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This Website Will Self Destruct (thiswebsitewillselfdestruct.com)
589 points by boh123 on June 1, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 125 comments


Thanks so much for checking this out. I made this site as part of Ludum Dare 46, a game jam. The theme was "Keep it alive." I wanted to do something that was positive and that would give people an outlet to write about their experiences related to Covid. I've had to deal with some abuse, particularly after the first week, but overall it's been an incredibly positive experience.

There are certainly a lot of improvements I hope to make soon. I honestly built it in an evening and expected it might be dead within a day or two. That it's lasted over a month is incredible.

With a large influx of new readers, I'm sure you'll come across a few less savory posts. I'd encourage you to click the report button on the bottom of the page.

Thanks so much for checking it out!

Edit: Since this is HN, and I'm bound to get the question - It's built with Rails and Vue, with PaperCSS for the styling, Postgres for the database, and Redis is being used as part of the spam mitigation system. Oh, and the DB really will wipe itself if it goes more than 24 hours without a post.

1. Thank you for doing this

2. It's strange how the simple things, efforts and connections mean so much these days

3. It is joyous and comforting how many interesting, loving, quirky, emotional, sincere messages I've found, and how few trolls I've stumbled upon. Hope it stays that way (understanding that it may be unlikely if it keeps getting more visibility).

4. I have no idea if by deleting reported spam you become more culpable/liable for any offensive messages you don't remove, or any freedom of speech issues - check the laws in your region I guess, and yes it's sad that one has to think about these things :-/

5. Best of luck! :)

Thanks for the kind words.

Honestly, regarding 3, I've been really impressed by how positive people have been. When this was near the top of Reddit about a month ago, I really spend about 48 hours frantically coding and moderating. Those 48 hours taught me a lot about content moderation though.

On the whole, it's been an _incredibly_ positive community of people writing letters. We've received over 115,000 letters, and they've been read over 15 million times. Many of the first 75,000 letters were spam and highly moderated content. But I've been able to read most of the past 35,000 or so, and an astonishing number are kind, thoughtful, or heartbreaking.

We've also had a lot of positivity coming from non-english countries, which I've encouraged and enjoyed seeing on social media. It's been a bit of an excuse to brush up on my French. I'd eventually love to have a better native experience for non-english speakers, but there are only so many hours in the day.

Thanks again for the kind words.

I think it's something about the earnestness of your website. The welcome message is friendly and it sets the tone. It didn't even occur to me to write something nasty, and this was before I even checked what others had written.

Agreed - it's a great intro that really sets the tone :)

Regarding 4, it's a private website. I don't think freedom of speech applies. If you have some sources that say otherwise I'd be interested to read them.

Right, should edit/correct (but can not in original message), I don't think it is a freedom of speech issue; rather, a defamation/libel issue which is complex internationally and very different in otherwise similar jurisdictions.

My understanding that (recent news notwithstanding), generally publisher vs utility law in USA regarding ISPs, social networks, forums, etc, does take into account whether you are simply a platform (you don't moderate, just host) or publisher (you do write and moderate content), and protection against libel etc is different.

I am EXTREMELY not a lawyer but I do understand private websites have been bitten over their content once they started moderating / taking responsibility for it, i.e. unwittingly changed their status under that statute.

My suggestion to the author is merely to ensure they are taking the course that's wise and protective for themselves, in their particular jurisdiction, for their specific use case.

The recent Section 230 executive order[1] would be relevant here. Normally social networks have immunity from prosecution if they publish a defamatory or libelous statement (this is the so-called "magazine stand" model). But if the executive order is legal then selectively censoring (or "moderating") what your users post means that immunity no longer applies and you can be sued for any statement that you allowed a user to publish on your network.

This isn't directly related to First Amendment freedom of speech rights, the issue is one of liability (but the purpose of the liability is -- allegedly -- to force platforms to uphold the principle of freedom of speech).

[1]: https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/executive-or...

