A Bit Of Blog Drama with PetaPixel and The Jerks at Gizmodo
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Last week my blog had a slight bit of drama that illuminated a bit how some of the big tech news sites work internally.

It started when I was reading my normal news sites and came across a surreal article on PetaPixel, a large photography-related news site that I follow daily. The article was surreal because it was claimed to be written by me (though it most certainly wasn't), using one of my photos to illustrate a point about browser color management. The subject of the short article was related to a sub-topic covered in my 2006 writeup “Introduction to Digital-Image Color Spaces”, but used this photo, from last year's “Another Day of Amazing Fall Colors in Kyoto”:

Behind The Temple Imakumano Kannonji Temple (今熊野観音寺) Kyoto Japan  --  Imakumano Kannonji Temple (今熊野観音寺)   --  Copyright 2011 Jeffrey Friedl, http://regex.info/blog/
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24mm f/1.4 — 1/500 sec, f/1.4, ISO 1000 — map & image datanearby photos
Behind The Temple
Imakumano Kannonji Temple (今熊野観音寺)
Kyoto Japan

Again, the photo and the subject were strongly related to me, but I hadn't written the article. Surreal!

So, I sent a note to the editor at PetaPixel, Michael Zhang, asking what was up.

He got back to me quickly... it turns out to have been a series of mistakes. Some guy had found a copy of my image somewhere and used it to illustrate a short article on Reddit about browser color management. Of course he should have asked my permission to use my photo (and had he asked I would have said yes), but this kind of thing happens very often, so it's not something I tend to get bothered about.

Anyway, on Reddit it garnered a lot of attention, so Michael from PetaPixel had asked the guy whether PetaPixel could host the article as well, and the guy agreed. Unfortunately, Michael apparently hadn't been minding his p's and q's because he confused the photo credit for both the photo credit and the author credit, so when Michael put it up on his site, it got my byline.

This had been fixed by the time he responded to me with profuse apologies.

Moments later he responded with a followup: Gee, did the guy have permission to use my photo?

I replied “no, but isn't that something you should be checking before publication?” and went to bed, and woke up the next morning Kyoto time to find his reply (“sorry, I thought it was you”) and to see that the original PetaPixel article was now devoid of my image and my name, that any comments referencing me as the author had been deleted, and that the article now sported a different photo using my same wild color profile that highlights where there's a lack of color management. (I had explicitly released that color profile to the public domain, so its use here was quite appropriate.)

It was now as it should have been in the first place, but I found it odd that a supposed news site would quietly fix a material error without a correction notice.

As it turns out, I had also put a copy of that original image on my post about iOS color management: “So Much For That Glorious iPad Screen: iOS and its Apps are Not Even Color Managed”, and I brought the irony to Michael's attention: when I first published that article three months ago, I'd sent him a link suggesting that perhaps his readers would be interested in it. It was disappointing now to have been passed over for a short, fluff article.

He agreed, and confessed that he hadn't looked at the article closely enough when my initial message had come in, so the next day he published “Yup, Color Management is Absent in iOS” on PetaPixel, referencing my blog post.

Thus started a spike on my server, and as a bonus, garnering among the comments left at PetaPixel a number of truly stupid ones from people who didn't read it but felt themselves an expert nevertheless. I would expect nothing less from the Internet.

So that was that.

A day or two later, the folks at Gizmodo apparently noticed the sudden popularity of my blog post and decided that they'd like to get in on the action as well, so asked me whether they could “syndicate” it on their site. (That is, copy it so it looked like I wrote it for them.) The request is fine and not unexpected — they want content, without paying for it of course — but the way they presented the request was really smarmy, dropping some famous names of folks who have been so equally blessed to have been asked by Gizmodo to provide free content.

I responded with a simple link to one of my blog posts from 2008: “Jerks At Gizmodo: Way Uncool”. The short story there is that Gizmodo outright stole some content from my site, severely dumbed it down, and presented it as their own. And when I complained, they didn't even hint at an acknowledgment that they had done anything wrong, much less actually apologize. Their whole business model seemed to be based on stealing others' stuff, knowing that, practically speaking, the worst penalty will be having to delete the article. What assholes.

At least this time they actually asked instead of just taking the article (which to my knowledge they haven't done, though it's not like they would send a “hey, stole your stuff, thanks!” heads-up note). Still, little else seems to have changed.

The guy at Gizmodo last week had a fresh opportunity to apologize for how his company had acted before, but instead sent a rambling note about just how great a guy the original asshole had been, and how much that guy loved photography, and how he was friends with such-and-such Famous People, how many BAZILLION hits any article Gizmodo puts up gets, etc. etc. etc.. It was a self-love-fest beyond smarmy back to surreal, as if this was at all relevant... to anything?

Notable, but not unexpected from this group, was the lack of an apology, so in disgust I replied lamenting that fact. Well, it turns out that he thinks he had apologized, and he might actually be right, sort of. Toward the end of his note he had written “Anyway, sorry about that.”. That came after the full-on self-serving egomaniacal blather of a reply that was devoid of any sense of apology or contriteness, so it naturally followed to read the “sorry” as a lament that they wouldn't get the free content they wanted. But, apparently, that was his idea of an apology. Gee, okay, wow.

