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Eric: Why I'm not a good person to have on your comic notification service

So, I'm having conversations with the Comic Nation Feedback form today.

Let me open by saying I actually really like the Comic Nation service. I can see myself sticking with them after the trawl reconstruction, just because it's bloody convenient to have a list of what's actually updated instead of going through everything and seeing.

However... despite the fact that they have roughly a billion comic strips I don't read on their service, there are also a lot of strips they don't have that I do read.

So I'm submitting them.

Greystone Inn... American Elf... Home Run Comic... Nahast... Ascent... Queen of Wands (remember, it's in reruns with commentary -- it's not dead)... Rip & Teri....

And, well, a whole lot more. I mean, a whole lot more.

Plus, I've started noticing what hasn't been updating regularly, and cross checking, and submitting "this link seems to be broken" notes....

Oh, and if they'd come out with a page with checkboxes next to the comic strips, and you can tell the system to add all the comics you've checked, instead of needing to do it one at a time? That would be a kindness.

They're going to learn to hate me....

Posted by Eric Burns-White at July 7, 2005 10:53 AM

Comments

Comment from: djcoffman posted at July 7, 2005 11:25 AM

Here's something that bugs me.... Yirmumah gets an "R" rating.... right? Fine. We deserve it. But other strips like Goats, Pvp, are all listed ad "G"-- wtf??? At least PG-- for pete's sake.

G??!! I saw a few others listed as G that I couldn't believe.

Who's doing the ratings there???

Comment from: M_Northstar posted at July 7, 2005 11:25 AM

You certainly curry no favor with them by posting your suggestions on some obscure blog rather than their forum ;-P

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at July 7, 2005 11:34 AM

I finally defeated Typekey's anti-Internet Explorer technology!

And now that I have, I have nothing useful to say, other than to mention that Help Desk is also rated "G"... which is a lot closer to accurate than Goats but still off the mark, in my opinion.

Comment from: Pooga posted at July 7, 2005 12:29 PM

Even though I just realized that the person who mentioned this on the other thread (M_Northstar) has already posted here, I'm posting this link just to see if I figured out linking to comments correctly. :)

Basically (in case I get the link wrong or you just don't feel like following it), the ratings are set by an overworked unpaid volunteer, but there is a thread on their Suggestions forum for proposing changes.

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 7, 2005 12:35 PM

I'd agree about the multiple comics thing. Though now that I've actually got my list built, it's not quite as useful.

Comment from: Dave Van Domelen posted at July 7, 2005 12:59 PM

Awww...Breakdown Lane isn't listed there. Not that this is too surprising. :)

Comment from: Wofimus posted at July 7, 2005 2:15 PM

Queen of Wands does not like Comic Nation...

CN thread on the subject.

Comment from: quiller posted at July 7, 2005 3:04 PM

They do it by continually pinging the sites? That's not too friendly.

Comment from: Paul Gadzikowski posted at July 7, 2005 3:23 PM

CN thread on [Queen of Wands].

Not very empathetic, are they? I'm uncertain I want to be part of their project.

They do it by continually pinging the sites?

How do other index sites track updates?

Comment from: Aerin posted at July 7, 2005 3:33 PM

Wow, that's downright mean. I think I prefer checking a list of links on my LJ profile if the admins are that snippy.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at July 7, 2005 3:41 PM

I'm not really clear on how pinging a site will tell you if the comic has been updated. All ping tells me is the amount of time between when the ping was sent and received...

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at July 7, 2005 3:48 PM

What they're doing is checking modification dates, I assume. So they check the last time the index page was changed, which should be text only, no graphics. So it's not technically using "ping," but it's "pinging" in a broader sense.

We do this sort of thing to keep track of our own systems, here at the school, I would add. And, Gossamer Commons is on their network as well, and it doesn't seem to be a significant bandwidth sink.

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright posted at July 7, 2005 3:54 PM

Ah, ok. "Ping" in a broader sense of the word.

Comment from: Freak posted at July 7, 2005 3:55 PM

How frequently do they check the site?

(Personally, I prefer Comic Alert; it will keep track of up to five updates, in case you're away for the weekend.)

Comment from: KJToo posted at July 7, 2005 4:26 PM

"So Aerie has somehow discovered our horribly, illicit pinging of her site once again, and bitched accordingly. Just for the record, we don't really care." -- Cthulu Maccabi (Comic Nation Administrator)

"It's gone. Good riddance you sucky piece of comic shit!" -- Bono (Comic Nation Administrator)

Nice attitude. Pretty much guarantees I'll never visit the site again. Not that they care.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at July 7, 2005 4:28 PM

I'm... baffled. Granted, the CN thread there doesn't exactly endear in the specific case, but I don't see what's objectionable about an update notification service checking date modified. (Given that there are browsers which can and do accomplish the same task, I'd rather centralize the process as much as possible.)

Regarding the general mindset, not necessarily the QoW case: Is it about maximizing short-term adviews? Minimal bandwidth conservation (surely less of an issue than having users with ambiguous caching situations constantly reloading the whole page)? Restricting viewing context as much as possible? The whole "if you're really a fan of the comic, you'll check for updates, yourself, by hand" thing (which I don't get at *all*)? Can someone explain this to me? Should I post about this more formally? zaku?

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 7, 2005 4:58 PM

I have no clue either. If Aerie really did bitch them out about checking her site for updates (and there is no way to do it other than by going there and looking - even RSS feeds work that way), then I don't see any problem with what they said there. She was unpleasant towards them, her comic has been permanently de-listed, end of story.

Judging from the comments at the start of the thread, I'm guessing this is some kind of control freak reaction, rather like the "link policies" you see on some large, out-of-touch corporate web sites. The ones that attempt to control how you can link to their site. Sounds like she accused them of doing something illegal or sneaky. A lot of people seem to think that using a web server for anything but what it's "intended" for - IE, viewing pages there with an approved browser in an approved manner - is somehow wrong or illegal. (Examples of "unintended" use are trawling with bots, deep-linking, automatically checking for updates, etc.)

The bandwidth costs are minimal, and since their code doesn't load graphics (I hope!), there should be no problem with ad impressions.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at July 7, 2005 5:22 PM

Please note we don't actually know what Aeire's complaints were -- we're only getting one side of the story here. There may be something we don't know.

I'll admit, I'm not impressed with their response either.

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 7, 2005 5:31 PM

Oh, I'd like to see Aeire's complaints too. I wonder why she hasn't mentioned this on her own site?

Well, I've asked them about it on the thread. No point in endless speculation and bitching about what horrible administrators they are here.

Though if someone complained to a site I ran about linking to them, I'd be pissed too.

Comment from: kirabug posted at July 7, 2005 8:54 PM

I dunno. I can see this both ways. On one side, it's always good to keep the noise/signal ratio as heavy in real humans in the web stats as possible. On the other hand, it's nice to know your site's being advertised somewhere.

OnlineComics.net lets me configure when the "pings" against my comic take place -- and how to tell when an actual update has taken place. Being a control freak, I like that.

But I run my blog on the homepage of my comic - I update the thing constantly, but the comic updates only twice a week. Even a daily ping of my site, without knowing based on tags where the comic's going to appear, is going to report more false positives than actual hits.

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 7, 2005 9:27 PM

I think this site uses a per-comic method to check, which is why adding new comics takes them so long. (2 weeks expected maximum) I'm sure that if you were to offer to provide them information about how often to check and such, they'd thank you. (Thinking as a programmer how I'd handle this, I know I would.)

Comment from: bono posted at July 7, 2005 9:39 PM

Hello all, this is Bono from Comic-Nation speaking. Just wanted to answer some of the questions/comments here.

1) QoW: Originally CN had a comic rating system in place. Aerie objected to it fiercely, with reason. Her reason was that she did not want to be placed in a rating war without her consent. After realizing that ratings were probably going to anger a lot of artists, we pulled them. However, by that time Aerie was so incensed that she forbid us from ever putting her comic on our site again. By some slip a few months ago, she got added again, and the whole saga started anew. We don't really care. She looses, not us (so we think).

2) Comic updates. We check every comic once every 15 minutes. All we do is pull up the HTML for the page, no images are downloaded. The bandwidth hit is completely minimal. You probably use more bandwidth visiting the site once than we do in a week of hits.

3) Adding comics. We just got a whole bandwagon of new users from this site who've requested in the neighborhood of 100 comics. We're getting it sorted out, bear with us. To add insult to injury, our main "comic adder" (Meeowth) is out of the country and so limited in capacity.

4) Ratings: It's very hard for us to accurately categorize comics giving the sheer volume of them. If you have any suggested changes, let us know! We're happy to comply!

I'll recopy this on Comic Nation's main page.

Hope you all enjoy the service!

Comment from: PatMan posted at July 7, 2005 10:14 PM

While I can see your position, Bono, I don't see why you felt the need to call a popular and much loved comic a "sucky piece of comic shit". Seems to me you still haven't gotten the hang of PR. Or maybe it pays to drive people away from your service. I dunno.

Comment from: Aeire posted at July 7, 2005 10:37 PM

Okay, let's just get this clear. Bono...wow. Fuck you guys. Seriously, fuck you. I sent you a polite request to remove my comic, you guys complied, politely even, I was happy and impressed that I wasn't going to have to go through any kind of a hassle, figured that was IT - did *NOT* expect to see my name dragged through the mud on your website, and I don't appreciate it.

