The Software Awards Scam

The Software Awards Scam



The software awards scam
I put out a​ new product a​ couple of​ weeks ago .​
This new product has so far won 16 different awards and recommendations from software download sites .​
Some of​ them even emailed me messages of​ encouragement such as​ Great job,​ we're really impressed! .​
I​ should be delighted at​ this recognition of​ the​ quality of​ my software,​ except that the​ 'software' doesn't even run .​
This is​ hardly surprising when you​ consider that it​ is​ just a​ text file with the​ words this program does nothing at​ all repeated a​ few times and then renamed as​ an​ .exe .​
the​ PAD file that described the​ software contains the​ description This program does nothing at​ all .​
Even the​ name of​ the​ software,​ awardmestars,​ was a​ bit of​ a​ giveaway .​
And yet it​ still won 16 'awards'.
Some of​ them look quite impressive,​ but none of​ them are worth the​ electrons it​ takes to​ display them.
The obvious explanation is​ that some download sites give an​ award to​ every piece of​ software submitted to​ them .​
In return they hope that the​ author will display the​ award with a​ link back to​ them .​
The back link then potentially increases traffic to​ their site directly (through clicks on​ the​ award link) and indirectly (through improved page rank from the​ incoming links) .​
The author gets some awards to​ impress their potential clients and the​ download site gets additional traffic.
This practise is​ blatantly misleading and dishonest .​
It makes no distinction between high quality software and any old rubbish that someone was prepared to​ submit to​ a​ download site .​
the​ download sites that practise this deceit should be ashamed of​ themselves .​
Similarly,​ any author or​ company,​ that displays one of​ these 'awards' is​ either being naive (at best) or​ knowingly colluding in​ the​ scam (at worst).
My suspicions were first aroused by the​ number of​ five star awards I​ received for my PerfectTablePlan software .​
When I​ went to​ these sites all the​ other programs on​ them seemed to​ have five star awards as​ well .​
I​ also noticed that some of​ my weaker competitors were proudly displaying pages full of​ five star awards .​
I​ saw very few three or​ four star awards .​
Something smelled fishy .​
Being a​ scientist by original training,​ I​ decided to​ run a​ little experiment to​ see if​ a​ completely worthless piece of​ software would win any awards.
Having seen various recommendations for the​ rundenko.com submit-everywhere.com submission service on​ the​ ASP forums I​ emailed the​ owner,​ Mykola Rudenko,​ to​ ask if​ he could help with my little experiment .​
To my surprise,​ he generously agreed to​ help by submitting awardmestars to​ all 1033 sites on​ their database,​ free of​ charge.
According to​ the​ report I​ received 2 weeks after submissions began awardmestars is​ now listed on​ 218 sites,​ pending on​ 394 sites and has been rejected by 421 sites .​
Approximately 7% of​ the​ sites that listed the​ software emailed me that it​ had won an​ award (I don't know how many have displayed it​ with an​ award,​ without informing me) .​
With 394 pending sites it​ might win quite a​ few more awards yet .​
Many of​ the​ rejections were on​ the​ grounds of​ the​ site does not accept products of​ this genre (it was listed as​ a​ utility) rather than quality grounds.
The truth is​ that many download sites are just electronic dung heaps,​ using fake awards,​ dubious SEO and content misappropriated from PAD files in​ a​ pathetic attempt to​ make a​ few dollars from Google Adwords .​
Hopefully these bottom-feeders will be put out of​ business by the​ continually improving search engines,​ leaving only the​ better sites .​
I​ think there is​ still a​ role for good quality download sites .​
But there needs to​ be more emphasis on​ quality,​ classification,​ and additional content (e.g .​
reviews) .​
Whether it​ is​ possible for such a​ business to​ be profitable,​ I​ don't know .​
However,​ it​ seems to​ work in​ the​ MacOSX world where the​ download sites are much fewer in​ number,​ but with much higher quality and more user interaction.
Some download site owners did email me to​ say either very funny or​ stop wasting my time .​
Kudos to​ them for taking the​ time to​ check every submission .​
I​ recommend you​ put their sites high on​ your list next time you​ are looking for software:
www.filecart.com
www.freshmeat.net
www.download-tipp.de (German)
This is​ the​ response I​ got from Lothar Jung of​ download-tipp.de when I​ showed him a​ draft of​ this article:
the​ other side for me as​ a​ website publisher is​ that if​ you​ do not give each software 5 stars,​ you​ don't get so many back links and some authors are not very pleased with this and your website .​
When I​ started download-tipp.de,​ I​ wanted to​ create a​ site where users can find good software .​
So I​ decided the​ visitor is​ important,​ and not the​ number of​ backlinks .​
Only 10% of​ all programs submitted get the​ 5 Suns Award.
Another important issue for download sites is​ trust .​
I​ want to​ know that the​ software I​ am downloading doesn't contain spyware,​ trojans or​ other malware .​
Some of​ the​ download sites have cunningly exploited this by awarding 100% clean logos .​
I​ currently use the​ Softpedia one on​ the​ PerfectTablePlan download page .​
It shouldn't be too difficult in​ principal to​ scan software for known malware .​
But now I​ am beginning to​ wonder if​ these 100% clean logos have any more substance than the​ five starawards .​
The only way to​ find out for sure would be to​ submit a​ download with malware,​ which would be unethical .​
If anyone has any information about whether these sites really check for malware,​ I​ would be interested to​ know.
My thanks to​ submit-everywhere.com for making this experiment possible .​
I​ was favourably impressed by the​ thoroughness of​ their service .​
At only $70 I​ think it​ is​ excellent value compared to​ the​ time and hassle of​ trying to​ do it​ yourself .​
I​ expect to​ be a​ paying customer in​ future.
** Addendum **
This little experiment has been featured on​ reddit.com,​ digg.com,​ slashdot.com,​ stumbleupon.com and a​ number of​ other popular sites and blogs .​
Consequently there have been hundreds of​ comments on​ this blog and on​ other sites .​
I​ am very flattered by the​ interest .​
But I​ also feel like Dr Frankenstein,​ looking on​ as​ my experiment gains a​ life of​ its own .​
If I​ had known the​ article was going to​ be read by so many people I​ would have taken a​ bit more time to​ clarify the​ following points:
I have no commercial interest in,​ or​ prior relationship with,​ the​ three download sites mentioned .​
I​ singled them out because I​ infer from emails received that they have a​ human-in-the-loop,​ checking all submissions (or a​ script that passes the​ Turing test,​ which is​ even more praiseworthy) .​
I​ offered all three a​ chance to​ be quoted in​ the​ article .​
Today I​ received a​ similar email from tucows.com,​ but they were too late to​ make the​ article .​
I​ don't know if​ they read the​ article before they emailed me.
I have no commercial interest in,​ or​ prior relationship with,​ the​ automatic submission service mentioned .​
I​ approached them for help,​ which they generously provided,​ free of​ charge.
The only business mentioned in​ which I​ have a​ commercial interest is​ my own table planning software,​ PerfectTablePlan.




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