Wednesday, 20 April 2011

You Can Stick Your Head in the Sand…

A response to comments on Way to go Google!!

Google is not closing blogs because of copyright, they are calling them Spam blogs.  There is a big difference!!  No one ever suggested there are not any gay spam blogs, but Google's Spam net seems to be catching most blogs and MISSING the spam ones.  THIS IS THE POINT!!  Why are they being closed for being Splogs when they are not?  Splogs are well-defined, copyright is a completely different issue completely.

The copyright issue is very difficult.  I can only refer to my own perspective as it pertains to my blog.  I will not post any image if I am aware that the photog forbids reposting or if any model does not wish their photos displayed.  My email is easily accessible on my blog primarily for those reasons. I have operated my blog for 4 years, and posted over 25,000 images. I have had requests for removal and I comply with every one, and I don't demand proof of copyright. It just seems like the decent thing to do if someone is going to go to the trouble of sending me an email.

My blog is a photo blog, so I have the utmost respect and admiration for photographers.  I wish EVERY one would add a small watermark so their work would get the recognition they deserve.  And if they want to ensure their pics are not republished, then put a huge watermark right across the face of it… the way commercial photo sites do. I'm a lazy blogger, I don't go scouring photog's sites to steal pics for nefarious purposes, I pick them up wherever I find them.  I understand that copyright rules apply no matter the source, but there is an element of intent that a couple that have commented so piously have misconstrued.  Do you really think we are all just out to infringe copyrights wherever we can and undermine the creativity and commercial potential of the photogs?  Gimme a break!  Posting a 600x800px 24bit pic is NOT going to sabotage any commercial opportunities of photogs, which is not to suggest that a photog's copyright should not be infringed upon, but let's put it in perspective.  But EVEN if there is a proven copyright infringement, intended or not, Google provides the ability to block specific photo url's from being displayed in searches.  AND... one of the most ridiculous things is that you cannot search for specific pic filename in Picasa, a company owned by Google since 2004...

The grey area of copyright is what constitutes Fair Use. Stanford U is often referred to as being a leading authority on this issue... click here.  Stanford and every other resource refers to “Four Factors” to measure Fair Use;

  1. the purpose and character of your use
  2. the nature of the copyrighted work
  3. the amount and substantiality of the portion taken, and
  4. the effect of the use upon the potential market.

Nonetheless… I don’t know any blogger that would not want to rectify any infringements, because it is just good blogging practise.  Copyright infringements SHOULD be rectified, but deleting 100 pictures when 1 is in violation of copyright does not make sense.  If all 100, or 75, or even 50 are proven to infringe copyrights… then a blog should be closed… but call it what it is… don’t just say it is a Spam blog!

A final comment about sensationalizing this and trying to suggest some “homophobic conspiracy”…

Increasing awareness and trying to gain some understanding through dialogue is the only reason I am speaking up on this matter.  As a blogger, I just want to be clear about what the rules are, and I want to know why gay blogs closed are virtually all being closed because Google has declared them Spam blogs.  Why are they Spam?!?  I don’t want to do the same thing!

Is this happening more to gay blogs than it is to straight ones?? I don’t know!  All I know is that EVERY one of the gay blogs I have seen closed, that I know personally, do NOT fit the definition of a spam blog.  Why the 3x increase in rate of closures of gay blogs in the past year?  Is the same happening for straight blogs??  Google is the ONLY one that can answer all this by releasing their statistics and providing more information about why blogs are being closed. 

If you really believe all this is being played up… spend a bit of time on Google’s Help Forums… tell me that any of it makes sense and that you have a clear understanding of why gay blogs are being closed… and then look at the straight ones.  Tell me that you are clear that this document clarifies anything - Google's Terms of Service.  Read this before you visit the forums - Blogger's Content Policy

I’m obviously missing something in all of this -  TELL ME!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Link Spamming – A Closer Look

Google Blogger’s Spam definition refers to Link spam and links to a section on Wikipedia's Spamdexing page.

On this Wikipedia page, it says, Spamdexing (also known as search spam, search engine spam or web spam)[1] involves a number of methods, such as repeating unrelated phrases, to manipulate the relevance or prominence of resources indexed by a search engine, in a manner inconsistent with the purpose of the indexing system.”

It goes on further to say – “Common spamdexing techniques can be classified into two broad classes: content spam[4] (or term spam) and link spam.[3]

This post is specifically about Link Spam and Wikipedia states –Link spam is defined as links between pages that are present for reasons other than merit.[6] Link spam takes advantage of link-based ranking algorithms, which gives websites higher rankings the more other highly ranked websites link to it. These techniques also aim at influencing other link-based ranking techniques such as the HITS algorithm.”

There are several different types of Link Spam and most don’t require any explanation, they are;
- Link-building software
- Link farms
- Hidden links
- Sybil attack
- Page hijacking
- Buying expired domains
- Cookie stuffing
- Using world-writable pages
- Mirror websites
- URL redirection
- Cloaking

But it also includes Spam Blogs as a type of Link Spam, and this is what it says - Spam blogs,are blogs created solely for commercial promotion and the passage of link authority to target sites. Often these "splogs" are designed in a misleading manner that will give the effect of a legitimate website but upon close inspection will often be written using spinning software or very poorly written and barely readable content. They are similar in nature to link farms.”

