We apologize for the inconvenience

By Megan McArdle

I am once again receiving the accusation that I "set up redirects" or "block" access to posts I don't want people to see on my old site. Given that I've just reproduced the post in question here, this belief is a little odd. Nonetheless, let's put this, too, to rest once and for all, because it does pop up over and over.

My former host's method of dealing with comment spam was to use fairly stringent permissioning on old posts. I have no idea what the permissions regime is, but whatever they did frequently causes linked old posts to come up with 404 errors. This has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the post--you will get the same effect on posts about cooking equipment or music. It is also not, as some conspiracy-minded folks have theorized, related to where you are--it happens to me all the time. The problem almost always goes away if you refresh.

The propensity to construct vast frameworks of malfeasance and sin where simpler explanations will do is not one of the more helpful traits of the political blogosphere. Here is the sort of simple thought experiment that should help you sort through the likelihood of this kind of thing:

Q: as the author of the blog, does Megan have control over the administrative interface?
A: Yes, probably she does

Q: Does the administrative interface allow her to delete old posts?
A: Given that it's Movable Type, why yes, I believe it does so allow.

Q: If that's true, why didn't she just delete the post instead of wasting fantastic amount of time manipulating the permissions so no one could see it?
A: Oh. Right. Maybe there's another explanation.

I think deleting old posts, or blocking access to them, or radically editing them, is, ahem, chicken guano. I've taken down things I shouldn't have written because they accidentally brought someone into the public sphere who hadn't asked to be there. But I've never deleted a post for any other reason, except for a rare few that I accidentally published while still considering whether they deserved to see the light of day, and those all within a minute of publication. If there's anything you're having trouble seeing on my old site now, it's technical trouble, not blogger malfeasance.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2008/07/we-apologize-for-the-inconvenience/3759/