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How Not to Launch a Blog – The story of an Amateur Blogger

Posted By Darren Rowse 23rd of January 2006 Pro Blogging News 0 Comments

I’ve been a little hesitant to talk about this on ProBlogger but in the last two hours I’ve had 30 emails about it so thought rather than responding to each one personally I should make a statement before things go much further.

The story is that a blog called AmBlogger.net has started a blog that until I woke up this morning looked virtually exactly like ProBlogger.net (except what you see here as Orange was blue, some names were changed and there were a few poorly formatted bits and pieces).

If you go have a look now you’ll notice that Vince Chan the blogger concerned has now deleted the three menu boxes at the top of the blog so it is a little different – but the similarities are pretty obvious. update: You can see a screen cap here of his design (now changed) after the three boxes were deleted.

I saw this blog a few days ago and shot Vince Chan an email raising my concern. I didn’t demand he stop using the design but made it clear I was not happy with it. Previously when people have stolen designs from me an email like this has been replied to with an apology and a commitment to change the blog design immediately.


In this case no apology was forthcoming and Vince replied with an email saying he didn’t have time to reply adequately at that time but that he’d come back to me within 48 hours. His response came within that time but rather that coming via email it appeared on his blog with an excerpt from my email to him.


About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
  1. […] 22nd, 2006 and is filed under General. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently notallowed. […]

  2. This world. What can I say. There seems to be an abundance of people who gain publicity through negative means these days(i.e., James Frey – author of A Million Little Pieces). In fact, I think Dateline(or some other similar network show) did an entire segment on rip offs.

    Giving the benefit of the doubt, I wish I could say Vince was only naive in what he did, but I can’t. If he’s this far into the blogging world, then he must surely know that he was in the wrong.

    Whatever, I’m rambling now. Looks like it’s resolving itself on its own now.

    Take care,


  3. I was going to keep my mouth shut. But I have a problem with that 90 minutes after Jamsii told me. Ahh, Its down. The power of lynching. It’s really fun Darren. You should get involved more often.

  4. I just had a look at his site. It looks like he’s changed the design completely now.

  5. Problogger Design Stolen

    A blogger posting at the domain name “amblogger.net” has apparantly stolen the design of Darren Rowse’s Problogger. A quick look of the CSS amblogger.net shows an almost exact match with only some colors changed. This is what website design theft…

  6. Hi Darren,

    I guess it’s another bad decision to comment here because I’m already getting hit with cannonballs to the left and right. Just wanted to clarified that I did mention in my first email that I may put this in a Blog, I did not hear back from you.

    I readily concede that putting up your email’s excerpt was very wrong of me. I immediately took it off upon realizing that.

    Throughout, you’ve been most gracious. My goodness, the “vigilante justice” that someone alluded to on AmBlogger comments were truly fast and furious. No one can be blamed except me for publicizing this affair in the first place.

    Just thought I’d let you know my thoughts.

  7. That Vince character’s actions are deplorable. If he doesn’t realise that he’s damaged his reputation irreparably with this then he must be more naive than I already thought.

  8. […] EDIT: Darren has posted on this and includes a screenshot prior to the “changes” […]

  9. Ironically, based on his comment in his article, if ablog is content not container, then why on earth would he go out of his way to use your design, Darren. He could have simply used the default Kubrick theme. Ah well. I commend your approach.

  10. Vince your actions spoke. Take some advice. Be very quiet for maybe a few years come back and try again. This time without stealing someone on the A-List’s design. No Respect, or even belief in your apology.

  11. I agree that it might have been done in poor taste, but good luck convincing a judge and jury that this guy caused any real damage to you. :)

    If he had copied your content too, you might have a fighting chance – unless his pagerank is higher than yours.

  12. Vince – I appreciate you taking the design down. I hope we all learned a thing or two about blogging through it all.

    Yes you did mention in your email that it might go on your blog – to be honest I didn’t think you’d be crazy enough to do it and was a little mad at you at the time so didn’t trust myself to respond – hence my graciousness…. :-)

    Now lets all just get on with blogging shall we – life’s too short.