Democrats in Congress specifically grilled social network execs in the wake of the perceived “fake news” crisis in 2016 and pushed the social networks to adopt these fact-checking measures. Now the White House wants to strip their immunity for it. So, which is it? Rock and hard place?

Have you written about your experience with abuse, or are you willing to share? It's absolutely awful that you would experience that for something so obviously positive, but if you have thoughts you want to share on that it could be helpful for those of us who want to continue to challenge abuse in tech generally and might be educational for people here (maybe me) who engage in harmful behaviors and don't realize it.

(It's also not your responsibility to publish your abuse, I'm only opening up the opportunity to say more if you want to.)

I definitely will once it's no longer up. I might before then, once I improve the moderation tools a bit more. But between just being a neat thing to spam, and specifically targeting me as a trans woman, a lot of people seemed to enjoy posting hateful messages on the site when it was popular on reddit.

The anti-trans messages were really important for me to remove. They weren't particularly hurtful to me, but a good portion of my webcomic's audience are trans teens, and I _really_ didn't want their first experience at this website I made to be hate directed at them.

Thanks for asking. I'll definitely write more at a later date. :)

Thank you for this response. I'm sorry that it's been a magnet for abuse at all, I'm glad it hasn't been particularly hurtful to you, and I'm especially glad that you're taking moderation seriously. I will keep an eye out for whatever you write up and amplify it when that time comes.

May I suggest an upvote and downvote system for each message? With 3 downvotes removing the message

Three-reports-to-remove, along with moderator review for the removes, seems to be the golden standard for machine-aided moderation since the days of AOL.

The downside of it is that by the time you have 3 downvotes/reports, at least 3 people have already been exposed to the content. It might not seem like a lot, but that's 3 people who had to read something unpleasant, hurtful, or just a plain old waste of time on your resource.

Minimum 3 readers, usually many more, because people rarely report things, per spam/troll adds up fast.

I just want to say this: the angled design is absolute genius because it lets me hold my phone at an angle without bending my wrist. I thought it was a cute gimmick at first but turns out there’s a huge usability factor!

Not so for those of us of the left-handed persuasion, sadly (I suppose there could be a button to flip it)

Makes me wonder how an ergonomic phone could be shaped. I imagine placing all content at an angle would be problematic. Anyone have RSI from holding a phone?

I'm guessing that RSI from holding a phone is not nearly as significant of an issue as RSI from using a keyboard, since there are quite a few more hand positions in which to hold the phone where you can scroll comfortably. Also, your wrist is never in a strange position holding a phone compared to a keyboard.

Does the game Queers in Love at the End of the World have an influence on your website? You mentioned your audience is very LGBT. This, combined with the "time is running out" feeling of your website, made me think of that game immediately.


While I don't know that I was thinking about Queers in Love at the End of the World specifically while making this, Anna Anthropy's games are definitely an inspiration for me more broadly.

I really like your idea and I felt like leaving a comment on your website! But I have a question: what does the heart button below other people's comment?

Thank you for using PaperCSS! It’s always a lot of fun seeing it used in projects out in the wild :)

A technical question, how did you make these borders? With Bézier splines?

Simple CSS

         border-bottom-left-radius: 15px 255px;
         border-bottom-right-radius: 225px 15px;
         border-top-left-radius: 255px 15px;
         border-top-right-radius: 15px 225px;

So simple and beautiful.

Just curious, what is the script/SQL to wipe the DB?

Is there anything cool that happens when it does go boom?

Not at the moment. I'll probably do something if it lasts six months. Right now, I've still got some accessibility and legalese changes I'd like to make before I work on that. Right now, if it stopped getting messages, after 24 hours it would just error out.

Put it into a docker container, run with the `--rm` flag, then when it expires have it delete it's own git repo and other data before exiting, then it'll really be dead.

Very nice social experience and it is a playground to test many things on game theory.

I think managing the spam could be the worse part, but best of lucky

going through the responses, i've yet to hit a spam response which is pretty incredible

Very cool idea, keep it up! It's one of the coolest projects I've seen in a game jam!

Interesting website. How will the database wipe itself?

