On one of my other blogs I usually review gardening forums I come across. Normally I'd put a review of a gardening forum there but I've decided to use the platform of this blog instead. Recently I've had the misfortune of being the target of feed scrapers and my gardening blog has appeared on sites that I don't want to be associated with and because of that I had to shorten my feed. The internet being what it is I've come to discover that I'm not the only gardener experiencing the same problem with someone taking my feed and republishing it on a site without my consent. Some people on the internet are of the opinion that everything is fair game and that they can take what they want and do what they want with it.
A fellow gardener has been having problems with her posts being scraped and republished to a gardening website called TheGrowSpot.com. The Grow Spot describes itself as:
"...a gardening community with forums on Urban Gardening, Organic Gardening, Growing to Eat, and more. The Grow Spot is also resource for information on all sorts of garden plants, flowers, trees and all things that grow. No green thumb required!"
I'm not surprised that no green thumb is required to join and participate since no green thumb is required to start the forum and make money off of other people's garden articles and garden photography. I've looked around The Grow Spot forum and the majority of the website is just information copied from various sources like garden blogs.
Annie discovered her blog was being republished after noticing the back links to her articles on her gardening blog. After some consideration yesterday she published Tired of Sharecropping for TheGrowSpot.com. I told her that if these people were smart that the post would not get published on the gardening forum. I guess I overestimated them because they republished her post where she complained about having her writings lifted and republished on that gardening forum. I invite you to read Annie's post because it is a wonderful piece-much more eloquent and thought out than a smackcdown deserves to be.
The Grow Spot is registered (owned) by Luba Spichkin from California and I can't really believe this person is actually a gardener. Maybe she just considers herself to be a web developer and The Grow Spot is just a means to make money. A real gardener wouldn't scrape someone's gardening blog to stuff their own site with content. A real gardener would get a digital camera, some plants and dirt and grow their own gardening forum, website or gardening blog from their own knowledge and experience. If Luba Spichkin wants to get traffic to her gardening forum then she should do what we all have to do to create traffic to our gardening blogs. You write about what you love or hate, you take your own garden photos, you leave comments on other blogs and hope they are interested enough to visit your blog. A gardening forum stuffed with second hand content like The Grow Spot is doesn't benefit anyone because the people who's knowledge it is built upon aren't there to answer questions newbies may have.
What gets me the most is that after they republished Annie's post where she stopped short of calling Luba Spichkin and her crew a bunch of thieves they responded to the post on their website as if Annie was a member there to answer them.
The response came from "Grow Girl" on The Garden Spot forum and I'd bet that "Grow Girl" is really just Luba Spichkin or another one of her family members because there aren't many active members.
I thought about signing up to the forum and responding to "Grow Girl" in that thread but I don't need another password on a gardening forum to keep track of, so I'll do it here.
All we are doing is subscribing to your RSS feed You are publishing an RSS feed for your blog. You have control over the amount of content that you are syndicating in your feed. RSS feeds are designed to help you distribute your content, and that's exactly what we feel we are doing. We are getting your content out in front of a wider audience, giving you attribution, and linking back to the original source.
Because someone publishes a feed that doesn't give you the right to republish that feed on your website and slap adsense around the images and text written by someone else. If people like Annie who are doing the work don't publish ads on their gardening blog where do you get off taking their work and making money from it? Annie never asked you to syndicate her feed and she has no problem with audience because she has lots of regular readers and comments. It doesn't matter what you feel you are doing what you are doing is scraping. It is as simple as that.
Your ranking in search engines like Google is heavily dependent on the inlinks you get, so in addition to sending more viewers to your site, we are effectively boosting your ranking in google.
That is totally ridiculous. Annie's garden blog has a PR of 4 and she has plenty of inbound links to her blog from people who find her content enjoyable. Your website is a PR2 and the forum where you are republishing Annie's and dozens of the other blogs has no PR value at all. The only thing you're boosting is your own ranking because the content creators are coming up as duplicates in search engine results. Again, Annie didn't ask you to send her viewers. She doesn't need you. It is you that are leaching from her visitors, content and photographs, it is you creating back links to her entries on your forum to gain traffic and boost your own PR.
If you are unhappy about this, we are happy to stop including you in our free service; but if that's the case, you should think twice about publishing an RSS feed -- you are in effect saying you are interested in RSS based syndication of your content.
Gee you think she's unhappy about this? I mean what does she have to do to get the point across that she is unhappy with you taking her material and pasting it to your site? Does she have to call you a thief? Maybe you people aren't good with subtlety and can't take the hint in the title Tired of Sharecropping for TheGrowSpot.com . Since you're obviously not gardeners maybe you don't get the reference to sharecropping. Maybe Annie should file a DMCA complaint against you and have Google take away your adsense account would that make it clear?
