When network blogs change history it cannot be a good thing

35 Comments

The big blog networks are businesses and as such it is in their best interest to spread google juice and link love among all the blogs on their network. This means that when they have a chance to link to an item of interest seen on numerous blogs they usually choose another blog on their own network. This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing, although the network runs the risk of becoming myopic in not linking to news sources outside the blog network, even if that’s where they first saw the news. I can understand the reasoning behind network linking from a business standpoint but when a network blog changes history does it create a ripple effect through the blogosphere?

I uncovered something today that quite frankly is still leaving a bad smell in the blogosphere. This morning I was checking Technorati links to jkOnTheRun as I do everyday, just like countless other bloggers. It’s one of the ways we see where our readers are coming from. One of the returned Technorati search results was this item:

The link "Apple Tablet on eBay" in heavy black above is this link to a story I posted yesterday, after Mr DeRuvo emailed me the information. The blog who linked to my story is The Unofficial Apple Weblog (TUAW) on the Weblogs Inc. network. TUAW is a big blog so I was quite happy to see them link to my blog, although curiously I hadn’t seen much traffic coming from their blog. So imagine my surprise when I click the Blogniscient link for the story and see this:

This lead me to the post on TUAW which has been totally edited to credit the source of the story to HackADay, another Weblogs Inc. blog. The link to my story, which is obviously where TUAW found the story to begin with, is gone. Now, HackADay didn’t even run this story, TUAW is just sourcing an emailed tip to HackADay as the new source, but after they had originally posted my article as the source:

[thanks Joseph for emailing the hack a day tip line, posted here with Eliot’s permission]

Bear in mind I am not doubting that Mr. DeRuvo also emailed the story to HackADay, that happens all the time. But for TUAW to edit their original post to remove the true source (which is still cached by Technorati) and change history, that just smells really bad to me. It seems that perhaps Jason Calacanis has driven Weblogs Inc. into an incestuous network of sources, and that can only be bad for the blogosphere he promotes so fiercely.

UPDATE:  I have been informed by TUAW that they did not change their original post to edit the source and I am giving them the benefit of the doubt.  There is one final post on this situation here.

35 Comments

Ben Ruedlinger

Kevin,

I would not characterize Blogniscient as a “republisher”. We do not republish anyone’s content in full. We act more as a traffic cop, directing our users (via clearly marked links) to some of the top content from around the Blogosphere.

That being said, from a parsing point of view, our page looks a bit different than most blogs. Most blogs have a series of posts which contain a title, a self-referring permalink, and some content (with other optional items like comments). The main difference with Blogniscient is that we do not provide a self-referencing permalink. Rather, for each article that we reference we provide a link to the actual content (like a pointer).

I believe that there is value in allowing bloggers to see which of their posts have been linked to by Blogniscient. So, from that point of view I would not advocate removing Blogniscient from Technorati’s index.

Is there currently a way for bloggers/content producers to inform Technorati about the structure of their content? This is a capability which could help elminate any confusion between the producer and indexer. I understand that given that this issue potentially affects a small number of users, it may not be a high priority item; however, it is a functionality to consider for the future if it does not already exist.

Ben Ruedlinger
Blogniscient
http://technology.blogniscient.com

Kevin Marks

So, are you saying we shouldn’t index Blogniscient as you are a republisher?
I can arrange that.
I can’t see how we would make up a link; we read links from your page – could you have linked to both articles consecutively?

HART (1-800-HART)

Just another 2cent though, I’ve seen in technorati some of my posts looking like this .. (blockquoteBlah-Blah-Blah .. and I can assure you that as soon as I noticed that I forget to close my blockquote – I immediately went in and changed it and it didn’t last long in my post. Then, the post looked like .. Blah-Blah-Blah .. I don’t know why it was still in my watchlist at technorati like that .. although I see lots of weird stuff there .. Probably because I’ve included that technorati ping command in my wordpress options.

Of course, This situation is in reverse, removing something or changing something instead of fixing something. I just think it is more like “poor judgement and haste” rather than a “deliberate attempt to change history to boost one’s own network” type of issue. Yah. Nobody’s perfect. Stuff happens all the time. Nobody ever wants the worse to happen.

This just wasn’t ‘news’ to me. But, there does seem to be some good come out of all of this, even if you don’t get the referral link … I’ve now added you to my Bloglines and you found another reader :-) // Cya around!

