virtuality

This One Is Full of Keywords: SEO, RSS Aggregators, Dissertation Writing Services


Happy Noodle Boy, by Jhonen Vasquez and Slave Labor Graphics

Happy Noodle Boy is not pleased with you. (by Jhonen Vasquez of Slave Labor Graphics)

SEO spam is a cancer on the internet, and those who engage in it shouldn’t be trusted. People who use RSS aggregators to scrape topical content and repost it verbatim for their SEO spamming purposes are just the worst sort of people. And don’t get me started on dissertation writing services. If you’re reading this on a website other than LMGMBlog, report the site to Google as SEO spam, close the window, and notify me at my Gmail address (theluisgarcia).

See what I did there? According to Internet Wisdom, websites such as the one that copied an entire blog article of mine yesterday use underhanded SEO (Search Engine Optimization) methods to game the search-engine system and give them high page rankings. If they manage to appear on the first page of Google results for a topic like “dissertation writing services,” for example, they’ll get tons of traffic to their page, which will drive up the numbers of “eyeballs” and “clickthroughs” on their ads, while perhaps also allowing them to sell some snake oil to the more gullible visitors.

To build content and generate incoming links to the site, the administrators of these sites often use programs that aggregate RSS feeds (from blogs, newspapers, etc) and scan them for particular keywords and/or other characteristics. When the desired conditions are met, this program “scrapes” the entire post from the RSS feed and reproduces on their own site. They’ll often include a link (hidden at the bottom of the page) which points to the original article. This will usually create a “pingback” or “trackback” on the original blog, which creates a link from the original source to the copied article on the new spam site. Now, they’ve got many pages, a lot of content, and a growing set of both outgoing and incoming links. All of these are things that Google’s search engine measures when it creates its page rankings, and thus this mostly useless and ad-smeared website crawls up to the top of Google’s search results.

So, all of my first paragraph is going to appear in the RSS summary of this article, with several keywords that will hopefully trigger RSS aggregators for “SEO”, “RSS Aggregators,” and “Dissertation Writing Services.” My hope is that, since many of them seem to have automated content-scraping, this’ll result in a post that undermines some of their own purposes.

In any case, I’ve adjusted my RSS feed to only post summaries instead of full articles, and I’ll be back to writing about my dissertation soon!

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That Blog Be Yankin’: Plagiarism-y Developments Halt Dissertation Series


UPDATE: See comments for details. Short version: the offending page is down, it seems.

Hey folks, just to let you know that this “dissertation writing service” (Google Cache of the page)website has reposted the entirety of my last post in the series that I have been writing on my dissertation. This looks to be a form of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) spam, and it’s a problem for a number of reasons: 1) I was never contacted to ask permission (and I certainly wouldn’t have given any to this site); 2) it quotes the entirety of the original work, which is in violation of “fair use” (US IP law) and most other legal guidelines for acceptable use of intellectual property without permission; and 3) since it’s a “dissertation writing service“ website, the framing of this post (me writing about the preparation of my dissertation) in this context gives the impression that either I paid for their services to prepare my dissertation or I’m trying to sell my dissertation to them—either interpretation could harm my future career as an academic and could thus be a form of libel.

In any case, this means I’m going to be putting a halt to the dissertation-in-blog-post series, until I can figure out what to do about this. In the meanwhile, I’ll add occasional updates in the comments below; sometime later, I might write a whole blog post on this experience. If you have any expertise or advice to share about this sort of situation, you’re welcome to contact me through the comments below or by e-mail. Sorry for the interruption, folks!

Uncertainty Feels Better


This is the story of why I’m glad that I got a late rejection letter.

[Hi! I’m back. This is my new blog, where I move away from the old post-every-day model, and instead focus on a few specific things. See the “about” page for more details.]

So a lot has happened since the last time I posted something on my old blog, and a lot of can’t really be recounted in a public forum like this one. What I can say is that:

  • I’ve written two more chapters. Four in total so far. Yay!
  • My sense of being supported and respected by my program has been profoundly damaged, and the events that led to that damage also led me into a financially precarious situation for next year (when my funding runs out).
  • The month of March has been particularly cruel in this regard, since this is when results for fellowships and job searches usually arrive. I’ve become something of a connoisseur of rejection letters.

Now to the story.

This past weekend, I put myself in a 5-day lockdown to finish my fourth chapter in time for a March 30th due date. At the beginning of this period, my stress levels had become such that I was only sleeping a couple of hours a night and I had erratic episodes of elevated heartbeat (which I think is what a low-level panic attack is supposed to feel like, but I digress). In sum, I was under a lot of stress and was feeling defeated both by events in the recent past as well as challenges looming on the horizon ahead of me.

Then, I heard from a couple of classmates that they received their rejection letters for the ACLS/Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship the week before. Where’s my rejection letter? Why is the response taking so long? Is it maybe that I’m going to get a fat envelope instead of a thin one this time? Excited by the possibility of securing $25,000USD to support my dissertation work next year, I scoured the internet for information on when the award letters were sent out. I looked at several wiki pages dedicated to humanities fellowships and discovered that the response letters had been sent out almost two weeks earlier. Clearly, my (hopefully good) news would be arriving in the mail any day now.

This morning, when I went to campus to take care of some paperwork, I discovered that my letter hadn’t been delayed; it had just been sent to my academic mailbox. As you might’ve guessed from the first line of this blog post, it wasn’t an acceptance letter.

But here’s the funny thing. As depressing as the news was, I was really glad to learn of this news today and not five days ago. (more…)