Goodbye to Splogs and Feed-Driven Blogs

Filed as Features on October 8, 2007 11:20 am

After much soul searching and internal debate, I’ve decided that I’m done with splogs and feed-driven blogs generating content from my blogs. Aren’t you?

Here is the scenario.

A trackback comes in with the following starting off the “quote”, followed by the start of your blog post content:

  • [...]admin wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt[...]
  • […] Jim Phillips wrote an interesting post today!.Here’s a quick excerpt…
  • […] Novak wrote an interesting post today on 100 bloggers worldwide collaborate to benefit charityHere’s a quick […]

Example of trackback splog comment spam

Notice the similarity? These all involve the words “wrote an interesting post today” and “here’s a quick excerpt”.

I’m considering adding these two phrases to my banned commenters list, but it’s a difficult decision as many use these words perfectly innocently. I wish there was a way to put them in the filter using all of the words without kicking out the innocent usages.

It’s that, or teach all bloggers to never introduce a blockquote using those phrases.

Notice also that the words run together and the punctuation stinks. These twits are so lazy, they don’t even customize the feed scraping WordPress Plugin to change the name from “admin” most of the time. This is a sign of a splog and feed-driven blog which uses feed scraping WordPress Plugins to grab content from your blog and publish it, using your content, or excerpts of your content, on their ad-filled spam blogs.

What I do now is check the source and if the blog has no original content, I mark the trackback as comment spam. I do not want them leaving trackbacks on my blog, or anyone else, to help their link juice, page ranking, or to encourage anyone to click from my trackback list on a blog post to their ad-filled and useless blog.

It’s About Blog Integrity

I know I’m sometimes a hard ass when it comes to comment spam and abusers of the web, but I am tired of lazy folks using my blog content on their ad-filled blogs. Some of the splogs I’ve checked using this technique don’t care about content. One published over 800 blog posts every day, each filled with excerpts from dozens of blogs of all types and sizes. Think they care?

Their use of my content is technically legal, fitting within the standards of Copyright Fair Use, but their use of my content according to my copyright policy violates that policy. It states:

You may NOT use this work for commercial purposes without explicit permission from the author and blog owner. Commercial purposes includes blogs with ads and income generating features, and/or blogs or sites using feed content as a replacement for original content. Excerpts are permitted if credited and not a replacement for content. Full content usage is not permitted.

That’s pretty clear and splogs using my content, even as excerpts, violate that.

Will it hold up in court? Maybe not, but I’ve stated it publicly in writing. It’s up to them to find out what my copyright policy is before they violate it.

I’m not attacking their right to use my content, though I’d love to, and in some cases I do, especially when my content appears on porn, drug, or other “inappropriate” ad-filled sites. I’m usually too busy chasing down abusers who rip off my full post content, something I’m fully within my rights to defend.

What I’m doing is removing their ability to use my blog as a source of links and page rank reference. I’m removing their ability to get readers from my blog. I’m cutting off the trickle of income and benefit they might get from my blog. They’re abusing my content, but I don’t have to give them anything else.

We all have a line in the sand we draw, standing behind it with our integrity like a shield before us, saying “This line you shall not cross.” I’ve decided that my blog will draw a line in cement and not permit any more “interesting posthere’s an excerpt”, worthless blogs into my blog’s door.

If you are using a feed scraping WordPress Plugin or tool, you have been warned. Stay away from my blog.

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  1. By Jamie posted on October 8, 2007 at 11:55 am
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    I had this exact experience Saturday, Lorelle. My little corner of nowhere is a techie journal of stuff I cook up on the side, yadda yadda. So, I happened to put up a post Saturday about developing OSX widgets. I mentioned that eyePhone and eyePod touche (spellings mangled on purpose) use the same basic tech. About 20 seconds later the ol’ spam comments started blowing in. Akismet wasn’t turned on for that blog but it is now.

