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Has ASSTR Finally Gone Belly Up?

Safe_Bet

Just for shits and giggles I did my monthly "I wonder if they are still here?" check on ASSTR. I couldn't even get the page to show.

Have they finally not gone "gentle into that good night"???

Switch Blayde

@Safe_Bet

Against my better judgment, I went to ASSTR. My site is still there. I clicked on Chapter 1 of my first story and it came up too. I clicked on FTP and it seemed to work. But when I clicked on "website" I got a blank page.

As far as I'm concerned, ASSTR died years ago.

Ross at Play

There are still some indirect routes to access the archives, by selecting Enter FTP rather than Enter Website at the home page. It's not looking good. :(

Replies:   Keet
Crumbly Writer

There was a notice for the ASSTR regulars (which I still receive) stating that the site's main page was having some troubles. They don't think it's a major problem, but they have to track it down and correct it. It's more likely part of the continuing http to https problems that most sites are facing, rather than their existing code breaking.

But, as Switch stated, it's unlikely ASSTR will ever become a major player again, as the admins hearts just aren't in it any more. They're going through the motions, but the longer portions remain unavailable, the more readers they continue to lose, meaning the few donations they receive to keep the site afloat are slowly drying up too.

Keet

@Ross at Play

There are still some indirect routes to access the archives, by selecting Enter FTP rather than Enter Website at the home page.

I sometimes go back to ASSTR for something old that's not available on SOL (or not available to me) but the FTP site does not have everything that the website does (and vice-versa?).
Besides that they appear to be missing parts of stories that apparently never were posted there like the Wynter King Obituary from Russel Hoisington.
I have the 10Gb FTP archive from ASSTR but that does no good if what you are looking for never was on the FTP to begin with.
The Winter King Obituary might be a bad example (Russel is no longer with us to do updates himself) but if more authors leave and don't update anymore the site is surely running to it's end.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Keet

The Winter King Obituary might be a bad example (Russel is no longer with us to do updates himself) but if more authors leave and don't update anymore the site is surely running to it's end.

There are a lot of old-school authors like Switch, Ernest and myself who gave up on it years ago, and we have a newer wave of SOL authors who've just recently abandoned the site. If that's an indication of what happened, it doesn't suggest those authors and their readers are likely to return, even if the site somehow recovers. Right now, they seem to be stuck in a downward spiral. If they have ANY money for the site, NOW's the time to invest it (say in some decent programmers who can straighten the site out), as they'll be unlikely to recoup it later on if they no longer have any fans remaining.

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@Crumbly Writer

I agree, if they want to save the site a major investment is necessary, not just money, but time and effort. Reliable hosting and a little better look can do a lot to save what is there and to have a good chance to revive it. Having choices between multiple sites is important so I hope they can save it.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Keet

I agree, if they want to save the site a major investment is necessary, not just money, but time and effort. Reliable hosting and a little better look can do a lot to save what is there and to have a good chance to revive it. Having choices between multiple sites is important so I hope they can save it.

The key to the effort is they stopped regular maintenance just after the hosting site reported their records for the site were seized, so it's likely they're washing their hands of the site. Many readers stopped reading immediately, afraid they'd be implicated in a child-porn case just because they emailed someone they didn't know was actively involved with criminal activities.

If that's the case, they may have good reason for not preserving the site. :( Then again, it may be time for them to man-up and ban the kiddie-porn like most other sites have done. It's too bad they might lose all those stories, but it might help more people to maintain the site, even if it's with fewer stories.

Replies:   Switch Blayde  Keet
Switch Blayde

@Crumbly Writer

after the hosting site reported their records for the site were seized


In the ASSTR email group they said that wasn't true.

Keet

@Crumbly Writer

just after the hosting site reported their records for the site were seized

Ah, I didn't know that. That might be a reason to stop the site completely but I don't think that is their intention otherwise nothing would have happened since the records were seized. Banning of all kiddie porn would be an excellent start to revive the site.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Keet

Ah, I didn't know that. That might be a reason to stop the site completely but I don't think that is their intention otherwise nothing would have happened since the records were seized. Banning of all kiddie porn would be an excellent start to revive the site.

Again, the site's admins never had confirmation of the initial report, as the site's manager's merely intimated that they weren't free to say anything (implying there was an existing gag order in place).

As Switch said, that initial claim in now in dispute, but given the source and the circumstances, I'm still skeptical. It doesn't appear the investigation was against the site itself, but against either one or a small core group of actual child abusers, but the implication was they were collecting the site's membership data in order to target specific individuals for investigation. Now whether anything comes of that is anyone's guess (if it ever actually happened in the first place), but who really wants the government keeping tabs of their erotic reading history? But again, it's all just innuendo.