  13. Last I saw he was still using an almost identical sidebar, except that it’s on the opposite side.

    The guy lives about 20 minutes away from me in Scarborough. No wonder I felt “dirty” for the past few days…

  14. Ok,
    Darren. I will go back to the blogging cave. Advice taken.

  15. While there are short-term negative consequences to rip-offs like this, the lasting effect is the same as any legitimately-won publicity for a site, except with an added (but old news) memory that this person did something wrong sometime in the past.

    Is a public apology / changing the design enough?

    It seems like the extra traffic that goes with the publicity makes up for any short-term negative consequences (don’t get me wrong, I’m not pro-theft, I’m just wondering how effective the deterrents that surround design theft are)

    On the bright side, at least the copied design is gone now (apart from archive.org).

  16. This story strikes a familiar chord for me. It continues to amaze me that people will go so low and they do it shamelessly. I’m an audio producer and publisher of audio programs that entrain brainwave activity. http://www.brainsync.com is my ecommerce site. I’ve been doing this work since the early 80’s. Unfortunately there are many people out there that think it’s perfectly fine to cut and paste copy from websites and post it on there own. Awakened Minds (now called the immrama institute) literally did this with my graphics, CD title names, description of my technology and web content and pasted it on there site. I had to hire an attorney to get them to take my content off their site. They have since removed my graphics, slightly changed their copy but their core product and content is a direct rip from mine. Darren thanks for speaking up. You’ve inspired me.

  17. Kelly you should flip me an email. Lawyers aren’t nearly as effective as bloggers. We could strategize this.

  18. Vince – whether you stated that you were thinking about publishing the contents of the email or not is largely irrelevant. Unless you had explicit permission from Darren it would be classed as an invasion of privacy on one level and extremely bad netiquette on another (not that (n)etiquette seems to be one of your concerns)

  19. Darren, my man, who cares about someone stealing your design? I go to your site for the content, not the creative. And the content is creative. That’s what’s important. Just because someone steals your jock strap doesn’t mean it fits.

  20. I’m sure I’ll be corrected if I’m wrong don’t think I am though)…
    In general, a “layout” is not copyright protected. The text and any “unique/original” artwork is (your logo for instance). Three colored boxes and a two-column format are not. And, the code/css is probably not unless it really is unique. To date I haven’t seen any html/css that is. Maybe some Javascript.

  21. Damn, I wish I knew that the way to get 50x the traffic was to just copy your blog Darren. Could you make it easy on me, please, and just email me a copy of the code for the theme. :D

  22. ash_nagasaki says: 01/23/2006 at 2:37 pm

    Looks like Vince’s first post was “How much do I earn?”. By itself I woudn’t think anything of that. However, ripping off Darren’s site design and immediately doing a post on the same topic as one of Darren’s top posts is just awful, especially as Vince says he is trying to avoid the “country-club” feel he gets here.

    Vince, I don’t feel that you were ill-intentioned, but immitation is not the highest form of flattery when dealing with the web. You could have gotten into alot of trouble if you hadn’t happened to be dealing with a very nice guy. I’d reccomend that you take pains to distance yourself from this sort of thing in the future.

  23. Wow, it’s been interesting watching this one unfold over the web today. Despite the negativity involved the spread of information has been quite significant – talk about news moving fast! The power of publicity, whether good or bad, has been demonstrated here and shown that in the blogosphere it moves quicker than through any other media.

  24. […] Edit: Darren responds […]

  25. Honestly when I first read Darren’s post I thought it was a joke: Identical template, topics, fluff content, even ridiculously similar domains.

  26. I use Copyscape to find out copycats. On a similar note, this adsense article you pointed to in an earlier post was nice. Then this blog, copied it with same title, full post and without any credit or link back. Their email does not work, there is also no blogger bar to flag them. Such incidents should be condemned by Bloggers.
    I am a long time reader of Problogger and found your other posts about copying and preventing it very informative too. Thanks for this great blog.

  27. If people want to use the design so bad, why not just release it to the public? If someone builds a house that looks just like yours, you must have a nice house.