    Reply

  2. By Wayne Liew posted on October 8, 2007 at 12:24 pm
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    I guess the gadgetgadget.info above me is such sites as well. I get these pingbacks everyday and thanks to Akismet, they are all under control. :-)

    Reply

  3. By pelf posted on October 8, 2007 at 2:38 pm
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    I received a lot of those trackbacks lately, and I was going to ask you what I could do with them! =)

    So is marking them as spam suffice?

    Reply

  4. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on October 8, 2007 at 4:02 pm
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    @pelf:

    Marking as spam sufficient? What else do you want to do? Drive a truck over their heads? Yes, that’s enough.

    cerebralmum: Thanks for the kind words, but don’t always check my site for the answers. :D Trust your instincts and check the link if you doubt the veracity of the comment. And kill all spammers and sploggers – ah, their comments specifically.

    Wayne: Yes, gadgetgadget is a new notorious splog. These keep coming in faster than we can blow them out of the water. Stomp them all as spam.

    Jamie: There are a lot of myths about comment spam and comment spam prevention techniques out there, and what people don’t seem to get is that there are brilliant minds behind this time-wasting crap. They are coming up with ways to get comment spam and trackback spam onto your blog that boggle the brain. Targeted comment spam has been around for a while, but the human spammers are the hardest ones to detect without a visit to the site they reference. And even then….

    I’m glad that you are all on my side. I say NO TO SPLOGS ON MY BLOGS.

    Reply

  5. By Webomatica posted on October 8, 2007 at 7:05 pm
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    I delete these sorts of trackbacks as well. I’ve started checking out the commenter’s site and if it’s a splog I delete or mark as spam.

    Reply

  6. By cerebralmum posted on October 8, 2007 at 1:30 pm
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    When I logged into my blog 5 minutes ago, I had two of these in my comments list, and one caught by Akismet. This was the first time I had seen it and I had just opened Lorelle on WordPress to check whether I should list them as spam or just delete them when I looked at my feed.

    It seems that you not only provide the answer to nearly every question a new blogger might have, you provide them in real time.

    Synchronicity is a funny thing.

    Thanks, Lorelle

    Reply

  7. By raj posted on October 8, 2007 at 7:51 pm
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    Lorelle wrote a interesting post today….

    Just kidding. When you said “these twits” above, I snorted, as I suddenly had a Monty Python-style vision of the boys on the Internet, setting up blogs. [Remember the skit where they had The Twit Races? Stupid twit, he ran himself over.]

    If it weren’t annoying, however, it’d all be so hilarous. And why should these twits care? They’re only in it for the money. Scruples hardly matter.

    Reply

  8. By eaglehawk posted on October 8, 2007 at 10:55 pm
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    All,
    At my day_job, I work in the Policy enforcement arena for a large webhosting company. I know that webhosting providers are starting to frown on this sort of activity. I also know that webhosting providers (the more respectable ones) actively fighting comment spam, we just wish we could receive more reports of it. As far as on my own blog, I’ve been throwing these to the spam pile any time I can, and reporting them.

    Reply

  9. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on October 9, 2007 at 5:59 am
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    @eaglehawk:

    Receive reports? Why not get your company to hook up with Automattic Akismet to get their help in targeting those who use their web hosting facilities. I’m sure they could figure out how to work together to shut these types of sites down.

    Reply

  10. By Domain Url posted on October 9, 2007 at 6:27 am
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    I’m glad that you are all on my side. I say NO TO SPLOGS ON MY BLOGS.

    Reply

  11. By pablopabla posted on October 9, 2007 at 7:51 am
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    Oh, I hate these splogs too. They are nothing but useless sites. I would have loved to be able to just chew on them like spam. :D

    Reply

  12. By J. Angelo Racoma posted on October 9, 2007 at 9:19 am
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    Raj,

    LOL! I almost sent your comment to the spam bin. :)

    Reply

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  14. By Frederic posted on October 9, 2007 at 10:08 pm
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    Akismet takes care of most of the splogs that try this with my blog. Today, I got five trackbacks from ideahustle.com, but they were shut down just a few hours later because they didn’t pay their bills, it seems.

