2013-07-07

Last Piece of the Vridar Takedown Puzzle

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Updated about 20 minutes after original post -- detail added to the "So why I did not find. . ." paragraph.

The only detail so far unexplained in the deactivation of the Vridar.wordpress blog is why I apparently did not receive a warning notice from WordPress itself.

The times below are in Australian Central Standard Time, my local time. (Some images may be over-size for iPad viewing but to reduce them further would make them difficult to read.)

  • 2:26 AM, Tuesday June 28th, WordPress/Automattic email me notice of their takedown of my post about Joel’s nonsense.

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-6-55-40-am

    • But being 2:26 AM I am, as usual for that time, asleep.
  • Around 3 AM I wake up (as I do from time to time) and check my iphone for current news and recent blog activity.
    • If I looked at my Gmail at that time (I don’t recall if I did, but if I did then I would have ignored anything that did not look interesting — I would have ignored anything from “WordPress” since it’s usually some notice of a new product, new theme, — I’m not interested) the subject header would have meant nothing to me (what’s “DMCA”?, looks technical, some outage time?) and I would have ignored it.
    • The only thing I know for certain is that I did not take any notice of my email at that hour.
  • But I did see something odd: my post on Joel’s history/science nonsense is in ‘private’ status. Maybe Tim is doing something with it. I decide to check with him later and go back to sleep.
  • Once awake I check the post in “private” status, see nothing wrong with it, so restore it to “public” status.
  • About 6 AM I see Tim is online and ask him about the private status of that post. I wonder if there had been a WordPress glitch. I conclude that Tim had accidentally put it in “private” status.

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-7-23-31-am

  • Later that day Tim informs me that Vridar is no longer online. I’m at work and have not touched my Gmail or blog since I left home – work preoccupies me but Tim sends me a message:

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-7-33-39-am

A few minutes later in the same conversation:

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-7-38-23-am

  • Around 2:29 pm my time we have this part of our conversation. I still cannot believe there was anything deliberate about the removal of Vridar:

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-7-42-15-am

  • I do a bit of online checking, see that WordPress has made this sort of mistake before, so email Tim. I’m sure it is nothing more than a WordPress stuffup.

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-7-51-11-am

A clearer view of those links . . . .

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-7-51-30-am

  • I sent my initial query to WordPress through an online form.
  • Golly gosh! I see now from my conversation with Tim that I still had no idea of the seriousness of the takedown. I still believed it was just a technical stuff up by WordPress that would be sorted out sooner rather than later so I start to ask Tim something about a bird I had just seen earlier that evening!

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-8-04-47-am

  • After midnight my time I receive my first response from WordPress. I reply:

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-8-12-56-am

By now WordPress has told me enough for me to know that Joel Watts was behind the initial takedown notice. Stephan Huller had earlier told us that he was sure Joel was behind it all, but we had not wanted to believe him:

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-8-57-42-am

  • Finally at around 8:30 AM WordPress sends me a copy of the DMCA takedown notice as requested:

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-8-40-18-am

And without the date/time details . . . .

screen-shot-2013-07-07-at-8-42-48-am

The notice came at 2:30 AM. It was around that time that I saw the blog post was in private, and a few hours later, seeing no reason for it to be in private, I reinstated it to public. I dashed off to work and never took any particular notice of my personal Gmail account until later that day.

So why did I not find the initial DMCA takedown notice?

Believe me, I searched for it! I did a wordsearch on DMCA across all folders in my Gmail account. When that drew a blank — all it showed me was the current conversation I was having with Phil of WordPress/Automattic — I searched through each email in my inbox, spam, bin and All Mail, by Date. There was nothing.

I sent my counter-claim swearing I knew nothing of any prior DMCA take-down warning notice.

What I failed to notice was that the current conversation I was having with Phil had gathered up the original DMCA notice from him and that was hidden behind the current few posts of our to and fro. Phil kept talking about his original notice so I kept leaving that conversation to go look for that notice — and never found it.

It was only some time later that I was reminded that my emails in Gmail are grouped by topic. I have since checked the settings and see they call it “conversation mode”. I had been so used to that layout I had come to assume it was the default way Gmail worked. I had long forgotten I could even change settings for things like that. So each time I was searching for the original DMCA takedown notice I failed to realize it was somehow hidden behind our current conversation.

If I ever did stumble across the original DMCA take-down notice, by that time I assumed it was the notice as re-sent by Phil of WordPress. Notice above that I was beginning to lose sleep over trying to figure out what was going on, still engaged in conversations after 2 AM. I was tired, and also having to prepare for a flight interstate to take care of my house there, and having to prepare and submit my counter-claim before I left. Tiredness and stress did not make for the clearest head.

