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Blog Scrapers Imagine a Magical Concern

RSS Scraping

Original Photo by Bret Arnett

Since there have been blogs, there have been people who steal your content. I’m not taking about borrowing your thoughts or words under a Creative Commons license, I’m talking about directly stealing your content to house on blogs loaded with Google Adwords or other advertising. Actually, for some of these blogs I’m not even sure what the point is. I’m not sure I understand a lot of the scraping and comment spam I’ve seen. If anyone has a good post on it, let me know in the comments.

Shel Holtz briefly introduced CopyGator during episode #416 of The Hobson and Holtz Report last week. CopyGator is:

…a free service designed to monitor your RSS feed and find where your content has been republished in the blogosphere. We automatically notify you when a new post of yours is copied to another feed, we also build an overview page you can view to see how/when/where your content is being duplicated, quoted or plagiarized.

It’s a great idea, but one I haven’t been able to test it out yet.  I’m looking forward to it, as in the past I’ve found a surprising amount of my content posted to other sites, which, while flattering, is annoying.

So while monitoring the blogosphere for some client mentions today, imagine my surprise when I found this bizarre review of a product with the strangest non-native-English-speaking tone to it, i.e.

  • “Imagine a magical concern where you read text scribbled by a kinsfolk member in their poorest cowardly scratch” or
  • “Make trusty to yield a interpret here to intend this terminal entry.”

And while absolutely hysterical to read in the Engrish Funny kind of way, it just shows that for every tool created hackers, scrapers and spammers will figure out a way around it.

Upon further review, I did discover the original blog post written about my client’s product. So apparently scrapers are now taking your content and running it through some sort of thesaurus program or other word-altering script so you can’t easily locate them, except that the product name was still in there along with the images. Not cool. CopyGator appears to work on the feed, not the content, so I look forward to delving further into that and seeing how it works.

So if you find your content being scraped you might want to look into CopyGator. Has anyone tried it? Thoughts? Comments?

For kicks, I just wish I had whatever program they were running this content through. It would be fun to push some classic poems or literature through it, i.e.

  • “To have being or to not exist, that is the interrogatory statement”
  • “Times being the most plentiful, also worst of all were the times.”
  • “More than one pathway did fork in timberland, and myself taken to me the unihabited choice, and that has made all the expression of the form f(x + h) − f(x).”

I’m Going to Podcamp Ohio

Are you?

Podcamp Ohio goes live this weekend in wonderful, wacky Columbus Ohio. In the spirit of unconferences everywhere, it’s FREE, fun and guaranteed to be educational. The 2008 version is the first and I have to applaud the organizers of this event led by Angelo Mandato. I’ve been on the email list for the planning committee and the work they’ve put into this is incredible. I did my share by complaining and offering unsolicited advice. They’re probably all like, who IS this Armour fellow anyway? I’ll be sure to provide more Kudos, I’m sure, after the event, but I wanted to get that out here.

So, Podcamp Ohio, the details as Miss Abby Laner so excellently details them, uh, in detail:

WHAT: A conference that helps connect people interested in blogging, social networks, podcasting and new media. Attendees can learn, share, and grow their new media skills with others.

WHEN: June 28, 2008 from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

WHY: You will learn all sorts of really cool things about the various aspects of social media. It’s also a great way to meet new folks who love to do the same things as you! (translation: NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK)

Your favorite Ausssie (I have no way of knowing if that’s true) Paull Young and I will be presenting an interesting look at the world of social media with our “What NOT To Do: Podcasting and other Social Media Anti-Tips” session. Due to the Law of Two Feet, there’s sure not to be a full chair in the room when we’re done.

To see the full list of sessions, please click here.

I’m looking forward to meeting Abby (I’m assuming that’s her on the left, I stole the photo from her post) in person as well as the infamous Constantin Basturea (whose name you may recall from my Murder Mystery virtual geek dinner, yes I’m still plugging that thing), the Ohio-native-turned-New Yorker Michael Denton of whom I’ve heard so many disturbing things, and Todd Cochrane, who I’ve actually talked to on the phone before and whose podcast I sometimes listen. Also, of course, fun to see Kait Swanson and Mr. Young again.

