Let me repeat that: while I am still â€œon Tumblrâ€ and so on for now, my archives will not remain available for very long. If you find something of mine useful, you will need to make a copy of it and host it yourself.
The errors you see when you just punch in my web address in your browser or follow a link from Google are not happening because my blogs â€œbroke.â€ The errors are intentional; my blogs have simply become invisible to some while still being easily accessible to others. [â€¦] Think of my web presence like Harry Potterâ€™s Diagon Alley; so hidden from Muggles that they donâ€™t even know what theyâ€™re missing, but if you know which brick to tap, a whole world of exciting new things awaits youâ€¦.
As a result, a number of you have already asked the logical question: “Is there some easy way to automatically download your archives, instead of manually copy-and-pasting almost a decade of your posts? That would take forever!”
The answer, of course, is yes. This post is a short tutorial that I hope gives you the knowledge you need to download an entire website for offline viewing. This will work for any simple website like most blogs and personal sites, including mine. Archival geeks, this one’s for you. ;)
A sculptor must understand stone: Know thy materials
A website is just a bunch of files. On a server, it usually looks exactly like your own computer’s desktop. A page is a file. A slash (/) indicates a folder.
Let’s say you have a website called “my-blog.com.” When you go to this website in a Web browser, the address bar says: http://my-blog.com/ What that address bar is saying, in oversimplified English, is something like, “Hey, Web browser, connect to the computer at my-blog.com and open the first file in the first folder you find for me.” That file is usually the home page. On a blog, this is usually the list of recent posts.
Then, to continue the example, let’s say you click on a blog post’s title, which is a link to a page that only contains that one blog post. This is often called a “permalink.” When the page loads, the address bar changes to something like http://my-blog.com/posts/123456. Again, in oversimplified English, what the address bar is saying is something like, “Hey, Web browser, make another connection to the computer at my-blog.com and open up the file called 123456 inside that computer’s posts folder.”
And that’s how Web browsing works, in a nutshell. Since websites are just files inside folders, the same basic rules apply to webpages as the ones that apply to files and folders on your own laptop. To save a file, you give it a name, and put it a folder. When you move a file from one folder to another, it stops being available at the old location and becomes available at the new location. You can copy a file from one folder as a new file in another folder, and now you have two copies of that file.
In the case of the web, a “file” is just a “page,” so “copying webpages” is the exact same thing as “copying files.”
Now, as many of you already surmised, you could manually go to a website, open the File menu in your Web browser, choose the Save option, give the file a name, put it in a folder, then click the link to the first entry on the web page to load that post, open the File menu in your Web browser, choose the Save option, give the file another name, put it in a folder, and so on and so on until your eyes bled and you went insane from treating yourself in the same dehumanizing way your bosses already treat you at work. Or you could realize that doing the same basic operation many times in quick succession is what computers were invented to do, and you could automate the process of downloading websites like this by using a software program (a tool) designed to do exactly that.
It just so happens that this kind of task is so common that there are dozens of software programs that do exactly this thing.
A sculptor must understand a chisel: Know thy toolbox
I’m not going to go through the many dozens if not hundreds of tools available to automatically download things from the Web. There is almost certainly an “auto-downloader” plugin available for your favorite Web browser. Feel free to find one and give it a try. Instead, I’m going to walk you through how to use simply the best, most efficient, and most powerful of these tools. It’s called wget. It stands for “Web get” and, as the name implies, it “gets stuff from the Web.”
If you’re not on Windows, or if you just want to learn how to use wget to copy a website directly, then read on. You may also want to read on to learn more about the relevant options you can enable in wget so it works even under the most hostile conditions (like a flaky Wi-Fi connection).
Relevant wget options
While there are dozens upon dozens of wget options to the point that I know of no one who has read the entire wget manual from front to back, there are only three options that really matter for our purposes. These are:
-m or --mirror
This options turns on options suitable for mirroring. In other words, with this option enabled, wget will look at the URL you gave it, and then copy the page at that URL and all pages that first page links to which also start with the same URL as the URL of the first page until there are no more links to follow. How handy! ;)
-k or --convert-links
The manual describes this option better than I could. It reads:
After the download is complete, convert the links in the document to make them suitable for local viewing. This affects not only the visible hyperlinks, but any part of the document that links to external content, such as embedded images, links to style sheets, hyperlinks to non-HTML content, etc.
So in other words, after the download finishes, all links that originally pointed to “the computer at my-blog.com” will now point to the archived copy of the file wget downloaded for you, so you can click links in your archived copy and they will work just as they did on the original site. Woot!
This option isn’t strictly necessary, but if you’re on a flaky Wi-Fi network or the server hosting the website you’re trying to download is itself kind of flaky (that is, maybe it goes down every once in a while and you don’t always know when that will be), then adding this option makes wget keep trying to download the pages you’ve told it are there even if it’s not able to make a connection to the website. Basically, this option makes wget totally trust you when you tell it to go download some stuff, even if it tries to do that and isn’t able to get it when it tries to. I strongly suggest using this option to get archives of my sites.
Okay, with that necessary background explained, let’s move on to actually using wget to copy whole websites.
Preparation: Get wget if you don’t already have it
Step 1: Make a new folder to keep all the stuff you’re about to download
This is easy. Just make a new folder to keep all the pages you’re going to copy. Yup, that’s it. :)
Step 2: Run wget with its mirroring options enabled
Now that we have a place to keep all the stuff we’re about to download, we need to let wget do its work for us. So, first, go to the folder you made. If you’ve made a folder called “Mirror of my-blog.com” on your Desktop, then you can go into that folder by typing cd "~/Desktop/Mirror of my-blog.com" at a command prompt.
Windows users will have to dig around the WinWGet options panes and make sure the “mirror” and “convert-links” checkboxes are enabled, rather than just typing those options out on the command line. Obviously, replace http://my-blog.com/ with whatever website you want to copy. For instance, replace it with http://days.maybemaimed.com/ to download everything I’ve ever posted to my Tumblr blog. You’ll immediately see a lot of output from your terminal that looks like this:
Now just sit back, relax, let wget work for as long as it needs to (which could take hours, depending on the quality of your Internet connection). Meanwhile, rejoice in the knowledge that you never need to treat yourself like a piece of dehumanized machinery ever again because, y’know, we actually have machines for that.
Even before wget finishes its work, though, you’ll see files start appearing inside the folder you made. You can now drag-and-drop one of those files into your Web browser window to open that file. It will look exactly like the blog web page from which it was downloaded. Voila! Archive successfully made!
Special secret bonuses
The above easily works on any publicly accessible website. These are websites that you don’t need to log into to see. But you can also do the same thing on websites that do require you to log into them, though I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader. All you have to do is learn a few different wget options, which are all explained in the wget manual. (Hint: The option you want to read up on is the --load-cookies option.)
What I do want to explain, however, is that the above procedure won’t currently work on some of my other blogs because of additional techno-trickery I’m doing to keep the Muggles out, as I mentioned at the start of this post. However, I’ve already created an archive copy of my other (non-Tumblr) sites, so you don’t have to.1 Still, though, if you can figure out which bricks to tap, you can still create your own archive of my proverbial Diagon Alley.
Finally, if data archival and preservation is something that really spins your propeller and you don’t already know about it, consider browsing on over to The Internet Archive at Archive.org. If you live in San Francisco, they offer free lunches to the public every Friday (which are FUCKING CATERED AND DELICIOUS, I’VE BEEN), and they always have need of volunteers.
If you’re just curious, the archive contains every conference presentation I’ve ever given, including video recordings, presentation slides, and so on, as well as audio files of some podcasts and interviews I’ve given, transcripts of every one of these, all pictures uploaded to my site, etc., and weighs in at approximately 1 gigabyte, uncompressed. [↩]
retract (remove) posts from Diaspora when they are deleted from your WordPress blog
completely customize or omit the footer of your Diaspora post
crosspost custom post types or even write another plugin to programmatically change how Diasposter formats your post.
Diasposter was inspired by the great WP to Diaspora plugin, which I really wanted to make use of but didn’t feel totally comfortable with because of how it stored Diaspora session information in relatively insecure file on the filesystem. In contrast, Diasposter never writes your Diaspora login cookie to disk so your D* access credentials are kept as safe as you make your WordPress database.
When I first installed this plugin, there was an automatic horizontal scrollbar so that users could move to see all of the columns. However, it has now disappeared which means one of the columns is not fully readable.
Can you help?
Right above the button you clicked to post this question there is a line of text that reads:
Did you include a link to your site, so that others can see the problem?
Given that you didn’t notice this, I am going to suggest that you slow down and think about what was different on your site from when you installed the plugin (and experienced it working as expected) and now (when it’s not). If you still need help after that, I suggest you first think more about the answer to the question quoted above before you post again.
I apologise, it was an oversight on my behalf, as you have pointed out. Put it down to Friday ‘end of the week’ fuzzy head, if you like.
The pages where we are currently using the plugin are [here and here].
To clarify, if you hover around the rows and columns, it appears you can swipe and move it around, but the visible arrows and scrollbar is not visible. We have a lot of not very IT-literate people who use our website for support so it would be handy to make it like a visible scrollbar to click on again, if possible.