I’ve been caught out like that before — missing emails because of the way Gmail groups the earlier emails in the single-post front to a conversation thread.

I have since changed the settings on my Gmail to Conversation View Off. I will never turn it on again, ever!

So there you have it.

The sequence of events

So the complete sequence of events, from my perspective, is as follows:

  • My post on Joel’s “history is science” rubbish is made private — around 2:30 AM
  • A few hours later, not being able to see any reason for it to be in “private” mode, I restore the post to “public” status
  • Later that day while at work I learn Vridar has been taken down
  • I assume it is a WordPress stuff-up
  • Meanwhile, Tim is flat-out re-establishing Vridar on a new server
  • When I learn what’s gone on from WordPress I prepare my counter-claim
  • It is only after I lodge my counter-claim that it finally dawns on me why I never saw the original DMCA take-down notice.

Today I intend to prepare and forward an amended counter-claim to WordPress/Automattic.

14 Comments

  • 2013-07-07 00:38:48 UTC - 00:38 | Permalink

    Finally, I can fill in some of the remaining blanks in my timeline. I’ve added Joel’s tweets to it.
    http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/a-timeline-of-events-regarding-the-demise-and-resurrection-of-vridar/

  • Otishpote
    2013-07-07 03:20:40 UTC - 03:20 | Permalink

    Automattic ought to update the WordPress software on their site so that when they make a post private for copyright reasons and the blog owner later tries to make the post public again, that the reason for it having been made private by WordPress is shown right then on the screen and the blog owner is asked to acknowledge receipt of it.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2013-07-07 04:16:00 UTC - 04:16 | Permalink

      That would be only too sensible. I sometimes collect a couple of dozen or more emails a day in my Gmail account, and have a total of around 25,000 in there at present. I sub to a wide range of groups (both professional and hobby) and generally only skim my gmail once or twice a day for anything that looks particularly personal or important, setting aside certain days to catch up with some of the discussion groups.

      An email from WordPress beginning with Hi, etc, especially under a subject line that meant nothing to me, would be easily overlooked even if I did decide to break my routine and take time before 6 AM to check my gmail carefully before leaving for work.

      Besides, it did not obviously appear to come from WordPress. The Sender begins with ”Phil”. Who’s Phil? Why should I care? Presumably it’s some advertizing thing or spam.

      No, the WordPress notice would only be something I’d notice if I’d already registered a notice from Joel himself.

      But of course, Joel never asks me to do anything. He has never once spoken to me unless it is to be some form of abuse. He only wrote that “request” for the benefit of those who trust this fine Christian gentleman and who “know” he would never tell a lie.

    • Tim Widowfield
      2013-07-07 04:23:10 UTC - 04:23 | Permalink

      Here was the generic message I saw when I tried to administer (using wp-admin) Vridar on “Bad Friday”:

      “This blog has been deactivated because we believe it does not comply with the WordPress.com Terms of Service or advertising policy.

      If your blog is designed to promote affiliate links, get rich quick programs, banner ads, consists solely or mostly of duplicate or automatically generated material, or is part of a search engine marketing campaign, WordPress.com is not the place for you. Please use the Export feature to move your content to a more appropriate hosting service.”

      “Get rich quick programs?!” I shouted. After some reflection, I thought maybe I had finally embedded too many YouTube videos. Then I thought, “That last comment I published contained a link directly to Amazon.com.” Then I thought, “Wait. This has got to be a mistake.”

      A DCMA take-down was the last thing on my mind, since we have never violated anyone’s copyright — no matter what Joel believes. Criticism and correction is always falls under “fair use.” We gave full attribution, and Neil explained in excruciating detail that Joel was completely wrong.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2013-07-07 04:28:28 UTC - 04:28 | Permalink

        I think it was that notice that led me to search for other past instances of WordPress blogs being taken down by mistake — I found a few that indicated such a stuff-up had happened in the past so expected Vridar to be reinstated within hours at the most.

  • Mark Erickson
    2013-07-07 06:05:32 UTC - 06:05 | Permalink

    Well, that was a bit anti-climatic. I was hoping for sex, drugs, or rock n roll. Come to think of it, there is never any SD&RR on Vridar! Why do I read this blog again? Oh, yeah, because Christian origins are even more racy!

    (Thanks for the iPad image size shout out. You really are the most conscientious blogger I know Neil.)

