If you’re reading this, then you can see that my site is back – sort of. There’s not much content right now, but it’s all been saved, and it’s coming back. For those of you that weren’t around a few years ago, Midnight-Writer is my blog site, where I post things that cross my mind. Unfortunately, the site has been down about 3 years (at the time of this writing), and is just now returning.
So, now I have to tell my sad story of how I really shot myself in the foot. I’ve been doing this long enough that I should have known better, and I even had first hand experience in the past (which I could do nothing about); so there’s no getting around it – it was a boneheaded mistatke.
A Background Story
So before I ‘fess up with exactly what I did, and offer my half-hearted excuse on why, I have a backstory to tell.
Once upon a time, about 25 years ago, I registered my church’s domain name. Actually, I registered a couple domain names to give them added coverage. While I was at it, I decided to see if there was a viable name for my church district to register as well. My local church was ready to have their own website, and I figured the district would be doing so soon, so I decided to risk a few bucks and register what I thought was a great domain name for them.
At the time, I had been hosting a single page add-on to my own website (parsonsys.com) for the district, my local church, and a few others. It was very basic, but at the time, most churches didn’t have websites yet, and I had an easy form that they could fill out and give some basics about the church; and it would create a page off my site that they could point people to. Websites were slowly becoming more easily set up, and I figured the district would have their own soon. So, I registered the district a domain name, set up a simple multi-page site for them, and the district superintendent’s OK on it, and made it live. The DS liked it well enough that he agreed they would pay the annual fee for the name.
Things were cool for several months, probably a couple of years. Then one day the DS called me and said “Hey Herb, the general church has agreed to start hosting a website for those districts that want them to, and I thought that might work out for use better” (or something to that effect, he was very diplomatic about it). I agreed, that was a much better arrangement, so I set up a redirect and went about my business. Meanwhile, I built a website for my local church as well. Among the links to on the local church’s site was one to our district.
Fast forward a few weeks, and my wife and I are happily sailing down the Texas coast on the SV O’Jure, our O’Day 25′ sailboat. Then I got a frantic call from one of the teens that helped out on the church’s website. “Herb, I don’t know what happened, but we have porn on our website!!”
Worried that maybe the site got hacked, I fired up my phone and tethered to my computer to log in and see what happened. After not finding anything, I called him back and asked where he was seeing it. He said “Click on the link to the district site, and you’ll see”. OK, that’s not really porn on our site, but it’s still a concern that 1) The district site has the issue, and 2) We’re linking to it.
I removed the link, and when we got docked, I checked into what happened. Since the district was going to start using the general church’s website, the District Superintendent decided not to renew the domain. He didn’t check with me first; but honestly speaking, I was still so new to all of this, I wouldn’t have known to advise him not to. But, I’ve since learned that a common practice with some porn purveyors is to buy up expiring domains that have any measurable traffic, and forward them to their sites. They can then either get some additional traffic, and/or hold the domain name hostage for the site to get it back.
I let the DS know about the issue, and apologized and told him I really didn’t know how to resolve it. I didn’t hear back from him, but a few days later the URL redirected to the new site. These days (25 years later), they still own the domain name and have a beautiful website, designed by the DS’s son, who is a professional web designer. So, the sad story has a happy ending.
How I Goofed, Multiple Times
So fast-forward a little over 20 years. I’m still learning stuff (actually, barely scratching the surface) about domains and hosting in my spare time. I was maintaining my own as a blog to write whatever comes to mind to write. Then I decided that rather renewing DNS with my hosting company, I would switch the blog site over to Google Domains, since I was trying learn more about their system. I cancelled my “auto-renewal” with my hosting company, and made a mental not to remind myself to renew it when it came up in a couple of months.
Yeah, that didn’t work out so well.
One day, I was just working away at the office, and thought “I didn’t renew the domain name for Midnight-Writer.com”, and quickly checked. Sure enough, I had let it expire. That was my first mistake.
So, I called my hosting company, and asked if there was anything I could do. I was past the 30 day renewal date, but the tech I spoke to said that they could still renew, but it would be a $65 charge. She then told me “I made the same mistake with my domain, you could save the $65, and just be sure to buy it as soon as it becomes available. That worked with mine.” So, I made a better mental note, along with a reminder on my calendar to buy it back on that date.
I should have spent the $65.
Not that I forgot this time, I actually remembered. Early the day of, I was online trying to buy it, but it wasn’t for sale. I first though “Oh, I’m trying too early”, then checked the WhoIs information, and found it had been bought by a Chinese company. I checked the site, and sure enough, got a page full of porn.
It took a few minutes for it to sink in, but I had lost the domain. It never got a lot of traffic, but there were users that logged in from time to time and read and left comments. I didn’t even approach the new Chinese owners to ask about a price, I knew it would be something I couldn’t or wouldn’t pay.
The whole incident put me in a bit of a funk, for quite some time. Every time I thought about the years that I had owned the domain, and how I had let it go over something that stupidly easy to avoid, I just depressed me. I not only gave up on that domain, I pretty much stopped editing my parsonsys.com domain, and just backed out of everything but the PGR website for a while.
I Reclaim My Domain
After a few months had passed, I made it a point to check in every few weeks to see if the domain came available again. I was very disappointed when the new owner renewed after the first year. A few weeks later, I decided that I had probably lost it forever, and even registered a new similar domain name and started setting up the content on that site. But my heart just wasn’t in it. I’d make a little progress, then put it off for a few week, then do a little more, and repeat. It wasn’t going to be finished any time soon.
I still checked from time to time, and one day saw something that surprised me, and gave me a little hope. I tried accessing the website, and got a “This site can’t be reached” error message. I anxiously checked the domain registration information, and was disappointed to find it was still registered to the same company. So, they still owned it, but were not providing an IP address.
Then, in April of this year, I finally got lucky. I taking care of some other domain stuff in Google Domains, and decided to check status on midnight-writer.com. It showed “Exact match” as available. I double checked to make sure I hadn’t misspelled anything, or misread anything, and confirmed – it really had become available again! I made the purchase, set it to auto-renew, and worked with my provider to get the SSL cert set up again.
Midnight-Writer was back. Sort of.
Fortunately, I had kept all of the content, including the articles I had published, and the 2 dozen or so that had been started and were waiting to be finished. However, WordPress has had a few updates in 2 1/2 years, and I had done away with some plugins and added others. Plus I’ve changed some of my styling on posts, so I have some reformatting to do. So, I’ll be fixing old content, and adding new at the same time. Watch for changes, and if you look for old content and can’t find it, be patient and check again. It’ll be back.