Thanks for your patience.
A clarifying question: you want a scrollbar to appear but one does not exist even when the browser window is too narrow to fit the whole table?
That is to say, I am confused by the statement “the visible arrows and scrollbar is not visible.” :/
Yes, we want a scrollbar and the arrows that go either end of said scrollbar to display because the browser window is too narrow to fit the whole table.
We feel that people would prefer to have the arrows on the scrollbar visible to encourage them to click them so that they can see the columns that go off of the screen.
So, when I go to your pages they both show scroll bars just as you say you want them. :\ I’m afraid whatever you’re seeing is specific to your combination of computer and browser.
It’s very likely that users who browse to your site are seeing the scroll bars show automatically. At least, that’s what happens when I load the site.
The beauty of the Web is that users are able to define their experience so it suits them best. Users whose browsers and operating systems are set to show scroll bars are showing scroll bars. This is good news, because it means you do not need to worry about your site malfunctioning: it is not malfunctioning and, as you say, nothing about it has changed.
Note: This guide assumes you never used BitTorrent before, and that you want to start learning about it with a safety focus from the outset, but it does assume you understand basic computer and Web lingo like “website address” and “downloading.” If you’re new to BitTorrent and don’t care about staying private, then LifeHacker’s “A beginner’s guide to BitTorrent” or “The Torrent Guide for Everyone” at MakeUseOf.com may be more your speed. Also, if you do have some experience with BitTorrent, all the better. Things will make more sense to you more quickly. :)
If you’re going to read this how-to guide, I’m not going to assume you need to be convinced that downloading movies and other digital media like music, eBooks, games, and so on is something worth doing. There are, of course, many reasons why you might want to get media at no cost. These reasons range from the personal (Netflix doesn’t have the show you’re really into right now) to the political (fuck Netflix and also fuck capitalism) and everything in between (you don’t have “discretionary income” because, y’know, capitalism, but whatevs).
This guide isn’t trying to tell you what you should doâ€”that’s your government’s job. All I want this guide to do is help you access the material you want, whatever that material is, regardless of why you want it, safely and anonymously. And since the most widely used and arguably most effective digital media distribution technology is BitTorrent, that’s what we’ll focus on today.
If you’ve heard anything about “downloading free movies on the Internet,” you probably heard of BitTorrent or its more colloquial synonym, “torrents.” You have also probably heard of companies threatening BitTorrent users with Internet service bans, financial penalties, and even lawsuits for “stealing intellectual property.” Through expensive and coordinated campaigns, companies like Disney and others represented by special interest groups like the RIAA and MPAA try to convince people that BitTorrent is hard, immoral, and unsafe to use. But these corporate-backed efforts are little more than self-serving moral crusades, effectively a big societal guilt trip, and a false one at that.
By the time you finish reading this guide, you’ll see how and why BitTorrent is easy, ethical, and safe to use. To do that, let’s start at the beginning. (If you’re one of those “just give me a fish, I don’t want to learn how to fish,” people, skip to Step 1, below. But I warn you, you’ll have a much better understanding of what I’m talking about, and that means you’ll be able to keep yourself a lot safer, if you read thoroughly than if you skip ahead. You can always skip ahead the next time, after you absorb the background information first.)
What is BitTorrent, really?
BitTorrent is a way to copy files between computers. That’s it. Really. “But if it’s just a way to copy files around,” you’re probably wondering, “what makes BitTorrent so special?”
What makes BitTorrent special: pieces, not files
What makes BitTorrent special is the way it goes about copying (or “sharing”) files. Ordinarily, to start downloading a copy of a file from someone else, they have to have the entire file. Not so with BitTorrent. Using BitTorrent, you can download (that is, receive, or copy)1incomplete parts of a file from someone else who also only has some but not all parts of the desired file, themselves. Moreover, BitTorrent itself doesn’t care what the file is. The file might be a “pirated” movie, but it might also be literally anything else. BitTorrent isn’t just for piracy. BitTorrent can be, and often is, used to share anything that can be digitized, no holds barred, since all BitTorrent cares about are what it calls pieces.
You can think of BitTorrent “pieces” like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. When you download a file with BitTorrent, what you’re actually downloading is copies of all the individual puzzle pieces that, taken together, make up the completed jigsaw puzzle. When you have all the pieces, BitTorrent automatically puts the pieces in the right places so they make up the desired file or files. This completed puzzle is what BitTorrent calls a “seed.”2
When you first go to download stuff with BitTorrent, you’ll be presented with something called a “torrent.” You can think of torrents, which are sometimes a kind of file themselves (a “.torrent file”), like empty jigsaw puzzle boxes.3 Torrent files describe their contents, but they are not the actual content. So the torrent isn’t a true puzzle piece, per se. Rather, a torrent is the additional information we need to look for the rest of the pieces. Much as a picture on a jigsaw puzzle box shows you what the complete puzzle with all the pieces in the right spots is supposed to look like, but it isn’t a puzzle piece itself, so too does the torrent itself describe the completed torrent contents.
Okay, but where do torrents come from?
Torrents are made by other people, just like you. Sharing something of your own with others using BitTorrent is actually pretty easy. Beyond that, especially if you want to share something big but don’t have a lot of resources like bandwidth or disk space, using BitTorrent to share it can help you out big time.
Making a torrent is a simple matter of using a program to make a new .torrent file (our proverbial “jigsaw puzzle box”) out of files you already have on your computer. Usually, this is as simple as choosing “New Torrentâ€¦” from the “File” menu in a BitTorrent app, such as in this screenshot of uTorrent 1.8.4 for Mac OS X, below:
There are a lot of BitTorrent client apps you can choose to use. Naturally, Wikipedia has a huge comparison chart of them, and plenty of blogs have their “best of” picks. “uTorrent” is just the name of a popular one, and I like it well enough. For our purposes, the only really important thing is that whatever client you pick needs to have support for network proxies, which we’ll talk about next. If you’re not sure what to use, I recommend Deluge because it’s free, fast, works everywhere, and yes, supports proxies.
Sharing something of your own makes you the first seed for this torrent, since you obviously have all the pieces of the files you’re sharing. For other interested users to make their own complete copies of a file, there needs to be at least one person who’s got all the puzzle pieces. That is, there needs to be at least one “seeder.” But don’t worry, because once someone else finishes downloading all the pieces of your torrent from you, they become another seeder, since now they, too, have all the puzzle pieces. The group of folks sharing a torrent is what BitTorrent calls a “swarm.”
Any torrent you might download was first uploaded to the Internet by someone else in this way. Many people also take the next step of listing their torrents in one or more of the many public, searchable directories that index, archive, and categorize torrents, called “torrent sites.” The most famous of these community-driven websites was ThePirateBay.com (may it rest in peace), but today there are dozens of popular ones, like Kickass Torrents, ExtraTorrent, and AhaShare, to name a few.
So you see, there’s nothing nefarious, underhanded, or dangerous about sharing files over BitTorrent, or “torrenting.” The danger comes solely from malicious, overbearing, and greedy people who abuse others to try to control what is being shared, and who is allowed to share it. BitTorrent itself is just a tool, much like the rest of the Internet. Equating BitTorrent with wrongdoing is like telling people they’re doing something wrong when they browse the Web and read blogs. It’s just silly. Still, much like browsing the Internet, torrenting can be dangerous because of the malicious people, corporations, or tentacle monsters who are willing and able to abuse you for reading, saying, or sharing something they don’t want you to.
That’s where protecting yourself with public proxies comes in.
Public proxies as shields for our identity
To keep yourself safe from predators like corporations with itchy lawsuit fingers, you have to know a thing or two about network proxy servers.
Everything you need to know about proxies, and nothing you don’t
A network proxy is simply a computer that’s willing to forward a message from you to another computer on your behalf, just like a classmate who’s willing to pass your note along to a fellow classmate during class.
The nature of proxies makes them easy to abuse (much like a classmate’s trust), so many proxies are not available for public use. These are called “private proxies,” and they generally require that you have a username and a password before you can use them. But many other proxies are available for public use, offered freely to netizens like you by folks who understand the importance of a free and open Internet. Many of these proxies are listed in directories like XRoxy.com, ProxyNova.com, UltraProxies.com, PublicProxyServers.com, and so on. These are called “public proxies,” to no one’s surprise.
By the same token, an anonymous proxy is a computer that’s willing to forward a message from you to another computer, and won’t tell that other computer who the message came from. For obvious reasons, anonymous network proxies are almost always also public proxies. Anonymous proxies are designed to shield our identities. The ones that take privacy seriously are like our best friends; they’re willing to pass notes for us in class and won’t snitch on us if they get in trouble.
Confusingly, there are about as many ways to describe (or “classify”) anonymous proxies as there are websites listing them. Each of the proxy directories I just mentioned displays their list somewhat differently, but they all classify proxies along the same basic criteria because, technically, they’re all doing the same thing. For our purposes, the important things to know about a proxy are:5
Its IP address and port number. This is the proxy’s internet address. It serves the same purpose as the Web addresses (URLs) you’re familiar with, but both parts are only numbers.
