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Goodbye to Salon's Table Talk
May 25, 2011 12:01 AM   Subscribe

Scott Rosenberg on the end of Salon's Table Talk. They're deleting 16 years of messages on June 10, with nothing indexed by Archive.org or anywhere else.
posted by Yakuman (55 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
So they can't afford a DVD burner?
posted by PenDevil at 12:16 AM on May 25, 2011


Maybe just maybe...the content just aint worth it.
posted by hal_c_on at 12:30 AM on May 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


its pages were readable by anyone, but you needed to pay to post. That insured its survival but also assured its marginality.

Hmm...
posted by Sys Rq at 12:50 AM on May 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


Shame they're not archiving any of it.
posted by klangklangston at 1:01 AM on May 25, 2011


16 years of content, primarily text. You could archive this shit for, maybe, $1000 max. Stick it on S3, christ, buy a USB harddrive from Radio Shack for $60. Why just flat out delete it?

Even just delete robots.txt and let the Wayback Machine at it?

What's wrong with these jackasses?
posted by Happy Dave at 1:05 AM on May 25, 2011 [22 favorites]


I remember when Salon's big thing was making you watch a commercial before you could see the site. And like my boss thought that was a good idea, so he had me work that into the CMS I was building for his site. And like he was gonna implement it, but somehow the deal kept falling through, and then it became obvious that Salon never made anymoney, and that their whole idea was a bad idea, and I think they wound up scrapping the whole thing anyway.

heh.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:20 AM on May 25, 2011


My wife's been posting on this thing for years. Got some of her best advice on there about me, our son, her career, damn near everything. These people really are screwing over a lot of folks who put lots of time and care and effort into building and maintaining a community. Imagine how you'd feel if mathowie all of a sudden said, ok, we're pulling the plug next week, everything's being deleted. Oh, and you have no way of archiving anything. What a bunch of jackasses, no wonder salon is going under.
posted by waitingtoderail at 1:20 AM on May 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Sounds like a job for Archive Team! (?)

Also, Digg did pretty much the same thing after their big redesign, only they didn't even grant users the courtesy of a warning that ~5 years of user-submitted content was about to be tossed down the memory hole. If I'd known, I could have backed up every one of my comments from a handy third-party site in about five minutes. Instead, I lost access to a sizable chunk of my online writing dating back to 2007.

For a site that subsists entirely on community content, that's simply inexcusable.
posted by Rhaomi at 1:26 AM on May 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


I see my commenting history as more akin to conversation than anything else. It always suprises me that people might want to save what they've said online. This is not to snark at those who want to keep what they've said. It's just not my viewpoint. I'd happily see my ephemeral conversational metafilter history deleted.

Given the huge amount of information that modern society is producing I suspect that the mark of how well we archive for the future will be based on what we selectively destroy and not how much we keep.

There's also an issue of copyright. It says that I retain copyright of my words on metafilter. If the site were to die, it's probably going to be harder to get me / my descendants to grant publishing rights than it is to wholesale delete everything.
posted by seanyboy at 2:01 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


And I hate to break it to people, but it's up to you to keep copies of the things you produce.
posted by seanyboy at 2:02 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Don't worry, your data is still in the cloud. The cloud of metallic mist produced when the old hard drives are incinerated.
posted by benzenedream at 2:20 AM on May 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


Isn't it trivial to set a robot to scan and archive it?
posted by Sebmojo at 2:32 AM on May 25, 2011


Terrible. There was some great stuff around on Table Talk.
posted by rodgerd at 2:41 AM on May 25, 2011


Aw, I loved Table Talk, especially the Mothers Who Think section. My best friend registered so she could announce my son's birth in the pregnancy thread while I was still in the hospital. Then they had a big outages, weeks and weeks, around 2001. Some people went to the Well, some to World Crossing (?). I just got out of the habit and never went back.

. to my first giant Internet time-waster.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 3:13 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


See also: the sudden death of Guardian Talk ...
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 4:14 AM on May 25, 2011


We can't discuss the reasons behind it, save to say that it wasn't possible to give you advance notice of the closure on Friday, .
[. . . .]
- We didn't have any other viable option on Friday other than shutting the boards down without warning.
Sudden suit by a patent troll? Or is this more fallout from the UK's secret gag orders?
posted by orthogonality at 4:20 AM on May 25, 2011


Imagine how you'd feel if mathowie all of a sudden said, ok, we're pulling the plug next week, everything's being deleted. Oh, and you have no way of archiving anything.
This is exactly what happened to Guardian Talk. Ten years of communities, numerous marriages and babies, and then suddenly it was all gone.

