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Prisons are by no means fun places. The world in which you live narrows down to just a few small acres of barbed wire and concrete. You’re isolated from those you love. Phone calls are expensive, short and monitored by those in control. There’s also no internet. Horrible.
I’ve never been to prison myself, but entrepreneur and blogger Alvin Tan found himself behind bars. He recently managed to offend the religious sensibilities of the conservative Muslim country of Malaysia by posting a photo of himself and his girlfriend tucking into a pork dish on Facebook, which he captioned with “Happy Breaking Fast with Bak Kut Teh (pork bone soup), aromatic, tasty and appetizing”.
His comments were idiotic and thoughtless and after an intense period of public outrage, Tan and his girlfriend, Vivian Lee soon found themselves under arrest. They were remanded into custody, thrown in the clink and given a steep bail to pay. The threat of a lengthy eight year jail sentence loomed. This would have been disastrous for Tan’s startup; A Groupon-in-a-can type affair.
After his mother paid his bail, Tan took to Hacker News – a online message board owned and run by the American venture capital fund Y Combinator – and in a post that has since been deleted, he implored the users for advice on keeping his Platform As A Service website ticking whilst he was incarcerated.
This raises an interesting question. How do you keep your online presence afloat whilst you’re doing time?
If you have a blog, you’ll understand the importance of posting new content to keep your blog on the success path. There are a few ways in which you can go about doing this. The first is creating enough content in advance and scheduling it. WordPress has the handy built-in feature in order to do that.
When you create a new post, you’ll see a small section to the right of the content you’re about to publish. Here, you can schedule your posts for any time in the future.
There is also a proud tradition of people writing blogs while behind bars. Perhaps the most notable of these was written by Shaun Atwood, an Englishman who was imprisoned in Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s notorious Arizona tent city after organizing a number of illegal raves.
He wrote diaries and then posted them to relatives who were in the United Kingdom, who then painstakingly transcribed his posts and put it on a Blogger website. These posts described the unrelenting squalor and poor conditions that Atwood faced, and managed to get a huge following online.
Regularly writing blog posts in prison should be pretty easy. Firstly, you’ll need someone who would be willing to type up the blog posts you write. This should be someone who you trust, as you’ll be giving them access to your blog.
Then, you’ll need to set them up with an account. On WordPress, that’s easy. Go to Dashboard – Users – Add New and fill in all of the required fields. You can now blog by proxy.
As someone who is permanently chained to my email, I think perhaps the worst thing about going to jail is missing the satisfying ‘ping’ from the beautiful Airmail.app whenever I get a new message. However, just because the closest thing you have to modern communication technology is a rotary dial payphone, you shouldn’t go without all those cute cat pictures your mother insists on sending you.
Fortunately, there are services out there that convert emails to the dead-tree format. A notable example would be L-Mail. This service receives word documents delivered by email, and then prints and sends them onward to an address that is specified by the user. In British prisons, you can receive unlimited letters.
What you get in convenience is compromised by the cost of sending emails in this manner. This isn’t cheap. A letter to the UK costs almost double what Royal Mail charges. If you get a lot of email, this could soon become prohibitively expensive.
A domain name is more than just a string of characters that personalize a four-byte IP address. It’s your address on the internet. It’s part of who you are.
The consequences of losing your domain name are significant and well known. Your email will stop working and anyone who tries to get in contact with you will see their messages bounce. Your search engine rankings will disappear into the ether. People will visit your webpage only to be greeted with a ‘404 – Page not found’ error. Perhaps even worse, someone may register your domain — your domain — and fill it full of adverts. It’s the digital equivalent of the Book of Revelations.
Before you don your orange jumpsuit and start measuring your net value in Snickers bars, it might be worthwhile checking out when your domain name is due to expire. You can do this by checking your Whois record. In addition to showing you who owns the domain name, you can also see when it is due to expire and when it was registered.
To see the Whois record for your website, go to to http://whois.sc/<your domain>, with <your domain> being the address of the site you wish to look up.
If your domain name expires whilst you’re eating porridge, you’d be well advised to fork over a bit of cash to a loyal third party and have it extended.
Without a doubt, there are limitations to what you can do when you’re incarcerated. However, it is still possible to have an online presence waiting for you when you come out of jail. It just takes a bit of forward thinking and planning. Have you ever been to jail? Did you find that your internet presence suffered irreparably as a result? Let me know in the comments.