Its anonymizing features. We only want to use proxies that are labelled with words like “HiAnon,” “High KA+,” “Elite,” “Anonymous,” or “Ultra” anonymity levels. We don’t want “transparent” proxies.
Ideally, the proxy should also have “SSL,” “TLS,” or “HTTPS” support, which all mean the same thing. These proxies are the ones that accept the ubiquitous, encrypted Web traffic that many banks and e-commerce sites like Amazon and Facebook use. This is helpful to us because it means we can make our torrenting activity look like we’re browsing websites, even if we’re not.
Finally, there’s one peculiar and popular kind of anonymizing proxy that deserves a special mention: the Tor Browser.
Tor Browser: a very special, very important anonymizing tool
That said, Tor does come in handy when you’re searching the Internet for torrents to download in the first place. Especially if you’re looking for some “intellectual property” protected by the legal system (*cough*movies/games/TV shows/apps/etc.*cough*), you probably want to use the Tor Browser to find torrents of it. This is because, if you use your regular ol’ Web browser and Internet connection directly, you’ll reveal what you’re searching for to anyone looking. Using the Tor Browser, rather than your regular browser, keeps others in the dark. Tor, in turn, then makes a request to The Pirate Bay or whoever on your behalf, and returns their answer (that is, the resulting web page) to you. So as long as you use the Tor Browser, your Internet service provider (and your government) remains none the wiser about what material you’re accessing.
This is how we want our actual torrenting to work, too. So what we need is a (fast) network proxy. But wait. We don’t want anyone to know that we’re looking for fast network proxies, because duh. What are we to do? The answer, by now, should be obvious: use Tor. So, if you don’t already have it, get the Tor Browser. It’s an easy to use Web browser that frees you to browse the Internet anonymously. We’ll need that.6
Torrenting anonymously: an overview
At this point, you have all the knowledge you need to torrent anonymously, even if you don’t feel like it, yet. Let’s review.
Torrenting is simply the activity of copying files from one computer to another using BitTorrent. To do this anonymously, you need to make sure that you never make a direct connection from your computer to other users. For that, you use a BitTorrent client that supports network proxies. You also need a way to search for torrents that your Internet provider won’t know about. For that, you use the Tor Browser.
You also use the Tor Browser to find an anonymous proxy. Once you find an anonymous proxy, you tell your BitTorrent client to use it, which is a simple matter of setting its proxy preferences to the address of the anonymous proxy you found. Then you load the torrent you want to download into your BitTorrent client, and you’re done.
That’s the whole process from start to finish. Now let’s take each step one at a time.
Preparation: Get the Tor Browser and a BitTorrent client that supports proxies
If you don’t already have it, download and open the Tor Browser. If you don’t already have a favorite BitTorrent client that supports proxies, try Deluge. Open it up, too.
Step 1: Find and configure an anonymous network proxy
As mentioned earlier, there isn’t anything magical about network proxies, and there’s nothing special you need to know to use one. All you really need to know about them is where they are. Luckily for us, there are public listings of them in much the same way that there are public listings of torrents themselves. A simple search for them on the Tor Browser’s home page, as shown here, will return many such listings:
Make a note of the type (typically either SOCKS4, SOCKS5, HTTP, or HTTPS) and address (IP and port numbers) of an anonymous proxy. Then, configure your BitTorrent client with those network settings.
Here’s an example of what Deluge 1.3.11’s Proxy preference window looks like:
And here’s the same configuration in uTorrent 1.8.4 for Mac OS X:
Anonymous proxies don’t stay online forever. They come and go at irregular, sometimes unexpected intervals. That’s why they’re listed in public directories alongside a timestamp, so you know when the proxy was last checked to be working.
Whenever you start torrenting, check the proxy settings in your BitTorrent client to make sure you’re using a proxy that is currently online.
Step 1-A: Enable BitTorrent encryption settings
While we’re digging around BitTorrent client preferences, it’s worth taking a look at some other settings related to privacy. Unlike the earlier settings, which you’ll need to adjust with a new anonymous proxy every time you want to start downloading a torrent, these are all “set it and forget it” options, and they all do basically one thing: turn on BitTorrent’s protocol encryption.
In uTorrent, you’ll find the protocol encryption options in the “BitTorrent” preference pane, where you want to set the “Outgoing encryption” option to “Force,” as shown here:
In Deluge, you’ll find the same options in the “Network” preference pane, grouped under the “Encryption” header:
Set all the encryption options available to you to “Force,” meaning that you’ll only accept encrypted connections. These settings help hide that the messages you’re sending through the proxy are BitTorrent messages, which means proxy operators and Internet service providers who don’t like torrent traffic will be less likely to notice that you’re torrenting. This also might mean you reject connections from some BitTorrent users who don’t support encryption, but these days enough folks do that you probably won’t notice a difference.
In my experience, using BitTorrent’s protocol encryption settings and getting into the habit of choosing a new anonymous proxy each time you start a torrenting session means you can fly under the radar and still use BitTorrent for a good, long while. Permissive coffee shops or other free Wi-Fi spots, instead of your home connection, are also good spots to torrent from. Just make sure you’re still torrenting using encryption and a working anonymous proxy—and that you tipped your barista. (Use cash.)
Step 2: Find a torrent to download
Back in the Tor Browser, click around some of the torrent sites or use their search features to find a torrent you want to download. Here’s what a search for “daily show” looks like at Kickass Torrents:
As with most things in life, use common sense to help guide you to a good torrent. Remember, these torrent descriptions are like the outside of a product box; they’re labels, not the actual contents. Here are some common sense questions you could ask yourself to avoid fakes and scams as you browse for a good torrent:
Does the reported file size of the torrent seem reasonable for what you’re trying to download?
Does the torrent’s reported file count and content list seem reasonable for what you’re downloading?
Skim the comments associated with the torrent listing. Do commenters tend to agree that the torrent is high quality, or do they call it a fake?
Does the torrent have a healthy number of seeds? Remember, if a torrent has no seeds at all, then you’re not going to be able to complete your download.8
Step 3: Download the torrent file or click the magnet link, and load the torrent in your BitTorrent app
Once you find a suitable torrent, find and click the download link on the torrent site (usually a downwards-pointing arrow), or the magnet link (usually a horseshoe magnet icon). One, if not both, of these options will cause your browser to pass along the data to your BitTorrent app, which may ask you where you want to save the torrent contents. Choose an appropriate spot on your hard drive and start torrenting.
If you’ve set everything up by following the previous sections, you’ll begin to see connections appear in your BitTorrent client. In actuality, though, none will be direct connections you’ve made to any of those machines. Instead, those connections are being routed through the anonymous proxy you chose, earlier.
Congrats, matey! ;) You can now cancel your Hulu subscription and enjoy the wonderful world of media without commercial pollution interruption.
Optionally, verify it’s all working as intended
The simplest way to verify your setup is to use the netstat utility built in to your computer. This is a command line tool that shows you the state of all network connections your computer is currently making. On a Mac as well as most Linuxes and other UNIX-like systems, the easiest way to get the output we want is to invoke the netstat program with its -n and -p switches enabled. Open a new Terminal window, type netstat -np tcp, and then press return.9 This will produce a report looking something like the following:
$ netstat -np tcp
Active Internet connections
Proto Recv-Q Send-Q Local Address Foreign Address (state)
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.77.54535 188.8.131.52.8080 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.77.54534 184.108.40.206.8080 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.77.54533 220.127.116.11.8080 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.77.54532 18.104.22.168.8080 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.77.54531 22.214.171.124.8080 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.77.54530 126.96.36.199.8080 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.77.54529 188.8.131.52.8080 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 127.0.0.1.9151 127.0.0.1.53404 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 127.0.0.1.53404 127.0.0.1.9151 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.77.53403 184.108.40.206.9001 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 127.0.0.1.9151 127.0.0.1.53402 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 127.0.0.1.53402 127.0.0.1.9151 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 192.168.1.77.53395 220.127.116.11.5223 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 127.0.0.1.49153 127.0.0.1.1023 ESTABLISHED
tcp4 0 0 127.0.0.1.1023 127.0.0.1.49153 ESTABLISHED
The important column for our purposes is the fifth one, “Foreign Address,” which lists the addresses of computers our computer is directly connected to. If you see the address of the proxy server you chose to use back in step 1, congrats, you’re torrenting via a proxy. What you don’t want to see there is the address of any peers (fellow participants in the swarm) that your BitTorrent client shows you:
If you see these addresses in netstat‘s “Foreign Address” column, it means your computer is directly connecting to the swarm, without using a proxy. As shown in the example above, comparing netstat‘s output with the peer list here shows that we’re set up nicely!
Torrenting anonymously can be tricky, and it certainly helps to have a friendly neighborhood technomage to ask for advice if you’re feeling uneasy. But as you can see, it isn’t a hard thing to learn once you have the information you need. Best of all, I can guarantee you this: torrent sites have a far better selection than Netflix. ;)
The best source for information about news and developments in the BitTorrent universe is TorrentFreak.com. Check it out!
Addendum: What about paid VPN services?
