VSPaste is great – but vile

VSPaste is a Live Writer plugin I have been using to help in pasting code segments from Visual Studio to my blog. It’s been working great – until I noticed it’s polluting my blog with hidden links to itself.

VSPaste allows me to copy code in Visual Studio and just hit the paste button. And hey presto, code appears on my blog, with syntax highlighting and all. I was happy all along, until I noticed that each of the pasted segments actually has a hidden link to the plugin’s home page.

When I paste code like this:

static void Main(string[] args)
    int foo = 5;

I actually get a fragment of HTML like this:

<pre class="code"><span style="color: blue">static void </span>
Main(<span style="color: blue">string</span>[] args) {     <span style="color: blue">int </span>foo = 5; }</pre> <a href="http://11011.net/software/vspaste"></a>

The hidden link with no text doesn’t appear every time, but often it does.

Why and why not?

Why: Google Juice, of course. Having lots of links pointing at the site is a good way to improve your ranking, although perhaps not in practice: search engines have become quite a bit more intelligent in weeding out fake links, so the actual effect is somewhat more dubious.

Why not: First off, I don’t, as a matter of principle, want to have uninvited links in my blog content. Second, what happened if search engines actually tracked the empty link and then due to whatever circumstances deemed that page as spam, illegal or whatever? Such measures also tend to negatively affect the rank of pages linking to it, possibly even totally removing them from search results.

This sort of risk could potentially wipe out all the blogs using VSPaste from the search engine results – a massive loss to those who make their living out of blogging. Although unlikely to happen in practice, it shows the problem in a harsh light. Actually, it is exactly this sort of scenarios that have led to the practice of having rel=”nofollow” on links in blog comments.

Plug-in authors should be careful not to mess with the content they help in producing.

PS. In order to work against the effect of all the hidden links, this article doesn’t contain a link to the VSPaste plugin.

January 16, 2010 · Jouni Heikniemi · One Comment
Posted in: General

One Response

  1. Kristof Mattei - July 1, 2010

    My friend, do you have a good alternative?

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