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I’m fairly busy as of late and so I regularly set aside some weekend reading, such as Sergey Gavrilets‘ new paper on investigating the impact of egalitarianism on human evolution during the Pleistocene. The paper was published the other day in the open access journal PLoS One. Yesterday, I bookmarked the paper’s DOI (10.1371/journal.pone.0003293), in hopes that I can read it today.

Fast forward to this afternoon… I sit down to download the PDF, print it out, and read it. I know that DOI’s have several layers of resolution and PLoS’ DOIs resolve to plos.org. I click my bookmark and much to my surprise am presented with this on my screen:

PLoS.org Expired

Ahh, the ever familiar landing page of shame, a billboard to the public pointing out those who forgot to renew their domain name with their registrar. For those that don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll simplify it. In the land of the internet, there are special servers, called nameservers which handle the association of a domain name to a computer’s [IP] address. Without them, we’d have to memorize numbers like to access Google. To use these servers, those of us that own domains have to pay a regular annual fee. If we don’t, the service will put up this landing page. After some time, the name will released into the market and other’s can grab it.

I don’t know how long this problem will last for plos.org, but even if it lasts just for today or this weekend, it is an embarrassing problem for the Public Library of Science. It also raises my eyebrows and makes me question the responsibility of the individuals who run the joint. The Public Library of Science is completely web-run operation. If they can’t stay on top of renewing their domain names, how long can they be the premiere open access publication? We can’t visit their homepage, thousands of DOIs aren’t resolving today and I wonder if emails addressed to *@plos.org have been bouncing back?

There could be obvious explanations, though. Maybe the guy who’s in charge of managing the domains is vacationing? Or maybe they actually switched some settings, such as the IP address the domains point to. That could definately be the case. Come to think of it, since their other services that live on subdomains, such as PLoS Biology is working fine, I hope that’s why. But, I honestly couldn’t access the journal via DOI all day long. When IP addresses change, it doesn’t take that long to propagate across the whole world. So I decided to do a quick WHOIS search on plos.org, and in fact, the domain name did expire on October 2nd, 2008 and was not renewed.

Anyways, no hard feelings for the PLoS guys… It is hard running a nonprofit organization. I know, I used to work for one. In my experience, there never seemed to be enough people and everyone wore different hats. I really love their journals too. They’ve done some amazing things, such as the comments and trackbacks in PLoS One let alone the open access initiative. But I really would like them to show a little bit more professionalism, especially with handling their flagship domain, plos.org. Oh yeah, let me remind you that PLoS had performance problems with their content management system that handled all their journals earlier this year. The problem would slow their site to a crawl, driving readers away in frustration over wasted time. It is fixed now, but it took months!

P.S. I ended up finding that article the ‘hard way’ via clicking around plosone.org.