Goodbye to Splogs and Feed-Driven Blogs

Example of trackback splog comment spam

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.
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Writing a Blog Disclaimer

Yesterday, I covered examples of blog disclaimers, simple paragraphs, fun statements, and legal policies from different blogs. Today, I want to cover how to write a blog disclaimer, protecting you and your blog from the world of litigation and prosecution.

In Creating The Perfect Blog Comment Liability Disclaimer from The Intuitive Life Business Blog, the author goes through the process of contacting a lawyer to review their blog disclaimer from start to finish. It’s a good lesson in how to write a good disclaimer, while still making it personal. The lawyer points out that:

Fortunately, there is a wide body of caselaw and law review articles concerning website disclaimers. It is not necessary to reinvent the wheel. Caution is appropriate when applying those case precedents, however. Blogging is a more dynamic interaction – truly akin to a somewhat stilted conversation. Judges will eventually view this distinction as significant. After all, doesn’t a reactive series of posts and responses start to look like advice which may be relied upon – to the benefit or detriment of the commenter?

A valid point covered the “conversation” created with comments. By responding to comments, the blogger becomes a “moderator”, which could be interpreted as “directed communication”, making yourself an expert, thus libel for your expertise. So the disclaimer should be clear that you are not responsible as an “expert” and for what people do with your advice and wisdom.
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Does Your Blog Need a Disclaimer?

Many of you have heard of disclosures, legal statements that disclose the fact that you are blogging to make money, and being paid to blog. What about disclaimers? Should your blog have a disclaimer? Does it need one?

A disclaimer is a statement that basically holds you, and all who blog on your blog, harmless from prosecution. Disclaimers can be placed in the footer or sidebar, if short, or on a Page with the link in your footer or sidebar, or even at the bottom of your blog posts or comments form.

Here are some examples.
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If Your Blog Doesn’t Have Ads, Are You Evil?

Mark Evans has written a few posts about how AdBlock Plus, an ad blocker for Firefox, is “evil.” He argues that readers who block online advertising are cutting off a major source of revenue for the sites they visit. The subject is worth considering in regards to blogging and priorities – to both your readers and advertisers.

I’d like to flip things around and critique “intrusive” online advertising – the main reason why ad blockers exist. I feel disrespected as a customer when I encounter ads that excessively waste my time or annoy me. Here’s a short list of “intrusive” advertising types with specific examples:

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As A Blogger, What’s Your Price?

Over at the Silicon Alley Insider, Dan Fromer is sending out a general question: “Who wants a free hotel room in San Francisco during a wireless conference in exchange for listening to a business brief by a NYC-based mobile company?”

Which, of course, prompted me to start wondering what *your* price was as a blogger.

Marketing and advertising professionals recognize the power of blogging to communicate in all kinds of areas — and furthermore, recognize the power of some bloggers to promote real and honest dialogue about a given product or service. Some select bloggers, in particular, are media powerhouses in their own right, able to trigger massive amount of buzz.

And on the other hand, I think that its one thing to blog as part of a larger business, which is able to send you out to “cover” events, conferences, and the like; to have the benefit of a (small) per diem, and the ability to submit receipts to get reimbursed.

But what about the independent blogger? Because I think that most of us are not part of large media organizations with budgets to spend on, nor massively successful whose profits can easily cover the cost of

a) flying across the country / ocean

b) the price of a hotel

c) the cost of the conference

… not including other miscellaneous costs — like you know, eating.

I guess the main ethical dilemma is that by abstaining from any swag / goodies / free stuff, you’ll be able to maintain impartiality 100% of the time. Apparently that’s good reporters do, after all.

Furthermore, blogging is often regarded as a conduit for real emotions and real opinion unfettered by the usual marketing doublespeak.

So what’s a blogger to do?

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Are You Using Your Blog as a Note Reminder and Storage?

Are you using your blog as a reminder? A storage place for thoughts and notes, often not of your own creation?

I’ve run across a lot of bloggers who start blogging by saving whole blog posts on their blog from other bloggers and websites. Some even explain this in their blog purpose right on their blog, such as:

The purpose of this blog is to help me remember things by storing notes and sites of interest to me.

There are two issues I want to address on this subject:

  1. How do you avoid copyright violations and still preserve online content.
  2. Is your blog about you or your readers?

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Does Your Blog Have A Comments Policy?

The finally developed a Comments Policy for this blog last March. Earlier in the year, Scoble changed his Comment Policy so it only permitted “family friendly” comments. No cussing and swearing.

Here on the Blog Herald, Jonathan Bailey covered “The Legal Issues with Comments”, confronting bloggers with their responsibilities for copyright and more regarding the comments people post on your blog.

A lot of bloggers fret over the issues comments, especially on how to handle them and comment etiquette and manners, and more and more bloggers are adding comment terms and conditions, also known as a Comments Policy.

Do you have one for yours?
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Give Credit When Credit is Due: Skip The Middle Man

I often stumbled across some blogs who specialize in handing more blockquotes than original content, which is fine for them and their blogging style because, for the most part, their posts point to valuable and related content.

What incenses me is their credit line:

Story provided by digg.

You can replace Digg with, Tumblr, Technorati, Stumble Upon or any of the other social bookmarking services.

I’d like to point out for the ignorant that social bookmarking services do not provide original content. They do not write articles (except on their blogs) nor generate content. They only provide placeholders for article links and conversations about those article links. If credit is to be given, why not credit the person who originally submitted the recommendation with a hat tip? Then give credit where credit is really deserved – to the original author of the original content.

Why give Digg and the others the credit for what they don’t deserve?

Please, for the sake of all bloggers and writers who work hard on what they have to write, link to the original article.
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US ISP modifies then shuts down Iranian blog, raising privacy and censorship concerns

Global Voices writes a lengthy news piece concerning the Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan (aka Hoder) whose blog has suffered censorship at the hands of the US based hosting company “Hosting Matters”.

The main gist of this particular story, which I hadn’t been following until now, seems to be:

  • Lawyers representing Mehdi Khalaji, from The Washington Institute, complain to the ISP (not to a court) of alleged defamatory content posted on Hoder’s blog.
  • ISP sends a request to Hoder that the post in question be removed, and no further mention is made of Khalaji:

    we have found that the material and commentary fall into a grey area regarding the allegations made by the complainant. The most prudent course of action, whether the allegations of defamation are valid or not in this instance, is to remove the material from the site.

    While we do not agree with the assessment as it relates to the latest post you have made, we do not have the time, interest, or resources to invest in continually dealing with his complaints and to review your site. Please remove that post and refrain from mentioning this person in any form on the site you host within this network.

  • Khalaji’s lawyers request the IP addresses of anyone visiting the blog. Whether the ISP complied isn’t clear.
  • Last week, Derakhshan claims that his hosting company “removed, from my web serve and even my blogging software’s database, any post where Mehdi Khalaji was named in English.”
  • The ISP finally shuts down Hoder’s site.

Regardless of the specifics of this case, the whole episode raises alarm bells.

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UK armed forces banned from blogging

The Ministry of Defence has effectively ordered a blanket ban on blogging, in a move to stop military personnel from talking publicly about their experiences.

From now on, blogging and the sending of text messages will only be allowed with express permission.

They’ll also not be allowed to play multi-player computer games, or send photos, audio, or video material without permission if they relate to defence matters.

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