Wheat vs. Chaff

John Havens has an excellent piece in Mashable titled “It’s Your Data — But Others Are Making Billions Off It.” In a Web overflowing with chaff, it’s a fine grain of wheat.

But it’s also camouflaged by chaff posing as wheat. I can tell, because I was interviewed for the piece, which  links back to this blog. Trackbacks appear in my comment queue, and I should see just one, if any: from the Mashable piece. But instead I see four, all from splogs—spam blogs—that took the Mashable piece and republished it as their own. I won’t link to them, but you can find them if you do a search on Google looking for the original. When I first tried that, the results yielded lots of false positives from splogs. Now the search correctly yields just this:

1 result (0.24 seconds)
Search Results

It’s Your Data — But Others Are Making Billions Off It – Mashable


Oct 24, 2013 – “The entire advertising industry has been hugely corrupted by personalization and surveillance,” says Doc Searls, author of The Intention 

In order to show you the most relevant results, we have omitted some entries very similar to the 1 already displayed.
If you like, you can repeat the search with the omitted results included.

Do that and you’ll see those four splogs, plus many more.

To mix metaphors, splogs are worse than chaff. They are parasites. I also believe they are inevitable in the ad-driven monoculture that the commercial Web has become. Also somehow consistent with John’s original post.


  1. John C. Havens’s avatar

    Thanks for the kind words, Doc. Also not a fan of splogs but did really enjoy our chat and continue to recommend d The Intention Economy.


  2. David Kay (@dbkayanda)’s avatar

    I agree. Even my little blog gets recreated elsewhere from time to time, both using automated means and by people doing it manually (!)

    For me, there’s no commercial impact, but it certainly feels like a violation. It is an excellent example of the need for a bottoms-up architecture of control.

    This seems like a hard problem — harder, in many ways, than the problems that project VRM is taking on about control over non-public information. How can I control the presentation of my work, without taking some kind of heavy-handed DRM approach, and while still sharing it?

    Is this problem in scope for your work? Am I thinking about it right? I can’t see it getting any less urgent in the coming years.

  3. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Thanks, John. Again, great piece.

    David, as I see it (at this moment in time, at least), the problem is with two things. One is the calf-cow nature of client-server architecture, which has been defaulted on the Web since the start. The other is commercial monocultures such as Google’s advertising system, which splogs (among many other things) are designed to game.

    Both those systems, and approaches, good as they are, need a refresh.

    VRM is new. So are many other efforts working bottom-up. But its important to remember that any good system can still be gamed. Take email for example. More than 99% of it is crap. But it also liberates us from corporate control.

Comments are now closed.