Why hunting sploggers is a waste of energy

Hell8
The 8th circle of hell: Future home of every splogger on earth.

Several popular bloggers, including Shel Israel, Allan Jenkins, and Jeremiah Owyang, lately have been voicing consternation over the last few days over what appears to be a large-scale, wholesale theft of their content by a splogger site: Bitacle.org. (No, I’m not linking to Bitacle, you can find them if you want to.)

This is a pretty ambitious, but otherwise typical, splog (spam blog): a site that uses automated tools to scrape and republish (without authorization) content from other sites as a lure for high-paying contextual ads from Google and other services.

(UPDATE SEPT. 23: Today I learned that David Martín, who claims to work with Bitacle, posted a comment to this Lutrov.com posting back on July 28, 2006. He offered what I consider specious and fallacious explanations why his site is neither a splog nor a content thief.)

It doesn’t look like Bitacle has scraped my content yet, but this happens often to me — almost daily, in fact. I hate sploggers and what they do, and I agree with Allan Jenkins that there’s a very special place in hell for these miscreants. But personally I don’t invest much effort into tracking down and shutting down sploggers who steal my content. If I did that, I’d do nothing else.

Personally, I think going after the sploggers is the wrong way to address this problem…

Tracking down and shutting down a splogger isn’t easy. Plus, if you shut down one splogger site, it’s fast and easy for them to open up shop somewhere else. So I think it’s largely wasted effort to try to shut any particular splogger down. It’s like stamping out cockroaches, rather than stopping them from breeding. They’re simple opportunists, so I think the answer is to remove their opportunity.

A REAL SOLUTION: Personally, I wish the online ad services (Google, Yahoo, etc.) would alter their programs — and audit them more closely — so they stop encouraging sploggers. Right now, the way their programs run, I think splogs are an inevitable byproduct.

(UPDATE SEPT. 23: The Head Lemur, who writes the Raving Lunacy blog, stridently disagrees with my view.)

I’d love to hear suggestions on how the ad networks could alter their services to shut out or deter sploggers. Please comment below on that, if you have ideas.

In the meantime, if a particular splog is truly annoying you, the Raving Lunacy blog recently went on a rampage and got one splogger shut down. Tish Grier published a good summary of what transpired.

If you do want to hunt down and kill a splog, here are a two points to keep in mind:

  • The domain registration info is probably fake. This is the information you find when you do a “whois” search. The names, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses are probably fake, since sploggers don’t want to be found. About the only useful information in that record would be the nameservers.
  • A traceroute on the splog domain, or the nameservers, can help you track down the site host. If the site host is reputable (and that’s a pretty big “if”), you can demonstrate the theft and request the site be taken offline.

Furthermore: No one does you a favor by stealing your content, especially sploggers!

I’ve been amazed at the ignorance of basic copyright law and similar issues that’s surfaced in this splogger discussion. Even Creative Commons licenses usually don’t allow wholesale reuse for any purpose at all

In a nutshell, someone who republishes your content without authorization is stealing from you. Don’t fall into the fallacy of, “It’s publicity, so it’s good for me.” If it’s a splog or otherwise unsavory site, and if they don’t even credit you or link back to you, then they’re getting all the benefit from content you’ve worked to create. With nothing for you. Plus, they’re probably damaging your reputation.

All for now….

One thought on “Why hunting sploggers is a waste of energy

  1. Great article Amy and what about this: my yahoo!group (asklizryan) is getting doubly splogged right now so I googled “splogger” and guess who was front and center — in the whole world, eight billion people – you, whom I ran into at King Sooper’s just a few days ago. Brilliant! Thanks for the wonderful insights. I don’t think Blogger will care when I tell them about the two sploggers using our content: yahoo!groups forces us to have a Public archive in order to get an RSS feed. It’s yahoo!groups’ copyright, not mine, and I can’t imagine they give a hoot. But our members do….
    have a great weekend
    liz

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