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The Podjacker Threat 354

Schlemphfer writes "As everyone knows by now, podcasting has taken off in a big way. But over the past week, several tech journals and The Daily Source Code have reported on the threat of 'podjacking,' the creation of an alternate RSS feed without the consent of the podcast's owner. I'm the host of a podcast, which has the dubious distinction of being the first widely-publicized victim of a podjacking. To teach others from my experiences I have posted an article entitled Preventing and Surviving a Podjacking (also available in PDF). So far this story has attracted widespread but generally inept media and blogger coverage. This article sets the record straight on what really happened, and shows the simple steps every podcaster should take to protect their shows from podjacking."
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The Podjacker Threat

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  • The Usage Axiom (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Crash Culligan ( 227354 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:43PM (#14221070) Journal

    This could be a variation of the "Law of Unintended Consequences."

    Invent something new. There will be at least one person, each, who:

    1. thinks it's incredibly cool,
    2. thinks it's incredibly overblown,
    3. will try to profit from it by using it, and
    4. will try to profit from it by stealing someone else's work with it.
  • Been There (Score:5, Interesting)

    by somethinghollow ( 530478 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @01:56PM (#14221211) Homepage Journal
    I noticed several sites were ripping off my content from my RSS feeds. Some of them are ad sites that, no doubt, gather like-minded blog posts, publish them on their site, and shit ads all over them. Others seem to be attempting to do some sort of service. What with Google punishing duplicate content posts, I don't want my content redistributed without my permission. So, I implemented a system with mod_rewrite and PHP on my site that checks the user agent before allowing access to any page. If the user agent is unknown, it shows a page saying that I don't know who they are but I'll see about allowing them access to my site. I then enter their user agent in a database, after doing some research, and decide whether to allow them or not. Eventually, I'm going to tie this into my robots.txt file so that it denies robots there (if they bother to look) in addition to showing the robot a access denied page.
    It isn't the easiest solution (takes a lot of time to manage) and won't always work (e.g. they set their UA to one that looks like a valid browser or some other UA that I allow), but it clears most of the riffraff, i think.
  • Maddox (Score:1, Interesting)

    by thaerin ( 937575 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @02:01PM (#14221251)
    Podcasting: It's snob for "streaming audio."
  • Re:Apple? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Suburbanpride ( 755823 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @02:13PM (#14221364)
    Its not just about fetish for apple brands. Apple holds the majority of market share, so its likely that the majority of people listening are listening on ipods. Sure there is a fair amount of marketing involved, but without the iPod (and Itunes easy of use), most people wouldn't be listening to *pod*casts.

    Xerox invented the GUI, apple just brought it to the people.

  • by geekwithsoul ( 860466 ) <> on Friday December 09, 2005 @02:32PM (#14221585)
    How do you think English stays a living language? Is "podjacking" any worse than "coldcocked" or "fortnight?" Terms are developed and the good ones stick around and the bad ones disappear (as happened with "fortnight"). No one says you have to use "podjacking," if you don't like it come up with something else and if it is good, other people will use it.

    Or would you rather be like the French and have some group decide what words can be allowed (not that actual French speakers listen to them much)?
  • by Shimmer ( 3036 ) <> on Friday December 09, 2005 @02:46PM (#14221722) Homepage Journal
    This story seems to inadvertently prove that production and marketing are two different skills. The author was good at creating content, but so miserably poor at marketing that he didn't even realize where his audience was coming from. The "podjacker", on the other hand, created nothing, but apparently did an excellent job of marketing the author's content.

    You might argue that the world would be better off without middle men such as marketers, publishers, etc. (I think the catchy phrase for this is "disintermediation".) But this story provides evidence that these people actually do add value in some cases.
  • by Data Link Layer ( 743774 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @03:10PM (#14221981)
    I don't know about the rest of you guys, but I use the word fortnight as much as possible.
  • by SFEley ( 743605 ) on Friday December 09, 2005 @04:14PM (#14222693) Homepage
    Arrrgh. These two people have been going back and forth at each other on on eWeek, the Yahoo! Podcasters list, many different blogs and podcasts, and they just won't shut up. At this point I am convinced they're competing with each other to see how much news coverage they can generate.

    If you piece the two stories together, they're actually totally consistent on what happened:

    1. The Vegan guy signed up for the PodKeyword guy's service, to get some exposure for his podcast on searches.
    2. It worked. Search engines picked up PodKeyword's mirror of Vegan guy's feed.
    3. Vegan guy was surprised to find that some of the major podcast directories were listing the PodKeyword mirror feed instead of his, and when people subscribed via those directories, they were subscribing to the mirror feed.
    4. Vegan guy sent PodKeyword guy a request to discontinue the service. PodKeyword guy complied.
    5. Vegan guy lost all the listeners that were subscribed via those directories, and flipped out.
    6. Vegan guy sent PodKeyword guy another e-mail demanding that everything get turned back on but removed from any future search visibility. He was kind of an asshole about it.
    7. PodKeyword guy responded in a far more assholish manner.
    8. Lawyers got invoked, and then both sides launched media blitzkriegs.

    That's the chronology, as both sides put it. Who's right? Who's wrong? Who gives a damn? This is not a technical conflict at its core, it's a personality conflict.

    I think there's a good case to be made that RSS "feed hijacking" could happen as described: somebody mirrors your content without permission and becomes more popular than your original feed, then extorts you for your own readers/listeners. However, there's no evidence that it's ever actually happened. You'd have to be really failing to pay attention for it to succeed.

    It's certainly not what happened here. The Vegan guy deliberately signed on for a questionable service, got pissed off when the service fragmented his audience, and then both sides started hitting each other with their dicks.

    That's the whole story. And I do wish they'd shut up.

Variables don't; constants aren't.