As soon as I get some twitter and blog tags, I’ll be sure to post them here so you can keep up with our weekend exploits. Follow me!

Oh, How Small the World has Become

connections.jpgPhoto by Daycha Kijpattanapinyo

Here’s a little story that demonstrates the connections we’re all making online through this crazy social media network. It never ceases to amaze me.

Follow along closely, ’cause this is intricate.

Most of you know that being a part of the blogosphere means you’ll run into the same characters over and over again, especially in niche corners of the blogsphere’s web such as communication pros, cat fanciers, and lactivists. So I knew of Erin online about 18 months ago and met her online shortly before she started Forward. She invited me to contribute to the Forward blog not long after. Somewhere along the line I met Paull. It wasn’t long before I knew Erin and I shared the same passion for PR and social media and that Paull and I had the same questionable sense of humor.

Fast forward to my job, where we hire a young woman who finds out I’m a social media freak. She tells me not long after her hire that her former professor started a blog. So I checked it out. His name is Bill, his blog is ToughSledding. I check him out, I subscribe. I mean, he’s the only other NE Ohio PR blogger I know of.

Fast forward to Paull’s world tour, where he leaves Australia and travels the world, New York, Washington DC, Toronto Canada, Ohio, Norway, Denmark and more. He and Erin spend some time with me here in Ohio. It is amazing to think how it all transpired for them to be sitting in my living room one day. But then he and Erin headed out and things were back to normal here.

Then I get the following email from Bill at ToughSledding:

I’ve been conversing with Paull Young (through Facebook) and learned that he’d been in the area to visit his “mate” in Ohio. Thought maybe it was time I introduced myself, since we’re both blogging on PR topics and we’re both in the neighborhood.

I was floored. Kent State University is about 50 minutes from my house. Bill had made a comment to a post at Forward, started chatting with Paull on Facebook. Paull sent him a video of him speaking at a college in Toronto and Bill emailed me because of Paull.

I tried to get people at work to recognize the sheer brilliance of a medium at work when a fellow visiting the states from Australia can meet up with a guy in Ohio who works with a graduate of a school whose professor happens to have begun a conversation with said Australian, causing the professor to email the guy in Ohio who lives/works nearby. Bill understood the complexity of it. We agreed to find a time to meet up, but had never found time.

So I went to a PRSA luncheon in Akron on Thursday to watch Sage Lewis teach PR folks about SEO and Web 2.0. I got there a little later than most and there were only a few chairs left. I found a seat, went to introduce myself to the table when it dawns on me that the person I’m about to shake hands with is Bill from Toughsledding.

Absolutely amazing. It came full circle around. Bill thought it was amazing as well, and told the assembled crowd about it. It’s a medium at work. Always. Recognize it. Realize what it can do for you, your business, and your clients.

I have the Power of 150, you insignificant noisemakers, you

No, wait, I wrote that incorrectly. I am one of the pr/marketing bloggers that made it into Todd And’s The Power 150: Top Marketing Blogs. In fact, I’m lucky number 100! Take that Steve Rubel of Micropersuasion! Oh, wait, he came in at 15. Take that Kevin Dugan of Strategic PR and The Bad Pitch Blog! No, shoot, both of his blogs beat me at 24 and 45, respectively. Who else, ah, have at thee, Shel Holtz! Crap, he’s 28. I’ll bet I beat that good-for-nothing Todd Defren – let’s see…curses! He soundly beats me out at 34. Ha! I beat eSoup, whatever the hell that is.* I guess that’s some consolation.

Todd rated these blogs using Google PageRank, Bloglines Subscribers, Technorati Ranking, and the ever subjective Todd And Points. I’ve got to admit, when I set up those other 234 Bloglines accounts and subscribed only to my own blog and The Daily Dilbert, I felt kind of stupid. But it’s all paid off now.

Seriously, I think what Todd has done is really quite amazing. You can read his original post here. If I weren’t so busy faking podcasts and writing about the important pr/marketing issues that made me of the the Power 150, I’d have thought of something equally as clever and subjective. Something like “The Chainmail Armour 200,” “125 Blogs in Shining Armour,” or, perhaps, “The stuff I try to cram in my head every week from smart people on their blogs 2.1!”