There's rumous abound as to why, but we think this has something to do with it. The discourse there was intelligent, but riven with foul-mouthed in-jokes (there were at least two celebrities who would get the user banned if they were mentioned by name, such were the stories about radiator pissing and necrophilia that became common tropes on the site; there was also liberal use of all the words you can't say on television). The guy was a major troll in the news section, and because he was an old white guy living in Thailand, you can guess where the jokes headed. After printing off comments, tracking down two of the posters' employers and sending it to them (yes, really - one got fired, and one left his job pretty quickly) he apparently brought a suit against the Guardian.

I really miss it. I miss the stupid threads about Gaz Top and the ones which just consisted of repeating a paragraph about Noel Edmonds and the Late, Late Show in as many convoluted ways as possible.
posted by mippy at 4:44 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or maybe it's a stand on principle - that it started out when people didn't really have a clear idea of how indelible their words would be, and making it eternally searchable would be in some way unfair. In which case, it's sort of admirable.

That said, is there a technical reason why someone couldn't go to it while it still exists, fire up Scrapbook and suck the whole site down?
posted by running order squabble fest at 4:57 AM on May 25, 2011


From Salon's announcement:

The Web evolved in various ways, and search engines began displaying results from forums, which changed the context for Table Talkers. TTers asked that Google and other search tools not supply results from these forums, and Salon listened. While that preference cut both traffic and possible ad revenue, it made Table Talk feel comfortable to many.


So it sounds like the lack of an archive was in large part due to the forum participants themselves.

Still, I can't help but think this will ultimately hurt Salon's bottom line. I can't remember when I first came across Salon.com, but it must have been shortly after it was launched in the mid to late 90's. The quality of the writing and the wide range of subjects interested me, in a way comparable to two of my favorite print magazines, Smithsonian and Atlantic Monthly. When they went to a subscription model I was more than willing to pay, just as I pay for the print magazines listed above (among others). In fact, it was one of only three websites I thought were worth paying an annual subscription for, the others being Consumer Reports and Cooks Illustrated (although I would gladly pay each year for MeFi if it came to that). During the 2000's, though, I liked it less. The writing became more politically oriented and although I agreed with most of what was written, that wasn't what had first attracted me. Then a couple of years ago they introduced their latest website design which was cluttered and required too many clicks just to read an article. About that time my subscription lapsed and I decided not to renew it. Since then they have cleaned up the website a little, but each time I think about subscribing again they drop something or someone else that I liked; I was always a big fan of Tom Tomorrow and Keith Knight in the comics section, for exmple. Now that entire subsite has been whittled away until it is just reprints of a few editorial cartoons each week. I never was a participant in Table Talk, but clearly many others liked it. It seems that more and more of their site will be whittled away until it is just Joan Walsh, Glenn Greenwald, and Patrick Smith. I still read all 3, but not as often as I used to, and I am certainly not interested in paying for a site that is losing features as time passes.
posted by TedW at 5:12 AM on May 25, 2011


It always suprises me that people might want to save what they've said online.

I imagine spending my last year confined to a hospital bed, in a palliative fog, reviewing my life through online archives.
posted by StickyCarpet at 5:41 AM on May 25, 2011 [10 favorites]


It always suprises me that people might want to save what they've said online.

I'm going to be the last generation without a detailed electronic record of every moment of my life, I think.
posted by empath at 5:48 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've been reading Salon since its very beginning but in the last couple of years I've been mostly just looking at the home page and not reading most of the articles. Some days I don't read any of them at all. I'm not exactly sure why, but TedW brought up some of the bigger issues. The "click to read the rest of the article" feature was most frustrating for me, as I had to upgrade to Firefox 4 for that to actually work. Oh well.
posted by tommasz at 5:48 AM on May 25, 2011


wget -e robots=off --wait 1 http://tabletalk.salon.com
posted by cavalier at 5:56 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, that's sad. For one last hurrah, the original thread of Dogs in Elk.
posted by headspace at 6:08 AM on May 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


It boggles the mind that corporate sites can with one side of their mouth praise a community's energy, intelligence and spirit over the years yet with the other say, "We're not going to bother to help the community archive this at all, thanks."

