John Topley’s Weblog

Lost Opportunities

For the first time since I started this site in May 2003, I have exercised self-censorship and removed some content. I have deleted the articles Opportunity Of A Lifetime? and Opportunity Knocks and all comments associated with them. What started as a name and shame exercise in response to just another piece of unsolicited e-mail, has turned into something rather unpleasant. I have been contacted by lawyers—both imaginary and real—and asked to remove all the content about the individual mentioned in the original articles.

I believe in free speech and have researched my online rights in this matter. The fact is that I am guilty of no more than expressing my opinion and creating a means for others to do the same. I have no doubt in my mind that this matter wouldn’t get anywhere near a court of law, at least not in my country. In spite of this, and after a great deal of thinking, I have decided to concede to the demands made and pull the content.

Although the part of me that has been greatly angered by what has happened would like to turn this into a crusade against these sort of reprehensible bullying tactics and those who hide their dodgy dealings behind the anonymity of the Internet, there are numerous such sites already—including some which also mention this individual. The important thing is that I did not start this website as a crusade against such people. I did so to give myself an online voice and to write about matters that interest me and to perhaps even stimulate some debate around them.

Entering into personal wars with people around the globe whom I’ve never met (and have no desire to), or spending time and money dealing with lawyers does not interest me. I’d rather do something positive with my time. If the individual concerned wants to give their money to the legal profession then that’s their business. Let me be clear that I wish to draw a line under this matter and will be ignoring any further correspondence regarding it, for I have done as requested. To avoid further legal wranglings, any comments posted in response to this article that contain the name of the person or their company will be edited or deleted by me.


There are 5 comments on this post. Comments are closed.

  • avatar Ervin
    19 September 2004 at 20:09

    Google cache. ;)

  • avatar John Topley
    19 September 2004 at 21:29

    The pages should eventually be removed from the Google cache.

  • avatar Ervin
    19 September 2004 at 22:00

    Of course. In the meanwhile, he did himself more harm than good, as a well-known author did recently, in connection with his Ph.D. degree. For example, I am a regular reader of 300 blogs, but I didn't know about this story before (I started reading blogs about 6 months ago). I didn't even know a lot about you or your blog, as I had added it only recently to my reading list. When you posted your announcement, I went to Google and looked up the original articles, and read the cached versions. I am sure a lot of people will do the same. The conclusion is: he made a mistake by reopening an almost-closed discussion. People will side with you, and he will seem like a person who tries to shut up his critics, instead of proving that they are wrong. Which I, personally, doubt.

  • avatar John Topley
    20 September 2004 at 19:30

    Now here's an interesting thing. I've just done a search of the backup I've got of the MySQL database for my article comments, and 21 of them are from this individual posting under various aliases, all of them saying positive things about him. I knew that some of the comments were fake, but I didn't realise it was so many! I've also had an e-mail from him pretending to be a lawyer - hence the imaginary lawyers bit. If the guy had have just come clean and entered into a civil corrospondence on the matter with me, then it could have all been so different.

  • avatar JohnnieC
    20 September 2004 at 22:33

    I reread those articles via Google cache and now I remember them. To me, it was very clear that those positive messages were fake. I suspect that you did not receive a single legitimate positive response. Also, this guy had a return email address ""?!!!! WTF? I understand how easy it is to be intimidated by supposed legal correspondence, and it's not worth the risk. But how about posting the legal threats?

The fact is that I am guilty of no more than expressing my opinion and creating a means for others to do the same.


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