RSS is creating a world [where people leave all their possessions outside their door and expect strangers to use these things] in the blogosphere, and there are signs it isn't all going well. Steve Rubel's complaint that splogs are stealing his content, and the associated comments, are a graphic example of the fuzzy boundaries that now exist in the area of RSS republishing. What is the proper definition of a splogger? Is Mark Cuban right in claiming that "Aggregation is not value add." What about Tech.Memeorandum or Technorati? Where is the boundary between a search engine for RSS items and an aggegator?
Here's the thing. There is a clear difference between a sidebar headlines feed, a "best of the web this week" reproduction of a couple of posts (with proper attribution), and the wholesale reproduction of every entry in a blog combined with an attempt to claim authorship (or at least the absence of clear attribution, which is an invitation to the reader to assume authorship.)
Interestingly, one of the content thieves (who blames the whole thing on his inability to access the site due to blog blocking educational software) has left an explanatory comment on Steve's original post. He has disabled the site, and claims that this will rob his readers of exposure to valuable Micropersuasion content. Alright, I'll bite... Even if this is true, he should've explained the situation & requested permission to syndicate the content behind the firewall. The attributions there were not particularly obvious, and there was no declaration of the reason for republishing the whole feed...
On to aggregation versus splogging: Mark Cuban's distinction between human hand as valid source and automation as bad may be appropriate for including material in Icerocket. I don't think it is very helpful beyond that particular circumstance. Aggregation certainly does add value when it saves a reader time and allows them to pre-select the material that they'd like to read. Reproduction, in contrast does not. The value is added by a Kinja Digest, a feedreader, techcrunch or memeorandum in terms of time saved, and in terms of the presentation / organisation of the material.
To move on from that to the adsense and problogging issue... What really bothers me about the whole thing is a comment on the original post at Micropersuasion, from Nick Denton of Performancing. Nick passes up an opportunity to take advantage of his position as a spokesperson for problogging, and instead of launching a conversation about defining ethics, Nick suggests that Steve ignore the problem. Dropped ball, there. By encouraging profit at the cost of ethics, he's diminishing the quality of the blogosphere and driving down the value of everyone's material.
The first rule of "performancing" ought to be that you profit only from your own output.
Filed in: rss, splogs, feeds, spam