Fight Aging! Site News: Move to SSL, Readability Improvements

A few improvements to the Fight Aging! site have emerged in recent days, and seem worth mentioning.

All Traffic is Encrypted

As you might have noticed, traffic to and from Fight Aging! is now all running over Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) connections. Page requests and page contents are encrypted from end to end between the server and your browser. So while all of that traffic is apparently being copied and archived by various powers that be, along with everything else that crosses the internet, it's not as though any of the listeners between you and Fight Aging! can easily find out what you post or what you read.

This is a trivial gesture in the grand scheme of things, but the more sites that uniformly encrypt all traffic the better: it creates a background of data that is expensive to analyze, and which cannot easily be used as a part of any scheme of automation to profile every internet citizen. Over the next year or two the generally available mechanisms of encryption for browsers and web servers will improve with the addition of perfect forward secrecy, so that even though there are (or will be) multiple eternal archives of all internet traffic, every individual session will have to be cracked and decrypted separately. There are no shortcuts that attackers can take, such as by secretly obtaining a backup of the Fight Aging! server and it's encryption key from the hosting provider. This will push out the time horizon and difficulty for people mining your past quite considerably.

All outgoing links to Wikipedia in Fight Aging! posts, of which there are many, are also now using SSL by default.

If you are making use of Fight Aging! feeds or otherwise using machinery to automatically read the content here, make sure that your tools and code are smart enough to follow the automatic redirects from http:// URLs to https:// URLs that are now issued by the Fight Aging! server. If you don't know whether you should be concerned about this, then you shouldn't be concerned about this - it's most likely not going to be an issue for you. The vast majority of applications will do the right thing and go to the encrypted feed at an https:// URL even if sent to the plain http:// URL.

No More Google Analytics Tracking

In the same vein, there is no more tracking of visitors to Fight Aging! via the Google Analytics product. It's not too hard to run my own local analytics software on page request records when I feel the urge to know more about the number of visitors and what they're reading. I generally don't keep more than a few weeks those records on the server at any given point in time; more is just clutter.

Abandoning Indentation

For the past nine and a half years of Fight Aging! quoted text in posts has always been indented. The size of that indentation has diminished over time, but even when it is small it is a break in the flow of reading - it makes the eyes skip, requires the brain to take notice, and is generally an irritation. I'm not the best person to be noticing this, however: by the time quoted text is in a post and indented, I've read it a couple of times and I'm not reading it again. I don't read my own posts in the same way that a visitor does, so I don't tend to experience the same issues.

Not that this is much of an excuse for taking nearly a decade to conclude that perhaps, just maybe, repetitive indentation in long columns was a dumb design choice to begin with. Regardless, indentation is now gone and I think you'll find that this change greatly improves the readability of both individual posts and the wall of text that is the site home page. (If you can't see the change, you might try clearing your browser cache and reloading the page to pick up the slight but significant style alterations).


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