Monday, 16 March 2015

Damning Grant Shapps with faint praise

In 2012, Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps denied working as a web marketer under the pseudonym "Michael Green" whilst being a Member of Parliament. In November last year he used legal threats to make a constituent withdraw a Facebook post, which had alleged that Shapps was doing business under the name "Michael Green" at the same time as being an MP. Now he's been forced to admit that he was doing exactly that.

It's not the general principle of an MP having an outside job, but the specific nature of the job, that matters here. Here's a description of the Trafficpaymaster product Michael Green Grant Shapps was touting:
The ‘Trafficpaymaster’ web site ... provides software which borrows from other sites and “re writes” it automatically for you. You can then generate income via Google’s ‘Adwords’. That was until there was some bad publicity in the national press about this product. Google then took action and removed all ‘Trafficpaymaster’ pages from search results. In short, the site provides industrial-scale plagiarism of other people’s original content and makes it look like your own.
Or 'HowToCrop’, which Green Shapps punted thusly:
'You could spend less than 20 minutes at your computer and turn out a newsletter that would simply stun your friends and colleagues with impact and quality. Not only is using our exclusive Copyright Free Article Directory as easy as copying-and-pasting, but we also explicitly allow you to claim every article as your own!'
So the author of the classily-titled self-help business guide Stinking Rich 3 was flogging a product that claimed to allow punters to make money by mooching off other people's content without creating* any good or service of value to anybody else.

None of it sounds good, but I suppose I can imagine worse outside interests.

In fact, I don't have to imagine. The formerly Right Honourable Kenneth Clarke, who's been Chancellor and Health Secretary (among many other things) had outside interests which included years sitting on the board of British American Tobacco, when he wasn't trying to convince parliament that BAT were innocent of tobacco smuggling, or trying to pour scorn on the idea of plain packaging for cigarette packets. Far from having to dismiss this as an 'old story', or hide behind a pseudonym, Clarke was quite open and ended his long career as a respected elder statesman.

At least web scraping, unlike tobacco, never actually killed anybody.
You, too, could get stinking rich with this amazingly addictive product that kills one user every 6 seconds!!!

*I originally wrote 'providing', but 'creating' would be more accurate - somebody might have used, say, HowToCrop to provide somebody else with content (say a newsletter that would 'simply stun your friends and colleagues with impact an quality') created by a third party whose content had been scraped.