But, even if it isn't true, there mere fact the admins reported it as having happened was enough to drive many from the site, so if they truly intend to continue the site and rebuild their membership, they should address the issue, one way or another, either by disproving or arguing the claim, or by reassuring readers that the site will no longer tolerate users abusing the site as a way of contacting others for illegal activities. In short, the site itself wasn't guilty of anything, but it scared away a LOT of users, who are unlikely to return unless they're reassured it's safe to do so.

Replies:   Keet
awnlee jawking

@Safe_Bet

ASSTR is reportedly financially stable since the move back to a single server, but there's a lot of custom code that doesn't work with the latest technology. The site admin says a rewrite is necessary, but they don't have the time to do it quickly and they're reluctant to hand over responsibility to strangers.

Last I heard, FTP access was working, but ASSTR seems to have lost everyone who used them to mirror their collections.

Moves are afoot to get the ASSM moderation centre working again, albeit with string and duct tape.

I wonder how the replacement ASSTR project is going. Last I heard, they were discussing the issue of hosting country.

AJ

Keet
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

Thank you for that explanation. If the site is set up again in a working configuration and there is no threat from law enforcement then users will return.

Just a FTP site is very basic and an old and mature protocol so no surprises there to keep the current FTP site running.

The website is a different kind of beast but adds the very important functionality of searching. A basic start should be a total rewrite as the current code is way to old for the current standard of web technology.

ASSTR is nothing like SOL where Lazeez put a lot of effort in presenting authors with tools to create and upload stories and tools for readers like the library. ASSTR has nothing of that. What they did was giving authors the possibility to create their own web page. Maybe they should forget about that until a basic new site is available. We will have to wait and see how much effort is put in to revive the site.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
Crumbly Writer

@Keet

ASSTR is nothing like SOL where Lazeez put a lot of effort in presenting authors with tools to create and upload stories and tools for readers like the library. ASSTR has nothing of that.

Hardly. Though they added it a LONG, LONG time ago, they have a host of 'hover' features, which when you hover over the story title, information about the story pops up so you can quickly see additional information about the story. Things like story description, chapter count, author and keywords. I've long used those on ASSTR, and SOL has never had anything similar.

ASSTR also added the ability to use most html features, so you can add a whole host of graphical and formatting features which SOL won't allow. However, that was back when they were actively developing the site, and now they're barely keeping up with outstanding errors, not even addressing many problems from years ago which continue to affect the site (like only reporting statistics for a small number of authors).

They may not want to turn the site over to more experienced and well-trained (make that 'currently-trained') webmasters, but they're only hurting themselves, as the two current admins seem unable to keep up with the overwhelming workload.

The simple fact it's become such as 'do it or the site continually loses viewers' issue, I assume there's something happening which they simply won't admit to, which prevents them from wanting to institute the necessary changes to make the site functional.

As far as the Alternate site, that's now become a subset, as the originators of the idea started attacking anyone who wasn't writing kiddie porn stories, telling them to 'go to SOL and leave us the #*!@ alone!'. So, that suggests their new site isn't likely to invite enough general readers to support it.

The key to ASSTR of old, and SOL, is that you have enough general readers that they can support the more extreme elements. When that ratio overturns, and you start catering to the radical elements, sites start losing readers rapidly.

Replies:   Keet
Ernest Bywater

I suspect the ASSTR site has the same major issue it has had for over a decade - - individuals involved with maintaining the site die or become unable to visit the site to work on the server, thus they have problems finding another who can do the work. Several years ago they had a new server ready to put in place, but it was months before the few volunteer staff who were going to do it could organize for them all to be on-site at the same time to do the job as it needed the four of them to get it done in the time they wanted to do it in.

Keet
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

The key to ASSTR of old, and SOL, is that you have enough general readers that they can support the more extreme elements. When that ratio overturns, and you start catering to the radical elements, sites start losing readers rapidly.

I totally agree. SOL made the excellent decision to ban the under 14 ages and it made the site better. ASSTR has to decide if it wants to maintain catering to all ages in stories but I agree with your arguments that that will be very difficult if not impossible.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Keet

SOL made the excellent decision to ban the under 14 ages and it made the site better.


If Canada were to change the ban to under 16s in line with its age of consent, forcing SOL to follow suit, do you think that would improve SOL even more?

AJ

Replies:   Keet
Keet
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

If Canada were to change the ban to under 16s in line with its age of consent, forcing SOL to follow suit, do you think that would improve SOL even more?


I don't think so. With a 14-year old you can still use some pre-puberty characteristics in your stories which is hardly possible with a 16-year old. The gap between 14 and 16 feels way bigger then 2 actual years.

So I'm not sure it would improve SOL. A person at 16 sixteen often started sexual experimentation before he or she reached 16. It would make a lot of story-lines impossible.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Keet

FWIW, I actually agree with the UK government.

