Ghost Blogging ... Are You Freaking Kidding Me?

link to twitterToday one of my Twitter friends found something that made me wonder if there is or should be some type of "Blogger Code of Conduct." As you can see in the picture, Isaac (Ike) Dealey said "There's no easier way to blog than to plagiarize!" with a link to bringtheblog.com. (You can type, and I don't want to give them anymore link juice than they're already receiving.)

I had to check out what in the heck he was talking about. Sure enough, there it was ... a web site with promises of "making blogging easier than ever before!" It's hard to tell from the home page of their site, and it's actually not so clear once you "Take a Tour" either. However, once you read on in the FAQ section, it all becomes clear! Here's an excerpt from the very first line in the FAQ:

I don't get it. What is "Bring the Blog"?
We're like the Associated Press for blogs. Just like the New York Times uses wire services to complement their home-grown articles, we give you outside content to make your blog better and more effective.

Hmm, ok. The AP for blogs. I get it. So ... then you publish by lines and give credit where credit is due, right? The answer? Well, I couldn't find really anything in their demos or examples that told me the "blog author" did or did not write it themselves. Kind of strange, don't you think? Especially when they claim that a blog "is like a journal or running commentary."

If it's a "journal," then shouldn't I really be writing it myself? Apparently not. Here's another excerpt from their FAQ:

Who are the Bring the Blog writers?
For each industry, we hand-select a prominent blogger that is knowledgeable of the industry, has a strong command of the Engligh language, and truly enjoys writing. And then we pay them handsomely.

The above quote is taken verbatim ... notice anything funny? Umm, English isn't really spelled "Engligh," right? Makes one wonder, doesn't it? It just spirals downhill from there. In fact, here's my favorite FAQ of all:

How often should I add my own content to my blog?
There is no "right" answer to that question. You should post to your blog whenever you feel inspired. For some folks, that's everyday. For some, it's never! It's entirely up to you.

Never? Seriously? I understand there is definitely a marketplace for this type of thing, but come on. This, in my personal opinion, borders on some shaky ethical ground. In my opinion, if you're going to "borrow" someone else's content to beef up your own blog, then give credit where credit is due. There should really be a noticeable disclaimer that says "I Didn't Write This!" In fact, how can you call yourself a blogger if you're one of the people who never write any articles?

I believe this service should be called what it really is, an aggregator. It aggregates articles that you can share with other people that you probably didn't write to begin with.

Oh, by the way, they charge you an ongoing monthly fee for the service so they can "pay them [the actual blogger's] handsomely." So, if you really want to blog, there are so many options out there to pick from and most of them are absolutely free-of-charge. In fact, here's a couple of links to get you started:

If you're a do-it-yourselfer and have a ColdFusion hosting account, you can always use what I use myself, the ever-popular BlogCFC courtesy of Raymond Camden.

Pssst, by the way ... if you want to pay me to write for your blog, just drop me a line.

Should We, the Taxpayers of the United States of America, bailout Detroit Automakers (GM, Ford and C

I typically don't post "political" items on my blog, however, it's difficult to not have an opinion on the way our elected officials are attempting to deal with our economic uncertainty. I'm not necessarily bashing on just persons in Congress or the Senate, but also they way business leaders and we, as consumers, are handling our current "economic crises."

The most recent activity that truly made me look up from my "daily routines" has been the recent talks on Capital Hill with the big three automakers (and the UAW). Currently, the talks are moving toward a "$15 billion government rescue of the American automobile industry." Although I believe that should actually read "taxpayer rescue," but who's really paying attention anyway?

There are so many facets to this situation that it would be difficult for me to describe each lens I've attempted to look at this situation through. However, on the surface, I truly struggle with how our elected officials can justify pouring taxpayers hard-earned dollars onto a flaming, sinking ship thinking it will help keep it afloat.

Just for curiosity, I threw together a quick, one-question poll asking the question I used in the title of this article and posted the question via Twitter. As of the time I published this article, here are the results thus far:

poll response: 4 yes, 17 no

As one of my Twitter friends said, "if anyone thinks that the answer to bailing out the auto industry can be put into a neat yes/no answer, you're dreaming." I agree with that statement, and yet also think that ultimately, the question begs a yes or no answer. Obviously, if the answer were yes, in any way, shape or form, then conditions must apply ... hence the ongoing talks and negotiations on Capital Hill.

Why is it that we just can't say "No?" What are we to do when other "American" industries begin marching onto Capital Hill? Where's the money going to come from? Heck, where's the money going to come from to bailout the auto industry in the first place? What about the other $700 billion for the financial industry?

I understand these are extremely complex issues and there is no "cure-all" for our economy. However, the current process truly concerns me ... especially when we're about to enter into a new administration that has already promised "more spending" on a wide array of programs.