  28. lol

    I think you’ll be right Darren, that chong obviously doesn’t even know about punctuation, starting a sentence with a capital letter etc. And his posts are just plain impossible to read.


  29. Even I had my content and my designs stolen on more than 1 occassion. It really pissed me off! I guess it makes ppl get jealous off how well you’re doing and just steal stuff. :(

  30. Reminds me of the Charbucks v. Starbucks story that I wrote about recently!

    In the fairly open market of the Internet, there are some lines that can be crossed but clearly shouldn’t be. This looks like one of those cases and hopefully Mr. Chan can now go about building a reputation for doing whatever it is he’s planning on doing that doesn’t involve possibly fuzzy ethics.

    Man, I’m in the mood to watch Coming to America now…

  31. Dave Broughton says: 01/23/2006 at 6:49 pm

    You are truly a class act, Darren. Time and again I’ve seen you deal with conflicts (and potential conflicts) in this same measured, reasoned, tone: no histrionics, no legal threats, no self-righteous ranting and posturing, even when you’d be legally and ethically justified in doing so, as in this particular case. It’s such an impressive demonstration of not only taking, but actualy walking, the high road. I can only wish that your influence in the realm of interpersonal dynamics be as great as your influence in the realm of pro-blogging!

  32. […] A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a site that was a complete duplicate of problogger. At the time I thought nothing of it. After all, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Well, apparently not everyone thinks so. […]

  33. Eric there is a difference. If someone pays an architect for a unique house then they have a right to allow that house to continue to be unique – same goes here.

  34. Excellent article Darren. I was reading about this whole fiasco in the Blog Herald. BTW, this is probably the first time I’m looking at your blog, so i would like to say “Great Blog”.

    However, we all slam/swear, etc @ Vince Chan, I would like to point out that winner in the end is him. The only one who’s gaining in the end is Vince-Chan and not darren. Yes, he has got the hits he wanted, and the very reason why he copied PB was that.

    If anyone wants a link to AB’s older design, it’s here::

    And the best way that people should show him copying does’t pay is by not visiting his site and commenting there. AB’s Technorati rank has definitely increased too.

  35. Well Duncan knows that I’ve posted personal emails on my blog before – it’s not particuarly clever but I can empathise.

    I’ll get shot down for this, but I did think the ‘inverse of the hexadecimal of Darren’s colours’ (or whatever the wording was) was fairly amusing – hey it’s Monday morning here I need a laugh ;)

    I might also get shot down for being mellow (caffeine hasn’t kicked in yet) but I think this is where the content wins over the design – yeah it was a rip of Darren’s site, but the content was at least different (ie it wasn’t a splog ripping the feed) – I never saw the original design on the site though – I don’t think regular PB readers would be fooled, and AM hasn’t got enough PR or SE positioning to take readers away from PB (hmm too many two-letter abbreviations…)

    Whilst I don’t endorse this (looking at someone’s code for ideas is one thing, blatantly taking it is quite another) in general it can be hard to check that you’re not stepping on anyone’s toes. I suppose in this case where design and subject matter are very similar, it looks too much like plagiarism.

    Ahh well it looks like it’s all calming down now…

  36. Last post! :-P

    Personally I think there’s been some overreactions (e.g. Cowboy), but hey the web takes all sorts. Content is king – if he’d ripped the content, on the other hand…

    I often shudder to watch how the (TV, etc) media hypes up an issue (e.g. in Australia, the recent late police video release=bad publicity/what a travesty=quick, find a scapegoat). However I see it’s just human nature.

    @Ravi – the Ravi of All Things Linux? That’s another long time fave of mine, as a linux tinkerer. If so, did you know someone else has a created a blog under your site’s “name” at blogspot?

    I would have thought that it’d be cre8td design’s call to jump up and down, if anyone. As I notice she has.

  37. Cowboy is as Cowboy is. He’s an overreactive force. But hey the site got changed. So say what you want about my tactics. I’d take me over a lawyer anyday.

  38. Gosh, I wouldn’t have the nerve to do that! Good for you for defending your site. I hope AmBlogger has learned an important lesson.

