These are the rules and policies under which I operate this website. This page was last updated on 7 February 2008.
In brief: My website, my rules. You’re welcome to get your own website and say whatever you want there.
Comments may be moderated — that is, if you haven’t posted a comment here before, the system may keep your comment “on hold” until I’ve looked at it. Since I do sleep occasionally, that could take hours. Be patient.
In general, I will publish a comment if it’s interesting, if it advances the discussion or is otherwise entertaining.
I may choose not to publish your comment:
- If you’re making personal attacks.
- If you’re way off the topic of the discussion.
- If you seem incapable of assembling a coherent sentence.
- If you don’t say much beyond “That’s nice,” or “Yeah I agree,” or “That’s crap.” By all means tell me what you think, but explain yourself.
- If I’m in a bad mood.
- For any goddam reason I like.
My website, my rules.
When you post a comment, you’ll be asked for your name (it doesn’t have to be real, but if you want to stay anonymous then to prevent confusion pick a name that’s not already being used by someone else), email address (not published) and, optionally, the address of your website.
If your comment is particularly controversial, I will check that your email address is “real” before publishing your comment. I will also email you if I choose not to publish your comment, to explain why.
I do read all comments, but if I don’t have anything to say in response I may not post a reply.
I reserve the right to edit your comments. This is usually limited to fixing obvious typing errors and grammatical mistakes — i.e. to make you look better — or to link to background information about what you’re saying. If your typing or grammar is particularly bad, I’ll leave it intact so everyone can see what a fool you are.
Please be aware that my friends and other commenters will often get away with saying things that strangers can’t. That’s human nature. Please also be aware that I and many of my commenters have a sense of irony.
Website privacy policies usually start with the words “We value your privacy,” and then go on to explain how they’ll give your personal information to pretty much anyone and everyone. This policy, however, starts with a clear statement of fact.
This is the Internet. You have no privacy. You gave up your privacy the day you connected your computer to the grid. What I’ll do with your private information is the least of your worries.
When you look at this website, my web server records the exact time of your visit, and keeps track of everything you look at and how long you stay here.
It records your Internet (IP) address, and from that I can work out which Internet Service Provider (ISP) you use, and roughly where you are — Sydney versus San Francisco versus Baghdad or whatever — unless you use advanced technical means to hide yourself. It also records the operating system of your computer, the type of web browser you use, and a few minor technical things.
It records what hyperlink you followed to reach this website. If you came here as the result of a search on Google or Yahoo! or Live Search or whatever, I’ll know what you were searching for.
All that stuff is standard for pretty much every website on the planet, so you shouldn’t be shocked.
I keep that detailed information for about a month, after which I only keep the summary reports (which don’t have your individual data). I keep the summary reports “forever”. The detailed information might live on in my system backups, but I’m unlikely to look for it.
If you post a comment, you have to leave your email address — which I sometimes check to make sure it’s real. The web server also puts a cookie on your computer so it knows when you come back and your second and subsequent comments are pre-approved.
If you vote in the Weekly Poll, another cookie is put on your computer to prevent you voting twice. If you’ve also left a comment, the system cross-matches that data, so I can see how you voted.
I keep that information “forever”.
I don’t look at this stuff very often, and I certainly I won’t give your information to anyone else without a police warrant or court order or somesuch. However, I do browse through it to figure out how I can create a more interesting website, to help fix a technical problem or sometimes, to be honest, just out of sheer curiosity.
For example, if you post a particularly interesting or particularly nasty comment, I might check out what search brought you here and what pages you’ve read. I might mention that to some people, but I won’t tell them your email address or anything that’d make it easy to identify you.
I take the usual technical steps to keep this information secure — but let’s face it, this isn’t MI5 and I don’t really spend a lot of time on network security. Neither do most businesses.
All this information is kept on the server in plain text (i.e. not encrypted), so in theory it could be read by any of the systems administrators at our data centre in San Francisco or our support team in India. I have no real way of knowing who they are or if they look at anything.
Sometimes I walk away from my desk without logging out — so my boyfriend or other visitors could sneak a peek. Unlikely, but it’s possible. I really should fix that…
Like many websites, I use Google Analytics for deeper analysis of what people look at — especially when doing things like The Heath Ledger Experiment. All of your click-track data and other stuff is sent to Google, and they insert their own code into my web pages, so only the Gods know what they do.
Then there’s everyone between you and me…
All of the data that travels between your computer and this website goes through your ISP’s systems, across the Internet through maybe a dozen or two dozen computers, through our data centre’s ISPs and then through the data centre. Anyone who has access to any of those computers — that is, all their technical staff or, if someone’s made a mistake, any random hacker who’s broken in — could be monitoring everything you and I do. There’s no way of knowing.
We can’t really do anything about that, apart from encrypting all of our communication — but it has to be decrypted on your computer anyway so you can read it. For all we know, Microsoft or Apple or Firefox or the makers of any of the software you use could be monitoring what you do. Again, we have no real way of knowing.
And speaking of MI5…
That’s nothing new either. Throughout history, spy agencies have made secret deals with telephone and telegraph companies, postal services and every other major form of communication — all the way back to Queen Elizabeth I and her spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham, and probably well before that.
However, there’s more than a billion people using the Internet, and the spooks have finite budgets. So unless you really are a threat to global security (or a complete fuckwit), they’re probably not going to worry about you reading my website. Or if they do, they’ll just write “mostly harmless” on your file and move on.
On the other hand, these days telephone and computer taps can be ordered by federal and state police, and even local councils. In the UK, for instance, they can bug your phone to see if you’re dumping rubbish illegally!
Then there’s the criminals… but hey you get the picture. Basically, you can’t win. You have no privacy.
So, what can you do if you want to know what personal information I hold about you?
Well technically, since I’m a very small business, under Australian law I don’t have to bother with Privacy Act provisions. Nevertheless, if you ask politely, I’ll probably dig out what I know about you. If it looks like it’ll take a bit of effort, or I’m busy, I might charge you a small fee.
I’m not God, and I’m not your mother.
I’m only human, and so are the majority of my commenters. There may well be things on this website which are wrong, misleading, stupid, offensive to some, incomprehensible or politically or logically unsound.
Take responsibility for your own actions, and deal with it. Don’t blame me for any problems in your life.