Site Notes

Brief Site Notes on Upcoming Activism Page and More

I have been throwing together an activism page for the site in my fleeting spare time the last week or so. It is still very much in the works, but it would be a lot easier to build with some help from the community. The intention of the page is to list a wide variety of forms of activism, include related resources for doing them, and provide examples of others who have done this type of activism in the past.

You can find the page which is currently in the works here:
http://www.911blogger.com/activism

Please, please, please, keep in mind that this is just a first swipe. I am sharing it for the purposes of having others chip in on the effort. Eventually this section will replace the 'quotes' tab at the top of the site. At the top of the activism page there is a link to contact us with submissions and suggestions for the page. If you would like to chip in please contact us via the link at the top of the page!

On a side note, I am still working on the new form of blog ratings/moderation. It is still my top priority, but it is going to take a bit longer. In the mean time the team members of the site may turn down some blog entries. It is not my intention for us to always be in charge of what is and what is not published to the blog page, but that is how it has to be for now. I hope to have something in place within the coming weeks, but that will depend on how things go.

Best wishes all!

Changes to Blog Entry Submissions

Blog entries submitted will no longer instantly appear in the blog section. Blog entries must now be approved or rejected by the Team+Members of this site.

There are numerous reasons why this change had to be made. In simplest terms this change had to be made to preserve the integrity of this site. Before this change anyone could setup an account and post whatever they wish instantly. While this is great in terms of free-speech, it is bad in that this type of system is open to abuse. While we have been relatively lucky in that no one has gone to the extremity of posting pornography, viruses, etc., we cannot continue to leave this door open and wait for even worse abuses of the system to occur.

Obviously this will put the team members of this site into the position of deciding what blog entries will and won't be posted. Until we have such a system that this moderation can be put into the hands of the community instead, we will make the decisions as to what is and what isn't published. Please keep in mind that there may be times in which blog entries go hours before being approved.

We fully expect these changes to spawn a wave of comments regarding our 'covering up' this, or 'being CIA' that, but I trust that users of this site over the last 2 years would understand that these steps are necessary to ensure that the intentions of the blog section are not abused.

For further information on the intent of the blog entry section please see: Misuse of User Blogs and Commenting Abilities.

New Poll Up

Sorry for taking so long to replace the poll. It doesn't take but a second.. You should see the question on the left hand panel, or find it here:
When did you first get involved with 9/11 activism? (Activism, not questioning)

Here were the results of the last poll:

When was the last time you handed out flyers, DVDs, etc.?
Created 2006-06-18 16:25

47% (81 votes) - Last 48 Hours
16% (27 votes) - Last Week
10% (17 votes) - Last 2 Weeks
9% (16 votes) - Last Month
1% (2 votes) - Last 3 Months
17% (30 votes) - Longer than 3 Months

Total votes: 173

Also, here is a question that can't be a poll:

How can this site be made more productive for activism?
Right now all we have is the 'action items' panel on the left, and the 'events' tab at the top. What could we do to help facilitate group activism, or is it really up to the users?

Two New Site Features and Other Changes

I just added two new features to the site. Neither of these are major, but were requested by a number of users and should come in handy for some.

User Contact Forms
User's can now contact other users privately. To allow someone to contact you privately click 'my account' on the left hand panel, and edit your settings to have 'Personal contact form' checked. To contact another user view their profile (click their name), and click the 'contact' tab. If the user allows private messages then you will see a contact form, otherwise you will be notified that the user does not allow private messages. Anonymous users are not allowed to contact you. These private messages are sent via email, and are not archived on this site. Please note that your email address is NOT made public by doing this. However, if you contact a user your message will be listed as coming from your email address. So in other words, if you contact someone they will see your email address, but if someone contacts you they won't see your email address (unless you reply to the email obviously).