And under the Using world-writable pages section, it discusses Spam in blogs, which is the placing or solicitation of links randomly on other sites, placing a desired keyword into the hyperlinked text of the inbound link. Guest books, forums, blogs, and any site that accepts visitors' comments are particular targets and are often victims of drive-by spamming where automated software creates nonsense posts with links that are usually irrelevant and unwanted.”

There does not appear to be anything odd here that would account for the rash of closures and spam classifications for blogs that do not run ads.  There are a great many risks however that are associated with running ads, unless of course they are Google ad-sense sponsored.

There is no question that spam blogs are a problem, and need to be closed, but it is much much bigger problem when Bloggers fuzzy spam algorithms start flagging blogs solely based on their associations, such as Monster Trucks.  When that is combined with a help forum where guilt is assumed, then there is a real concern. 

References are constantly made in the forums about all the righteous spam decrees and how important it is in a civilized society that judicial process is kept honest.  To even suggest that is the case is insulting and offensive.  There is no judicial process, this a behind closed door subjective determination of guilt or innocence without any reason provided why.

WHY ARE THESE BLOGS DECLARED SPAM?!?!  The only commonality for many in the gay community is that they are gay blogs, because they exhibit none of the characteristics defined above.  But this is not just a gay issue, it happens to thousands of non-gay blogs too.  But if none of them could be defined as Spam blogs under the defined definitions, then there must be un-defined definitions, that Blogger has created and will not share.  You constantly hear on the forums that providing more detail as to why a blog is classified as Spam will only provide Spammers with new ways to innovate their spam techniques. COME ON!!  That is just ludicrous! 

So much for judicial process and keeping things honest…

Next post – Content Spamming – A Closer Look

Blogger’s Spam Definition – A Closer Look

As mentioned in the previous post, Google Blogger defines Spam blogs as “Blogs engaged in link spamming are called spam blogs, and can be recognized by their irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text, along with a large number of links, usually all pointing to a single site.”

Since virtually all blogs closed and reviewed (98.8%) are defined by Google as Spam blogs, it is important to understand exactly what a Spam blog is. 

“irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text” does not mean that a subjective review of a blog’s content is done and someone critiques the posts? NO, this refers to a specific type of posting style.  We know this because in the Blogger Content Policy, it clearly states, Blogger is a free service for communication, self-expression and freedom of speech.”  If the contents of a blog were subject to someone critiquing and judging on subjective merit or worthiness, than that would clearly be censorship, and Blogger is quite clear on this – “We respect our users' ownership of and responsibility for the content they choose to share. It is our belief that censoring this content is contrary to a service that bases itself on freedom of expression.”

“along with a large number of links, usually all pointing to a single site.”  What does that mean?  What constitutes a large number?  “USUALLY”…. but not always?  Is this where the subjective part of their review process comes into play?  NO, because they link to the Wikpedia definition of “Link Spamming” which provides details about what kind of links this refers to.

Further down in the Content Policy;
Spam: Spam takes several forms in Blogger, all of which can result in deletion of your account or blog. Some examples include creating blogs designed to drive traffic to your site or to move it up in search listings, posting comments on other people's blogs simply to promote your site or product, and scraping existing content from other sources for the primary purpose of generating revenue or other personal gains.”

So it seems pretty straight forward and clear right?  It should be pretty easy to spot a Spam blog once they are uncovered.  Any normal person should be able to view a splog and say with certainty – Yes, that is definitely a spam blog!

But for some reason it is NOT that straight forward and clear. 

I have yet to see ONE Monster Truck blog that has been defined as a Splog have the characteristics outlined above.  There must be another criteria that we don’t know about.  It can’t be because we are Monster Truck blogs, there is just no way that would be tolerated – so what is the hidden criteria?

It seems pretty simple to me, if most of the blogs being shut down do not display the above characteristics but they are all breaking another Spam rule, maybe they didn’t know they weren’t supposed to be doing that.  MAYBE YOU SHOULD ADD IT TO YOUR LIST OF WHAT NOT TO DO!!  … so people would stop doing it… and we could get back to our Monster Truck blogging!

Next post… Link Spamming – A Closer Look

Thursday, 31 March 2011

What exactly is a Spam blog?

According to Google Blogger….
“Blogs engaged in link spamming are called spam blogs, and can be recognized by their irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text, along with a large number of links, usually all pointing to a single site.”

According to Wikpedia
They are blogs “which the author uses to promote affiliated websites, to increase the search engine rankings of associated sites or to simply sell links/ads.”

According to wiseGEEK
”A spam blog is a blog or website that exists for the sole purpose of receiving page visits and hits, usually through search engines. A spam blog is often referred to by the neologism "splog," which is a play on the words "spam" and "blog." Administrators who create spam blogs use a variety of tricks to achieve high search engine rankings and traffic.
Spam blogs often use blog scraping to increase the amount of relevant content visible to search engines. With blog scraping, the author copies an excerpt from another blog with or without a link back to the original post. The result is a blog post that appears relevant to a search engine and to a web user before he or she clicks on it, but the actual post contains little to no information. The term "splogging" refers to the act of creating a spam blog.”