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Wednesday March 23

Claiming feeds on Feedster is spamming

Feedster.com now requires you to blog them in order to claim your RSS feed. In other words they require you to insert a link back to their site in your RSS feed and therefore in your blog content. Each of these feed-claim blog entries is devoid of content except for a Pagerank-increasing link back to Feedster. I can't think of any other word to describe this practice other than "spamming" and it is no different from other blog spamming techniques -- except Feedster has cleverly made bloggers complicit in this ploy.

A search on Google discovers that over 6,000 bloggers have fallen for this and are therefore delivering over 6,000 unwarranted and contentless links back to Feedster. Using Google's "nofollow" on the links would help to neutralise the usefulness of this spamming technique, but among the list of bloggers who have blogged the feed claim link, the earliest found has been November 2004 -- long before Google announced "nofollow".

Online RSS readers like Bloglines don't require you to claim your feed. And claiming your RSS feed in online services like Technorati and Feedburner is as simple as just registering and associating your feed URL to your blog URL. There is no good reason to divert from that practice. I think this is a deceptive way for Feedster to drive traffic to their site while ostensibly trying to make their feed claim process more accurate.


UPDATE: Because many bloggers delete the linkback entry after claiming their feed. The number of linkbacks to Feedster fluctuates a lot. I saw it once hit over 12,000 then it went as low as 2,000.


Actually, Technorati requires the same—after all, how else but by putting something in the blog would you prove you own it?

Technorati requires a JavaScript, but provides this for a blog post if you cannot edit the template:
Technorati Profile

Of course, they could offer to e.g. put the key right in the post without a link, but that would look nasty. They could also offer to put the key into a comment, but writing your own HTML might not be allowed by the blog publishing software.

Posted by: Philipp Lenssen on Mar 23, 05 | 7:44 pm

I misquoted Technorati. They claim blogs, not feeds. So you can put the javascript code you mentioned anywhere out of the way on the blog and then delete it after the blog has been claimed.

I don’t like this tactic of Feedster’s because it is essentially dictating what you blog, even if it is for only one entry. Secondly, it is creating search engine spam whether or not they intended for it to drive up their pagerank.

Wouldn’t it have been enough to just say, hey, this feed is mine?

Posted by: Tim on Mar 23, 05 | 7:53 pm

Tim, how do you suggest to have a feed be claimed?

Posted by: Philipp Lenssen on Mar 23, 05 | 8:09 pm

Sorry I didn’t reply sooner. I don’t see why Feedster can’t just allow claiming of feeds on the word of the claimant. But I think you’re a better authority on feeds. What would be the difficulty in just allowing feed claims on someone’s say-so?

Posted by: Tim on Mar 24, 05 | 10:57 am

If they’s just take my word, I could claim other people’s feeds!

Posted by: Philipp Lenssen on Mar 24, 05 | 7:24 pm

I see your point, Philipp. Once you claim a feed, Feedster lets you change the description of the feed and add other details such as your photo and contact details to the feed description. So feed claiming gives a lot of power to the successful claimant.

The point is to be able to insert a bit of information in a feed to confirm that the feed is your own. The simplest way would be to blog it, but that of course changes your blog content. There are however other tags in a feed that can be changed. Such as the description tag. And you can do that even with Blogger. It doesn’t change your main blog content and it can be changed back. And as you pointed out, it doesn’t have to be a link either.

Posted by: Tim on Mar 25, 05 | 9:33 am

The problem with all these methods is thay may fail in one of the many different blogging softwares. However you will always be able to put up a link. I too prefer Technorati’s way of doing it, but they also suggest a link-fallback if their script-tag fails…

Posted by: Philipp Lenssen on Mar 25, 05 | 7:12 pm

Part of the process of claiming a weblog is being able to prove you have the ability to edit content on that weblog. Technorati allows users to claim their weblog by editing their blog home page using a claim link that links to their Technorati profile, a JavaScript embed that displays their profile picture, a link to their Technorati profile, and a link to the user’s inbound links listing.

If a weblog supports the MetaWeblog API, and exposes that information in a format such as RSD, Technorati also allows users to login to their account from a Technorati interface to prove ownership. Technorati does not store any username or password data, but notes a successful logon.

All of these methods are ways of indicating editing rights on the weblog before allowing a successful claim.

Posted by: Niall Kennedy of Technorati on Mar 27, 05 | 1:11 am

Link spamming isn’t the intent, though you have a point. We have no problem with people removing the link once we’ve verified their feed ownership. The issue is that we need to verify that the person claiming the feed actually has the right to author an article in the feed. “Claiming your feed” should get more popular soon as it will grow to more than feed icon customization and metadata editing. Any suggestions of how Feedster can simultaneously avoid feed-ownership spoofing and be a better netizen are welcome.

Posted by: Scott Rafer at Feedster on Mar 27, 05 | 3:14 am

This is a little late but here’s my take on the matter.

Different systems (e.g. Feedster, Technorati) allow you to do different things once you’ve proved that you’re the owner of a feed.

Feedster (currently) lets you change your description, add your contact information, a creative commons license, put a custom graphic beside your posts on search results.

So it would be a *bad* idea to let people claim feeds without proving that they own them. I like to be optimistic, but the reality is that a lot of people will try to claim others’ feeds, such as those of their competitors.

The method that makes the most sense to me of *proving* you own a feed is by editing it. So we give you a little link, you add it into your feed, click a button on our website, and after that you’re free to delete the link.

That being said, the link as it stands isn’t particularly useful, so I think we’re going to try to improve that, especially since many seem too lazy to delete the link :-)

There are few things we at Feedster dislike as much as spam in feeds, I assure you ;-)

Posted by: Michael Fagan on Mar 29, 05 | 1:38 am
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