Publishing an RSS feed doesn't effectively say that the content creator is interested in RSS based syndication. It says that are interested in making it easier for readers to keep updated. There's a difference between using an RSS reader to keep updated with a blog or site and it is a completely different thing to take that feed republish it to your site and slap ads around it. Oh and FYI honest syndication is an opt-in thing and some places even compensate the content creator with money. Your "free service" is a crock used to add content to your site and make money from the work of other people. The fact that gardeners like Annie have to contact you to get you to stop scraping their site is ridiculous.
What I found the biggest insult was that the reply that can be found at thegrowspot.com/know/f9/ invites other garden bloggers to contact them to have their blogs republished. The same reply was left at Annie's blog with a couple of links dropped into the comment just to pour salt in the wound. Annie is debating publishing the comment but I'm of the opinion that leaches like this shouldn't be rewarded with links.
If you're interested in seeing if your blog is being republished onto other sites I'd recommend using CopyScape or taking random chunks of your blog entries and putting " " around them and searching for it on Google. If you'd like to shorten your feed to lessen the chances that places like The Grow Spot will republish your words and images onto their sites I recommend FeedBurner.
With FeedBurner (now owned by Google) you can truncate your feed (see mine for an example) even more than what the Blogger settings allow. When you sign up with FeedBurner and have customized the appearance of your feed make sure to go back to your blog and click on "Settings"> click the link for "site feed" and enter the new URL of your feed next to the text "Post Feed Redirect URL." This will forward the native feed of Blogger to the feed you've "burned" with FeedBurner and give everyone the same truncated feed.
The cool thing about FeedBurner is that you also get site stats in addition to the stats of who is visiting or subscribing to your feed. If you have questions setting this up feel free to comment or send me an e-mail.
If a search brought you here because you were looking for a gardening forum to join and participate in obviously I don't recommend The Grow Spot. It is just regurgitated information that you are better off reading at the source. But I do have a list of gardening forums I've written about.
I noticed I received the following email after I published this post.
This is smgardener, and I'm a moderator at The Grow Spot. We've been
following the discussion on "The Transplantable Rose" about the
reposting of Annie's RSS content to the Grow Spot. We attempted to
leave a comment on her blog post in order to be part of the
discussion, but she didn't publish it. In any case, you noted that you
were going to blog about this, and I wanted to share our perspective
with you as this is quickly degenerating into a name calling war.
I understand that Annie is upset, and I am very sorry that she is
offended by what we're doing -- we have immediately stopped posting
her content, and we won't repost anything ever again from her blog.
This was the first we heard that she was upset about this, and had she
contacted us at any point we would have stopped immediately.
In our opinion, RSS and other social media technologies were invented
to help people get their content in front of as wide an audience as
This is a sticky thread that we have had at the top of our "Hand
Picked" forum (where we post all the blog content) since the beginning
of our site: (link removed by me)
This was GrowGirl's response that Annie didn't publish:(link removed by me)
If you have any questions you about what we're doing that you would
like us to answer before you post, please feel free to ask anything at
all. In any case, if you do publish a post on this topic, I hope
you'll allow us to participate in the comments!
It is great that you're going to stop publishing her posts and you should extend the courtesy to every garden blogger that you've republished without their permission. At the time Annie didn't publish your reply to her because in it you dropped links to your forum. Whoever replied to Annie used the comment forum to advertise your website although, the comment is now up.
Do you not see how tacky that is? Yes, RSS and other media were invented to get content in front of a large audience but it is suppose to be done by the creator of the content. What part of that do you guys over there not understand?
You aren't doing any established garden blogger any favors by copying their material and posting it on your website as a "free service." That's utterly ridiculous, if anything you're hurting them.
Many of us are already syndicated on GardenVoices (voices.gardenweb.com) and you have to request that you be added. It also doesn't repost entries in whole but a snippet of it the way it should be unless you have an agreement with the content creator. You people could benefit from wandering over there and seeing how they don't slap ads around our posts and pictures. Even though it is owned by a large company (NBC) that website extends to us the respect of not directly monetizing our blogs in syndication. Unlike your website that slaps ads right next to the words and text that you publish in whole.
I've noticed that your site has republished some pictures and done some linking to Gayla (YouGrowGirl) to "send her viewers" and I wonder why you extend to Gayla the courtesy of not copying her material in whole but provide a link? Could it be that you're worried a famous gardening blogger would take you to court? You should extend the same courtesy to every one who you wish "help." You should go one step further and remove all of the content that you've added without the permission of garden blogger.
I'm a fair person and I'll let you be heard on my blog but I won't publish anything that is a hyper link. I've temporarily enabled comment moderation to avoid providing links to the garden forum in question. I'll publish any comments on the subject as long as they don't have links in them.