Printer Friendly Pages
Now when you view a blog entry or news story you will see a 'printer friendly version' link at the bottom of the post. If you click on this link you will be taken to a page which removes all of the site themeing, ads, etc. and will get a 'printer friendly' page to print. This will take all of the links in the article, insert appropriate notations next to the text that is linked, and provide a listing of web references at the bottom of the page. This feature should be pretty handy. You can get an idea of how it works by checking out this article and then see how it appears when it is printer friendly.

If there are any obvious issues with these new features please let me know. Also, please be sure to update your profile if you would like to allow other users to send you private messages.

New Users Should Review Site Rules

We have received a number of new users in the past few days. New users are encouraged to visit the site, review our site's posts throughout the last 2 years, and get a feel for the site. Likewise, users are encouraged to review the stated rules of this site as well.

It is apparent that someone has sent out word that this site is the '#1 debating forum' for 9/11 theories. This is flatly untrue. This is a community site for people to stay on top of 9/11 related news, it is not a website devoted to endless arguments and bitter rivalries. To some degree we all here have to agree to look past our differences and work together for a greater cause. This site is NOT a 'debate forum'. In fact it is NOT a 'forum' at all. It is a NEWS website, which ALLOWS users to post blog entries related to 9/11 related news and information.

It is also apparent that some of these new users are intent on proving that this site is somehow 'covering up' whatever their pet subject may be. This point is solidly refuted time and time again by simply reviewing the history of this site and the blog entries which have been posted here. Users who may be moderated, have a blog entry removed, etc. are encountering this moderation because of a violation of our stated rules.

View the general rules here: Rules
Read about what is generally considered misuse of our user blogs section here: Misuse of User Blogs and Commenting Abilities

We welcome all new users regardless of their views, but we will not tolerate the abuse and misuse of this site's user blogs abilities.

Details on Recent Fund Raising Usage

Here are the details of the new ads we are running. It should be noted that all of the money for these ads came from the generous contributions from visitors like you, and that any money that is donated to this site will always be used for advertising such as this, and will NOT go into any of our pockets.

Period: 09/10/2006 - 10/15/2006
Total Raised: $1345.94
(From Donations: $1238.20)
(From Blogads: $104.74)
Ad Purchase: $1350.00

Please note that we have not received any funds from the google ads we are running yet, however these will most likely go towards offsetting the hosting costs once we do. Also, the funds from blogads we run are highly delayed, so the amount listed above does not reflect the blogad purchases during the period listed.

The new ads were purchased on bradblog.com for 1 month, and on newshounds.us for 1 week. I think from here on out we should try to do 1 month long ads as these types of ads may get people in the hang of checking out the site multiple times a week, and in turn build recurring visitors.

A big thanks to all of those who chipped in on this ad run, including multiple users who donated over $100. I hope that viewers here will continue to see the usefulness in these ads, and that users will continue to contribute to this effort knowing that all of the money donated goes towards helping spread the news of recent 9/11 related news and events.

On a side note, we have been getting some new visitors emailing us with questions. We will be encouraging these users to post blog entries about their questions, etc. and it would be most useful for people to respond with useful information!

Thank you!

New Blogads Submitted

Just submitted 2 new blogads to run. Hopefully these will be approved sometime tomorrow. I will post a new blog entry when they are up with details on how much was spent, where the ads will run, and for how long.

In the mean time, if you have a few bucks to throw our way please do. If we can get a decent amount of donations in the next 24 hours then I can go ahead and run this same ad on another blog(s) as well.

A big thanks to all those that have contributed to this project. While running these ads doesn't solve our problems, they do keep 9/11 questions on people's minds, and it does show that we have a growing presence and sparks awareness.

Here is the image for the new ads, I'll post the text and all the details tomorrow night once the ads are accepted:

We got 'dugg' today

We got 'dugg' today via the southpark video thread. The link was actually briefly #1 in the 'political news' section, and was on the front page of digg.com for a couple of hours. You can see from above that the site got the most hits since the 5th anniversary, and actually it was a lot more demanding since the majority of those hits came in within the 2-3 hours that we were prominently listed on digg.com. While the server did choke a little bit at the initial 4000 visitors in one hour, it did not go down, and even when it was hit hardest it did still respond, although taking about a minute to display at the very beginning. Simply put, the site was hit many times harder than it had been hit on our busiest day so far (9/11/2006), and it managed to stay up - unlike our last server which in turn went down for over 5 hours from the load. So, I must say I am incredibly glad that we switched to the new server, and it appears that it is able to handle a pretty impressive load, although there is room to upgrade if we ever need to.

