The webcomics blog about webcomics

Repairs, Restorations, Reassemblages

We at Fleen have, in the past, mentioned the need for creators to keep backups of their work so that years of effort can’t be lost. We’ve mentioned creators who’ve had the bad fortune to run afoul of those who would use their sites for nefarious purposes. But last week took the proverbial cake as the main Blind Ferret hosting servers got taken down by nefarious types, seemingly not to host their own content, but for the sheer vandalistic joy of breaking stuff. I come to this conclusion because they didn’t just break the websites — they also wiped the local backups.

Have we ever mentioned how many webcomics are hosted by Blind Ferret? It was a week of creators scrambling to redirect URLs to secondary sites, wondering how much content might be lost, and sleepless night after sleepless night for the BF crew to try to restore as much as could be. It is my sincere hope that if the miscreants behind this attack are ever identified, they get to learn first hand exactly how many swords and crossbows Ryan Sohmer keeps around the office.

There were some bright spots — Danielle Corsetto got her site back, minus a big chunk of blogposts, comments, and alt-text for her comics. By coincidence, Bernie Hou was able to surprise her with the news that as part of his work for the imminent Comic Chameleon beta launch, he actually had all her alt-text and was able to return it to her — everybody send some good wishes towards Hou, on account of he did Corsetto a solid. But even more than Bernie Hou is a stand-up dude, the lesson here is Backups don’t exist unless they exist in multiple places.

There will never be a way to completely defeat those with server-murder on their minds, but you can make things more difficult for them and reduce their impact to you from A week of frantic workarounds with all the attendant loss of traffic, advertising, and audience to An inconvenience mixed with a bit of righteous rage.

Find out from your server folks not only how backups are being taken, but how they’re being kept. If the answer isn’t On removable media in another room, and preferably another postal code, politely inquire what would be necessary to get a bit more of an air gap in the mix. Oh, and if your favorite webcomic is a bit clunky around the edges, archive not loading, things not absolutely perfect? Give ’em a break while they’re rebuilding.

Let’s finish up on something cheerier! Much like he did almost two years ago, mad scrollsaw maestro Chris Yates is going to spend a couple of weeks doing one-off Baffler! puzzles with designs by fellow webcomickers, then put the whole tranche up on eBay. The first entry of Webcomics Baffler Fortnight 2¹ is courtesy of Angela Melick² and features some seriously joyful bees. Engineers man, we get bees.

Anyways, the next two weeks will reveal who the other creators are/what their designs look like, and they’ll go up for auction on Monday, 18 February, so keep an eye on Yates’s Flickr set or the Baffler! store page, figure out what your budget and favorite puzzles might be, and best of luck to all in the bidding. Unless you’re bidding against me in which case I hope I bury you and salt the earth where you fall. Nothing personal.

¹ Electric Baffaloo.

² Right-hand rule. Respect.

Also, top webcomics should be hosted by as many different people as possible. We shouldn’t have something like five of the top ten webcomics knocked offline for days because of an attack on a single host. This isn’t the first time in just the last few months S*P and GwS have been knocked offline.

Also, as someone using Archive Binge to read GwS and having to put up with Comic Rocket’s crawler picking up every last blog post as if it were a comic, I’m not exactly shedding tears for the lost blog posts. (And no, they can’t be recovered that way.)

As for your point about backups, it can be distilled into one: never rely on your server company for your backups. Even if they survive an attack, your server company might just decide to be dicks one day for no reason, especially if you decide to leave them some day for any reason. And there is ESPECIALLY no excuse if you use WordPress; it comes with a built-in exporting feature that exports basically everything text-based into an XML file. (Have I not used it since 2009 on my own blog? Yes, yes I have not.)

Wow that is awful! 2013 is shaping up to be a year off a**holes- can we stop this trend? Now to go back up my webcomic for the first time…… yikes!

Speaking of backups, the recently Kickstarted “Git Annex Assistant” ( is worth keeping an eye on. Git is a version control tool that you can use to keep track of different local revisions of your comic/website/etc. The assistant adds support for large files, a user-friendly web interface, and tools for keeping track of multiple backups on different computers/drives/etc. I think it’s still “beta”, but development/debugging seems to be going very quickly.

P.S. Git also enables silly tricks like this:

[…] Webcomics | Malicious hackers hit the Blind Ferret servers last week, and they didn’t just wipe out the websites that host Least I Could Do, Girls with Slingshots and other high-profile webcomics — they also wiped out the backups. Gary Tyrell has the story and advises creators to have multiple backups in multiple locations. [Fleen] […]

[…] Miss America Chavez from Young Avengers above. § Gary Tyrell has the harrowing story of how the Blind Ferret website—host to many popular webcomics— was hacked and the backups were […]

[…] Hackers took down the main servers of Blind Ferret Entertainment, which provides hosting for a number of popular webcomics, reports […]

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