Monday, February 14, 2011

Doomed, Part III

Used under the Fair Use Doctrine for commentary purposes.

Doomed has quickly become a meme here at Mister Fweem’s Blog, and with good reason. Read here if you’ve fallen behind on the reasons that we here are doomed. Doomed!

So today we explore the question: You’ve posted creative writing on the web that now you’d like to erase completely from the Internet so as not to risk losing your rights of first publication. What to do, my friend, what to do?

First of all, maybe this:

Abandon hope all ye who enter here

Then again, maybe not.

Many tend to shake in their boots at the inviolate permanence of the Internet. Once it’s there, they say, it can never be concealed. And, in a general sense, that may be true, because you never know who has read and downloaded or copied your material, though for the most part you’d have to wonder why they bothered, given that you can’t interest an agent in it to save your life.

But there are ways of ridding the Internet of your stuff if you so desire.

First line of attack: the Wayback Machine.

Used under the Fair Use Doctrine for commentary purposes.

No, not that one, Sherman. I mean this one: The Wayback Machine, part of, where the good folks there aim to preserve not only the Internet as we know it, but every single iteration of every single web page as we know them now and as we might have known then back in the early 1990s and such.

Every bit of writing I’ve read on posting unpublished novels and novel excerpts on the web cites the Wayback Machine as one of those inviolate net caches that will collect and store your first use in perpetuity and thus rob you of any benefits you might have reaped.

But it can be breached. Thanks to the folks at the Wayback Machine itself.

First off, they’ll tell you this:
The Internet Archive is not interested in offering access to Web sites or other Internet documents whose authors do not want their materials in the collection.
Since my blog is hosted by Google, they make this pretty easy. Restricting web crawlers in the “permissions” menu, and then ensuring that the proper robots.txt information appears in the HTML of your blog using your Google Webmaster Tools can cut off crawlers and searchers, such as the Wayback Machine. (I know I’m grossly oversimplifying things; for more in-depth information, go here.) Simply put, the robots.txt on my blog bars all crawlers and searchers.

That’s well and good, you say, but what about for those – like me – trying to close the barn door after the cows have escaped?

First of all, go the analytics route. See what are the popular terms being searched for, that bring people to your site. My analytics show people have come to my site much more frequently on terms such as “loughner beck” and “nose hair” (which should tell you something about the quality of writing topics on my blog) than anything to do with my novels.

Second of all – and this is where it gets tedious – you can request that Google remove cached copies of your individual pages. That means for each page, you send a request. And if the URL is off, no touchie.

So my publishing acquaintance’s advice holds true:
1) Posting novel excerpts on the web is a no-no, unless it’s behind a security wall.
2) Be up-front if you get a deal, lest your publisher discover on their own what horrible mistake you’ve made.
Do not be doomed.

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