I Find This Form of Flattery Somewhat Insincere

I’ve always believed that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so when I found a few articles from this blog copied elsewhere without attribution or links back to the originals, I was overjoyed. Someone — or apparently two people — thought that a total of four of my blog posts were worth plagiarizing.

When I looked a little more closely, though, I realized my mistake. My articles hadn’t been hand-picked with loving care by an author with writer’s block and exquisite taste; instead, they’d simply been snarfed up by software. One site, internetsatire.com, seems to just copy a random sampling of posts from the wordpress.com humor feed. I have no idea why a site with “satire” in its name would use the humor feed (which consists of all posts tagged “humor” in blogs hosted on wordpress.com) and not the equally convenient satire feed — but I think it would be satisfyingly ironic if this post were copied, so I’m adding both tags just to increase the odds.

The other site (really a family of sites: daoblogs.com and daoblog.co.cc) apparently gets articles from a variety of sources and then applies some kind of transformation to each one. It looks like they’re either translating them into some other language and back to English or using a thesaurus to replace individual words. Either way, the results can be kind of amusing; for example, this excerpt from my GFAJ-1 interview:

Unlikely Explanations: Thriving on arsenic the way you do is a major accomplishment. How did you do it?
GFAJ-1: It was a slow process that occurred over many generations. I won’t lie — initially, my family was as intolerant of arsenic as anyone else. But then arsenic started moving into the neighborhood, and we realized we’d have to adapt somehow.

turns into this on daoblogs:

Unlikely Explanations: Thriving without ceasing arsenic the way you do is a major accomplishment. How did you do it?
GFAJ-1: It was a inactive process that occurred over many generations. I won’t lie — initially, my family was in the same proportion that intolerant of arsenic as anyone otherwise. But then arsenic started moving into the vicinage, and we realized we’d accept to adapt somehow.

I’m not sure which version I like better. I’m also not sure why they bother modifying the text — they might be trying to change the wording to avoid showing up in searches for excerpts from the original, but the one thing they never seem to change is the title.

Apparently, the term for this kind of copying is blog scraping. I haven’t been plagiarized; I’ve just been scraped. It’s annoying, but not nearly as painful as it sounds.

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Posted in Rants
11 comments on “I Find This Form of Flattery Somewhat Insincere
  1. This business is rampant. I understand that, often, articles are automatically translated into another language and then back into English, to achieve the strange pigeon English style that is peculiar to scrape-farms, but something slightly different seems to be happening here.

    • Laura says:

      It looks different to me, too — I think that’s because the words that are unchanged are completely unchanged — in the same order, without any extra articles inserted, etc.

  2. omawarisan says:

    I just dont get what the benefit to the scraper is. Do people really return to read that stuff enough for them to sell ads?

    Maybe if I looked at it from a different vicinage…

    • Laura says:

      Initially, I was in the same proportion that mystified as you are about that, but I think they have so much content (because they scrape so many sites) that they get lots of traffic from search engines, so they don’t really care whether anyone returns.

  3. aquatom1968 says:

    Oh Laura, I’m sorry to hear you have been scraped. I don’t think it has happened to me yet although I am seeing quite a lot of links to my blog from certain ‘enhancement’ sites, and I don’t really want to go and have a look… my blog isn’t of that sort. At least you’ve taught me a new word ‘vicinage’, and have highlighted not to use satire or humour as the tags to my post… funny as these stolen posts look, the originals are definitely the best!

    • Laura says:

      Thanks, Tom — but please don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! Humor and satire are perfectly useful tags, and I’m going to continue to use them.

      Oh, and vicinage was a new word for me too, so this really has been a learning experience.

  4. I do wonder if they’re going to copy this post too . . . and how that will come out!

    I have been wondering from my site stats whether some Australian university student has been reading and copying my “book reviews” (I think they’re more “book thoughts”) for their assignments. If so, I’d really like to know what grade they got! :-)

  5. […] Posted on January 13, 2011 by lisa@notesfromafrica Laura from Unlikely Explanations wrote a very funny piece a couple of weeks back, about some blog posts of hers being copied to other sites. I know […]

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Elsewhere …

I have some publications in other places, including short stories at Shimmer, Flash Fiction Online, and Daily Science Fiction, and a list of overly-wordy LOLCat captions on McSweeney's.

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