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TOO CONSERVATIVE HOSTILE TAKEOVER?

By Greg L | 14 July 2006 | Blogs | 32 Comments

Too Conservative appears to be the victim of a hostile takeover by Mitch Cumstein, as a number of Mitch’s posts have appeared and every other post on the blog has vanished. I’ve tried to locate evidence of some older posts, and it seems they have all been deleted.

This happened shortly after the appearance of King of Suede (coverage here) which posted evidence, obviously obtained using administrative priviledges for the site of Vincent using multiple aliases to add comments to posts.

Some may recall that Mitch was an early contributor to TC and was kicked off the site, along with others, when Vincent decided to go out on his own.

Developing…

UPDATE: Novatownhall has a post up here, and TC has now disappeared from the Not Larry Sabato blogroll.

UPDATE #2: It appears that Vincent, concerned that someone may have gained administrative priviliges to Too Conservative without authorization, locked down the site and pulled his content until he could verify that the site has not been compromised.  There is no hostile takeover, which is reassuring.  Mitch was able to repost some of his articles after the content was taken down, which made it appear that he had taken over.

Now I’m certain Vincent will be trying hard to determine who Velvet Elvis is and how he got the information he posted.  It’s likely that Elvis’ information was old and obtained before Vincent took the site solo, which would suggest there was no breach of security on the site.  In this scenario, a “hack” would not have been required in order to obtain the information, it would have been easily available to a number of administrators.



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32 Comments

  1. Anonymous said on 15 Jul 2006 at 12:19 am:
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    Mitch and NOVA Scout are the best things about that site now anyway.

  2. Charles said on 15 Jul 2006 at 1:25 am:
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    I don’t know what is happening, but assuming the velvet elvis post was true, I still hope that Vincent isn’t treated too harshly.

    I like to see people own up to their mistakes, but not destroyed over them. Although I guess I could see why people might react negatively to finding out stuff like that, I figured that most of the people who supported him before would still be with him.

    BTW, I think Mitch had posted to some previous discussions about the TC turnover that he supported the turnover, which didn’t seem directed at him. So while it certainly looks like Mitch has taken over, I’d be surprised if that turns out to be the case, unless TC made a deliberate decision about it, which I’d also find hard to believe.

    So I will be watching to see what else you can dig up about this.

    You’re pretty good with the computer stuff — do you know if it is possible for a non-site administrator to get hold of the counter information? I know that the person setting up the site can make it public (I had accidentally set mine up that way for a bit when I first started my counter), but can you hack the counter sites?

  3. anon said on 15 Jul 2006 at 1:44 am:
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    jim riley is responsible

  4. Charles said on 15 Jul 2006 at 2:39 am:
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    I contacted Vince, and he provided a response which I have posted at my site, at

    Vincent (TC) responds regarding tonight’s events

    As I thought, it doesn’t look like anybody took over his site — Vincent just wanted to shut things down while he made sure he wasn’t hacked by “elvis” to get the information.

    I would say that NLS probably knew this and the removal of the TC site is temporary.

    The next few days should be interesting.

  5. Mitch Cumstein said on 15 Jul 2006 at 7:12 am:
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    Charles:

    Thanks for the vote of confidence. As you can see, this was not a “hostile takeover.” That’s not really my style, anyway.

  6. Anonymous said on 15 Jul 2006 at 8:08 am:
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    anon 1:44 — if that is true, then that would only add credibility to the allegations since he was a contributor and could have easily gathered that information while having admin privileges. i would only fault him for not disclosing this info sooner, but perhaps, if it was indeed him, he had tried to deal with Vincent on this matter privately first.

  7. Anonymous said on 15 Jul 2006 at 8:10 am:
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    BTW, TooConservative.com now points to Chad Dotson’s Commonwealth Conservative web site.

  8. AWCheney said on 15 Jul 2006 at 9:06 am:
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    Anon 1:44, that is totally illogical. First off, Mitch just pointed out that he was not involved. Secondly, if Mitch was involved why were no ip addresses posted from the new TC site, as he is a contributor there as well? I know it’s far easier to assume that everyone lies rather than using logic to confirm that someone is actually telling the truth.

  9. Anonymous said on 15 Jul 2006 at 9:15 am:
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    Mitch,

    It may be a good idea to reveal your true identity before it comes out very shortly. Watch closely, if you know what I mean.

