Muschamp Rd

Difficulties with Blogging

November 28th, 2010
Michael Crook

When you’ve had a homepage online since 1995, you have to deal with a lot of problems and unsavoury individuals. This post deals with some of the biggest problems you’ll encounter while blogging and the solutions I employed to mitigate the following common problems:

Intellectual Property Theft

Abhishek Chaudhry is a thief

Many people over the years have decided it was a good idea to steal my content and claim it as their own original work. This blog post was considerably lengthened as I used it to call out some of these thieves and the websites that host stolen intellectual property. You can definitely report the theft of your intellectual property especially to websites located in the United States, whether there will be any consequences to these companies and individuals, I doubt it. 

None-the-less I persisted in maintaining my website and trying to use it and social media to call out less than OK behaviour online. A partial list of people who have stolen from me includes:

Mogen Risaalder also stole files from me

Scribd eventually removed my files from their website where they were posted by Abhishek Chaudhry, but I have had enough I assure you of being mistreated and taken advantage of. Stealing files I’ve given away for free perhaps is not a crime, uploading them to another service and claiming them as your own including asserting copyright, that however is most likely against the law. Worse for Mr. Chaudhry it is probably a violation of the Standards of Professional Conduct. Now Mr. Chaudhry if he is a CFA Member or Candidate in the program is obligated to follow these standards of professional conduct.

The portion of the Standards of Professional Conduct these people perhaps violated is Standard I(C) Misrepresentation. Mr. Chaudhry and others claimed copyright for my work, uploaded it to a website, presumably ticking a box claiming it as their creation and intellectual property. They put their name on another person’s work. I got it taken down, but I took a screenshot because I’ve been online a long time and I’m tired of being taken advantage of.

Tanim Xubayer also stole my files and uploaded them to Scribd

So just how many Abhishek Chaudhary’s could there be in the CFA program? With a name like Abhishek Chaudhary you would think not very many, but amazingly there appears to be more than one, so which of them stole my files and uploaded them to Scribd?

https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhishek-chaudhary-929999114/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhishek-chaudhary-cfa-80a6385/

https://www.linkedin.com/in/abhishek-chaudhary-98190b51/

Scribd previously wrote me claiming:

Information about the documents was added to Scribd’s BookID copyright protection system.

Yet I keep finding the exact same files on their website.

Kazi Hasan also stole my file.
Mohd Izwan also stole my files and uploaded them to Scribd

Bandwidth Theft

Whenever my webhost says we’ve gone over our bandwidth limit, it is because someone is stealing it by leaching files, or slamming the server with spam or other attacks. I have a pretty generous bandwidth limit. The worst thing is losing reliable email, especially since I’m often trying to find a job. I have a resume you can look at it, if you want to know who created the files that so many people wanted to claim they created.

So what do people hotlink to on my website, well if you said pictures I found online, you’d be correct. So of course I could just rip them down and I did take many of them down over the years, but the damage was done, this wasted a bunch of people’s time and cost me money. So I went through my log files line by line and renamed certain files and generally tried to make these people look stupid, I also decided to link to their forum profiles but after all these years those links are busted so I removed them.

Content Scraping

These are people who use software to steal text and images from your website to build another website because they are too lazy to create their own text and images. They are too lazy even to carefully search the Internet for images they may be allowed to use for free. This used to be a bigger problem but search engines have implemented solutions to penalize massive automated content theft. You can read about it on the Wikipedia. Someone even registered Muskblog.com at one point and claimed it was an online marketing blog.

I remember writing about one particularly successful Romanian scrapper I read about but the best hackers may be Ukrainian. It was however, the Dutch who apparently outsmarted Cozy Bear.

Other Copyright Issues

It should go without saying that you shouldn’t claim other people’s work as your own. You shouldn’t break copyright law, but what about sharing images? What about using other people’s images in the creation of your blog? Most bloggers do this, there are websites that provide images for this purpose but usually it is quicker and tempting to just share an image you found previously online. Maybe the file was already on your hard drive and you forgot which forum you got it from, so you can not provide proper attribution.