Honestly, Todd, thanks for taking the time, for enjoying my shambles…uh, rambles, and for contributing so joyfully to this social media space. Congrats to the other 149, yes, even those of you from 1-99.

*note: I’m just kidding. Well, I wasn’t, but I wanted to know what eSoup was really all about, so I visited the site and it looks really good. Sharon has some impressive things on both eSoup and her own website. So, no hard feelings, Sharon, I just…I went for the funny line, okay? Please forgive me. I mean, eSoup? It’s a punchline in this context. How’s that for a tagline? eSoup: simplify, organize, punchline

PRSA Akron Steppin’ Up

I'm pleased to announce that the Akron Chapter of PRSA joined the blogosphere in March. Even Constantin made note of it. Sponsored by Akhia Public Relations (and hosted by Six Apart's Typepad) the blog is titled, "A side of Blog."

First of all, I'm thrilled to see that NE Ohio has entered the "conversation", as it were. When I read the email my friend sent to me about the blog, I nearly fell off of my chair. I was so excited. I have, for eight to ten months now, been very disappointed not to see more PR firms or professionals in this area engaged in the blogosphere. Not to say that these people aren't doing great PR work, it's just that I felt like our area was lacking an online presence. I must not have been paying close enough attention, as I note that Chris Thompson of Edward Howard has a blog, too. I'm interested in other NE Ohio new media communication efforts. Anyone? I applaud Ben at Akhia for stepping up to the plate to spearhead the Akron PRSA Chapter project and I applaud the professionals that are taking an interest. 

The news and announcements for this on the PRSA Akron Website reads:

Blog! Get Your Blog Here! Hot off the press!
Posted: 3/13/2006
Ok… hot off the keyboard may be more like it. Akron PRSA has started our very own blog! We are proud to announce the addition of one of the latest movements in information sharing to our bank of communication methods. So stop by, check it out. Read as our chapter members discuss everything from movies and sports to PR ethics and government.

I'm a little concerned about the topics listed here. Not to say we don't need a little levity, humor, and water cooler talk in the PR world from time to time (because we do), but – well, the idea of discussing government frightens me a little. Does that mean politics? I was happy to see an email sent out to PR pros that clarifies it a little and asks for contributions. It reads:

Visit http://prsaaa.typepad.com/akron/ and check out the…posting, "A Day in the Life of an Intern." Add it to your favorites and check back often for updates and new postings. It's a great forum for you to submit feedback about your PRSA experiences, offer reviews of local vendors, exchange information with other PRSA Akron members, and more.

Since its inception on March 6, Chapter President Carrie Kandes posted, Ben from Akhia posted three times, the Akhia Intern has posted twice, the Chapter VP sent a thank you to professionals who helped with our PRSSA Student Development program, and I sent in a post. Lots of hits to the site, the email had said, but I think more content and more focus is required. Judging from the blockquote above with a list of topics. I'm wondering if a discussion board or Yahoo! Group wouldn't be more applicable for creating an online community for PRSA Akron members. This goes back to the question of "when is a blog a blog?" Just because it uses blogging tools? I don't think so, and many in the blogosphere would agree. This shows us that new tools can be used to fulfill important functions, but should not be used just because they're cool. PR bloggers have been telling their clients that for months. "Do we want to blog?" is not the right question, the proper one is "why should we be blogging?"

So, my observations:

  • What's the purpose? Answering this question will determine the blog's direction.
  • Who can write? I believe that everyone has the right to contribute in some way.
  • Who can post? Ben is clearly the moderator for this. And he already told me he's not going to censor things, which is great. But this adds another step to the process. Like all PR pros, Ben already has a full plate, why make it more difficult for him?
  • There aren't many links.