Just in case you're wondering, for as long as I can remember, I have driven a Ford. I did so for a number of reason, but one of those reasons was because it was an "American" automobile. Sure they may have some foreign parts in them, but what doesn't these days? Recently, I traded in my Ford for a Toyota. I did so primarily because I wanted a more fuel-efficient vehicle and the only hybrid offering in Ford's lineup (or GM's or Chrysler's for that matter) were SUV's. Now, prior to owning a Ford Fusion, I owned 2 different Ford Expeditions, a Ford F-150 4x4, a Ford Bronco (the full sized one) and a Ford Mustang. So, please don't tell me I never did my part. I would have happily traded in my Fusion for a hybrid version ... if there were such a thing.

Again, I understand the issues that the big three automakers are dealing with today are much more complex than whether or not they offer hybrids which compete with Honda and Toyota, but it's also hard to ignore the fact that Honda and Toyota aren't on Capital Hill even though they employ thousands of Americans too. I found it ironic too that Honda was opening a plant the very same day as one of the meetings going on in Washington D.C. I also thought is was funny how Ford and GM said they would sell their corporate jets to save money, most likely because they were "criticized for flying to Washington for the last round of hearings on separate private jets."

I'm concerned about the tens of thousands of employees that have been and will be affected by this. I'm not just talking about the automobile manufacturers either. I know there are tens of thousands of jobs tied to and dependent upon the big three automotive companies. I'm also concerned about the families and children of these people. I'm concerned about my own family and whether or not my 401k will dwindle even further.

For now, I guess all I can do is pray for these employees and their families ... and voice my concerns.

I'm Like'n My Toyota Prius

After crunching the numbers, I finally pulled the trigger and bought a Toyota Prius this week. For the past two years, I've been driving a 4-cylinder 2006 Ford Fusion and have been fairly happy with it. Just to be clear, there was really nothing wrong my Fusion. However, I commute 30+ miles each way from my house to work and back each day.

I was achieving around 26 miles per gallon with the Fusion. Highway mileage was actually closer to 29/30 mpg, but the actual average came in lower. For the most part, I drive the posted speed limits (seriously). This means that my commute on the highway is mostly 65 miles per hour. I noticed a fairly significant difference in my mpg if I drove any faster ... i.e., at 70 (maybe a bit more) mph, my mpg would drop from 29/30 to around 24/25. I think the optimum speed for maximum mpg was in the neighborhood of 55 mph on my Fusion, which would bump my mpg to around 33/34. Not bad, but I do a lot of stop-and-go driving too in the city which, as most of us know, absolutely crush the overall mpg.

As for the numbers, when I looked over my credit card charges for the past several months, I found that I was spending anywhere between $300 to $400 per month on gas! To be fair, that's not just driving to work and back, but still ... those are hard-earned, real dollars going down the tank and out of the exhaust. Granted, it's much better than it would have been if I still had my old Ford Expedition. And yes, I realize that the price at the pump is over $1.00 less per gallon today than it was only a month or so ago, but who truly believes prices will continue falling or even remain flat?

So, I found out that Ruda Toyota in Monroe, WI had a few "slightly used" hybrids on their lot and decided to take a look. After test driving a Prius, I was actually quite surprised at how much I liked it.

The Prius has much more room inside than you might realize. In fact, it seems like the cabin area has more space than the Ford Fusion. The hatch/trunk area is a little smaller than the Ford Fusion, but I really didn't keep much back there anyway other than my baseball glove, some baseballs, a bat and some lawn chairs. If needed, the back seats fold flat which open the entire back of the vehicle giving plenty of room for transporting "stuff." However, with the whole family loaded up, I think we would have to pack carefully for any long trips/vacations.

The Prius rides very nice too. It takes a little getting used to though. For example, I push a button on the dash to start the vehicle and the only way to confirm it's actually "running" is the "Ready" light that appears on the dash. Also, while at a stop light, if the gas engine was running, you might feel/hear it just turn off. Now that's a weird feeling! The pre-hybrid driver in me wants to look for a key to twist and step on the gas pedal, but no fear ... the car is "Ready." When the light turns green, I simply step on the pedal and drive away. I've been told by another Prius driver that driving in the snow is a little different too, so I'll be sure to blog about my experiences as they arise ... which by most accounts could be very soon here in Northern Illinois.

Now when I bought the Prius, I thought I'd be completely satisfied with an average of 40 miles per gallon. I had been hearing people say they get 50 to as much as 60 miles per gallon, but we know how people like to exaggerate, eh? Needless to say, I didn't believe the numbers being thrown around and I needed to see it for myself.

As of my trip to work this morning, my average was 47.8 miles per gallon over the preceding 150 miles. That's over 20 miles per gallon better than I was getting with a 4-cylinder Ford Fusion! Actually, it's almost twice the amount I was used too. Before this morning's trip, I was over 48 miles per gallon, but it was a pretty windy and rainy day which seemed to negatively impact my mpg.

Regardless of the fuel-efficiency, I'm officially a fan of the Toyota Prius. Yes, it was the fuel-efficiency that initially drew me to the Prius, but it was the overall quality of the vehicle that sold me on it. To be sure, nearly cutting my monthly fuel bill in half doesn't hurt either.

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