Sunday, May 27, 2007

Pokerati Dan and Gary C. Go A-Squawkin' About Content Thieves

[IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: The following post represents my personal opinion only. It is in no way is intended to reflect the opinion or position of any of my employers or the various sites for which I write. -- Haley]

Of course, I saw this and this, and having been rather prominently featured in the discussion --- hell, being part of it myself --- I'd like to toss out a couple of more nuggets here. No, no, not the lawsuit stuff. I've been that mad myself on previous occasions, as has anyone with the common sense to be offended by thieves. I also had no advance knowledge of Dan's or Gary's recent posts, except to point out some months ago to Dan the existence of that youwannapoker site, though he may well have been aware of it himself before that.

Rather, I'd like to make an open statement to the online sites' affiliate managers. I now know a few of these folks, and I have no reason to believe that they are unreasonable; I simply believe that there are few of these managers not thinking these things through, chasing raw affiliate signup numbers while failing to understand other dynamics.

First, any site that thinks that having 1,250 affiliates instead of 1,100 (and these are imaginary numbers, made up for the sake of this post) without looking at the quality and veracity of those affiliates, is simply fooling themselves. If these affiliate managers have performance marks and bonuses tied only to the number of affiliates they generate, then that is dumbassed and counterproductive to the process. I also don't know that this is the case, but it's a possibility.

Sites such as youwannapoker are a cancer on the affiliate system and on the Internet in general; they add nothing of original value to the Internet and, in fact, steal value from the other sites who are trying to provide something of worth. That theft impacts everyone, from the very biggest sites like CardPlayer or PokerNews or Bluff or Two Plus Two on down. The ability of a vampire site to leverage its way to the higher parts of various search engines is not a point of added value to the online poker sites, which those sites seem loathe to understand. All these sites are doing is knocking down the legitimate sites to lower spots on various search-engine lists, but they haven't changed the overall mix of the online site's presence in the search engines at all.

Full Tilt-linked sites, as a made-up example, would tend to show up at the same relative mix of spots overall. This is again all totally made up, not any sort or real example, but a search for term 'xxyyzz poker' might bring up a Full Tilt-sponsored site at spots 2,5,6,8,11 in a batch of sites that might include vampire sites, but if all vampire sites were removed in total, the search would likely still bring up Full Tilt-affiliated links at spots 3,4,6,7,10... or whatever. The point is, the overall mix would be approximately the same. Vampire sites such as youwannapoker do not add visibility or sales; they just shift it from its rightful owners.

It is a true fallacy to believe that the affiliate sales 'generated' by youwannapoker and its ilk wouldn't go to other sites in youwannapoker's hoped-for absence. The only way a site like that makes any money at all is from a newbie who discovers that most of the sign-up offers available through sites like that are just about the same anyhow, and the newbie clicks through on that vampire site more or less at ramdom. But maintaining that these vampire sites actually create new business instead of redirecting and siphoning sales from its valid owners is flatly wrong; I hope no online site is silly enough to champion such a claim.

And that's yet another reason why sites such as Full Tilt should want to get rid of these lampreys. Because these sites reduce the amount of sales [re: affiliate bonuses] that should be going to 'white-content' sites, they force the good sites to work with less dollars and fewer resources than these sites should be entitled to for their work. The end result of that has to be cheapened, devalued, flatly worse poker product... for everyone. Is that really what the online poker sites want? "To hell with quality, shit's okay if it's got our name on it?"

I've had several discussions with big-name bloggers and many of my own bosses about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), and every single one of them is knowledgable about the process. It's also not a problem with an easy solution. But for online sites to feign ignorance in the matter isn't going to solve anything --- it's high time for a few of these folks to wake up and do things right.

