like it was disabled, but the images are still there (see this one for example).
There, that was for the technical part.
Now for a personal comment. I find it utterly disgusting and shocking that a blog host owner would give people an ultimatum to leave and disable the export function in the blogging software. Sanja tells me that they had the export function until a few days before the ultimatum.
Of course, a blog host can choose not to host certain people. But trying to lock people in by disabling export of their own data is simply evil. If you’re kicking people off your system, you damn well better make sure they can take their data with them.
Edit, 27.01, 12:00: I’m happy to learn that it seems the disabling of the export function was not related to the ultimatum, and that the blog381 people were not actually trying to actively lock people in. However, it remains that it’s pretty delicate in a conflictual situation to tell people to “submit or leave” when they don’t have a way to export their data on their own.
So, people, please. If you need a blog host, choose a serious one. WordPress.com for example. Or Blogger. Or Typepad. Putting your precious blog between the hands of an individual is risky (weblogs.com, anybody? and if you remember, people on weblogs.com at least had the guarantee they could export their data…)
How did this happen?
I got some details about the situation, but a word of warning about that, first. The source material to this Serbian blogosphere drama is all in… Serbian. I’m relying here on what my friend Sanja told me about the situation, and I do not doubt her good faith. I know, though, that stories do have multiple sides, and that there might be more to the background than what I’m telling you here — but whatever the background story, it cannot justify the behaviour of this blog host.
From what I gathered, what brought about this crisis is a quarrel between two bloggers: Tatjana aka Venus aka Lang (Update: Tatjana is not happy that I’m linking to her and has redirected visitors to this site elsewhere; to see her blog, copy-paste the link http://www.laluve.com/ in your browser), the owner of the Serbian blogging platform blog381.com (not the Tatjana who organized BlogOpen!), and another pretty popular blogger. At some point, Tatjana decided to forbid the people using her platform from linking to this other blogger or harbouring his comments.
Here is the warning she posted on the community forums:
(ima verovatno jos ali ne mogu da trazim)
je ovom blog sistemu naneo stetu laziranjem glasova oko izbora za najblogera (na kom je on bio ‘pobednik’), ‘miniranjem’ sledeceg izbora, sirenjem neistina, traceva, vrbovanjem novih blogera sa tri osam jedan sistema, a sve u cilju da se naskodi ovom sistemu a poveca sopstveni traffic i “ugled”.
Za one koji nisu dovoljno informisani i sve ostale koji su slusali ili nisu, samo jednu stranu price od gore pomenutog, necu dodatno iznositi nikakve detalje, niti vise imam nameru da se borim sa provincijalizmima pojedinih ljudi koji su bili ili jesu na neki nacin u komunikaciji sa blogom381 i njegovim korisnicima.
Slobodna volja svakog od nas da pise kako i gde hoce, ali oni koji se odluce da i dalje pisu ovde nece moci da imaju linkove ka ovim blogovima niti komentare vlasnika istih.
Ukoliko imate zelju,nameru ili potrebu da ostanete na ovom blog sitemu, obrisite linkove i komentare gore pomenutog blogera u roku od 24h.
Translation (Sanja was a bit tired, so forgive the wobbliness):
The owner of these blogs
has caused damage to this blog system by faking votes for the election of “The best blogger” (where he was “the winner”), and was undermining the next election by spreading gossip, lies, and recruiting new 381 bloggers, with only one aim: to damage this community and increase his own blog traffic and “reputation”.
For those who are not informed well enough, and all others who were listening or didn’t, only one side of the story of the person mentioned above, I will not give any additional details, nor do I have the intention to fight with provincialism of some people who were or in some way are connected to blog381 communication and their users.
It is the free will of each of us to write how and where we want to, but those who decide to keep writing here, will not be able to have links to these blogs or comments by their owner.
Those of you who have the wish, intention or need to stay on this blog system, should delete links and comments of the blogger (mentioned above) within 24 hours.
Sanja learnt about this because the owner of the blogging platform left a comment on one of her posts (not the most recent) to let her know about it. Given that the “other blogger” in question is a friend of Sanja’s, she wasn’t going to comply.
Other bloggers have also seen their blogs deleted, or at least de-activated (actually, before the 24-hour limit was up). A dozen or so, says Sanja.
If you want to chime in on the “political” side of this story (particularly if you’re involved in this story or a direct witness), you’re welcome to use my comments. However, I ask (as always) that everybody remain civil and refrain from personal attacks (commonsense blogging etiquette, y’know).
Update: It seems that since Sanja’s blog was deactivated, the whole blogging platform has been shut down, with a message that people can e-mail the administrator to get an export of their blog. This message was not there during the ultimatum period.
In a comment to this post, Tatjana aka Lang asked me to remove the link to her blog, http://www.laluve.com/ , which I had placed upon her name. As I have refused to remove it (linking to the people involved in this story is perfectly relevant, and on the web, you can link to who you want, anyway), she has set up a redirection which sends visitors from this site straight off to CNN. So, I’ve left the link in, of course, but provided you with a handy copy-paste if you want to go and visit her all the same.