To those wondering what happened - these guys put my comic on a ratings site without asking my permission or bothering to check and see if that was okay. As I have had...endless amounts of bad luck with ratings sites, both Buzzcomix and TopWebcomics or whatever the hell it's called (Let's just say there were accusations of my 'cheating' by getting so many votes off the bat, daring to place the voting button on my website where people could SEE it, being 'too big of a webcomic' for their list, harassment by other comic's readers leading to the culmination wherein I was told the only reason I was getting votes or anyone was reading my comic at all was because I was a girl, etc, you name it it wasn't really a pleasant experience for someone that joined the goddamned list because she figured other people could use the referrals she'd get off of her readers and besides that, it meant that she didn't have to put up a links page, go figure)- and after all of that shit I decided that it simply was not worth it and I had no desire whatsoever to be a part of a ratings site again. Period. I don't feel like being in some sort of competition with people, I just want to do my comic. So these guys added me to their ratings site, I hear about it and send them an email saying that I would like to be removed from their list as I don't want to be on a ratings site. It was polite, it wasn't 'bitchy', it was a request, and I suggested that they might want to ask people if they want to be on it, rather than just adding them blindly.

They refused to take me off. They flat-out said no. I asked them again and the guy I was sending emails back and forth with had the nerve to start arguing with me and told me that they wouldn't take my comic off the list. Words were exchanged, my comic was removed, eventually, after an undue amount of hassle on my end that could have been spent working on my "sucky piece of comic shit", as he so eloquently put it. Frankly, Bono, you and your 'company' if you want to laughably CALL it that seemed to be more than enthusiastic about adding me on in the first place, probably because you figured you'd get more traffic if you automatically added big name comics to your lineup without asking.

They informed me that they were taking the ratings system off of their website and attempted to wheedle me into staying by doing so, I told them flat-out that frankly after dealing with their 'staff' I had no interest in being affliated with their website, ever, and I didn't really care if it was a ratings site or not at this point.

I was told back a week or two ago or whenever it was by a close friend of mine that my comic was back on their list again, so I sent them an email asking them to remove it and telling them that I had no wish to affiliate with their website. They sent me a reply very quickly and said they would look into it, and then sent me another a little while later apologizing and saying that my site would be removed, and it was. I was at that point quite impressed with the amount that their 'customer service' had matured and was pleased to note that I didn't have to argue, and was happy.

So now I look on Websnark and see this thing, and I was about to make a comment and let you know, quietly, that my website would not be on their list. I have not mentioned any of this on my website or on the QoW LJ because #1 - I didn't really think it wasn anyone's business, #2 - I had enough drama from the Buzz/TWC bullshit and I didn't want any more of it, and #3 - they handled themselves professionally and so did I, so there was no reason to drag their name through the mud. They made their amends, they removed my comic promptly, and it was all good.

And then I see this bullshit post on their forums. Hey wow guys. Way to be mature. Way to be 'professional'. You know what? I was right. You're nothing but a bunch of hack kids trying to make some sort of 'name' for yourselves by piggy-backing on the success of a zillion different comics, you have absolutely no sense of customer service or rapport or even RESPECT for the people whose sites you are USING for your own benefits, and if something doesn't go your way you sit around on your forums and bitch about it like you're in middle school. What the shit. What a bunch of petty, disgusting, immature children.

You've just guaranteed that I am going to tell everyone I know in the industry about your petty bullshit. Way to go there buddy.

Comment from: Merus posted at July 7, 2005 10:44 PM

And I was just going to say how pleasant it would be to have a flame war on Websnark when Aeire gets here, as she tends to do, and guess what? She's already here! So now we get bitchy, snarky comments galore that do nothing but leave everyone upset or uncomfortable! And even better, it looks like they're going to be long and wordy, so we also get constructive comments lost in the flame war, and even better, it's currently on the front page, so until someone posts a new snark it's a free-for-all beatup on QoW and CN!

Hurrah! Thanks, guys!

Comment from: bono posted at July 7, 2005 10:47 PM

I won't discuss this here. Ah, but I will say this. Posting that was probably a mistake on my part. I was sort of angry with the whole situation. But, in the long end, I still don't understand you're comment about us piggybacking. We're providing a service, just like you provide a product. We provide a service that takes freely available information and presents it in a usable format. It's no different than any search engine, news aggregator (Google News come to mind?) or online directory.

Comment from: Lyndon W posted at July 7, 2005 10:55 PM

Please excuse Bono, we all agree that he is very bad a PR much of the time. He is, quite literally, a high school student and still prone to hormonal outbursts. Us other admins are much nicer for the most part. I truly feel sorry for any feelings of hatred that he or Comic-Nation have caused anyone.

-meeowth (If you haven't gotten the connection)

Comment from: Aeire posted at July 7, 2005 10:59 PM

And I was just going to say how pleasant it would be to have a flame war on Websnark when Aeire gets here, as she tends to do, and guess what? She's already here! So now we get bitchy, snarky comments galore that do nothing but leave everyone upset or uncomfortable!

Ain't you sweet. I don't think it's a flame war, I think it's my explaining my side of the story, and quite frankly after reading bullshit like that I felt the need to defend myself. I won't be replying again however, as I know Eric doesn't like arguing on his website (and neither do I, frankly).

Comment from: bono posted at July 7, 2005 11:09 PM

I won't deny any of it. We did refuse to take you off. We were under no obligation to, and it didn't seem fair after we complied with all your other requests.

Ah, dammit, have to stop being dragged into discussion.

Comment from: STrRedwolf posted at July 7, 2005 11:27 PM

So lets get this straight. CN added content from QoW w/o Aeire's permission, and after two rounds of removals we get THIS?!?

Bono, read up on the Digital Multimedia Copyright Act. It empowers Aeire to complain to your ISP and get CN shutdown if you add QoW again. Why is that? Aeire's the copyright holder of QoW. You don't have a licence from her to use the copyrighted work.

Now before you spout off again, get with the other admins, and appoint a PR person. Then go in and ask every comic you have listed for permission. If they opt in, you have licence. If they opt out, or not even reply, keeping them would not be advisable, and may get you into alot of legal trouble.

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 7, 2005 11:32 PM

To those wondering what happened - these guys put my comic on a ratings site without asking my permission or bothering to check and see if that was okay

Hey Aeire, I hate to break it to you, but I can link to your comic however and wherever I like. It's the whole point of this little thing called "hypertext". I do not need your permission to link to your comic, nor do I need your permission to categorize that link, rank that link, attach criticisms to that link, or do anything else to that link.

Anyone who says otherwise has no idea what they're talking about. Use the copyrighted work? What copyrighted work? How are they using her copyrighted work? Where, exactly, are they making copies of her copyrighted work? The only possible reason they could get in trouble under the DMCA is if Aeire was using her page to commit copyright violation, which I certainly hope she isn't, but cannot rule out, given STrRedwolf's comment.

Comment from: bono posted at July 7, 2005 11:33 PM

No, you're not getting it straight. We added no content from QoW. We do not display any artist's work on the site. The only thing CN does is let our users know when a certain comic has updated. It does not copy, display or otherwise infringe on any multimedia rights.

Comment from: bono posted at July 7, 2005 11:35 PM

Egarwaen, that's basically the argument we used initially, and you're right. The problem is it tends to lead to bad artist-CN relations. In this case (actually, the only sustained request we've ever had for a removal) that happened anyway.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at July 7, 2005 11:36 PM

Man, I am backing away from this whole topic slowly.

How in God's name do I manage to create WEBCOMIC TEH DRAMA by posting about a Comics Notification Site? Is this how Scott Kurtz feels all the time?

No one insult each other. That's the rule. Otherwise, I'm not touching this. My week does not permit me to touch this.

Comment from: Mathron posted at July 7, 2005 11:42 PM

While you can probably convince me there was nothing illegal in what Comic Nation did, it will take a lot more to convince me that there actions were in any way appropriate, or well thought out.

I think that something like Comic Nation *is* a vital and excellent concept for the Webcomic Community - but it is part of that community, and the administrations should certainly treat it as such.

There seems to be some indications that while some of the admins are professionals about what they do, others are less so. This is hardly a new thing - many other figures in the webcomics community are known quite well for controversy, and tempers flaring, and sometimes unprofessional conduct. These gentleman can hardly be considered to be alone in this... but that still doesn't make it a desirable quality, nor one that will help their service grow.

Some of the moderators seem to be doing their best to apologise for this, though others seem remorseless both now, and when the last 'slip' was made.

Personally, as I mentioned before, I love the concept of the service - but I think I'll wait and see how much professionalism is at hand before signing up.

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 7, 2005 11:43 PM

Hey, as far as I can tell, Aeire's the only one slinging insults. bono admitted that he'd made a mistake, and she continues to insult him and his site and threaten to ruin their lives.

What a nice lady. So polite, such a good advertisement for Keenspot and her comics. Whyever did I stop reading her work?

Comment from: bono posted at July 7, 2005 11:48 PM

Hehe, the fact that she made good comics is the best thing she brought to Keenspace. Regardless of what I may have said in temper, her drawing/drama skills are quite good if you enjoy that type of story.

Oh, and if you think she's insulting us here, you should read some of the emails we've gotten! Talk about having nightmares about your balls...

