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Friday, December 08, 2006

The unoriginal argument for originality revisited...

Yesterday, I wrote a post about an article advocating the use of quality content and warning webmasters to avoid "cookie cutter" suppliers and those who who use "cut and paste" content production methods.

I first saw the article attributed to Michael Pedone of eTrafficJams.com (which, by all accounts, is a very good SEO firm). I then found an ever-so-slightly different version of the same piece under Heather Reimer's byline.

The irony quotient was just too high to ignore. One of the two was saying "use original stuff" in a piece that obviously wasn't original.

I stopped well short of making any accusations, understanding that things aren't always what they might appear to be. Some of the comments in response to the post, though, seemed to work under the assumption that "foul play" was likely.

I sent a message to both Heather and Michael, asking them about the situation. Both were kind enough to write back. Heather sent me an email and Michael commented on the entry.

I won't quote Heather's email to me directly. I didn't give her any indication that her correspondence might end up as part of this blog's content, after all. I will say, however, that her response was professional and that it certainly didn't level any accusations toward Pedone.

Michael's lengthier response to the post describes how all of this may have come to pass. Pedone maintains that the material was pulled from an RSS feed and that he was listed as the author, even though the blog at which the article appeared is actually an eTrafficJams collaborative effort.

He also explains that there was some apparent confusion about whether the author (Reimer) had plans and/or rights for additional use of the article. He also had only good things to say about Reimer and her work.

Pedone concludes by stating:

"Sometimes that is the problem with the net...anyone can post anything before getting all the facts and then give good people with good intentions, a black eye."

I would hope that he isn't implying that I punched him in the socket. I wrote:

"She may have sold it with PLR or some kind of non-exclusivity arrangement, so I don't want anyone to think that I am accusing either person of doing anything wrong, unethical or illegal."


"Remember, before anyone gets all judge/jury/executioner here, there may be a perfectly logical explanation for the overlapping versions of the article. I am not saying that someone is ripping something off from someone else. It sure does look strange, however, to see two people using the same article under their own names to encourage the use of original content, doesn't it?"

To imply that I posted "without getting all the facts" is also a little off-base. I posted factual information. Here's the article and the byline. Here's the same article with a different byline. The article(s) support(s) using trustworthy providers who won't send you "cookie cutter stuff."

Now, I pointed out the irony of that situation but I didn't give anyone a black eye. I left plenty of room for all of the possible legitimate explanations that might exist. I let both of them know about the topic, too.

So, if anyone thinks I was doing some nasty drive-by blogging with Michael Pedone or Heather Reimer as targets, I hope they'll rethink that position.

I also think Michael's explanation brings up an interesting topic. In this realm of multiple rights arrangements, RSS feeds, ghostwriters, scrapers, collaborative sites, etc., things can get complicated and it's not always easy to tell who's really doing what and why.

There are clear examples, of course. The other day, I noticed that one of my blog posts had been scraped and was being used on a scraping splog dedicated to the topic of "shemale masturbation."* Say what you want about the Content Done Better Blog's issue selection, but that's a topic we aren't planning to tackle any time soon. The misappropriation was obvious and sort of funny in a twisted way.

Other cases aren't so clear. What about someone yanking RSS feeds and using them with the wrong attribution? What about miscommunication between a writer and a buyer about rights terms? There are a million and one ways to end up in an uncomfortable situation and sometimes it can be hard to ascribe fault (if any really exists).

I wish Michael and Heather the very best in all of their endeavors and am glad to see that the "SEO Hucksters / A Cautionary Tale" situation doesn't seem to be a huge problem for them to work out.

By the way, I still agree with one of Pedone's/Reimer's "morals to the story."

"Run like the wind if you encounter an SEO company that doesn't understand the significance of content or offers shoddy, cookie cutter style copywriting."

Thanks to Heather and Michael for taking time to provide some insight about this ironic situation. Hopefully, it will serve as a reminder to all of us to keep a close eye on what's happening out there under our names and with our content.

*I probably guaranteed additional scraping by the same site by using that term, huh?