The Ethics of WordPress Automatic Content Aggregration (Autoblogs vs Splogs)
Anyone who knows me knows that I like to automate everything. I’m sure it’s a common trait with programmers – in fact it’s the reason I started programming online. My first online application was a very simple cms – that allowed me to easily edit the content on my website. I wanted to save time doing repetitive things so that I have more time for the important things.
So recently I have become really interested in automating content creation on my WordPress sites.
It all began a few months ago because I wanted to turn bengillbanks.co.uk into an automatically updating directory of all the stuff I create online. It’s not finished yet but I think I am making some good progress.
The system I had used to pull in the content was written as a plugin – and I soon realised I could add the plugin to wpvote.com – allowing me to update the site more regularly from sites that create good content.
Often autoblogs are seen as bad. They are often called splogs (Spam Blogs) because they copy content wholesale from other sites – remove attribution (steal the credit) and then hope to get extra traffic through Google. This is bad because unethical users can create many sites in a short amount of time essentially by stealing content.
However I like to think I do things ethically. I am sure I’m not perfect but I try my hardest to be an upstanding internet citizen.
For example, on bengillbanks.co.uk, I am loading only my content, and most of the time I am loading excerpts and then pointing to the original content. This creates a link to my content and allows anyone interested to see what I am doing – it doesn’t steal content (not even my content), and it attributes the original source.
WPVote.com on the other hand acts as a demo for my commercial WordPress theme – Nominate. The reason I think what I am doing is ethical on WordPress Vote is because I am only pulling interesting content from sites that are entirely focused on WordPress (ie – the content is related to a single niche). In addition I only post an excerpt – and then I link back to the source. All of which means the original website should benefit from a strong link on a Page Rank 6 website. From a personal point of view the site has been more active and so more people are posting content that isn’t automatically generated which in turn is creating more interest in the site and creating more traffic. So I think this is good for everyone involved.
An Ethical Conundrum
So my problem is that I have this awesome plugin that I would like to release. I know it will be used by genuine people who just want to simplify their lives – but I am also concerned about the less ethical users of these types of products. I don’t like the idea of releasing something that could be used in a bad way – and so I don’t know what to do.
I know people are interested in the plugin – I’ve had at least half a dozen emails from users asking for it since I published the post about the Aggregator theme late last year. If it wasn’t for this nagging doubt in the back of my head then I would have released the plugin already.
Help me Obi Wan Kenobi – you’re my only hope!
At the moment I am not sure what to do – but I am going to continue pressing ahead with the plugin development. I will be using it on another of my websites to create more (hopefully worthwhile) content – and I’d love to get some feedback from the wider WordPress community to see what you think?
Temptation illustration from Shutterstock