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OK, this one really pisses me off

Here's yet another way to help others create spam blogs and make search results suck. Instant Article Ghost Writer auto-generates so-called "articles" for you, on any topic, by searching the web for the keywords you put in and returning single sentences (allowed by fair-use) from different articles.

If that's not sleazy enough, they apparently don't mind taking all those single sentences from the SAME DAMN BLOG. So it could return, for example, a result of, say, 60 single-sentences, 80% of which came from different posts by the same author, on the same blog.

I tried it.

I signed up for the trial, typed "passionate users" into the little box, and off it went to create me "an article", by walking the web plucking one sentence at a time. Guess where 80% of those single sentences came from? Either this blog, or someone quoting this blog. Here's just a small sample of what was returned:


Given that it would be virtually impossible to automatically construct anything useful or meaningful from these sentences, I reckon it's good for one thing only -- blogs designed to fool the search engines.

I'm not pissed off about copyright or anything like that -- it's what they are doing with these sentences that bothers the hell out of me. And it takes an awful lot to bother me.

Someone else in an email list mentioned that students would love this as an instant homework generator. Fortunately, this thing is way too stupid for that!

Posted by Kathy on February 16, 2006 | Permalink


Way too stupid *now* but what next? The irony is that this application probably considers itself an innovation.

Posted by: Niti Bhanq | Feb 16, 2006 9:20:05 PM

>>I reckon it's good for one thing only -- blogs designed to fool the search engines.

You're spot on - check out the email domain on the support page: websitetrafficbrokers.com

Perhaps you could vent here:


Posted by: Antony | Feb 16, 2006 10:01:56 PM

A single-sentence excerpt doesn't automatically make something fair use. The size of the extract is a factor in deciding whether something is fair use or not -- for example you can get away with a few sentences in a book review, but a chapter would be considered excessive -- but if the underlying use isn't fair, it doesn't matter how much or how little you've copied.

It's far closer to sampling in music - a one- or two-second sample still has to be cleared with the original publisher because the use being made of that sample (incorporating it into a new creative work) isn't recognised as a fair-use right.

Posted by: Charles Miller | Feb 16, 2006 10:06:34 PM

While I agree with the article and comments I did have one thought about how the site could be constructively used...

Next time you have some blogger's block... type in some keywords, see what else is being said and build your own content using some inspiration.

Unfortunately, they decided to market this as a full article generator instead of an idea inspiration site. Damn shame... they have a system that could help others kick ass in a legitmate way... but they chose the dark path.

Posted by: GP | Feb 16, 2006 10:35:33 PM

What if you and about a gazillion other bloggers all used the phrase "Instant Article Ghost Writer is total crap" somewhere... sort of the "miserable failure" approach?

Posted by: Baxter | Feb 17, 2006 7:32:59 AM

I don't fully understand what you mean by "…blogs designed to fool the search engines". Perhaps I'm confused by the word "blog" here. My take is that these are tools for the auto-comment generators, where every comment links back to an online vice-of-your-choice site. You may mean the same thing, but if not, please explain.

Posted by: Ron Lusk | Feb 17, 2006 7:56:51 AM

It was only a matter of time. In fact I'd bet at least a few people wrote their own scripts to generate spam blogs and simply never shared them. While it sucks it's an obvious tool and I'm sure engines like Google are working to limit their success.

Posted by: veridicus | Feb 17, 2006 9:37:58 AM

This program isn't even clever : it is clearly using the Google API (or similar), and either putting "" round the terms or not. Then they just scrape the returned links for the relevant sentences and stick them on the screen. This is not rocket science. It isn't even roller skate science. Someone should knock up a site that does this and build the idea generator site mentioned above. (I can't be bothered to do it at the moment) You could do it is a screen safer or a dashboard widget if you wanted more ways of wasting your time.

Posted by: L. | Feb 17, 2006 10:07:28 AM

I agree that this isn't fair use. In fact, this is one of those cases where copyright law is indispensable because it gives you legal recourse to keep your published work from being corrupted. You're not just trying to "protect your brand" or similar corporate nonsense, you are concerned about the artistic integrity of something you've created.

IANAL, of course, but I'd definitely consider a quick C&D if you have a lawyer friend.

Posted by: Chris Radcliff | Feb 17, 2006 11:47:31 AM

This explains something I'd been wondering about.

I was reading a a technical blog, and I saw a post that meshed something about low-rate mortgates with a strangely disjointed and rambling discussion of cooking with heirloom tomatoes. It was obviously a spam-filter crack, but I wasn't sure how they had put it together.

