Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Buddharocks Returns



Some of you may recall several months back some discussion about the website Buddharocks. Specifically, that said website was poaching content from other Buddhist blogs, including this one, without proper acknowledgement. Well, I received the following comment today.

Goodizen said...
Greetings

I am the designer who volunteered to put up the BuddhaRocks.org portal, and I discover this 'complain' only today.

I wonder why none of you bother to contact Buddharocks.org instead of making wild, actually, almost malicious accusations against the portal all over the Internet ?

In my humble opinion, I think what you're doing isn't very Buddhist, let alone Zennist or morally admirable ...

Let me tell you why ?

The domain Buddharocks.org was idling and it was me who asked the onwer, Anna why wouldn't she make use of it to do something meaningful ? She says she would like to but she neither has the time nor the expertise to do much. So, I convinced her to let me sync in related information and I thought I might as well hang couple of ad banners at the same time, hoping to generate something for charitiable causes. Sorry to disappoint those who are jealous over this particular aspect, there is no money in what we do. Not at BuddhaRocks. We generated a few pennies and that is all and yes, Adsense has terminated our account citing complaints from ... (you should know who).

Obviously, I didn't know there are enlightenmnet seekers who actually aren't even willing share spiritual information with the masses !

You may ask why didn't I contact you prior to doing anything ?

First, by offering RSS feeds, you have implied you'd like to share (after all, you have full control over the feeds).

Second, it's an impossible task for me to liase with all those involved (there are hundreds of you and I am working all alone, I wish I have the time).

Third, you can always contact Buddharocks.org should you have any issue. Their contact is clearly printed at the site, something A thief will never do.

Fourth, we don't see aggregrating something from the Internet to share publicly as anything wrong. But we now realise there are one or two people who don't see it that way ... We got the message now,

Except one or two gentlemen who have contacted us with no problem whatsoever, none of those who are not willing to share even bother to contact us. Instead, they go around spreading hate messages and or malicious accusations eg. http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/blogger/thread?tid=4076bdc41dacf3c1&hl=en ... who not only complained at her own blog, but also at other blogs, forum etc.

Is her action justifiable or make any sense, let alone Zennist ?

By the way, I have recently revamped the portal. All old contents have been purged, so for the selfish ones, fret not. Your precious blogs have been cremated.

If you have any idea what can I possibly do to help you and the community at large, please feel free to drop me a note (email to BuddhaRocks, they will forward to me). I am just trying to add something philanthropic to my resume.

Trust all is well now.

Ted


I have to say that I find some of Ted's comments rather obnoxious. Accusing writers who simply wanted their blog posts acknowledged and sourced as "selfish" is a silly guilt trip. Furthermore, accusations that those of us who were concerned about the use of our content are "not very Buddhist" is absolutely laughable. Seriously, I'm still laughing as I write this.

Here's the thing: I can see how all of this may have been a misunderstanding. The old Buddharocks layout looked like something done by a person who didn't have much tech savvy, and perhaps couldn't figure out how to properly link and/or cite blog posts.

Since I kind of figured this might be a possibility, after leaving three or four comments asking for proper citation on my posts over at Buddharocks, I clipped the feed, and basically forgot about it all. That was a good 6 or 7 months ago.

Anyway, I'd like to say to Ted, or anyone putting together large, collective blogs to respect the writers whose content you wish to feature. We spend numerous hours producing the work, and the vast majority of us already are offering it for free on our blogs. It's not out of line to ask for a simple link or citation; in fact, I'd argue that it's the only ethical thing to do.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

Reading this I wonder who in this day and age believes that anything is safe/private if written and posted. Those who are proud of your writing- either share freely w no attachment, or do not post on internet. You can write a book, share in a group or with your sangha. Not saying it is right to take writing or quotes and not site- saying it is not a surprise.

Nathan said...

I am well aware that anything I post online could be "lifted" and used by others as they will. There's no surprise on my end at all.

I'm speaking from an ethical point of view, as a writer and also someone who thinks that it's important to have these kinds of discussions in the public sphere.
Because the way people handle writing and the arts is changing due to the internet, so we need to collectively figure out what makes sense - ethically - in terms of handling people's work online.