DROP TABLE table_name;


I wrote this earlier, I love art projects like this, it's better than a million Ubers to me.


Thanks so much for the kind words! I agree. I love the internet for the weird and interesting things you can find. I’m glad this one has resonated with so many people.

Dear website, Bring the old internet back, Pleeeease

Yes, before it is too late (eventually nobody will know what the old internet was like).

The skewed elements gave me a headache! :(

I'm not impressed with the concept of the website but your comics are really good. Even excellent. No contract yet?

In high school I thought of the opposite idea:

“This website contains a timer for seven days. If this timer reaches zero a one million dollar donation will be made to numerous charities. The button below resets the timer.”

I was going to call it “This is why we can’t have nice things”

But I couldn’t find a million dollars.

In high school I made a little game with a similar feel. It showed a tower of stones, same for everyone online. To add a stone you needed to hold mouse for about 7 seconds. There was also a massive red button to collapse the tower. The record was about 350 stones placed.

I love the ideas in this response. To reset to the timer requires donating $$ to the cause.

I love the game theory of this.

For a charity, you could choose a good cause that upsets assholes. So they have to donate money to the charity to prevent it from getting the money that was donated.

Last donation dictates the charity that gets the money and resets the timer

And the minimum amount must be >= last donation.

Edit: Wait, are we reinventing poker?

What if you donate on behalf of a charity and which ever charity has most donations gets the entire pot?

Sounds closer to reinventing the penny auction (where did all those sites go?)


Someone from 4chan will just write a script to keep it from ever running out.

Make it so only one entry per IP address? The script would very quickly run out, assuming they couldn't spoof (not sure how easy it is to spoof IP addresses).

Not very easy, but this is what bots are for

IPv6? ;)

You could make it accept donations and/or start with a much lower value like that 100 or 1000.

What if the button was to donate a certain (very small) amount? Perhaps incorporate an escrow account of some kind?

It’s an idea. The problem is that the button has to be trivially pushable by anyone. No payment screen in between cause and effect.

Didn't Reddit do something like this with one of their April 1st experiments? What ever happened with that?

Ah, here we go:


Looks like it lasted about 4 months. So I guess that gives us a baseline for the over-under on the lifetime of this site.

The major difference is that an individual reddit account could only press the button once and anonymous presses were not allowed.

A single person can send an unlimited number of messages to this new website.

Given that I would expect this to go longer.

On the other hand, The Button was an april fools experiment on one of the internet's most popular websites and thus garnered a ton of attention. This could easily fade into obscurity much faster.

So who knows!

Also worth noting that accounts created after the start of the event were barred from participating.

Also no recaptcha on the form, so I guess at some point the spam bots of this world will keep this running.

Wikipedia says 2: "the countdown timer reached zero and ended 2 months and 4 days after it had begun"


I miss when Reddit April Fools was fun :(

This year's was decent fun, although it was solved in a day or two.

Dear Website,

I wish I didn’t make this life I have. I wish I had made different choices and had the foreknowledge to not meet certain people. I wish I felt happier with what I have, instead of yearning for the things and situations I don’t.

I just wanted to say, whoever posted this, things can get better. I was in much the same situation about four years ago.

One thing that helped greatly was antidepressants. But that's a can of worms that seems to upset people whenever it's brought up, so perhaps I'll just mention it in passing.

Good luck, whoever and wherever you are.

Thanks for this.

I am not person who wrote the message but I am in similar situation, may be it’s the quarentine and being alone at home for weeks now but I have been thinking about my choices and mistakes.

I hope it gets better eventually.

It will get better eventually, take care & feel free to email me

Toss this into a cronjob and the website will never die ;)

curl -XPOST -d 'body=you cant die. you will never die' "https://www.thiswebsitewillselfdestruct.com/api/send_letter"

Hi! I made this. I'm not going to talk too much about the back end of the system, but that won't work.


Scheduled AWS lamda using the Mechanical Turk HITRequest API to get some random person to post to the site once a day. Shouldn’t cost more than a dime a day.

