Interview: The Staff of Nausicaa.Net
Anime News Network: How did Ghiblink originate?
Michael Johnson: Team Ghiblink was formed around April of 1996 with the help of volunteers from the Miyazaki Mailing List. (This ML is located at http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/mailing-list/.)
ANN: Who are the people behind the scenes?
Johnson: Team Ghiblink has a web page (http://www.nausicaa.net/miyazaki/ghiblink/) with a brief and now out-of-date list of its members and their functions.
Jeremy Blackman was key to the birth of Nausicaa.net as its own site. He provided the advice, the technical expertise, and the free high-speed network connection that Nausicaa.net enjoys. He is the technical system administrator and we are in his debt for the many hours of sleep he has sacrificed towards its setup and maintenance! Prior to the existence of Nausicaa.net, the Miyazaki Web had been stored on Venice (http://www.tcp.com/~miyazaki/), the popular anime FTP archive, for about two years, since late in 1994.
Sampsa Virtanen was responsible for the blue color scheme and page designs that are now characteristic of the Miyazaki Web. He and Patrick Bernier helped a lot with site maintenance tasks (adding or updating pages, correcting mistakes, etc.). Many long-time contributors to the Miyazaki ML were also part of the team, offering tidbits of information, translations of interviews or other printed materials, and the occasional picture of a family member in a Kiki Halloween costume. Of these frequent contributors, several stand out for their generous contributions:
ANN: What were the plans for the future?
Johnson: "Were"? Do you mean before the cracking? Our plans were to continue to keep the site up to date about the Disney/Buena Vista/Miramax release of Studio Ghibli's films in North America and around the world.
Our short-term focus was on Laputa, which Disney will title "Castle in the Sky" to avoid controversy about the name "Laputa" which can be misinterpreted as foul language in Spanish. I know you're thinking that it will be difficult to avoid this controversy because the film mentions the name "Laputa" frequently in the dialog. We on the Miyazaki ML are just as curious as you are to see how Disney handles it.
Team Ghiblink's long-term goals were, and still are, to stay up-to-date with details of the Disney-Tokuma deal and reorganize the web site to make it easier for people to find things without having to rely heavily on the search engine. This has been postponed until the restoration of the old site is complete, to avoid confusion among visitors and among the restoration team members themselves.
The Anime Press Kit Project, a spinoff of Team Ghiblink, had produced and sent out fourteen copies of a press kit about the English release of Kiki's Delivery Service for the attention of various magazine, newspaper, and TV film critics including Siskel and Ebert. Containing background information about the film's story, origins, context, and fan following, it was modestly successful, with pictures and direct quotes spotted in a number of newspaper articles during the month that Kiki's dub premiered on home video, September 1998. This team's medium- to long-term plans for the future include the production of press kits about the English video release of Laputa in early 1999, and the English theatrical release of Mononoke Hime (Princess Mononoke) in middle or late 1999. Eventually, we will produce press kits for each of the Studio Ghibli films to be released by Disney. The team's current short term plans of course are to pick up the pieces and regroup.
Although we have suffered a setback, we definitely plan to recover our work with the generous assistance of the fan community -- for which we are most grateful -- and continue to provide anime fandom, the public, and the press with objective and up-to-date information about Studio Ghibli's films and their worldwide distribution by Disney.
ANN: How did the hacker gain access?
Jeremy Blackman: It appears they compromised another machine on the same network first (one not controlled by me) and used an Ethernet packet sniffer.
(Ethernet is a type of high-speed networking. A "packet" is a term for the chunks of information sent out over a network/internet connection, which are then reassembled to form a file or message. So, then, a packet sniffer would track where in an Ethernet network a packet originated from, in this case, the host of Nausicaa.net. -ed.)
As the Maison Otaku Network (which Nausicaa.net is part of, network-layout-wise) is not an entire class C, stealing root access on one machine in the class C allows you to listen in on packets destined for another machine on the class C.
("Class C" refers to a section of the internet. Internet domain names, like animenewsnetwork.com or nausicaa.net, point to individual machines on the internet, each of which have their own unique address consisting of four numbers each ranging from 1 to 255. These numbers, or "IP numbers", on Class C networks range from 22.214.171.124 to 126.96.36.199, and this class of numbers is the only large grouping with many IP numbers left. InterNIC, the group that keeps track of such things, is working on several solutions to the problem of finite IP numbers. -ed.)
