Monthly Archives: May 2012

Suspicious Blog Activity – any advice?

I’ve been noticing a number of odd things happening surrounding my blog lately, and I thought it’s about time to figure out what’s going on and how to stop it.

The first problem is that people are illegally copying my posts, probably using RSS scraping, and putting them up on their own ad-infested sites. It is trivial to find them using Google for any somewhat unique word or phrase in one of my posts. Lately one of them,, actually sends me pingbacks announcing the fact that they’ve scraped me! Most of these sites seem to be nothing but content farms for selling ad impressions, and almost none of them have any identifiable names for the owners.

(There is an exception: I have specifically set up sites like Planet Debian and Goodreads to copy my blog posts.)

I’m obviously an advocate of open content, but I do not feel it right that others should be profiting by putting photos and stories about Free Software, or photos of my family, on their ad farms. While I release a great deal of content under GPL or Creative Commons licenses, I have never done so with my blog – an intentional decision.

What should I do about this? Is it worth fighting a battle over, or is it about as useless as trying to block every spam follower on my twitter account?

So that’s the first weird thing. The second weird thing just started within the last few weeks. I have been getting a surprising amount (a few a week) of email addressed to me. It does not bear the appearance of being 100% automated spam, though it is possible that it is. It’s taken a few forms:

  • Someone wanting to buy an ad on my blog
  • Someone wanting to send me a story hyping their product (and intending me to pretend that I wrote the story)
  • Someone wanting me to write a story about their website and link to it

The profit motive in all of these is high, and in at least the second and third, so is the sleaze factor.

I’ve gotten two emails lately of this form:

Hi John,

I am curious if you are the administrator for this site:

I am a researcher / writer involved with a new project whose mission it is to provide accurate and useful information for those interested in the practice of law, whether as a lawyer or paralegal. I recently produced an article detailing the complex relationship between law and technology and the legal implications on personal privacy and free speech. I would love to share this resource with those who might find it useful and am curious of you are the correct person to contact about such a request?

Thank you!

All my best,

The details vary – the URLs appear to be random (the one cited above was little more than a link to an article), the topics the website claims to discuss range from law to schizophrenia (that one actually came with a link to the site, which again seemed to be a content farm). I am slightly tempted to reply to one of these and ask where the heck people are getting my name. It seems as if somebody has put me into a mailing list they sell containing sleazebag bloggers.

Frankly, I am puzzled at this attention. I guess I haven’t checked, but I can’t imagine that my blog has anything even remotely resembling a high PageRank or anything else. It’s not high-traffic, not Slashdot, etc. Either people are desperate, naive, failing to be selective, or maybe working some scam on me that I don’t know yet.

In any case, I’m interested if others have seen this, or any advice you might have.