2007/05/12

Ignoble How-To

Update (2015/01/01): An Ignoble Experiment: Ignoble How-To.

What you are looking at right now is a blog experiment I did from March through May of 2006.

Introduction

First, I should note that I blog personally for myself and am a web developer, using blogging tools quite often in addition to more traditional tools (Dreamweaver). I also work for the e-commerce division of Network Solutions, currently a separate company called MonsterCommerce. I have worked there for four years.

</shameless self-promotion> And now that's out of the way, let me get back to the explanation. In my time of using Blogger since about 2003, I'd seen many an ad for automated blog-posting companies. Basically, these companies would write or rip from RSS feeds and automatically post content to their client's blogs in exchange for money. The point behind this is so that the search-engine friendly content would be auto-generated and would hopefully fill out or replace the content that the blog author actually wrote. What bothered me about this is that I never got into blogging for profit and still to this day do not blog for money. I'm basically a writer more than anything else (though not a great one) and I use my sites for journaling and sharing ideas. I believe that if you are not going to write your own stuff, then what is the point? It's cheating to my way of thinking. Sure, I guess I wouldn't mind making money, but only if it were by writing my own content.

Curiouser and Curiouser

However, the technology behind the automatic blogs intrigued my geeky side. So I decided to brainstorm ideas for how I might build something like it. I'd already stumbled onto the Blogger feature that allows posting via email. This feature works by allowing you to create an email address constructed as follows: username.______@blogger.com. For privacy, you control the suffix after the username, so that it's not guessable.

At the same time, I got lots of spam and email newsletters (who can really tell the difference?) in my inbox. The combo helped form the idea. I wanted to subscribe the Mail-to-Blogger address to a smattering of newsletters and the content of these would be added as posts. However, there is no way to SEND emails from this address nor any way to actually read them in an inbox, so this made it difficult. But then I remembered that I had my very own mail server with as much customization as I could want. I set up a throw-away address on my server and set it to forward to the Blogger address. I subscribed this address to as many internet newsletters from various topics like technology, microsoft, Google Alerts and other mundane things like Horoscopes and dating advice. The sites were all too happy to use my email address and when they sent out a newsletter, their content was posted to my blog. I added more subscriptions as time went on. It sounds simple, but in that short two-month span, I had over 1300 blog posts, none of which had I written (excluding this one). Wow.

Short Steps

In summary, here are the steps outlined.

  1. Set up your Mail-to-Blogger Address. Make sure it is set to immediately publish.
  2. Create an email address, perhaps through Gmail or your own mail server that allows forwarding. You will want the inbox to keep a copy as well for reference.
  3. Find topical sites that send out regular newsletters or information and subscribe at will. You will want to make sure you get the first few manually, in cases where the sites want to verify subscription via a link.
  4. Set your email address to forward onto the Blogger address. You will want to monitor this as it is likely that Blogger's spam filters may pick up the postings as unusual activity and save the posts as drafts instead of posts. Posting these manually with a captcha a few times and answering any other challenge questions got me past this.

That is all it took to the best of my knowledge and recollection. Keep in mind that all this worked over a year ago on an older version of Blogger, so I'm not sure that it would work today. Besides some contact to verify I wasn't a spamming bot, I never received any complaints or notices from Blogger. However, to my mind, there are probably still some invisible red flags on this site, which is fine by me. It was only an experiment. I do not suggest any one else try it as there are enough spam blogs out there as it is.

If you have any questions or comments, or would like to add details of your own experiences, please use the comments feature. Thanks for visiting.

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