Well it certainly didn’t take long before Blogshares developed it’s first major controversy and very public spat. Not even a month since word of it first started to spread and now folks are asking for their blogs to be de-listed en masse (including me) and the owner, Seyed, is considering shutting the project down. Which is a shame because it is not that the idea itself is bad. It’s just always risky when you take something very personal (e.g. someone’s blog) and turn it into a “game.”
I missed the event that started it all, but from what I’ve read Maria from Dayzed and Confuzed asked to have her blog de-listed from Blogshares and one or more of the players in the game didn’t take too kindly to her request. What the reasons were behind Maria’s request I don’t know nor do I know what, specifically, the annoyed player(s) who harassed her over it actually said. I do know it was enough for Maria to put her blog on hiatus for awhile to get away from the annoyed player(s). The conflict got brought up on the Blogshares message forums and people started jumping in on one side or the other and soon it was the blogosphere equivalent of a barroom brawl, only with fewer chairs.
I don’t know if it’s a testament to my knowledge of human nature or my deeply-rooted cynicism that I could foresee something like this happening way back at the start. It was inevitable in some ways. People who create and maintain blogs invest a lot of time, energy, money, ego and emotions into their creations. For a lot of folks it’s easy to become deeply attached to their blogs in the same way artists become attached to their paintings/sculptures/what have you. Popular blogs attract a fan base as devoted and as emotionally attached to the blog as any Hollywood star or popular singer might. These two factors can cause a lot of havoc when the people supporting one blog come into conflict with the people supporting some other blog over some real or imagined slight or insult. Add one or two particularly rabid fans on either side and you’ve got instant flame-war.
Now, when your project is essentially a game built upon the listing and tracking of over 42,047 known blogs and that “game” develops it’s own fanbase of people who have invested their own time and emotional energy into playing said game you have everything you need for one hell of a fight when someone asks to have their blog removed from the game. If the blog is especially popular and it’s removal will seriously affect the “fortunes” of the players in the game, well, you don’t have to have a doctorate in Sociology to know there’s gonna be trouble in River City.
Personally, I didn’t ask to be de-listed because of the fight that broke out or the fact that someone harassed Maria to the point she needed to take a break for awhile from the blogosphere. I don’t hold Seyed responsible for the actions of a handful of trolls as some folks have either. I did ask to be de-listed mainly because of statements he made about his views on his “right” to include a blog in his game regardless of whether the blog’s owner approves of it. He summed it up in a small blurb titled “Opt-in vs. Opt-out” in a recent news post on Blogshares:
BlogShares works like every other search engine and index on the web. It finds sites listed on a public service (weblogs.com) and adds them to the database. … Your site is not you.
BlogShares may work similar to other search engines, but it’s a game. I’m assuming that the statement “your site is not you” is meant more as a reason that someone has to “join” BlogShares before they can play and not a justification for doing whatever the hell you want with a website’s data.
When you ping weblogs.com, you give these details for the world to use. That’s your opt-in. That data is free game for anybody to play with.
No, when I ping weblogs.com I give tacit approval in doing so for weblogs.com to use that data for the express purpose of including it in their listing of recently updated blogs and nothing more. Anyone else who takes that data from weblogs.com and uses it for their own purposes is doing so without any direct approval from me, implied or otherwise. My willingness to allow weblogs.com to include said data in their listing should not be taken to mean I am opting-in on anything other than participation in weblogs.com’s service.
BlogShares provides an opt-out mechanism because I want to be nice not because I have to.
This was the statement that convinced me I should opt-out of BlogShares. That’s the wrong attitude to take when you’re using someone else’s personal website as a foundation to build your game on. I think a very good legal case could be made in a court of law that shows Seyed is very wrong in the above belief. I just hope he doesn’t have to learn it the hard way.
Weblogs.com isn’t for any particular purpose, you opt in to it you opt into everything associated with it.
Weblogs.com is for a very express purpose. To create a listing of recently updated blogs as stated in their FAQ as follows: “The core function of Weblogs.Com is a list of weblogs that have changed in the last three hours.” I don’t see anything on the site that indicates that participation in weblogs.com implies that I am opting-in on anything else outside of weblogs.com nor do I see anything that states that Blogshares is “associated with it” in any way, shape or form.
Ultimately Seyed isn’t responsible for the actions of a handful of comment trolls and the big brouhaha that developed around recent events wouldn’t normally be enough for me to pull out of such a unique project. It’s his responses to that event and his stated beliefs about what his rights are concerning how he uses my blog on his site that bother me and convinced me to pull out. I generally don’t mind sites making use of data off of my blog without asking ahead of time as long as they don’t try to claim it as an explicit right to do so and are willing to respect requests from folks who don’t want to participate. Part of what makes the blogosphere so cool is the fact that so many bloggers share so much of what they do with each other.
That openness, however, should never be construed as opt-in for anything you haven’t specifically asked them whether or not they want to be a part of.