The Guardian pwned my blog

Update:  Since posting this this morning, I have had two people contact me from the Guardian – one in a comment to this post and one by email.  As a result, I am reassured that what I experienced was a bug they are keen to fix rather than indifference to the context in which Guardian material might find itself.  The email response suggested that the most recent version of the plugin – 0.3 – already fixed the problem.  I am not sure that’s quite right, so continue to advise extreme caution – but the intention is clearly there to make the plugin work as I argued it should.

I am removing the Guardian wordpress plugin which I wrote about a couple of days ago. It has a couple of major flaws, and I would discourage anyone from using it until they are fixed.

The Guardian is perfectly entitled to manage the presentation of its own material. The terms and conditions for the use of its data leave no scope for doubt of their absolutely fixed intention of keeping that control (even if  the language of those terms and conditions feels slightly at odds with the concept of an open platform).  Nowhere in those extensive conditions though does it state that the Guardian claims the right to extend that control to the host blog.  But that is what the plugin does.

As I noted before, embedding a Guardian article brings with it a title for the blog post of which the article forms a part – but only a part – tags and an excerpt.  None of those were what I wanted for the post I wanted to write, so I deleted them all.  Not ideal from my point of view, but it was, I presumed, an attempt to be helpful.  Having set them to what I wanted them to be, I now discover that Guardian plugin has taken it upon itself to change them all back again. I don’t find that acceptable.

It gets worse.  My next act was to deactivate the plugin.  That caused it to remove the Guardian article – which is fair enough. It’s not hard to identify the text which belongs to the Guardian.  It begins:

<!– GUARDIAN WATERMARK –>

and ends:

<!– END GUARDIAN WATERMARK –>

It could hardly be much clearer – but the plugin takes no notice of that, and instead completely deletes the entire post, including all that I had written.

It’s not that the Guardian doesn’t expect bloggers to put their own context and commentary round articles: their own documentation makes clear that that is exactly what they expect.  And the use case of doing nothing more than republishing articles strikes me as an odd and unlikely one. But regardless of that, the entire text is swept away.

I hope there is nothing more here than carelessness either in design or in testing, but I am going back to the old fashioned way of quoting and linking, following the advice in one of the comments on the Guardian page about the plugin:

I really fail to see the point of this plug-in. If I want to post excerpts from Grauniad articles on my wordpress blog, I copy and paste. I can change anything I like; Idon’t need an effing key; I don’t have to put up with any ‘…ads and performance tracking…’; and I decide what gets deleted, not you…

Comments

  1. As the creator of the plugin, could you email me to discuss some of these details?

    You’ve raised some really important issues and the plugin is very much still in beta so we are keen on taking feedback like this into future versions.

    As a note the plugin should never erase any text which isn’t property of the Guardian, meaning your text. This is most likely a bug we will have to look at.

    Contact me at daniel.levitt@guardian.co.uk

    Kind Regards,

    Daniel Levitt

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