January 2010


… and will say it again. And again. Libraries don’t have to be all things to all people.

The latest library frivolity to raise the Techapillan eyebrow is … wait for it … recycling bins!

Not recycling of libraries’ waste. Not rebirthing or rebinding of books in disrepair. Not provision of bins for users to deposit their scrap paper. But provision of bins for users to bring along their own waste for recycling – plastics, mobile phones, corks, and even compact fluorescent bulb (surely rather dangerous, that last one, judging by their handling guidelines?).

Last time Techapilla looked, recycling was a municipal responsibility, at least in Oz, and libraries were experts in the provision and dissemination of information. Since when did libraries become tips, oops, sorry, recycling centres?

Strategies such as these, presumably implemented with the intention of making the library seem socially responsible, smack of overdone political correctness.

In the Younger Techapillan’s cancer journey this past while, Techapilla has been constantly amazed at the depths to which some people will sink to attract traffic to their websites. The latest scam to trigger the Techapillan ire is the existence of “content mills”, which provide free content that can be copied and pasted into websites without acknowledgement of the content mill. Frequently, such content carries the byline of the fraudulent website owner.

As a web-savvy academic librarian, Techapilla is well aware of the existence of content mills and similiar sites, such as those that sell essays for assignments. This time, having noticed that Google Alerts was throwing up the same content for “osteosarcoma”, with exactly the same misspelt word, on an almost daily basis, Techapilla was inspired to do some further investigation.

Techapilla is not going to promote content mills or fraudulent websites, so no links provided. But here are the Techapillan findings –

  • 2970 Google hits for the misspelt phrase (“when doctors access osteoarthritis and osteoporosis”). This gets whittled to 43 when similiar results are omitted. Examination of these 43 results reveal that all articles obviously come from a single source
  • 335 Google hits for the corrected phrase ( “when doctors * osteoarthritis and osteoporosis”). This gets whittled to 63 when similiar results are omitted. Once again, examination reveals that all 63 articles have a common source. Note that this search should have yielded more than 2970 results, since it is a broader search than the first – presumably the difference is due to Google using a different algorithm for wildcard searches. This search also highlighted slight wording differences among the articles – either from editing, or running through a translator. Techapilla strongly suspects the original article was written in a foreign language and run through a translator, given the awkward language of most of the articles
  • 4 obvious content mill sites in the first 40 Google hits for the misspelt phrase
  • The majority of sites which had used the farmed article were ostensibly health sites
  • Quite a lot of “This site may harm your computer” links in the hits
  • Searches on slight rewordings of the misspelt phrase yielded additional hits, including the same article that had been cleaned up a bit more or rejigged to “fit” another disease (e.g. osteomyelitis).
  • Visiting a sampling of the sites revealed that while a few obviously tried to be legitmate health sites (shame about their lack of medical knowledge), most sites were fraudulent, with links on the site all leading to commercial sites (“affordable weddings”, “hot winter vacations”)
  • Techapilla is not a medical professional, but has learnt enough about osteosarcoma in the past year or two to confidently state that the article/s examined as part of this task are complete and utter junk

It would be an interesting exercise to trace back the original article, and to run one of the offspring through Turnitin. An exercise for another day.

In the meantime, some guidelines to help Techapillan readers evaluate the quality of information resources.