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The tricks get tricker, but they still prey on our pride

March 14, 2011

A while ago, I was humbled to get an unsolicited email from someone trying to compile a list of top 100 teacher blogs. We exchanged a few emails, and I was genuinely pleased to see my blog listed along side so many other blogs I respect. Still, all along, the email seemed a bit fishy, and it was clear when looking at the final product, that they didn’t really do much to get to know the individual blogs (my two best posts are rather crappy, IMO).

But today, the awesome Dan Meyer recognized this effort for the scam that it is. Check it out—this post is a must read: Stop linking to Top 100 Blogs.

There are two quick lessons I can take away. First, they’re preying on my pride. How could I possibly turn down a request to be listed as a top 100 blog? Only Feynman could do something like that.

Second, as someone who considers himself pretty informed of the latest scams on the internet (snopes and I became good friends long ago), and someone who knew about the online college scam industry, I was still shocked by the twists and linkages in this scam. It occurs to me that this is a really interesting interdisciplinary problem. Could we teach out students to detect scams like this? It’s much more than simply “learning to question the authority of a source.” To pull off Dan’s feat, you’ve got to have a solid understanding of how search works, how it’s gamed, the landscape of the for-profit college industry and more. I’d love to teach the course that gets students to weave together these threads to bring an end to scams like this.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. March 15, 2011 12:23 am

    Whoa. Check the output on your “possibly related posts” plugin.

    • March 15, 2011 12:25 am

      That’s ironic. I’d love to know how to turn that off, but don’t think it’s an option on wp.com blogs.

      • March 15, 2011 1:43 am

        There’s a checkbox under Appearance/Extras that says “Hide related links on this blog, which means this blog won’t show up on other blogs or get traffic that way.” I’m pretty sure that’s the one. Ironic is right…

  2. March 15, 2011 6:57 am

    I recall getting a comment on my blog a few weeks ago about the Top 100. It sounded fishy, so I googled its contents, and found hundreds of identical posts elsewhere. We can’t all be top 100, right? So I tagged it as spam, and forgot about it.

    It did provide me with half a dozen more blogs to follow that I probably wouldn’t have found otherwise…

  3. March 15, 2011 8:37 am

    That is a pretty rotten, sneaky trick. But just so you know, your blog ranks high from my perspective. I even bothered to have your posts emailed to me and took the time list your blog as a resource on our home school web site – no strings attached — really and truly just to serve as a resource to others seeking answers. So go ahead and give your ego a high five!

  4. March 15, 2011 1:22 pm

    John,
    You just nailed it right!
    I left a comment on Dan’s blog along the same lines, i.e. we need to make our students proficient in media literacy.
    On the other hand, I actually learned about five other bloggers that I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

    • March 15, 2011 10:45 pm

      Dolores,
      My problem is I’ve never seen a course that really teaches media literacy in this way. Sure, you might catch that it’s a fishy looking blog post, but could you break it down like Dan did? Seems to me that would require some digging into really interesting questions of search and how it works. I take that back—there’s one class I’ve seen that seems to do something like this, Technical and Social Foundations of the Internet, taught by the best Computer Science teacher I’ve ever known, Owen Astrachan.

Trackbacks

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