  10. AWCheney said on 15 Jul 2006 at 9:18 am:
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    Sorry, I misread the previous post to mine (Anonymous 8:10 AM). I was thinking that you were referring to Mitch and, unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a way to delete. I believe that any public speculation involving names, without evidence, is unfair. I agree with Charles when he suggested that we should see how this plays out over the next few days.

  11. Mitch Cumstein said on 15 Jul 2006 at 11:13 am:
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    A few points here:

    First, as I mentioned earlier, this was not a hostile takeover. To the contrary, when Vince realized that private information was made public, he contacted me to address the issue, as he was driving around Texas and did not have access to a PC. Vince is a good friend and woukd never do anything to compromise his efforts or those of any of my fellow contributors at TC.

    As to the threat of my being “outed,” while I have chosen to blog pseudonymously and would prefer to continue doing so, I really won’t lose any sleep either way. I stand by every comment I’ve ever made and would gladly attribute my name to each and every one of them. As a number of people who know my true identity have noted, my name revealed will not impress or surprise anyone, other than to generate a chorus of “Who’s he?” Which doesn’t bother me in the least.

  12. Emma said on 15 Jul 2006 at 11:24 am:
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    I made this comment earlier on the other thread last night; I thought I’d post it here too.

    I wonder why the posts on “Elvis’s” site are all from February and March. Wasn’t that about the time of the purging of contributors? (I’m not sure; time flies.)

    Why wait until now to do this outing? Is there some point besides gossip? Mysterious.

    I wonder who the Elvis guy is? (It sounds like you have an idea Greg!) It’s interesting that he acts like he has no idea how he got this info - it’s just on his word-thinga-ma-jiggy sometimes, he said. Strange, coy, little girl-ish language for an adult. The word thinga-ma-jiggy seems to be WordPress - the program used to create some blogs (maybe Vince’s too; I don’t know.)

    I will say that seeing all of those comments together - they do sound awfully similar in “voice”. However, the ip address is one of a block from cox in Fairfax. I don’t know if cox there uses dynamic or static ip addresses. That could make a difference regarding whether all of these were Vince or not.

    (It was addressed in the other thread that apparently Cox uses static ips. Also, I hadn’t noticed specific dates and times which Charles points out are close together making dynamic seem completely unlikely.)
    —–

    In any event, I have to wonder why NOW to do this “outing”. If it is old data and the person does not still have priveleges, then maybe the behavior of posting comments stopped months ago. I would think that if Elvis had recent data, he would use it. That he did not reveals some info on who may be.

    The writing style doesn’t seem at all like Mitch. And it certainly doesn’t seem to have been Nova Scout, who actually posted a comment to one of the old resurrected threads (and the Elvis writing is not at all like him either.)

  13. Anonymous said on 15 Jul 2006 at 1:16 pm:
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    Perhaps Elvis just finally got fed up with Vincent’s self-righteous hypocrisy and decided to expose it.

  14. Emma said on 15 Jul 2006 at 2:26 pm:
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    I’m really not aware how, if this is true, that it is “hypocrisy” on Vince’s part. Not wise, IMO, but hypocrisy? Did Vince rail somewhere against blog owner’s posting anonymously on their own blogs? If so, that would be hypocrisy, but I’m not aware of that happening. If it has, then please do enlighten.

    The poster above seems to have posted the same sentiment on another blog: “It could just as well have been an inside job with someone exposing his self-righteous hypocrisy, sick of his anonymous attacks on Republicans he publicly makes nice to.”

    Now I really haven’t taken the time to read all of the comments that Vince is alleged to have made during Feb & Mar but the dozen or so I did read seem to be consistently negative toward the same people that he is negative toward on his blog under his own name. That’s not hypocrisy. Perhaps there are oodles of comments bashing people he supposedly likes - Sean, Tom Davis, etc. If so, then highlight them, because I didn’t see them in my quick read of the comments. Short of that, it’s not hypocrisy. Again, not wise, but not hypocrisy.

    There is something ironic about a guy/gal anonymously/pseudonomously exposing someone for making anonymous/pseudononymous comments. And to use data obtained in a less-than-honorable manner to complain about someone behaving in a less-than-honorable manner.

