If you are a regular follower of my blog, you may have noticed that I started posting links to plans every Sunday morning. I figured, what the heck? Each week, I post a link to someone’s project plans that may inspire you to try your hand at a new piece, maybe look at a solution to a problem in your home or your shop or just entertain you.
Yes, I amuse you. Like a clown. In Goodfellas. You got a problem with that? (Oh, yeah, the language is definitely NSFW…)
But, I have got to tell you that recently in the online land of woodworking, I have seen some thing that just make me not such a fun guy. In fact, they make me downright frustrated.
For instance, this past week, I had a cool idea to perhaps explore the building of a desk design. One style that really caught my attention is known as a partners’ desk, where basically two people can sit and work at the desk at the same time. Most of the desks used by the Presidents of the United States of America are of this model, and it would be a really sweet design for a couple who works together at a home office.
Well, I started searching for partners’ desk plans, and I was initially excited to see there were thousands of links. Awesome! I soon discovered, however, that not everything that looks promising actually is.
Link after link I clicked, I was shown a brief flash of a nice looking website, but before I could scroll down the page to see what desk plans were being offered, the screen flipped, and my old nemesis – Ted’s 16,000 woodworking plans – would appear. Crap. (Click here to see what I really think about this nonsense) This was always followed by an auto-play video that would start to tell me how awesome it is to use the plans (stolen) assembled from across the internet to help my woodworking.
Not wanting to sit through this schlock, I would click on the back arrow of my browser, and blammo, I would get hit with a dialogue box that told me to hold on, my man Ted was serious about helping me become a better woodworker.
Grrrr… I’d rather poke my eyes out with a card scraper than read that crap, but that’s me.
Another sneaky little trick is a tad more subtle, but just as offensive. It’s known as a link farm, and while the site may look legitimate on the surface, it really only serves to make the owner as much money as possible while doing the least amount of work. These sites look like helpful blogs or tool review sites, but when you do a little digging, it gets easy to see what’s going on.
First, if the page is something like 3/4 advertising to tools for sale on some online service – namely Amazon – you can bet that the site’s owner has set up an affiliate program. Sure, for the average woodworking blogger, it’s a great way to make a little cash to buy some nice tools of his or her own. However, if the site’s manager doesn’t disclose – up front – that they are working through an affiliate program, they are in violation of these agreements.
How can you tell if you are about to buy an affiliate product? When you mouse over the item on their site, you can see the site’s URL attached to the end of the link. This tells the servers over at someplace like Amazon that the link is coming from that page.
Another red flag is when you can copy part of the text, paste it into a search engine with quotation marks around it, and find the exact same text at some other well known online resource – Wikipedia, a woodworking magazine, etc. That, kids, is known as plagiarism, and you can get booted out of school or kicked out of your job for doing that in certain professions.
Again, a legitimate blogger or woodworker will disclose who they work with, let you know they are benefitting from the arrangement and actually does work to offer you something unique to them. Everyone else? Well, they are just trying to pull a fast one on you.
Another technique that makes me want to rage like the Incredible Hulk is known as freebooting, and you’d be amazed at what some people put up on their websites. Videos from people such as, I dunno, Norm Abram, Tommy MacDonald, Steve Ramsey and other luminaries of the woodworking world are posted to these sites, and – in effect – they are stealing views from the creator. Now, I have done a few videos, and I can tell you that the short, crappy ones I have produced pale in comparison to the works of a David Marks, so I can only imagine how much time, effort, energy, practice and sweat goes into making those. Give the credit to the folks who earned it.
Why does this matter? Easy. As a woodworking blogger, I know how much work goes into producing original content. It takes time away from me being with my wife and sons. It takes time away from other hobbies and chores I have to do. It takes away form time in my shop. So, when I bust my posterior to put out content, I can appreciate how much effort went into it, and how much it stings to see someone copy it and post it to their site as if they did the work.
What can you do? Gosh, I guess there are a few things. You can visit sites you know. You can check with others in the online woodworking community to see who they trust. And, if it looks shady, there’s a good chance it just might be…