How easy would it be to talk to Archive Team *ahead of time* and arrange for an archiving process that can be announced at the same time as the closure? Or to say, "We appreciate that some of you may want the full archive and will keep it available until you find a way to do that?"

How fucking easy would that be? Instead, you get this "THREE WEEKS AND IT'S GONE" bullshit that could only have come from someone who honestly doesn't give a shit. It shows very clearly. Good job, Salon.
posted by mediareport at 6:32 AM on May 25, 2011


Can we go back to UseNet now?
posted by pashdown at 7:01 AM on May 25, 2011


In all seriousness, is anyone archiving it already? Because I have disk and bandwidth to spare if nobody else is, but I don't want to duplicate efforts.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:04 AM on May 25, 2011


What are the terms and rights in play here? Could someone archive out the content and then create a new forum for TTers to use?
posted by bonaldi at 7:10 AM on May 25, 2011


Re: archiving Table Talk - users there have long had access to a script called Threadsuck that downloads entire discussion threads, so they've been making their own individual archives all along as desired.

I started posting on TT sometime in 98 or 99, and quickly formed some great friendships with a handful of folks who hung out there in a thread called the Disco Ball. Most of us left when Salon started charging for TT, as the rates they were asking were too high. We, along with a huge number of others, re-created our community at The Atlantic, because at the time it was free and used the same forum software we were all used to. When The Atlantic started charging too (I think they were also flummoxed by this sudden appearance of a whole community of people from elsewhere), we left again, this time for WorldCrossing.com, which was originally the "demo" site for the WebCrossing forum software. We stuck it out there for years, through lots of ups and downs as the software aged and the company stopped supporting it. Finally just a couple months ago they shut off WorldCrossing too.

But my gang of friends is still together. We bought our own domain and are running our own show now. Many of us have met in person over the years so now our "virtual" friendships are very real indeed. But while it's great to not be afraid of some corporate mucky muck pulling the plug on us again, sometimes we miss the way being part of a larger board and site could bring in fun new people. (Of course sometimes it brought in trolls, drunks, and the occasional complete fraud who spun wild life stories to create drama and sympathy...)
posted by dnash at 7:12 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


waitingtoderail: ". Imagine how you'd feel if mathowie all of a sudden said, ok, we're pulling the plug next week, everything's being deleted. Oh, and you have no way of archiving anything. What a bunch of jackasses, no wonder salon is going under."

Pro-tip: mathowie, you do that, and there might be a head of a dead horse on your bed come morning. Just sayin'.
posted by symbioid at 7:17 AM on May 25, 2011


I imagine spending my last year confined to a hospital bed, in a palliative fog, reviewing my life through online archives.

... so sort of a digital Krapp's Last Tape then.
posted by madamjujujive at 7:25 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


. to the passing of TT. I was part of that community for well nigh 10 years and am still friends with folks I met online there (some of whom I've actually met in person, imagine!).

About saving/archiving content: discussion threads on TT would be deactivated when they hit a certain post count and deleted after a certain period of time once they'd hit that limit or been inactive. So for years the discussion has been cleared out.

Threadsuck is/was indeed a beautiful thing. I have an amazing record of the experience of my first pregnancy and first daughter's infancy, derived from the conversations I had with a peer group of other smart moms. I'm not the kind of person to every consciously write a journal/diary but that record of my experience is essentially the same thing and I cherish it.
posted by Sublimity at 7:27 AM on May 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Looks like an emerging strategy to get content archived for free.


1. Announce something is being deleted.

2. Give the archivists an impossible deadline.

(archivists do their work)

3. Relent at the last minute so every bit can be saved.

4. Wash your hands of data maintenance.
posted by fake at 7:43 AM on May 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Now I'm glad I came here instead of getting involved in Table Talk. I let my subscription run out this year because other than Glenn Greenwald, who is a very occasional click-through read from friends, I'd quit reading everything on the site. All the things that could interest me were either comics which I could read somewhere else, or Salon shut them down, like Table Talk.
posted by immlass at 8:09 AM on May 25, 2011


Imagine how you'd feel if mathowie all of a sudden said, ok, we're pulling the plug next week, everything's being deleted.

