It was inevitable. Richard MacManus posts his thoughts on vendors that are taking the publish & subscribe model of RSS and turning it around to sell an automated way to republish RSS feeds and "create" content on their clients’ sites. They position RSS as a quick way to harness other people’s original work for easy profits.

To their defense, one of the vendors responds to another MacManus posting, "It is up to our clients to follow any applicable laws for use of the materials." but the fact of the matter is that the technology is in place to spawn thousands of automatically updating sites with no other purpose than to juice a search engine ranking around a particular topic. One could argue that this is the Topix model but you don’t see them getting sued by the media sites that they crawl. In fact, they were acquired.

Why? Topix did a very good job of aggregating their feeds in a way that was respectful of the source (posting excerpts and not full text) and ended up being a source of traffic for the sites they republished. They struck the right balance between the simple re-purposing of other people’s content and adding value with editorial selection, proper citation & linking.

We have at our disposal very powerful tools to harness and republish the collective writings of the world at large. We should all strive to use this power selectively as a way to highlight the best of what we see around us. Add thoughtful and original insights to the conversation and you will be rewarded. Use these tools blindly as a way to make a quick buck and you will be panned for what you are – an organ grinder of the digital age.