I have been royally swamped trying to stay afloat on the site here this week. Quite simply the moderation of comments is getting out of hand. So far the +1/-1 system is working ok, and I will probably start assigning actions to those values at the beginning of the week. What this will mean is that the team members of this site will no longer be the primary control of what comments are removed, but rather that when a given threshold is hit the comment will be removed. So, if you see a comment and think 'that should be removed' then please just vote it down and move on, I am currently using these numbers to scan for the worst of the worst whenever I am around to moderate/cleanup the comments.

Please Stop Posting Blog Entries Not Related to 9/11

Please do not post blog entries which are not related to 9/11, and I don't mean 7 degrees of seperation either.

If it isn't related to 9/11 directly then please don't post it, it just serves to flood out the other blog entries which are. Non-9/11 related blog entries will be unpublished.

Quick Note on New CAPTCHA System for Anonymous Comments

Just a quick note about the new CAPTCHA system I just enabled..

We got hit with about 35 or so spam comments today from spambots. In order to continue to allow anonymous comments we had to put something in place that would prevent these spambots from coming back more and more frequently. The CAPTCHA system we put in place will ask a simple math question to anonymous users before they can add a comment in order to show they are a real person and not an automated script. I went with the math question over the typical distorted image because frequently those can be a pain to work with.

Hopefully this won't cause anyone any issues, but should get rid of the spambots.

p.s. the content of this site is now 100% indexed (and updated every other hour), so the search abilities on the site are totally killer now, be sure to try it out next time your looking for something.

Update: I decided to switch to the image mode instead of the math questions since apparently some might think the math question was completely pointless and not realize what it is for.

Misuse of User Blogs and Commenting Abilities

It has become somewhat apparent that the blog section of the site has been misunderstood by some users. Likewise it has become equally as apparent that the comments from some users are directly against the Rules of this site. So far we have pretty much just let the blog section go on its own, and likewise have been very lenient on the comments as well, but as the site continues on it is becoming more obvious that we need to explain what the purpose of the blog section actually is, and what is actually an abuse of the system.

The purpose of user blogs is to facilitate users posting news entries on their own (without an immediate reliance on the team members), to facilitate users sharing personal stories related to 9/11 activism, and to post opinion pieces on current events and 9/11 related news. It is NOT the purpose of user blogs to facilitate continuing arguments on individual topics or opinions, to publicly question members of the community, or to post short pot-shots at other users.

Likewise, the purpose of the comments section is to facilitate users sharing their thoughts on the topic of the post, to link to further information related to the post, and to ask genuine questions about the subject matter. It is NOT the purpose of the comments section to facilitate personal attacks, post under-handed attacks, post profane images, confront other members of the community, or to facilitate user-to-user flame wars.

Site Notes on Recent Server Switch and User Rating/Voting

The server switch over the weekend went relatively well, although there was one hickup. If you tried to contact us via the feedback forms between Friday night and Monday at about 2PM EST then we probably did not get your submission. I had tested this functionality before the switch, but the new domain caused an issue that went unnoticed. Please contact us again if you submitted something that we might have missed.

Aside from that, you'll notice that there are a couple new features I turned on tonight.

One of them is blog entry rating. All blog entries now allow logged in users to rate a given entry, and will display the overall rating of the entry. Basically you choose between a 1 and 10 star rating based on the blog entry. Your rating should be some mixture of rating the quality of the post (profanity, spelling, well written, etc.) and your rating of the content itself. You should also note that you can go back and change your rating later. This would be useful if a user posts a great entry, but has bad spelling or grammer. In this example you could give it a mediocre rating and leave some helpful comments, and then later rate it higher once it is improved. This functionality eventually may be used to promote blog entries to the front page, or to a 'top rated' blog entries block, note exactly sure yet.

