Today, we interrupt our regularly scheduled programming…
…to discuss blogging, splogging, syndication, and the question of copyrights online, all of which have been topics of discussion amongst my writer friends lately.
If you’re like me, this discussion might catch you unawares. You might be asking, What the heck is splogging? Or: What does syndication have to do with my blog? And (most important): Why is that cat flying at that dude’s head?
Let me explain.
- Syndication—according to my nontechnical understanding—means that your blog’s content gets put out there in a format that services such as Google Reader can access easily, so an individual can collect content from all the blogs they follow into a single location. That lets people read your blog, or an excerpt of your blog, without actually visiting your site.*But* there are other kinds of syndication as well. For instance, a few weeks back I had a guest post published on Amberr Meadows’ blog. Shortly thereafter, it appeared on another website, called Business 2 Community (B2C). It was republished there in its entirety with permission (from Amberr, I assume), because she syndicates her blog to this site. I don’t pretend to know the full details, but I believe that means relevant posts from her site are reposted on the B2C site, giving her more readers and potentially driving more traffic to her blog.
- The blogger benefits in this arrangement, because it gives her posts more readers and potentially drives traffic to her site.
- The B2C site benefits both because it gains additional content and because it sells advertising that appears alongside this content.
- Since the B2C site has the blogger’s express permission to repost content, everyone’s happy with the arrangement.
- A SPLOG, according to whatis.techtarget.com, is “a fake blog created solely to promote affiliated Web sites, with the intent of skewing search results and artificially boosting traffic.” Sometimes a splog will consist of little more than a lot of links. Others add in a bunch of gobbledegook content surrounding the links, or perhaps some repetitive advertising about how great the target site is. Still others—the ones we care about for the purpose of this post—steal content from other blogs, because hey, that’s a heck of a lot easier than creating their own.
- A splog steals content without the author’s permission.
- Splogs may or may not give credit to the original source
- Splogs aren’t just trying to sell something (as, for example, you might argue that the B2C site is a commercial site that generate advertising income); they are trying to spoof the system and increase another web site’s Google ranking.
- No one wants their content to show up on a splog. It’s just icky.
- The flying cat…I’d tell you, but it’s classified.
Sounds simple, right? Look again.
- Google Reader pulls in RSS feeds from blogs you follow, making it easier to keep up on dozens of blogs without having to visit each site individually. The amount that shows up in your reader depends on how much the blog author allows—they maintain some control.
- Paper.li allows you to pull content from a wide variety of sources to create a topic-specific “newspaper” such as Anna DeStefano’s Tips for Writers. The resulting page shows a teaser from the various websites/blog posts, a link to the source site, and a credit to the news “spotter.” If you want to, you can ask to opt out so that your site or Twitter handle won’t appear on Paper.li sites.
- This means that the original author gets the traffic, gets credit, and gets her writing in front of a broader readership.
- It also means that her writing is helping to sell advertising for Paper.li.
- Workflow-Epubis an example of a site that, like Paper.li, pulls in content from multiple different sources. If you visit this page, you’ll see teasers for multiple different articles from multiple different sites. Click on one of them, and the article opens up in a “frame”—something like a small browser window with a navigation pane from Workflow-Epub remaining on the left side of your browser. If you aren’t familiar with frames, it can look as if the article is ON the Workflow-Epub site, but it’s not: you’ve actually gone to the source website.
Do you want to protect your content?
At this point, I think a lot of us have a knee-jerk anti-piracy reaction. We worked hard to create our content! How dare people copy it—hijack it—steal our carefully crafted words!
And if you want to hold tight to your blog or website content, I understand—but before you decide to search the web for potential pirates and demand that they take your content off their pages (as some authors do), let me ask you a question: why are you putting up content in the first place? If it’s to build a platform or to gain readers or to share your knowledge about a topic you care for, then I’d argue that some degree of content-propagation is acceptable.
Desirable, even. As long as:
- Your content isn’t changed.
- You still receive credit.
- The duplicated content links back to your site.
- Your content isn’t being used in some way you find objectionable.
Those are my criteria. I’m sure everyone will have a different set of rules that makes them comfortable. Maybe you don’t want people reproducing your blog posts without your express permission. Or maybe you always want your bio and author photo to appear with your writing. Or ________________. You fill in the blank.
I just think we need to think about why we’re posting content online in the first place, and only then decide if and how we let others use it.
- Problogger explains RSS feeds
- A great tutorial on RSS feeds from Paul Stamatiou
- The RSS copyright debate
- What is Paper.li?
Your turn: how do you feel about sites that aggregate content from numerous sources? Do you care if your posts get picked up by another website? Would you syndicate your blog? And what’s up with that wonderful cat?
Please share in the comments—I love hearing from you, and I think this topic is worth some discussion!