Besides taking the image itself you can also take a screenshot, which is still maybe against copyright law. Considering major media websites do this all the time, I think you are OK with a screen shot as long as you attribute it, which of course most people do not. I believe I linked to the sites I screenshoted above and I believe I’m the copyright holder of the original work being screenshoted. So a screenshot of a file I hold the copyright of, hosted on a website without my permission, is still under my copyright, right?  Sharing images by hotlinking is considered a disreputable practice, now there are many free image hosting websites, but you’re still supposed to have the copyright for the images you upload to these websites.

I’m no lawyer but I have to advise caution when sharing images you find online. Nowadays most websites have social sharing buttons. Even those that don’t, can have their content “shared” because social sharing is built into most browsers and modern operating systems. If you “share” images you “found” online. You may have to eventually deal with angry content rights holders or lawyers.

Lawyers may even contact your for other reasons such as the inappropriate use of a Trademark. I had to spend considerable time updating this blog at the request of the CFA Institute adding in lots of little “®” symbols.

Spammers

Posts that have recently attracted spam comments

Apparently being a spammer has caught up with at least one insurance company. “Real Insurance Australia” their ‘real’ business name has hired real lawyers to send cease and desist letters to bloggers that they’ed formerly hired as part of a SEO effort to set up a link farm or engage in content spam. Apparently if you leave enough comment spam, Google will now penalize the domain to which the spam points. As someone who has had to deal with spammers, bandwidth thieves, and other unsavory individuals online for years, I have zero sympathy for domains that have been flagged by Google’s latest algorithm update. In fact if I got a letter like this I’d be tempted to take it public as John Marshall did, I’d be tempted to link to them too.

My experience with spammers, scammers, and other Internet assholes is worse than most, but not as bad as Brian Kreps. I’ve had to learn far too much about server logs, htaccess, doxing, and the seedy underbelly of the Internet.

If you blog and if you include a way for people to email you, or even if you just have used the same email address for over a decade in your resume you will get spam. You may also get comment spam and trackback spam. You can hopefully find a plugin to stop trackback spam and comment spam, but some people now disable both these common blog features. I think I have disabled comments on some blog posts because they became spam magnets.

Overzealous Online Marketers

I lost many many hours of late due to this website. I’m also seeing an increase in unsolicited emails requesting a link or a change to my older posts and webpages. I used to have a reputation as a “nice guy” though I’m not sure it survived my MBA or the years after my MBA, but my patience for dubious online behaviour is at an end. If your business plan or marketing plan involves contacting hundreds if not thousands of random bloggers trying to get them to change their old posts out of the goodness of their hearts, you underestimate both the goodness of their hearts and the amount of free time the average person has.

I’m not the average person, I’ve spent too much of my time on helping too many ungrateful people. I’m tired. I should be studying for the Level 3 CFA exam not updating old webpages. I even updated my “About” page to inform would be link requesters I would now be marking their requests as spam. I used to spend a lot of time and effort reporting spammers, now I can barely keep this website online. This website generates no revenue and arguably has hurt rather than helped my reputation, despite efforts to provide useful, helpful information. People just steal it and take credit for your work or they complain that you won’t drop everything and help them on the phone for free, or modify your code so it will do exactly what they want, even though you gave the code away as open source.

If you achieve any level of success in social media, even a few hundred followers what they call a “micro influencer”, marketers will contact you. They will want you to add links, make tweets, follow them back, etc. Often these people are not very pleasant to deal with and if you call them out for their bad behaviour such as repeatedly spamming your email, your blog, or a hashtag on Twitter, they will often not react well, especially when they learn you can’t be intimidated by idle threats and have actually read the terms of service for social media networks.

Always take screenshots and try to save the original emails.