    The list of people who could be Velvet Elvis (or have provided the info to Elvis) is only about 8 or 9 people long. And from Sophrosyne at NovaTownhall at the time of the exercising of some contributors: “Regardless, the suddenly homeless former contributors used the original blogger website to demonstrate their displeasure at their authoritarian removal and hinted that if Vince continued to pressure them (to get them to vanish from the blogger site as well) they would (according to our limited understanding of the situation) reveal IP address information demonstrating that Vince has also been posting anonymously under various pseudonyms to further his own agenda.”

  15. NoVA Scout said on 15 Jul 2006 at 3:22 pm:
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    The blogs are an interesting phenomenon. I’ve likened them to the old General Stores where folks would jus come in and sit around whittling, chewing and talking. Vince’s store was getting rather crowded and he had to go out of town for an extended period. He asked a few of us to open it up in the morning and let the regulars come in and jaw. Now, on our watch, this happens. I, too, suspect that all the information was from a previous period where others had adminsitrative privileges but am mystified as to why anyone would take the trouble to accumulate IP data. Vince felt he had to take the site down to ensure that there was no onging security breach or tampering. Mitch helped him do that. I’m annoyed because I thought we were beginning to get a fairly good list of ten reasons to celebrate Bastille Day.

    Much as I think the blogs do more good than harm in their “public square” function, I am more than a little amazed at the harshness of some of the personal relationships. This post seems primarily geared at just giving Vince and some of his commenters a ration of gall and wormwood. What’s the point of that? It all seems like jr. high school locker politics. Too bad.

  16. Unnamed observer said on 15 Jul 2006 at 5:31 pm:
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    Interesting bit of back & forth over at Virginia Virtucon:

    “Anonymous said…
    Interesting that while Black Velvet Bruce Lee has time to report on supposedly-anonymous internet postings, he doesn’t have time to comment on why he has failed to respond to the libel lawsuit filed against him by Steve Chapman. Has he suffered a default judgment?

    July 15, 2006

    Riley, Not O’Reilly said…
    Typically, defendants in lawsuits are instructed not to publicly comment while litigation is pending, so I would chalk it up to that. Greg has an attorney, so I am sure that the case is being handled appropriately, Vincent.

    July 15, 2006

    Too Conservative said…
    that wasn’t me commenting jim.

    you must not have saved this ip then, huh?

    July 15, 2006″

  17. AWCheney said on 15 Jul 2006 at 6:14 pm:
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    Anonymous and Mr. Riley,

    I should like to point out that the LAST person likely to have had access to those IPs is BVBL! It is unlikely in the extreme that he had anything to do with it. You, Jim, would be a far more likely prospect for that role but I am not suggesting that you are Velvet Elvis. I do, however, believe it to be unwise for people in glass houses…, as the saying goes.

  18. Unnamed observor said on 15 Jul 2006 at 6:34 pm:
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    AW Cheney -

    Your last post is very confusing. I don’t think I’ve seen a post here indicating that BVBL had the IPs.

    Are you referring to the last post, at 5:31?

    If so, I just copied some comments from a post over at Virginia Virtucon. The first commenter, anonymous, wondered why BVBL hadn’t responded to the lawsuit. Then Riley responded to anonymous that BVBL was probably advised by his lawyer to refrain from commenting on the lawsuit; Riley then attempted to out the anonymous poster as Vincent. Then Vincent responded that he wasn’t the anonymous poster and remarked that Jim Riley must not have saved all of the ip addresses.

    Of course, you may be referring to something completely different. But, if not, I just wanted to clear that up. I am not the anonymous poster; I just came across the comments when reading Riley’s blog and found it intriguing. Especially in light of the post above where novatownhall reports of the intention of one of Riley or one of his partners to reveal this information a few months back.

  19. Charles said on 15 Jul 2006 at 6:38 pm:
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    AWCheney,

    Maybe I missed it, but I didn’t see anything here that suggested that either an anonymous poster or Riley or anybody else suggested that BVBL or Greg were the ones with the information.

    The exchange posted about anon and Riley and Vincent was from Riley’s web site and isn’t saying BVBL had anything to do with this.

    NovaScout:

    I am not “amazed” by the harshness of the personal relationships, just saddened. Some bloggers think that public figures don’t have to be treated like human beings, and say awful things about them personally — and then get all upset if someone says anything bad about themselves.

