Where tech aligns

Kant’s spiders grant the gift of access

Don’t tell my mom, but sometimes I circumvent paywalls on articles. I’ll tell you a reliable way to do so later on in this little blurb. But first, I know what you’re thinking, the good little Kantian that you are, “What if we universalized that maxim, Mason? How would writers make a living?” And that’s […]

Don’t tell my mom, but sometimes I circumvent paywalls on articles. I’ll tell you a reliable way to do so later on in this little blurb. But first, I know what you’re thinking, the good little Kantian that you are, “What if we universalized that maxim, Mason? How would writers make a living?”

And that’s a good question. I’d probably mumble a reply with words like “inevitability,” “accessibility,” “informational democratization” and the like. Of course, as a consequence ads would proliferate beyond their already-intolerable levels. But as it stands, this isn’t universal knowledge. Not yet at least.

The main way I read things that I’m not meant to is absurdly easy:

I type “archive.is/” before a web address. Or, if you’d like, you can just visit “archive.org” and enter the (paywalled) link.

And that’s it. Try it out on that fourth NYT article you want to hate-read this month. This comes across as Hackerman-level computer magic to some, but it’s really simple. You just have to have something or someone archive the page you’re interested in viewing.

In a lot of cases, like one of the most popular archives, the Internet Archive, the process of indexing is broadly automated by web crawlers or “spiders” that creep and crawl about and collect webpages, storing their content for posterity’s sake. Or for those, like me (and hopefully now you, my fellow information bandit) who are possessed by the need to read things they’re not meant to.