Posts Tagged ‘evidence’

PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT, ‘COMMENT.g’ & friends

December 24, 2009

A look at blog-IDs, post-IDs, URLs of blogger.com (blogspot)… reproduced for the benefit of  SLAPP-oppressed bloggers!

© fumigent 2009. All Rights Reserved.

Notes

  • This is excerpted from my submission to Court (see context). The Plaintiffs had argued that the presence of PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT occurring in browser caches on my hard disk, associated with certain Blog URLs (unrelated to me), is proof of my publication of articles to the blog. Here I refute that suggestion. A few other false assertions made by the Plaintiffs are also rebutted.
  • I publish this with the hope that it will be useful to other SLAPP-oppressed bloggers and technically and forensically challenged Courts.
  • Some identifiers that appear below have been redacted for the purposes of this article. They appear struck out, as in ‘abcdefg‘.

Introduction

This article seeks to explain in non-technical terms, in relation to blogs on ‘blogger.com’ (blogspot) including blog-IDs, post-IDs, and keywords such as PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT, navbar.g, COMMENT.g, etc.

A note on the non-implications of the presence of a web link

The mere presence of a certain web link (URL) on a user’s hard disk does not provide evidence of that user having visited the corresponding web page that the web link points to.

Characteristics of Blogs in blogspot.com

The web domain “blogspot.com” is operated by blogger.com (a Google company). It hosts millions of blogs. The blog ‘XXXXX‘, whose main web link is   http://??????.blogspot.com,
is one of them.

(Other popular blogging systems such as WordPress and Live Journal are not included in the rest of this discussion, as we narrow our focus specifically to blogspot.com blogs).

Blog ID’s

Each blog is assigned a unique numerical ID. For example,  the blog ID of ‘forXXX??????XXXX.blogspot.com’ is 1234…...

Articles,  “Posts”, and Post ID’s

Each blog consists of several blog articles (“articles”).  For example, the ‘XXXXX’ blog contains about 85 articles.

Articles are sometimes called “Posts” — but that terminology is unfortunate and is best avoided, as it often leads to confusion between the noun, “Post” (meaning article) and the verb,  to “post”, referring to the act of “posting” which involves either the writing of an Article or the writing of a Readers’ Comment.

Each article has a unique ID called the “post-ID” which uniquely identifies that article within the blog.  For example, Post ID 12345….. identifies the article titled “ASSET EXAMS” in the XXXXX blog.

Analyzing web links related to a specific blog and/or article

It can be seen from the above that web links specific to a blog can be identified (or filtered) by specific “BlogID=” keyword, e.g. “BlogID=123456789”.

Similarly, a web link specific to a certain article can be identified (or filtered) by specific  “postID=” keyword, e.g. “postID=8531284380621099.

The two keywords can also be used together to obtain precise matches with a well defined scope of search.

Web Links for reading, writing, editing (updating)

The most common use of a blog involves a reader reading existing content on the blog (“read access”, also known as “normal traffic”).

However, a blog can also be written to,  e.g. —

  • when a blogger writes an article on a blog, or
  • when “readers” of a blog record their comments on a blog article.

The web links that come into play during the writing of articles or comments on a blog, are distinct from web links that accompany “normal traffic”,  that is, reading of the blog.

Likewise, other actions such as  “updating” or “editing” of specific content is accompanied by distinct types of URLs that characterize the action being performed.

The following table shows  different types of web links associated with these different actions being performed on a blog.

Web-link type

Associated action

Example of such a web link,
and remarks

(Main Page)

A user (reader) viewing (reading) the main page of a blog

Example:

http://test.blogspot.com/

(Specific Article)

A user (reader) viewing
(reading) a specific article of a blog

Example:

http://test.blogspot.com/2005/04/testing.html

Navbar.g

A user (reader) viewing (reading) a blog page which contains a navigation bar.

Example:
http://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID=12124915&blogName=testing&publishMode=PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT&navbarType=BLUE&layoutType=CLASSIC&searchRoot=http%3A%2F%2Ftest.blogspot.com%2Fsearch&blogLocale=en_US&homepageUrl=http%3A%2F%2Ftest.blogspot.com%2F

“Navbar” is the navigation bar which usually appears at the top of most blogs on blogspot.com due to the manner in which a typical blog web page is constructed.

Publish-confirmation.g

A user (writer, author or editor)  submitting a blog article to blogger.com, for publication

Example:

http://www.blogger.com/publish-confirmation.g?

blogID=24069595&postID=7449672810113528192

&timestamp=1178898790159&javascriptEnabled=true

Post-edit.g

An author or editor editing
a blog article

Example:

http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?

blogID=24069595&postID=7449672810113528192

Comment.g

A reader clicking on the ‘Post a Comment’ link appearing below a certain blog article.

Example:

https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=34478440&postID=8789971791566103495&isPopup=true

Possible intent of the user is to enter a  a comment
into the blog. User’s choices are: 1) preview the comment (any number
of times) 2) finalize and post the comment or 3) abort the action

Comment.do

A reader previewing or posting a Reader’s Comment.

Example:

https://www.blogger.com/comment.do

The reader would be on a ‘Post A Comment’ form when
this action happens.

