The Porn Star

Back in 1998 or so I ran my own Internet server for my personal email and web page. An old college friend, John, owned an ISP and let me store my server in his office. As I recall, it was a small desktop case with a 100MHz CPU and perhaps 64MB RAM. I didn’t want to spent money on a personal server to meet my modest needs, and John was happy to let me stash a low-resource server on his network in exchange for the ability to call me up now and then and pick my brain.

In 2002, I published the first Absolute BSD under the author name “Michael Lucas.” That’s a perfectly respectable name, nothing wrong with it. I included my email address and web site in the book, but didn’t think anything of it. I certainly didn’t look at upgrading my server or the bandwidth thereof. It’s not like an author really needs a web site, and nobody had really heard of social networking or author platform or any of these other fancy ways to say “You can talk to your readers directly now!”

Everything ran merrily for years. Until one day, John called. “Dude, you’ve been hacked. Your server is using up all the building’s bandwidth.”

My gut sank. I’d worked as an intrusion response consultant for a few years, and I knew perfectly well the pain of trying to extricate an intruder from your system. I had a day job that took up a lot of time, books under contract, and a family I liked spending time with. I really didn’t want to wipe and reinstall my personal system and rebuild everything.

I logged into my server. The session responded painfully slowly. A quick check showed me that the web server was monopolizing all system resources. So I checked the server log.

My main web site was getting hundreds of hits a second.

From gaypornblog.com.

The first thought is, of course, that someone had loaded images onto my web server and is trying to offset their traffic onto my machine. That used to happen a lot, back when bandwidth was fiendishly expensive. (Today, it usually happens when the images are outright illegal.) But no: all of the traffic is aimed at my front page.

I checked my front page. It still looked like warmed-over crap, whereas a bandwidth hijacker would have undoubtedly improved it.

So I looked more closely at the referring link. The hits all came from one specific blog entry. Why in the heck would anyone in gay porn link to my site? Only one way to know. I copy the link from the access log and paste it in the browser.

I read. Then I called John. “I’m not hacked.”

“Oh, come on! You have to be, you’re soaking up bandwidth.”

“Oh, I’m soaking up bandwidth all right. But it’s legitimate traffic.”

A long silence. “Excuse me?” (It was rather nice that John trusted me enough to not say “I told you not to host anything people would want to download on this server.”)

It seems there’s a gay porn actor named Michael Lucas. Apparently he’s quite well known in the industry.

There’s also an Evangelical minister named Michael Lucas. He originally owned the domain name michaellucas.com.

Actor Lucas had tried to buy michaellucas.com from Evangelical Lucas for many years. It seems that the minister didn’t want his name associated with gay porn on the Internet. Understandable. Eventually, Actor Lucas wrote a large enough check to change Evangelical Lucas’ mind.

Actor Lucas issued a press release to announce the purchase, and also posted it on his blog. This marketing victory prompted him to go look for other entreprenurial sorts named Michael Lucas. And he found me, first among several other others. He posted links to all of our sites. And encouraged his readers to click on the links.

(The original link is long gone, but the curious can find a reposted copy here, but be warned: it’s a real link to gaypornblog.com. As in, there are naked men on that page. The sensitive among you have been warned. And I pridefully note that Mr. Lucas found it unnecessary to add any snarky commentary to my link. I provide sufficient snark on my own, thank you very much.)

Fortunately, incoming blog traffic passed quickly in those days. In the short time it took me to research web server traffic throttling, the peak had passed and my friend’s office had enough bandwidth to work. Within about twelve hours, the flood reduced to only about half a megabit a second. In two days, it receded to merely the most popular incoming link to my blog, with only several hundred clicks a day. And that link remained the king for years, until I posted my OpenBSD tale and got attacked by Undeadly.

Mind you, ten years is a long time. Gaypornblog.com is still my all-time reigning champion incoming link source. As an expert on something pronounced “Eunuchs,” I find this quite suitable. It’s also very clear that I am in the wrong business.

This really drove home the importance of a unique, searchable name. Until this event, it never occurred to me to google my own name. If you google Michael Lucas today, you’ll see I’m number 3. I’m preceded by two Wikipedia pages, one for the actor and one disambiguation page. (Everyone on the disambiguation page is cooler than I am, which is why I’m not listed on it.) Back in 2003 I was Google’s number one, thanks to my O’Reilly column. But there are sure a lot of Michael Lucas’ out there.

I had a moment of ego where I thought “Hey! I’m Michael Lucas. The real Michael Lucas. What are these people doing? Get off my name, you bastards!” Then I took a deep breath and decided not to fight about it. We were all Michael Lucas, everyone of us the center of our own universe. I’m not going to waste my time trying to squash all the rest of them in all the search engines. I would much rather spend my time writing.

I therefore adopted my middle initial (Michael W Lucas) for my technical writing, and use my full name of Michael Warren Lucas for my fiction.

Maybe I should have written Evangelical Lucas and offered to buy the domain name. He might have preferred to sell to an author as opposed to a gay porn star. “Hi, Evangelical Lucas! I write about software, and want to buy your domain name. The software’s mascot is Satan.” What could have possibly gone wrong?

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