Scott McNulty

Ahh, I just read your latest post, so thanks! Though it would still be great if you could link to that one from this one (however, this is your blog so feel free to do what you like!). :)

Scott McNulty

jk, I would appreciate (as the lead blogger of TUAW) if you updated this post to reflect what happened, since as of now it still appears, if one reads the post and not the comments, that TUAW did something wrong when in fact we didn’t (that’s what we do when we’ve made an error on TUAW after-all).

Nick, thanks for reading TUAW. :) It is true that we cover the same space, so there is bound to be overlap (as there is with Maccentral, Macminute, and so on…). TUAW hardly ever calls something an exclusive, and we always link back to our sources.

Nick

I posted this on problogger as well:

TUAW is pretty useless anyway, IMO. Quite unprofessional if you ask me. They take lots of stuff from our site, http://www.macnn.com, and of course never credit us. Luckily, MacNN is several times larger than TUAW, so whatever. It’s not so much that they “steal” news that bothers me — it’s competition afterall. What irks me as they try to make readers think they are the first on the story, when in reality they are far from it. That’s a problem with a lot of the crummy weblogs inc blogs, though — too slow on the news, and they make a big deal out of it when they finally report on it. yaawwwwn

Ben Ruedlinger

jk,

Just to clarify, I did not say you “maliciously accused” anyone. I said that *we* (not you) should not jump to conclusions about others being malicious (deliberately harmful). These are two very different statements.

That being said, I think that you do a great job with your blog and I look forward to continuing to read your insightful mobile technology posts.

Ben Ruedlinger
http://technology.blogniscient.com

Jason

No idea what the details of this are but I can tell you the folks at TUAW (a WIN property) and HackADay (no longer part of WIN) are some of the best folks around. All very high-quality, moral, ethical, and nice people you would ever get to know.

On to some details:

1. We hat tip (aka give credit) to people all day long.

2. It is our policy to give credit…. just scan down our blog and look at the “via,” “thanks,” “hat tip,” and “read” links!

3. We send much more traffic outside of our network (like 100 to 1+) than we do inside. That is the whole point of blogs–to riff on and point people to interesting discussions and things.

4. We have 160+ bloggers in the network and we cover a lot of the same stuff, and many of the blogs do work together on joint projects, but this is for fun and more than anything. Also, if you have the leading car (autoblog) and leading baby (bloggingbabY) blog they are going to be updated the most and the % chance that they would like to each other on some “baby car technology” story are greater.

Talk to Fabienne… she’s great and I’m sure she will work it out with you.

best j

jk

Ben, I did not “maliciously” accuse anyone of anything. I took great pains to include actual screen clippings and those clippings appear to only be interpreted one way, which is what led me (and many readers who have commented) to jump to the same conclusion. I hope that TUAW did not do what it looks like they did, I have chosen to believe their denial so this is the last I am going to say about the whole situation. Thanks for jumping in and explaining your position.

jk

OK. I am amazed at the brouhaha this has started. Since I do not know Fabienne of TUAW (and thanks for adding your comment here) I have no reason to not believe that the TUAW post was not changed. It is certainly possible that either Blogniscient or Technorati generated some sort of error, although I have used and followed both for some time and had no reason to suspect they could misrepresent search results in this manner.

At this point I am going to let this die. I have nothing else to add, I am going to return to posting about mobile technology, which is the whole point of this blog. While I do believe that sourcing of posts on blogs is a problem, I made it clear that was not what riled me up about this. Let’s just all return to our normal programming.

Jeremy Wright

Paul: That’s a pretty big accusation, wanna back that up? I’ve never known anyone on b5 to edit a post to point to an internal blog.

Yes, internal blogs will probably get lots of links because we read our own stuff. We can’t read everyone else’s. But we link to other blogs more than any of our own (ditto WIN and Gawker).

So, what, exactly, is your accusation here mate?

Ben Ruedlinger

jk,

I am the founder of Blogniscient, and this is very curious to me as well. I did some investigation and wanted to share the results and my thoughts.

First, I delved down into Blogniscient’s database to make sure that all of the links for the stories showed up correctly attributed and indeed they did (as expected).