ANN: How were they stopped before other machines were affected?
Blackman: Other machines on the class C were affected. I tried to help clean some of them up as well.
ANN: Could it have been someone you know?
ANN: What possible motives would they have for doing this?
Blackman: General destruction, just being jerks. Believe it or not, many do.
Johnson: Russian Miyazaki fans who have contacted us in the wake of the attack have told us about a particular group of Russian crackers who do not like anime. IF it was them, this may partially explain the attack. Note that we cannot confirm that the person or people who attacked Nausicaa.net were in any way connected to the anti-anime crackers, so speculation along those lines is entirely hypothetical and unproductive. As noted in our Crisis FAQ, we are not asking anyone to stereotype people of Russian origin or to engage in any acts of revenge for us. Our solution to this problem is to get on with the recovery effort and do what we can to avoid losing as much as we did ever again.
ANN: Who do/did you talk to about this sort of thing in terms of authorities?
Blackman: We reported it to the Russian authorities (the originating sites were dialup.ru and several academic machines on a Russian campus, however, several of the invasions on other machines on the class C came from machines in Germany and Sweden), though I doubt that will have much effect. We also contacted the site administrators of the various sites that the hacking came from.
ANN: Have you gotten a response from them yet?
Blackman: No, we haven't heard from them. Hopefully, having done this damage and forcing Nausicaa.net to rebuild, they'll be content to stay away from it. :P I'd like to just forget about them entirely and move on.
ANN: How is the rebuilding coming?
Johnson: On October 30th, Ryoko Toyama compiled a list of which web pages have been recovered and which haven't. You can also find some descriptions of what's been happening in our Crisis Diary.
ANN: How have the fans been, in terms of support?
Johnson: Absolutely overwhelming! I've received several megabytes worth of files, and over two hundred messages from well-wishers, people with copies of files that were once on Nausicaa.net, and volunteers offering space for mirrors, money for backup equipment, and their precious time and energies to contribute to the recovery effort. It's all very touching, for a site that began life four years ago with a few pieces of information about each of Studio Ghibli's films, some scripts, and some other informative text files distilled from the collective knowledge of the Miyazaki Mailing List. Even though Jeremy had mentioned the number of daily visitors to the site, it never really hit home just how much people really enjoyed and depended upon it until it was broken into and erased.
The messages sent to Team Ghiblink provide us with a lot of motivation to get the site up and running again as soon as possible. Shun Chan and Ryoko Toyama are generously giving up their free time to go through the hundreds of letters of support to find the files they need to update the web pages and file archives with.
ANN: Any major stumbling blocks in the rebuilding effort?
Johnson: No, other than finding copies of the most recent versions of our missing web pages, not really. Theoretically, all of the information is available in raw form as messages that have appeared on the Miyazaki ML, or is available in print in various art books, manga, or magazine articles. The daunting part is having to sift through all of that data to rewrite the missing web pages. The recovery effort will simply require a lot of time and effort.
ANN: When do you expect to be back fully?
Johnson: That is hard to pin down, but late November or mid December is my current estimate. It is possible that we might never recover copies of certain web pages; those will have to be rewritten from scratch. However, we are currently halfway complete with the restoration of the web pages, and will within a week be restoring most, if not all, of the FTP file archive with a 300MB snapshot someone fortunately made in early October!
ANN: Anything to add?
Johnson: I would like to thank, from the bottom of my heart, the many people whose mail poured in in response to the disaster at Nausicaa.net. It is clear that Nausicaa.net is as precious a resource to you as it is to me, and your messages help me understand just how important it is to restore the site as soon as possible. I would also like to thank the staff of Anime Web Turnpike and Anime News Network for their help with getting the news of the disaster out to the people who could help us recover from it. Without all of your help, the recovery of the Miyazaki Web would have been too discouraging, and the downtime much too long. I could not have hoped for a better fan response. I hope the restored site will live up to your expectations. If it doesn't, please let us know! Thank you, one and all, and stay tuned to Nausicaa.net!