Would you be willing to talk about it once it self-destructs?

Yeah, I'll definitely do a postmortem of some kind, and go into the moderation tools I built for this.

It's a shame really, I both really want to see the technical details from that post-mortem but, at the same time, I don't want to see such an amazing project go.

The cynic in me thinks the website won't self destruct, but instead will stop working because the domain isn't renewed or the server isn't responding.

Hopefully it doesn't come to that...

Whattabout a puppeteer job?

Awesome, glad you were already ahead of me!

Well, that would just be a “who lives longer” contest between the two servers. :)

Easy. Add it to a Lambda function on an AWS account. Run once a day, it shouldn't generate a bill on it's own.

Outlive an AWS account that never generates a bill? That could be a challenge.

... Or hundreds of "who lives longer" contests simultaneously. And the website must win them all to self-destruct

I wonder how such tactics will evolve over the long run

It ought to only allow one message per IP address, then things would get interesting.

Finally the use case for IPv6!

maybe have a cronjob keep an eye on https://www.thiswebsitewillselfdestruct.com/api/get_ttl and ping you if it gets low.

Maybe run something like this hourly, which would give about 2 hours notice:

curl https://www.thiswebsitewillselfdestruct.com/api/get_ttl -s | wc -c | grep -v 26

(Though don't run it right on the hour as too many people doing that might temporarily take down the website.)

Please considering adding a privacy policy and some CYA legalese. I know it probably seems excessive and unnecessary but I would just hate to see someone wind up in a whole mess of trouble for a super cool side project that was supposed to be fun.

The FTC has resources for small-business COPPA compliance and there are plenty of free tools to help with a privacy policy.

This is extremely high on the todo list. It was going to be done this weekend, but then I ended up living a little too close to some of the ongoing protests in the US to concentrate on getting it done.

Thanks for the reminder.

I'm late to the party, but wanted to say I really liked the slight tilt on the wonderful floating buttons, with their gentle shadow and floaty-but-satisfying animation.

Great page and excellent attention to the little details that makes it feel like it was made with love :)

This is wonderful. How is content moderation being addressed? That's always going to be my primary concern with this sort of thing.

There’s a “report” button at the bottom.

One of the notes included a base64 encoded message that reads:

"You are Big Brain. Good job finding an Easter egg. Know that God is Real. Believe in Jesus Christ and repent for your sins. It's not just a bunch of rules you have to follow but a relationship with him. Know that everything happens for a reason and God only wants the best for you."

Does anyone else experience that if you highlight the seconds counting down on the webpage that they disappear?

And that if you reload the webpage, it's always at the appropriate seconds for 24 hours?

Concerning the second question: I assume it is displaying the placeholder value before replacing it with the actual value.

First message I read below.

A Narcissist’s Prayer:

That didn’t happen.

And if it did, it wasn’t that bad.

And if it was, that’s not a big deal.

And if it is, that’s not my fault.

And if it was, I didn’t mean it.

And if I did…

You deserved it.

This is a great idea and what a coincidence, just one week ago I posted a side project to HN that aims to build a website completely by user requests from scratch, while your website is destructing itself. https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23315733 // https://userbricks.com/

lol - I expected to see this in the messages... was not disappointed.

1 AND 1=2 UNION SELECT table_schema, table_name, 1 FROM information_schema.tables

The website could sell advertisement space for crypto currency, and pay its hosting fees automatically. It could become autonomous.

Dear Website,

If you were a person you would be the type that threatens suicide for attention. Not the most healthy. Good luck!

Unique design. When I right-clicked to view page source the tilted orientation surprised me. It's like in life, you can realize something is a bit-off, and then time passes, and you get used to it. Then one day, a 'true north' appears and you realize how tilted your perspective was.

Reminds me of "the really big button that doesn't do anything" from www early days


I remember something like this, it was not the website itself but you were keeping a character in space alive by supplying air to her? or something similar.

