Please note that this was written in the context of a community-moderated blog hosted on “blogger.com” (e.g. test.blogspot.com) but the essential principle would apply to other blogs too. For the background, see Blogger resisting Anton Piller Search
|On Blogs and Searching for Evidence|
This article seeks to explain why it serves no purpose to search the computers of bloggers (authors or editors of blog articles), for evidence relating to third party content, e.g. the readers’ comments authored by readers of a blog. We begin with some background information regarding blogs.
Blogs are certain areas of cyberspace where users of the world wide web (“web users”) may interact with each other by exchange of information. Blogs are supported on blogging platforms such as WordPress, LiveJournal and BlogSpot. These blogging platforms make blog content available to interested web users. Blogs are accessed by web users through specific “web links” (web addresses, also known as URL’s — e.g. http://test.blogspot.com).
The main unit of content of any blog is the blog article. On any given blog, several blog articles may exist. Each article would have a title, e.g. “A quick review of The art of Mozart“.
(A blog article is also known as a blog post or a blog posting. This is a term best avoided, as the noun post
is too close to the verb form to post which is equally applicable to comments and articles, leading to much confusion).
The primary role of the blogging platform is to store and disseminate the content of the blog. The blogging platform also assists in the creation of content.
In general, web users may remain anonymous or may use screen names. The blogging platform is expected to record IP addresses. [Update: Legal requirements may vary from country to country].
Some (perhaps most) blogs are like personal diaries kept on the web. Among these, some are jocularly said to have a readership of exactly one, i.e., the blogger (author of the blog) him/herself. Other blogs are written by multiple bloggers — authors and/or editors — coming together as a community.
For the rest of this discussion, we will focus away from the intensely personal blogs, and towards blogs that involve communities in cyberspace.
The term blogger refers to a person writing or editing blog articles appearing on a blog. The term “blogger.com” refers to the blogging service platform operated by Google.
The readership attracted by a blog varies from blog to blog, and also from time to time for any given blog. It is a dynamic readership that depends on common, shared interests and concerns.
The readership of a given blog is also dynamic at a more micro-level, not only in terms of specificity of topics of interest, but also in terms of time spans of participation.
While the bloggers (authors and editors of blog articles) have a major role to play, the readership also plays a vital role in a blog.
A remarkable feature of a blog (as distinct from a normal web site), is that it enables two-way and multi-way interactions within that blog community. Information flows not only from authors to readers, but also from readers back to authors, and indeed between readers themselves, through the medium of the blog. This is enabled by the mechanism of Readers Comments which is provided by all blogging platforms.
Using this Readers Comments mechanism, a reader of a blog may post his or her own comments on a topic of discussion, which may be centered around a certain blog article. The blogging platform records these comments and makes them available for other readers to view. This in itself prompts other readers and/or the authors of articles, to post their replies, or new comments. Indeed, bloggers (authors of blog articles) often update their articles in response to views expressed by readers. The back and forth communication generates “discussion threads” which may carry several competing ideas and views.
Thus, readers of a blog are no longer passive consumers of information but active participants. A blog community can be thought of as composed not only of the bloggers (authors and editors of blog articles), but also substantially of the active readership.
A blog that is open for comments allows and encourages readers to post their comments, even if they be critical.
Certain blogs may employ moderators who routinely seek to moderate the thread of comments — e.g., by approving each and every comment, and/or by editing comments to suit their own requirements. Yet other blogs are community moderated, where active readers themselves use the same mechanism of Reader Comments to express moderating opinions or alternate views.
While the word blog is generic and includes blogs existing on WordPress.com, LiveJournal etc, we shall focus mainly on blogs of blogspot.com for the rest of the discussion.
The content of any blog such as test.blogspot.com resides on the server computers of blogger.com, a Google company.
The main page of a blog usually consists of a list of articles, each with its own title or headline. Special web links
provided, which may appear labelled as ‘Comments’ or ‘Post A Comment’, may be clicked to view (and/or post) Readers’
Comments. Readers’ Comments can also be viewed by clicking on the headline or title of an article, which will cause that particular blog article to be opened for view, with Readers Comments appearing at the bottom of the article, threaded in the chronological order in which comments were submitted by the readers.
A blogger accesses the blogging platform to create or modify blog articles existing on the blog. These activities temporarily involve the computer used by the blogger, until the transfer of the created or modified information (blog article) to the blogging platform. When so completed, the updated content is thereafter stored on the server computers belonging to blogger.com. The bloggers do not need to retain the content on their own personal computers. Indeed, their personal computers can very well remain switched off. It is the blogging platform’s server computers that store the blog content and supply it directly to the readers who access the blog, via the internet.
Likewise, when an active reader writes a Readers’ Comment, the comment text is created by the reader using the blogging platform’s services. This activity temporarily involves the computer used by the reader, until the transfer of the created comment text to the blogging platform. When so completed, the comment text is thereafter stored on the server computers belonging to blogger.com. Indeed, it is important to note that these comments are NOT sent to or stored on the computers of the bloggers.
From the above, it is clear that any evidence related to the authoring of comments by readers is third-party evidence, which does NOT pass through the computers of any bloggers. Thus there is no justification for searching the computers of bloggers for such third-party evidence.
All evidences relating to the posting of Readers Comments, including IP addresses of the readers who posted comments, the time stamps corresponding to the posting of these comments, and the web links which were used to post these comments, are available on the server computers of blogger.com, operated by Google.
Do you find the above article fairly objective or quite the opposite ? Is it useful as a non-technical introduction ? Is it relevant ? Do you spot any opinion and conjecture ? Any factual errors ? I hope to hear from my readers. Thank you for reading.
Copyright (C) 2009.