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How Not to Launch a Blog – The story of an Amateur Blogger

I’ve been a little hesitant to talk about this on ProBlogger but in the last two hours I’ve had 30 emails about it so thought rather than responding to each one personally I should make a statement before things go much further.

The story is that a blog called AmBlogger.net has started a blog that until I woke up this morning looked virtually exactly like ProBlogger.net (except what you see here as Orange was blue, some names were changed and there were a few poorly formatted bits and pieces).

If you go have a look now you’ll notice that Vince Chan the blogger concerned has now deleted the three menu boxes at the top of the blog so it is a little different – but the similarities are pretty obvious. update: You can see a screen cap here of his design (now changed) after the three boxes were deleted.

I saw this blog a few days ago and shot Vince Chan an email raising my concern. I didn’t demand he stop using the design but made it clear I was not happy with it. Previously when people have stolen designs from me an email like this has been replied to with an apology and a commitment to change the blog design immediately.

Amblogger-1

In this case no apology was forthcoming and Vince replied with an email saying he didn’t have time to reply adequately at that time but that he’d come back to me within 48 hours. His response came within that time but rather that coming via email it appeared on his blog with an excerpt from my email to him.

My main concern was that the design of ProBlogger (by Rachel from cre8d design) is something that I paid for and something that I believe to be copyrighted. Vince Chan is not hiding that the design was inspired by ProBlogger and that in fact his whole blog is along similar lines but aimed at ‘Amateur” bloggers (you can read about his intentions for the blog in his about sections – written in the style of ProBlogger’s about sections of course).

Now I don’t have a concern with him starting such a blog or even it being ‘inspired’ by this blog. I think the more talking about how people can improve their blogs the better. What I do have a concern about is that someone can simply lift the code of a blog and replicate it with only a few minor color changes and think that they can get away with it without consequences.

Copyright and web design is a somewhat tricky business. While I agree with Vince Chan that there are only so many ways to present a blog in terms of structure, format etc I think there are enough options available to bloggers to come up with designs that are original.

I know of quite a few blogs that have been ‘inspired’ by ProBlogger’s design – there are quite a few with three boxes at the top like I have here – but in each case the designer has gone to lengths to make the design their own on some level. I don’t have an issue with their approach (sometimes done with acknowledgment of inspiration and a courtesy email sometimes without) but in this case it’s gone too far.

My other concern is that Vince Chan posted part of the email I sent him without my permission rather than discussing it in private. I can only assume this is part of a link baiting type strategy to launch his blog (unfortunately it seems to have worked as his traffic today is 50 times his normal levels – although he was only averaging 2 visitors per day). It is for this reason that I resisted blogging about this for a number of days – but as a number of others have begun to write about it I’ve decided to talk about it.

I’m quite perplexed by Vince Chan’s strategy. He states in one of his posts that he was hoping to collaborate with me:

‘I chose the design with the naivity that Darren would one day approach me and say that he’d give me his blessing to work and push the envelope to promote Amateurs in Blogging – a collaboration of sorts.’

I strongly doubt there will ever be such an approach. While Vince Chan has definitely got my attention (and that of others) all he’s done is burnt his bridges.

A number of people have asked me whether I’ll take further action against Vince Chan in a legal sense. I doubt it will come to that. He seems to be hinting that he’ll change the design as a result of the ‘discussion’ now happening in his comments (translation: after he’s milked this as long as he can). I wouldn’t rule out legal avenues to fix this but it’s not really my style.

Am I angry at Vince Chan? I guess you could say I’m a little peeved off. In the scheme of things it’s not a big deal and we’ll all have forgotten about it by the end of the week – but I guess it illustrates a few things about how to (and not to) launch a blog.

My only words of advice to Vince Chan are simply that while humans forget things quickly that web has a very long memory. Blog’s get cached, people’s posts about you remain online for a long time and Google has a funny way of indexing people’s names and projects in ways that we’d sometimes wish they never did.

I do wish Vince Chan the best of luck with his AmBlogging and hope he takes note of what people are telling him.

update: AmBlogger has just had an update of a new-ish design.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Jon says:

    I think that when it comes to the web and wordpress designs it can get tricky as wordpress is free and many of the templates are free. Now darrens wasnt it was designed for him so its more unique so I can understand why he got peeved.

    It wasnt just your usual 2 colum blog or 3 column blog there are some very distinct differences on this blog that I havent seen anywhere else intill i saw the other chaps blog..

  2. The banker says:

    I think the problem is really in the medium more than anything else. When it is so easy to copy something, people are going to do just that. I always smile a bit when some people put up pictures on the web and tell people to not to copy them. It is just too easy, and information wants to be free.

    If someone copied my content I would just take it as an compliment and hope for a link back to my page. It seems like Darren is pretty relaxed about the whole thing too. And if it was just linkbait it worked. Now I have another blog to check out from time to time :) I still think I will visit Problogger.net more. At least as long as Vince Chan doesn’t all of a sudden start to put out lots of original quality content

  3. Sharon says:

    I currently do not have a website or even a blog; however, I am doing extensive research on blogging so when I do launch my blog I can do so with a basic understanding of “how to do it right”. I believe Vince was absolutely wrong to copy problogger. I am and will remain loyal to problogger.

