Document Contains No Data

“Document Contains No Data.” That’s the message I keep getting lately when I try to access my website directly. Those who live in the PRC know that this is Chinese for “this website is being blocked/filtered.”

I have been unable to access my e-mail for about 24 hours now.

I hate to do it, but I’m afraid I’m going to have to remove a recent post or at least some of its comments. Being blocked is just too inconvenient.

I’m doing some experiments, so certain posts/comments may disappear for a little while in the next few days.

If you need to e-mail me, I can be reached at my yahoo address (jpasden@).

UPDATE: OK, I think maybe I’m “the boy who called block.” I went into Movable Type via proxy and changed the Monologues post to “draft” form, which effectively hides it on the main page (but not in the archives, until I republish my archives). That seemed to solve the “document contains no data” problem, which led me to believe my site was being filtered. But now I think the “document contains no data” errors were random, and they just seemed to coincide with the hiding of the Monologues post.

I was also able to get into my sinosplice e-mail via webmail (not even via proxy). I thought maybe there was an “offensive” e-mail that was disallowing me POP access to my mail. If it was an offensive comment on my blog that triggered a block of my site, my e-mail comment notification would put the same keywords in my mailbox. So I got into my e-mail (waiting out intermittent “document contains no data” errors) and deleted everything I could. Shortly thereafter POP access to my e-mail started working again. Coincidence??

I have put the Monologues post back on the main page, and no comments have been deleted. Hopefully it won’t trigger further “document contains no data” and e-mail woes.

Hmmm… who’s paranoid now? If there are no further problems, it seems all this is attributable to network instability.


John Pasden

John is a Shanghai-based linguist and entrepreneur, founder of AllSet Learning.


  1. first Laowai Monologue, now Sinosplice… Who will be next?

  2. If it is being blocked, it must be local. I’m getting in no problem in Guangxi.

  3. A-OK in Xi’an, but what about the frequent use of the word “bitch” on the March 8 post?

  4. Fine from Beijing, for what it’s worth. Which ain’t much.

  5. Da Xiangchang Says: March 12, 2005 at 3:47 pm

    Ohhh, give me a break, it ain’t the “bitch” word that’s causing problems. I know one thing: all those people who bitched about Hank’s paranoia are eating their words now.

  6. No comment (for now).

  7. A few comments:

    • The internets are definitely misbehaving at the moment, but it is hard to tell if it’s the Nanny’s malevolent doing, or just technical problems. I have been having a lot of mail problems lately too.

    • Today, Sinosplice took an age to load (in Beijing). It eventually showed up on the browser, but it took almost ten minutes. The same thing often happens with Google News.

    • English swear words don’t seem to be a problem. I regularly use the word “fck” on Danwei (spelled in full without the ‘‘) and that never seems to generate problems.

    • At the rate people are signing up for DSL connections alll over China, there must be many problems which are merely technical.

    • And finally, some words of wisdom from Intel founder Andy Grove: “Only the paranoid survive.”

  8. One more thing, about that email problem:

    I have often had a problem in the last few weeks where I can’t download my email from the POP server. When I try to use webmail, I get “document contains no data”.

    If I restart my computer or use a different computer with a different IP address, I can get on the webmail interface, and delete certain emails. After that, I can once again download from the POP server.

    It usually seems to be spam email (Viagra, mortgages etc.) that causes the problem. Sometimes it seems to be emails with attachments (Word documents, whatever).

    The annoying and sometimes paranoia-inducing thing about it, is that people using the same POP server as me do not seem to be having problems.

    Does anyone have any technical knowledge to explain this problem?

  9. I suppose one should not discount government action, but the growth in usage is exceeding the increase in physical installation and there is a significant strain on the system, especially in Shanghai-Suzhou-Wuxi corridor.

  10. Some thoughts about Andy Grove’s comment. If you are doing business here in Asia, one should always calculate why this guy said this and why he did not say that. One should always know what faction this guy and that guy are associated with. If you are not of Asian ethnecity, Asians will assume you do not know what is going on (with sound statistical reasoning). So if you have the capability of knowing what is going on, you can manipulate the factions to your advantage without ever being fingered as the villain. It is a big advantage.

  11. Well, at least now I know it isn’t just me. I’ve had the recent errors and email issues recently. And my DSL connection here in Shanghai is at times excruciatingly slow. For the site and email problems I have always blamed my hosting company. For the speed issues, I’ve always blamed the fact that I live in an old building.

    I think from now on I will blame who I blame for most of life’s problems — the Boston Red Sox.

  12. A suggestion for those who are experiencing trouble accessing their mail or websites – start using encrypted connections. Many POP servers will accept SSL connections, easy to set up in outlook – similarly, Gmail and many other sites can be accessed at https:\\sitename over a ssl connection. You could even set up your blog to serve over https as well as an open connection for those behind a keyword filtering system.

    Eventually the netnanny might start blocking SSH and SSL connections – but for now they are a great way to effectively get around any keyword filtering setup.

  13. Jeremy and Dan, thanks very much for sharing your own experiences.

    Donald, that’s very useful information, and I’ll see if there’s any way I can implement it. Thanks.

  14. hmmm…It’s interesting to find out that so many others here in China have been experiencing the same woes as me. Luckily for you the government hasn’t spanked any of you by cutting off your internet service at home.

    Then again, that’s what I get for writing about politics.

  15. Woooow,Hank showed up!If you see this I just want to know if you’re ok.
    Seems that I’ve been through the same unstable internet connection thing.Recently my DSL connection works like a cowering snail,even slower than my previous dial-up sometimes.I had a good millennium-long hour waiting for my 20six blog page to pop up yesterday.
    But no problem here today from Wuhan.

  16. The poster£¬¡°laowai£¬¡± wasn¡¯t me¡£ If I want to post£¬ I will use my real name¡£Laowai is a troll¡£I may be a lot of things£¬ but I¡®m no gutless troll£¬ and my blog was never about politics¡£

  17. Wait a minute… I think you guys may be interpreting that comment by “Laowai” incorrectly.

    Hank does not have a monopoly on the term laowai. In fact, when I read that comment, I did not jump to the conclusion that it was Hank’s.

    There are many people affected by censorship in China. Why is it hard to believe that someone else was making a sincere comment on the issue (someone that did actually write about politics)?

  18. Well,I think I stirred up some misunderstandings here.I apologize.
    Hank,I’m sorry.It’s my fault because I don’t frequent here so I couldn’t recongnize everyone’s id as you guys here.If I made you angry,I apologize.I sent you a mail but seems that you’ve already forgot who I am.Maybe you wanna check this out.
    John,I’m sorry for the trouble.I also want to make it clear I’m not among those have been brainwashed by …
    My apology again.

  19. mikez,

    No big deal. A simple misunderstanding.

  20. I have the same strange problem with gmail in Shanghai.

    To make things even stranger: One of my gmail accounts works, the other one doesn’t. Same browser, same network connection, same everything, only a different gmail account.

    I think this supports the paranoid point of view.

    Hope this comment actually reaches someone, considering this thread is a year old now; just found it through google (which is still working 😉 ).

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