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On the Second Day of Christmas...

By Tim Butler | Posted at 1:12

…my e-mail gave to me, a bunch of papers to grade. Yes, I'm trudging through the next round of grading right now. Having turned in my students' grades back on December 12, now I am working through papers for the professor I am a teaching assistant for at Covenant. The papers are interesting for the most part, and when they are well done, they are often quite encouraging to read. Others, well, there are others.

Thankfully, I made good progress tonight and am set to have them done with plenty of time to spare.

Some People Do Not Understand "Journalism"

By Tim Butler | Posted at 18:37

When a blogger found one of her posts had been taken without permission and used in a print magazine, she was (rightly) upset and contacted the editor of the magazine. The blogger, Monica Gaudio, eventually asked for an internet and print apology from the magazine, along with a $130 donation to the Columbia School of Journalism. This is the response Cooks Source offered to the author it had apparently stolen the content from:

“Yes Monica, I have been doing this for 3 decades, having been an editor at The Voice, Housitonic Home and Connecticut Woman Magazine. I do know about copyright laws. It was “my bad” indeed, and, as the magazine is put together in long sessions, tired eyes and minds somethings forget to do these things.

But honestly Monica, the web is considered “public domain” and you should be happy we just didn't “lift” your whole article and put someone else's name on it! It happens a lot, clearly more than you are aware of, especially on college campuses, and the workplace. If you took offence and are unhappy, I am sorry, but you as a professional should know that the article we used written by you was in very bad need of editing, and is much better now than was originally. Now it will work well for your portfolio. For that reason, I have a bit of a difficult time with your requests for monetary gain, albeit for such a fine (and very wealthy!) institution. We put some time into rewrites, you should compensate me! I never charge young writers for advice or rewriting poorly written pieces, and have many who write for me… ALWAYS for free!”

Just because something is easily accessible does not invalidate the protections of copyright law, nor should it.

HT: Gruber

Year End Hosting Sale

By Tim Butler | Posted at 21:45

Pine Pro
===
1,000 MB disk space
30,000 MB transfers/bandwidth
80 e-mail accounts
8 MySQL databases
25 additional parked/pointed domains or subdomains
10 FTP accounts

Regular Price: $10/month paid annually ($120/year)
Sale Price: $8.33/month paid annually ($100/year) — $20 off regular price

Birch Pro
===
1.600 MB disk space
40,000 MB transfers/bandwidth
120 e-mail accounts
9 MySQL databases
40 additional parked/pointed domains or subdomains
15 FTP accounts

Regular Price: $15/month paid annually ($180/year)
Sale Price: $12.50/month paid annually ($150/year) — $30 off regular price

Maple Pro
====
2,300 MB disk space
50,000 MB transfers/bandwidth
200 e-mail accounts
10 MySQL databases
55 additional parked/pointed domains or subdomains
20 FTP accounts

Regular Price: $20/month paid annually ($240/year)
Sale Price: $16.67/month paid annually ($200/year) — $40 off regular price

Walnut Pro
====
3,000 MB disk space
70,000 MB transfers/bandwidth
400 e-mail accounts
12 MySQL databases
70 additional parked/pointed domains or subdomains
25 FTP accounts

Regular Price: $25/month paid annually ($300/year)
Sale Price: $20.83/month paid annually ($250/year) — $50 off regular price

Oak Pro
====
4,600 MB disk space
90,000 MB transfers/bandwidth
1,000 e-mail accounts
14 MySQL databases
100 additional parked/pointed domains or subdomains
30 FTP accounts

Regular Price: $35/month paid annually ($420/year)
Sale Price: $29.17/month paid annually ($350/year) — $70 off regular price

Redwood Pro
====
6,000 MB disk space
120,000 MB transfers/bandwidth
2,000 e-mail accounts
20 MySQL databases
200 additional parked/pointed domains or subdomains
50 FTP accounts

Regular Price: $50/month paid annually ($600/year)
Sale Price: $41.67/month paid annually ($500/year) — $100 off regular price

If none of these plans does the trick, let me know what you are looking for!

Our terms of service: Acceptable Usage Policy and Terms of Service

Snow Leopard Bible

By Tim Butler | Posted at 22:51

I'm excited. Tomorrow is launch day. No, not of Snow Leopard (though I am excited about that too), but of the Snow Leopard Bible. Two really excellent writers, Galen Gruman and Mark Hattersley, wrote most of this book and I think it will be a great resource for those wanting to tackle Snow Leopard head on. But, there is “one more thing:” they wrote most of it, but I'm thrilled to say I was the third (albeit minor) contributor.