After their failure to stop kids from watching porn by having child protection software pre-installed on computers, then making customers opt in to porn via their ISP, the UK govt is now planning to require some sort of age verification to access porn sites, perhaps via credit cards. However they've said that literature isn't porn, so there shouldn't be any impediment to accessing sites like SOL or ASSTR.

Personally I'm happy to see a free-for-all. SOL has the mechanism to hide underage stuff if readers aren't interested, but also it has a scoring mechanism for readers to show displeasure at underage stories with no literary merit.

However that's all academic, because it's not my site and it has to obey Canadian law.

AJ

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@awnlee jawking

Personally I'm happy to see a free-for-all.

Exactly and like you I'm always for free choice. But I think SOL did an incredibly good job in setting the 14-year age limit in the way they did: existing stories are grandfathered so they remain accessible and unfinished stories can still be expanded under the old rules, readers can opt-out of these stories but no new stories can be added which keeps the aggressive part of the ASSTR kiddie-porn crowd out.
I don't know if Lazeez and co. planned it this way but it worked out remarkably well. It would have been a perfect move even if the law did not require it.
On the other hand, I'm not sure if the result for ASSTR will be same if they made the same move.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Keet

Exactly


I must have missed something since you actually disagree with me.

AJ

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@awnlee jawking

I must have missed something since you actually disagree with me.

How? I only responded to the SOL situation. If you want to know what I think of the UK restrictions: The UK is one of the worst offenders against freedom and privacy. Their requirements for registration too watch porn is disgusting.
Maybe SOL didn't have to put in restrictions *yet* but it shows on the horizon. I'm not sure if the age thing is required in Canada.

Ross at Play

@Keet

I'm not sure if the age thing is required in Canada.

FYI, In Canada, and Australia, the "age thing" has been handled by laws making it a criminal offense for adults to possess not just images, but literature too, with various types of portrayals of those under particular ages. Some of us find that scary.

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@Ross at Play

Some of us find that scary.

It IS scary. Some governments are getting worse then the Stasi back in WWII and it's getting worse every year. Everyone should be scared of that.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@Keet

It IS scary.

The law in Australia makes it theoretically a criminal offense - with up to 10 years in prison - to describe in fiction activities that are legal for 16- and 17-year-olds to do!?

There exists a defense if the work would not "cause offense to a reasonable person", a very subjective criterion indeed.

Prosecution authorities in Australia are independent bodies. Generally, they would decline to proceed with cases which are not obviously kiddie porn.

But, but the effect of these laws is still pernicious. Authors surely self-censor works of literary merit with realistic stories because of the remote possibly they could be prosecuted. How many would risk going to prison if a court disagrees with their judgment about what would "cause offense to a reasonable person"?

So yes, it IS scary.

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@Ross at Play

"cause offense to a reasonable person"

I didn't know it was so extreme. So Australia is NOT a free country, free speech means nothing. This sounds more like a rising dictatorship with just multiple dictators at the wheel. This has absolutely nothing to do with "protect the children" but all with "we don't use this law but if it is convenient to use against an opposer we have a way to get him". Sorry, one more country where I will never set a foot down.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Keet

if it is convenient to use against an opposer we have a way to get him

That does not happen in practice. Police can lay changes against someone who has technically committed a crime, but independent prosecution services then decide whether it is in the "public interest" to proceed to a trial. Those decisions rarely spark media controversies; when they do it's invariably because someone objects that a decision to not prosecute was too lenient.

I have considerable faith that decisions to prosecute are almost always justified. But I still find it disturbing that authors, especially amateurs like us here, would feel compelled to self-censor legitimate works of literature because of the theoretical possibility they could be prosecuted.

At the very least, I think it's ludicrous the laws do not allow explicit defenses that it is never a crime to write a fictional account of something that would be legal in real life. :(

Replies:   Keet  Michael Loucks
Keet

@Ross at Play

That does not happen in practice.

You do not see the possibility of abuse of such laws? Maybe the current government and law enforcement act "lenient" and "responsible" but who nows who the next one in power is. That is a very dangerous situation which should not have been created.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play
Updated:

@Keet

but who knows who the next one in power is.

My point was that the prosecution services are independent of the government of the day. IIRC, their directors are appointed for fixed terms. They don't change when a new government is voted into power.

You do not see the possibility of abuse of such laws?

No. Office holders are concerned to protect their long-term reputations for impartiality within the legal community rather than pleasing the current government.

awnlee jawking

@Keet

I'm in favour of a free for all, and that means no age limits. Some of the underage stories on SOL are actually pretty good stories, and I think it diminishes the site that no more can be added.

I believe the site has the tools and culture not to be flooded with poor quality underage stroke stories.

The UK is one of the worst offenders against freedom and privacy.


Agreed. A UK think tank recently proposed that, since we're the most surveilled society in the world and few people complain, few would object to the carrying of GPS enabled phones becoming compulsory, so that criminals could easily be located and tracked.