Comment from: RKMilholland posted at July 7, 2005 11:48 PM

"Hey, as far as I can tell, Aeire's the only one slinging insults." - Egarwaen

"It's gone. Good riddance you sucky piece of comic shit!" -- Bono (Comic Nation Administrator) (post now deleted)

Mind you, they're also prone to coming into personal blogs and attacking you when you make a post wondering why your comic got a certain rating.

Comment from: Aerin posted at July 7, 2005 11:48 PM

While I think that Aerie's comment here was much less directly insulting than Bono's post on the forums, the best thing to do is for both parties to apologize for rudeness and things said in anger (which there has been on both sides) and agree to stay out of each other's way in the future. If this discussion must continue, it shold happen somewhere other than Websnark and leave Eric out of this, because, as he mentioned above, drama is probably the last thing he needs right now.

Comment from: RKMilholland posted at July 7, 2005 11:57 PM

Aerin - easier said than done. When Comics Nation first came about, their ways of approaching people ("We're going to run a comics rating site like BuzzComix and whether you like it or not you're a part of the contest so you might as well promote us") left a lot to be desired. The initially apologized for their actions and took steps to make amends.

What they're not doing is basically taking a large, steaming shit on what little good will they managed to amass by first going back on their arrangement (Aeire didn't want to be a part of their site, they agreed - then wait a year or two and put her back in the links) and then publically attack her over what they'd originally reached as an amicable agreement.

And, Bono, just because you hurry to delete your attacks doesn't mean they never existed.

Comment from: Dragonmuncher posted at July 7, 2005 11:57 PM

TEH is one of those words I should hate just on principle, but instead make feel all fuzzy inside. I need to get one of those Questionable Content shirts...

Anyway. I think everyone here can appreciate not wanting to get involved in webcomic drama.

While we're waiting for the irony to cool off on that last sentence, I'll just point out that Aerie's post was about being angry that she was being publically insulted by the very people she thought were acting professionally.

Imagine having to go to the hospital because you accidentally glued your genitals to a cell phone (never mind how). The doctor acts very professionally, removes the device (without even commenting that it's still on "vibrate" mode), and bids you good day. Then you find out that he's been off drinking with his friends, telling the entire bar the story, making fun of you, and making lots of jokes about phonesex.

How would you feel?

Also, someone make a reference to Hitler soon, because this thread begins to bore me.

Everyone knows the Hitler rule, right?

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 8, 2005 12:02 AM

And, Bono, just because you hurry to delete your attacks doesn't mean they never existed.

They've apologized and removed the offending post. While this may offend your sensibilities, because it means you no longer have an excuse to continue flaming random people, I must now wonder at your motives at criticizing them for doing the right thing. Does perpetuating Internet flamewars really matter that much to you?

Comment from: bono posted at July 8, 2005 12:06 AM

Randy, I removed it because it was offensive. I don't apologize for that - it was insulting and so I removed it.

I'll repeat what I said above again, I apologize for the post that was made. It was made in temper and does not reflect what we actually think/feel. We do think that Aerie's stand is unfair, but we have respected her decision.

Comment from: Aerin posted at July 8, 2005 12:30 AM

And with that:

Hitler kills kittens.

[/drama]

Comment from: Kristofer Straub posted at July 8, 2005 1:04 AM

What's unfair about letting people opt out? Are you guys telemarketers?

Comment from: lucastds posted at July 8, 2005 1:34 AM

personally, i think if they're just providing hyperlinks, then they should be able to just add people.

and their ratings are pretty accurate. while i don't necessarily agree that my comic's PG, it is mostly aimed at an older audience, so i don't mind that.

Comment from: Shaenon posted at July 8, 2005 1:53 AM

Comics Nation guys:

Could you please remove my comic from your site as well? I wasn't aware that it was on your lineup, and I don't want to be involved with a service run by people who show the lack of professionalism and common courtesy that you've shown on this thread and on your own site. It's just an accident waiting to happen.

I don't care if Aerie started it, or if she was being unreasonable, or if she's just a sucky cartoonist and you're better off without her. This is not the behavior of a company with which I want my name or work associated.

Shaenon Garrity

www.narbonic.com

Comment from: Mithandir posted at July 8, 2005 3:10 AM

Well, let's do some maths shall we?

1 check/15 minutes * 60 * 24 = 96 checks/day

96 checks/day * 30 days = 2880 checks/month

A quick survey shows a comic site with news section averages at about 10Kb of html:

2880 checks/month * 10 Kb =~ 28 Mb/month.

On its own this doesn't seem much, but I know my own comic is on at least 4 such lists, so:

28 Mb/month * 4 = 112 Mb/month.

Now, you big guys out there are going to laugh at that, but for a small comic that's a considerable amount of wasted bandwidth (it isn't that much for me, in case you're wondering). There's still plenty providers out there with, say, a 200 Mb/month limit.

Checking my logs, I count 4 incoming hits from comic-nation, and those are all the same person. I don't doubt smaller comics than mine will have much more luck (I get far better results from thewebcomicslist, a similar service, but have to disregard those due to having advertised a lot on that site) so for those it equates to one person using up 28+ Mb monthly.

Now, I am all in favour for update checking, don't get me wrong. I've recommended it to my readers in periods of quirky update shedules. Still, it seems to me that improvements could be made:

1) Why 4 times an hour? TWCL checks once every hour (but for some reason reloads the page thrice, generating the same result) and that seems plenty to me.

2) Most update checking lists simply state whether a comic has updated that day or in the past 24 hours. It is highly unusual for a comic to update more than once a day. If that is so, why not stop checking a certain site for a while after an update has been found?

3) What I am going to do is adjust the php script of my front page and present update checkers with a simplified vesion of the page. You'll agree this is also to the benefit of the update checkers themselves, as less bandwidth is lost and it would require less processing. For this reason, could those running webcomic update checkers please offer details of their bots, either the useragent string or the ip address it's run from. I'm sure others will be interested in this as well.

4) Of course, most cartoonists won't be able to follow the suggestion in 3). What I would suggest for those is maybe to make a seperate page for update checkers that updates at the same time as the main page. This way you minimize bandwidth usage and (maybe more importantly) can give more accurate numbers to advertisers (who would otherwise see their clickthrough rates diminish and might not be inclined to advertise with you anymore). I'm sure the update checkers can adjust their code to check one page and link to another?

5) Finally, it might be good for conglomerates like keenspot/space, modern tales and others to provide a single, easily parsable (say rss) page listing all those comics who updated in the past 24 hours, together with their update times. This would mean the checkers only have to check a single page instead of dozens or hundreds and get the same information, a clear benefit to all involved.

I hope this won't raise more flames, I'm just trying to find solutions to some of the issues raised in this thread.

Comment from: Arachnid posted at July 8, 2005 3:53 AM

RSS _is_ the way to do it. I've more or less made my mission to RSSify all the comics I read, but thus far all I have to show for it is UF (whom I wrote a scraper for, which generates the RSS after rollover each day), and some small share in pestering Eric and Weds for one for Gossamer Commons. ;)

Personally, I don't see anything wrong with setting up a comics notification site - I've considered setting one up myself - and the bandwidth consumed by the checker, if configured properly, is easily paid back as soon as a couple of readers use it. The lack of professionalism shown by Comic Nation is distressing, though.

The sensible way to set it up is to determine when comics roll over, and only check around that time, or for comics that are less regular, check at intervals. There's all sorts of useful stuff you can do without ratings, too - like Amazon style 'similar comics' and 'you might also like' based on peoples subscriptions and what they view.

What really annoys me is sites that use web services (or just plain scraping) to do their job, then don't give back in any way (like exposing their own, enhanced RSS feeds).

Comment from: Aerin posted at July 8, 2005 4:37 AM

There's only one instance that I can imagine where a comic might update twice in a 24-hour period, and that's a comic that normally updates like clockwork going up either early or late, with the next update back on schedule. But that wouldn't make a huge difference even if you were only checking once a day, unless you have some burning desire to know the exact time that a comic updated. Even stuff like S*P's frequent double-posts would count as a single update, since it's a single modification to the page. (I think, I could be wrong about that.)

I think that Mithandir's last point is an excellent one, and touches on something I've been pondering for a while. Completely independent comics are growing increasingly rare, as pretty much every comic nowadays except the big giant ones (there are some exceptions to this, 9th Elsewhere and Instant Classic are the ones I can think of from my own trawl) is part of some collective. I don't think it would be terribly difficult for each of these sites to put together something exactly like Mithandir described. (I think Modern Tales does do something like this, though I haven't spent much time around the site since everything went back behind the subscription wall.)

It's good to see that this thread has turned toward constructive and sane discussion and away from drama. And now I should really be in bed.

Comment from: Kendra Kirai posted at July 8, 2005 5:48 AM

I have one question, Mithandir...

If you have a webcomic, and you're under a 200meg per moth limit...how do you expect to get any readers? If you update daily, and each strip is 50K plus maybe 7K for text, times 30 days...

One person reading is 1.7 megs, and that's if they only check once a day, without reading any of the archives. Not a lot, but when you factor in that you'll have people reading the archives...lets double that figure, just for laughs...3.4 megs from one person a month. That leaves room for only 58 other readers on that 200 meg limit, if they check twice a day.

And this is just from the strip and some text, no link buttons, no cast page, no extra graphics like a title banner...Even if you just had one archive page that linked to the strips directly, you wouldn't be much better off.

