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The Trireme Award - poster on

This month’s Trireme Award - for conditions "worse than when I was last chained to the oars" - goes to a work proposal so opaque we think it might be a rip-off, but we're not sure. The work is advertised on PeoplePerHour, a site that allows you to "hire freelancers remotely." The ad in question proposes a "project" in which the client will "Supply an article for spinning. You will need to create a spun version that can (a) pass Copyscape for at least 5 iterations of the article and (b) is at least 30 per cent different from the original article on each of these iterations."

Apart from it having such a nebulous description, we also wonder about the advisability of getting involved in a business model (apparently) based on changing an existing article just enough for... what?

Another editor writes: there is a deeply geeky explanation.

"Spinning" is the practice of rewriting copy in order to post it on a website to attract search engines - part of the variably shady process known as "Search Engine Optimization" (SEO). The copy is not there to be read - just to give the site the appearance of having content, so that it appears on the first page of a Famous Web Search Engine.

Interestingly, the search engine's attempt to detect and penalise this practice means that the copy has to be rewritten enough that it may not be plaigarism of the expression of the source material. If it makes sense, it'll be a reproduction of the facts and ideas in the source, which are not protected by authors' rights.

Copyscape is a service which promises to "Search for copies of your page on the web" - it appears to be a "loose search" to detect such not-quite-plagiarism.

A trireme
Last modified: 16 Feb 2011 - © 2011 contributors
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