Pitchforks and Torches

Something has come to my attention, brought sharply into focus yesterday by a couple of revelations regarding this web site and spam traffic. It seems that my website, your website, potentially any web site that is accessible through RSS and more specifically, Google RSS syndication and reader, is potential bait for the newest, and in my opinion, lowest form of internet thievery.

The topic of people stealing someone else’s content and using it as their own has been around for a while and quite the hot button topic as of late. All sorts of web pundits have weighed in on what it is, how annoying it is, and how we need better anti-spam features to combat it. Some even offer suggestions on what do to about it. The most common answer is to contact their host and they’re ad revenue source.

I say all this because over the past week or so, I’ve been victim to this exact crime, and not by a person, but by a web scraping script.

The sad thing is that I’ve tracked down the exact person responsible and their host refuses to do anything. It might actually take legal action to resolve this issue.

I’ve decided to lay it all out for you here, in hopes that someone else might be able to prevent this from happening to them.

At the start, I received a few trackback spams, nothing out of the ordinary. I simply deleted them out of my moderation que, just like any normal person would do. Then I got some more, and I started to realize they were all coming from the same link. Being the curious sort, I followed the link to a website where, so far, three of my posts are being used, in excerpt form, to generate ad revenue for someone else. Immediately angered, I traced their site to their host, LiquidWeb. I contacted Liquidweb yesterday about the stolen content and link spamming. I made it very clear that stealing content is against copyright laws and falls under the DMCA. The “abuse” department at Liquidweb told me that they saw nothing wrong with the posts and that it wasn’t their problem. I’ve since sent even more pointed emails back to them but have yet to hear anything.

Still wanting to get to the bottom of this, I starting poking around their website further. I was being ripped off by a sub-domain, so I went a level up. It’s there that I read the following:

“Go away! This WPMU installation is private. You can’t sign up, and there’s nothing to read here. This is my experimentation blog. A place where I can test things out without any outside interference. Okay. Bye now.”

And, on a second page…

“I have to laugh a little, as I never envisioned someone bothering to read my “Go Away” post. Lo and behold, Dan of Dan Q’s Blog did and was even kind enough to link to me. So, I figured that I could return the favor.

He mentions the weird names of authors in the posts. I get a lot of comments about that. To be honest, the script I’m using for the auto-posting was not written by me, so I’m not sure where it gets those names.”

This tells me two things. First, that I’m not alone is being ripped and second, that it’s a script written specifically for auto-posting. This link to Dan’s website, which I kept in the quote, says basically what I’m saying now. That they’ve had posts duplicated and spammed by trackbacks. The website in question on Dan’s website is in fact the exact same one I’m dealing with. I won’t give them the satisfaction of linking to it.

Digging deeper, there was an update to Dan’s post:

Apparently the mastermind behind the whole scam (handle “SEO_Mike”) explains it here.

Well, now that’s just the jackpot in terms of information. According to SEO_Mike, there’s quite a bit of money to be made by “RSS scraping and auto blogging” as he calls it.

They even decide to run a little contest and see who can make the most money. There are quite a few interesting tid bits you can gleam from that forum:

“I’m going to participate in this as well using a WordPress mU setup”

“The blogs I just set up are off the top of my head or ideas taken from various sources. SearchEngineWatch has a good list of sites to get ideas from.”

“I’m going to be using Adsense primarily for these blogs, and some targetted CPA ads (mostly from Copeac, of course). The site is setup on a LiquidWeb VPS account, so I should have plenty of room to grow.”

“The goal of the sites is to make money. Period. So don’t get too attached to one site / one idea. Diversify. This is about numbers and doing something.”

I’m so angry, I actually feel physically ill. I haven’t felt this mad since someone threatened a member of my family when I was a teenager. I’m going to keep hounding Liquidweb, as they are directly responsible for this website being operational. I’m also going to pound on Adsense and Copeac and get their ad revenues pulled.

I can’t actually express in words my anger at the moment. This bullshit has got to stop. It’s time for the internet citizens to get their pitchforks and torches.

Extra Gravy

I hope everyone out here had a great Turkey Day, or at the very least, an early festivus. I had a great time with Lauren’s family this year. We had a great dinner, watched a few movies on her parents flat panel and HD-DVD player. Chris and I even snuck away for a little bit to have a nice Grand Habano and some 12 year old Scotch. It was a nice, relaxing Turkey Day.

Yesterday I had to work but from the other people I’ve talked to it seems like everyone had a good Black Friday as well. My brother is actually quite the BF aficionado. He goes every year and gets all of his Christmas shopping done.

