Sorry RSS readers – blame thieving MyVillage idiots

Hello! I’ve had a couple of complaints about the RSS feed for 853 being truncated down to the first paragraph, which I’m told make posts difficult to read if you’re reading offline. I’m sorry about this, but unfortunately I’ve had to bring this into place because of abuse of the RSS feed by the MyVillage network of sites, whose rubbish Greenwich site has been pulling in content from 853 to help it attract readers and advertisers under the banner of “local news”. I’ve asked “senior editor” Stephanie Phillips to stop, but to no avail. (It turns out Stephanie no longer works for MyVillage, but her contact details remain on the site – she’s likely to be caught up in this too. See comments below and the following post.)

Actually, this site isn’t the biggest victim of MyVillage’s theft of content – the News Shopper website’s Lewisham and Greenwich index is thoroughly pillaged by it, meaning people looking for news about SE10 get some old waffle about Sydenham or Thamesmead. Nice.

All of which means I need to have a think about copyright and other issues – the great thing about the internet is the sharing of content and ideas, but when a commercial concern like MyVillage is nicking text and photos from local operators, and then running ads for multinationals alongside that content, then that ruins things. Truncating the RSS feed hasn’t stopped MyVillage, but it means they see less and they don’t seem to be able to use images from the site either. It’s not as if I get much traffic from them anyway – less than 1% of the page views for this site come from their piss-poor pages.

I blog for many reasons, but propping up other people’s business plans isn’t among them.

Hopefully, sending through a story which explains just what thieving bastards MyVillage are might sort things out. Otherwise they’re getting invoiced at £50 per post. Which, with the 15-month archive the site currently carries, means a big bill for MyVillage’s hapless crew. And a very merry Christmas for me and my mates, perhaps.

In the meantime, actually, I’m curious as to how you read this stuff – on a desktop? On a phone? By an RSS reader? Or do you subscribe by e-mail? That’s an option I didn’t even know existed for the first 18 months of writing this thing. Just please don’t say you read it on the bog…

49 comments

  1. Try plugging your feed into https://fairshare.attributor.com/fairshare/homepage and you get to see all the people who not only use the feed wholesale, but the sneakier ones that cut and paste it without any of the links.

    In my case it’s mostly travel agents, but have found people like (quite famous) shoe companies, furniture restorers and car magazines all reusing the content without even a link back.

    If you use http://www.feedburner.com/ you can also see the number of rss/mail subscribers and how they use your content.

    In answer to your question, an RSS reader either on the desktop or a smartphone.

  2. I use an rss reader app on my phone. Short entries are ok as there’s an option to open in the browser if the post looks interesting.

  3. I have trouble with these idiots too reusing material from my website http://www.kingscrossenvironment.com.

    here is the email i got from roifield brown the self styled ‘big boss’. his position is indefensible, particularly with images and alleged notification that reuse will occur is not sufficient – silence does not constitute acceptance in the uk. note also the phantom staff.

    he recently started reusing my stuff again, will take to small claims court in new year. i know others are hacked off with them.

    >>Hello William, sorry for the misunderstanding. regarding your content. We have been using extracts of it for around 9 months now. When we started doing this we sent out emails to the sites who’s content we were using to ask if its was alright. Most said yes, obviously somehow you did not receive that email. We use the first 100 words then link back to you, so this should give you some traffic.

    I would be more then willing to donate some money to the charity but I fear that right now it would not be much as I run the site as sole trader, though appearances might tell you otherwise. I set up the network 11 years ago, but have been working on the site by myself for over 12 months now. I leave the old staff on the meet the team page to make it look like there is an organisation running things!

    Anyway if you want the feeds to site removed I will do this of course.

    yours Roifield

  4. I read via RSS on a desktop and a mobile. I normally scan the articles on the desktop PC that come up in the morning and read a couple. I make a mental note of the others I want to read later on my mobile. I normally download all the articles before leaving the house rather than individually while I am out because data connections can be rubbish and I am often on the tube when I want to read. This does mean that more often than not I am only able to read the first part of 853 articles on my mobile.