At that point, you're better off using a livejournal to post your comics and using a free webhosting system to host the strips. You'd probably get more than 59 readers, with none of the cost.

Really, if you have a webcomic and a 200 meg per month limit which you get charged massively for if you go over...you're just begging for trouble. It's like buying a compact car to move with, then being angry you have to spend so much on gas because you can only take two boxes at a time.

Comment from: Kendra Kirai posted at July 8, 2005 5:50 AM

Or better yet, Keenspace, which is free, even though it has some capital-I Issues. (Somebody should really talk to whoever wrote this posting program to add an 'edit' function.)

Comment from: kamagurka posted at July 8, 2005 5:51 AM

Kudos to Aerie, kudos to Shaenon (I might be biased towards them because I read and love their webcomics).

Also, thumbs up to the CN guys; I've never even seen their site and I am already filled with an overwhelming desire never to visit it. Great PR, great business.

Also, I love webcomics drama. It fills the great void in my life.

Comment from: Mithandir posted at July 8, 2005 7:25 AM

Kendra,

Of course, 200 Mb/month is little, but I'm sure there's comics out there on programs like that, either through ignorance or other reasons. Either way it's just a number I took as example. If you have 1 Gb/month, it's still 10% of your bandwidth. With 10 Gb, it'd be about 1%. This may seem little, but by your own calculation those 4 update checkers constitute 33 regular, loyal readers. May not seem much to you, but the first 3-6 months of my own comic got fewer than that.

Your calculation also asumes a comic that updates 7 times per week. Change that to a more average 3/week and the update checkers now equal 77 readers.

My experience also disagrees with doubling the bandwidth for archives. A few queries against my stats show it's more like 40% pageviews in the archives compared to the front page, despite having near 300 strips there. YMMV of course.

Taking all those into the claculation you end up with a regular reader being 1 Mb/month. The 4 update checkers are thus the bandwidth equivalent of over 100 regular readers. For a small comic, that's quite a bit.

I agree the bandwidth weight is, for most comics, minimal compared to normal running. Still, it seems an issue with some people, and since it can so easily be minimized, why not do so?

Comment from: bono posted at July 8, 2005 8:15 AM

For those who are commenting on how much bandwidth we use, it's wrong. We usually load about 10 kb of html every time we refresh. That's 40kb/hr, 960 kb/day, and 28 MB/month. An equivalent user, loading the page would be loading closer to 1Mb every time they load the page. That's about 30 Mb/month providing they check every day. We use the equivalent of 1 user/month. I don't think that's terrible. But, interesting suggestions were brought up here.

The rationale for the 1 time every 15 minutes is that with that in mind the site will never be more than 15 minutes out of sync. We have people on the site [i]constantly[/i]. We want our data to be accurate. What I will be doing over the next months is developing an individualized comic algorithm, based on past comic update times. That should solve some of this.

Mithandir, the suggestion about stopping checking a comic after it has updated is rather good. I would give a 12 hour period to be safe though. Thanks for that.

Comment from: Kendra Kirai posted at July 8, 2005 8:24 AM

Actually, I misspoke there. Given two downloads a day of the page by a single reader it would be 3.4 megs a month per reader using my calculation...that's not taking into account the archives.

Now, I don't agree with the check every 15 minutes thing...maybe once an hour at most. That'll cut the bandwidth use by 75%...but 200 megs is extremely small, and really, anybody who expects to have a webcomic on a 200 meg/month site quite frankly deserves what they get for not doing any research or basic usage calculations beforehand. The MININUM one should expect is a 1gig...that way you have enough slack space for whatever else you might want to put up there, plus a good buffer incase your comic absolutely skyrockets in popularity in it's first month. After that, you can see how it's going...whether you need to upgrade to a 10gig, 100 gig, or bring it to Keenspace or see about joining one of the subscription sites or something, if it's that popular.

Yes, my assumption of a daily update is perhaps a worst-case scenario...though a larger, 3 times a week schedule could perhaps be worse. Unless you do like Melonpool or Nukees and do a panel strip like most do daily, you're probably going to do larger ones...whole 'pages' of comics, like Jack, or Digger. If you color it, that could get to say...200K per image, if you don't use good compression. That's a bit high, but it'll serve as a good example. 200K 12 times a month is 2.4 megs just for the strips alone, for one reader, checking once each update day, not visiting archives. 83 readers, absolute maximum, on 200 megs a month, assuming 200KB strips.

Comment from: Denyer posted at July 8, 2005 8:55 AM

Those with server access should be able to 403 the scraper bot and/or IP address of the site without too much hassle. Can be done either with .htaccess or a PHP index page.

Comment from: djcoffman posted at July 8, 2005 11:30 AM

Hmmm. I'd also like to be removed from this list now as well. Comic Nation people, if you're paying attention, go ahead and remove Yirmumah. I don't need your "service" ..

Also,there is an issue of CPU usage. A thing that most cartoonists aren't aware of. If you're with a paid hosting service, you're on a shared server, and everytime something pings you, it uses CPU on their server. This can slow the performance of the sites as well. Now, I doubt ONE service could slow down a site-- definitly not Comics Nation, but still, it's something popular webcomics should think of, or else you'll be paying 99 bucks amonth for a dedicated server.

Comment from: John posted at July 8, 2005 11:33 AM

For those who would like to make sure these grade schoolers can only do limited damage to your visitors' goodwill, you could try redirecting them to a brief disclaimer based on the comic-nation referrer.



I've tested this and it seems to work. Just put this in the head section of your main comic page's html, replacing all curly brackets with pointy brackets:



{SCRIPT LANGUAGE=JAVASCRIPT TYPE="TEXT/JAVASCRIPT"}

{!-- Hide script from old browsers{br}

referString = document.referrer;

shortString = referString.substr(0,22);

if (shortString = "http://www.comic-nation.com")

location.href = "warning.html";

//-- Stop hiding script --}

{/SCRIPT}



That will take all Comic-Nation visitors to your warning.html page (which you'll need to create). Put a stern message up there, if you like, followed by a real link to the comic.

Comment from: joeymanley posted at July 8, 2005 12:52 PM

It would be nice if Comic-Nation's backend engine were able to accept xml-rpc pings rather than having to go read web pages and figure out for itself if the comic had updated.

This is the way that all those blog-monitoring services like Technorati and so on work.

Less bandwidth would be transferred, for one, and only those comics deliberately sending the xml-rpc pings to Comic-Nation would be included.

Of course, this assumes that a new generation of webcomic automation software that can be configured to *do* xml-rpc pings is on the horizon (the one I'm working on can be configured to do these pings, but I'm not sure about all the others).

Info about how Technorati does it here:

http://technorati.com/developers/ping/

General xml-rpc info here:

http://www.xmlrpc.com/

An xml-rpc package of classes built for PHP development here:

http://phpxmlrpc.sourceforge.net/

(Note: this package was recently the exact reason for the WordPress compromise on Websnark recently, but it has been fixed since then).

If you guys can add xml-rpc functionality, I will definitely add pinging comic-nation's service as an option in the WebcomicsNation.com control panel for all the WCN cartoonists (250 now -- and we haven't even launched yet).

Also anybody else who builds something with xmlrpc-ping-accepting technology as well can be added to that list.

It's really time for "webcomics hackers" to get up-to-speed with those blogging software hackers. They're way, way ahead of us. Proactively going out and checking web pages for updates is SOOOOOO 1995.

Thanks.

Joey

www.moderntales.com

Comment from: joeymanley posted at July 8, 2005 12:57 PM

I meant the WordPress compromise on Gossamer Commons, not WebSnark.

Joey

www.moderntales.com

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at July 8, 2005 1:31 PM

I like how people are continuing to be all dramatic on this thread after Eric totally complained about everyone being way too dramatic on this thread . . .

Comment from: RoboYuji posted at July 8, 2005 1:34 PM

Honestly though, my comic can stay up on the list, since their opinion on a comic I don't read doesn't really bother me too much. Heck, even if WAS a comic I read, it wouldn't bother me too much.

Uh oh, now I'm adding to the drama meself . . .

Comment from: Trevor Barrie posted at July 8, 2005 1:35 PM

For those who are commenting on how much bandwidth we use, it's wrong. We usually load about 10 kb of html every time we refresh. That's 40kb/hr, 960 kb/day, and 28 MB/month. An equivalent user, loading the page would be loading closer to 1Mb every time they load the page.

28 Mb/month is the exact same figure thrown out earlier in the thread, so I'm not sure why you claim that the comments are wrong. And I'm baffled how you conclude that the average user is going to download a full meg every time they load a webcomics page.

Comment from: STrRedwolf posted at July 8, 2005 3:33 PM

Kendra, you've now got the ear of one of the admins behind KeenSpace (yes, I've been retained, under contract, and being PAID!). I'm welcome to hear your concerns over the service. You can contact me by email via spaceissues at stalag99 dot net (I own the domain, it all forwards to me).

That goes for everyone else. I *DO* want to hear about your problems with 'Space. Update problems? We're working on a long-term solution. System going down at odd times? Fixed -- check KeenSpace's main page for info. No community? Don't let the guys, gals, goyls, monsters, aliens, and other folks on the forums, the mail list, the LJ community, and the IRC channel hear you. No meetings? We're invading DC this Saturday at Union Station, starting around 11am, and I WILL BE THERE.

