As part of my ongoing effort to clean up the Internet, I’ve observed that there is a growing trend here on the Internet that is absolutely disgusting and that I finally have to write about. I’m actually toying with the possibility of creating and maintaining a Block Shitty Sites extension for Firefox that will basically load a generic HTML page saying, “Hey, the website you’re about to view sucks. Click here to proceed, or click here to go to Reddit, which is where this site gets all of its content anyway.”
I’m looking at you, www.odometer.com, www.minq.com, www.ranker.com, www.truthfeed.com…
In fact, here is a full list of the sites I’ve so far added to the Bullshit Pile:
There are some others, but I lost them a few months ago when I reformatted my PC and lost my hosts file. Prior to that, i was simply editing my hosts file so that these websites wouldn’t load. When I’m browsing on my PC, with NoScript, Adblock, and Ghostery, it’s not a big deal. However, I navigate Facebook mobile with Chrome for Android, and don’t really have any extensions with it. I use Firefox for Android for most of my mobile browsing; Chrome is really just for Facebook, and for clicking the Sponsored Ads that may or may not be interesting.
In the interest of fairness, I actually removed Ranker from the Bullshit Pile recently. They have straightened up a fair bit. So what’s wrong with these websites?
There are actually four ads loaded on this page–the Pandora ad is blocking another, if I remember correctly, and there is one that isn’t shown because I scrolled down past it. Additionally, there are three–yes, fucking three–complete rows of social media sharing icons, and I happen to think that anyone who clicks one of those buttons should have their thumbs removed for the good of all mankind.
So let me give you a brief rundown of what these websites do.
Step 1 – Steal Stuff From Reddit
No, really, that’s how they get their “content.” They just look for interesting posts on Reddit, and then turn it into a “12 Most Hurtful Things People Have Been Told” and “10 Terrible Roommate Stories.” They feature no original content, and lift everything from Reddit. They don’t add anything, they don’t remove anything. At most, they paraphrase and clean up the grammar, but half the time they don’t even do that. No, I’d say 95% of the time, they don’t even do that.
As someone who actually, you know, creates content, this irritates me immensely. These people are raking in obscene amounts of money–we’ll get to that–and they are doing nothing for it. If I’m the steak dinner, then they are the half-eaten sucker pulled out of the couch.
Step 2 – Split It Across 50+ Pages
This is the new thing, and it’s what tipped me off to this entire scam. Yes, it’s a scam. These websites are run by twisted, amoral sociopaths, and I would say that to their faces without hesitation. So they take these stories that other people wrote on Reddit, generate them into a list, and then separate it into as many pages as possible. It is not unusual to find each freaking sentence given its own page, forcing the viewer to hit “Next” fifty to a hundred times to see all the “content.” I am not exaggerating.
Take this short “story” that I just pulled from Minq.
There’s actually another page after this one that contains four words, and then the source URL. So that’s four pages for this minuscule little story. It is disgusting and nakedly greedy. It is literally taking stolen content and slicing it up into the smallest chunks possible and scattering it across the greatest number of pages possible, with the least amount of work possible. Why?
Step 3 – Serve Ads
It should come as no surprise whatsoever that every single one of these pages has ads–often two or three, and sometimes more. Hell, look at that bullshit from The Libertarian Republic above–the page I’m looking at is like 65% ads. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch. 45% ads, perhaps? So instead of taking these “12 Stories About Horrible Roommates!” lifted right off Reddit and putting them on a single page where you’d see 2 or 3 ads, they split each story into three to five chunks, making it “36 to 60 Mini-Stories About Horrible Roommates If You Click Next Enough Without Getting Frustrated At How Many Times You Have To Fucking Click Next.” Why is this significant? Because suddenly you’re being served fifty and sixty times the number of ads, for the same amount of stolen borrowed content.
It’s not about your experience. It’s about how many ads they can serve you. That’s all it’s about. Websites designed for the user don’t force the user to click next between thirty and seventy times to read one article–and it definitely won’t be an “article” that is nothing more than a compilation any random person can find on Reddit with six minutes to kill. That’s what it’s all about: serving you ads.
Step 4 – OMG PLEASE SHARE OUR SITE PLEASE PRETTY PLEASE OMG PLEASE
You know what a row of social media icons tells me about a website? That the website wants to be shared. You know what two rows of social media icons tells me about a website? That it’s a whore that doesn’t care about anything but eyeballs. You know what three rows of social media icons tells me about a website? That it’s a festering pustule that needs to be lanced.
Look at this layout!
Ad. Row of social media buttons. Contextual image resulting almost certainly for a google search of “doctor.” One paragraph. Row of social media buttons. Ad.
In fact, it’s in the first row of results for “doctor writing.”
Now, I pull stuff from Google Images all the freaking time. I prefer to find an image and make a stupid meme to add context to my articles, but I have never just added a random “context image” to pass it off as content like this one does. Of course, the other sites do it, too. What do you think I cropped out of the Minq screenshots above? They use images because it’s easy and they take up space, giving the illusion that there is more content on each page than there actually is. After all, it takes a lot of work to type out a whole paragraph. Instead, you can do a Google search and slap in an image from the first page of results! Guaranteed to take up the same amount of space as at least one paragraph! Anyone can do it! Make your own Whore Website today!
Step 5 – One Of These Trackers Thinks I’m a Heroin Junkie
Like I’ve said before, I don’t have to worry much about any of these trackers actually getting to know me. Except… The rules are different with Chrome for Android, and I don’t know how it came about. For someone who takes privacy as seriously as I do and who actually goes through a lot of steps to protect her online privacy from trackers, this is alarming, because I do know someone who takes suboxone–my sister. I have very little doubt that we’ve mentioned it… in text messages. I have a friend who takes it, too, and we’ve discussed it once or twice through Facebook.
