WordPressDirect, the controversial WordPress setup and management service that was covered on Mashable and by myself on the Blog Herald, has announced a change in its policy that it hopes will alleviate many of the spam concerns.
The policy change, will remove all of the automated content posting features from free user accounts, which make up the “vast majority” of WPD members, according to Marty Rozmanith, the creator of WPD.
The tools, however, will remain available for all paid members of the service, regardless of the level they choose.
Previously, unpaid members had limited access to some of the content posting tools, including the Yahoo! Answers, article database and RSS posting tool, enabling free members, who were limited to only three blogs, to automatically post content from a variety of sources, typically without permission.
Whether this does anything to stem the vitriol that has been directed at the service remains to be seen, but I can’t see how many will be convinced, especially when there are so many difficult questions to be answered.
For those who did not read the previous articles about WPD, the service promotes itself as a “WordPress deployment and maintenance service that helps people especially those with very little technical experience) create a search-optimized WordPress blog.”
In short, it is a one-click install program that not only sets up the software, but also adds a theme, optimizes the permanlinks and makes a handful of other SEO-oriented changes. In that regard, it is much like Fantastico, but with added features to help get the blog started.
However, WordPressDirect stepped into controversy with its add-on tools, which allow users to automatically update the blogs they create using content from a variety of sources including RSS feeds, online article databases and more.
This caused many, especially on the Mashable article, to accuse the site of being a spam service. In that regard, it does share many traits, especially when you look at how the tools work and where they pull their content from.
WordPressDirect attempted to defend itself against the accusations, blaming much of the problem on their marketing, but the attempts to make peace fell on deaf ears for the most part. This, in turn, led to the recent changes they just announced.
Fixing the Problem?
Most likely, these changes are going to do little to nothing to placate the mob that has formed around WordPressDirect. Though the changes mean that the 9000+ free members of the site will no longer have the ability to automatically scrape and repost content, it says nothing about the paid members. The limitations on free accounts, including just three blogs per user, effectively meant that no one could actually be a master spammer with a free account (unless they spammed WPD and set up thousands of accounts).
To many, including myself, this sounds like a very shrewd maneuver. Though it removes most of the users from the ability to do spam-like things, it does not affect the paid ones and the email contained several pitches for the paid packages. It seems not like an attempt to shed the spam-related but to profit from it.
This move does not remove these tools from the power users nor does it impact their bottom line in any meaningful way, other than perhaps adding a few new paid members.
WPD, as a service, is walking a very thin line. It is trying to proclaim itself to not be a spam tool while offering many of the exact same features that are found in spam applications. Though, as I said in my Blog Herald article, it would make a very poor spamming program, it is completely foreseeable and almost certain that users, likely even most users, would use it for that purpose.
Furthermore, issues such as the trademark concerns over the use of the WordPress name, the lack of attribution of copied works, etc. remain unaddressed. Though it is a good step, it seems to be one either too small or in an unrelated direction.
Shortly after my Blog Herald article was released, WPD sent out an email to all members saying that it was “most balanced article” he could find.
Though I try to balanced with all of my coverage, I can not hide the fact that WordPressDirect has me very uneasy and nervous. The service has far too much use for evil and, even though I don’t know if its creators built the service with such intentions, that is the use that instantly springs to mind for myself and many others.
The problem is that a service such as what WPD proclaims to be, a WordPress installation aid that auto-optimizes the blog, could be very useful. I could even see someone such as myself using it rather than keeping a WordPress checklist for every new blog I install (I routinely get recruited to help with WP installations).
But as useful as that could be, the service, is too hot to touch right now and I seriously doubt that is going to change with these recent revisions to their policies. Though I am going to keep an eye open on the marketing changes they mentioned, I don’t see WPD becoming any less of a tainted name anytime soon.
To repair its name, WPD is going to have to make sacrifices that may hurt its business. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to be what they are doing right now.