Being Blocked

As someone who has blogged in China behind the Great Firewall, being blocked or otherwise censored is a real risk, but so far it has not happened. VPNs are still working but for how long? I was once blocked by Norton a fact I learned from a helpful reader. Getting unblocked isn’t always possible. I’m still not sure why Norton decided then quickly undecided my website was “dangerous”.

If you blog long enough there is a very real possibility you will upset someone. The more political your blog becomes and the stronger you voice your opinion the more likely this is to happen. I’m not sure blogging is worth it, especially after doing it as long as I have, but I will persist until I finally have a new job or give up looking for one. Blogging in cafes in Shanghai isn’t as hard as blogging in the DTES.

Script Kiddies

Malicious Login Attempts

A script kiddie is someone who wants to be a hacker but lacks the skill to be an actual hacker so what they do is download and even buy “scripts” off real hackers and then direct those scripts against websites, servers, and individuals, either for jollies or cash or petty acts of vengeance and vandalism. I haven’t had too much difficulty with script kiddies but they can and do take blogs down. If your website is being slammed with traffic, packets, and spurious requests your web host will probably take your website down which is what happened when bandwidth thieves stole all my bandwidth by hotlinking to images in their .sig file on the forums.

One thing script kiddies and spammers both try to do is take over your blog so they can use it for another purpose. My websites has had many attempts made on it, especially since I moved back to China. I had to install plugins to further protect my WordPress blog.

Trolls

I have always had a pretty strict though unofficial policy on what I’ll let pass as a comment on my blog, I used Disqus for many years but then it got blocked in China. Trolls don’t have to be on your website to a be a problem. Trolls can badmouth you and belittle you all over the Internet confident that they are safely hidden behind their handle. They are not as smart as hackers, they are less likely to cost your money than script kiddies, hotlinkers, and spammers, but they can really hurt your online reputation not to mention your feelings. Once I blogged about a movie I was looking forward to seeing and this resulted in traffic and abuse online from a group that I assure you fancies themselves as elite gamers and incredibly cool dudes, but in fact are bunch of pathetic losers on some forum you’ve never heard of. I took valuable time out of my life to write about them and how you can handle bad actors in the online gaming community.

Online Harassment

Trolls can definitely cross the bounds between annoying into actual criminal behaviour. Their actions online, again protected by what they think is anonymity bestowed on them by their elite hacking skills can have dire consequences in the real world. If you are being harassed online you should politely ask them to stop, block them on social media, and tell the authorities. There are lots of resources to combat this problem now. You are not alone.

Plugins

Given the seriousness of the some of the problems above, you might not think plugins are much of a problem for bloggers, but I have lost a lot of time trying to get plugins to “just work”. They don’t always just work. They conflict with other plugins. They get abandoned. They put extra tracking scripts and pixels into your blog. They load way more scripts and resources than they should to show a single widget in your sidebar. Recently I removed Mint and a stray checkbox in HeadSpace2, a plugin that hasn’t been updated in six years that was adding a single metatag to my blog and one other line of code which cost me hours of my life. That is just the latest issue, I’ve had lots of plugin woes over the years. I now think you should run the leanest meanest WordPress installation you can and stick to well maintained and well documented plugins. Do not rush out and install the latest greatest thing. Content is King, not plugins.

Final Thoughts

Comments were disabled on this post and trackbacks were turned off due to spammers. This blog has been online for too long and while writing it I’ve had to deal with too many problems and difficulties. If you’ve gotten all the way to end and wondered who is pictured at the very top of this post, that is Michael Crook. He managed to achieve a level of infamy in the early days of the blogosphere with the help of a screen capture from his appearance on Fox News and his less than civil behaviour online. He achieved more infamy than Fussbett Sanitario, Abhishek Chaudhary, Moeen Risaldar, Kazi Hasan, Tanim Xubayer, or Mohd Izwan ever will. They are just footnotes in a long blog post on how not act online.

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