A link to this guide was posted on The Pirate Bay subreddit, where it was well-received. Several people suggested using paid VPN services instead of free public proxies. Using a paid VPN service means purchasing access to a private proxy from a corporate entity, which is something I do not recommend. There were also some good follow-up questions about using proxies. Here’s one such exchange.
The first proxy I tried didn’t work (cmd was showing peer addresses), I tried another and it worked.
However, the first time, the torrent still downloaded, I wouldn’t have known it wasn’t going through the proxy, so is it necessary to check the connections every time I use a new proxy, start utorrent etc? What if the proxy stops working halfway through? It would be nice for utorrent to stop downloading if it’s not going through the proxy.
Also, why are paid VPNs so recommended if it’s as easy (and cheap) as this to avoid punishment?
Yes, you should always check to see if the proxy you selected is actually working for each new proxy you select, and you should always choose a new proxy each time you fire up your torrent client. People pay money for reliability, not technology. The technology of a free proxy and the technology of a paid proxy is identical. The difference is the consistency and contractual uptime guarantee, that’s it. If you have bad habits (i.e., you’re not carefully checking to see if the settings you entered ACTUALLY WORK after you enter them), then maybe paying for reliability is something you want to do. Just keep in mind that when you pay for something, there’s a money trail. If you don’t use a paid service, there’s no receipt in someone’s financial accounting ledger that can be traced back to you. I prefer being careful and using free proxies over paying money for the same technology in a way that encourages me to be lazy.
Also, uTorrent has a bad habit of trying proxies you give it but falling back to whatever other means are available if the proxy doesn’t respond to you. That’s a problem with uTorrent, not you. It does mean that you might want to use a different BitTorrent client, though, if you’re not careful about checking the proxies you choose to use. Again, that’s why I like Deluge: if you give it a proxy that isn’t alive, it will try the proxy but the download will fail. That’s what you want, because the proxy is dead. You don’t want it switching to a direct connection behind your back.
Another thing you can do to be extra cautious is disable PEX (Peer Exchange) and DHT (Distributed Hash Table) lookups. Some clients don’t respect proxy settings for these two mechanisms, even though they should. Again, that’s a problem with the client, not you. It’s also easier to check that the proxy you’re setting up is really the proxy being used for trackers (as opposed to PEX or DHT) because numerous paid torrent VPN services also provide IP checking utilities that you can by definition use for free (even without being a customer). See, for instance, BTGuard: CheckMyTorrentIP. Just set up a free anonymous proxy like in the above HowTo guide, then follow the steps in the BTGuard CheckMyTorrentIP page, and look for the IP address of the proxy you set up instead of “BTGUARD IS WORKING”. BTGuard won’t tell you “it’s working” because you’re not paying or using BTGuard. But it will show you what IP address it thinks you’re using, and if that IP address is the address of the proxy you configured, then you’re torrenting (at least using traditional trackers) through that proxy. :)
Hope this helps.
Everyone glosses over this point, myself included, but this point is actually very important: downloading something is the act of making a copy of the thing you are downloading. When you download or receive something from the Internet, you are literally creating an exact replica (a “copy”) of whatever it is you’re downloading. This is fundamentally different from “stealing,” which is the act of removing something from one place and putting it in another. You literally can not steal anything using the Internet no matter what you do, and anyone who tells you differently is trying to sell you something, or put you in jail. [↩]
BitTorrent files typically have the .torrent file name extension, but they don’t have to. Technically, BitTorrent files are bencoded dictionaries, which is a fancy way of saying an index that lists the torrent’s referenced contents and where that content can be found. So they’re really meta or metainfo files. Sometimes they’re also called a manifest. When torrents are not files, they are usually something called “magnet links,” which serve the same purpose as a torrent file’s dictionary but that use a special URL instead of an actual file. More on magnet links later. [↩]
In the screenshot above, you might have noticed there’s a field for “Trackers.” That’s where you paste the URLs (the Web addresses) of any well-known trackers you want to announce yourself to. When you start sharing (or “seeding”) your file, those trackers will dutifully re-announce your announcement of your presence to any other BitTorrent users who want to copy what you’re sharing. There are numerous stable, public, free BitTorrent trackers available to you (like udp://tracker.publicbt.com:80 or udp://open.demonii.com:1337/announce), and it doesn’t really matter which one you use. (In fact, the more you use, the easier it will be for others to find you.) For now, suffice it to say that a tracker’s job is to keep other users in the swarm updated about where everyone else is, in case things change and in order to help you find one another in the first place. Obviously, hiding our real identity from trackers as well as the rest of the swarm while still being able to find and share files with one another is a key part of what staying anonymous while using BitTorrent is all about. We’ll look at ways to do that in the next section. [↩]
Another useful consideration for a proxy server I don’t list explicitly is its physical location. You may want to use a proxy located in another country than you are in so as to avoid running afoul of local laws, or to route around geographic censorship. Remember, political and legal borders are not real, so the fundamental Internet technology we’re talking about doesn’t and, to work correctly, shouldn’t pay any attention to them. Most proxy lists display the country a proxy is in alongside its other information. [↩]
Technically, the Tor Browser is a package deal that comes with a modified version of Mozilla Firefox and the actual tor proxy software, all pre-configured to work together. If you want to learn more about Tor and, trust me, you do, consider reading my article all about it. [↩]
Even though each BitTorrent client’s preferences window looks different, they all describe the same basic behavior. [↩]
You can often still download many pieces of a torrent even if there are no seeders in the swarm. Sometimes, if a torrent has many independent files, you can still download the majority of the content you’re after because only a few pieces in a few files are missing. The quickest way to check this is to look for the “Availability” proportion in your BitTorrent client. Without a seed, this readout will be somewhere between 0, meaning absolutely no parts are available, and just under 1. The closer this value is to 1, the more pieces of the torrent are available. I once downloaded a torrent of a four-season TV show whose availability was 0.954, and was happy to find two complete seasons had downloaded without any problem at all despite never finding a seed for that torrent. Other torrents provided the missing episodes and all was well. [↩]
First of all, we need to put policing in the context of a bigger ruling-class project of managing and shaping the working class. I said at the beginning that the emergence of workersâ€™ revolt coincided with a breakdown of old methods of constant personal supervision of the workforce. The state stepped in to provide supervision. The cops were part of that effort, but in the North, the state also expanded its programs of poor relief and public schooling.
Police work was integrated with the system of poor relief, as constables worked on registration of the poor and their placement in workhouses. Thatâ€™s even before the police were professionalizedâ€”the constables were sorting out the â€œdeserving poorâ€ from the â€œundeserving poor.â€ If people were unemployed and unable to work, constables would direct them toward charity from churches or the city itself. But if folks were able to work, they were judged to be â€œidlersâ€ and sent off to the horrors of the workhouse.
The system for poor relief made a crucial contribution to the creation of the market for wage labor. The key function of the relief system was to make unemployment so unpleasant and humiliating that people were willing to take ordinary jobs at very low wages just to avoid unemployment. By punishing the poorest people, capitalism creates a low baseline for the wage scale and pulls the whole scale downward.
The police no longer play such a direct role in selecting people for relief, but they do deliver a good deal of the punishment. As we know, lots of police work has to do with making life unpleasant for unemployed people on the street.
The rise of modern policing also coincides with the rise of public education. Public schools accustom children to the discipline of the capitalist workplace, including the submission to strict rules about the proper time to do things. The school reform movement of the 1830s and 40s also aimed to shape the studentsâ€™ moral character. The effect of this was supposed to be that students would willingly submit to authority, that they would be able to work hard, exercise selfÂ-control, and delay gratification.
In fact, the concepts of good citizenship that came out of school reform movement were perfectly aligned with the concepts of criminology that were being invented to categorize people on the street. The police were to focus not just on crime but on criminal typesâ€”a method of profiling backed up by supposedly scientific credentials. The â€œjuvenile delinquent,â€ for example, is a concept that is common to schooling and policingâ€”and has helped to link the two activities in practice.
This ideology of good citizenship was supposed to have a big effect inside the heads of students, encouraging them to think that the problems in society come from the actions of â€œbad guys.â€ A key objective of schooling, according to reformer Horace Mann, should be to implant a certain kind of conscience in the studentsâ€”so that they discipline their own behavior and begin to police themselves. In Mannâ€™s words, the objective was for children to â€œthink of duty rather than of the policeman.â€
Needless to say, an analytic scheme for dividing society between good guys and bad guys is perfect for identifying scapegoats, especially racial ones. Such a moralistic scheme was (and is) also a direct competitor to a class-conscious worldview, which identifies societyâ€™s basic antagonism as the conflict between exploiters and exploited. Police activity thus goes beyond simple repressionâ€”it â€œteachesâ€ an ideology of good and bad citizenship that dovetails with the lessons of the classroom and the workhouse.
The overall point here is that the invention of the police was part of a broader expansion of state activity to gain control over the day-to-day behavior of the working class. Schooling, poor relief and police work all aimed to shape workers to become useful toâ€”and loyal toâ€”the capitalist class.