Anyway, I pointed out that they didn't need anyone's permission to link to the blog post, and that they should do so if they thought their readers would benefit. Since they wanted to actually host the article, they clearly thought it was a benefit to their readers, but you know what's coming: they never bothered to do so. It seems that Gizmodo concern for their readers extends only as far as Gizmodo's ability to profit from an article.

My first characterization of them, “Jerks at Gizmodo”, seems as appropriate than ever, which is why I continue to avoid them.

Anyway, it was an interesting little bit of.... well... something.


All 6 comments so far, oldest first...

Hmm… do you feel that the internet is changing to become a place where people just parrot things, and original content becomes hard to find? I feel like it started around the time that Twitter became popular (what with all of the re-tweeting, not that I follow anyone’s Twitter profile), and then extended to so-called news sites. Linking is one thing, but people increasingly point out how entire articles are either copied or simply reworded between websites.

It’s unfortunate. The internet is an exceptional platform for people to publish fresh, original, unique things, and gain exposure for it. Instead, it’s becoming a hollow box of echoes and regurgitation as people try to rip off and imitate in order to draw attention and sift advertising dollars.

— comment by David K. on July 5th, 2012 at 10:09am JST (5 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

That sucks !
I thought it was really you on Petapixel (even if I thought it was a bit out of character). I like Petapixel all right, but it’s often a lot of re-post without much editorial content added.

Please, continue your blog and adventures in photography and ignore the jerks…

Luc

— comment by Luc on July 5th, 2012 at 12:31pm JST (5 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

I think it’s at least partially generational. The way you were treated by both sites is indicative of a mindset in which people whom you’ve never met on the Internet don’t need to be treated as actual people. People in generations younger than yours or mine are more likely to have this mindset.

— comment by Zachary on July 5th, 2012 at 3:16pm JST (5 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

In response to David K’s comments.
Older content using businesses are struggling financially as their business model is based in the old world of paid content used to attract eyeballs which they hope to sell to advertisers at a profit.
Advertisers now have many direct routes to their ideal customer so the content using businesses serve no purpose and they will die out. They don’t realise it yet so they ‘cut costs’ and steal content, recycle content or ask their public to provide it for free (Many newspapers are doing this these days. Another dying breed.)
So the likes of Gizmodo et all scramble around for the ever reducing advertising dollars.

There is more original content than ever being produced and consumed on billions of devices and hundreds of platforms that didn’t exist when Gizmodo began operating. Google, the search engine not the company, is your friend which allows you to curate new content sources and let the old ones go into their dotage without your eyeballs.

A bit of a ramble , sorry.

— comment by Derek on July 5th, 2012 at 4:16pm JST (5 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Had a facebook post a few weeks ago that got a bunch of likes and shares and was picked up by Lowepro since it was about 1 of their bags. Great since i make very few public posts. Then it started to get shared on some photo stores facebook pages about why you should buy a bag from them.
It was not my intention to write copy for the stores. I wonder if they will give me a share of the profits?
You just got to remember that anything you put out there for free will be used by someone to make money.
Please keep writing. I was glad to find out about lack of color management on tablets before i buy one.

— comment by Ed Pouso on July 5th, 2012 at 4:51pm JST (5 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink

Hey, I’m the author of the post on reddit that used your picture (and of course the subsequent article thingey on petapixel) I posted a response to you when you posted on petapixel but they deleted it along with the other stuff referencing you. After that I tried emailing the following to you, but I still haven’t gotten a reply from that so here it is in it’s entirety:

__________

Subject: Ref: http://www.petapixel.com/2012/06/25/is-your-browser-color-managed/

Body: * As of this email it looks like they deleted your comments and my reply off of petapixel.com, which was the following:

——-Begin Post——-

Hey there Jeffery, I’m sorry if I have caused any confusion or hard feelings. I wrote this post for reddit on color management as a PSA:
http://www.reddit.com/r/photography/comments/v7hrr/is_your_browser_color_managed/

I used an image I found here:
https://plus.google.com/104013835962992611989/posts/ZvVWH3bt8wP
as my primary example.

When PetaPixel asked me if they could republish it I gladly agreed. In the process of refining the article I did a reverse lookup on the image and found it’s source to properly attribute it to it’s creator. I don’t blog, and know only that several of my images have been blogged with attribution to me, I figured that this was how it was done.

As for the article credits, that was a misunderstanding on PetaPixels part. I never told them that you wrote the article. In addition I did not strip any watermarks or notices from the image, it looked like that from google plus.

I agree, in hindsight I should have gone to you for permission to use the image. Please pardon this as a beginners error.

As of this writing I have submitted my own photography for use as the subject and examples, I hope that that will offer a late solution to this impasse.

——-End Post———

I appreciate your work, especially your Lightroom plugin which I use constantly. Please know that this was a misunderstanding (that has now been corrected), I had never published an article on anything before.

V/R
-Mitch

— comment by Mitch on July 8th, 2012 at 6:32am JST (5 years, 5 months ago) comment permalink
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