This document is intended to answer some common questions about Ratburger.org. It does not discuss how to use the site: for that information, please consult the documents collected in the Knowledge Base. If you have a question not answered here or there, submit it to the Wish List group as a request for an item to be added.
What Is Ratburger.org?
Ratburger.org is an online community where a wide variety of topics are discussed in a civil manner among an international membership whose only common denominator is their distaste for the sewer that so many Internet fora and comment sections have become.
Anyone can read all of the content at the site. By joining, which is free, users can write and publish their own posts and comment on the posts of others, and participate in discussion groups on various topics and create their own new groups. There are no advertisements on the site.
Ratburger.org is a free site and has limited time to deal with coarse language and personal attacks between members. We encourage people to take those off site to places where those things are handled well. Please rest assured the administrators will be exceedingly helpful in this area. We have a big red button with a smiley just for this purpose.
The name Ratburger was dreamed up in November 1984 by a bunch of Autodesk old-timers having dinner in a Las Vegas casino buffet after a long day working our booth at Fall COMDEX 1984. We envisioned it as the name for a screen-oriented text editor we’d developed and briefly sold under the name AutoScreen and then set aside when AutoCAD took off, leaving us no time to pursue other products. We continued to use the editor in house, and thought it might still attract users if made available at an affordable price with a catchy name. We further thought about bundling the editor with a number of other in-house tools, such as a diff utility that ran on MS-DOS, as RatPack. Nothing ever came of this.
In 2004, remembering this, I registered the domain name ratburger.org, which I subsequently used as my own equivalent of example.com in software and documentation, but the domain was otherwise unused. While setting up the prototype of the new discussion site in December 2017, I used the domain as a placeholder while testing the prototype of the site with the co-founder and a few bleeding edge early adopters. Although it was originally a joke, we found the name to curiously grow upon us, lending itself to numerous humorous spin-offs. So, when the time went to go live, Ratburger it was.
The name, and the site, have nothing whatsoever to do with the eponymous children’s book, which was published thirty years after we coined the name and a decade after I registered the domain ratburger.org.
First of all, Ratburger.com was taken when I registered the name in 2004. But, more importantly, this is a non-commercial site with no advertising or subscription required. It’s an organisation, not a commercial business, hence “.org”.
Who are the Administrators? How Do I Contact them?
The administrators are Chef (John Walker, @chef on the site) and 10 Cents (@10Cents on the site). You can contact them by private messages while logged in to the site, or via E-mail (for example, if you’re having trouble logging in) at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. You can E-mail all administrators via the E-mail group firstname.lastname@example.org.
Upon what Hardware and Software Platform Is the Site Built?
Ratburger.org is hosted by Amazon Web Services (AWS) at their data centre in Frankfurt, Germany. The site currently runs on a “t3.medium” general purpose computing instance (this may change if more compute power is needed as the site grows). That system runs the AWS Linux 2 AMI, a version of Linux very similar to the commercial Red Hat and free CentOS distributions. The Linux AMI is free to AWS customers; there is no charge beyond the computing and storage resources you use.
Running on this system are the Apache HTTP Server, MariaDB database, and PHP language. These support the WordPress content management system and BuddyPress social network framework. All of these packages are free and open source software. A large number of “plug-ins”, almost all open source software, extend the functionality of the site. The core code of WordPress and BuddyPress and the plug-ins have been substantially customised to add functionality, improve usability, and fix errors. The source code for the entire site (except for a few proprietary components) is managed with the Git version control system and published as a public GitHub repository.
How Secure Are my Data? How Do you Back Up the Site?
Ratburger.org is about as secure as any other site built upon the same platform. The software packages which comprise the site are updated whenever updates are released by their maintainers, so any vulnerabilities are patched promptly. The site runs behind an AWS Security Group (logical firewall) which blocks access to all services other than those deliberately made available to the public (for example, Web requests). As with any public Web site, you should not disclose any private information which, if compromised, might be damaging. For example, don’t use the same password on multiple sites, as a security breach on one will render your account vulnerable on all the others. The server that runs the Ratburger site hosts no other sites nor runs any other externally-visible applications. Only administrators have log-in privilege on the server, and all logins are over encrypted SSH connections. All Web accesses to the server are promoted to secure HTTPS protocol, and recent tests of the site’s security gave it the highest “A+” rating.
Multiple independent mechanisms are used to back up the Ratburger site. Every night, an incremental backup of the entire system is made with Bacula to LTO tapes on the Fourmilab in-house server in Switzerland. Once a month, a full backup is made. Backup tapes are never re-used and are stored in a different building than the server. Around every three months, off-site backups are made and stored overseas. Every twelve hours, the Ratburger database is backed up with the mysqldump utility, along with images and other media uploaded by users. These backups are stored in the AWS S3 storage mechanism in the London data centre; backups for the most recent five days are kept. Every time package updates are applied and a routine reboot of the server performed (usually about every two weeks), a complete AMI image backup of the server and its file systems is made. The image backup is sufficient to spin up a new server, either in the same or another Amazon data centre. Also, a separate file-level image backup is made to the Fourmilab in-house server which is itself backed up nightly to LTO tape.
How Is the Site Funded? Can I Contribute?
Ratburger.org is funded as a philanthropic project by administrator John Walker. Direct costs are mostly AWS charges for compute services and storage for active file systems and backups, and run less than US$200 a month. (It would be substantially less if we kept fewer backups, but better a little more expensive than sorry.) Other charges such as domain name registration fees, security certificate periodic renewal, and so on are a minor component of total costs. Administrators are unpaid volunteers, and the site has no employees or contractors. I believe the number of users and traffic on the site could increase by at least a factor of three from present levels without the need to migrate to a more expensive hosting configuration (instance type).
There are no subscription fees to be a member of the site; there are no advertisements on the site; and your personal information (which need be nothing more than a valid E-mail address used to confirm registration and recover lost passwords) is never sold or disclosed to third parties.
We don’t solicit contributions to defray the cost of hosting the site, but users who wish to make them may send them to the Bitcoin address 1Ratbgrrrg2Ztpn1AB9RCiQVS3mo7oToV, which you can import to your mobile Bitcoin client with the QR code at the right. This isn’t the place for a Bitcoin tutorial, many of which exist. The advantage of Bitcoin is that it is (if used correctly) completely anonymous, has much lower transaction costs than credit cards and services such as PayPal, and cannot be shut down by thought police or outrage mobs.
How Can I Find Out about New Posts on Ratburger?
Whenever a new public post is published on Ratburger.org, a tweet is posted on the @Ratburger_org Twitter feed. If you use Twitter, simply follow this account and you’ll see new Ratburger posts in your time line. Even if you don’t have a Twitter account, you can see the tweets from the Ratburger_org account by clicking on the link above. (Private posts, such as announcements of call-in numbers for conference calls or live chat events, which are intended for members only, do not appear on the Twitter feed.)
In addition, Ratburger publishes two RSS feeds, one for posts and one for comments, to which you can subscribe with any compatible feed reader program. A wide variety of RSS applications is available for desktop and mobile platforms.
What Is your Copyright Policy? Does Ratburger Own Content I Post Here?
See the Knowledge Base article, “Cross-Posting and Copyright” for details. In short, Ratburger asserts no form of copyright on anything you post here, and you’re free to cross-post material you have posted on other sites (assuming the other sites do not forbid your doing so).
How Long Has this Site Been Around?
The Ratburger project started on December 9th, 2017. The site was up and running as a generic WordPress plus BuddyPress site on December 10th, and the first non-administrator joined the site the same day. At the right is a “baby picture” from December 11th.