In sum, what I'm seeing is that A Side Of Blog is currently like a meeting with no agenda and no scheduled speakers. Conversly, a blog is more of a virtual conference with one or more presenters who take requests and suggestions from the audience to start a discussion. It is not an open forum. That's what Listservs and Usenet groups are for. Not surprisingly, I have a few suggestions:

  • Find the purpose. This will give direction and life to the blog.
  • Post more often and give it one voice. The benefit of a blog is that it's a way to conversationally share information that invites discussion. If everyone can post, there's no discussion, just random thoughts. What would readers gain from it?
  • If you don't want one voice, maybe give a handful of select people rights to post. Sharing the responsibility among a few will push them to write. Friends and colleagues of these few will visit and participate in the conversation. Soon, word will spread and a community will form. Develop a page of contributors that list each person, her job, and her background. Have the authors write about industry trends, interesting asides, lessons learned, and chapter information.
  • Have one person do the posting, Ben is the logical choice. The Forward Blog, for instance, works because Erin Caldwell has assembled a crack team of pros and student authors. But only one person posts to the blog, which ensures proper timing and minimizes overlap of topics. It works, it works really well. There is no shortage of posts and the content is excellent. In the spirit of disclosure, I'm one of the contributors to the Forward Blog.
  • Link, Link, Link!
  • Have fun.

So those are my thoughts. Don't let me fool you, I'm really excited about this and I'm looking forward to joining the Akron PRSA chapter in the future. But I have some concerns about the blog. A great idea that needs a little molding and Ben is already leaning that way. His most recent post brings me hope, except that he doesn't link to the blog where he got his info. A blogosphere faux pas. This initiative is new and I'm hopeful. I'm on board. I'm ready and eager to listen and contribute.

New BlogoSPHERE search

For those of you who haven't heard, a new blog search engine came out rather recently. I read about it first at TechCrunch on Monday. It's called Sphere and it's worth a look. I played around with it for a little bit yesterday and today. I wanted to see what was different about it. Good user interface and it seems really quick. It appears to really focus on the most recently updated blogs, although you can choose either relevance or recency in your blog search.

I found this bit from the "about" page interesting:

Who needs Sphere?

Everybody, of course! In one of three flavors…

1 People interested in timely topics, who aren't quite sure about this whole blogging hoo-ha.

2 Readers who already use blog search engines, and are sick of disappointing results and spam. Those who secretly crave a faster, more intuitive, and feature-rich experience.

3 Publishers who might like to include some really good blog content in their websites, but only if it's really, truly good.

I would posit that anyone who wants to keep up with what consumers, lovers, and haters are saying about your organization, as well. It's hard to put that nicely…that's the PR version of it, I guess. I like how they try to play all the angles here. They mention, first, the uninitiated; the blog-leary, if you will. Then they mention the experienced; those searching for proper content. And lastly they mention the bloggers; those searching for substance in the crazy place we call the blogosphere. I like their approach.

The "About" page goes on to talk about why this search engine is better. Only time will tell, if you ask me, but I'm willing to try contrasting and comparing it to other search engines. I'm also quite thrilled to see that it allows you to subscribe to RSS feeds of your searches. There's a really nice interface that's so easy a…less-technological person could do it. It's a snap, just click on the RSS icon after you search. This will pop up a selection of aggregators, you choose your reader of choice, and you're in. It all worked very well. The real trick with any search engine is results, though, wouldn't you agree? So we'll wait and see. I've subscribed to a similar search feed in several search engines. We'll see what happens.

The "tips" page gives suggestions and tips for getting the most out of your Sphere experience – from the simple to the advanced. Quite interesting. I'd like to spend some more time noodling around with it. One thing I've learned from it, my name brings up some strange results.

To keep abreast of the latest news and goings-on with the folks at Sphere, feel free to read more about them at the Sphere Blog.

Update: This isn't really an update. I forgot to mention when I wrote this that I had already seen one referrer to this blog from a Sphere search result before I penned the post. So, people are using it to find blog info.

Woof! Woof!

Speaking of social media and your daily dose of vitamins. Welcome Dogster and Catster. It’s like Myspace for dogs and cats. The site is equiped with a blog, daily diaries, forums and a lot of other community development tools. They not only have a Dog Lovers Blog titled For the Love of Dog Blog, but also a company blog aptly named Company Blogster. Dogster actually won the 2005 Webby for best community site. The Adopt Me and We Miss You pages are heart-warming and sometimes sad. I tend to get lost in the adoption site wanting to bring home a friend for Bailey, but he would be jealous. Bailey

Talk about the changing sphere of the Internet and social media. Dogster and Catster have taken community and social interaction elements of the Internet and ran with them in a positive way. The site is witty and creatively raises awareness to homeless pets and animal welfare. Also, this is a perfect site for so many dog and cat owners who make up an enormous demographic. What a way to harness the communication power of pet owners worldwide.

