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Mar 17

ScribeFire, Zemanta, and a hidden tracking image

Yesterday’s post was created using a is a great add-on for Firefox, ScribeFire, which:

is a full-featured blog editor that integrates with your browser and lets you easily post to your blog.

However, in making a minor edit to the post, I noticed some code at the bottom:

<div class="zemanta-pixie"><img src="http://img.zemanta.com/pixy.gif?x-id=[long tracking number here]" class="zemanta-pixie-img" /></div>

Where had that come from!? At no point had I consciously selected an option to add it there!

So a quick search later, I’d learnt that Zemanta is a service built into ScribeFire, providing additional related content to “enrich your blog posts”.

A comment on Brent’s blog explained how to deselect this “option” in the ScribeFire settings, under the ‘Publishing’ tab, look for ‘Automatically insert invisible tracking pixel for statistics gathering’.

Bad boys, ScribeFire and Zemanta, for not being open about things, and  enabling this option by default. At least provide a link to an explanation as to what “statistics” are being gathered, and for what means!

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13 comments

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  1. andraz

    Well I think we were very open, it is in every release notes. Also, that's why there is an off switch…

    We're currently analyzing the data to figure out what statistics can be extracted that are interesting to users and how to report them back. Give us a month or two and there will be something to show.

    Andraz Tori, Zemanta

    1. Simon Scullion

      Hi Andraz, thanks for taking the time to stop by!

      I didn't see it mentioned anywhere in the ScribeFire release notes where the new Zemanta features were explained: http://blog.scribefire.com/2009/02/09/scribefir

      The off switch is fine if its “off” by default, and you clearly tell people its there!

      I'm rather surprised you are saying you haven't thought out ahead of time what you aim to be capturing with these stats. It comes across as pretty unethical if you're capturing data from site readers, without even the owner's knowledge, and no clear reason for wanting the data. At least provide clear disclosure, T&C's, or method to opt-out, no?

      1. andraz

        Hmmm, it's in release notes, labeled as “Important”:
        http://blog.scribefire.com/whats-new/3-2/
        Probably more could be done about this, I'll suggest this to our Scribefire friends.

        About stats. There are some obvious standard statistics candidates. And then there are stats that might or might not be feasible – reporting how many times article was suggested to other Zemanta users, how many times it was included, where that was etc. Maybe even who snapped your content verbatim? These are mainly things that need infrastructural work on our part. It's more complicated that it seems and we have to see what's feasible to implement (within the resources available).

        The idea is to provide more value to the authors (and some stats about product use to us). We are two tiny startups and we want to do all these things, but this takes some time.

        You are right, we should be doing more in both implementation and informing the authors, and we'll try hard! In the mean time, I'd like to ask you to bear with us while we attend to this.

        P.S.: we'd also be interested in ideas about what kind of stats you might want to see from this.

        bye
        Andraz Tori, Zemanta

  2. Benny

    Thanks! You saved my life!

  3. Roger S.

    Thanks for posting this note to explain this curious setting in Scribefire. We had this problem come up a few times where it broke our custom blog's RSS output. I assumed the tracking bug was spy ware or something untoward / undesired on the person's computer. By finding your blog post, I quickly discovered that this is a software feature, not a bug (though it's a tracking bug, so maybe it's both!).

    We've turned this off. It's nobody's business what we're posting on our little blog.

    1. Brent

      A bug is just an undocumented feature, or a feature is a documented bug.

      :)

  4. danklife

    Thanks for posting this. I have been seeing this as well. It really turns me off considering that if they are loading a grapic there is nothing stopping them from replacing that with banner adds in the future after having a zillions blogs at their disposal.

    Replace zemanta-pixie-img with whatever image they want. BAM. Spam.

  5. Sam

    andraz,

    You SUCK!

    Never will I use crap that adds BS like that.

    Sam

  6. HKG_David

    Yes.. I just realized that some unwanted code was inserted after I published!! I almost uninstall Scribefire function from my firefox!!!

    Thanks for the posting…

    So BAD~~~~!!!! Scribefire and Zemanta!!!

  7. Fred

    Hello,

    Even on AMO = Addon Mozilla org, you can find an tracking image:

    Example

    Safe :: Add-ons for Firefox – https://addons.mozilla.org/firefox/addon/11666

    =

    https://s3.amazonaws.com/getsatisfaction.com/im
    https://s3.amazonaws.com/getsatisfaction.com/im
    https://s3.amazonaws.com/getsatisfaction.com/
    https://s3.amazonaws.com/

    Try the four links (without xml decoder) and look :-/ ..!

  8. Simon Scullion

    Just seen this in the ScribeFire release notes for 3.5.1:

    “Made Zemanta tracking pixel only enabled via opt-in”

    Only took them a year, but better late than never. Thanks ScribeFire, good move.

    http://www.scribefire.com/whats-new/3-5-1/

  9. Courtney Sandoz

    Useful info as per usual, ty. I sure hope this kind of thing gets more attention.

  10. Darrell

    totally agree with you.

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