After some tumultuous times when I removed the comments section of this blog and other mini upheavals we again have a nice little community of commentors on this blog. I went with the Disqus comments system rather than my CMS’s native system because … it looked nicer and functioned well — it’s spam reduction capacities are excellent, freeing me from moderation duty.
However, a couple of months ago I noticed that something called skimlinks were appearing on the pages of this site. Skimlinks are auto-inserted affiliate links on certain keywords which typically point to sites where you can buy something and the referrer receives a commission.
Fair enough, this is a common strategy for monetizing a blog. The only problem was that I didn’t install the skimlinks program and I wasn’t receiving the payout.
What the …?
I still couldn’t find where the Skimlinks were coming from, so I began stripping everything down to the bare essentials. The one luxury that I kept was the Disqus comments…
This is an old blog. It’s been around in some form or another since 2004. In web years, it’s a living relic. Throughout these years there have been MANY changes. I would add this, remove that, change this up, and alter that over there … This site has gone through so many changes that I have no idea what’s really going on inside of it anymore.
I know that I have tried to use skimlinks before and I initially figured that this issue was resulting from something left over in the site’s code that I forgot to remove. So I began searching. I found nothing.
Maybe it’s malware? I did some tests. Nope.
Maybe it’s a plugin? I went through and reviewed them, deleting some, and turning off others.
The bastards were inserting code and making money off of this blog with neither my consent nor giving me a share of the revenue…
I still couldn’t find where the Skimlinks were coming from, so I began stripping everything down to the bare essentials. The one luxury that I kept was the Disqus comments. I did this out of respect to the blog’s regular commenters because if I deleted it their excellent content would be gone. I did not want to do this so I dug through all of the Disqus options and determined that anything that could be causing skimlinks that I could control was turned off.
But the skimlinks kept appearing.
It had to be Disqus …
I turned them off last night.
The skimlinks disappeared.
The bastards were inserting code and making money off of this blog with neither my consent nor giving me a share of the revenue. Who knows what else they were doing? Tracking and selling user info? Violating the core pretenses of privacy?
The idea behind this blog is to keep everything as stripped down and simple as possible. The design is simple black and white, the layout is text, photos, and video on a white screen. This blog couldn’t really be more minimalistic. I want to be able to sit down with my phone or laptop and just write. I want to to be able to come onto the site and just read. I don’t want the distractions. Black text on a white page will never die.
I also want to have the least amount of cookies and the least amount of trackers as possible. There is a reason why there are no Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ share or follow links on this blog — these “buttons” double as spies: they watch what you and I do and report it back to the massive databases that collect all kinds of information about you. Information that can then be sold to other companies or, yes, used by governments.
I want to limit the degree to which this happens.
And I don’t want to deal with the hassles of digging through code to find dirty culprits like Disqus trying to steal from us.
However, I must apologize to the comment community here. Your contributions are incredibly valuable both to the site and to me personally. Please don’t let this stop you from making comments. I love hearing what you have to say. Please continue leaving comments via the form that’s on the site now. It’s much appreciated.
Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. Wade Shepard has written 3575 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.
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Wade Shepard is currently in: Astoria, New York