Snow Leopard Bible Cover

This is my first contribution to go into book form and it was a genuine pleasure to work on. I contributed the chapter in the book on Mac OS X's UNIX functionality, which was a topic I am certainly excited about. Aaron Black, the purchasing editor, and Marty Minner, the project editor, were both top notch folks that made the task enjoyable and I'm glad I had the opportunity to work with them.

Certainly, getting to work with Snow Leopard ahead of its release was great too, although not being able to talk about it for months was a frustrating! :)

If you'd like a copy of the book, you can get it in print or pulp-free Kindle editions over at Amazon.com (associate links).

Web Ads Challenge

By Tim Butler | Posted at 17:03

As I do every so often, I had a debate with a fellow blogger the other day about ad blocking. My assumptions are rather straightforward:

  • Ads don't pay much, but they can pay for the bandwidth a fairly busy site needs.
  • Ads are clearly the “price” for using the site, so long as they are attached to the content of the site (pop ups and pop unders are a different story).
  • A laborer is worthy of his wages (Luke 10.7), so when I am asked to “pay” something for content that I request (and web pages are requested not pushed to me, after all), I should pay what I am asked.
  • If the requested price is too high (annoying ads), I don't buy the product (I find a web site that works that doesn't annoy me).

Now my friend thinks that is unfair: he doesn't like ads, so why should he have to view them? For me the answer is simple: if you value what you are receiving, why wouldn't you? In any other situation, I expect to pay if someone requests a payment for something I value and want. And, more importantly, if it is costing the content provider money to send the content to you that you requested (and make no mistake, bandwidth is still costly), why should the content provider not only provide you with content you value but also eat the cost of you viewing it?

I've heard a number of people say, “but I already pay my teleco $40/month for Internet, that grants me the right to view the web without paying more.” This is a flawed perspective, because ISPs do not (and, really, should not) pay me if you view my site. The argument is essentially like saying, “I had to pay a toll to cross the toll bridge on the way to the movie theater, therefore, it is fine if I slip into the theater without paying… I've already paid that money to get there!”

If everyone adblocked, even if sites don't make much from ads, I propose many sites would shut down since not even basic operating costs would be covered. If one can run a helpful site and come out even, that's great; if one needs to dump $50, $100, $1,000 down the hole every month, it becomes a lot harder to justify. I don't think any of us want our favorite sites to shut down, right?

My friend suggested sites should move over to subscription fees. This sounds like a good idea, but I challenge anyone thinking this sounds like a good idea to stop for a moment. Imagine if every time you did a Google search, every result you pulled up that was formerly ad-supported instead required even a small subscription price, say $.50 for a month of service (though an ad may pay a penny or less, due to the costs of credit card transactions, I can't imagine a monthly fee being any lower than that, unless you pre-payed annually, and for many sites, would you really want to do that?). Most users would find this a bad deal.

How many sites have I visited via Google only to quickly turn around and move on? Even at $.50/month, I would feel really hesitant to load up a site I didn't know was going to be of some value. Conversely, what harm is it if I see an ad graced by the Verizon Wireless guy? None for me, but the site owner — who may own a site that serves people just fine — is being helped to keep the site running.

I probably visit, say, ten ad supported sites regularly, plus dozens more per month doing research. Let's be really conservative and say I only visit fifty ad supported sites per month: that's still $25/month. Presenting this cost to him, my friend said he could easily deal without the commercial sites and just use non-ad based sites.

Another idea: switch to a text based browser. Sure, even with a text based browser it costs the site owner bandwidth (and, hence, money) to serve you, but it costs far less than serving you the graphics that make sites pretty and enjoyable to use. It's a compromise: the site owner doesn't get paid, but you don't see ads and don't cost the owner quite as much.

So I made this challenge to my friend, which he didn't like. There are sites like Slashdot that do offer ad-free subscriptions. Pay for those and get rid of the ads while still supporting the site. On other sites, block the site as a whole if it has an ad on it. If ad based sites are truly of little value, simply blocking the site itself wouldn't be a problem at all. If, after taking my challenge, you find yourself tired of paying for subscriptions on some sites and being unable to use other sites at all, then I would argue that the ad based sites must be providing value to you.

And, if that's the case, why not do your favorite sites' owners a favor and let the ads load? On a site like Open for Business, basically all the ads pay for are the network services necessary to run the site. Nothing else. So here's the food for thought: when you block ads, you aren't “sticking it to the man” who is becoming filthy rich, you're actually punishing the owners of your favorite sites for serving you.

Something to think about.

Internet, Ads and Writing

By Tim Butler | Posted at 22:42

A friend, who I'll let go nameless unless he wishes to identify himself, was having a spirited debate with me about Internet advertising. He remarked that it seemed to him site owners would prefer getting more hits over having fewer hits with advertising. It is an interesting idea, but I would suggest that it is an idea that is actually the same as the one that led to the Dot Com bubble and bust.