    Having seen many of my close friends falsely attacked by both Vincent in posts, and by multiple commenters on his site, I can understand why some people in prince william will shed no tears if Vincent gets taken down a notch. It’s human nature. We used to be more civilized, at least I keep telling myself that.

    I have a biting style to my writing, but I like to think it’s directed more toward things people do (”that was a poorly written post”) than directed at people (”Mr. X is a liar and a cheat”).

    I try to ignore when people call me names on blogs, or make personal references. I have no doubt that some people who are civil to me when using their names or known pseudonyms have also posted more hateful things about me anonymously in order to not have to take responsibility. Some of the alleged TC comments are those kinds of comments.

    one reason I virtually NEVER post anonymously is because I often feel the urge to say mean things, and having to put my NAME on them is a way to keep that in check, and if not in check then to make sure I take responsibility and have to defend the comments.

    More than once other commenters have written to me about posts/comments I have made where they think I was over the top — which they can do only because I sign all my posts and comments. That keeps me honest, and lets me correct mistaken impressions.

  20. AWCheney said on 15 Jul 2006 at 6:44 pm:
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    “Interesting that while Black Velvet Bruce Lee has time to report on supposedly-anonymous internet postings,…”

    I’s say that this is pretty obvious.

  21. AWCheney said on 15 Jul 2006 at 6:52 pm:
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    Of course, it WAS Greg who originally hinted that it was the original owner of this blog that was reappearing:

    “I see some eerie similarities between Velvet Elvis and a previous blogger who I very much liked to read. It should be interesting to watch and see what this new addition to the Velvet blogging world will do.”

  22. AWCheney said on 15 Jul 2006 at 7:37 pm:
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    I went over to Virginia Vitucon and read the original comments, out of the context of this thread, and I see that I jumped to a conclusion and owe Jim Riley an apology, which I contritely extend. Thanks for pointing it out Interested Observer.

    Anonymous, on the other hand, is suggesting BVBL’s complicity.

  23. NoVA Scout said on 15 Jul 2006 at 10:51 pm:
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    Charles: I think the reason I’m amazed is that this stuff isn’t really very important. What’s socially valuable about blogs is that they allow some venting, some information sharing and some individual expression. But the fury one sees in some people reminds me of Henry Kissinger’s remark (roughly paraphrased) that the reason that faculty meetings are so vicious is that the stakes are so low.

    Everyone has his/her own preferences. Frankly, I find it vexing to think that people would more likely be gratuitously mean because they are posting anonymously than if they are using their real names. We all see silly and even insulting comments from anonymous sources. After a while we get fairly sophisticated about “weighting” these things, filtering out the nonsense and the people with emotional and mental issues and we then read for substance. We all do this, although we probably do disagree from time to time on who the perennial nuts are. Of course, there are people who just say the crudest things and a subset of those people might not say the same things or say them as often if they used their real names. But there are also several really base individuals who uninhibitedly say extremely nasty things even under their real names. (the same 2 or 3 examples will immediately jump into many minds)

    Even a congenial, smiley old duffer like me has been called some really vile things by persons using their real names. These are people with whom I’m not very impressed in any case, the stakes are, as reminded by Kissinger’s remark, very low and I generally ignore it or poke fun in return (must admit I wasn’t pleased with being called “anti-Christian” by someone whose theological authority is not at all well established).

    What happened at TC isn’t about anonymous posting. It’s about vandalism, personal animus and abuse of access (at least from what we can tell at this point). When one runs a blog or contributes, one needs to be very frank with those who visit. If one is going to permit anonymous posting (a practice that I think is, on balance, healthy and ought to be encouraged despite some of its drawbacks) one shouldn’t be accumulating IPs and lying in wait to out one’s guests. If that’s a possible event, bold disclaimers to the effect that that’s what one intends to do should be slapped all over the site.

    TC is Vince’s site, he sometimes asks others to participate there. Those of us with privileges have an obligation to to respect the confidentiality of the folks who come by. From what I know now, it appears that someone didn’t do that. That’s bad judgement and it accomplishes nothing except forcing Vince and Mitch to pull the whole thing down to check the security status of the site. To go back to my General Store analogy, it’s just like dumping a load of manure on the front stoop of a place where a lot of people hang out and forcing them to close down until everything can get cleaned up. It doesn’t make the store a bad place or reflect on the store owner. No one was going there who didn’t want to go there. Anyone who disagreed with TC, other contributors, or commenters could/does/did have his/her say.

