Imminent death of Salon predicted —Film at 11

· Salon Bloggers, Weblog Concepts

Yesterday I was tipped off by the Raven about this news story in which Salon warned that it might not survive past this month (February, 2003) and that it hasn’t paid any rent on its office space since December. I dropped by the Well (which predates but is currently owned by Salon) to check in on the more-or-less permanent Salon deathwatch thrashes but found nothing beyond a reposting by jonl of the same S.F. Chronicle article linked above.
The Raven nominated me to spearhead an evacuation plan for Salon blogs if one turns out to be necessary, so I’ve started thinking about the issues involved:

  • Change of address: Most likely the old URLs for any Salon blogs hosted at blogs.salon.com will stop working. A bankrupt or liquidated company is not going to maintain the domain name service for the blogs.salon.com subdomain, let alone the salon.com domain. Even if someone acquires the domain as part of an asset sale there’s no reason to suppose they would continue to maintain the blogs subdomain. This means that everyone now using a blogs.salon.com/000xxxx/ URL should be prepared for possibility of losing it and having to move their blog to a new address. As I learned when I moved from blogs.salon.com/000111/ to radiofreeblogistan.com, there are a lot of little hassles involved and it’s like pulling teeth trying to get people to update their links to your blog. It only gets harder as time goes on, though, and an abrupt change is the most difficult to manage, so if you have been considering moving to a new address, I’d think about speeding up that process. I’ll be happy to help with the benefit of my experience in any way feasible for people considering moving their blogs.
  • Hosting space: If Salon goes under, the Salon RCS (Radio community server) will most likely vanish or become inaccessible. Given that people pay for a year of hosting, it’s possible that Userland will honor these agreements and permit Salon bloggers to move their blogs over to weblogs.com. Maybe we could even convince them to set up a salon.weblogs.com subdomain to host old Salon bloggers? Others may prefer to relocate their blogs to a new host. When the time comes we can share experiences on how best to do that.
  • Backing up your content: This is probably as good a time as any to make sure you have backed up your blog’s data and posted entries. You can make a copy of everything in your Radio Userland directory as a crude-but-complete backup at any time. You can also have Radio automatically write a copy of the public blog contents to a backup directory on your local system. I forget how you do this, but I think it’s as easy as checking off a preference. I’ll try to remember and post a reminder here when I do. If you’ve got your Radio software working, then upstreaming your blog to a new address isn’t so hard, especially if it’s going to another RCS.
  • Blog software: If there is no satisfactory hosting continuity solution offered or if you’re planning to move to a custom domain, then you may also at that time want to think about moving to different blog software. I don’t especially recommend this, but I mention it because changing software can be disruptive, but if you’re already moving then it might not be incrementally more difficult to switch at that time. If you need a free hosting solution, for example, you might consider moving to Blogger. If enough people wanted to switch to Movable Type, I could set up another instance of it on my own server and perhaps set up a Salon alumni/refugee community as a subdomain of my mediajunkie.com domain for anyone who wanted to come over there. I’m frankly not sure my little Linux box could handle the traffic or strain, but it might be fun to try. If changing software, you have to do some tricks to migrate your old content to the new application. If needed, I can post some pointers here for the necessary tools and advice from people who’ve made the moves. It’s always best when you can learn from someone else’s mistakes!
  • The Salon Blog community: All of the above deal with technicalities and logisticts, but the real question Raven asked has to do with how to keep the Salon bloggers together as a community. Right now, many of us read each other’s blogs, link to each other, appear in Virtual Occoquan, and so on. It would be a shame to lose out on that along with losing our favorite online magazine. One way or another, I’m sure we can maintain the links, although we might become a sort of alumni organization, as I doubt any new people will join a group centered around an obsolete magazine. There are already the Salon bloggers webring and Yahoo group setup by Kriselda of Different Strings, so that’s a good start. We could come up with a logo or badge and share it. One interesting question will be what Scott Rosenberg would plan to do in the aftermath of a Salon shutdown. He may wish to take a hiatus from blogging or he may be in the same boat with the rest of us. I think we should all talk about what steps we can take to maintain a feeling of community, to the extent that we’ve managed to do so thus far.

Note: Aaron of Tenorman (formerly 10’s Links) tells me that he has completed his move to Tenorman.net, so he may have some advice on how to make the move to a new host and new software.
I may be overlooking some crucial issues. If so, please add your suggestions. I realize also that this may be premature. We’ve all heard the doomsayers before. But an ounce of prevention and all that, right?