I just had that awful sinking feeling.

You know, the one where you think, "well, with hindsight I should have done a bit more investigating before I put my email address and name into a box and hit Submit on a webpage which has nothing more than a logo and the aforementioned form."


What the hell am I on about, you may ask? Well, a site called TopicBlogs. The site has nothing on it, and doesn't seem to have had anything on it for a while - maybe a startup which was shuffled onto the back burner, maybe something which is still in private testing stages, maybe something which is almost ready to be unleashed into the blogosphere.

I did some Googling, and found mixed information: there's a Jeff Chan listed next to topicblogs.com on a TechCrunch wiki page entry for a 2006 meetup in California - which would therefore logically imply that Jeff Chan is California-based, most likely in the Silicon Valley / Bay Area and working at a startup or incubator company. That said, maybe Mr. Chan was developing an idea on that domain, got bored and let it expire, and it was purchased to use for other more nefarious means. Maybe it's a legit site but is unfortunate to be hosted on a known-unscrupulous webhost (Layered Tech)...

...Maybe it's just a ruse to get people to put their names and email addresses into a database to get spammed, who knows (all I know is I saw a bot with that name spider my RSS feed). Whilst I write this I'm doing some parallel Googling to see if I can find anything more, and it looks like this might be a complex system devised by someone to crawl sites looking for Wordpress / TypePad sites, and then attempt to abuse the comment posting scripts to send them loads of spam. I found some fairly convincing evidence on PlanetMike's blog, and the most unfortunate thing is that that entry is only dated from the beginning of this month.

Oh well, there goes my address into the wild west of yet more spamlists (I already get a ton of spam thanks to my address being leaked onto the web via leaky mailing list archives). I also note that The Web Robot Abuse Blog notes that topicblogs is hosted on .layeredtech.com, which they already blacklist for known spam operations.

Darn it, why aren't I more careful with my email addresses sometimes? Oh well. Don't make the same mistake I did! Maybe it'll turn out alright on the night, maybe it won't. Stay tuned to see what happens.

There may be a ray of hope though (and I'm an eternal optimist); see what Nicholas Seow wrote in one of his blog entries, way back in 2005:

Apparently this crawler is linked to ping-o-matic, and is notified when you give ping-o-matic a RPC. This obviously means that topicblogs is some sort of blog-indexing service, or maybe a new social network service. It certainly gives the impression of a startup which has some sort of innovative idea they’ve yet to unveil to the world.

http://thom.org.uk/blog/Topicblogs.aspx has shown that topicblogs is somehow related to http://www.backweave.com/blog/, or Jeff Chan if the profile information is accurate. Yep, this definitely seems like a startup - a one-man mission, in fact.

Checking up on both the domains of topicblogs.com and backweave.com, we can surmise that both are owned by the same person, Tze Yi Chan, or Chan Tze Yi if we follow the Chinese naming sequence. No doubt this is the same person as Jeff Chan.

Well, I’ve been unable to find any more information, so I may just email them out of curiosity. Good luck to Jeff Chan in his endeavour, and his bot is welcome to crawl over all over the place here at propitiate.net, as long as I don’t find out anything nasty about it.


This information tallies with some of the other stuff I've already found myself, so who knows? One of life's great mysteries.

Perhaps it's just a big social experiment to see who responds to the feed scrapes and puts their address into the box... Who knows?

More references:
Thom.org.uk - topicblogs
Propitiate.net
LabNotes - Who's reading the blogosphere?
TechCrunk Wiki: techcrunh7 info (search page for Jeff Chan)

(Yeah, I know most of these articles are quite old, but that almost adds to the mystique... Such a long time without any real revelations... What could the site be? Hmmmmmmmmmm.)

2 Comments:

  1. Jeff said...
    Christopher,

    Your email address is safe with us. :)

    We're currently in private beta. I'll drop you an email when we're ready to open up to more users. Feel free to email me at jeff AT you-know-which-domain if you have any questions.

    Jeff Chan
    Mazhar Hussain Shah said...
    HI,

    Useful for me.
    Recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

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