Everyone realizes that the Internet’s public squares have a harassment problem. No one seems to know what to do about it. I argue that’s because they don’t know how to think about online harassment and abuseâ€”or even power, more generally. I argue that I do. But don’t take my word for it. Take my ideas, and implement them yourselves. Then let’s let the results speak for themselves.
“So, maymay,” I can already hear you asking, “how would you design an online social network that was hostile to abusers?” You’re probably asking this because you either don’t know that I’ve written about it before, or you haven’t been able to understand from what I’ve written how to take the lessons from code I’ve deployed in the Predator Alert Tool project and apply it to your own projects. That’s okay. You’re not alone.
Recently, I received an email from a developer asking for advice about this exact issue. They’ve told me they’d be fine with my sharing our conversation here, in the hopes that it gets other developers thinking about what they can do to proactively “protect people from abusers online,” as they put it. Here is our exchange (slightly edited for anonymity and clarity) so far. The email I received went something like this:
Hello! I’m building a new social network and want to be pro-active about protecting people. I wanted to reach out as I have little experience with protecting people from shitty people and abusers online, and the Predator Alert Tools is great. Is there any way I can help contribute to those projects, and/or utilise them somehow with [my project] to help protect people?
Well, there are a number of themes that run through the entire suite of tools, and those are the only things I can talk about without knowing more about [your specific project]. So for now, let me just point your attention to these two blog posts about the tools.
Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid highlights the signals players send when they answer OkCupidâ€™s Match Questions to other players in order to de-silo as much information as possible, thereby hoping to expand the set of possible moves a given player (user of PAT-OKC) is aware of and enabling them to analyze the given situation (the decision tree of their â€œturnâ€) with the information they received through the tool. This is a fundamentally different approach than the one OkCupidâ€™s â€œMatch Percentageâ€ interface provides, and this is no coincidence.
The â€œMatch Percentageâ€ interface is designed to account for â€œthe best possible outcomeâ€ for OkCupid itself, not the best outcome for the OkCupid user. This makes sense when you realize that OkCupid is a company, and they have their own incentives and have defined the win conditions of this complex game very differently than their users (we) have.
In other words, the single most obvious problem with online â€œdatingâ€ sites (a category which include â€œsocial networking sites,â€ obviously) is that they are designed from the ground-up to focus on filtering data out as opposed to considering related data important. This is precisely the environment in which serial rapists are most protected. If you are serious about building a social networking site that is proactive about maintaining an environment hostile to these kinds of abuses, you need to focus on identifying and surfacing information about signals between users that are negative as well as positive. Again: rather than burying those signals, you need to surface them. Use OkCupidâ€™s â€œMatch Percentageâ€ interface as a perfect example of what not to do.
If thatâ€™s curious to you and, again, if youâ€™re interested in pursuing this line of questioning further, write back and tell me more about [your project], and yourself, and so on. Letâ€™s have a conversation. Predator Alert Toolâ€™s implementations are different depending on the site for which the specific tool was intended not only because the technology of different sites is different, as you know, but also because the culture of each website is different; users interact with the sites differently based on the messaging, context, and approaches different sites take. So Predator Alert Tool also needs to integrate with a culture, not just a programming language.
Probably the most well-known recent pushback against rape culture is the Predditors story, in which some Reddit users discovered and published the identities of others who had been posting sexualized pictures of young women. The Predditors tumblr has since been shut down, but its contents are still available in a GoogleDoc here. Sexual abusers have also been outed via YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. Blogs provide a public square for arguments about rape culture to rage. Twitter users directly critique the media. Iâ€™ve heard rumors of a Tumblr hashtag used by survivors to post the names and addresses of their rapists. The FetLife Alleged Abusers Database Engine (recently rolled into the Predator Alert Tools suite as the â€œPredator Alert Tool for FetLifeâ€) collects anonymous reports of consent violations in the BDSM community and then flags the FetLife profiles of alleged abusers. And I recently helped beta-test a new tool, The Predator Alert Tool for OkCupid, which highlights self-reported sexually violent opinions and behaviors by OkCupid users.
I donâ€™t think any of these tools, or even all of them together, will put the nail in the coffin of rape culture. Like other kinds of abuse, rape culture adapts to new environments quickly. Activists need to stay on our games in order to keep exposing new forms of it as they appear. We need to keep experimenting, trying new things, and being creative with whatever resources we have available. What I find most powerful about these tools is the ways each seems tailored to the specific culture from which it emerged. Predditors addresses rape culture on Reddit by retaliating against its perpetrators using technological savvy, counter-rhetoric about free speech and privacy, and a â€œtroll the trollsâ€ sort of strategy all suited to Redditâ€™s particular cultural sensibility. FAADE, on the other hand, capitalizes on a mentality strongly espoused by FetLife users that the BDSM community is like a â€œsmall townâ€ in which everyone is connected to everyone else by kinship ties. BDSMers often rely on personal references and a playerâ€™s public reputation to assess their safety, thus a database allowing FetLife profiles (the site of a playerâ€™s public reputation online) to be tagged with negative references from community members has a powerful impact on the sub-cultural consciousness. What would a similar tool look like for Twitter or Facebook?
So again, the question youâ€™re asking is bigger than an email. Iâ€™d be interested in having that bigger conversation with you, if you are serious about having it, too.
I often struggle to digest information like this; I’ll be re-reading these articles a few times to try to understand them more fully.
I would like to have the bigger conversation, but [â€¦] I need to watch out I don’t bite off more than I can chew. I regard this topic as highly important and a responsibility I now have.
The use of game theory resonates with me, as I’ve used ideas from my basic understanding of game theory as influence in the structure of [my project] (only very crudely). So if I can expand those ideas in a way which protects people, all the better.
Am I right in my understanding that one core idea is that negative information is intentionally hidden in most places, in order to benefit the company? So (and this is a contrived example) where [my project] might track how many messages a person receives as a positive, it should also track, process, and weight the negative events associated; messages which go unrelieved to, messages reported as abusive etc?
My response tried to elaborate on “negative” signaling:
Of course. That’s fine. Take your time.
It’s good that you consider this a responsibility you have, because you already had this responsibility, even before you were developing [your project]. ;)
You’re almost right about your understanding.
The bigger point being made here is that, from the perspective of users, [your project] is a hostile, not a friendly. You, as the company, are not a passive facilitator of information. You are in a decidedly dominant position over your users, and this means that you have the capacity to be predatory in relation to them, because when it comes to their interactions with or through [your project], you are obscenely more powerful than they are.
So, yes, you should also track, process, and weight negative events. But you should also not presume to necessarily know what events are negative and what events are positive. The minute you think you can determine what negative signaling is for someone else, you become much more likely to fail to empower that other person. Itâ€™s not up to you to determine whatâ€™s negative or whatâ€™s not. You can, of course, do some things to make this more obvious, and the â€œreport abuseâ€ feature is a start. But the problem with â€œabuse reportsâ€ is that those reports are sent to the entity in the [project] ecosystem that already has the most power: [the project/website/company itself]. Thatâ€™s a recipe for disaster.
One simple way to tweak this system would be to simply display a tally of all the abuse reports a given profile has received next to their profile. Allow people to click-through on that icon to a list of all abuse reports filed against that profile. Donâ€™t hide it. Donâ€™t make excuses for it. Donâ€™t arbitrate it. Donâ€™t moderate it. In a centralized system such as I understand [your project] to be (I signed up for an account today and had a look around), a moderation system is far more likely to end up as a â€œbenevolentâ€ dictatorship rather than an effective means of anti-abuse behavior. You should not appoint yourself as the police.
â€œModerationâ€ is a governance tool that may make sense in the context of online communities with a relatively homogenous populace, such as multiplayer video games or topically-oriented forums. But moderation is inherently in conflict with the goal of dissolving authority and dispersing power amongst a heterogenous populace already prone to conflict. There is no system of moderation that is not also a system of social control. And in the context of a project explicitly designed to overcome the iniquities introduced to human experience by traditional mechanisms of social control, adding a traditional mechanism of social control is shortsighted at best and active sabotage at worst.
We realize this is difficult to understand at first. After all, there is currently no physical-world social context wherein we are free from the power of authorities we did not choose and also do not agree with. Everyone has a parent, a teacher, or a bossâ€”even the fucking police. As one PAT collaborator wrote:
Weâ€™re all so accustomed to having our spaces monitored and moderated and overseen â€œfor our own safetyâ€ that sometimes, when we take the well-being of our communities into our own hands, we appear to be doing more harm than good. Thatâ€™s only because weâ€™re comparing our efforts to the imaginary â€œsafeâ€ world weâ€™ve been told that we live in, not to the dangerous realities that survivors actually face online and off.
Put another way, from the perspective of a vulnerable populace, namely people who are the targets of rape and physical abuse, a system that erodes the power of central authorities (such as website admins, or the cops) is a move towards safety, not away from it.
In other words, the premise of [your project] is to connect people with different characteristics who want to engage positively. This means you have to provide them with the information both to find people they like and to avoid people they donâ€™t like. You canâ€™t do this effectively if you only surface positive signals while hiding negative ones. And to effectively surface negative signals, you have to re-examine your assumptions about what â€œnegativeâ€ means because, if you donâ€™t, especially in the context of a diverse user base, youâ€™re going to get it wrong for at least some users. When you get it wrong for them, you create an environment in which it is particularly easy to predate on that specific subsection of your user base.