I'll also mention this: A few months ago when I took the lead in tearing down a very large RSS site-scraping operation, I worked through several avenues to get it nuked. I ended up speaking by phone with the lead lawyer for one of the very largest online poker sites, who called me one Friday after I started making noise, and he told me quite frankly that the sites don't want these vampire affiliates in their networks anyway. The vast majority of them don't generate signifcant revenue, and in whole these sites cause far more trouble than they are worth. The sites don't want them, but they are also hamstrung in some instances by laws that prevent them from terminating a site without due cause. It can be done, though, but the site normally needs to receive a letter or some such threatining a copyright-infringement case, and there are both EU and WTO digital copyright acts with provisions that can be used as the basis for the claim.

The major site I'm blind-referencing here made it quite clear that they would be more than willing to turn that information over to me upon receipt of said letter, but it never needed to be written; my efforts in nuking that bad boy from the domain-registrar side were completely successful the very next day. It was a Dutch dude, as I recall, who issued an apology and stated that he had been more or less taken in by one of those "SEO Black Hat" operations that basically sell you plans on how to steal. Not that I wholly believed him or felt sorry for him, but anyway...

That sort of brings up another related tale, and since I seem to be on a roll -- like buttah, baby -- I may as well keep typing. Over at the KAP blog last week, I've had some fun skewering some sort of money-making poker system being offered by someone named Johnny Rothman, who maintains something approximating a blog at Johnny, it seems, is a wee bit of an entrepreneur.

Anyhow, Johnny is marketing whatever product that is that he's pitching now, complete with some spammage linkage that connects it to the PokerBot Pro operation. (Johnny denies that it's his spam wave, but says he uses the PokerBot Pro's operation for payment procesiing, per a KAP blog comment. Like, okay, I'm impressed. He's a saint.) Also, Johnny Boy's new product claims to be a compilation of advice from five different poker extras, but searching on the four other names doesn't show any different poker links at all. I think it's the poker version of 'Multiplicity,' sort of a 'Non-Hendon Mob' thing --- and you'd have to visit the site and see one of the graphics there to understand that little jab.

But here's what's funnier still: Johnny Boy is deeply offended at the fact that I've skewered his spam-offered product, including a major component which seems to outline a RSS site-scraping or content-theft operation of the same type I've been battling all along.

And I called B.S. on it.

In Johnny's first complaint, made as a post comment, I was accused of not giving his product a 'fair review,' which is technically true. However, Samuel Clemens' famed quote certainly applies. (At least I think it was him -- correct me if I'm wrong.) It's the one that goes something like, "One does not have to eat an entire apple to know it is rotten."

I also issued a challenge in a follow-up post: Let me see the contents of just the part of the package that looked so dubious and unethical, and I would fully review that portion, good or bad. Instead of accepting my challenge, Johnny decied he was gonna go after my bosses and have me dealt with properly:

From: "Johnny Rothman" (,,,,,, ...

Please tell me why you constantly are posting negative reviews about my
site bashing it?

Jason at KAP forwarded it to me with the following lengthy comment:


I think you can see why I like those guys.

Nope, no trouble sleeping at all.

It's perhaps one of the reasons why I decided to accept the Online Poker text-link ad from Bodog when they offered it to me. It's not that I've never had issues with Bodog, nor they with me, but Bodog is actively trying to reward white-content sites, rather than sites that steal, in a difficult market time. And I appreciate that gesture.


Anonymous said...

I just wanted to say congratulations on your great work in this area. If there is anything that I can do to help you, let me know. I've had a lot of success in this field and might be able to assist some.

jusdealem said...

Hi, Haley. Girl, you have every poker blog known to mankind on your blogroll! Would you mind adding mine on there, please?

Haley said...

Ummm, I have many, but it's actually out of date. Thanks for the heads-up, and I will do it at the nearest opportunity. (Swamped at the moment.)

Fishy Da Fish said...

Ran into your site while doing some research on this scam from our beloved Johnnyboy. Seems like he makes a whole lot of effort trying to remove every negative comment on that kickass product of his...
Your blog is the only critical note I found so far but I hope there's more cause this smells like some semiclever fraud trying to shake money out of naieve people's pockets. Me no like!

grtz& keep up the blogging, nice reads