Comment from: M_Northstar posted at July 8, 2005 6:15 PM

Whoa!

There has been a lot of comments since I last checked this snark. And rather heated ones to boot. Eric, please forgive me if I prolong the discussion with this comment, but I'd like to say a few things.

First of all, people, I recommend that you take the CN admin's somtimes abusive language with a big pinch of salt. These are three highschool friends (since graduated) who made CN more as a hobby than a business (for one thing, I don't think CN is registered as a company). Now, admitting that the atmosphere in the forums can be rather rough, you must realize that it's not entirely seriously meant. It's just the style these friends have between themselves, which they have also maintained in the forums (Meeowth, the guy processing the new comics, is not part of this cabal, he's one of the users helping out, and I think you have seen for yourselves that he's a lot more wellspoken :-) ).

Now, us who are old and wise ;-) know that this is usually not a good idea on the Net, as it is very easy to be misunderstood, and I've seen at least one occasion where what -to my eyes- was the usual friendly banter turned into serious badmouthing and flame (it was when Plotless Violence was first added to the site), but the point I want to make is that much of the rough language is more of a gimmick than an actual effort to be offensive.

Also on that note, the people complaining of a lack of professionalism and customer service are entirely correct, their mistake is in expecting those things in the first place, no matter how much they may have a right to. Like I said, this is more in the nature of a hobby project, one which returns no profits (although there is a donation button, CN displays NO ads and charges NO fees). CN is a very useful, well thought out service being maintained by the creators' expenditure of money and time. And if the maturity in the forums is sometimes lacking, there IS quite a lot of good will. For example, despite the many times it has been requested, CN has refused to change its policy of only linking to the front page of each comic, with the stated desire not to deprive the owners of ad revenues and publicity. A courtesy unfortunately not observed by all other similar services.

And one thing to remember, for the users put off by the displayed attitudes of the admins, is that to use the service you don't need to deal with them at all. It's only if you want to read the forums that you're advised to develop really thick skin. And bring your own salt shaker :-)

Now, to reply to some of the comments here:

1) Egarwaen (and Bono) it is recognized netiquette, if you have posted something inappropriate, that you NOT delete or edit it even if you regret having posted it. We who communicate via Internet must contend with the fact that our medium is a fundamentaly impermanent one. It is entirely too easy to alter the apparent shape of a discussion by deleting a key post, so that latecomers to the discussion can't see where the newer posts are coming from, and so that people trying to gauge the merits and flaws of it later can't determine who's in the right. Instead, it is good form to leave the post as it is, and post a retraction. Possibly you might edit the original post to add a notification that a retraction had been posted. For example, as I had occasion to be reminded yesterday, when Eric posted an angry snark about Tiffany Ross, he later posted a retraction, and edited the original snark with a link to the new article.

2) Kristofer Straub, the usefulness of a site like CN depends in large part on the completeness of its lineup. If the lineup is incomplete, users would have to find some other way to check their favourite comics. It goes without saying that they would flock to the service with the most complete list. In light of that, it's a grueling decision to omit a comic, especially such a popular one as QoW.

3) Sheanon and djcoffman, please don't rush to a decision. Please consider that while the conduct of the CN admins has been apparently reprehensible, the removal of QoW from the lineup is in and of itself a courtesy to Aeire, and thus a show of goodwill. Emerson once said "What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say". I'm asking now that you allow CN's actions to weigh more than the poorly chosen words of the admins.

4) Aeire, honey, I don't read your comic (to much text for me), but I know people who do, and who swear by you, and so I have the utmost respect for you and your comic. I'm sorry for the problems you've had with Buzzcomix and Top Webcomics, and now CN. You have every right to be angry, and to say what you did, but there are a few things I would like to say. First is the fact that CN doesn't piggyback on the success of your comic. Yours is but one of well over 700 comics in their lineup, and the most popular comic in that list gets the same treatment as the least popular one, and so your comic being on their lineup cannot properly be said to associate you or your comic with their site.

Secondly, the issue of courtesy aside, what CN does is perfectly innocuous. All they do is look at your site to see if you have updated the comic. There are people out there who try to stay on top of a lot of comics, and it would be very fatiguing and boring to have to check them all yourself. What CN does is, it takes over that task from the readers. It is no different than if I ask my sister to check the site for me (except, if I asked my sister to check 135 comics for me, she'd say something very rude to me). If you deny CN the tenuous association of having your comic on their lists, you are denying some of YOUR readers the chance for this convenience. There are other such services around, but I personally have found that CN has the best functionality and oversight.

What I would like to suggest to you, if I may, is to take any rude comments by the CN admins with a LOT of salt. The comments were inappropriate, but an apology has been offered. People join CN everyday, and they ask to have their favourite comics included. As popular as QoW is, it's going to take real effort to resist the pressure to add it to the lists again. Won't you reconsider, and give CN a second chance?

5) Bono, my friend, may I direct your attention to this comic:

http://www.galactanet.com/comic/308.htm

Comment from: bono posted at July 8, 2005 6:36 PM

Haha, now there's a way to satisfy my ego!

(for those of you who don't know me, insulting me usually tames me).

I would just like to add one thing to M_Northstar's comment, other than thanking him. We do have ads - Google Ads. They serve only to pay hosting fees and are slowly becoming not enough for even that. Just wanted to add that before anyone else mentioned it.

Comment from: munkymu posted at July 8, 2005 10:16 PM

I don't think CN is doing anything wrong. The Internet is built on hyperlinks. If you want the wide accessibility, the instant connection with readers then you have to accept the flipside of that -- which is that the more exposure you have, the more control you have to give up. The only time where you have perfect control is when you have no audience. And who wants that?

If you want attention, you have to accept the bad as well as the good. You can't have the best of both worlds and none of the worst. You can't put your heart out there, then yank it back at the first sight of trouble.

That goes for you too, Eric :) You can't have a forum for discussion, then complain when people use it.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at July 9, 2005 12:11 AM

Technically? I don't have a forum for discussion. I have a blog that people can make comments on. Entirely different animal. ;)

Comment from: Kendra Kirai posted at July 9, 2005 1:55 AM

A couple of things here...first, the average user *would* be downloading perhaps a meg on each full page download. There's the background image, if any, the comic itself, any link buttons that aren't on external servers, the html itself, the title banner and any button images like next comic, previous comic, etc.

We'll take a couple examples from my bookmarks...

Alice: Main page has keenspot stuff, title graphic, comic graphic, buttons for previous and first comic, two images for links to other comics, the keenspot newsbox, and three images for promotional stuff like newspaper strips and merchandise, plus a banner for the first Alice collection. Ooo, I've got a page info thing in Firefox, lets see...

HTML is 15.63K

Keenspot icon is 1.31K

Sponsoredby image is .45K

Title graphic is 2.18K

first collection ad is 26.19K

Comic itself is 31.82K

Previous link is .85K

Beginning link is 1.03K

Donnelly linkbutton is 20.1K

Squinklink linkbutton is 5.65K

Gorilla marketing graphic is 48.67K

Alice in newspapers graphic is 47.9K

Shop button is 55.67K

Keenspot newsbox icon is 2.71K

Akaelae newsbox button is 90.44K

This is just the stuff that's on Alicecomics.com. Now, lets add this up...350.6K. A bit short of a megabyte, that's true. Lets try the next one, Melonpool.

HTML is 17.12K

the icon for favorites/bookmarks is 3.55K

Blank label icon is 2.22K

Title graphic is 8.04K

New Readers button is 1.82K

Cast button is 1.55K

Ship button is 1.52K

Forum button is 1.56K

Store button is 1.72K

Story Index button is 1.75K

Games button is 1.57K

Audio/video button is 1.7K

Contact button is 1.58K

Advertise button is 1.71K

there's a chrome bit that's .67K

another bit of chrome that's 2.45K

blinkycursor is .87K

chrome, 1.98K

chrome, .15K

Chrome, .04K

Strip, 22.08K

Chrome, .16K

Chrome, .86K

Chrome, 4.57K

First button, 1.38K

previous button, 2.49K

chrome, 1.19K

Google toolbar thing, 17.79K

There's a lot of gewgaws on the Melonpool main page, so it's a decent example of a 'mid case' scenario. Lets add it up....Okay, this is surprising. 104.08K

Now, Scary-Go-Round, one of the most graphic-intensive main pages I can think of.

HTML, 12.92K

Death has a Bunny header, 10.66K

The images which make up the title graphic, 6.99K

Spacer, .04K

Strip, 90.46K

comic tagging bits, 1.67K

Shirts banner, 9.05K

Contact graphic, .72K

choose a story graphic, 1.39K

Graphics to the chapter/story arcs, 63.57K

'I am your scary friend' image, 6.2K

what I assume is a dumbrella icon, .44K

And we add it up and...oh my. This can't be right. 204.11K? Hmmm...well, still...each reader who does a full download of the main page gets between 100 and 200K from the average webcomic. That *is* rather less than CN's checkbot script thing per day but that doesn't automatically mean it's evilnastyicky. It just means they have to reduce the number of checks per day. Maybe once an hour instead of four times, and if it's set up to not check for 12 hours after an update on *top* of that...that's a possible 1/8th of the bandwidth usage. Of course, it doesn't do much for strips that are small in filesize...like Melonpool...but for large strips like Scary-Go-Round, Questionable Content, etc, it really would cut down on the bandwidth usage.