  4. Stephen says:

    I hate to break it to you darren, but AmBlogger isn’t the only one stealing your template:

    Check out http://www.ipodbloggers.com/

  5. Darren Rowse says:

    yes unfortunately it seems to be becoming more popular to do this. I’ve tried to reason with them also but have heard nothing. Very frustrating. I’m a bit over fighting over it though – if people can live with themselves for doing so and are willing to live with the consequences of being caught out then I guess they’ll continue to do it….

  6. ealhdun says:

    perfect site good information, very nice news and etc… tnx

  7. Nick says:

    Darren,
    Looks like our friend has gone and done it again. His blog Investorial.com lifted the stylesheet from Ben Bleikamp over at insidewii.net

    Pretty sad that he didn’t learn his lesson the first time.

  8. Henry says:

    Personally I don’t see what you think you can copyright. The color of your bars and bg colors below them and the text color? Lets get realistic. There is no extensive design here nor is there elements on the blog that can really be copyrighted.

    Web designers are always looking around for nice color combinations that appeal to them. Yes, he probably came to your site looking for info, seen your sidebar and said I like those colors and used them. Other than that I think if you want copyright protection, your design needs to be much less generic.

    Right now all I see you doing is sending a bunch of traffic his way over something that should really be a non issue. Copyright is for original creative works, not the way you combined 3 colors on your sidebar.

    Blogging in its very nature, is a huge community with 1000′s of people using the same designs and layouts – what would make Vince think there was something wrong with using your color scheme and sidebar layout?

  9. Darren Rowse says:

    Hey Henry – thanks for the comment but this is a pretty old post – 1 year yesterday. We’ve resolved it now :-)

  10. Jen says:

    I just don’t understand how people don’t see content theft as THEFT. While it’s somewhat flattering to have someone think your design is worth stealing, it’s just so rude and lazy.

  11. I agree Jen, I get steamed when I see my work/content being used by someone else.

  12. While imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it’s still just so irritating to have someone copy what you’ve worked hard to achieve.

  13. Jose says:

    Sorry you had to deal with this.I hate it when people cannot be original. I agree that there are only a few ways to do a blog, but you canalways make it somewhat original.

  14. Ted Chan says:

    Just read this a year or so late, but thought it was interesting. Very nice blog.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] 22nd, 2006 and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently notallowed. [...]

  2. Problogger Design Stolen

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  3. Design Theft says:

    [...] EDIT: Darren has posted on this and includes a screenshot prior to the “changes” [...]

  4. [...] Edit: Darren responds [...]

  5. [...] A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a site that was a complete duplicate of problogger. At the time I thought nothing of it. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Well, apparently not everyone thinks so. [...]

  6. [...] A lot of noise is being made about AmBlogger stealing the design of ProBlogger. [...]

  7. When Blog Theft Gets Plain Old…Old

    ‘m still not over people that just steal others content without permission. I’m not talking blockquotes eigther folks. I was reminded yet again of how people just blindly copy content today from ProBlogger. A blog pop-upped using the same design of P…

  8. [...] This is elementary. Why steal? Whatever it is, just do not steal. Not even the design of one of the most popular blogs around. Anyway, read more about how this guy stole Problogger’s design. [...]

  9. [...] Something was bothering me about the whole amBlogger/proBlogger fit yesterday. Something I couldn’t quite put my finger on till this morning and now it feels like an elephant in the room. [...]

  10. [...] Winds of controversy have been blowing again. This time over a blogger who set up a site called Amblogger–to mean Amateur Blogger–and took the exact code for the design from Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger site. The stolen version is no longer up, but Darren has a screen shot in his discussion of the incident. I won’t recap the story that will be retold. [...]

  11. [...] Yes. Late last year I stumbled on a blog called College Startup which led me to a number of other blogs about blogging. Blogs like ProBlogger by Darren Rowse, MakeEasyMoneyWithGoogle by Eric Giguere, Performacing, and a few others. I’ve read about how people developed their blogging careers, their great advice to novice blogger wannabes, do’s and don’ts of blogging, blog monetization capabilities, etc. What I learned from them is that if you have passion and commitment, can write and have common sense, you can do it. And you can earn some money from it. Or, if you are good, you can even have a pretty good life from blogging. Also, you really can’t lose. Even if you fail – it’s a good learning experience and doesn’t cost you much. [...]

  12. [...] This obscure person stole a template from this widely read blog, with minor changes made. Of course, designer of blog finds out and is annoyed. There follows a stream of publicity for the obscure person. Note that all the comments on his blog are on these two posts relating to the incident. Another success. And again, not easy to repeat. [...]

  13. [...] The dust has barely settled on the Vince Chan AmBlogger fiasco (you remember Vince — he thought it would be a good idea to steal Darren Rouse’s ProBlogger template), and now the JOAB posse is back in effect. [...]

  14. [...] It seems once a thief, always a thief. Way back in the not so distant past of January this year a blogger by the name of Vince Chan stole the design of Darren Rowse’s Problogger. After somewhat of a storm in the blogosphere Vince yielded to the weight of public opinion and changed his design. [...]

  15. [...] because he cloned the design of problogger.net. This story is about Amblogger.net who created a buzz by copying the design of Problogger.net. This Amateur blogger Vince Chan launched his blog by copying the design of Problogger.net. I [...]

  16. [...] a look at some of these outside resources that might help you with other pre-launch ideas: How not to launch a blog, Tips for a Successful Launch, How To Start a [...]