It isn't as simple as "publish freely" or don't publish at all. I hope some of my fellow bloggers will chime in their thoughts about this, because I don't have the energy tonight to extend my thoughts any further on that particular point.

ZenDotStudio said...

I had forgotten about BuddhaRocks after a number of attempts to deal with the fact that our content is being reposted without acknowledgment. Like you Nathan, I shortened my RSS feed. It is rather funny and entertaining what you have posted as "Ted's" commentary. Who hit him with the confusion stick?

Contrary to what Anon says I am often surprised by behaviour that lacks integrity although I agree that out in cyberspace where people feel anonymous, perhaps it seems easier to do what feeds our pocket rather than our soul.

Ben said...

Please understand this is not intended as criticism, I can't say exactly why, but I feel compelled to defend Tim, even if his use of others' work is unethical. Perhaps it's just an oft-felt impulse of mine to defend anyone against what seems like personal attacks, especially in such a public arena, but...

I respect folks' wishes for acknowledgement, but I wonder how useful or expedient it is to take a bit of writing from one person at one point in time and frame it in such a way as to (intentionally or not) encourage people to dislike them... I am perhaps mistrusting my gut here, but I feel the reaction/response balance (to reference your recent post) here is a little out-of-whack. Seems to run a little counter to what DH seems to offer people the rest of the time is all...

Humbly,
Ben

Ben said...

Haha, and whoops, by Tim I mean Ted!

Adam said...

While this happened 6 or 7 months ago, it also happened over a year ago. I left comments on the site and attempted to contact the owner of the site. It wasn't at all clear that this was some sort of gift to the community or whatever they are claiming it is. On the contrary, with all of the ad space and click-throughs, it seemed very, very much like a spam site that was using other people's creative commons licensed works to generate a profit for themselves, especially given that after numerous attempts to contact the owner of the site, each attempt was met with silence.

Nathan said...

Ben,

I understand your response, and I'll readily admit that the manner in which Ted's comments were written sparked a bit of snark and unneeded drama in my tone. I fully take responsibility for that. And you're right, it's not my usual approach.

However, as Adam pointed out, the site used to look like something that was mostly about generating ad income. And none of the bloggers who actually tried to contact the blog owner seemed to be able do so. I politely asked to be linked to or removed at least three times before cutting the feed. The blog owner continued to publish shortened posts of mine after that, which led me to believe that either the person didn't know how to make changes, or didn't care.

"I respect folks' wishes for acknowledgement, but I wonder how useful or expedient it is to take a bit of writing from one person at one point in time and frame it in such a way as to (intentionally or not) encourage people to dislike them..."

Two responses. First off, I frequently write inspired by other blog posts. And always link to their blogs. Takes about 30 seconds to add a link in.

Second, perhaps your comment is referring to how I wrote about Ted. If so, it wasn't my intention to simply blast Ted and get people behind such a blasting. What I wanted readers to consider that bloggers are putting a lot of work into their writing, and that ethically, we all need to consider how to respect that work. I don't have clear answers as to how that needs to look like, but the issue needs to be raised.

Nathan said...

On another note, if Ted, or other blog owners like him, sincerely want to address the kinds of past grievances that occurred on Buddharocks, writing that kind of letter to blog writers isn't gonna cut it. The whole thing could have been a big misunderstanding based on a lack of web skills, but what I received from Ted's letter was the message you're a selfish, unBuddhist person for not letting anyone take your writing. Such a message doesn't inspire in me a desire to reach out to Buddharocks as a website, nor do I feel terribly confident that any concerns or questions I bring up would be listened to.

But I do want to thank you, Ben, for being willing to disagree with my tone to some degree. Because the comments I have added, I hope, help flush out why I brought this up at all. I've gotten my share of comments and even a few e-mails where name calling and message twisting were far worse than anything Ted said. And that stuff, I just let go of. But Ted's comments tap into something larger than all that, which is why I wanted to highlight it.

BuddhaRocks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
BuddhaRocks said...

While I thank you for responding, what you have stated does deserve further explanation ...

First, Nathan is right I am not tech savvy but he is wrong to say there is no link back to the source. The only script I could find back then is the one that will strip off all links and replace words in content with synonyms. I spent weeks correcting all that ie. all links and your article will stay in tact but I just couldn't do no more or the script will just die. I spent the next few month looking for a better solution, I think I got it. So far, so good. It's all good now as you can see at the revamped site.

