Archive for September, 2009

What is a SPLOG and why would someone create or want one?

A SPLOG is a spam-blog.  It is easily created and simply reposts articles from another blog or site via an automated import of the items from an RSS feed.  The result is that items from one or more site are reposted without adding any utility.  Why do people do this?  First, to be jerks.  Second, folks can make money.

Making money with a SPLOG

Most folks find content in splogs via search engines.  In fact, some splogs come up higher in search than the originating site.  People then think they are legitimate sites and click around the content and see ads.  Folks then click through these ads and the site owner makes some money.

These ads are automated displays from things such as Google Adwords.  These are easily setup in bulk with no effort.  I do wish that Google and other ad networks could shut down this loophole that provides this opportunity.  However, it would simply be too large an effort to police the millions of people who sign up to display the ads.

Monitoring Implications

Splogs are most evident when monitoring the blogosphere.  Splogs show up in Google Reader and other tools.  Many services try to block these sites but can never keep up with the volume. The result is that splogs add many hours to monitoring efforts as someone has to manually delete the bad content from the monitoring feed and block the sites from inclusion in the future.

How easy is it to setup a splog?

It can take less than 10 minutes to setup the initial splog and then adding new splogs can take just a minute or two.  Here is how they do it.

Note: I am writing this post to show people how easy it is for folks to create spam blogs (SPLOGS).  I do not advocate the practice and think it is a shady and disruptive practice. I am also not providing any secrets or making this easier for anyone to setup a splog.  This information is readily available to those idiots out there who want to spam all of us.

  1. Find a cheap host – There are thousands that offer hosting at less than ten dollars a month.
  2. Install WordPress MU- This is technology to allow you to host an unlimited set of blogs and setup new ones in under a minute each.
  3. Install an Autoblog plug-in – This enables you to enter one or more RSS feeds for automated posts to a blog.
  4. Install an Ad Network plug-in – This activates the display of ads to make the owner money.
  5. Create blogs with RSS feeds using the installed items.

Let me know what you think and if you want to know more.

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Best Practice: Website Ownership and Asset Control

I am a big fan of The Bivings Report.  This is a great blog that demonstrates how an Interactive PR  agency can use a blog to create a useful collection of both thought leadership and down-and-dirty practical items.  A recent post, Buying a Website. The Seven Costly Questions That Are Often Overlooked,  directly addresses a lot of client hosting concerns that are often not voiced.

What Gary Bivings notes in his post matches to what I have frequently experienced.  Clients need to take a bit more ownership and responsibiltiy for the details behind campaign projects.  By all means I relish in being a trusted advisor.  However, clients must always think ahead as to the ownership of their materials. 

Here are some additional items to the Bivings post to consider:

Always keep it work for hire.  Be sure that you own 100% of the content, design, code and other materials.  Not just the end result.  If I am paying for materials, I believe the materials along the way have been paid for as well.  This means that the design files that make up the Web site should be delivered to me as well as the final Web site.

Example, I recommend any design contract call for the delivery of all Adobe Flash and Adobe Photoshop source files be delivered as part o the site launch.

Know the permitted uses of image and media files.  We almost always purchase royalty free or restricted rights images for design efforts.  These are purchased for use in the Web site and then are usually not permitted for reuse in other projects.  Be sure that if you plan to adapt your Web imagery to other online or offline projects that you obtain the details on the permitted uses of these images.  And, that you obtain the images themselves and the details of where they were purchased.  By obtaining these details you can edit the image if needed and purchase the additional rights as well.

Have hosting under your control.  Almost every agency provides some sort of level of hosting.  I recommend against this as a packaged service.  Instead I feel clients should contract with the hosting vendor (via the agency is fine) or provide the hosting.  The agency can then be provided the appropriate access and contracted for support as needed.  The key is that you retain administrative access to and control over the home for your materials. You then will never have to migrate the materials should you sever your relationship with the agency.

Own the domain names.  Be sure that when your agency registers domain names that your company is listed as the administrator.  The agency can be the technical and even billing contact.  However, if you are not the administrator then you are tied to the agency to turn the domain over to you.  Eliminate future transfer hassles by owning the domain and the agency acting as your technical contact.  

Manage your content.  When working with agencies it is still best if you take the lead to manage the content.  It is almost never cost-effective for your agency to enter, adjust and tweak content.  You are best off in the long run to learn at least the basics of the CMS and perform content entry and edits yourself.  It is also advisable that you learn how to perform general maintenance tasks such as user management.

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Wikipedia: An example of democracy and human nature

Wikipedia is no doubt one of the most referenced sites.  It also drives a lot of traffic to sites and is always in the top search results for it seams like everything.  But there is a public misconception about Wikipedia.  Sure we all know the information may not be accurate.  What I am talking about is the wrongful belief that anyone can update an entry.  This was once the intent.  It has failed in practice because of human nature to want to own and control territory.

I have on my personal side gone in and updated points of fact.  I have also attempted to enter details (again pints of fact) for clients.  They are always erased within minutes by rather militant individuals who through their aggressive editing actions have taken ownership of a set of content.  We have found this to be the case throughout Wikipedia.

Example, we updated the mission statement for an environmental non-profit.  The old mission statement was there quoted from the Web site.  We simply updated it to the current mission that had one line adjusted.  This was rejected by an editor because this was “self promotion” by an organization.  The old mission now remains on the site.

Slate now has an article about how only a limited few can edit pages of popular people.  This is no surprise to many people who already know that editing within Wikipedia is actually tightly controlled.  So, what make someone popular? Isn’t just being in Wikipedia mean that you are noted somehow above the rest of us mere mortals? I imagine that if someone who is mentioned on Wikipedia tried to correct their own birthday or something similar it would be rejected as being “self-promotion.”

Now let the fun comments telling me I do not know what I am talking about begin!

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Questions of social media monitoring vendors

For about a year, I have been using Radian6 that I selected after a rather exhaustive evaluation.  Lately, I am less pleased with the tool and have begun to look again at the old set and search for new ones.

I started to put together a list of questions that never seem to be answered up front on sites, in demos or in the first round of sales discussions. or demos. I put this list together and then just today I found another helpful list from Scout Labs. The Scout Labs list is longer than mine and very good.  But, I have some others as well.

  • What are the content sources? Are they RSS feeds or paid content sources such as Factiva, Boardreader or others?
  • How often and when is content imported? Basically, how quickly will it appear from when it is published?
  • Is there a method to create “watchlists” for monitoring a set of sites?
  • Can we place in a list of sites/feeds to be searched to be sure the content is included in the monitoring?
  • Is there a way to check to be sure a desired source is monitored?
  • Is the cost we see simply based on monitored items? Is there a limit on the number of profiles, user accounts, searches, or other aspects?
  • If we end or pause a search, can we retain the content/monitoring from where this halted. If so, for how long?
  • Are the monitoring volume fees based on new content per month? Or, is historical content billed.

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