I never thought I’d have to write this post, and it saddens me that I now have to. I’ve been writing Styling Android for over 10 years, and I’ve posted every week in that time. I suspended posting for 6 weeks due to contractual reasons, and that’s the only break. I wrote about this in some detail. However, I feel that I may struggle to continue my tough weekly posting schedule unless some things change.
Recently, I have invested more and more time and effort in combatting piracy. As I write this I currently have three separate battles in various stages of completion. Each of these has required significant time on my part. I’ll explain why it is important for me to tackle this later on. I’ve had individual cases previously, but this is the first time that I’ve had a run of cases in very quick succession.
Before we continue, I want to make it clear that I will not be naming names, or identifying those that are responsible for the theft of my content. While it is tempting to name and shame those responsible, doing so can only drive people to view the stolen content, and that’s what I wish to avoid.
Why does it matter?
It is hugely stressful. Having to deal with this kind of issue when one is creating content in their spare time is a shortcut to burnout.
A technical blog such as mine is only of any value if there is traffic to it. This is because of a number of factors.
Firstly, I have advertisements on my site. This really doesn’t earn me that much – it only covers a small fraction of my monthly hosting costs. I do not see any profit from this revenue, and it costs me money to host and run my blog. If traffic drops, then so does the advertising revenue, so it actually costs me more.
Secondly, much of the traffic to my blog posts comes from search engines. If the same content is available on multiple sites, then the traffic reaching my blog gets diluted. Over time this can affect how my posts rank in search results for the subject matter in question. It can also affect how non-related posts feature in search results if my site drops lower in the rankings.
While this may not seem to be important to those who want to read my articles, it does ultimately have an effect. I use analytics on my site to understand which articles resonate, and which fall flat. That helps me to keep producing articles that people find useful. I do not have access to analytics from sites that steal my content. So if I lose too much I become unable to identify the content that’s the most useful to people.
If you see my content and it isn’t on https://blog.stylingandroid.com, unless stated otherwise, it is stolen. Please let me know if you do. In fact, let any author know if you see their content being stolen.
Types of pirates
There are two main kinds of content theft that I’m dealing with.
The first type scrapes entire articles from my blog and posts them as is. This is not the same as sites/services which link to my content, such as Android Weekly, or Kotlin Weekly. Those sites are hugely beneficial because they drive users to my content. However, any site which takes my content and hosts it in its entirety elsewhere is damaging to me for the reasons already given. These piracy sites don’t just steal content from me, they steal from many, many different sources.
The second type is where another author copies and pastes large chunks of my posts (and often takes images, as well). They then add their own content around that. These articles are generally difficult to read because they mix my narrative style with the other author’s style. Having the narrative style jumping around just makes the narrative flow uneven. In many cases, this adds little to nothing to my content but will compete with my post in search engines. If another author feels they can add value to what I have produced, then by all means link to my post. I have absolutely no issue with that. But to copy large sections of my post and then add to it, is just wrong.
Fighting the thieves
I have a number of techniques that I use to fight these thieves. I’m not going to give details here because if the thieves read this then they can try to find ways around them. That’s much harder if they don’t know my tricks. Suffice it to say, I have a successful history of getting my stolen content taken down.
However, if anyone is having their own issues with pirates stealing their content please feel free to get in touch. I’ll help if I can.
Writing blog posts is not trivial. It requires me to create working sample code before I then write things up. I generally have a funnel of in-progress material, some of which will never see the light of day. But I generally have things at various levels of completion. I have documented my writing process previously.
Over recent weeks, much of my time for working on blog material has been consumed by putting together takedowns. As I write, my funnel of in-progress work is pretty much empty. I have some ideas, but these are far from finished blog posts. I was close to skipping a post this week but opted to write this one to explain the situation. It is also much simpler to write a post like this one that doesn’t have any support code.
As things stand, I have successfully got the final batch of stolen content removed. But I have very little in-process work that is ready to become posts. I’m hoping that I can get things back on track soon, but the very much depends on whether the recent spate of content theft is a freak event. If so, then it may take some time for me to get my content funnel into a more healthy state. So apologies in advance if my output is a little sporadic, for a while. Or I may need to publish a few less-technical posts (which are quicker to produce) while I getting things back to normal
Many thanks to Sebastiano Poggi for proof-reading.
© 2021, Mark Allison. All rights reserved.
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