white pages of the whole world

Reduced Functionality: closing down much of the site

2014 Nov 04

After careful consideration, I have decided to disable the public phone number listings on Numbertron, effective immediately. I started work on this site with a few goals in mind:

  1. Learn Ruby — achieved, somewhat. I created a reasonably maintainable codebase, and did a bunch of web scraping with some scripts (first perl, then ruby) which used inheritance like a reasonable person rather than using copy-pasted code like an … unreasonable person.
  2. Learn to attract traffic — achieved. At its height, Numbertron was attracting roughly 1,500 unique visitors a day, without any external linking except from mine and a friend’s website, and a forum profile.
  3. Make money from advertisements — not achieved. The site runs on a Linode, costing $40 a month to run (but I have other services on this machine). At the height, I was making about $25 a month from advertisements. When the ad network I was using went under, I switched it to A-Ads, which pays out in Bitcoin. Over the past year they’ve paid out BTC 0.127, or USD $41.

Recently I’ve become more cognizant of privacy concerns, which led me to some interesting conversations about the future of this site. It’s my opinion that the site is founded on the mass violation of privacy of other people. I’ve always operated this site under my real name, with my real postal address in the WHOIS for the domain, but I shouldn’t expect other people to be OK with me outing their contact information. Even though this is entirely in accordance with American law, under whose jurisdiction I operate, continuing to do so isn’t something I feel comfortable doing any more.

What tipped the scales to make me do this today in particular was a stream of verbal abuse I found while reviewing recent comments on the site. I don’t want to provide a forum for that, either.