RSS Spam? ZDNet is very confused.

Filed under: — 6:11 pm

All of the media outlets are trying to work “blogging” into their strategies to remain relevant. The trouble is, they don’t have the usual editing and quality control, and things like this post at ZDnet are the result. Here’s a choice quote:

Lately I’ve seen my RSS feeds becoming heavily polluted by RSS spam – entries that are just ads, or sets of links that all lead to purchases (on which the spammer gets a cut). Maybe it’s because I’ve been covering cellular technology a lot. (I’d love to hear your experience.)

This paragraph is wrong on so many levels:

  • What is RSS spam? RSS isn’t anything like email. If you subscribe to a feed, what you get is entirely controlled by the authors of the site. So calling ads in RSS feeds “RSS spam” is like calling ads on Web pages “HTML spam” or ads in magazines “paper spam”.
  • He refers to “the spammer”. Who’s that? The site he’s reading a feed from or some mysterious third party who’s sneaking ads into the RSS feeds?
  • Does he think the fact that he’s “been covering cellular technology a lot” is actually causing him to receive personally-targeted ads in RSS feeds, or is it just bad phrasing?

He continues from there by going off on a bizarre tangent about the RSS specification, open source, and “the commons”. Apparently he thinks that the RSS standard includes “ethics” that aren’t being enforced. Or something.

Question is, who polices what no one owns? How can we maintain the cleanliness of the commons against those who don’t share its ethics? It’s a question that has haunted the Internet for 10 years now. It’s a question that, frankly, haunts every open source technology.

This paragraph sounds like a valid criticism of Wikipedia, but what does it have to do with RSS, or ads in RSS, or open source? And speaking of ethics, apparently lots of people have been leaving comments on this post but only the positive ones are getting through. It doesn’t take a “commons” to lose track of ethics. (via Matt)

7 responses to “RSS Spam? ZDNet is very confused.”

  1. I wrote that and I stand by it. It was not “controlled,” in the sense of “big media blogs” being controlled, by editors. It was thrown out there by a blogger, me.

    How do you police the commons and keep it from being destroyed by the unethical?

    That’s my question. It’s a fair question.

    And I haven’t heard an answer yet. Just insults directed at me for asking the question. As though RSS spam doesn’t exist. As though people only subscribe to “feeds” defined by sites, which is nonsense. People look for subjects, too — give me everything on that subject. And the result is that instead of getting a “news stream” with articles and comments, you get a lot of spam.

    Come visit my inbox sometime…

    All the best. Thanks for reading it.

  2. What? All feeds are defined by sites. If you’re getting a feed by subject, then it’s coming from a site like Moreover or Feedster, and they’re in control of it.

    If you’re talking about RSS spam in the same sense as Google spam–trying to get spammy content to return in Feedster searches–that makes sense. I was just very confused by your post.

    Is that what you were talking about?

    Your question makes sense, people have been asking it about Google and Wikipedia for years and years and I don’t think there’s a clear answer. It’s just that the part of your post that discussed RSS spam and Creative Commons seemed unrelated to the question and confused me.

  3. Anonymous says: Let’s put this discussion into the real world.

    RSS is not anarchy. Open source is not anarchy. The commons is not anarchy.

  4. Duh says:

    Of course it is spam.

  5. Whiterabbit says:

    I too, am very disappointed in seeing an increase in RSS spam. YES, it is spam. Anything non-news is spam for RSS. The whole intent of RSS was to avoid “ADVERTISING”. It just doesn’t belong in this venue. RSS is a failure if the content providers have no honor or ethics. They are “selling out” for greed. Plain and simple.

(c) 2001-2007 Michael Moncur. All rights reserved, but feel free to quote me.
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