Annoyed for a short time and then I would forget about it. People act a lot like hoarders with their online stuff but it's ok because no one can see it.
posted by smackfu at 8:17 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.
posted by Sphinx at 8:53 AM on May 25, 2011


It would be nice to be able to down load every thread one has ever commented in on Metafilter rather than just your own comments.
posted by Mitheral at 8:54 AM on May 25, 2011


Shit, so inactive threads got deleted overtime? Oh well, so much for an archive.
posted by cavalier at 9:21 AM on May 25, 2011


Looks like an emerging strategy to get content archived for free.

That's what it seems like to me as well. No joke.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:42 AM on May 25, 2011


This has been happening for so long it's a surprise that it surprises anybody. All that alt. and talk. Usenet stuff from the 1980s? Pretty much gone except for mangled scraps in Google/Deja. All those BBSs? Scattered remnants remain. Geocities? Tripod? Friendster? So many others.

The amazing thing is that so many of these mass deleters seem to be unable or unwilling to figure out how to generate sufficient money from that content. It's a lack of will and imagination. And yeah, maybe some legal sauce sprinkled on top.

The current faddish re-emergence for off-site commenting is classic for a net generation that's matured in the fat years of contextual click-enabled financial security and has either forgot or did not experience the disruptions of 2000-2001 sees no reason why this "free" archiving could end. One day in the future, not if but when, Disqus and even Facebook will simply disappear or "transition" their archives and then so many people's comments and bloggy content will vanish with perhaps some wailing and gnashing of teeth.
posted by meehawl at 9:45 AM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Imagine how you'd feel if mathowie all of a sudden said, ok, we're pulling the plug next week, everything's being deleted.

That would actually clear up a lot of awkward moments around the Thanksgiving table.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:57 AM on May 25, 2011


On one hand, WTF? but on the other hand, fuck surveillance. Maybe, one day, it won't be legal to completely delete any data without the government's permission. A whole internet community and everything on it - gone! from the internet! I think Salon will be remembered more for this than for anything they've written.

So, the data will be completely erased. What determines, on the technical side, what information will be on the internet forever and what data can be deleted forever?
posted by fuq at 10:25 AM on May 25, 2011


wget -e robots=off --wait 1 http://tabletalk.salon.com

The site will eventually start refusing connections if you try this (they are probably using mod_qos or something similar).
posted by benzenedream at 10:38 AM on May 25, 2011




One day in the future, not if but when, Disqus and even Facebook will simply disappear

The one that I am really concerned about is Blogspot/Blogger. Although I guess as a Google property maybe it has access to more cheap storage than most online properties do. But the amount of un-backed-up content stored there -- due to the web-based blogging tools that tend to discourage people from having copies of their work anywhere else -- is staggering.

There are some 3rd party tools for backing up a Blogger site, but they are basically GUIed wrappers for wget. AFAIK there's no real "export" option, so you have to be pretty technical and pretty motivated to have any backups at all.

I'm not sure how much revenue it generates for Ma Goog, but some day when it's not enough, I suspect it'll find itself spun off or sold and then it'll disappear. All sites die eventually.
posted by Kadin2048 at 12:04 PM on May 25, 2011


> The one that I am really concerned about is Blogspot/Blogger. Although I guess as a Google property maybe it has access to more cheap storage than most online properties do.

It's certain that they have backed up, redundant copies of all this data. It's tiny (mostly text) and Google basically keeps backups of everything. Yes, Google video, but that probably has a thousand times as much data, and I'll bet also that the redundancy between Google video and YouTube is very high...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:33 PM on May 25, 2011


I hope they do save this data, and I'm a long-time Salon subscriber, so if there's a petition to sign or something I can urge them to do (like opening the data up or delaying the deadline) then please let me know through memail...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 12:35 PM on May 25, 2011


Well, yeah, I assume Google has its own internal backup or at least some sort of redundancy / disaster-recovery protection, but that's only good insofar as Google values the data. The problems we've seen over and over with online services essentially boil down to a difference in opinion over whether the data has any value. Users think "hell yes, it's valuable, I put thousands of hours into it!" while the service provider thinks "meh, it's not generating revenue, so fuck 'em. Let it burn."

I suspect that Yahoo had backups of Geocities stored somewhere, protecting against an internal failure, but that didn't really help once they decided to pull the plug on the service. If they'd been willing to share those backups with someone (whether ArchiveTeam or the Digital Preservation office of the LoC or someone else), it'd be a different story. But at least to my knowledge there wasn't any offer.

