Alert readers noticed that discussions were down for the last 3.5 hours, and I'd like to apologize and let you know what happened.
There's a subtle bug in discussions that infrequently results in a discussion appearing without any posts. It happened for the third time today and, when trying to clean out that bad data, I typed a - instead of = and accidentally deleted all of the discussions out of the database. Terrible, but that's what backups are for -- and that's when I discovered the program that backs up the database every few hours has been quietly broken since December 5th.
So I took the discussions offline and left a message about what happened. Meanwhile, I'm at work at the Washington Post and dealing with a thousand last-minute things for the New Hampshire Primary tonight, so I couldn't sit down to work on it.
A few minutes ago I got a chance to breathe and realized that all the discussions are copied to another database table when they're created and edited. This happens so that you can always see the history of a discussion if it's later edited. I restored the discussions from the table and we're all set. (I also fixed the database backup script.)
I'm still looking for the bug that precipitated all this excitement, but we're all set for now. I'm sorry for the outage.