The other new thing that is added is the vote up/down abilities in the comments. At the moment this just shows the total number of points a comment has (+1 for positive, -1 for negative), but eventually this rating will be used to publish/un-publish comments so that the community as a whole can do the comment moderation and not rely on a Team Member catching the spam, trolls, etc. etc. I would ask that you not go through and vote up/down every single comment, that is NOT the point, and that may cause extra stress on the site. The point is to give credit for good comments with good sources and insight, and to moderate inappropriate comments.

Right now this new functionality is definitely just in test mode, it may turn out that we go with some other solution. Right now I am just trying to garner how it is used, and from there judge what actions should be associated with given votes/ratings.

If you have some comments on the new functionality feel free to post it here, but please keep in mind this is just a test, and we are somewhat limited with the currently available solutions. Likewise this functionality may be taken down if it doesn't work as desired.

(you'll note you can rate this entry since it is a blog entry, as I stated above news stories will not show rating stars)

DNS Switch in Progress

You are currently on the new server, however the DNS has not yet been switched. You may run into some issues with links that link to internal pages until this switch has completed in the next 2-3 days. You should still be able to use the site, but expect to have some issues here and there until the transition is complete.

Thanks for your patience.

Details on Upcoming Site Downtime

I mentioned last week that we would be switching servers to better keep up with site traffic. I am going to begin that transition tomorrow afternoon (Friday Sept. 29th). I'm not sure of the exact time that the site will be taken down, it may be as early as 6PM or as late as midnight.

The site switch is going to require us moving to a new VPS host, and is going to require a DNS switch. Likewise the old site will have to be taken down and moved over to the new site, so the site will be unavailable for a period of time during which I move over the data and the DNS propagates. In other words, the site will be down Friday evening for a few hours.

The new site should provide us with a lot of room to grow, and should get rid of the 'CPU Quota' errors that currently occur whenever the site has 50+ people hitting the site concurrently. Likewise this switch should prevent the site from going down during periods in which our traffic greatly increases (like it did on the 5th anniversary). The switch to the new site may be somewhat bumpy, but I have done what I can to ensure that the downtime is as minimal as possible. I would really appreciate it if everyone could be patient with us during the transition this weekend.

Once the new site is up and running I will be getting back to some of the other pressing issues on the site, specifically the need for user based content moderation and promotion.

On a side note, we are going to be running a new bunch of ads once the site is back up. If you have any suggestions for what sites to run ads on, or what the focus of the ads should be feel free to post them.

A Few Quick Site Notes

A few notes on the site, what's coming up, how things are going, etc. etc.

Updated the blogads on the site to support their new 3.0 code.. Once the current ads are done running the old panel will be removed, but for now both panels are showing so that the page hits can start being tracked in their new system. The 'Advertise here' link re-appeared with the switch, so that's one problem I don't have to track down..

Most of you are probably aware of the 4 hour downtime on 9/11. This was of course due to the massive number of hits we got that day. Apparently for some only the day of 9/11 warrants any interest in the subject matter. Since then the site has been running relatively well, but that includes anywhere from 0 to 5 'CPU Quota' errors a day. When these occur the site goes down for about 2-3 minutes, it is more an annoyance than anything, but this is just a reminder that we have outgrown our current hosting solution, and that if/when we get hit again we can expect the same downtime.

So, with that in mind I went ahead and bought into a VPS hosting solution late last week. This setup will provide us a guaranteed CPU allotment, and if we max it out then we max it out, we won't be shutdown for overloading anyone else on the host. This VPS also has a great upgrade path for future growth. It is somewhat amusing to me that our first host switches were done because of bandwidth (2+ Terrabytes monthly), and that now our issue is CPU usage, I never would have guessed that CPU was one of the main limiting factors for high traffic sites.

(more after the jump..)