Thatâ€™s why most dating sites are a breeding ground for predatory users. Most dating sites are, after all, programmed by men.
My hope in sharing this is to encourage other people to think more critically and creatively about what structural changes are necessary to facilitate anti-abuse action. Recent attempts by Twitter and WAM have been decidedly stupid. And I don’t say that lightly. These are some exceptionally talented people in a number of fields ranging from gender advocacy to technology. And yet most acts I see being takenâ€””moderation superpowers” to use the most recent buzzwordâ€”is downright counterproductive. Obviously.
It’s time we stopped believing that authority or authorities in public spheres are a solution. The longer we wait to face the fact that power corrupts, the more abuse we’ll bring down on ourselves, our communities, and our peers. Heed this warning: do not police.
So, as a person diagnosed first with unipolar depression, then a slew of â€œsocial anxietyâ€ labels, and finally bipolar disorder, first at the age of 12 and then continually for the rest of my young adult life, and for whom the uncritical belief in the utility of these â€œtreatmentsâ€ had disastrous, near-suicidal consequences, the information presented here strikes me as an incredibly damaging taxonomical justification for the mortal sin many humans commit called â€œhaving feelings.â€ I donâ€™t mean to imply here that the taxonomic framework is useless. Obviously, naming a thing that is hurting people can begin to offer pathways to recovering from the hurt a previously unidentifiable thing has caused. What I am suggesting, however, is that this information is presented in a way that is incomplete, irresponsible, and ultimately hurtful. It is an uncritically authoritative narrative about this particular mental illness that is dangerously misleading.
The fact of the matter is that Western medicine has no theory with a shred of consistent internal logic that even approaches an explanation for what the fuck bipolar disorder even is. You can see this immediately in their taxonomy of â€œtypesâ€ of bipolar disorder, in which they describe â€œtype I,â€ â€œtype II,â€ â€œcyclothymia,â€ and then the magic catch-all â€œunspecified.â€ They also have prefix modifiers, such as â€œatypical,â€ which is just psychopharmocologistsâ€™ fancy way of saying â€œwell it SEEMS like MAYBE itâ€™s THIS type of bipolar disorder but itâ€™s not really matching up with all our measurements and we have no idea why so weâ€™ll just say itâ€™s an ATYPICAL CASE of that thing.â€
Look, you donâ€™t need to be a rocket scientist to realize that if your categorization scheme includes a â€œmiscellaneousâ€ category, then itâ€™s a pretty shitty categorization scheme. And if what your shitty categorization scheme is categorizing is OTHER HUMAN BEINGS, and then you are using that categorization scheme to justify forcibly drugging children (like me), then you are a piece of shit doctor and you should die in a fire for knowingly violating the Hippocratic oath you purport to care so much about.
Now, zooming out a little bit, the â€œtheoryâ€ Western medicine proposes to â€œexplainâ€ these disordersâ€”which, if youâ€™ll notice, have gone from non-existent to UNBELIEVABLY FUCKING WIDESPREAD in the population at the same time as the boom of the pharmaceutical industry, what a coincidenceâ€”is that people diagnosed with these disorders have â€œchemical imbalancesâ€ in their brains. That is to say, they either â€œlackâ€ or â€œhave too muchâ€ of one kind of neurotransmitter or another. Neurotransmitters are the physical molecules used to jump-start electrical impulses in nerve cells and hop over the gaps between nerve cells called synapses. The theory goes that certain amounts of neurotransmitters (most commonly either serotonin or dopamine or both) are required for â€œhappiness,â€ and thus if there is not enough of these chemicals swishing about in the pool of chemical jelly that is your brain, you are sad.
To resolve this â€œproblem,â€ Big Pharma funded the development of a whole class of drugs they term SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, which is a fancy name for â€œstuff that clogs up your brain cells so that they canâ€™t absorb serotonin and thus leaves more of the serotonin floating around in your brain bath.â€
Hereâ€™s the problem with the whole SSRI drug racket: it doesnâ€™t actually work. There is literally more scientific evidence to support the idea that PLACEBOS are more effective at treating mental illness than actual chemicals. And, likewise, those actual chemicals come with a HUGE range of really terrifying side effects. To take just one extreme example, have you ever walked into the sunlight and felt like everywhere the sun was touching your skin, your skin was BURNING? Because thatâ€™s what the tiny fine print â€œmay cause sensitivity to lightâ€ was like for me, and no one told me that until after they started noticing me hopping from tree-covered shadow to tree-covered shadow and were like, â€œDude, why is maymay avoiding the sun?â€
TL;DR: This is some seriously abusive bullshit, more often used to justify chemically controlling people who behave in ways undesirable to authority figures like parents and schools than it is used to help people. DO NOT. BELIEVE. THEIR LIES.
Iâ€™m sorry that happened to you, and I fully agree with the whole bit about using pharma to sedate people whose behaviour is undesirable instead of trying to help people, but Iâ€™m pretty sure there is a difference between â€œmental health isnâ€™t a virus and you canâ€™t fix it with a pill, especially when applied non-consensuallyâ€ and â€œantidepressants donâ€™t do shit.â€
You may as well suggest that nicotine or alcohol doesnâ€™t really do anything Because Placebo Effect and Marketing. Yeah, we donâ€™t understand the processes by which drugs affect our brains. They still clearly have an effect, and that effect should be judged on its own merits. I decided to try SSRIs because I tried MDMA and, despite years and years of cognitive-behavioural therapy-based incremental improvements, realised that I was still fucking terrified of humans when sober. Now, you canâ€™t take MDMA on a daily basis without frying your brain, but I figured that meant serotonin manipulation might help me, so SSRIs it was. You know what? It does help. I donâ€™t know whose idea it was to assume that â€œmore serotonin helpsâ€ = â€œnot enough serotonin was the problem in the first placeâ€, thatâ€™s a fairly simple correlation v causation thing, but it still does help. Iâ€™ve made fucking leaps and bounds this year, because Iâ€™ve been able to work on my issues without the constant distortion and distraction of my fight-or-flight response kicking in at the slightest provocation. If it was legal to just take MDMA and do a few solid hours of therapy on it every month or two, Iâ€™m sure that would have had a similar effect. But weâ€™re not toppling the legal system any time in the next couple years, so fuck it, Iâ€™m taking what I can get.
Itâ€™s completely understandable that having such awful experiences with pharma has given you a strong negative reaction to the entire concept. And yeah, bipolar diagnostics are pretty obviously fucked. But donâ€™t throw out the baby with the bathwater – drugs arenâ€™t the problem.
Lack of patient autonomy in the medical system is the problem. If youâ€™ve read any of realsocialskills‘ stuff on ABA, you know people can be fucked over just as badly by non-chemical attempts to â€œfix themâ€ without understanding them. Saying stuff like â€œantidepressants don’t do shitâ€ is stealing focus from the real problem and incidentally potentially alienating exactly the people you’d need on your side if you wanted to pull apart the psychiatric system and put it back together in a way that’s a net positive to humanity.
“Now, you canâ€™t take MDMA on a daily basis without frying your brainâ€¦”
FWIW, I actually have a friend who does take MDMA, at an extremely low dose, on pretty much a daily basis to manage his social anxiety and PTSD. His brain seems fine.
Heâ€™s also a psychiatric survivor whoâ€™s worked with radical community mental health care advocacy groups for years and studied pharmacology and neurobiology extensively. (And heâ€™s a drug dealer, so he has more ready access re: self-medication than is available to most people.) TL;DR: â€œDonâ€™t try this at home, kids.â€
But my point is that drugs are tools. Prescription and â€œnon-prescriptionâ€ brain drugs alike have potentials both to help and to harm. But the people who are paid to â€œpushâ€ prescription psychiatric medication are, to my mind, significantly more malicious and less trustworthy than people who encourage the careful and conscientious use of other, arguably less harmful and side-effect-riddled substances to self-medicate. (Although, to be fair, those people often have an agenda too â€” especially if theyâ€™re the ones selling the drugs. So itâ€™s always good to approach anything of this nature with caution and do a lot of research.)
Beyond that, I agree with pretty much everything youâ€™ve said here. First and foremost, non-consensually manipulating other peoplesâ€™ brain chemistry is fucked up bullshit, no matter how youâ€™re doing it or what substances youâ€™re using. Anyway. Iâ€™m glad to hear you found something that works well for you. :)
I’m not sure I ever said “drugs are the problem”?
Most of you probably don’t know this about me, because Tumblr didn’t exist when I was 14 in 1996, when I started my first website, but the very first web site I ever made was about bipolar disorder. It was a blog before blogs were called blogs. It was about my diagnosis and my struggles in school, and it was the first web site about bipolar disorder to be made by a teen designed to be read by other teens on the whole Internet (which was much smaller back then).