I know that they’re aware that I own a business.
Do you realize how terrifying that is? I try to cover my tracks. Yet these trackers have figured out that 1. I own my business, and 2. I know someone who takes suboxone. Why they’re trying to shove it onto me, I don’t know. They’ve also figured out that I’m transgender. No, I’m not kidding. One minute I get ads for penis enlargement, the next for breast implants. I’m not even joking. I have yet to be served ads for both on the same webpage, but you’d better believe I’m going to screenshot it when it happens.
Of course these sites are loaded with trackers. Because it’s not enough to serve you as many ads as possible, often with such tiny Close buttons that you’ll accidentally click the ad trying to close it, thereby opening it and earning them another few pennies. No, they also have to whore themselves out as tracking vehicles for Google AdSense and the 7,000 other trackers on the Internet.
In fact, I’m going to go to Minq right now and see how many trackers it uses. Libertarian Republic, too. I mean, if I’m going to shame them, I’m gonna go the full distance.
Opening these two webpages slowed my PC to a crawl, by the way, and I’ve got a bad ass PC.
Take a guess which one of these two sites–Minq or The Libertarian Republic–is more egregious. Did you say Minq? So did I. We were wrong. In fact, Minq is very much more reasonable. The Libertarian Republic boasts a whopping thirty-five trackers.
I’m sorry, no. Correction. Some trackers were still loading. In addition to forty-three fucking trackers, The Libertarian Republic also boasts an auto-play video!
You fucking pieces of shit. It’s not enough that you sell your viewers to advertisers. It’s not enough that you have almost five times as many trackers as freaking Minq–a website I’ve criticized publicly at least on six occasions. On top of that, you want money from people directly? You should be getting enough money from selling them, you pieces of shit.
I’m sorry, but you can’t fucking do that. You can do one or the other. You can either sell your readers like cheap commodities to advertisers and trackers, or you can ask them for subscription money. You can’t do both, you money-grubbing, greedy asses.
“But they have the right–”
I’m so sick of hearing that any time I criticize someone for doing something fucked up. “But they have the right to do it!” is not relevant. That someone has the right to do something does not make that “something” the right thing to do. I had someone tell me recently that my parents had the right to beat me for wearing women’s clothes when I was a kid. First of all, that’s debatable. Second of all, that’s irrelevant. It’s still wrong. It’s wrong to be racist, but that doesn’t mean people don’t have the right to be. So sure, they have the right to run a website like that. But that doesn’t make it the right thing to do.
Minq, on the other hand, contains only nine trackers, and only four of them are advertising trackers.
This article has taken me longer to write, compile, and put together than ten articles from either one of these sites. I will say that The Libertarian Republic, at least, seems to contain original content. I can’t say with certainty that it’s original, because “written by…” was noticeably absent from the few things I saw–which is usually an indicator that it wasn’t really written by anyone, just compiled by someone with dollar signs in their eyes and a sense of decency in their toilets.
I would actually give this article a pretty good chance of being seen by someone there. Good. Clean up your fucking site. It’s disgusting. You can say anything you want about me, my content, and my site–I assure you, I’ve heard worse. One thing you can’t say, though, is that I’m contributing to the cesspool that the Internet is fast becoming because people would rather make money than give their readers something of value, because their readers aren’t people. They’re commodities.
It actually saddened me to have to add a site with the word “Libertarian” in its title to the Bullshit Pile. I’m not going to lie. It sucked to see libertarians stooping to such deceitful–because let’s not pretend like the average user has any idea that you’re tracking their behavior and selling it to advertisers.
Fuck, I have more trackers than Minq. However, I’m upfront about that, and they either deal with me collecting useless information about site statistics, or I don’t know how to remove them–like ScoreCard. I’m not even sure what that is, or how it got here. You certainly can’t get 43 accidentally, though.
Oh, look, they have an “Advertise With Us” heading right there on their home page. I’m so surprised.
All of this is just… totally unacceptable.
I have to wonder how successful it is. How many people out there are actually willing to click Next 56 times to read one single freaking article of stolen Reddit content at Minq? It’s almost like a lab experiment–how little food does it take to get the rat to push the button? What is the least amount of food we can give the rat to entice it to push the button? Because button presses = more ads = more money. It’s that simple.
So fuck these websites.
You can tell them to go fuck themselves by using the extensions NoScript, Ghostery, and Adblock Plus.
In a True Victory For Scumbags All Over The Earth…
All of this split content will actually load when you visit the very first item in the list. If your bandwidth is slow, you might see this happen. Then suddenly, 95% of the content will just vanish, replaced with a Next button, with a tiny portion of the content remaining there for you to look at. I’d love to work with someone to make this extension and to provide the ability to break the page’s scripts just before they slice up the content. Seeing all of the content load, ready for you to view, right before it’s taken away from you and put behind a Next button that has to be clicked 53 times while you’re survived 159 ads instead of just three… is downright insulting.
Because that’s the number of ads we’re talking here. If they ordinarily have 2 or 3 per page, and suddenly there are 56 pages, then you’re looking at 112-168 ads, instead of just 3. It’s a shitload more ads. So it’s not hard to see why so many websites have taken up this absurdly greedy practice, but fuck those websites. Don’t visit them, don’t share their “content,” and don’t let them sell you 168 times for you to read one collection of shit lifted from Reddit.