Oh good grief. When it rains, it really pours.

This message is primarily intended for the former members of my VCS community.  I just posted a message there explaining that the site was finally going to have to come down once and for all, and as if to illustrate my point… immediately after publishing the post, WP seems to no longer be able to display ANY blog posts whatsoever.  Unreal.

So… extracted from the WP back-end, here is what I had written:

Howdy all.  I need to let you all know that VCS is going to go away permanently now.  The reason is simple and frankly, kinda pathetic.  The WordPress that it was built on, has been hacked to oblivion.  It’s loaded with malicious files and dangerously outdated plugins that I can’t update because they’ll break other stuff.  The site was my attempt to build a custom WP-based community at a time when many of today’s solutions for such a thing, didn’t really exist yet (or just couldn’t quite do what I had wanted).  Guess I was a little bit ambitious.

The end result is that it’s loaded with old beta plugins, custom code, and products that don’t even exist anymore so will never be updated.  I can’t just repair the damage, as it’s too extensive.  But I can’t leave it up either and risk compromises to the rest of my server and the world (there’s no telling what these nasty bastards are actually doing…).  So, on that unfortunate note… VCS has to come down once and for all.  I’m still pretty unhappy with how it ended up, but not every project works out the way we want it to.

In case anyone actually reads this and is wondering, I’ve just gone back completely “underground” and have never been happier.  I’ve been running traffic on my own and building a system around it (with the help of my team of 4 full time developers) and scaling gradually and steadily.  I miss some things about the whole teaching/coaching/product development space, but I definitely don’t miss a lot of other things.  My workload and stress levels have gone down, my income and happiness have gone up, and in general life is good.

I hope this message finds some of you and that you are also doing great.  I need to pull the site down ASAP but will try to only take down the most critical stuff first (like the forum, which has been badly infected) and not just take everything down in one shot.

Take care!


Now to clarify the title of this post.  Last week my primary computer started behaving strangely.  Crashes where I didn’t normally get them, random weird glitches, etc.  By this weekend, it was clearly in a bad state so I tried to do a little housecleaning (Mac users will be familiar with the “repair permissions” dance).  This made things much, much worse.  My primary Time Machine backup drive for this computer, died.  Then in trying to repair that, my boot drive followed suit.  The one saving grace here is that my data drives all seemed perfectly fine (knock on wood!!!).  But I had no choice but to wipe my backup drive completely (had to do a low-level format too… it wouldn’t do a basic format.  Took all night.) and then had to do the same to my boot drive and completely reinstall everything.  I’m still in the middle of that nightmare… realizing how many apps I had carefully configured over the years to work just how I want them to work.

I didn’t lose everything, as I also use CrashPlan as a cloud backup provider.  But still, it’s an enormous pain to say the least.  Add to that my iPhone 4s (don’t get me started on all the new stupidly-gigantic phones… the 4s is still the best phone Apple has ever made) dying on me a few weeks back which ended up requiring me to wipe it and upgrade to the latest iOS which is horrible on it and runs like frozen molasses… and let’s just say that so far this has not been a good year for me & my personal technology.

Anyway… hopefully the former VCS members who now can’t see anything at VCS, see this post instead.  I have a bunch of support tickets coming in that I will be responding to shortly with a link to this post.

What a day week month year…


10 thoughts on “Oh good grief. When it rains, it really pours.

  1. yeah, wordpress core and plugins is sort of a forced death march of upgrades, incompatibilities, backdoors, and wtf? happened to my content too, i stopped actively caring about a long time ago, much happier not trying to support every stupid limited hosting environment out there as a plugin developer.

    going forward with their rewrite into javascript, is likely to be as bad as most people aren’t good enough with javascript, which isn’t particularly secure or great for building big apps anyway.

    • Yep, all too true. WP has the mixed blessing of being so popular that everyone uses it, and therefore so popular for everyone to hack. At this point I maintain a few of my own WP sites and my partner’s blogs, but I’m not actively developing anything under WP either. The only active development I’m currently involved in, is 100% custom code. We briefly considered using WP as the base shell, and in hindsight I’m glad we elected not to.

      Didn’t know WP was going to go all JS… wow, that’s a bit scary for sure!

  2. I’ve just built a new membership site/product on WP.
    Do you have any advice on WP installations for those of us who only know WP,
    or do you think that even with security type plugins, it is still vulnerable?