Table:  Different types of web links and actions associated with them

Web links involving writing of Readers’ Comments

A web link of the type “COMMENT.g” includes the “blogID=” and “postID=” keywords that help to specify precisely the blog in question, and the article in question. This type of web link indicates that the user clicked on the “Post A Comment” link displayed under a specific article within a specific blog.

A web link of the type “Comment.do” indicates the previewing OR submission of a Reader’s Comment.

Keyword PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT does NOT indicate an act of writing on a blog

It is important to note that the keyword PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT does not indicate the user writing or publishing a blog (despite the presence of the word PUBLISH therein).

The Google Group web page:

http://groups.google.gg/group/blogger-help-loginissues/browse_thread/thread/69c28e85c645b3de?fwc=1

explains the meaning of this keyword occurring in a web link —  that, PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT indicates only normal web traffic that occurs when a blog is read by a visitor.  A screen shot of the explanation is attached here.

PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT

Specifically, the keyword PUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT does NOT indicate writing.

(Please point out errors or omissions, if any. Thank you).

On Blogs and Searching for Evidence

November 3, 2009

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

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On Blogs and Searching for Evidence

1. Introduction

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.

2. What is a blog ?

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.


3. Blogs — Readership and Community

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.


4. Mechanisms — Key Role of Server Computers

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.


5. Searching for Evidence

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.

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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.

Blogger resisting Anton Piller Search

October 31, 2009

(This provides the context for On Blogs and Searching for Evidence).

Introduction

I’m a blogger living in a country in Asia where the law is largely Common Law based (British legacy).  I had setup a blog on blogger.com for a community of parents (of which I am one) interested in a certain educational outfit here. (Please bear with me for the time being, for not revealing specific details beyond  “an Asian country” and “a certain educational outfit”. I assure you that this is all real!).

Armed with the blog, the blogging parents went about discussing many matters of interest to them, much of it about this specific education provider (“school”). Over several months, close to a hundred articles were posted on the blog, some of them very critical of the school’s handling of certain matters. For instance, when the school management tried to suppress one exam result which was unfavorable (and were heard beating a drum on other results which were better), the blog spoke out. Again, when it was found that the school management was not being truthful to parents about a loss of affiliation, and when they were justifying an increase in tuition and transport fees citing partial and incorrect information (misinformation?), the blog became a center of discussion on these matters.

The blog was open to comments and quite a lively discussion ensued on many topics. The house rules set it up as a community-moderated blog:  anybody could post comments, contest already expressed opinions,  object to comments stating grounds, etc. The school management was informed of the blog and was requested to join in the discussion; but they responded with a mass email to all parents asking them not to visit the blog as it was not their “official communication channel”. However, the management did track the blog closely and may even have posted a few comments on it (my guess — from the look of certain comments). To their credit they also did make some significant changes for the better, like appointing a new bus transport service provider, as the comments clearly documented how terrible the service was.

However, the real hard and persistent issues remained unresolved in the school. Gradually the interest in the blog waned as the problems remained, parents who had higher expectations found other schools, and I guess the remaining ones came to view it as a battle that cannot be won. The blogging exercise was almost written off as fruitless. Months went by without any articles being added. Only the “readers comments” remained alive and offered parents an avenue to speak out, now and then.

Several months passed by without event. I suspect that the management wanted to close off the blog for once and all. All on a sudden, this blogger was surprised by a legal attack by the owners of the school. The Statement of Claim filed in Court, cites a bunch of comments posted by readers, which they allege are defamatory.  Part of their claim was also that I had (or “may have had”) posted these readers comments myself !  The legal attack began with a Court order (a so-called Anton Piller order) to search my hard disk.  I am still objecting strenuously to these tactics, now with the help of a lawyer (and earlier representing myself in person).

(I know some of you may find it all surreal and really hard to believe, especially if you live in the US. However, this is real. The only reason I am not giving out further details is the legal situation).

As I mentioned, the blog in question is a community-moderated blog, in which readers’ comments do not go through any approval process.

One of the key points in my submissions to the Court, as regards the validity of the Anton Piller search, is that comments posted by readers (third parties) do not go through my computers (as comments do not need anybody’s approval), and will not leave any evidence in my hard disks.  I sought to write this up more clearly so that a Judge who may not have the technical background can understand the issue and appreciate why my hard disk should be the last place to look.  You can read that article at: On Blogs and Searching for Evidence“.

However, the plaintiffs’ are asking the Court to strike out my affidavit. Their reasons ? They say that my article (On Blogs and Searching for Evidence—  it is submitted as part of my affidavit) contains “various comments of a general and unsubstantiated nature relating to blogs, web links and the like”.  From there, they go on to say that the “whole of the Defendant’s affidavit should be struck off” … “as it contains nothing but opinion and conjecture”.  They also do not relish my being an “expert”. (See image).
What the plaintiffs say

The article that I wrote, which according to the Plaintiffs is “nothing but opinion and conjecture”, is at  On Blogs and Searching for Evidence.  It was written for a non-technical audience, no doubt; but “conjecture” ?

Please read and share your views there: On Blogs and Searching for Evidence

(C) 2009 All Rights Reserved.