But, first, as I told him, the key principle for viewing ads — from a Christian standpoint — is that we are told the laborer is worth his wages (Luke 10.7, 1 Tim. 5.17-18). So fundamentally, for Christians, before we debate whether or not refusing to view ads is doing favors for the business owner, we ought to stop right here. Full stop, move along, there is nothing more to see here. It is only a legalistic, “find the loophole” view of things that allows us to say, “ads, oh, I didn't know that was a payment — surely I am not obligated to pay for services rendered to me!” The clear Christian principle is to pay for that which we receive. To deny a clear request for payment while enjoying the service rendered is simply wrong. And so, I try to practice this principle: if I find a site where I would need to remove the inline ads to be able to make use of it (because there are too many, or too many objectionable ones, etc.) I quit using the site. I've done so before, and will do so again.

That said, how is the business argument for overlooking people removing ads? Does it work? No. The flawed thinking here is based on the concept of “more eyeballs are better than profit.” Many early e-tailers worked on this principle selling products for massive losses purely to get more users. That could only work until they ran out of cash, then their companies died painful deaths.

The first rule of economics is simple: one produces a product up to but no farther than when marginal revenue equals marginal cost. If producing one more widget (or receiving one more visitor) means taking even the slightest loss, it doesn't make good sense to do so. If I can receive 2,000 visitors and make a profit, it is in no way better to get 10,000 and take a loss under normal circumstances. You are not doing Digg a favor by using their services if you never view their ads. They are better off without you, unless you happen to be Rush Limbaugh or Oprah and your endorsement is worth millions. Otherwise, do your favorite site on which you block ads a favor: quit using it.

No doubt, writers like to be read and will write sometimes for no cost simply for the thrill of having readers. Bloggers do this most certainly — though in large part my interest has more to do with interacting with my blogging friends. My own writings generally are not income generators, at least of any significance. But, on the other hand, most folks don't want to pay to be read. There are exceptions, for example, maybe I want you to read my site to sell my book, or my radio program, or what have you — but generally the question would be why would I pay you to read my work? Would I pay you to eat my culinary creation? Drive my car? Live in my house?

Yes, you as the reader pay for your Internet, but nearly every provider you deal with is paying more than you are. They are paying for redundant connections, power generators, backup storage, professional IT staffers and of course developers and writers of the services you enjoy — far more than the little $14.95 a month you pay for Internet access. And, remember: you are the one that wants to use Digg or MySpace (incidentally, I use the former little and the latter not at all), so it only makes sense that you are the one to foot the bill. That is how capitalism is suppose to work: the one who wants something pays for it. Put bluntly, if it costs you a little or a lot is your problem, not the provider's.

And so, as always, I present my challenge to those who wish to do the morally right thing but despise ads. Quit viewing sites with ads. Typically people making such an argument say the Internet was better before ads. Fine, maybe it was; let's find out by having you only use ad-free sites. Don't forget, that means no Google. Have fun. If you like it that way, keep at it and everyone is happy. If you do not, well, then, can you really complain about the ads?

Need Some Web Space?

By Tim Butler | Posted at 20:35

Here's something I posted to the mailing lists OFB hosts:

Hi everyone,
I'm usually hesitant to advertise any of my services on the mailing lists I host (I do not want it to seem like I am hosting them to sell stuff), but I did do a little pitch in 2004 and I hope no one minds if I do the exact same thing in 2008. Here's what the deal is. As some of you know, I do web hosting almost solely as a courtesy to my web design clients — I do not advertise on the web, etc. However, I am looking to upgrade my server and to make it cost effective, I would like to sell a few more accounts. As I did last time, what I would like to do is offer accounts that are larger than my normal plans but with a major caveat. I explained it thusly in 2004:

The real catch would be that it wouldn't really be supported. I have a vested interest in keeping it up (OfB and my web design clients would be on it), but unfortunately I can't provide 24×7 support. I would help if something went wrong with the server, but I'd rather promise no support and provide something than promise support and be unable to. If something happened like your site was completely down, then I'd get it working. Hopefully that makes sense.

Now, just to be clear, the server is watched 24×7, I just am not personally around to provide support 24×7. On the upside, you're otherwise getting what I like to call an over engineered account. Your account is backed up off site every week, with five backups kept in the off site archive (rotated). Moreover, I never oversell servers: no one wants to be the last person to show up on an airplane when it is overbooked and most everyone showed up, and likewise it is not fair to web hosting customers to oversell the server. I will be moving less than 25 clients on to the server to start, and expect to keep the amount of users under 50 in the future — far less than the hundreds that go on a typical web server. In addition, the server is in a fully redundant data center with multiple tier 1 connections offering a total throughput of more than 120Gb/s. Over the current server's run, we have achieved significantly better than 99.999% reliability.