Yep, this is very likely what they are using.

Posted by: Geoff | Feb 17, 2006 12:29:10 PM

This ... er ... tool is on par with The Video Professor and seminars entitled "Make Money with THE Computer."

Which brings me to a question that has plagued me for a while. Do you think the poor technically-challenged souls who sign up for that informative afternoon in The Sheraton Hotel ballroom think there is only one (THE) computer?

Posted by: I Gallop On | Feb 17, 2006 1:35:35 PM

What the website doesn't say is that it was randomly generated using an *instant website* website.

Posted by: Gary Bloom | Feb 17, 2006 5:37:37 PM

Ugh. That's just sick. I hate SEO as a whole. I think it's crap people design things for search engines at all. PEOPLE DAMN, IT! PEOPLE!

My previous employer had his head so far up Google's ass it was sad. He'd love this thing. *gag*

Posted by: Rabbit | Feb 17, 2006 7:29:23 PM

Doesn't look like he wants people contacting him. None of the comments links work, nor do the e-mail links. Shady bastard...

Posted by: Rabbit | Feb 17, 2006 7:33:30 PM

I totally understand how infuriating this stuff is.

I think I know a blog generated entirely with a program like this. Some spammer that I don't know left a comment at my new blog a few days ago, with a link to his baloney blog. The comment mentioned something completely irrelevant to my blog, so I grew suspicious, clicked on the link, and guess what I find. A blog full of short posts, with incoherent paragraphs and sentences that contain certain keywords. The guy was using that blog with Google ads to generate revenue. I'm going to ask Google to ban the guy. Stupid spammers, they're like ants but worse: you can never exterminate them completely. At least ants help clean up your lawn of dead insects and such, and helps the ecosystem run. Spammers, however, are simply wasting food and oxygen on the planet.

Posted by: Kal | Feb 17, 2006 8:41:04 PM

Just another note,

I know a lot of people are concerned this stuff is perpetuating spam on blogs, but I think it may have serious implications for academic integrity and information creation as well. As Kathy mentioned, this program is probably too stupid to go unnoticed by academics watching for plagiarism, but I went ahead and reported it to the University community of which I am a part, so that this kind of information quackery is put in its rightful place, the trash. I'll let y'all know if it makes any waves in my school newspaper or the administrative circles.

Seriously though, this isn't merely an inconvenience or annoyance matter, but an abuse of the knowledge creation process. Maybe someone could continue to comment on that, and meanwhile I think it would be great to spread the word about this while we know about it and have the motivation to do something.

Posted by: Jesse Thompson | Feb 18, 2006 12:16:04 AM

Argh! Stupid online polluters!

Posted by: Michael G. R. | Feb 18, 2006 7:04:44 PM

Bah! What is going on!? I'm surprised that their own blog isn't also a compost heap of aggregated sentences. (Or ... is ... it?)

Thanks for the alert to this problematic new development.

Posted by: Easton Ellsworth | Feb 20, 2006 12:56:52 PM

I have been looking at this software for a few days and talking about it at my blog (which is written by a real person). The program probably falls short of running afoul of copyright law, but I am ethicallty uncomfortable with it. Additionally, the only way anyone can create a useable final product is with enough user intervention to render the software far less efficient than hiring a writer. I don't really care if anyone uses it to spam up cyberspace--there are plenty of tools for that already. I do believe we need to keep a close eye on things like this, however. One of these days someone is going to write software that can produce something approximating writing and/or that does step over the Fair Use line too blatantly...

Posted by: Carson | Feb 20, 2006 1:39:34 PM

Sad that people make these kinds of sites, if anything people, mainly bloggers should be able to "opt out" of their crawlers or something.

Course something like this ghost writer could blow up and really begin to step on some serious toes and then we got a whole legal mess coming down on the net as a whole. Neat!

Posted by: dan | Feb 20, 2006 2:24:23 PM

If you've ever been hit by comment spam alarm bells will go off. Imagine blog spam. You go to technorati to search for a topic on a subject important to you and you get a duct taped article of meaningless garbage!

Everyone knows more posts generates traffic. Spammers just want get rich quick ideas. Spam is a waste of time and always bad in my book.

Posted by: Vicki Davis | Feb 22, 2006 7:43:11 PM

In a week we're going to have a full working copy of this "hated tool" for sale. We think is very tempting to clone all the features of this tool just for fun. Stay tunned.. we will be doing our best.

Posted by: Javier Albarracín | Feb 22, 2006 8:14:54 PM

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