tom moody

jogging, you were no martin luther king

It's been noted many times that favorable attention can crash a website. In the old days a thumbs-up from slashdot could drive traffic to your site that exceeded your host's bandwidth limitations. This was called being "slashdotted." Atrios regularly crashed bloggers he was trying to help.

A blog called The Jogging apparently thought it was the first to notice this phenomenon and arranged a demonstration: its posts on tumblr on a certain date would be intensified (I forget how--large hotlinked image files or something) so that massive traffic would be directed to a site that The Jogging's readers voted to deem most worthy of a love/hate homage. The project was couched alternatively as a tribute and an act of civil disobedience -- the ballot to determine which site to crash was very confusing but seemed purposefully radical when written in The Jogging's trademark high conceptualist style.

Tumblr objected to being used for a DDos attack -- of course -- and gave The Jogging till yesterday to pull down its call for lovebombing. The Jogging then took a poll of its readers to determine how to respond to tumblr's edict. Despite framing the poll question to make goading tumblr seem like a heroic act -- should I stick to my saintly principles and be shut down? -- the people spoke and said "yes, Jogging please go detourne yourself."

Now we won't have The Jogging to kick around anymore. (Why do I think it will be back tomorrow?)

There are easier ways to shut down a blog you don't want to write than committing "suicide by tumblr" and couching it as a noble deed. Or maybe that's too harsh and cynical, and The Jogging's author, Brad Troemel, genuinely believed he was accomplishing something by sticking his foot out to trip an elderly lady walking down the sidewalk. Wherever he pops up next, one hopes he will (a) write in a normal, conversational style, and (b) cover work he likes instead of thinking up feisty social interventionist projects that annoy people on an already-turbulent-enough Internet.

Update: I deliberately left out an earlier phase of the project, which got another website shut down. Troemel's version was supposed to be a protest, or something. Like so many of his projects it is too complicated to explain, and not in a good way, so I tried to simplify it. Another blog may be writing about this and I will try to do another update to correct any inaccuracies. In any case the issues of flooding other sites for art or agitiprop were all hashed out 10 years ago.

Update 2: OK, here is the sentence above that needs clarification: "The project was couched alternatively as a tribute and an act of civil disobedience -- the ballot to determine which site to crash was very confusing but seemed purposefully radical when written in The Jogging's trademark high conceptualist style." Apparently the ballot wasn't to determine which site to crash but in whose name jstchillin.org, which was already shut down, was to be crashed (or it is it re-crashed?). Glad we could clear this up.

Update 3: jstchillin.org still has pages up so this "protest" seems pretty bogus.

Update 4: We are discussing this non-discussable project at Paddy's. On a slow news day it's sometimes good to kick around a pointless topic just to keep conversational skills honed. "Did you hear about the guy that crashed his own site?" "Yeah, it was some kind of protest, or maybe he did it for love, or something." "Rad."

Update 5: Brad Troemel has responded ad infinitum on Paddy's blog. From his text full of favorable self-comparisons to conceptualist artists and scholars, I confirmed, at least, that my understanding of the project was correct. Please ignore the "clarification" in Update 2 above. Troemel has bigger fish to microwave than just the paradoxical effect of slashdotting; he believes he is exposing the systems of control beneath "helpful" Web 2.0 hosts. But everyone knows you can get bounced from a plane for talking (or joking) about a bomb in the security queue, and threats of cyber-mayhem similarly have hosts in a panic--this is not a stunning insight about the modern world.

Update 6, June 2012: The Jogging has reappeared on Tumblr. Reading back over my post and updates above, with hindsight, the issue of how much freedom you have on the 2.0 sites isn't necessarily stale but why pick on Tumblr when the 800 pound gorilla is Facebook? Two reasons I can think of: Tumblr is the easier target and a sizeable segment of left academia has agreed on Facebook as a digital commons and gives it a pass.

- tom moody

October 26th, 2010 at 6:59 am

Posted in general