Second, STRedwolf, while Keenspace has had numerous capital I-Issues in the past, they seem to be mostly smoothed out now...except that if you still have forums, nobody dares use them anymore, you're full of comics that put up maybe six strips in five years, and occasionally, I get 'cannot find server' errors to every Keenspace comic I've got in my bookmarks for a half hour or so. The second one isn't entirely your fault, but maybe you should think about implementing a 'Please try to update at least once a month unless you have a good excuse' thing, or at least going through and clearing comics that have less than a month's worth of strips and haven't updated in two years. The first...well. Quite frankly, your forums have had such trouble over the years, if you *do* still have them, I'd be incredibly surprised. Even moreso if anybody still used them if they didn't absolutely have to. The third...I have no idea. It could be my end, it could be yours, it could be anywhere inbetween. It clears up, in any case, so that's generally not a big issue.

Back onto the topic of CN though....I'm surprised that so many people seem to consider a scraperbot as wrong...that knowing when a site has updated is a bad thing, if it lets more readers come in (I found quite a few new comics when I peeked in the other day), even if it does use a little bit more bandwidth. I even discovered that Zebra Girl had updated again when I looked on CN, and I'd stopped bothering to check it, more or less, since the guy was...I dunno, on vacation or something for the month.

Comment from: Julio Dvulture posted at July 9, 2005 4:32 AM

M_Northstar:


the usefulness of a site like CN depends in large part on the completeness of its lineup. If the lineup is incomplete, users would have to find some other way to check their favourite comics. It goes without saying that they would flock to the service with the most complete list. In light of that, it's a grueling decision to omit a comic, especially such a popular one as QoW.


Sure, I totally agree. And that why if the admins want to be able to provide this service they need to be polite.


I'm asking now that you allow CN's actions to weigh more than the poorly chosen words of the admins.


As I'm seem by this thread their actions are somewhat lacking too. And their poorly chosen worlds transmit considerable bad will so...


As for the argument that removing from list its denying the readers of the comic something... well i read forty comics a day... and i think that is for this they invented Firefox tabs you know... anyone who needs the comics checked four times per hour is really to obsessive and don't need such a site...


If I was on the comics creators position I wouldn't act no different. For the most of them the lack of such site wouldn't hurt them in the least. So if the CN people want their "business" to suceed, they are the ones that need to make the concessions, and the least of it is being respectful. Is not like they are the only game in town... so why would the creators want a business to suceed if they are others that can do the same kind service and do it in a more professional manner?

Comment from: STrRedwolf posted at July 9, 2005 8:51 AM

Kendra, I hear you.

Belive it or not, we still have forums, and they're getting heavily used (some say abused, but that's War going around trying to kill everyone in the forum art we have). We have Mr.Bob who does Star Bored who starts things off, and before you know it, you have a comic in the forums.

On the abandoned comic sites: Yes, we know about those too. We've rewritten the Newsbox to say "Haven't updated in a month? No pimping for you!" We also have a "Haven't touched it in 90 days? You're GONE!" policy now. We're also working on ways of archiving, and speeding up updates.

(And I do mean "we" as in "Kisai and I")

Finally, on the "Can't reach us" issues. I know in the past we've been going up and down like a yoyo. We've had some crappy hardware in the past, as well as crappy ISP's (SAGONET, which I belive is still in the Spamhaus SBL). We're on a stable platform (FreeBSD optmized by Kisai's hands), and keep an eye on the servers and how things interact. (The past massive downage was because we weren't rotating some logs) Hopefully we can get some more servers, because we're only at two, and we can run comics over more. Ether way, I keep folks informed on the LJ community, the 'Space front page, and the 'Space forums.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at July 9, 2005 9:05 AM

Kelly -- as weird as it is for me to care about this, does this mean I need to move the Unfettered By Talent archives elsewhere, as they're going to otherwise go away?

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 9, 2005 10:34 AM

STrRedwolf sez: Kendra, you've now got the ear of one of the admins behind KeenSpace (yes, I've been retained, under contract, and being PAID!)

Well, I'm glad to see that they're really doomed now. Hiring someone who's so ignorant about basic technology issues as to think linking to a site is a copyright violation... And people complain about CN being unprofessional?

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 9, 2005 10:39 AM

Also, to all webcomic artists who're asking CN to remove their sites because of bandwidth concerns: You'd better go yell at http://www.thewebcomiclist.com/ too. Because guess what... They use the same method. Quick, get your site unlisted, or they'll suck up all your bandwidth!

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 9, 2005 11:04 AM

Egarwaen (and Bono) it is recognized netiquette, if you have posted something inappropriate, that you NOT delete or edit it even if you regret having posted it.

Not any recognized netiquette that I've ever heard of. Deleting the post entirely, maybe, but editing an offensive post to replace the offensive content with an apology is perfectly acceptable.

I'm kind of amused by the fact that most webcomic artists started attacking Bono not after he made the offensive post, but after he apologized for it. Wow. Way to look professional there, guys. Makes you sound like a bunch of two-year-olds who're incensed because your excuse for picking on someone got taken away. "What a jerk. He apologized to us. Can you believe it?" "He apologized? I don't want my comic associated with his site! Ew!"

As for their update searching system... How else do you expect them to do it? You don't offer any of the standard methods for checking for updates. (RSS, XML-RPC, etc.) And we all know that expecting webcomic artists to stick to a fixed schedule is unrealistic, as they have lives and stuff. (Well, when not flaming the hell out of people trying to offer a service to the community.)

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at July 9, 2005 11:33 AM

Hiring someone who's so ignorant about basic technology issues as to think linking to a site is a copyright violation... And people complain about CN being unprofessional?

This stops now.

The core rules of Websnark's comments are simple. You can debate. You can insult Eric Burns. You can't insult each other.

Only warning. Next, I lock this topic.

Do I sound annoyed? I am. Drama doesn't mean being pissy to each other.

(Egarwaen's not the only guilty person here, either. It was just this entry that kicked stuff over.)

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 9, 2005 11:41 AM

Eric: I apologize to you for breaking your rules. However, I do not react well to people who encourage DMCA abuse. Linking to a site is not copying that site's content, and attempting to perpetuate the belief that it is really ticks me off. Because it's an attack on the fundamental basis of the Internet, on what makes the whole bloody thing work at all.

Comment from: Kendra Kirai posted at July 9, 2005 11:51 AM

For the record, I'm not *entirely* supporting CN's scraperbotdealie...I'm just saying that in certain cases, and if it gets suitably reigned in, it certainly has it's place. It *is* a good service, even if the people behind it are perhaps a bit less than pleasant at times. Even Ghandi had to have lost his temper or craved a big ol' flank steak *sometime* in his life. I'm sure even Jesus was a prick some days. Nobody's perfect, some are less perfect than others...I think you should all, everybody, just remember that sooner or later, somebody really *is* going to invent a way to stab people in the face over the internet, even if metaphorically...and that is the day that the people who don't know how to keep their tempers will be in trouble. Please, remember to stay calm...or at least as calm as possible.

....oh, Egarwaen, Hypertext links aren't what make the internet work. It's what makes the world wide web work, from it's inception as a part of the gopher system. There's rather a difference between the fundamental basis of the internet and the fundamental basis of an *aspect* of the internet.

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 9, 2005 12:05 PM

....oh, Egarwaen, Hypertext links aren't what make the internet work. It's what makes the world wide web work, from it's inception as a part of the gopher system. There's rather a difference between the fundamental basis of the internet and the fundamental basis of an *aspect* of the internet.

Not true. The fundamental basis of the Internet is peer-to-peer, end-to-end networks - systems connecting freely to other systems. A link is merely a form of instruction telling one system of another system it can connect to. If one must obtain the explicit permission of the other system's owner before producing such an instruction - not actually making a connection, mind, but just producing an instruction describing such a connection - the whole Internet falls apart. Because in order to make a connection, you have to produce one of these instructions in some form, which means you must request permission through a channel outside the Internet, which makes the whole thing useless.

There's a reason why HTTP is the most successful Internet protocol. It not only does what users need, but is one of the best at exploiting the power of the model.

This is also one of many reasons why people that promote DMCA abuse are not good netizens.

I'm actually quite impressed that CN is willing to remove comics from their listing when the authors request it. Seeing as the power of the web, and its utility to end-users, comes from collections of relevant links, I'd argue that removing links is actually unethical. Performing such an unethical action at the request of a webcomic author shows considerable respect for the choices and decisions of those authors.

As for the bot, there is no other way to check for updates. Unless webcartoonists get their act together and start offering RSS feeds or XML-RPC notifications for every comic, polling is going to be necessary. If the bot is polling too often, the appropriate course of action, rather than arguing that they shouldn't be polling, is to politely ask them to poll less often.

Comment from: bono posted at July 9, 2005 1:46 PM

Site polling has been reduced to once an hour after convincing statements in this thread and relevant emails.

-Bono

www.Comic-Nation.com

Comment from: Detunized gravity posted at July 9, 2005 2:27 PM

To begin with, I shall say that I've been a happy user of Comic-Nation for a weeks now.

I, normally wouldn't have to intervene here because I come waaay after the battle and most, if not all has been said on the subject. What makes me react is that I see one quite serious issue that went through unnoticed, and that I'd like to correct before any damage is done...

John has made the suggestion of using the referer to detect users coming from Comic-Nation and give them a "stern warning" before redirecting them to the actual comic.

