Farewell Scientopia, Welcome to Goodmath.org!

Welcome to the new home of Good Math/Bad Math!

Sorry about the change. I know that it’s a pain for readers to switch to following the site at a new location. But it was, honestly, necessary.

Scientopia was originally set up to be a community. I know this, because I was the founder. Back before ScienceBlogs pulled its PepsiBlog stunt, I’d been considering leaving and setting up an alternative, non-profit community. When PepsiGate happened, and my friend Scicurious volunteered to help, I flipped the switch, and turned on what became scientopia.

Since then, I’ve been footing the bills – around $250/month. And I’ve been doing all of the systems administration – every backup, every upgrade, every cache tweek, every DDOS attack – I’ve taken care of them all on my own time. Even after we started showing ads, I’ve never gotten back a single cent. Just that endless drain of time and money.

And that was OK. Really. I’ve been doing it for 3 1/2 years, and while it was a lot of work, I kept at it. I genuinely believed in the ideals that we wrote into the scientopia charter. I really believed that the community we’d built was a good thing, a thing worth supporting.

Scientopia was supposed to be a community. A community where we made decisions, as a group. Where we interacted with each other as peers. Where, as our code said, “It is a community, held together by mutual respect and operated by consensus, in which people can write, educate, discuss, and learn about science and the process of doing science”.

But people are people. If you’ve got more than two people in a group, you’ll wind up getting some politics. And Scientopia, as a community, is no different.

As you may have noticed, Scientopia was down, for about 36 hours. Why?

Because our DNS record got messed up. DNS is the system on the internet that’s used to map from hostnames to numbers. It’s the thing that your web-browser uses to get from “scientopia.org” to the numeric, which tells it where scientopia.org can be found on the network. The DNS registration was expiring, and the person who controlled the DNS decided to move to a different registrar, and they created an invalid DNS record with the new registrar. As a result, no one could get to scientopia. This was completely beyond my control: this person had sole control of the DNS record, and refused to allow anyone else access.

(For the tech-heads out there, after switching DNS providers, this person only created a CNAME record for the site. CNAME records are aliases/redirects from one resolvable hostname to another resolvable hostname. Since our IP address isn’t a resolvable hostname, DNS servers rejected the record as invalid, and thus Scientopia was not resolved.)

Fine. Screwups happen, right?

Except for the part where the guilty party decided to blame me. To cover up for their screwup, by lying about what was wrong, and blame it on me. To scapegoat me – not just about this, but to accuse me of general incompetence, and to blame me for the repeated DNS screwups.

The DNS record continues to be the one piece of infrastructure of scientopia that remains in the hands of one person. Despite repeated promises to turn them over to the community, it hasn’t happened. There’s been one condition, one excuse after another. When the community elects a governing board. When the community incorporates. When the community formally registers members as owners. For three and a half years, it’s always been a unkept promise. The community was never allowed to have any access to managing the DNS record.

Even when the site was down, allowing anyone else to have any access to the password needed to fix it was simply out of the question. I was expected to – and did, years ago – turn over the passwords to the site hosting account, which was secured with my personal credit card. But getting the site back up? Too much to ask for. And then they didn’t even have the decency to admit that they made a mistake, but instead tried to blame it on me. (And, I’ll add, has still refused to admit that registering the CNAME was an error, at all.)

This wasn’t the first time something like this happened. This has been a repeated pattern. Not the first, but I decided that it had to be the last.

Running a blog site like Scientopia is a lot of work. Keeping it up, monitoring it, keeping it up to date, dealing with every problem that any of the bloggers have – it’s a lot of work. At times, it’s a lot of aggravation. When you add malicious behavior and abuse on top of that? It’s just too much to put up with.

I’ve still got a lot of people at Scientopia that I consider my friends. I wish them well. But I’m done with it.

7 thoughts on “Farewell Scientopia, Welcome to Goodmath.org!”

  1. Hey Mark, I don’t know quite what the hell happened and I’m sad to see you go. But at the end of the day if you are happier here, then good for you. Just wanted to express my appreciation and gratitude for everything you did. I’ll definitely be a reader.

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