    What I can’t figure out is what the reason for this is. Most of the splogs don’t even seem to have any advertisement on them, yet it is become more and more of a problem.

    Reply

  15. By eaglehawk posted on October 9, 2007 at 10:57 pm
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    Lorelle,
    I asked Automattic, and they said they were not capable of doing such thing.

    Reply

  16. By Jamie posted on October 10, 2007 at 12:44 pm
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    @Frederic

    Some of these folks are building up page rank on a domain so that they can sell it.

    Reply

  17. By Fred Fredrickson posted on November 21, 2007 at 10:16 am
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    Lorelle, IANAL but I’m fairly certain fair use does not include replicating a portion of your text for profit, which is what they’re doing. If they were utilizing your text and then providing commentary, then it would be fair use. The context makes a big difference in these things. If they use a portion of your text (or all of it) but provide none of their own text, and then sell ads, I believe that you could pursue that legally.

    Reply

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  21. By Andrew A. Peterson posted on April 8, 2008 at 3:35 pm
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    Perhaps you need to be a little more patient. The akismet/wordpress community will figure this thing out. And as the blogosphere and search landscapes increasingly incorporate semantic technologies, links alone or text strings alone will no longer be as valuable. SEO, for the most part is unsustainable (beyond simply using metadata the way it was intended to be used). Who knows what future techniques spammers will come up with. It’s out of our control.

    As for your copyright manifesto, don’t you think you’re being a little bit 1980?
    Evertything is derivative work. And everything is already copied if only by search engines, our routers and web browsers. If you’ve been blogging for 14 years, I assume you’ve had a few moments of inspiration in which you’ve seen where this cloud of discussion is heading.

    I say lighten up, friend. You’re value here is your influence on others, your social currency etc. No spammer or “plagiarist” can take away the network of friends and readers you have built.

    If you’re really convinced that you own your piece of the conversation, then password-protect your site. You wouldn’t want anyone crawling it and making money off of excerpting it. Actually, why not make your site all image-based so the words can’t be copied or detected at all by bots? I’m just trying to make a point. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Google profits from copying your content. WordPress does. Technorati does. And you benefit from them. So the blogger bots are annoying, so what? They’ll fade out.

    Reply

  22. By Salif posted on May 17, 2008 at 6:53 am
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    Maybe I missed something, but how did you stop them from using your feed? I’d like to do that. I put copyright notices in my feed, but that looks tacky when the displayed on the sites that I set the feed up for (Google, Technorati…) in the first place.

    I didn’t realize just how bad these splogs were until content from one of my sites stopped being indexed, but the splogs that displayed my content *were* indexed. I was fuming! I think I was penalized because of this, too. Maybe Google penalized for duplicate content? I don’t know. Either way, I contacted their advertisers. :D

    Andrew Anderson, I don’t think she’s overreacting. And, why should she have to wait for Akismet to finally catch up? By the way, I’m still receiving the same type of comments, so she would have been waiting a long time, wouldn’t she?

    The sploggers may not take away her readers, but the point (to me, anyway) is that they are making money off of her work.

    Reply

  23. By Lorelle VanFossen posted on May 17, 2008 at 1:01 pm
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    @Salif:

    Copyright notices aren’t tacky, and they don’t stop anything. They merely serve to remind the person reading and using the content that there is a copyright on the content, but it doesn’t define what the copyright entails. Everything published on the web is copyrighted. The level of permission for use changes depending upon the desires of the copyright owner. Ask first. Though few do.

    How were these scrapers stopped? They were asked. If they did not respond, they were sent DMCA notices, search engines were notified as were advertisers. They stopped. See What Do You Do When Someone Steals Your Content for more specifics.

    Sploggers do more harm than good from EVERY angle. They clutter the web, they waste people’s time, the links they give back suck with the inclusion of TrustRank in Google PageRank, and they make money from our work, often when we cannot make money directly from our own work, such as my blog on WordPress.com. It is in our best interest to stop scrapers and sploggers everywhere, whether they copy us or someone else.

    Thanks for caring about this issue. More people need to.

    Reply

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