Let me be perfectly clear: even putting aside *all* the Comic-Nation/Aeire issue aside, this suggestion is not only irrelevant, but quite offending to me.

The referer field does pose very serious privacy and security issues to the end user. It can be used by an attacker to collect data in cross-site and cross client scripting scenarii, as well as in phishing attempts. This is why it is almost never mandatory for a Web site to work, it's only used for technicalities, and it's common sense that its absence should not impair normal operation. Local proxies are available that offer to automatically remove the referer from HTTP requests, among other things. I'd like it to be a standard feature of all browsers.

So if one pulls this kind of trick (John's trick) on me, my only reaction will be to install a tool that will hide my referer, I'll be in my right to do so, and we'll be back to square one. Except that we'll all have lost precious time in the process.

Now this is not enough to offend me. What offends me is that, to put it bluntly, where I "come from", when following an external link, is none of the target owner's concern. Where I come from when I access some page is my own business and no Web site has anything to say on that matter (privacy!). Which is why not sending the referer is tolerated. So if I can accept that a site refuses to serve, say, some content page if I don't come from another page of the same site, I will definitely not tolerate that a site treats me differently because I come from Comic-Nation, whatever the grudges there may be.

I'm not saying that people who have issues with Comic-Nation can not make them public. But the key word here is "public". They shall slap their warnings/issues/grudges in the face of everyone or of no one. I'd rather it be no one: artists issues wth CN should be handled by artists and CN alone.

This last sentence makes me think of something else: Aeire and CN had issues, which didn't go public except for an unfortunate post from Bono, who apologized since. They had chosen to remain silent on the specifics of the issue at hand, what was wise according to me, until other persons decided to "put oil on the public flames" as seen here. I don't know how you all work, but when I don't have enough information, I don't judge publicly, I don't take side publicly, I don't take harmful decisions publicly, I just don't talk publicly.

We do have information now, willingly given by both sides, so I can give my opinion: Bono made a few mistakes and apologized. Aeire may have made some of her own, what I can't honestly ascertain with the information at hand. She had her reasons to refuse being listed by CN. Fine. But Aeire is the one who went past the limit with her:

"You've just guaranteed that I am going to tell everyone I know in the industry about your petty bullshit."

This is immature.

This is not professional in any way.

This is totally uncalled for.

Her refusal to be listed made me stop REreading her OLD comics. Her attitude here just guaranteed that I will not show interest in any future project she may have. I need the service, and I won't accept that ONE artist tries to have her friends take it down instead of "maturely" trying to solve her personal issues with Bono.

Comment from: Detunized gravity posted at July 9, 2005 2:33 PM

Err... Eric, sorry for adding to the drama (just read the IM conversation with Scott Kurtz). Not a very godd choice for a first post here...

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 9, 2005 2:49 PM

gravity: That's exactly the comment I took offence at too. Yes, she may have had issues with them in the past. Yes, bono said something offensive. But to attempt to (and, judging from Shaenon's post, she's started already) shut down a site that provides a service that a lot of webcomic readers find helpful out of spite? That's just nasty. Especially since they've spent pretty much the entire thread trying to apologize to her and the others they offended.

I think yours is a perfectly valid position to take. Especially since I was also offended by those referrer suggestions.

So I'm not reading any of her future projects. My pageviews are the only currency I have, and I've chosen to take them elsewhere.

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at July 9, 2005 2:56 PM

Actually, knowing Shaenon Garrity, she likely made her choice less based on Aeire's comment and more on the overall sense she got of the affair. Just for the record. (I don't know that Garrity and Aeire know each other much at all.)

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 9, 2005 3:00 PM

Sorry, my mistake. So would Shaenon be amenable to polite requests from fans to please allow CN to re-list her, provisional on their continued good behaviour? (Enquiring of either Shaenon directly or Eric's opinion of her.)

Comment from: Kendra Kirai posted at July 9, 2005 9:29 PM

Okay, turns out I was wrong, it wasn't CN I was at when I added a bunch of comics to my bookmarks, I was at http://www.thewebcomiclist.com/ which is really quite nice.

Comment from: STrRedwolf posted at July 9, 2005 9:30 PM

Egarwaen: I was under the impression that CN was including comic art from Aeire's comic. Just linking is another matter all together that isn't legistlated or judicated (nor can it, due to the international nature of the INTERnet). I may be wrong, take everything you see online with a grain of salt. I have a silo myself just in case (you need it when dealing with spammers).

Eric: No, I belive you're already established. The 90 day since creation policy only is in effect for those who abandon their comic w/o adding more strips past the initial signup sample. I'm not going to remove old comics -- just stop the updater from wasting CPU on updating them.

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 9, 2005 10:06 PM

Redwolf sez: Egarwaen: I was under the impression that CN was including comic art from Aeire's comic. Just linking is another matter all together that isn't legistlated or judicated (nor can it, due to the international nature of the INTERnet). I may be wrong, take everything you see online with a grain of salt. I have a silo myself just in case (you need it when dealing with spammers).

Oh, I definitely have to apologize to you, then. I thought you were saying she could sue under the DMCA for linking. Which isn't nearly as insane as it sounds. Way back in 1999/2000, some of the original DMCA lawsuits were over something similar - linking to material that could theoretically be used to violate copyrights. 2600, a hacker magazine, had linked to DeCSS, the original DVD decryption tool, and got sued for it. The lawsuit was found against 2600, but (if memory serves) on contributory copyright infringement grounds. (IE, they were encouraging people to use the tool to violate copyright)

There were a number of other lawsuits about "unauthorized, illegal (deep) linking" soon after that. But every one I can remember got thrown out or settled before it was actually tried. But most geeks with an interest in matters legislative still tend to react quite violently to suggestions that unauthorized linking is illegal. I also seem to remember a few lawsuits where the plaintiffs were claiming that accessing a website with bots or spiders was illegal (as it wasn't the "intended manner"), but I think those got tossed or settled too. I think one loon even tried to sue Google.

In a nutshell: digital law is weird. Suggesting lawsuits is a good way to get your pants flamed off. Don't do it.

Kendra: Okay, turns out I was wrong, it wasn't CN I was at when I added a bunch of comics to my bookmarks, I was at http://www.thewebcomiclist.com/ which is really quite nice.

Eh, I tried it, and Comic Nation is much nicer. tWCL's interface is too cluttered and banner-heavy, and far too many of the webcomics on my list (four, but four's too many) aren't checked for updates. And the recently-viewed list is nowhere near as friendly.

On the other hand, they do have a more comprehensive list. So for those simply seeking to link-farm, who don't care about update checking, it might be a better choice.

Comment from: Aeire posted at July 9, 2005 11:40 PM

All right, I wasn't going to comment here but there have been several points brought up that I feel I should be addressing.

#1 - I don't really care if the site is up or down, I'm not asking anyone to 'boycott' the website, I'm not asking cartoonists to leave, however I am not going to recommend that people use that website and if people ask what I think of it, I'll tell them. That simple.

#2 - In regards to Bono's post from above, "I won't deny any of it. We did refuse to take you off. We were under no obligation to, and it didn't seem fair after we complied with all your other requests." ...what other requests? The first and only request that I made was for the removal of my website. Period. That's it. You refused. Not only did you refuse but you did so in the rudest manner possible. I don't know why you expected me to be sunshine and roses after that kind of treatment.

#3 - M_Northstar posted "What I would like to suggest to you, if I may, is to take any rude comments by the CN admins with a LOT of salt. The comments were inappropriate, but an apology has been offered. People join CN everyday, and they ask to have their favourite comics included. As popular as QoW is, it's going to take real effort to resist the pressure to add it to the lists again. Won't you reconsider, and give CN a second chance?" -the answer to that is no. Not a chance. I think they've made it blatantly clear that they'd rather not have my 'sucky piece of comic shit' on their website anyway, which is how I wanted it to begin with.

#4 - To those of you saying you're not going to read my comics or any of my future projects anymore - that's fine. Don't really care one way or another. However, I don't think that I was out of line. I was treated one way in email, and bitched about behind my back, and I find out about it second-hand through a website. Not only that, but they lied to me in those emails in the first place, saying it must have been 'an oversight' that I was re-added to the list at all. http://www.comic-nation.com/forums.php?mode=topic&fid=1&tid=3292 All right, I wasn't going to comment here but there have been several points brought up that I feel I should be addressing.

#1 - I don't really care if the site is up or down, I'm not asking anyone to 'boycott' the website, I'm not asking cartoonists to leave, however I am not going to recommend that people use that website and if people ask what I think of it, I'll tell them. That simple.

#2 - In regards to Bono's post from above, "I won't deny any of it. We did refuse to take you off. We were under no obligation to, and it didn't seem fair after we complied with all your other requests." ...what other requests? The first and only request that I made was for the removal of my website. Period. That's it. You refused. Not only did you refuse but you did so in the rudest manner possible. I don't know why you expected me to be sunshine and roses after that kind of treatment.

#3 - M_Northstar posted "What I would like to suggest to you, if I may, is to take any rude comments by the CN admins with a LOT of salt. The comments were inappropriate, but an apology has been offered. People join CN everyday, and they ask to have their favourite comics included. As popular as QoW is, it's going to take real effort to resist the pressure to add it to the lists again. Won't you reconsider, and give CN a second chance?" -the answer to that is no. Not a chance. I think they've made it blatantly clear that they'd rather not have my 'sucky piece of comic shit' on their website anyway, which is how I wanted it to begin with.