A backup by Google wouldn't protect the data from Google, which is sort of the threat in a shutdown scenario.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:06 PM on May 25, 2011


reminds me of the tragic loss of the Smirking Chimp 1 message boards
posted by moorooka at 1:10 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


The amazing thing is that so many of these mass deleters seem to be unable or unwilling to figure out how to generate sufficient money from that content.

It's probably because the content is only worthwhile to people who don't want to pay for it. It's not worthless; it's just not monetizable.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:12 PM on May 25, 2011


mrgrimm: "It's probably because the content is only worthwhile to people who don't want to pay for it. It's not worthless; it's just not monetizable"

Given how cheap bandwidth is today and the vast proliferation of virtually original content-free blog spam and Demand Media-ish pointless verbiage, I find it difficult to believe this can hold true. You can make a couple of bucks a year from a basically empty web page with vague keywords on it. Claiming that you can't generate income from semantically rich text content seems difficult for me to believe. I think the main problem for these commercial entities is that you can't generate *enough* income. Basically, it comes down to past performance versus the potential of future income. The relatively paltry income generating of old content is a known quantity and can be discounted far into the future within tight constraints. Contrast that with that with the ludicrously expensive, future-oriented valuations for Facebook that combine its current mixture of an online contacts book, a casual social gaming site, and bloggish content created by its users. It's assumed that at some point in the future FB will be able to generate lots of revenue from contextual advertising deployed against its content. This is in contrast to its current position, where its ad revenues are relatively underperforming against its content. At some point in the future, Facebook constantly assures people, This Will Change and it will become a cash spigot ala Google. FB's had several years to come through on this, and keeps getting a pass thanks to all the cheap money sloshing around looking for a home in this era of central bank liquidity pumping. This is in contrast to previous eras, when the likes of theglobe.com could only manage a year or two before investors demanded it come through on its future promise (and, obviously, did not) and repriced its valuation to more realistic levels given its accrued performance.
posted by meehawl at 1:28 PM on May 25, 2011


This has been happening for so long it's a surprise that it surprises anybody. All that alt. and talk. Usenet stuff from the 1980s? Pretty much gone except for mangled scraps in Google/Deja.

Yeah, been working on that.

Geocities?

Yeah, been working on that.


Friendster?

Yeah, been working on that.

All those BBSs? Scattered remnants remain.

Yeah,
been working on that. For quite some time. From a lot of angles.

You know what the best part of life is? That you don't have to take a situation lying down. Just get working on it.
posted by jscott at 1:47 PM on May 25, 2011 [13 favorites]


Aw, jscott. You so sexy.
posted by cavalier at 6:32 PM on May 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's assumed that at some point in the future FB will be able to generate lots of revenue from contextual advertising deployed against its content. This is in contrast to its current position, where its ad revenues are relatively underperforming against its content. At some point in the future, Facebook constantly assures people, This Will Change and it will become a cash spigot ala Google. FB's had several years to come through on this, and keeps getting a pass thanks to all the cheap money sloshing around looking for a home in this era of central bank liquidity pumping.

This is a derail from Salon forum/archiving, but Facebook makes an assload of money from advertising: $1.86 billion in 2010; $4 billion projected for 2011. Relatively is relatively, but I wouldn't call it underperforming.

And SEO is SEO and yeah, that's a lot of informational content, but advertisers aren't paying for it, thus, yeah, people have to do the work for free.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:37 AM on May 26, 2011


mrgrimm: "$1.86 billion in 2010; $4 billion projected for 2011. Relatively is relatively, but I wouldn't call it underperforming."

From numerous sources, FB's generic advertising CTR rates significantly underperform even MySpace, and its special marquee promotions are lucky to hit 1-2%. Based on last year's revenues and asserted content (ie, quantity of members's eyeballs available to be presented to said ads), that's $1.86b/500m = $3.72 revenue per user, per year. Assuming it hits that $4b on, say, 700m users, that's still just $5.71 revenue per user per year. Out of that $6 you're going to pay for running costs, capital purchases, acquisitions, salaries and employee stock, and retain something for your investors?

Yeah., they're big numbers. But there's an eye-bleedingly large amount of growth priced into the valuation that is way more than $6/year, and the assumption exists that FB knows how to get from here to there, and can execute.
posted by meehawl at 7:49 AM on May 27, 2011


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