  5. Google Reader, mainly on Android phone using NewsRob app so I can catch up even when offline, but also on home PC. I sometimes read new posts when you tweet them – this will probably be my main method of reading now the RSS is truncated. Stupid MyVillage.

    (also, I think WordPress added e-mail updates as an option in the last year or two, so they probably didn’t exist when you started here!)

  6. Thieving so-and-sos! Some people really don’t get the web, do they?

    I tend to read via Netvibes, or otherwise click through directly from Twitter – either on my desktop, or my phone.

  7. Here’s the reply I received from Roifield Brown at My Village, after I asked them why they are lifting content from m’blog:

    “Jason this seems to be a mix up. We should only be taking a summary then linking back to your articles and it seems as if they are not relevant any way to our site. I’m very sorry for the confusion. We will fix the error today.”

    Fair enough. But it doesn’t address the issue I complained about, that of blatant copyright theft. Exactly why they wanted hyperlocal tales from a small North Essex estuary town for a Brixton site is beyond me.

    Yep, MV just don’t get the modern interweb.

  8. I know this is a diffent problem – but equally thieving – our Greenwich Industrial History site has been getting approaches from the ‘write your dissertation for you’ trade.

  9. Google Reader for me, both in a desktop browser and on a smartphone. The new shorter articles do make it more painful as I’m not usually a click-through type unless the summary really grabs me. Greenwich Phantom suffers from the same issues and consequently I guess I miss some potentially interesting articles from your both now…

  10. Good work on getting that new screengrab! I had only seen them on Twitter before, and didn’t realise they were an automated content-thief site. I won’t be recommending them again! It is a breach of copyright issue, as you say, just as it is when lazy diary columnists steal blogposts or photos and don’t pay up (I’m looking at you, Andrew Pierce of the Mail…).

  11. Google reader on my very old macinistosh laptop. Sometimes click through from twitter when using my blackberry.

  12. Thanks all for your help and responses. I’ve e-mailed MyVillage’s boss, Roifield Brown; after Stephanie Phillips told me she does not work for the company anymore.

  13. I seem to have escaped being caught by this, thankfully. While there’s lots of you thinking about it can I ask what you consider acceptable in terms of syndication? I.e. this guy is taking 100 words which is a lot, but what if he was only taking 250 characters and then a link to the site? Would that be more/less acceptable or is syndicating any of your content a no-no?

    P.s. for those of you using WordPress this has inspired me to write a post with tips on tracking wholesale reproductions of your content via RSS. It’ll be on http://journallocal.co.uk later today.

  14. Hi Philip – it’s the fact that Roifield is using my content to attract advertisers which narks me. Sharing content is generally alright with me, when it’s used to make money, it becomes theft in my book.

    Still, it’s pretty clear that MyVillage – which was a bit of a web darling a few years back – must be limping along if it can carry nicked content slagging it off with nobody noticing.

  15. It’s happening to us – Acocks Green Focus Group – too see http://bit.ly/gCCIs6 but there is a link back to our site here for the rest of the post. However, to be honest, we are more concerned about getting our message out than where it turns up … eg getting folks along to this presentation (which went well) or have we missed something which could damage local bloggers?

  16. lol that they still have your headline up. Maybe some of you folk should put up a few more “content stolen by MyVillage” type headlines.

    I don’t actually mind if sites aggregating content make money if they are performing a useful service for their visitors, but MyVillage is the worst kind of useless automated garbage.

  17. Could you please remove my name from this blog. As I have told you I no longer work for Myvillage and therefore it is very unfair for you to include me in your discrepancy with them. I understand your concern regarding the rss feed as this has happened to my blog too but it now has nothing to do with. Please contact Myvillage directly rather than writing a blog post.

    Yours sincerely,

    Steph xxx

  18. Hi Julia – It’s only today that page views from MyVillage come in any serious numbers; usually it’s about 4 or 5. It’s more MyVillage leeching advertising revenue off other people’s efforts that annoys me, if it was a non-profit I wouldn’t be so bothered. I don’t do this to pay Roifield Brown’s gas bill for him. If a commercial entity approached me about reusing my stuff I’d be happy to talk – greenwich.co.uk runs a feed, but that’s because I know and trust Rob. But the lack of communication – and as Will points out up the thread, the phantom staff (and the dissolved company issue Philip mentions) – points to something that isn’t quite right.

