Linux, politics, and other interesting things
Stewart Smith has written about the removal of a blog from Planet Linux Australia  due to publishing a list of URLs that the Australian government wants to censor.
The first point I want to make is that even if you had a list with thousands of entries that are not likely to offend anyone or incur any legal liability then it’s still not suitable for syndication on most Planet feeds. The correct thing to do is to have a paragraph describing the list and why people would want to read it and then use the MORE feature of your blog so that the rest isn’t in the RSS feed. If you use WordPress which seems to have the MORE function broken then that would mean hosting the list somewhere else.
In regard to the specific post, in a comment on Stewart’s post Matt suggests that the Planet software somehow filter out certain blog posts. I am not aware of any way of doing that apart from through code changes, Matt could submit some patches to allow that sort of thing.
One thing that would be really good would be to have an exclusion tag or category in a blog feed. So you for example you could have feed URLs such as /feed/lca which would be configured to list all posts without the tag not-lca. Another way for a blogger to do this would be to use Yahoo pipes . The people who run a Planet should be prepared to take any feed URL. It would not be difficult for a blogger to create a pipe that excludes all items that have “NSFW” in the title (or any other possible way of listing them).
A final option is to have multiple blogs. I have a blog for documents that I regularly update . Many of those documents had been plain HTML files edited with vi for years before I started blogging. But WordPress is a reasonable CMS and as I use it for blogging it made sense to use it for other documents too. WordPress has no good option for managing two types of documents, ones that are date-based (regular blog posts with the date in the URL) and non-date based (which change periodically and have different date stamps). There are WordPress pages, but the support for having moderate numbers of pages is not great. Also on my document blog I will often have articles appear new regularly as I change the date when updating them. Anyone is welcome to subscribe to the feed for my document blog if they are interested in seeing new versions of the documents, but I expect that most people don’t want to.
The Debian WordPress package (as of last time I used it) and my fork of the Debian WordPress package have great support for multiple blogs. There is WordPress-MU for bulk blog hosting, but that is only designed for people who want to run something like LiveJournal or Blogger. If you just want a few blogs for friends and relatives then the regular Debian WordPress package will do the job well.
Some bloggers maintain two blogs, one for public things and another for close friends and relatives (people who ARE interested in what they ate for breakfast). Having one blog for the NSFW material would be a reasonable thing to do for certain bloggers.
Finally while I doubt that someone who runs a Planet installation faces any legal liability, there is also the issue of a PR liability. From a PR perspective I think it’s best for the reputation of Linux users in Australia for certain things to not appear on Planet Linux Australia. That said it would be good if there was a process for removing and reinstating blogs that was publicly documented. There will obviously be many differences of opinion as to what is too risky to allow on the Planet so we should expect that from time to time feeds will be temporarily removed. When that happens what does a blogger have to do to be done to be syndicated again?
A comment has revealed a way of filtering out RSS feeds via the feed URLs used by wordpress. A URL such as /feed/cat=-X will give a feed of all articles that don’t contain category number X. Multiple categories can be specified when separated by commas. So this allows WordPress users to exclude their NSFW category from Planet Linux Australia.