Saturday, April 4, 2009

Glass House Genealogy Blogging

After reading 5 Bad Genealogy Sources, and reading the author's defense of himself here, and reading Chris Dunham's take here, I wondered why Chris hadn't listed the Genealogy and Family History blog in his Blog Finder? Surely a blog that incites such debate should have a place in his directory.

After a little investigating, I discovered a possible answer: Maybe he had blacklisted the blog because of suspected duplicate content. Take this post, "Genealogy Software: Tips on Finding the Right One," posted November 30, 2008. The advice is pretty generic, which may have made him suspect that it came from an article mill. Googling the first sentence brings up 170 results. Here it is posted on a different blog a year earlier.

This must be a fluke, right? Well, how about this post, " The Best Website to Learn About Your Genealogy," published October 30, 2008. 307 Google results. This post appears to have come from here, and this post from here. But given the lack of proper attribution, it's impossible to tell who wrote what when.

The proprietor of Genealogy and Family History seems to have cleaned up his act a bit in the past month or so. But maybe not. He wrote this just four days ago:

I recalled that I had written an article last year about Genealogists using Twitter as a means of connecting with others who were researching their Family History. So as it’s obviously a topic of interest to folks I searched the blog and here’s a link to the article which originally appeared back in October 2008:

Genealogists and Twitter
The linked article is remarkably similar to a tutorial at, submitted by a user named Moomettesgram a month earlier.

Taking articles from article mills is one thing. It gives bloggers who have difficulty coming up with their own ideas a chance to give their blog a little verisimilitude, without really violating some ethical codes, as the articles are there to be taken. You're lying to your readers when you claim you wrote them, but the creators of the property don't care.

But if you read the Terms of Use at eHow, authors of eHow articles retain all copyrights. So taking an eHow article, and changing a few words here and there, isn't just creative sloppiness. Maybe it's an example of cryptomnesia?

As the author referenced comments on this thread, both he and the author of the eHow article may have retrieved the article from the same source - an article mill offering 'private label rights'. So he would only be guilty of 'creative sloppiness', which as I never argued otherwise, is legal. His new post explaining how he doesn't write all his articles is here. "Private Label Rights" do grant you the right to use 'ghostwritten' material, but it is still more honest to your readership to make it clear that you do, which at least he now does.

The Small Print: Proper attribution: Genealogists in Glass Houses.


Greta Koehl said...

Aw, gee, I just love it when you do investigative reporting! But seriously, good job. (Now if I can just get the image of The Church Lady saying "Glass houses!" out of my mind...)

John said...

You may be joking, but in case you aren't, please follow the link included in the small print at the bottom of my post.

I'll take full credit for the humor of illustrating what was done, and for the content in the last two paragraphs of my post, but the investigative journalism credit goes to Chris.

Unknown said...

You might like to familiarise yourself with the concept of Private Label Rights articles.

Your comments about the eHow article are fascinating. That article is a Private Label Right article which was sold some months ago by the author. The person who posted it at eHow is actually in breach of the eHow rules which clearly require the use of original materials. Therefore your comment is not only wrong but the implication that I used an article from there is wholly incorrect as you would have discovered if you had carried out your research.

Chris said...

I have to agree with everything you've written here, John.

Abba-Dad said...

You guys crack me up:

Greta Koehl said...

Gulp - yes, John, I was joking, but sincere in applauding you (and Chris) for pointing this out; and the "Glass Houses" image was not meant to be at your expense. (And my old eyes don't always see that fine print...)