I have been pushing the idea of Kblogs — scientific publishing using commodity software — for a year or so know. Our main site, Knowledgeblog.org has got around 100 articles now, and has had about 50k page views (or about 4x the number of raw page hits) and has generated a certain presence on the internet. While this is generally good, the price of fame is that we have moved somewhat up the list of potential hack targets. Unfortunately, this has resulted in two compromises on the machine; they were probably not disconnected, although we have no evidence to link the two at the moment.

The first was through the timthumb zero day vulnerability. It involved a code injection into a WordPress installation using a thumb nail generator with a dodgy bit of PhP in it. We cleaned the system up as well as we are able and went from there. Sadly, a couple of days ago, we had a second break in. This was a more serious and directed attack (the timthumb was scripted, and we were one of several thousands of sites to be hit). In this case, the machine has been root compromised, and the web server used to gather username/passwords in a phishing expedition. We do have backups and all of the content. There were a number of things that we could have done to secure the machine further, at least one of which may have prevented the hack, but there are only so many hours in the day.

So, where does this leave us? Is the whole idea of knowledgeblog broken? Personally, I do not think so. While I have been critical of the cost associated with academic publishing, I am aware that it cannot happen for free. Running and maintaining a web server takes money; it is something that we have been doing on a shoe-string for a while, especially since our JISC money ran out. In the couple of years that we have run knowledgeblog, I think that we have learned and shown a lot. As well as page views and content, we have shown that scientific publishing can be easy for the author; that we can generate attractive articles this way; that we can start to embed computational accessible knowledge into these articles. We have shown that we can do peer-review, if we need. We have shown we can archive and preserve for the future. We have shown that knowledgeblog is good for grey literature. We have added DOIs. Multiple authors. Good looking maths. We even have some preliminary stats on how much publication costs from Word doc to website.

At the moment, though, we do not have a business model. It is clear that if we are to move this forward, it needs to be run as a service, managed, and looked after, something which is neither my expertise or desire. The analogy that I have made earlier with Wikipedia is, I think, a good one; it would be good to move this into a foundation status.

The path from here to there is a long one, however. For the moment, we will restore knowledgeblog, and it will re-emerge, although at this time of year, it will take a while. But we look to the future as well.

2 Comments

  1. Knowledgeblog is Live | Knowledge Blog says:

    [...] doesn’t do this site any good to be offline for so long. The sad story is that we were hacked and that restoration took a lot longer than it should have. As far as we can tell the content has [...]

  2. An Exercise in Irrelevance » Blog Archive » Why academic publishing is like a coffee shop says:

    [...] I maintain my own server which comes with a high (time) cost particularly when things go wrong (http://www.russet.org.uk/blog/1939), and it would be nice to be rid of this hassle. But I value the ability to add to the environment, [...]

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