I called this website “Ups and Downs: The Personal Story of a Bipolar Teen,” which later evolved to “Ups and Downs and Everything In Between” when I started using blogging software to blog instead of just putting reverse-chronologically ordered HTML pages up online, hence the name of my current blog, “Everything In Between”. The original site received a lot of attention, no small feat in the age before Google. Within a few years I had amassed several dozen thousands letters of correspondence and was so totally overwhelmed by the attention and my own life that I shut the whole thing down and retreated away from having a public personae on the Internet at all.
Then I re-emerged on the Internet as a public figure through a sex blog called “Maybe Maimed but Never Harmed” and the rest, as they say, is history. But I didn’t really provide this personal history just to invite you to take a stroll down memory lane with me. A lot of the writing and correspondence I had with readers of “Ups and Downs” was about medications. And some of it is still online.
Here’s a link to a personal archive I keep of that site. Peruse at your leisure. There’s a link titled “Email Pool” at the top which was something of an advice column that I didn’t maintain for long, mostly because I hate giving people advice. I just like telling them when they’re wrong about something. Click on “Medications” and you’ll find this “not really an email response, more like a short essay,” that past!me wrote in 2002:
Nobody likes medicine, but here’s the bottom line: in my opinion, if you are prescribed medication by your licensed psychiatrist you must take that medication because your life does, indeed, depend on it.
I was first prescribed medications for the treatment of bipolar disorder when I was at the tender age of twelve. Ever since then, I have hated my medication with a passion rivaling my personal beliefs and convictions. There was even a time, two years after I started taking the medicine, when I fell into a common place trap and stopped taking it because I felt like I didn’t need them; I felt “better.” Two weeks later I attempted suicide, spiraled into a pit of depression, and faced one of the darkest periods in my life. Looking back on the experience with 20/20 hindsight, I can see that I felt better because I was taking the medication.
My point in all this is that medications are a valuable tool for you to use to help make your life livable. Implicit in that belief is the assumption that you are taking the correct medicine for you, at the correct dosage. When I say “correct” I mean whatever makes you a functioning entity in your life. It took me a good full year to find the correct dosage of lithium that I am on now, and from the many people I have spoken with, my understanding is that one year is an awfully quick time. I was lucky. Patience is not just a virtue, it’s a necessity. But once you’ve found a working treatment, it’s helpful to understand these are variables in an equation designed to help you function in your life. If at any point things aren’t working, discuss altering your medications with your doctor.
Your treatment is just that — your’s, and you’ll find that it is both more effective and easier to handle emotionally if you’re the one behind the steering wheel.
This mirror’s what unquietpirate said, above, and I agree with her. And I agree with you, that it’s obvious pumping bodies full of chemicals does shit. What I’m trying to explain is that what it does is fuck shit up.
Maybe that’s something you want. Maybe those drugs are fucking shit up for you in a way that jostles you out of whatever destructive pattern you were in before long enough to grab onto a lifeline or fall into a different pit. Maybe you’re meaningfully consenting to something you know will fuck you up in some way. I’m not you. I don’t know.
But I’ll tell you what I do know:
I know that there is a world of difference between approaching medications the way you did, paraphrased as, “I tried MDMA once, so I figured I’d give legal SSRIs a shot” and the way I did, paraphrased as, “I hated school so they forcibly drugged me for most of my teenage life.”
I know that this approach alone accounts for a huge part of the differences in our experiences.
I know that SSRIs aren’t just legal but encouraged for children, despite the known risks and side effects, while MDMA, a drug that is in its purest form essentially the same drug concentrated so it actually has a marked (and temporary) effect is illegal to make, use, possess, sell, and so on, and only very recently are people even beginning to question why that might be.
So I take it very personally when you say that dissing antidepressants is like “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.” There is no baby here and the bathwater is actually Drano. “Taking drugs” is one thing. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about drugging people.
By way of analogy, hammers can be used to kill people. I wouldn’t suggest someone who wants to put a nail into a wall not use a hammer. But I also wouldn’t suggest that someone who picks up a hammer to put a nail in the wall is doing the same thing or even using the same kind of object as someone who picks up a hammer to kill someone with. One’s a carpentry tool and the other is a weapon, even though they’re the same hammer.
Finally, I think it’s worth explicitly pointing to two points cognitivedefusion made in the piece I linked in the original post where they respond to a defense of antidepressants:
2) â€œIn fact, since there is no theory to replace it as of yet, continuing to use and refine drug therapies is probably the best option.â€ – Why? Why is it best toÂ continue refining therapies which areÂ inferior to other working treatments? When you look at the long-term data, behavioral treatments surpass medicinal treatments. This has been verified in anxiety, depression, even ADHD, which many people assumeÂ requires pharmacotherapy.
3) Interestingly much of the dysfunction associated with psychosis stems from the persistent attempts to reduce said symptoms. This finding is transdiagnostic, in thatÂ all distress from mental illness stems at least partly from attempts to avoid or escape. Teaching functionality at an earlier place in time (i.e., during prodromal phase) yields better outcomes than trying to reduce symptomatology. And interestingly, antipsychotics are not found to be too effective either. They reduce some positive symptoms (sometimes), but do nothing for negative symptoms, and will bring on some of their own symptoms as well. Itâ€™s really not a particularly sound treatment when looking at the data.
So that being said, I don’t think our opinions are actually that different. But I’m not going to entertain the idea that antidepressants are in any way a reasonable, safe, or even preferable first, second, or third resort for people suffering with bipolar disorder. If someone can acquire and use it safely, and if they have the appropriate social support structures to self-medicate with it (a thing that most people who are seeing doctors are actually trying to seek but have to pay forBecause Capitalism Destroys Relationships) I would suggest illegal MDMA before I would suggest seeing a clinical psychopharmacologist.
That is, unless someone is in a situation so dire that they are already trapped inside of the medical industrial complex for one reason or another, like I was because I was not an emancipated child and I was going to school, so I had no legal power of my own. Similarly, I would never suggest someone seek the “help” of a lawyer unless they were in such dire straights that they were already ensnared by the legal system. Eschewing antidepressants and prescriptions for such versus mindfully self-medicating just seem like such vastly different spheres of concern to me that the distinctions between them seemed obvious.
After that lesson, I thought back to my entire K-12 schooling experience. Despite the number of kind-hearted and well-intentioned people who played a part in it, how many ever asked for my consent? How many asked me (and seriously engaged me in) the questions: Did I actually want to go to school? Did I actually think this assignment was a good idea? Was this class actually worth my time? And what else might I have done with my time instead of sitting bored?
School, I realized, is a terrible place to learn consentâ€”which is a shame, considering that consent is the cornerstone of every healthy relationship and community Iâ€™ve ever encountered.
To me, consent means:
understanding what youâ€™re committing to
knowing what the alternatives are
saying â€œyesâ€ while retaining the power to say â€œnoâ€
Iâ€™m really happy to see people talking about the inherent abusiveness of compulsory schooling, even if they donâ€™t quite take the step of pointing out that forcing someone to do something without their consent is abuse. When it gets to the part about how parents should approach their children, however, you can still see that theyâ€™re prioritizing adults over children:
A self-directed parent who wants her kid to take violin lessons doesnâ€™t just sign him up for lessons. She explains her reasoning to him: â€œI want you to appreciate music,â€ for example. She suggests other activities that could provide the same benefits, such as guitar lessons, digital composing, or attending the symphony. She sets clear expectations for any classes or tutoring: â€œI want you to give your best effort to three lessons.â€
I mean, yeah, they say to notÂ force the kid to do what you want, but they still assume that what the adult wants is something that should be centered in the childâ€™s life. Why are you trying to decide what your childâ€™s hobbies and interests should be? Instead of starting from a place of what you want to happen, you should start from a place of discovering what your child is interested in. Itâ€™s fine if you start with whatâ€™s of interest to you, but the idea that you decide that your child ought to appreciate something specific and have that as a goal that you are trying to lead them toward, however â€œnicelyâ€, is manipulative. Better approach:
“Thereâ€™s a symphony in town performing music I really love and appreciate, would you like to go see it with me?”
“When I was young I learned to play the violin and really loved it (or really wish I had learned). Do you think youâ€™d be interested in learning to play the violin or any other instrument?”
It might seem similar, but itâ€™s actually very different than saying â€œI want you to learn the violin because I have decided that you should appreciate music. If you donâ€™t want to learn the violin, which will disappoint me, I will begrudgingly allow you to learn another instrument or go to the symphony instead. Which option do you choose for learning to appreciate this thing that I have decided you should appreciate?â€ Obviously, Iâ€™m exaggerating, but this is the kind of thing that comes through when you approach a child with the thought, â€œI want you to do X, how do I get you to do it?â€
And that completely arbitrary,Â â€I wantÂ you to give your best effort to three lessonsâ€? Ew. If they want to give up after one lesson (or no lessons), then thatâ€™s up to them. Instead, talk to them about why they want to quit. Maybe they simply decided it wasnâ€™t for them, but maybe the instructor or class was a bad fit, or maybe they were just discouraged by the difficulty and you can talk to them about how to approach difficult tasks and see if maybe they want some help in giving it another shot. But any of that could happen after 1, 3, or 30 lessons, and you should be willing to have those conversations with them regardless, and then trust them to make the decision about how many lessons they need to know if itâ€™s something they want to continue or not.
