Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Who, or What, Is Doing the Fake Links?

Last night when I logged in The China Beat to read their interview with James Fallows (a great interview by the way), I was quite surprised to see several of my blog posts appeared linked to that one. The problem is, I wasn't the one who created the links, and even if I wanted to, I would have to time travel, as those posts of mine occurred earlier than the one they were linked to. In short, those links apparently were done by some automatic program on the internet – quite annoyingly.

The China Beat is a great blog and I have no problem promoting it. However those links made it look like I was promoting my own blog. I've always detested excessive self-promotion, and I'm very bothered by those automatic links.

Similar things also happened on my blog. Recently I often see the so-called "links to" appearing under a post of mine, but a check on those links showes they are not actually linked to my post. That is, they are fake. In most cases I tolerate the fake links, but I have also deleted a few that are obviously irrelevant to my blog content.

So the question is, who, or what, is creating the fake links? One suspect is Sphere, which I first noticed a while ago on CNN. Often one can see under a CNN report the "From the blogs" feature, marked "powered by Sphere."

Sphere offers a so-called "contextual widget" free to bloggers; at first I was intrigued and even considered installing it. However after I saw the irrelevant fake links appearing on my blog and fake links using my blog's name appearing excessively on other sites, I became sick of it.

So, my message to Sphere or any similar program: it is obnoxious and violation of my right of authorship when you insert fake links that are not actually linked from my blog posts. Please stop doing this!


dan said...

That happened to me once, maybe a year ago, and another blogger accused me of doing it to promote my blog. I convinced him otherwise, but to this day, I don't know what caused it, but it was very much like you have described.

Xujun Eberlein said...

Thanks for letting me know, Dan. I wonder, too, what caused it. Fortunately your blog is no longer affected. I hope whoever is doing this will leave my blog alone as well.

Happy New Year, by the way.

Jerry Waxler said...

Xujun, This is really curious. I keep noticing Inside Out China on my incoming links list on Wordpress. I was going to write you an email to ask if you know why it should be happening. I thought perhaps the reason might be that you turned off "no follow" in your comment section, but it sounds more complicated than that. By the way, I don't mind having incoming links from you, and I really really don't mind you promoting your blog. But I thought this puzzle might somehow be related to your issue.


Xujun Eberlein said...

Gosh, this is worse than I thought. Thanks for your tolerance, Jerry, still I'm really sorry about this. If only I know a fix...

Jerry Waxler said...

Xujun, I don't know if this is a bad thing. My understanding is that there are many blog experts who recommend turning off no follow. Maybe I am misunderstanding. I don't think I see the down side. It's just unusual. Maybe your blog provider has a support forum. (It looks like you are using blogger, which is even more surprising because this seems like an advanced behavior I would expect from a privately hosted blog. Let me know if you hear anything. But don't worry about me. I don't have a problem with the way it is set up now.

Also, if you are worried about spam links coming in, (which is different from what I'm describing) you might look under your settings for pingbacks or trackbacks.


Micah Sittig said...

Today I found several "fake links" from Inside-Out China on my weblog, which helped me to figure out why the links are happening. In the right-hand column of your weblog there is a section titled "China Blogs" that links to posts on other weblogs when they are updated. At least for my weblog, I think Google is crawling the web and finding your "China Blogs" links, and thinking that you are linking to my site in your posts. So I have a hunch that if you disable the "China Blogs" list, the problem will go away.

Xujun Eberlein said...

Micah, you may be right. Thanks for the tip. I'm reluctant to disable the entire China blog list, but I just disabled the option to sort the list by most recently updated. When you update your blog next time, could you please let me know if the problem persist?

Now I'm unhappy with Google.