SEO spammers wearing a printout of my face as their mask

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Over the past year, I’ve cut way back on my plethora of wacky domains used on long-lost web projects. I’ve let loads of domains go and only updated the few I still use or need. As a result, most projects have been lost to the ether but there’s a good enough record of them in The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine that I started to feel OK about it. But this week I learned one of the long-running projects I let lapse ended up in a particularly strange state.

Ten Years of My Life was one of my earlier projects, started in 2003 as a photoblog I intended to run for a decade, which seemed ludicrous at the time (there was no Flickr, no Google Photos, no real photo hosting of any kind in Fall of 2003). I built it out of Movable Type, made sure URLs were as short and stable as possible, and began posting my favorite photos. I had a backlog of great shots, so it was daily at first.

Within the first week of launch, it started to gather mentions on other blogs, and people immediately gathered that I wasn’t just doing a photoblog for ten years hence, but I would be doing it daily (I never intended this) but being young and stupid, I took it up as a challenge, and from then on out, it was daily.

Reality caught up with me about two years later, when my daughter was born and being able to casually spend 15 minutes each night tweaking my favorite daily shot in Photoshop became too tall of an order. Those first couple years were incredibly instructive to me, I went from terrible amateur photographer to vaguely better amateur photographer and began to understand how light and lenses worked.

Since late 2005, the site sat in a holding pattern. At first, I went to a favorite weekly photo, but it quickly became less often than that. Post-iPhone release in 2007-2008, I tried to streamline posting by removing all friction. In the end, I had it working where I simply needed to upload a photo to Flickr, tag it with a special tag, and it would automatically import to the blog as a new entry. Even with all the speedbumps smoothed over, I was posting a new photo an average of 3-4 times a year.

As a result, the project always felt unfinished and unrealized and it bummed me out a bit, but I also had half a dozen other things going on, as well as a growing family member that thankfully took more of my time.

Fast forward to two months ago, at the 14 year mark, I felt like it was time to finally let go. I hadn’t touched or even loaded the URL in a couple years, and I felt like whatever guilt I had about not fulfilling the original goals for it were long since passed. As you can guess, the URL was snapped up and repurposed by domain squatter/SEO spammer types.

I’m not going to link to the site, but here’s a couple screenshots. For some odd reason, they copied a handful of posts from 2004-2005, took my text descriptions word-for-word, then added a generic image (likely gathered from Google Image Search) related to the titles. You end up with weird stuff like this, using the exact same URL pattern I made in 2003:

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They took these tactics to hilarious ends when you see the About page, which is an about page I had last touched around 2010, along with a random cycling image they found.

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I’ve had domains lapse and fall into strangers’ hands in the past, and sometimes they tried to put up related content to what was there previously, but this time, making a copy of a half-dozen pages and inserting random images to match was a new low to me.