I’d been putting-off going to startups.cringely.com to finally read all 286 entries so far in this summer’s Cringely (NOT in Silicon Valley) Startup Tour.  But when I finally went to the site, I couldn’t get in.  The page timed-out.  This was not good.  Or maybe it was very good in that the site was so busy.  But even that’s not good because I don’t like turning readers away.  So which was it — good or not good?

Not good.

Twelve hours later, when I still couldn’t get in I called the CTO at the company that hosts that site — Democrasoft.  You haven’t heard about them, believe me, and I’ll explain why below.  But they weren’t having any trouble seeing the site.  Nor was I having trouble seeing it on my iPhone, or using my Verizon MiFi cellular access point.  It seemed to be a problem with my home ISP — Comcast.

Twenty minutes on the phone with Comcast tech support found the problem, though not the solution: the server IP address was blacklisted by an outfit called SORBS (Spam and Open Relay Blocking System) that claims to keep track of mail servers run by spammers or compromised by computer crackers.  Of 105 such blacklists available, only one — SORBS — listed this IP address, which wasn’t even for a mail server!

That IP was part of a block of addresses owned by Amazon Web Services, with the entire block listed by SORBS as suspect.  So Comcast (only the eastern half of Comcast, I later learned), tending to believe SORBS, blocked the address and Cringely’s (NOT in Silicon Valley) Startup Tour from tens of millions of subscribers.

The suspect IP address may have been used previously for another machine that was a mail server or maybe a compromised web server.  It has only been startups.cringely.com for a couple weeks, after all.

I’m amazed to learn that as rigorous an outfit as Amazon Web Services doesn’t check its IP addresses for blacklist status before reassigning them.  If I were an AWS customer I would be upset.  Since I’m freeloading I guess I’m just a little miffed.

We’ll sort this out shortly, I’m sure.  The guys at Democrasoft have lodged a protest with SORBS, but I am not very confident that will accomplish anything quickly.  Better to make Amazon assign the server a different IP address.

If you are having trouble reaching startups.cringely.com as a result, try it from a computer with a different ISP.

In the meantime, what is this Democrasoft?  Well until a moment ago it was called Burst.com, a little company from Santa Rosa, CA that I wrote about years ago over and over when they were fighting Microsoft and then Apple in court, winning both cases.  Burst was involved then in the efficient distribution over the Internet of video and audio streams and I suppose they continue to own and license patents in that area today.

A few months ago the folks at Burst called to tell me they were changing direction, creating a new kind of web service designed to help groups explore issues and make decisions.  The called it Collaborize.

Startups.cringely.com, if you can get to it, is a custom instance of Collaborize dedicated solely to the nomination, discussion, and evaluation of startup companies.  Not even a beta, I’d say my site was alpha software, but I was intrigued by the concept, trusted the people behind it, and who can turn down free service?

Collaborize was formally announced this week at the Demo conference in Palm Desert.  I wasn’t there but from what I hear the product was well received with attendees seeing all sorts of interesting ways to use it.  Have a look and let me know what you think.

That is if your ISP will let you.