Nathan "after leaving three or four comments asking for proper citation on my posts over at Buddharocks, I clipped the feed" + "And none of the bloggers who actually tried to contact the blog owner seemed to be able do so. I politely asked to be linked to or removed at least three times before cutting the feed. The blog owner continued to publish shortened posts of mine after that, which led me to believe that either the person didn't know how to make changes, or didn't care."


Five things here: -


1. NO, we DIDN'T receive any request or complaint except from one gentlemen whom we offered to pull his feed out but he insisted no, because he too would like share. We'd disable feed from those who are not willing to share. Period.

BTW, our contact is buddharocks [at] gmail [dot] com ... It's boldly printed at the site.


2. "I clipped my feed". I am amazed you are not aware that no feed can be REALLY clipped ! No even close. There are tools out there that can expand any feed into full feed. The only way to stop that is to manually modify your feeds with tedious content manipulation eg. splitting into several posts and or some crazy redirections. Rule of the thumb - Anything viewable publicly, can be copied.


Here is some tips on this particular issue: -


- First, you really shouldn't blog on free hosting like Blogger/Blogspot because one thing you may not be aware is that their blogging platform is deliberately designed to share your content easily, practically on free flow basis. This explains why Google consider complaints like yours as a TRIVIAL matter eg. no one, not even a single one bother to response ZenDotStudio's complaints at Google forum.

- What does Google says about this ? Here,

"According to Matt Cutts, Head of Search Quality at Google, “”There are some people who really hate scrapers and try to crack down on them and try to get every single one deleted or kicked off their web host,” says Cutts. “I tend to be the sort of person who doesn’t really worry about it, because the vast, vast, vast majority of the time, it’s going to be you that come up tops, not the scraper. If the guy is scraping and scrapes the content that has a link to you, he’s linking to you, so worst case, it won’t hurt, but in some weird cases, it might actually help a little bit.”

The truth is other than the original author (likely a professional journalist), practically everything else that exists in the Internet is wholy or partially coming from another source. This explains why Google simoply cannot exercise 100% original content policy. Plus, there is this "Fair Use Doctrine" under DMCA (Digital Millileum Copyright Act) that legitimizes use of copyrigthed materials on bona fide basis.

continue ...

Goodizen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Goodizen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Goodizen said...

3. "We spend numerous hours producing the work ... It's not out of line to ask for a simple link or citation."

No, not at all. The links are there but citation bit is trickier. No problem to implemnet standard citation phrase like "Please read more @ XXX". I am afraid the the rest has to be manually inserted, which is pretty unrealistic ...


4. There is one more easy solution for those who do not want to share with the public - you may want to consider to make your blog PRIVATE. I think this should put the whole thing to rest. It's only a one-click process at Blogger.


5. "the site used to look like something that was mostly about generating ad income."
No denying. We do intend to raise something for charitable causes including setting up a useful portal to serve the community. Well, we got a few pennies and before we could do anything, some jealous people have harrassed Google so much so that they told us they have terminate our account.


To sum it all up, I am disturbed because someone calls BuddhaRocks a "thief" of some sort. This is not fair to Anna. She just tries to make use of the domain to do something philanthropic. If there is any blunder created, it's me -- the hopeless-non-tech-savvy-dude who just doesn't know enough to put together properly. But hey, at least my intention is bona fide.

In any case, I believe there is no more issue. Else, please do not hesitate to drop me a note.

That said, I wonder what kind of service can I possibly put in place as to faciliate you and the community as a whole ?

Will something like a unified portal be any good ? See, you won't get a lot of traffic as an individual blog, unless you are good and can go on blogging 24/7, there is no miracle. May I suggest we consider to group up under a single common domain ... Here is why - I have a pretty active tech domain, and I noticed every single subdomain that I created seems to receive very significant attention from the search engines than say idividually. If this sound like an idea, let me know.

Thanks.

Nathan said...

Ted,

From what I see on Buddharocks currently, it looks like some of the posts do link back to the original blog now. That's really all most of us want, but it needs to be consistent.

As for the "private" blog comment, perhaps a few of the Buddhist writers out there might be interested in that option. I am not. I actually want to share my work. I'm not interested in a tiny, privileged audience, and readily have offered individual blog posts in other places when I have been asked.