This deal will only will happen if I get at least five people to take the offer (e.g. enough to make the server upgrade happen). The account costs $10/month paid annually.

You get everything my $10 Pine Account offers:
- 20,000 MB transfers
- 4 MySQL databases
- 10 subdomains or parked domains
- 2 FTP accounts
- CPanel and Fantastico

But, instead of my normal 300 MB of disk space, this account will come with 1 gig of space. Also, instead of 40 POP/IMAP accounts, you would get unlimited (whatever you can fit in your disk space). While you may not resell parts of that space, you may resell entire accounts if you wish and then provide tech support to your clients. If you are interested in being a reseller, I'll provide a reseller control panel for working with your accounts.

The standard web hosting fine print (AUP/TOS): http://www.serverforest.com/aup-tos.html

Let me know if you are interested. Also, if this plan doesn't meet your needs, let me know what would.

Thanks for bearing with my little sales pitch. For your amusement, my previous self-serving promotion from 2004 is included down below.

-Tim

The server will be, like the old one, an Red Hat Enterprise Linux server (great for its stability and security). It will also feature at least a Xeon 3040 for its CPU.

100 Megs of space
5 GB of transfers
cPanel Control Panel
Unlimited e-mail addresses within that 100 meg block
SSH Access
FTP Access
1 MySQL DB
Several domains and several subdomains (how many do you need?)

Interested? Let me know.

Can You Write?

By Tim Butler | Posted at 0:28

Have something you've been itching to say and been wanting someplace beyond your blog to say it? I'm itching to publish it. Open for Business is looking for article contributions on a wide variety of subjects — current events, politics, religion, philosophy, culture, book reviews, and even fiction — and your piece could be featured on its pages. I would love to publish pieces from some of my esteemed blog neighbors, either as a one-off type thing or, should anyone be interested, a continuing contributor basis.

Unfortunately, right now Open for Business is not able to provide payment for contributions, but we will link to your site in the bio at the bottom of your piece, so it provides you with some exposure (and bragging rights). OFB, in case any of my readers are not familiar with it, has been in online publication since 2001; featured on Slashdot numerous times and even once linked to from the Washington Post's web site, it has at times attracted over one million hits per month, and on a regular month attracts tens of thousands of visitors reading new articles and returning to the archive of content.

As it says on the site:

Open for Business accepts commentaries and other works on technology, current events, politics, philosophy, business and other relevant matters for publication. Commentaries should be 600-800 words in length, other works vary but should generally be kept to less than 1500 words. If you think you would like to contribute, contact OFB's editor, Timothy R. Butler.

C'mon, give it a try. :)

Writer's Blo

By Tim Butler | Posted at 22:44

With the start of seminary, I've fallen pitifully behind on Open for Business. My big problem is that it is a small operation: there are only four writers on the masthead. While Ed carries a lot of the load of keeping fresh content on the site, I really need (and want) to keep posting my voice on OFB's esteemed pages as well.

The problem is that I seem to have a case of writers blo. Not writers block, but writers blo. Now, you might ask, “what in the world is writers blo?” So, let me tell you: it is hitting the equivalent of writers block about half way through each article. I have a whole bunch of stubs of articles, where I get a really good idea, but seem to lose momentum and cannot seem to come up with the supporting themes to make the piece work. As I write this, I have two partial articles sitting on my desk, yearning to be finished. One of them hopefully will be done for a Monday publication. But, right now it sits there, just taunting me.

Hey, maybe I should have written an article on writer's blo!

That's odd...

By Tim Butler | Posted at 22:51

Two years ago this month, I purchased an invoicing system for my company. The idea was that it would automatically bill my clients monthly, quarterly, etc. and then I could just sit back and collect the money. Well, not really: I still have to provide service, after all!

Unfortunately, I found that just like my previous invoicing system, the new one was hardly the ideal of automation. WHMAP, as it is known, ties into my hosting control panel nicely, but it didn't ever send out the bills automatically. It would generate them and then they would sit there until I went in and manually selected each one and told it to send. So much for efficiency.

So, a few months ago I decided to get a new system. I tried out a couple, researched even more (including some I passed up when I bought WHMAP), and decided on ClientExec. I really like CE's better tie in with PayPal (even without using subscriptions, the process can remain totally self service for the client: the client logs in, clicks “pay now” and it processes the payment and marks the invoice paid); moreover, the new system attaches the invoice to the e-mail it sends to the client rather than sending a message that tells my clients to login to read their new invoice. I also like that CE has a built in helpdesk system so that I can provide my clients with support and billing in one convenient location.

So what's odd? Tonight I went out to the mailbox and had a payment from a client. The invoice was enclosed with the payment. Guess what? The invoice wasn't from CE. WHMAP finally remembered to send an invoice!

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