AJ

Replies:   Keet  Centaur
Keet

@awnlee jawking

I'm in favor of a free for all, and that means no age limits.

But I do agree with that and would prefer no limits and there are indeed some good quality stories of that type (some from Dorsai?). I just think since it is required by law that SOL did a remarkable job in the way they implemented it. Without it even SOL cannot prevent flooding from previous ASSTR authors if ASSTR really disappears.

Agreed. A UK think tank recently proposed that, since we're the most surveilled society in the world and few people complain, few would object to the carrying of GPS enabled phones becoming compulsory, so that criminals could easily be located and tracked.

Really? That is scary, just one step away from a mandatory implant. You now have to wonder when they are gonna use that on convicts and after that...

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Keet

Without it even SOL cannot prevent flooding from previous ASSTR authors if ASSTR really disappears.


We'll have to disagree on that, but it's academic unless Canada changes its laws again.

AJ

Michael Loucks

@Ross at Play

I have considerable faith that decisions to prosecute are almost always justified. But I still find it disturbing that authors, especially amateurs like us here, would feel compelled to self-censor legitimate works of literature because of the theoretical possibility they could be prosecuted.


In the US, at least, that faith would be horribly misplaced. Instead of disposing of cases quickly and selectively prosecuting, a US prosecutor is much more likely to pile on charges to force a plea bargain so as to maintain their 100% conviction record. The incentives to prosecutors are for more charges and more convictions, not to see justice done.

Replies:   Ross at Play
Ross at Play

@Michael Loucks

In the US, at least, that faith would be horribly misplaced.

Agreed. I regard elections for law offices in the US; sheriffs, prosecutors, judges in some places; as utterly insane. Why not cut out the middlemen and just elect lynch mobs?

Replies:   Michael Loucks
Michael Loucks
Updated:

@Ross at Play


Agreed. I regard elections for law offices in the US; sheriffs, prosecutors, judges in some places; as utterly insane. Why not cut out the middlemen and just elect lynch mobs?


Actually, electing the Sheriff is, for me, the touchstone of the republic. He's the chief law enforcement officer. The prosecution services are independent of the Sheriff's office. In my experience, most Sheriffs are flexible and more willing to forgo an arrest or charges than a city police department who report to a mayor.

Electing judges and prosecutors is seriously problematic on many levels.

Vlad_Inhaler

@Keet

Some governments are getting worse then the Stasi back in WWII

Look up Stasi sometimes in the search-engine of your choice - although Baidu may not be the best one - and say that again.

Replies:   Keet
Keet

@Vlad_Inhaler

Look up Stasi sometimes in the search-engine of your choice - although Baidu may not be the best one - and say that again.

I had hoped that it was clear that I was referring to the spying and controlling of your own people and particularly to dubious laws that prepare for future actions.

Replies:   Vlad_Inhaler
Vlad_Inhaler

@Keet

It was your claim that the Stasi were around in WW2 which I found hard to accept.

Replies:   robberhands  Keet
robberhands

@Vlad_Inhaler

Gestapo or Stasi, let's not fuss about minor historical details.

Replies:   Vlad_Inhaler
Vlad_Inhaler

@robberhands

ich glaube Der Schlanke Nashorn stammt aus der betroffene Ecke.

Leaving that aside: I remember the Stasi rather well but the Gestapo were before my time, and much more toxic.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Vlad_Inhaler

The Gestapo was long before my time as well and I was born in the wrong part of Germany to get familiar with the Stasi.

However, the Gestapo as well as the Stasi were the secret state police of a socialist German regime. Ler's not fuss about the difference between German national socialists and Marxist-Leninist socialists either.

Keet

@Vlad_Inhaler

It was your claim that the Stasi were around in WW2 which I found hard to accept.

Sorry, I mixed up. It should have said Gestapo.

Centaur

@awnlee jawking

so that criminals could easily be located and tracked

yeah like that would work. Criminals shouldn't have guns but they do:)

Replies:   helmut_meukel
helmut_meukel

@Centaur

yeah like that would work. Criminals shouldn't have guns but they do:)


Oh, it would work, you would catch all the extremly stupid ones.

To be useful, those phones would have to send the GPS data with intervals of less than two minutes!
Think about the amount of data this generates for the UK with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.
Older records can be overwritten, but if the time span is too short, the criminals would just try to cover up their deeds long enough.
Central storage would cause problems by the sheer amount of data to be stored and retrieved, but distributed storage would provoke attempts of destruction.

You probably don't need those phones for small children, but you would have to provide those phones for all visitors to the UK.

Thinking about it, a GPS device could help to locate missing children, stray dogs, stolen equipment like caterpillars, cars etc. More data to store and retrieve and more devices to manipulate.

HM.

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