    • Sadly there will always be vulnerabilities because by their nature, they are unknown until someone finds them. For now though, there are steps you can take, for example I’m now using WordFence on all my WP installs. I made sure that “admin” is not a valid user for any of them, and I’ve taken all of WordFence’s advice on hardening the installation. I figure my sites are probably about as secure as they can be at this point, but still… if you use ANY third party plugin – or code anything yourself – there is always the potential for a simple bug to allow someone a way in. It will never be perfectly secure. =(

  3. Hi Jonathan. Are you planning to bring back VCS if it’s in your backups?
    Just wondering because I really liked the keyword tool.

    • Hey Bruce! Nice to hear from you. I’m afraid I have no plans to bring back VCS. Even if I wanted to attempt it, the backups themselves would contain all the malicious crap that had been injected into them over who knows how long. It was incredibly ugly and way beyond fixable. Also sadly the keyword tool (kwbot.com) is almost completely dead now due to changes at all the sources it scraped for keywords. It’s not something I’ve had any desire to maintain, as playing catch-up with the search engines as they try to prevent scraping, was a full time headache. I’m proud of what it was in its day, but that day has set. There are tons of other good keywords tools around these days though and I know at least a few of them appear to do nearly everything KWBot did (though I believe I was the last tool in existence to have access to the Wonder Wheel results, for several years!) Maybe you can find something that fits the bill.

      Hope you’re doing well!


  4. Is there any reason to do affiliate marketing anymore. Was thinking about trying it again. In your opinion which I value.

    • Hey Bruce! Believe it or not I do still monitor this blog, even though I haven’t had anything worth posting in ages. 😉

      So, tricky question frankly. What’s tricky about it is, I have a “yes and no” type of answer. Or put another way – “it depends”. I’d say it depends on how you plan to do what you consider affiliate marketing. The landscape surely is very different today than it was say in 2008, or 2009, or 2011. I do still know people making a living as affiliates – hell it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say I’m one of them. But those few I know who are still in the game, have found a unique spin on things. For example, using affiliate marketing to build their own email lists and then leveraging those lists heavily. Or in my case, developing a large-scale automation solution to providing traffic to advertisers seeking it (arbitrage). Some have used affiliate marketing as a testing ground for their own product, which they then go get manufactured (usually in China) and can sell through the funnels they built for the converting affiliate product, but with a much better margin (plus a buyer’s list on the back end). Some others just sell the data they can collect – basic lead brokering.

      Another thing to consider is that, I’ve noticed things in this industry seem to be cyclical. Every 5 years or so, I swear stuff that “doesn’t work anymore” starts working again. Basically as soon as nobody is talking about it any more, there’s a chance it might work. Any time you see all the “course gurus” hawking their latest can’t-miss strategies and tactics, then whatever the approach is, has either stopped working or is going to soon when it gets completely saturated. This can still mean there’s a window, but you better be early in jumping on it. For example I jumped onto the t-shirt bandwagon after it had been in vogue for a decent length of time, and (no pun intended) I kinda lost my shirt on FBAds. By the time I jumped on board it was WAYYYY too saturated with people doing the exact same things. Those I knew who still made it work for them, came up with some sort of unique angle (usually involving copyright infringing shirt designs… LOL)

      So yeah… not a simple answer I’m afraid. AM can definitely still be a good source of income, but above all you’ve got to know and protect your margins. I’ve had to learn & re-learn that lesson a number of times. Always be looking for ways to not only increase revenue, but decrease costs and reduce risk. And make sure that whatever you’re doing can scale by means of automation (not including outsourcing). If it’s dependent on you physically doing the work, or on other humans not making mistakes… IMO that’s not a reliable long term model. True machine automation is key.

      I hope that’s helpful!


  5. I’m going to run ppv traffic to video ads I’m going to produce for businesses using retargeting and charge them for it somehow. But in the mean time your suggestion to use true machine automation intrigues me. I used to be a mainframe programmer so I have the mindset for it. What programming languages do you suggest I learn on the side to prepare for doing automation? Thanks Jonathan for your input.

    • Hey there. It’s tough to know what would be most appropriate for you. Certainly PHP is the easiest to work with since it doesn’t require separate compiling or specialized development environments. For my automated system though I chose to go with Java for the back end, mostly because I had just spent a couple years consulting on a similar project where Java was used, so I got first-hand exposure to how robust it was for building APIs and the like. Unfortunately since I don’t know Java and it is a compiled language, I can’t directly work on anything myself and am at the mercy of my developers for any fixes, changes, or improvements. But I have a good team and they generally take care of whatever I need fairly quickly.

      So yeah, PHP/MySQL can definitely get you going, and that’s what I used to build my proof of concept. I would probably say start there unless you’ve just been itching to learn Java (or already know it) and want to go that route.

      Hope that helps!


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