Eventually she died because because of website having issues and people not being able to support her

Someone posted this, whatever that means:

𐐌 𐑊𐐴𐐿 𐑉𐐴𐐻𐐮𐑍 𐐮𐑌 𐑄𐐮𐑅 𐐻𐐯𐐿𐑅𐐻, 𐐮𐐻 𐑊𐐳𐐿𐑅 𐐿𐐭𐑊. 𐐶𐐲𐑉𐐿𐑅 𐐼𐐮𐑁𐐲𐑉𐐲𐑌𐐻 𐑄𐐰𐑌 𐑅𐐻𐐰𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑉𐐼 𐐬𐑊𐐼 𐐢𐐰𐐻𐐲𐑌 𐐰𐑊𐑁𐐰𐐺𐐯𐐻, 𐐺𐐲𐐻 𐐲𐐻 𐑄 𐑅𐐩𐑋 𐐻𐐴𐑋 𐑁𐐫𐑉𐑋𐐼 𐑁𐑉𐐲𐑋 𐑄 𐐢𐐰𐐻𐐲𐑌 𐐰𐑊𐑁𐐰𐐺𐐯𐐻. 𐐆𐑋𐐰𐐾𐐮𐑌 𐑄𐐮𐑅 𐐺𐐨𐐮𐑍 𐐲𐑅𐐲𐐼 𐑁𐐫𐑉 𐐹𐑉𐐰𐐿𐐻𐐮𐐿𐐲𐑊 𐐹𐐲𐑉𐐹𐐲𐑅𐑆.

𐐡𐐰𐑌𐐼𐐲𐑋 𐐼𐐭𐐼 𐐮𐑌𐐻𐑉𐐨𐑀𐐼 𐐺𐐴 𐑄 𐐔𐐯𐑅𐐨𐑉𐐯𐐻 𐐈𐑊𐑁𐐰𐐺𐐯𐐻 .

That's Deseret, an alternate alphabet for English. According to a converter, it says:

> I like writing in this text, it looks cool. Works different than standard old Latin alphabet, but at the same time formed* from the Latin alphabet. Imagine this being used for practical purposes. Random dude intrigued by the Deseret Alphabet.

* The converter gave me "/f/aw/r/m/d/" here

Surprisingly low number of SQL injection attempts and hateful screeds in the "read a message".

Although I did see what looks like a blockquote rendered in what looked like code blocks. Markdown?

first one I got encouraged suicide (starting "Being dead is actually not that bad") and it was such a "dead dove do not eat" situation, why did I fall for this stupid link

People write what they want. I only saw nice messages.

Can anyone explain what's so special about this website?

I'm missing the point

Damn op that's addictive as hell.

Some of the things you read can be incredibly sad, to be followed by something inspirational.

Excellent job, I'm interested in just how long it lasts!

The amount of CSS went into those boxes is mind-boggling.

This reminds me of an indie game (or a web game) where players have to press a button to keep a girl alive. Does anyone remember what it's called?

Looks like the messages can serve XSS payloads. I just came across one. Perhaps self destruction of this codebase wouldn't be so bad.

That shouldn't be possible. They might try to, but it won't work. If you really did see one, please let me know what it was doing so I can figure out what happened, and if someone else does, please report it. There's a report button at the bottom of every page.

Funny thing is that no website will live on forever, so, in some way, every website fate is just to self destruct at some point.

This is a cool concept! Lots of messages appear to be people spamming their twitch or whatever IDs asking for followers.

How can i create a similar website for a polling or getting a survey on some topic? I am no coder.

You can use sites like surveymonkey.com or strawpoll.me

The design of the site is just perfect. I love it. (And the idea is awesome too)

Surely the post-to-hackernews button should self destruct after one use also..

Very beautiful and inspiring. How did you get the word out once it was ready?

“Depression is like drowning in a shallow bath. Never give up.”

It reminds me of Space Email but with a twist. This is cool!

That's great that it'll self destruct!

someone said "Could you publish your source code thx“ lol

First message I got:

“Dear Website,

I wish I was aborted.”

Dear Website,

I wish you would put the "Read a message" button above the content so it doesn't jump around vertically each time I click it.

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