I’m also really excited that quite a few people have gotten 360’s this year, just in time for the holidays. Nagle just got one, as did my brother. I also have it on good authority that one of Lauren’s friends just got one. Her brother has one now as well. My pool of potential XBL playmates just tripled. I had quite a few guys from the TCC on my friends list, but none of them are on very often. Now, with Nagle rockin the 360, my brother getting back on his campus network and our friend across town getting online, this should make for quite the gaming season. Now we just have to find a good game we all would enjoy playing. Halo would probably be a safe bet, most people will get that eventually. Call of Duty is quite good, but that’s more up my alley than anything else. What does everyone else like to play? I’m more than willing to pick up a used copy of Madden or something if that’s where people are leaning. Any suggestions?

Besides Xbox, I’m being taunted around here by what people have gotten me for Christmas. It seems every year everyone knows exactly what to get me and has their shopping done on or before Thanksgiving. Lauren’s mom apparently bought my present months ago. I have no idea what it could be, and, like a 12 year old, that bugs the hell out of me. I hate surprises. What if I go out and buy what someone has already gotten me? I can’t stand holiday gift giving because inevitably it’s the one time a year I have a few extra bucks to buy something for myself, but I can’t, because someone might have already. Of course they didn’t, but the threat of duplicate gifting is almost as staggering as finding the “perfect gift” in the first place.

I don’t want to make it sound like I’m all about the presents. Actually, quite the opposite. I’ve never really received a great deal of presents, so my expectations are really quite low.  It’s the entire process that frustrates me.

You see, my birthday is 4 days before Christmas. As a kid growing up, that meant that every friend/relative/girlfriend/etc gave me a “combo gift” for both occasions. Even my parents often lumped gifts together. Birthday’s were NEVER a big deal in my family and were rarely celebrated. I’m sure Chris and Chip can tell you all about the rather pathetic “let’s get a pizza” birthday parties I had over the years. What was it, 5-6 years in a row where I celebrated my birthday by doing hardly anything? There was a movie or two, a trip to Denny’s that I can remember with Chip, but hell, I don’t think I’ve had a birthday cake since I was 10. So, having rather lack luster birthdays AND lumping those lack luster birthdays together with Christmas made for some rather forgettable holidays.

So, my expectations were always low, and in turn I didn’t see what all the fuss was about when it came to giving and receiving presents. I always thought that the holidays were more about spending TIME with people. That was always the best part to me. Driving down to Boston and having dinner with my grandparents and the entire family. Pie, turkey, bad jokes, stupid cousins, the cooler full of soda on the back porch in the snow bank to keep it cold, football games in the middle of the street, sledding, hot chocolate, bad holiday movies, falling asleep on the couch after eating too much. That’s the holidays to me. The giving and receiving of presents was just something that happened. I would much rather have someone tell me they bought me something cool, hand me a toy and say Merry Christmas than to go through all the trouble of wrapping it, putting it under the tree, waiting weeks to opening it, only to find out that it is indeed yet another shaving kit. I guess I’m just not much of a surprise kind of person.

Does that make me a scrooge? I hope not. I enjoy the season as much as everyone else. I love the weather, the tree, the baked goods, the whole thing.

I think I’ll just leave the shopping up to Lauren. She’s much better at it than I am. I think that goes without saying.

Matt out.

And there was much rejoicing

I just got a call from the UPS delivery call center, my 360 should be back in my hands by this afternoon. Huzah!

I had left some, umm, “unique” identifiers on my console so that I would know that it was mine when it came back, so I’m curious to see exactly what they’ve replaced/repaired. Little tiny micro dots aside, I really hope they didn’t try a switch and just sent me out some crappy refurb. Like I had told the CSR, I wanted a repair or a brand new replacement. Refurbs that I’ll have to send back in after a week were not going to be acceptable. Lets cross our collective fingers.

Someone Dies Soon

For the second time in less than four posts, I’ve had trackback spam with a portion of my article stolen. Now I’m getting pissed. Not only is everything I write on this journals technically copyrighted, but these turds of the internet are trying to increase both their trackback links and their search engine results off of my stuff. What’s worse is when google/yahoo/ms finds out about a spamming site, they often penalise the TEXT. So, not only does the spammers google rank get dropped, so does mine, because it has the same text in it.

I’ve reported the last two to their ISPs and deleted the links. I don’t know what else to do. I could try and issue a DMCA take down notice, but I doubt it would get me anyway. There is a special ring of hell reserved for spamming assholes.

I dare you

Just try and figure out how to get back onto the freeway, I effing dare you.