Some of you may have noticed that this blog was shut down for almost a week, and I must say that it’s been somewhat, err, stressful. Here is the chain of events that has brought me to WordPress.org:
1. Last Friday, I breezily logged into my dashboard, thinking of all the posts I needed to start working on for Sci-Fi November, and to my surprise and dismay, saw THIS:
Your site has been suspended from WordPress.com for violating the Terms of Service. If you believe your site was suspended in error, please contact us as soon as possible and we will review your suspension. (To learn more about what is and is not allowed, please see section 2 of our terms and our types of blogs page.)
To say I was shocked is an understatement. I was horrified! I immediately clicked on the link to see what Terms of Service they thought I had violated, and I ran across this:
Blogs that violate our advertising policy or fall into one of the following categories are not allowed on WordPress.com:
- Book tour blogs: Blogs that consist of pre-written publicity material, as opposed to original book reviews, for the purpose of promoting books and driving traffic to other promotional and giveaway sites.
I realized I had posted not one but two blog tour posts that very week. Was that the reason I was suspended? (I may never know, because WordPress is refusing to answer any of my inquires.) But wait—it says “Blogs that consist of pre-written publicity material, as opposed to original book reviews.” Neither one of my posts (for Endsinger and The Shotgun Arcana) consisted of any “pre-written publicity material,” unless you count the author bio info that was given to me by the publisher. My review was 100% original, as are all my reviews.
2. I immediately clicked on the contact form link so that I could get some more information, all the while hyperventilating but thinking to myself, “This must be a mistake! I’m no criminal! I’m certainly not a ‘Book tour blog'”! I told WordPress this, and anxiously waited for a response, thinking there must be hundreds of “Happiness Engineers” (yep, that’s what WordPress calls their crew) standing by, ready to shoot me back a response explaining the whole debacle.
And I waited. And waited some more. *crickets*
Several hours later, I received this response:
We are sorry for the inconvenience, but you agreed to the Terms of Service when you signed up. Specifically: “the Content is not spam, and does not contain unwanted commercial content designed to drive traffic to third-party sites.”
Although WordPress.com welcomes sites that post original book reviews, blogs which repost promotional materials from professional book tour companies are prohibited on our network.
If you wish to continue to use WordPress software for your site, you might consider a self-hosted WordPress installation. You can export your content via Tools -> Export in your dashboard.
What they told me, in a nutshell, is that my only option was to move my blog to a self-hosted site. According to this email, they were not even going to consider reinstating my blog on WordPress.com.
3. I did some research and found out I had two options in order to switch over to a self-hosted blog: 1: Download the XML file (which contains your entire blog, or at least most of it) and use this file to migrate to WordPress.org myself, after choosing a hosting site and signing up with them. Or 2: Pay WordPress $129 to do the migration for me. I chose Option #1, because, hey, I was mad at WordPress and didn’t want to pay them anything! Except…I tried to download the file, but it wouldn’t work.
4. I sent another email, explaining that the file wouldn’t download, and I received a response that more or less said, hey, we’re sorry, we’ll send a request to our developers to generate the file. And by the way, we can’t tell you how long that will take, so you’re stuck in limbo until we decide to get back to you! (And BTW, I never did get another response from that particular “Community Guardian.” Oh yes, apparently some WordPress folks are called Community Guardians! I can’t tell you how safe I feel…)
5. Gritting my teeth, I decided to pay the $129 and get the hell off WordPress.com. I was seriously missing blogging, plus I had set a pretty intense schedule for myself in November and I wanted to get back to it. You know, it’s amazing how quickly things start to happen when you pay for something. After purchasing the transfer option, I received an email about ten minutes later from a lovely woman who continued to answer all my crazy questions and transferred my blog over relatively smoothly. (Although I am working out a few glitches.)
Now, I’m not trying to bash WordPress.com. I had a really wonderful three-and-a-half years on that site, with very few issues. But I was very disappointed in the way they handle suspensions, and while I sort of I understand why they don’t have to give you a warning or even explain themselves, I never did get my questions answered, and I doubt I ever will.
I’m writing this post mostly as a warning for you bloggers out there who have free WordPress-hosted blogs. Go back and check out their Terms of Service and make sure you aren’t in violation, particularly if you have ever been part of a blog tour or “book blast.” Even though I feel I didn’t violate any of their terms, I was completely locked out of my dashboard and had very limited choices for how to resolve the problem. I suppose I could have dug in my heels and waited for them to send me my XML file, or waited for a better response about why they suspended me. But the bottom line for me was, I just wanted to start blogging again.
What did I learn from all this?
- I really love to blog, and I really love the blogging community. I felt SO out of touch last week. Not only was I upset about my blog, but I had no one to talk to about it. Until I remembered, yes, I have blog friends I can tweet to and email, and they all made me feel better. Thank you, you know who you are:-D
- I am a very impatient person. I was not willing to wait God knows how long for WordPress to figure out how to let me download my XML file. I was so impatient that I willingly paid the enemy to transfer my site over!
- Having a self-hosted blog isn’t FREE, but paying for it will be worth it in the long run. I’m obviously still learning the ropes, and any advice is appreciated. I’m excited that I’ll be able to embed Rafflecopters and other java script code in my posts.
So, let’s talk: do you have a free WordPress blog? Are you worried about being suspended, or has this ever happened to you? Any tips for running a self-hosted blog?