  • 2013-07-07 15:28:10 UTC - 15:28 | Permalink

    My conclusions regarding this whole puzzle (copied from a blogpost at my blog):

    Certainly the world should have learned by this time that theologians make a mess of everything they touch, including even religion. Yet, in the United States, they are still allowed, against all reason and experience, to have their say in a great variety of important matters, and everywhere they go they leave their sempiternal trail of folly and confusion.

    Mencken

    Godfrey should have remembered that Mencken was, as usual, right, and, thus, should not have taken Watts‘s CC License with any seriousness whatsoever and should not have expected Watts to understand the concept of Fair Use, or to have even the slightest bit of common decency.
    Godfrey should have remembered his blog was hosted in America, where ignorance of the law is no excuse, and should have remembered that there is a nonzero chance an email from WordPress may have direct relevance to him.
    Godfrey should have understood the nature of Gmail Conversation View.
    Godfrey should not have falsely stated

    You appear to have been shy about telling anyone up front that you were the one responsible for the deactivation of my blog until I chose to publish here the DMCA notice (forwarded to me at my request AFTER the blog was shut down)

    — Only THEN did you come out and admit you were the one responsible and then you tried defend yourself by laying all the blame on me.

    Watts shouldn’t have been a theologian. This might have reduced his chances of making a mess of everything he touched.
    Watts should have remembered his CC license and the concept of Fair Use before thinking of filing a DMCA notice regarding Godfrey‘s copying of his blogpost.
    Watts should have contacted Godfrey before the time he filed his DMCA notice to Automattic.
    Watts should have understood that hardly anyone ever reads emails from WordPress.
    Watts should have understood that WordPress might not necessarily make it perfectly clear to a blogger that WordPress made a post “private” because they considered it to infringe upon another’s copyright.
    Watts should have understood that there was a nonzero chance that WordPress might metaphorically kill flies with nuclear weapons (that is, totally shut down a blog for one post a theologian declared copyright-infringing).
    Watts should have remembered that Mencken was, as usual, right, and not have forged an email.
    Watts should have completely followed the First Rule of Holes.
    Watts shouldn’t have made or should have removed the Freudian slip in http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2013/06/vridar-no-longer-available.html#comment-945928953
    Watts shouldn’t have removed his blog’s CC license.
    Watts shouldn’t have joked about shutting down people’s blogs on Twitter after claiming to regret that Godfrey suffered the loss of his blog.
    Watts should have admitted his email forgery when it was discovered and have given us the exact time it was forged to further knowledge regarding the facts of the dispute.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2013-07-08 22:16:45 UTC - 22:16 | Permalink

      Godfrey should have understood the nature of Gmail Conversation View.

      Agreed. I really am very embarrassed. But I owed everyone an explanation so I had no choice but to admit it.

      Godfrey should not have falsely stated

      You appear to have been shy about telling anyone up front that you were the one responsible for the deactivation of my blog until I chose to publish here the DMCA notice (forwarded to me at my request AFTER the blog was shut down)

      – Only THEN did you come out and admit you were the one responsible and then you tried defend yourself by laying all the blame on me.

      This was written in the heat of the moment, but even now I am not sure it is completely untrue. Joel was responsible — he triggered the events with a false declaration (falsely claiming he had warned or asked me to remove the post and falsely claiming it violated copyright).

      Okay, I know he did not try to shut the entire blog down. That would have been beyond even his wildest fantasies. But it was his frivolous complaint made with a perjured affirmation that triggered all that followed.

  • 2013-07-07 16:31:28 UTC - 16:31 | Permalink
    • Tim Widowfield
      2013-07-08 05:39:41 UTC - 05:39 | Permalink

      In a later tweet, he writes “tenant” when he means “tenet.” And the baby Jesus cried.

  • Rollory
    2013-07-08 12:32:50 UTC - 12:32 | Permalink

    How do you turn conversation view off in Gmail? I’d like to do the same but can’t find the setting.

    • Tim Widowfield
      2013-07-08 14:49:09 UTC - 14:49 | Permalink

      Settings page –> General tab –> Conversation View (Just below Default text style)

  • Samphire
    2013-07-08 15:11:19 UTC - 15:11 | Permalink

    “Godfrey should have remembered his blog was hosted in America, where ignorance of the law is no excuse, and should have remembered that there is a nonzero chance an email from WordPress may have direct relevance to him.”

    Please would you expand on that statement. Of which part of the law do you imply Neil was ignorant?

    • 2013-07-09 22:57:51 UTC - 22:57 | Permalink

      Godfrey should have at least understood what the Digital Millennium Copyright Act was.

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