Like a tarantula and a jellyfish caught in a deadly, venom-filled embrace, it’s bad news for both parties when the BBC’s “this story around the web” section links to a website that has copied their content word-for-word. (Disclaimer: no more animal allusions follow.)
Earlier this week BBC-written articles began appearing with links to Perspicacious.co.uk - a content aggregation site that primarily (solely?) aggregates BBC stories onto its front page. The little-known site was vying for position in the related articles list with Sky Sports and MSN – a bit weird, no?
A quick Google search shows that the top results for Perspicacious’ domain name are all mentions in BBC articles – it has almost no domain strength on its own. With a tiny web presence and copied content, there is absolutely no way Perspicacious should be on that list.
The situation makes the BBC look biased and the other site look shady. Although at least it’s shady with a couple of hundred thousand extra visitors.
Never Attribute to Malice that which is Adequately Explained by Bad Coding
So which is it – has the BBC been gamed by Ian Collier (pictured right) and the audacious Perspicacious? Or is it just bad coding?
The Technically Feasible but Requires MoreOver to be Stupid Theory
- Perspicacious subscribes to a BBC RSS for instant access to the latest articles
- The site then reposts the articles and adds an earlier timestamp
- MoreOver, searching for related articles, compares the BBC’s article with Perspicacious’ earlier one. Finding a lot of similar content, it links to the site as “highly relevant”.
Probability: Medium. Could MoreOver really have a code that is so simple? These things happen…
The Crackpot Conspiracy Theory
Perspicacious is actually an audacious attempt by agents working within the BBC – in partnership with the Conservative government – to slowly privatise the broadcaster by stealing its visitors and channeling them to other pages.
Probability: Low. Oh Dad, you and your ideas.
The Ghost in the Shell
Perspicacious was just a content aggregation site in the right place and the wrong time, letting it grab major traffic at the expense of the BBC’s dependence on MoreOver. Mr Collier’s site did nothing wrong (depending on your stance on aggregation), but is gaining major benefits from a coding error.
Probability: Medium. It’s a bit dull, though.
The Daily Mail Option
Ian Collier is a British genius, who pays his taxes and donates to Christian charities. It’s the evil British Broadcasting Corporation who have tarnished the British name, steal from the tax-payer and plagiarise Collier’s articles. He’s tried complaining, but the giant, monolithic organisation has crushed his independent spirit in line with the former Labour Government regulations. Oh, and the site is also too positive on gay marriage.
Probability: It doesn’t need to be true to be posted on the web.
There’s no evidence that either Perspicacious or any of Mr. Collier’s other 1Plus Media Group ventures have been deliberately tricking the BBC (or more correctly, the MoreOver system that the BBC uses for related articles). In fact, he seems like a thoroughly nice guy in pictures.
What’s unnerving is not Perspicacious itself, but the questions this raises:
- How easily the “this story around the web” went wrong
- How this undermines the whole premise of the section
- How it could lead to a score of people mimicking BBC articles as closely as possible to get linked there
- How valuable links from these big sites are, and what this translates to in monetary terms. Links, the currency of the web?
- How no-one has noticed
- How the BBC has not responded to my messages in its feedback forms
- How many points I can start with how
Needless to say, we’re a bit… perspicacious about the whole thing.
(BBC Key Pins © by barnoid)