Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one. After hackers took down SoapBlox, a one-man blog-hosting company which runs local political websites, a silenced liberal commentariat found out how true that was.
SoapBlox grew out of Scoop, the software used on DailyKos, Markos Moulitsas's left-of-center superblog. Paul Preston, its developer, found himself running 25 different sites — the likes of My Left Wing, Blue Hampshire, West Michigan Rising, and Swing State Project. (All politics is local!)
And yet SoapBlox remained a one-man band. So when still-unidentified hackers infiltrated SoapBlox's servers, causing them to be taken offline, Preston despaired:
(+) SoapBlox is Dead
January 07, 2009 at 08:15:46 MST
It was a good ride, but it's over.
Thanks for all the fish.
All these hackers messing with our stuff, and we here at SoapBlox have no clue what to do. We don't have enough knowledge, time, money, or care to fix it.
So I hope the Hackers are happy.
If you want the data from your blog, we will get it. But we are not going to try and restore anything.
Consider this the "We're Out of Business" post.
Most of the servers have been taken off line because they were being used to hack and exploit other websites. The hackers install this crap on servers after they get in. SoapBlox's ISP then takes the servers off line.
We do not know when they will come back online.
We do not know if they will come back online.
Since then, a groundswell of grassroots support has lifted Preston's spirits, and he's working on restoring the service. But how did so many sites come to depend on such a fragile operation in the first place? One argument is that other blogging services didn't offer SoapBlox's features, like the ability to feature a casual user's contributions on a site's homepage with a single click.
That's hardly true: Drupal, a popular piece of software used on Fast Company's website, has long offered a similar tool, as do the latest versions of Movable Type and WordPress. But what SoapBlox offered that they lacked was the comfort of familiarity, and DailyKos's stamp of approval.
For its liberal bloggers, too lazy to research alternatives, it was the — how to put it? — politically correct way to publish. And why should they have bothered looking elsewhere, since it was a fine choice for their purposes? But I suspect their built-in biases against market mechanisms played a role. SoapBlox's customers never bothered to ask whether Preston really had the financial resources to support it. That's far too capitalist a question for the left-wing blogosphere to have pondered.