  39. @ Cowboy: You really did go after him. Dang! I know who I want to represent me if I ever have serious issues with a blogger! You all but said “Get a rope.” Who knew you were a vigilante?? LOL Sometimes a vigilante does trump an attorney. :-)

  40. I grew up in the west. We just go out there and try to get it done before the sunsets. The lawyers all have to get their books out, and find out what’s right. This way it gets shut down before it gets too expensive. And thanks for all the kind words.

  41. “And Google AdSense doesn’t really recognize mad visitors from every other visitor, right?”

    Errm, why would you click on AdSense ads if you were mad with him?

  42. My main blog (click my name) uses a design which is loosely based on another site’s design, but in no way copied! Their actual site uses ugly tables for layout, and CSS is virtually nonexistent. Not the way to do things. I rebuilt it from the ground up using 100% XHTML and CSS.

    And yes, it’s supposed to look mostly like the other site. We call it parody. Or satire. I forget which. Either way, people from … er, the other site … have visited, and I have yet to get a complaint. Or get arrested…

  43. Maybe we should start some sort of “copy me scam” where we post some bogus content and then see how far it gets?

    Congrats on handing the situation with decorum though!
    Most people would go off the deep end with this kind of thing.
    I do dip into peoples code now and again – but only to see how things are done – no more than that. As a CSS and HTML coder – I class myself as an amateur – so reading up a little can be helpful!


  44. For CSS stuff I tend to go direct to online reference sites rather than taking code from live sites – mainly because I don’t always like the naming conventions and layouts that other people have used and would prefer to tweak it all myself.

  45. Hey Darren,

    I don’t think I would have been as even handed as you. I’m afraid I’m a little more vindictive.

    I think Cowboy did the right thing to go after AB.


    ps Thanks for responding to my E-M, especially in light of all this.

  46. In general this has been a very productive discussion, and I’ve learned a lot. Hope some others have also. I’ve certainly got a better strategy in my mind now as to what to do should such a problem ever crop up for me.

    Both the measured, “Darren” method and the shoot from the hp “Cowboy” methods have their strengths and weaknesses.

    I was, however, shocked and quite put off by Nathan’s racial comments. Why, in the year 2006, do we have to ascribe apparent wrong-doing or even evidence of errors and lack of skill to people’s racial origins? Sad way to start the morning, indeed.

  47. Grand Theft Blog: Australia ?

    Darren you handled this in a great way in my opinion. I remember when another CEO of a blogging network found a site that looks similar to his and went on a, in my opinion, childish rant.

  48. […]Some clown (who I won’t give a link here) ripped off Darren’s blog design. It was designed by Rachel at cre8d.com and is a copyrighted work.

    What some people will do for a little traffic is absolutely amazing sometimes.[…]

  49. Just to make it clear in English, I fully support Vince, he’s off to a great start, a most appropriate way to estar a blog that’s about the amateur blog, rather than the pretentious “ProBlogger”, which is a ton of bull to begin with. Moreover, I highly recommend Vince to go back to the ProBlogger-inspired template, because there is no freaking copyright on a style sheet, and spoofing is a time-honored tradition. You can tell that while Darren is an arrogant nerd, Vince is a mild-mannered Canadian who clearly meant no harm. And karma wise, the entire thing is leaning in favor of Vince (just look at the boost in visitors he is getting! congrats, Vince!) and helping expose how highly Darren, Duncan and the entire “network” thing of themselves. What happened to sharing? What happened to the spirit of blogs? So now they are “professional blogs”? F*k that, let Vince use the template, and I hope he carries on the true spirit of a free Internet.

    Darren and Duncan: you are right in the same line of reasoning as the Bush administration asking Google to disclose search data… you are a bunch of fascists, greedily running after a 0,05 cent click from AdSense. Remember folks, the whole thing says more about Darren than Vince…

    edit by Darren – I would strongly recommend that people leaving comments remember that when they submit comments that their IP addresses get sent with the comment and that it’s not too difficult to work out who they are… if they’ve commented before. Thanks for the comment ‘Spanish Avenger’.

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