However, there's a difference between individual posts and an unending use of someone's blog. I actually have turned down multiple offers to write under group blog banners because the blog owners wanted domain over large amounts of writing, or my entire archive, either for free or for a tiny stipend. Meanwhile, in one case, said group blog owner was making a decent amount of income off their site.

I can't find any specifics on Buddharocks about the charities you are wanting to support. However, it seems like every post is completely monetized with ads, even your "about us" page.

Goodizen said...

Your sommnet system is not working ... see my full comment sent via email

Nathan said...

Here are Ted's comments for those interested.

Here are the quickies for your comments: -

"From what I see on Buddharocks currently, it looks like some of the posts do link back to the original blog now."

It's has been programmed to work on all posting, if there is none, it's because I manually added/delete something ... it's not perfect yet. I am still checking it out.


"I actually have turned down multiple offers to write under group blog banners because the blog owners wanted domain over large amounts of writing, or my entire archive, either for free or for a tiny stipend. Meanwhile, in one case, said group blog owner was making a decent amount of income off their site."
No, that's not what I have in mind. What I mean is to share "economy-of-scale" with all.The whole idea is for you to benefit from group cloud/traffics ...

As mentioned, there is really not a lot you can do to generate significant traffics nowadays. However, search engine will see you differently if you're a part of a popular domain (as witnessed in some of my experiments).

Tell me if the model below works ?

I give out FREE subdomains eg. Nathan.BuddhaRocks.org,
The blog/site is yours and you retain full control to do whatever you like including design/features/donation etc. It's 100% all yours.
You just mask the subdomain on your existing blog so as to enjoy the GROUP SEO (serach Engine Optomozation) & referrals.
The portal's frontpage is basically to showcase you works, to serve as a directory and send you traffics.
To cut it short, the whole idea is two prong
- To generate and to share traffics as a group
- To craete entertprise facilities that is beyonf thr reach of individuals

Nathan said...

Ted cont.

"I can't find any specifics on Buddharocks about the charities you are wanting to support. However, it seems like every post is completely monetized with ads, even your "about us" page."

This will perhaps explain the above (group domain) better ...

- No, we do not have any specific charity in mind yet. It's premature (perhaps you can start charity ?) as we don't even have a specific platform to do anything meaningful yet.
- The BuddhaRocks you have witnessed has just been created a few days ago. Still experiementing with it but looks positively promising. If you believe things like the content (at BuddhaRocks) can drive some traffics, then those traffics will be passed on to the group members ie. you.
- Similarly, you'd also benefit from any traffic generated by other group members ... How so ? Here is an empirical evidence ... many visitors actually click on "Resource" to see if there are more or what do we recommend !

Finally, here is probably whay bothers you the most - Ads ?

Unless you disagree, no portal can hope to offer much if it's not funded properly. This explain why BuddhaRocks was the way it was or is what it is ... I don't know if donation works for you ? Buddharocks is actually 8 years old and it has not receive a penny in donation so far.
It's for this reason, I am inclined to look at ads to sustain and to support its ideals ... Got better idea to share ?

So far, I have installed only text-link ads at Buddharocks (powered by Infolinks) just for experiement as they claim they are able to generate beneficial ads. after all, text-link ads are not intrusive ?

Last but not least, "ads on even your "about us" page." !

I have no control over this one ... it's just one single line of Javascript from Infolinks.

I don't if people are against banner ads ? I am confused but personally, I think it's okay ... I see even some of Dalai Lam's sites are also decorated with ads banners.

Nathan said...

A few short comments from Nathan.

1. I have been investigating other means of working with blog content and generating income - since ads actually aren't terribly effective.

The guy from Zen Habits, for example, dropped all his affiliate ads. http://zenhabits.net/

And one of the websites I blog for, http://lifeasahuman.com/ , hasn't had much luck with using ads either.

Certainly, this doesn't mean it's an impossible method, but it might not be terribly helpful.

Anyway, if any of my readers and fellow bloggers have comments about what has been said here, please add them.

Dean 'Jagaro' Crabb said...