  19. […] Sorry RSS readers – blame thieving MyVillage idiots « 853 All of which means I need to have a think about copyright and other issues – the great thing about the internet is the sharing of content and ideas, but when a commercial concern like MyVillage is nicking text and photos from local operators, and then running ads for multinationals alongside that content, then that ruins things. Truncating the RSS feed hasn’t stopped MyVillage, but it means they see less and they don’t seem to be able to use images from the site either. It’s not as if I get much traffic from them anyway – less than 1% of the page views for this site come from their piss-poor pages. […]

  20. Sorry – maybe I am still missing something but this seems to me to be more about a moral issue than anything that actually effects local blogs though.

    What I have been more concerned about for some time now is this site. http://bit.ly/dsx6Y9 Whilst the site under discussion on this blog at least puts up links backs to the sites it takes material from, and does not offer comment on that material, the site above seems to be collecting up information from different local websites in Acocks Green (and elsewhere in Birmingham) and then offering its own garbled, slightly confused and, frankly, rather snooty version of the facts. For example the relief road option in Acocks Green has been explored a number of times, but is problematic as a solution to problems. Flint Green Road is a road of very large Victorian houses, mainly detached and semi-detached, not ‘terraces’. Sherbourne Road has some terraced housing but these are huge 1860s properties, and it is not clear why the fact that they are ‘terraced’ is relevant – except that this seems designed to trivalise the properties in question. Likewise, it is not explained why it is relevant that The Green is a former tram terminus, although, again, the information seems offered with a sneer. From local knowledge, it is unlikely at the time when this was written that anyone had put in upvc windows because of the Conservation Area appliation. The picture of the ralway station comes from Wickipedia, which is probably OK, but seems lazy. All of this information seems supplied in order to support advertising – although I am not sure I would want to pay for advertising on a site that seems so determined to run down the area that its advertisers are in!

    I can see that legally there is little we can do, but maybe it is about time these people got a little negative publicity, and maybe some of their advertisers might like to think again.

  21. Julia –

    As Jon Bounds has commented at http://getgoodguide.com/?p=382#comment-265 there is a very real issue when non-comercial sites such as our are publishing other people’s content that’s under a Creative Commons non-commercial license (e.g. Flickr images). When this content gets republished via our sites onto a commercial site like myvillage, that’s a problem. As Jon says, ‘myvillage’s use would prevent my own.’

    But as you say this is largely a moral issue – myvillage was using and potentially profiting from content we’d created without so much as consulting us about it beforehand. There was quite an interesting Twitter discussion about this yesterday which you can catch up on http://storify.com/getgood/myvillagescom

    In terms of engaging people with your community site, you might find http://talkaboutlocal.org.uk/anger-enthusiasm-and-deadlines-how-harness-peoples/ andsome of the other resources at http://talkaboutlocal.org helpful (disclaimer: I work for TAL). 🙂

    Cheers, Nicky

  22. The Publishing Group Ltd (TPG) took a 51% stake in Myvillage.com and associated websites on 4 January 2011 .
    We were completely unaware of the issue at that time – in fact we only discovered it this week.
    As a well-respected publisher we obviously do not condone taking content from any website or magazine that we do not own or generate. We would not be happy if another company took our content so we completely understand the feedback.
    We are taking action to remove all blogs used on the site without the bloggers’ permission. In future all content up on the sites will either be generated by our staff or commissioned for use.
    We apologise to anyone who has been adversely affected by this and will endeavour to ensure that this does not happen again.
    Ramesh Sharma CEO

  23. I poison the RSS feeds that are scraped from certain domains or IP addresses/subsets with either rubbish or NSFW content.

    You have a copyright notice, might be worth including it in the RSS feed if you haven’t. I’d certainly contact a lawyer.

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