March 31, 2005

Fiery the FOSS Developer Fell

by Nick Montfort · , 6:14 pm

Our excellent blogging system here at Grand Text Auto is run on WordPress. We love this free and open-source software, but I am deeply disappointed (and I’m sure Michael, Andrew, Scott, and Noah are as well) that the main site for the project,, was recently unmasked as a search engine spamhaus – a huge number of hidden articles were placed there, courtesy of the founding developer, solely to distort or “game” Google for the profit of unscrupulous lawyers and merchants. As a result, Google has dropped the site from its index and – not that it matters, but it’s the thought that counts – we’ve de-linked the main WordPress site from here as well.

Those who only read the Slashdot headline should be aware that it is the main WordPress website, and not every blog in the world running WordPress, that is (or was) doing the spamming. Apparently is now being cleaned and will be indexed again by Google. A response from WP developer Mike Little with links to other replies is available. I could say more, but – what a mess, what a mistake. Fortunately, people have thought about what might happen to free software under circumstances such as these, and all will not be lost…

6 Responses to “Fiery the FOSS Developer Fell”

  1. jeremy Says:

    this is silly, let them have their money if they can make it. that’s how good things eventually happen, you take risks, and sometimes you go a bit far, but this is just using the system, not going beyond the pall.

  2. Joe Mason Says:

    Wow, it’s really depressing how many people are jumping in to defend the spammer in those links, just because as well as being a spammer he also wrote some good software.

  3. Rob Walker Says:

    It’s also frustrating for the rest of us who are trying to make money openly and transparently by working hard and putting out good content, and really earning every dollar and cent.

    I’d rather be bombarded by a bunch of obvious, annoying ads than having a bunch running hidden in the background.

  4. Louis Dargin Says:

    This seems to indicate that releasing FOSS can make one a public figure or role model; that users may hold FOSS developers accountable in a sense for actions that don’t even involve their software.

  5. nick Says:

    Nice to know that Matt Mullenweg is your role model, but it seems you’re missing a rather important point. This search engine gaming was accomplished with the unwitting help of thousands of WordPress bloggers, who linked to when they installed WordPress, pumping up the site’s PageRank. This isn’t the only way the issue involves the software WordPress, but it’s one rather direct way.

  6. nick Says:

    Matt has responded, stating,

    The articles hosted content thing was just a short-term experiment, an interesting idea (original and relevant Wikipedia-type content on the site) that was badly implemented. As an experiment it could have been conducted much better than it was. The content should have been more topical to WP issue, I should have kept up with the content that was going up, the links should have never had the overflow CSS, and I should have discussed it with more people. Each was a mistake and they combined badly — I’m very sorry.” (Boldface in original.)

    I’m sorry for whatever personal attacks Matt is receiving – I’m not sure if it’s people like me who Mike Little refer to as “real worms” who are attacking him. I hope all the WordPress developers will recognize that saying “you did something wrong, and violated the trust of users” is hardly the same thing as carrying out a personal attack.

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