  24. charles said on 16 Jul 2006 at 12:05 am:
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    NovaScout —

    I guess in general I could agree that revealing stuff about commenters after you promised not to would be a bad thing in itself.

    I would note that “Elvis” only revealed comments made by Vincent, not comments made by other anonymous posters. So the only person betrayed by the act was Vincent.

    By dragging in the issue of betraying the commenters, it clouds the specific issue here — is betraying the trust of a specific person justified to reveal something unethical that the person did. That is a good discussion to have.

    Often we only learn about things done in secret because of whistle-blowers. And whether a whistle-blower is a hero or a goat is largely determined based on the target of the whistle-blower. Those who are happy to learn of a secret act cheer the whistle-blower, those who want to keep something secret denounce the whistle-blower.

    As another general matter, anybody who posts anonymously to a web site and COUNTS on the good graces of the site owner to keep his identity secret is asking for trouble. At the least, the site OWNER will know the identity, which gives that site owner something which he can use to blackmail the poster.

    As was posted in another discussion, a hint of this particular list of ip addresses was mentioned the night of the TC split, when some of the previous administrators were removed and took over the old site temporarily. The idea that Vincent was posting anonymously was found in a post by I think Sophresyne who culled the information from some of the posts that were later taken down.

    I ignore being called names by anonymous people. I generally ignore names even by people I know, if they are in a comment that also includes substantive information — a lesson my father taught me. Ignore the personal attacks, answer the substantive issues, assume the person really wants a discussion and was just blowing off steam with their insults.

    But I do respect real named people who say bad things about me because they stand by their words.

  25. Emma W said on 16 Jul 2006 at 1:07 am:
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    “I would note that “Elvis” only revealed comments made by Vincent, not comments made by other anonymous posters. So the only person betrayed by the act was Vincent.”

    So far.

    If Vince did what he is accused of then all he really did his boost his hits and egg on “conversations”. Not exactly noble, but really not the end of the world either. I note that for the most part the comments he is alleged to have made in many respects parallel the same things he said under his TC moniker.

    However, an administrator of his site is now known to have collected data on all of us. As a reader and commenter on a blog we should have a certain amount of caution but the administrators of the site are also entrusted with a certain level of responsibility. I think that in this way our trust was betrayed far beyond the youthful indiscretion of a few (or a bunch of) anonymous postings. There really is a bigger issue at stake here than just several dozen imprudent anonymous posts. It’s rather like a feeling of being violated. Someone out there has compiled information on me and many other people. What exactly is his intended use for this information? This time it was a hit on TC for posting anony comments 4 months ago. If one is *really* so much more honorable than Vince, then why not post this complaint right out for the world to see under one’s own name and on one’s own blog. I can’t help but wonder: Who’s next in the crosshairs of retribution?

    Some might wonder what is really so different about “taking down” Vince and the job that was done to “take down” Steve Chapman. One big difference - me and my personal information were in no way part of the Chapman debacle; that was between Chapman and BVBL and Greg. Here, however, we’ve all been potentially compromised. I feel like something was taken from me without my consent.

    It is my opinion that the gatherer of the information has acted in a manner that is far more unethical and potentially damaging than anything that Vince did.

    As consumers and participants we have to be able to have some level of trust in those “companies” with which we deal. I might be on the mailing list for Victoria’s Secret, but I really don’t want them to broadcast it to all of my neighbors. It’s a breach of trust. Nefariously collecting my IP address and name is also a breach of that trust.

  26. Anonymous said on 16 Jul 2006 at 7:57 am:
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    If you read the post at Velvet Elvis, you can see the IP search was done on one particular IP address, not all commenters at TC. I’m guessing that was spurred by what someone thought as a questionable comment (such as using the posting name “SteveChapmanWantsParrishDead”) and it was investigated further.

  27. anon said on 16 Jul 2006 at 8:21 am:
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    What velvet Elvis has revealed is the true mean spirit of Vince. Read the comments that Vince made: comments about people’s wives leaving them, comments about how others are not true Christians, etc. Vince, you are, or have become, mean. I hope for your sake that this is just a passing personal vice due to the anger you have toward something in your personal life. But this goes deeper than just youthful indiscretion and into a very vbig character flaw. Surely you must admit that telling someone that their wife is leaving them (when you have absolutley no basis for believing that to be the case) is a disgustingly stupid and mean remark?

