UK Web Focus (Brian Kelly)

Innovation and best practices for the Web

An Embarrassing Image Bot

Posted by Brian Kelly on 24 Aug 2007

Display of recent readers, which includes an image of a pair of buttocksAn approach I’ve taken to maximising the impact of this blog has been register it (and its RSS feed) in various locations. One of these was the MyBlogLog service, as I’ve described previously.

As well as providing access to the blog by visitors to the MyBlogLog service (and I notice there have been 600 visitors in the last seven days) this service also allows you to embed a widget in your sidebar, showing an image of recent readers (who obviously need to register with the service and provide an image).

I have also felt that this can provide a useful way of getting to know your readers; it also allows readers to see who else has recently been reading the blog.

MyBlogLog subscribers can chose for themselves the image they wish to upload. In many social networking services we are finding that people upload caricatures of themselves, or an image which may reflect their interests (such as, as shown in the accompanying image, a cat).

Last week, however, I noticed that the image for one reader showed a pair of buttocks. And this image appeared to stay for about a week. As the person’s own blog is called “Becoming A Pick-Up Artist” I decided that it was unlikely that this was a reader who had a legitimate interest in my blog, but is actually an interesting example of link spam (someone who seeks to increase traffic to their blog by providing links in other blogs, often via blog comments).

Changed image, which is now a portrait (wearing a mask)Today I noticed that the image had been changed – it is now a portrait photograph of a man wearing a wig and a mask over his eyes.

This image isn’t as embarrassing (or offensive to some) as the previous one, but it still is spam, I feel. So I have emailed MyBlogLog to inform them of this.

More interestingly, though, are the implications of allowing images to be included in a blog without any form of moderation. Would the example I’ve described cause problems if used in the context of a school? And what if, for example, a groups of users had an image which included a poster giving the first letter of their name – and, first, Frank, followed by Ursula, followed by Connie and Kay read my blog. Nothing wrong with the individual images, but put together in a particular order …

My take on this is that I will observe the patterns of usage, and ensure that I can remove such widgets if they display content which is illegal or causes real offence. However as someone who needs to be able to identify such issues and to advice others I will continue to make use of such services.

Of course the image could only be seen by people who came to the UK Web Focus blog side and looked at the sidebar. Now that I’ve included an image in this post, it will be seen by readers who use a blog aggregator or an RSS reader. I hope the image isn’t considered offensive to anybody!

3 Responses to “An Embarrassing Image Bot”

  1. BeachBum said

    That is too funny. The pitfalls of WEB 2.0 technology. On the plus side I know that MyBlogLog is starting to crack down on what they will allow as an image.


  2. James Clay said

    Brian I remember going to Slideshare to look at one of your presentations and on the same page was a presentation about certain popular positions!

    It is an issue, less of an issue with University students. they’re adults!

    Quite a real issue with 14-19 year old students that we have in FE!

    Having said that I have found images on the BBC News website front page really offensive (image of Saddam hanging) and most people I know wouldn’t ban the BBC News.


  3. Wendell said

    MyBlogLog made an attempt to deal with this several months ago, thankfully. I suspect they rely on us to indicate what we count as “offensive”.

    There are other MBL-like sevices that don’t monitor this kind of thing, and which – in at least one instance – allow questionable images/usernames to publicize as your “friends” or “contacts” without your say-so. This association-by-default can be problematic if your readership is sensitive to these things.

    Nobody wants “Becoming a pick up artist” befriending their site for survivors of sexual abuse.

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