The parasites of travel

So this afternoon I received an email from a very well funded US travel startup called Hopper, titled “We shared your blog on Hopper”. It caught my attention because a week or so ago I’d called them a parasite on Twitter because of their practise of scraping other site’s content into their system, without permission and then “nofollowing” the links back to the source material (they do appear to have stopped this though). Anyone who knows anything about good link practises will agree this is scabby behaviour — perfected in fact by Wikipedia (but I’ll save that rant for another day).

So I was surprised to receive the email. As you can see from the screen shot below, the email had a prominent call to action, asking me to “See your featured post”. The link actually led to: http://www.hopper.com/x/x/E/2WoX?utm_source=blogger-email-a-bulleted-benefits&utm_medium=email&utm_content=experience-page-email-a-bulleted-benefits&utm_campaign=blogger-onboarding

Must click on the yellow box.

Must click on the yellow box.

From the URL I guess (a) they think I’m a blogger and (b) I’m being “onboarded”. Yay!

So of course, idiot that I am, I clicked on the link. Here is where I ended up.

Wow I'm a Hopper member!

Wow I’m a Hopper member!

There’s a few interesting things on this page.

a) There’s no mention, anywhere, of the Hopper Member who actually submitted this content.
b) The Blank headshot icon and “travelfish” near top left implies it was submitted by a member called “travelfish”.
c) Image is still pulled from our Amazon imagebank — so we’re paying. (this is a minor issue, but I’m feeling pedantic).
d) The image is credited to travelfish.org with a dofollow link, below the image. Image actually belongs to Penang Global Tourism who gave us permission to use it on Travelfish.org. We forgot to ask permission for Hopper as well.

Moving on.

If you click on the “travelfish” link near the top you get to the following page:

Us be parasites absolut.

Us be parasites absolut.

Wow. You know, I didn’t know I had an account named Travelfish. Well, I don’t actually. I guess perhaps someone else started up an account called travelfish… But hang on, who is this Matthew dude?

Now I’m guessing here, I’ll be generous and assume Matthew is a real person and not a bot scraping websites… but it seems he was the one who actually submitted the photo. That’s a bit surprising really as “Travelfish” is mentioned at least five times on the page and hell, if you ask me, with that prominent blank head shot and Travelfish up top, this really looks a lot like Travelfish’s member page — I guess they must be submitting their stuff to Hopper because they think Hopper is a shit hot site.

Actually we think Hopper is just shit.

It’s a fab example of the breed of funded travel startups who feel no need to, well, travel. Instead, they take a leaf out of Wikipedia’s book and hoover up, rewrite and nofollow.

The most ridiculous thing is, the photo used isn’t even ours. If our mate Matthew had even bothered to read to the bottom of the post rather than just act on a hoovering alert for “Hey it is Chinese New Year, go find some dragon images from somewhere to rip off” he’d have noted that the image wasn’t actually from Travelfish, but in fact from a tourism org who gave us explicit permission to use the image.

You know Hopper, you can do that — you ask people — or organisations — before you take.

But image use aside, I’m very curious about the “travelfish” account as it certainly appears to have been set up as a result of me clicking on the link in the email. Assuming that is the case, while it’s a clever little tech pirouette, nowhere in the email did it say that in clicking on this link I’d be setting up an account on Hopper, nor implying that I approved having an image that we were using under permission.

So, I’d appreciate it if Hopper could remove the Travelfish username and also blacklist the addition of any Travelfish content to their site, because, well, their site sucks and we don’t want to have anything to do with it whatsoever.

Thanks and have a great day!

Update
Received the following email from Jess Petersen, VP Product at Hopper this morning.

“Hi Stuart,

I just wanted to let you know that we’ve removed your content from Hopper as you requested, and added your site to our blacklist so that no more content can be shared from your site.

I’m very sorry that we upset you by sharing your content on Hopper. We are big fans of travelfish; in fact, one of our developers mentioned he got a lot of great advice from you guys on his 3-month trip though Asia last year.

Ultimately we are trying to build a site that benefits both travelers and bloggers, but we understand completely if you don’t want to be a part of it right now. We’ll keep working on making the site better, and we welcome your feedback along the way.

Hope you have a good day, and safe travels,
Jess

Jess Petersen
VP Product, Hopper”

So a thanks from me for acting quickly on this. Cheers