Your children are not obligated to appreciate or be interested in the same things your are. You should be centering their wants and interests, or helping them to discover what their interests are without centering your own wants. Approaching them with the idea of â€œI want them to do this thing, how do I convince/persuade/cajole/trick/push/manipulate them into doing it?â€ is not prioritizing consent.
although lets remember a lot of families canâ€™t afford to pay for lessons (maybe the parent themselves canâ€™t actually play an instrument, for example, but its what the child would like to do) although barter of goods and services may be an option in this case, but again we are assuming that the parents have access to transportation and people who know what the child may want to learn.
also a lot of parents send their kids to school so they can:
get a hot meal (breakfast and lunch) thatâ€™s free
and have a place for the child to go while the parent goes to work.
obviously as the child gets older then maybe they can do more self directed learning.
Iâ€™m not saying this isnâ€™t something that need to be fixed in society. but for now itâ€™s an only choice for a lot of families.
Iâ€™m just throwing out some things I thought of while reading this. I probably missed something. Iâ€™m also thinking of personal experience. Iâ€™m not trying to discount these ideas at all.
Youâ€™re absolutely right, I was just trying to focus on the particular attitude behind the given example and how it isnâ€™t really taking consent into account despite the focus of the article being about consent. In reality, though, everything is much more complicated. I think maymay covers some really important points about this in their reply here. Excerpt:
[W]hen parents force their children to go to school they are acting abusively AND in the best interests of their children, because the parents are under massively coercive forms of violence from places like the State (they will be judged â€œnegligentâ€ parents if they do not force their children to go to school), the economy (they are forced to have jobs and thus not spend their time raising and helping their children educate themselves, as well being restricted from forming relationships with other adults who are not parents who may be able to help in a â€œit takes a villageâ€ model, see â€œDonâ€™t Leave Your Friends Behind: A Radical Parenting Allies Handbook” for more on this), and the abusive social norms of what parenting really means (such as the idea that children “belong to,” i.e., are the human property of, their parents, seeÂ John Bellâ€™s â€œUnderstanding Adultismâ€Â for a primer on this).
Obviously I am not suggesting that parents should NOT cede to the threats placed on them if it is not actually safe for them to resist. And we are in a very dire situation right now where it is in fact not safe for many parents to resist acting abusively towards their children because of these external and internalized threats and fears. But that does not in fact mean that these parents are not acting abusively.
To take this to itsÂ hard radicalÂ conclusion, what this means is that if you choose to have children in the context of current society, you are virtually guaranteeing that you will have to abuse someone with less power than you at some point. This is no different from the claim that if you believe there is such a thing as wholly ethical and uncomplicated consumption under late capitalism, you are deluding yourself. And it is also the same logic that I use when I say that if you choose to have sex in the context of rape culture, you have to take it as a given that you will probably violate someoneâ€™s consent at some point.
Also, @ socialjusticeveganâ€™s first response, â€œhaving a conversation with your childâ€ is not something you can do on command. Forcing your child to interact/communicate with you is abusive.
Yes, all of this.
I have only a couple things to add, nothing to refute.
Here they are.
First, when socialjusticevegan describes it as “an exaggeration” when parents do things that translate to, “Which option do you choose for learning to appreciate this thing that I have decided you should appreciate?â€ the exaggeration is more about the overtness of the ultimatum, not the fact that there is an ultimatum. The less trivial a given task or action is perceived by the parent (or any other authority, really, like teachers), the more likely it is that their ultimatums will be presented more overtly.
So far, most city governments have been effective at using tech to turn citizens into human sensors who serve authorities with data on the city: potholes, fallen trees or broken lamps. They have also, to a lesser extent, invited people to participate in improving the outcome of decisions that were already made for them, just like my mom when I was eight and she told me that I had a choice: I had to be in bed by 8 p.m., but I could choose my pink pajamas or my blue pajamas. Thatâ€™s not participation[.]
Second, when gincoffee describes the predicament that many parents are in, they are not exaggerating when they suggest that for many families, economic conditions are so bad that their decision boils down to, “If I don’t send my children to school, I can not ensure that they will have at least one minimally nutritious meal a day.” But like so many other things in capitalism, this is not really a choice, it is a threat.
Finally, gincoffee‘s also correct to point out that another reason compulsory schooling survives is because society needs to “have a place for the child to go while the parent goes to work,” but I would rephrase this to focus on the cause of this problem, which is that “parents are forced to abandon their children in order to labor for other people’s profit.”
The direct line between these two abuses should be obvious to anyone who has ever gone to school or felt the need to get a job in order to survive: you go to a good school to get a good job so that you can labor for other people upwards of 40 hours a week in exchange for paltry sums of currency tokens (that don’t grow on trees, after all) that you are then forced to trade for things that you need to survive, like food, which literally grows on trees.
And that says nothing of compulsory education’s designs dating farther back than the formation of The Education Trust in the early 20th Century, whose intentionally classist objectives was described in a polemical fashion I find delightful in Chapter 2 of John Taylor Gatto’s book, “The Underground History of American Education,” titled “An Angry Look at Modern Schooling.” An excerpt:
School was looked upon from the first decade of the twentieth century as a branch of industry and a tool of governance. For a considerable time, probably provoked by a climate of official anger and contempt directed against immigrants in the greatest displacement of people in history, social managers of schooling were remarkably candid about what they were doing. In a speech he gave before businessmen prior to the First World War, Woodrow Wilson made this unabashed disclosure:
We want one class to have a liberal education. We want another class, a very much larger class of necessity, to forgo the privilege of a liberal education and fit themselves to perform specific difficult manual tasks.
With the breakdown of home and village industries, the passing of chores, and the extinction of the apprenticeship system by large-scale production with its extreme division of labor (and the “all conquering march of machinery”), an [“]army of workers has arisen,[“] said [Ellwood Patterson] Cubberley [one of the most influential theorists of compulsory education administration], [“]who know nothing.[“]
Reading Westhues’ descriptions of the traumatic effects mobbing behaviors have on targets resounds very deeply and very painfully. But it is also an enormous relief. Finally, I can name this specific abuse I’m enduring with terms endowed with the magic cultural legitimacy of the academe, and even though I think academics are classist hogwash, I’m hopeful using the sociological term and framework may convince more people to step outside their “not my problem” bubble and pro-actively support me against this rather than remain uninvolved bystanders.
So, I am asking you for help.
Please read about mobbing. I’ve just begun to do this, too. Maybe we can help educate each other. I’m currently going over the “Virtual Mobbing” article. It’s long and dense but obviously specifically relevant to my “workplace,” the Internet.
Help me find answers to “What to do about it”, which is a topic I’ve found mentioned but only briefly at the end of, “At the Mercy of the Mob.” If there are no solutions provided by the texts, help me imagine possible countermeasures and think through potential solutions, mitigations, harm reduction tactics, and so on.
Send me notes of encouragement, tell me what you like about my work, about me, speak kindly to me, and perhaps even more importantly, speak kindly about me and do so in public. Here’s a simple example of how to do this.
I want to highlight number 3, in the list above, because this is one the things that people still don’t seem to understand about the Internet. One of the unique characteristics about “Virtual Mobbing” is that the Internet enables a kind of plausibly deniable stage whisper. This kind of talking about someone but not necessarilyÂ to them is one of the most pernicious and common tactics of cyberbullies and virtual mobbers, because of the scale, speed, and confusion at which the Internet amplifies fearmongering.
The fact of the matter is, I can hear anything and I do in fact hear everything that is said about me (or my work) on the Internet, if it’s said in a public venue. A Twitter conversation from an unlocked account is not private. A public Tumblr post is not private. If people are talking about me, I know about it, usually within a few days.
Most of the time, when people speak ill of me to others, they are doing so under the false belief that these other people who don’t know or even care who I am are “lauding” me, and this makes the mobbers feel “uncomfortable” because they, personally, believe that I am only worth contempt and must be punished for my many mortal sins. A perfect example of this from just the other day is @cythesomething here on Tumblr.
It is no coincidence that this mobbing behavior intensifies at the very same time as the Predator Alert Tool is signal boosted. This has always been the pattern, from the very beginning. Had it happened only once, I might have called it a misunderstanding. Had it happened twice, maybe I could have dismissed it as a mistake. That it has happened more than three times makes clear, these are intentional mob assaults.
This got long, but I hope you’ve taken the time to read it anyway. For now, if you don’t have it in you to slog through academic material (it’s time consuming and exhausting, I know), then consider simply reblogging this. Maybe add a nice thing about me or, even better, the work I’ve been doing lately. Then, some time from now, please don’t forget that this is still happening, like a slow-motion bashing, and remember that this is the context of what’s happening when you see me bashing back.
I’ve been on the receiving end of this mob’s hatred for more than 3 years. I don’t expect it will stop anytime in the next 3 months just because I asked for help. In fact, it’s likely going to get worse. (See Westhues’ checklist, item number 15, “Outraged response to any appeals for outside help the target may make.”)
So, if all you can do is send me a nice ask once in a while, I will really appreciate you for that, too. Thanks.