  28. anon said on 16 Jul 2006 at 8:26 am:
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    The thing is, Vince, to my knowledge, has never denied that he made all those mean and stupid remarks, and he has made no apology either. Vince needs to accept responsibility that he has done something wrong and apologize. Somehow I doubt that he is man enough to do that.

  29. anon said on 16 Jul 2006 at 9:55 am:
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    Oh, the horrors. Vince may have made “mean” comments. He must be destroyed.

    And who else posted “unkind” things on that blog? Did the same administrator use his righteous and moral indignation to gather information on those people too? I would say he probably did; he has already shown that he lacks a moral compass.

  30. charles said on 16 Jul 2006 at 2:32 pm:
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    “anon at 9:55am”

    Morality regarding whistleblowers is often judged by a person’s opinion of what is revealed.

    I think the morality of “Velvet Elvis” is open to debate, but I do not accept that his action was factually immoral (meaning I don’t believe his action would be universally accepted as an immoral act).

    Let’s assume that Velvet Elvis was a person with valid access to the information. Let’s assume further (as someone speculated earlier either here or in another thread) that this person started out checking into the background of a poster using a name that some people compained about as being offensive (like “chapmanwantsparrishdead”).

    Let’s further assume that this person was shocked to find out that the poster using that offensive name was in fact the owner of the blog, and that the same owner used several other questionable names, and used the cover of multiple postings to attack other commenters without having to take responsibility for his comments.

    Maybe this person confronted the owner of the blog? Maybe that confrontation led to a breakup of the blog? We don’t know all the facts? Suppose the investigation had instead lead to some other commenter, but not the owner. The owner might have decided to block the commenter, or chastise the commenter to cut it out or be banned. We don’t know if TC ever used the ip information to regulate his blog, although we know from time to time he did threaten to ban people, or to take other actions, when they got out of line, so it’s not surprising that an investigation MIGHT have led to action being taken.

    If that is the case, TC had months since that time to come clean, to confess to attacking his own readers under cover of anonymity — to make amends. He may have know that other administrators had the information, he certainly knew that they all at one time had access to the information.

    Remember, at the time of the TC breakup, competing posts were made and then deleted, at least one of which specifically claimed that there was “evidence” Vincent was posting multiple times under different names (Sophrosyne made a comment about the breakup which included the information which came from the later-deleted posts). Given that history, it seems Vincent was aware of the charge, and that there was evidence to support the charge.

    Maybe after months of waiting, this person decided TC was never going to “do the right thing”, and decided to force TC’s hand. Is that “lacking a moral compass”, or is it “performing a valuable service to the community”? We can debate that point.

    It’s not the same as revealing information about other commenters. In this case, one could argue that Vincent’s comments were themselves a betrayal of his commenters, since some of the “fake” comments attacked his reader/commenters.

    Of course, I have a different perspective than people who didn’t know the information was available. I knew that site admins could track me down, they could write to my employer if I post from work, they could reveal my posting patterns, if I wrote anonymously they could call me out as a hypocrit for attacking anonymous posters. The fact that the site owners HAVE that information is already an “invasion of my privacy and my right to post anonymously”. NOT THAT I’M SAYING IT IS WRONG — a blogger has every right to run their sites as they see fit.

    I would say though that, given how many people didn’t know the site admins had this information, maybe blogs who both collect this information and actually LOOK at it should post in their “about” section that they do so, as a disclaimer to commenters, in the interest of full disclosure. And a blogger who wanted to distinguish themselves could promise NOT to turn on that part of his counter (we’d have to trust him/her, but if we did that would be a selling point for people who really want to be anonymous).

    BTW, there are many ways to be “anonymous” that would make it very hard for the site admins to find you. It’s just most people won’t go through the trouble.

  31. Making Friends 101 said on 17 Jul 2006 at 11:17 am:
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    It stuns me that BVBLII continues to post unsubstantiated allegations in light of the lawsuit against him. Accusing Mitch of the hostile takeover was completely unnecessary.

  32. Anonymous said on 17 Jul 2006 at 4:32 pm:
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    Keep your eyes on Shaun Kenney’s web site for an explosive development on this!

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