Knowin’ What to Throw Away and Knowin’ What to Keep

It’s time for another installment of the State of the Hostile Web, a series that I’ve never officially started, yet have many entries examples of user-antagonism to highlight.

This time it started with a simple goal – I wanted to craft a clever reply to a Twitter post by my buddy Chris Bailey (@chriscognito):

Chris' Tweet: "Do you know when to cut bait and run? Sometimes knowing when to kill a program is as important as knowing how to start one."

I don’t know about you, but for me, I immediately heard Kenny Rogers. Maybe that’s because I was born and raised in Texas, but that’s besides the point. This was a crystal clear opportunity to blast the Internet with a reminder of the awesomeness that is The Gambler.

The Gambler Album Cover from KennyRogers.com (Links to Amazon)To ensure I got it just right, I did a quick search for the lyrics, and the first site to pop up is called LyricsFreak (they don’t get any link love from me – you’ll see why), which displays the words in all of whiskey-soaked glory. But when I go to cut-and-paste them (you can call it lazy – I call it efficient), nothing is selectable. At all. The normal click-and-drag to highlight doesn’t work and the right-click menu is taking the day off.

I was perplexed. I was annoyed. But I also know a little bit about these here Web pages, so I figured that I would just view the page source to disable the code that was blocking me, or I might copy the lyrics from there.

…and I stopped dead in my tracks, confronted with this:


&#79&#110&#32&#97&#32&#119&#97&#114&#109&#32&#115&#117&#109&#109&#101&#114
&#39&#115&#32&#101&#118&#101&#110&#105&#110&#39&#32&#111&#110&#32&#97&#32
&#116&#114&#97&#105&#110&#32&#98&#111&#117&#110&#100&#32&#102&#111&#114
&#32&#110&#111&#119&#104&#101&#114&#101&#44

That’s the very first line of the song: “On a warm summer’s eve on a train bound for nowhere”.

Seriously.

Beyond disabling all of the standard methods for copying a bit of text, Lyric Freaks encoded every single character of the song.

Part of me understands that their goal is to not have other people copy their database in bulk. Assuming they paid for the transcription, it has value to them that they want to protect in order to make some money . I get that. I’m a happy little capitalist myself.

But this practice has instantly made the site useless to me, when there is a sea of lyric sites available. Beyond that, any developer can tell you that this won’t make the least bit of difference to someone specifically scraping the Lyric Freaks site to snag their content. None.

So, the people who actually use their service, see, and hopefully click, their ads and tell others to visit are hamstrung.

Luckily Sing365 made it easy for me to reference The Gambler Lyrics.

Which I used oh so cleverly in under 140 characters:

This is a very long blog post that boils down to the fact that LyricFreaks has lost site of what’s important, hurting prospective users before they even have a chance to turn them into fans. All this in an attempt to protect something, using a method that won’t work, making the Web a little less friendly and a little less usable.

User-hostile practices do not work on the Internet. Your site or service is one among many competitors, and it won’t take long for a competitor to eclipse your work, so do yourself a favor and build solutions that reward the user for visiting instead of making their day harder in an attempt to protect a castle made of sand.

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