While I get that you may feel sincere in your intention, this is simply not enough. Action has to be in direct alignment with the intention for there to be a wholesome result. To say that you have sincere intent and then to negate the result of your action shows some unawareness or naiveness on your behalf. You should carefully consider why people are getting annoyed and reflect upon your actions. To try to argue "but my intent was good" still doesn't make the result good.

An author is producing a product that takes time and effort. While written content is not a physical thing, like a piece of art, the artist puts it on the wall for others to view and enjoy. This does not mean it gives you rights to just take it and use it for your own purposes. You should respect the author and their sincere efforts to write the work for the benefit of others. That doesn't mean you then have right to use it without credits to the originating author.

Walk into any university across the world and it is mandatory to credit authors in your work. Same when it comes to publishing books, you must credit your sources. This is the whole point of copyright laws. The same applies in internet world. It would seem you don't understand this simple truth - be respectful of other people's efforts.

If you are sincere in your intent to share spiritual content for others, then take the ads down and just offer the content, like Nathan does on his site, and be sure to site authors and originating websites.

In my opinion it would just seem you are maybe a bit naive about how this all works and saw nothing wrong in what you are doing. This then is a learning curve for you and you may need to re-consider how your website works. You should reflect on upon why this is happening and do some research into the creative commons act and international copyright law before you find yourself in a legal mess. Ignorance to the law won't win you the argument in court. It is your obligation to ensure you know these things.

Anyway, I hope that gives you something to think about. Keeping it simple, if people are upset, you should reflect upon why, a sincere intent doesn't make it okay, it just means you meant well. There is a difference.

In Kindness,
Dean

Nathan said...

Thanks for the comments Dean. You said a lot of what I wanted to add to this conversation, but hadn't yet. I've been more offline than usual lately, so I haven't had too much time to respond closely.

Best,
Nathan

Goodizen said...

Dean,

I realised that and that's why I stopped syncing feeds from bloggers like Nathan (even though some of them actually told us they would like their blogs to be circulated far and wide ... I am trying to create a system to help these people).

Content that you can see at the experimental site at the moment is actually derived from public domain where people post stuffs either to share publicly and or to promote themselves. This explains why the quality is not the best and I have stripped off links in the content because I found out they're mostly commercial stuffs.

Let's hope we can come out with something effective without any funding at all in the not too distant future.

Bliss be upon you.

Ted

Goodizen said...

Nathan,

Thanks for sharing your experiment on the 'useless' ads. I have no idea why ads don't work for the site quoted by you ? Maybe because there is not enough traffics, which I won't be surprised because I noticed "Buddhist" is actually the least popular section at BuddhaRocks now.

Initially, I intend to create an industrial strength network running on Amazon Cloud. I was thinking using tools and ads (also content something like news and articles at BuddhaRocks now) to drive traffics to good sites and bloggers such as yours etc.

The reason is simple - Google and all that are not designed to help beneficial specialty sites such as yours. What more you guys are using their lifeline - Adsense. So, there is really no incentive for them to especially drive traffics to you. A dedicated system is therefore needed to do the promotional and networking job.

Funding of the intended operation is beyond me for now. That's why I was looking at ads etc. Having heard your experiment with ads, I now have no idea what to do next ?

Let me know if you know if you do have an alternative way ... Meanwhile, I'd continue to look for a solution.

Bliss Be Upon You.

Adam said...

http://community.zen-sangha.org/

All the feeds here are clearly attributed, links provided at the right, and all articles link back to their original source. It is very, very clear that this site is using other people's content from other sites, and people have been asked permission before the feeds go up (at least it was for me when my site was up there).

To me, the zen sangha site was done well. Buddharocks? not so much.

Dean 'Jagaro' Crabb said...

Hi Nathan,

I've been offline a lot this year as well, mostly developing my sites which took me away from my contemplations and writing, which I'm slowly getting back into.

I hope you've been well. Keep in touch.

Metta,
Jagaro (mostly using my Buddhist name now).

Nathan said...

Hi Jagaro,

Thanks for the message. I know you've mentioned doing a lot of working with developing meditation groups and other related activities, which I'm glad to hear.

I look forward to reading more of your writing in the coming year. Among other things, I'm planning on finishing an e-book I started several months ago that relates to some of the writing I have done on Dangerous Harvests.

Best,
Nathan (Tokugo)

Eric (Bubba) Alder said...

I don't know about his content, but the name is strangely familiar.