#4 - To those of you saying you're not going to read my comics or any of my future projects anymore - that's fine. Don't really care one way or another. However, I don't think that I was out of line. I was treated one way in email, and bitched about behind my back, and I find out about it second-hand through a website. Not only that, but they lied to me in those emails in the first place, saying it must have been 'an oversight' that I was re-added to the list at all. http://www.comic-nation.com/forums.php?mode=topic&fid=1&tid=3292

#5 - To make it abudantly clear here, I do not have a problem with the website as it currently stands or with what it does. From what I understand, it is not a 'comic ripper', it just gives people links to the comic's websites. That's dandy and doesn't interfere with ad revenue, so whatever. What my problem was, originally, was that the website was a ratings site, something that I had no intention of ever being on again - and to compound on top of that, the attitude I got when I asked them to remove the site from their list and the subsequent amount of attitude and insults I've gotten. I don't have a problem with the site or what the site does, I have a problem with the people running it. I'm glad they apologized. That's fine. However, I will not affilliate myself with a website and people that decided to treat me the way I was treated. Period, end of story.

Can I go back to just drawing comics now? Because I'm really tired of hearing about this.

Comment from: Aerin posted at July 10, 2005 5:22 AM

Kendra - two words: cached images. Static images are pulled from my browser cache each time I visit the page, rather than having to be downloaded anew. So while it does indeed take up a good chunk of bandwidth the first time I visit Scary-Go-Round, it's greatly diminished for subsequent visits.

Comment from: Kendra Kirai posted at July 10, 2005 8:22 AM

Not everybody keeps their browser caches around very long. And I did say, for each full reload. New reader, empty browser cache, what have you.

Comment from: Wednesday posted at July 10, 2005 1:43 PM

For my part, I disable web caching on any system I use where disk space is at a premium. So, uh, on any system I use, actually...

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 10, 2005 2:51 PM

And for those of us who've limited our cache space, a few hours' surfing can very easily cause older stuff to be bumped out. Or even less than an hour, with well-chosen pages or lots of activity.

Comment from: John posted at July 10, 2005 10:00 PM

Detunized_gravity:


I didn't realize the referrer functionality was controversial. However, you're making something of a mountain out of my molehill suggestion, IMO. Mostly I was just offering a sort of counterpoint to Egarwaen's observation that anyone is free to link to any other site.


That observation is certainly accurate -- but then the linked site is free to direct the visitor wherever its author likes, too. So it's something of a give and take.


The referer field does pose very serious privacy and security issues to the end user. It can be used by an attacker to collect data in cross-site and cross client scripting scenarii, as well as in phishing attempts.


Unicode is also very useful in phishing attempts, as it allows one to mimic legitimate domains. Should Unicode be banned as well? Or email, since it is also usually involved? Your argument proves far too much.


So if one pulls this kind of trick (John's trick) on me, my only reaction will be to install a tool that will hide my referer, I'll be in my right to do so, and we'll be back to square one.


Nothing wrong with that, and as far as I can see your "cloaked" user agent will simply be admitted to the correct page without interruption.


What offends me is that, to put it bluntly, where I "come from", when following an external link, is none of the target owner's concern. Where I come from when I access some page is my own business and no Web site has anything to say on that matter (privacy!).


Come on. There is a lot of information which is brazenly presented by your user agent at the slightest encouragement: your operating system, your ISP, even your IP address. This is like wearing a name tag on your chest and expecting everyone to pretend they don't see it there, because your name is a private matter.

Comment from: Egarwaen posted at July 10, 2005 11:22 PM

I didn't realize the referrer functionality was controversial. However, you're making something of a mountain out of my molehill suggestion, IMO. Mostly I was just offering a sort of counterpoint to Egarwaen's observation that anyone is free to link to any other site.

That observation is certainly accurate -- but then the linked site is free to direct the visitor wherever its author likes, too. So it's something of a give and take.

But here's the thing. The referrer field is provided to web sites by browsers as a courtesy, to enable them to track where they're getting traffic from and, in a limited way, handle things like making sure the user always has a navigation frame open. IE, improve the user experience. Using it to redirect users to a page slandering, insulting, or otherwise belittling the page they followed the link from is immature, unprofessional, and a serious abuse of the courtesy - a breach of netiquette far more serious than apologizing for and removing an insulting post on a message board. Even doing so to politely tell them that the link they followed was unauthorized is bad, for the same reasons.

Especially since it breaks another of the foundational principles of the web. Specifically, that URLs always point to the same logical content. (The latest issue of a comic, for example) In this case, they point to different content depending on what the last page you accessed was - an obvious violation of the model!

(To pull out a real-world metaphor, it's like looking at someone's name tag and seeing that they arrived on a bus, then shunting them off into a holding area because you don't like people arriving by bus. The fact that they told you they arrived by bus is a courtesy, which you are rudely abusing.)

I also fail to see how a site having a link to your page can be interpreted as you endorsing the site or being in any way associated with it. That seems to indicate a fundamentally incorrect view of the web's design.

Comment from: John posted at July 10, 2005 11:37 PM

I don't disagree with any of that. But look at the specific case of Queen of Wands. The author asked that she be delisted; Comic Nation neglected to comply. Is she without recourse at that point? Not quite, because she can check the referrers and do something about the situation herself.

We've now had several other authors request to be delisted. It's possible CN will decline to respect some of these requests, too. Again, the authors have a tool at their disposal to make it harder for CN to claim ignorance. Every time a visitor follows the CN link, the author can make her stance clear.

I do agree with gravity that it's a good idea for the author to put up a note on the main page too -- but only because if you're going to make a statement about another site, you probably want as many people to hear it as possible.

(Incidentally, I'm looking back at gravity's post and wondering if I misread one of his objections. I don't think he objects to using the referrer in any situation, as I read it originally. He claims it creates security and privacy issues. Which, of course, it does -- along with the whole internet.)

Comment from: bono posted at July 10, 2005 11:59 PM

Thus far we have complied with the requests of comic artists to be de-listed.

Comment from: Tangent posted at July 11, 2005 3:34 AM

Okay. I just read through (for the first time) this entire argument. I must say that I personally think Aeire was in the right. The comments from bono and crew were unprofessional and adversarial. The decision to arbitarily add her back in the list after her request to be removed, without asking permission, was out and out wrong. And the requests by Shaenon Garrity and others to be removed from that list due to the unprofessional statements made about Aeire and the situation are justified.

I'm just glad Tangents isn't a web comic so I don't have to worry about being added to any such listing. Because I wouldn't want to be affiliated with them after these actions either.

As for this argument, it's gone on long enough. Just let it die, guys. It's not doing either side any good.

Comment from: Detunized gravity posted at July 11, 2005 2:12 PM

I won't comment anymore on the Aeire/CN issue: her answer to my last post is the best I could hope for, I think. Satisfies me. And I don't see why we should stick our nose in this anymore.

As for the more technical issues (referer and such), which I'd be glad to debate about outside of this controversial context, I'll just say that if the CN admins don't kick us out, we might use the "off-topic" forum of CN for that. After all, I now some of them might be interested in the debate. My nick is the same there, and I'll start a thread about the referer later this evening if I find the time (GMT+2 here).

Comment from: John posted at July 12, 2005 9:40 PM

It seems Comic Nation has completely reneged on its promise to de-list those who requested to be removed. I won't even feign surprise at that.

For Shaenon, DJ Coffman and anyone else who now needs to take matters into his/her own hands, here's a better version of the warning script. Again, just copy the whole thing into the <head>...</head> section of your main comic page.


You will need to create warning.html yourself and upload it to the same directory where the main page resides.


<script language="JavaScript" type="text/JavaScript">

<!--

var referString = document.referrer;

var shortString = referString.substr(0,27);

var shorterString = referString.substr(0,23);

if (shortString == "http://www.comic-nation.com" || shorterString == "http://comic-nation.com") {

location.href = "warning.html";

}

//-->

Comment from: John posted at July 12, 2005 9:45 PM

Also, if anyone needs help implementing that script, you can reach me at

john at iconmaster dot com

Comment from: siwangmu posted at July 17, 2005 11:27 PM

Well... all I can say is at least they knew enough not to re-add Queen of Wands.

Comment from: Jared Thaler posted at September 15, 2005 4:39 PM

Umm... I may have missed something, but why the hell are they downloading the entire page's HTML to determine if the page has updated? Isn't that what header requests are for?

1 page HTML ~10 Kb

1 header

Especially since it breaks another of the foundational principles of the web. Specifically, that URLs always point to the same logical content. (The latest issue of a comic, for example) In this case, they point to different content depending on what the last page you accessed was - an obvious violation of the model!

Ummm.... Yeah...

Blogs = time variable information at the same URL

Language Variable web sites = client location variable information at same URL

Secured Web sites = User variable information at URL.

Java Script and CGI in general = variable content a a given URL.

Frankly the concept that a give URL always has static data is valid only for data archiving sites and other static information sites.

Oh, and CN, you are quite probably right, that there is no Law protecting QoW from your linking practices. But if I were you, I would make damn sure that your bot is reading and complying with nobot tags, cause if not what you are doing quite probably constitutes harrasment under your web hosts ToS

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