Next, I looked up other stories that we linked to on Technorati. It looks like all of those were also correctly attributed (as they appeared within the Technorati index).

This leads me to three options for what happened:

1) As you suggested, who the story was attributed to on TUAW changed at some point.

2) There was a slight error in presentation in Blogniscient’s content which Technorati indexed.

3) It was presented correctly by Blogniscient and Technorati interpretted it slightly wrong.

Honestly, of all of the above options, I consider #1 the most unlikely. While I don’t think that the error was on Blogniscient’s part, I cannot rule it out. Sometimes what I observe is that sites which index Blogniscient think that it is a blog just like all other blogs. As such, they use their “blog indexing” rules and parsing software. This can lead to an incorrect interpretation of Blogniscient’s links and content. I consider this option (Technorati’s slight misinterpretation of Blogniscient’s content) to be the most likely explanation; however, as I mentioned before, I cannot completely rule out Blogniscient as the cause.

If there is additional evidence which points to TUAW changing the accredidation of the post, I would be very interested in hearing about it. However, I am not sure that we should jump to conclusions about people being malicious in changing whom a story is credited to without more to go on.

Thanks,
Ben Ruedlinger
Blogniscient, Inc.

fbz

Hi jk,

This was my post on TUAW. To clear things up: I am part of hackaday and tuaw (and engadget when I write how-to articles occasionally). I get the feeds from the tip lines on hackaday and tuaw. The post I made was purely from the tip Joseph DeRuvo Jr. sent to the hackaday tip line. I didn’t even know you posted about the same thing nor did I remove linkage to you at all. I am not a slimy person (I’m a hardware hacker girl, feel free to email me with any further questions) and I ALWAYS post from links when I grab stuff from other blogs. I don’t have your blog in my rss reader but I’m adding it now and if I use anything from you, I will be sure to link back.

I think this may have been a Technorati or Blogniscient glitch? I really can’t tell you how they work, because I have no idea and I don’t use them. Weblogs Inc is not a nasty blog-borg, we are actually just a ton of individuals who blog for various topical blogs all owned by one company. I think you’ll find we have open comment posting, great link back and generally a rather open attitude to the blogosphere (because we are part of it after all). Most of us hail from smaller personal blogs and are careful to respect our sources.

Please email me so we can discuss this (and you can verify I am who I say I am). Cheers!

fbz
aka Fabienne Serriere
tuaw/hackaday/engadget

matt maier

It’s not the first time, nor will it be the last, that this type of thing will occur. There is no overall administrating authority, enforcing accountability, all that is left is personal integrity. There will always be publishers that distort the definition of integrity-there always have been. It’s a sad fact of what blogs are all about and how they work. This format and method for sharing information is a double-edged sword.

Andrew McCann

Bloggers basically are journalists, whatever they may think to the contrary. And big blogs need to behave professionally. To disguise the true source of a story is unethetical (or perhaps “slimy” is a better word). I am removing TUAW from my Bloglines account. After all, if they value money and their own network above honesty and openness, how can I trust anything they write? If all bloggers were like TUAW, then I would just use a news-release clipping service and be done with them.

I like the Mobile Tech Roundup podcast, by the way!

Paul Short

It’s an epidemic and getting worse every day. ALL the bigger networks and bloggers are guilty of it in varying degrees.

Some will admit their wrongdoing and link back when confronted, most won’t.

Easton Ellsworth

Thanks for this post. I work as an editor for the Know More Media network and certainly this topic will come up more as we continue to grow. A link ought to point to the best (original, most relevant, etc.) source – whether inside or outside of the network. If it’s a link to another blog on the network, it should be relevant and appropriate – in other words, meant to help the visitor and not primarily to boost network traffic.

Dave

James he will never admit being wrong. He will make up such an excuse that they get tips all the time and they have not enough time to see if “someone” got it first. How about we all copy engadget stories and not give them credit? Can we call it “Engadget for Dummies”…

Cary

Sounds familiar…once money really came into the picture I think a whole lot of bloggers lost their integrity.

My personal strategy is to only link to smaller bloggers, whenever possible. The big guys have become one giant echo chamber, and I for one am not listening.

I kicked all the so-called A-listers out of my subscription list…except for my friend Darren, of course.
:D

arebelspy

Horrible. This type of thing shouldn’t be tolerated. =/

-arebelspy

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