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Startup to help bloggers blot out splogs

By Paul McNamara on Tue, 01/30/07 - 3:01am.

As many as 100,000 blogs are born every day, a teeming brood that includes an alarmingly high percentage -- estimates as high as 45% -- of so-called splogs, rip-off sites that scrape content and steal traffic from established writers. Whacking these moles has proven difficult if not futile for legitimate bloggers, be they amateur or professional.

So into the fray steps a service called Sentinel from a startup called Iwerx, both of which are set to debut this week at the DEMO '07 conference opening today in Palm Springs, Calif. (Disclosure: DEMO is owned and operated by my employer, Network World, an IDG company and publication).

If anybody's going to make a buck off of your content, why shouldn't it be you? asks Tony Moura, co-founder of Iwerx, which is based out of Lake Mary, Fla. Moura contends that Sentinel will be more effective, granular and easier to use than services already offering anti-splog assistance, such as CopyScape, for example.

While the service doesn't officially launch until Thursday, the site -- www.blogwerx.com -- should be live and taking registrations sometime today.

But what kind of problem are we really talking about here?

There was one blogger, or splogger, actually, who on Google's Blogspot launched 618,000 splogs -- one guy, Moura explains. Everybody says, 'What's the big deal if somebody copies my content and they make $10 a month?' Well, you take $10 times 618,000; that's a hell of a lot of money at the end of 30 days, even if they catch and shut him down.

Here's how the service will work: Once your blog is registered, Sentinel will scan the blogosphere continuously looking not only for exact cut-and-paste copies of your content, but also the more difficult-to-detect lightly rewritten versions.

Sploggers will change the content they have taken, Moura says. Removing the author, removing or editing the time and date, or if they really want to try and hide their theft, they will change some words using synonyms, thus making a user-based search almost impossible. Sentinel takes all of this into account and can still pinpoint where the plagiarism has taken place.

The reported results will resemble those of a search engine.

You'll get probability matches, says Iwerx CEO Ed Lachcik. Because these are patented algorithms, if someone is out there using content that is 93% yours, it'll say to you that this blog and your blog have a 93% match.

White lists will help the service differentiate between friend and foe.

The service also will provide ready-to-send cease-and-desist form letters informing sploggers that they are in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, the company says.

On your behalf, what we will do is drop out a DMCA notice that's been written by an attorney, says Moura. If the guy's on Blogger, which is owned by Google, we'll also drop an e-mail to Google's abuse department. It's up to the host at that point to be proactive, and we're going to really work with those guys so that when they do get a report from us (the splog) is taken down pretty much immediately.

Moura believes ease-of-use will be his company's calling card.

We have a set-it-and-forget-it type approach (Editor's note: Ron Popeil's lawyers are drafting Moura one of those letters as we speak). There's no extra code to copy and paste in every blog posting you put out there in order for us to track it, he says. It's one sign-up form and after that there's literally nothing you have to do. With a lot of other solutions, it's copy and paste this code so that we track your content and it winds up being such an arduous process that after awhile it falls by the wayside.

The basic service will be free and free will get you a report on those sploggers leaching off your blog within two weeks of registering. Additional features, including analytics and significantly shorter turnaround times, can be had on a premium-fee basis that scales up to $20 a month. Customized versions of the service will be available for large organizations with stables of bloggers, the company says.

While I cannot vouch for a service I've yet to try, you'll have to excuse me for a breach of pressbox etiquette here: I'm rooting for Sentinel to make a go of it ... After all, this time, it's personal.