Check it out! Give a dog bone!

Social Media: Vitamins of the Web

Like getting enough vitamins or fiber in your daily diet, social media might actually be good for you. Things like blogging and podcasting, you say? Indeed. Let me show you some examples.

This report from The Boston Globe entitled "Blogs 'essential' to a good career" pretty much says it all. But, in typical Luke fashion, please allow me expound upon the self-evident. The articles lists several excellent reasons to blog, one of which is to help you launch your career by demonstrating your work-ethic and mental processes. If you don't believe me, check this out.

And, as you know, corporations can reap the benefits as well. Sure, we've been talking about this for a while, but here's a study that actually gives some empirical data. This study, pointed out to me by David Phillips on FIR (thank you), indicates that blogs have "relational strategies," such as conversational human voice and commitment. These strategies were found to correlate significantly with relational outcomes such as "trust, satisfaction, control mutuality, [and] commitment." Blogging can make your organization seem like Soylent Green, you know, made of people. It has worked wonders for Microsoft…

Podcasting, how does this fit in? Easy, for many of the same reasons as The Boston Globe article about blogging. Plus, listening to podcasts in their entirety could get you a two-minute self promotion spot on a major mash-up edition of influential industry-related podcasts. Chris, I listened to the FIR#131 and ATS #29 mash-up. Your promo was great, good luck.

And some new information about the web in general is always good. For instance, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a study (abstract w/link to pdf) last week showed a gigantic increase in the influence the Internet has on our lives (hat tip). You don't have to tell me! Nearly half of my graduate education came from the Internet – by my own choice, of course. Some stats:

  • 50% in the number who said the internet played a major role as they pursued more training for their careers.
  • 43% in the number who said the internet played a major role when they looked for a new place to live.
  • 14% in the number who said the internet played a major role as they switched jobs.

In sum: Social media is good for you. The Internet continues to grow in popularity and usefulness. Eat your fruits and veggies. Any questions?

Back from Break & Burning to Blog

It’s amazing what a well deserved break can do for a person. And if you don’t think I deserved a break…well, then. So?

But now break is over, gone are the hours when I could sit by the pool. Gone are the long walks on the beach, sipping Margaritas, playing shuffleboard, and picking citrus fruit right from the tree when hunger strikes. Gone are the days of sleeping in. Back to reality, back to school, back to Ohio.

Back to some new and exciting news and good PR happenings.

First of all, I have been invited to join – as a principal contributor – the new Student and Pro PR Community called Forward, where I will be participating regularly on the blog. Forward is the brainchild of Auburn University Senior Erin Caldwall (you should check out the resume she posted on her PR blog – wow). Forward‘s main page reads:

Welcome to Forward — the online springboard for new and upcoming PR professionals.Our goal is to provide insight, answers and information to sharpen your perspective and help you go Forward in your career.

Here you’ll find:

  • commentary and advice from students, faculty and professionals from around the world from varying levels and areas of PR
  • information to help you find PR experience and how to make the most of it
  • the opportunity to learn about trends and tools that they don’t teach you in college
  • helpful interviews with professionals
  • a comprehensive list of suggested reading material including blogs, books and professional publications

I’m looking forward to contributing and learning from such a wealth of PR resources in this community. You can read my first post here. Thanks, Erin.

Next, I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it, but For Immediate Release: The Hobson & Holtz Report podcasters Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson have signed a book deal with McGraw/Hill to write a book on podcasting, which I am very anxious to read. I say this with authority because over break I read three books, two of which Shel Holtz wrote – and I was very pleased with all of them. One could say I loved them, but that would be weird.

Blogging for Business was the first book and PR on the Net was the second book, which is out of print, but every PR person should still find a copy to read. The last book I read was Naked Conversations, which helped solidify blogging in the public eye, in case you didn’t know. Also, while I’m on the subject, the For Immediate Release page has a paper I wrote available for download on Public Relations Autonomy. The author’s liked it, they critiqued it in Show #111, and posted it to their website. Thanks, gentlemen.

And that’s about it. Check out Forward and if you haven’t read the books mentioned above, please do so, as a PR student or professional you’ll find them invaluable.