Saturday, October 13, 2012

Venipedia's identity theft

On Thursday October 11, the same day when the WPI term ended, and as the 7 teams of Venice Project Students were getting ready to travel to Venice on October 21st, I received several concerned emails from Venice, regarding an initiative by a company called Bazzmann who presented venipedia.it with great fanfare at the Marciana library in Venice.   It was featured on the Gazzettino and the Nuova Venezia and it has a Facebook page.  The man behind is a Mr. Marco Trevisan...
Everybody is saying what a good idea it is, yet it has little content at this time and it does not look like it will be an open wiki system like wikipedia.  And it comes almost 5 years after we first launched our Venipedia site.  We have even had a presence on Facebook since 2008.  My first blog on this was dated September 29, 2008.  Another one was posted here on February 6, 2009.  In fact a simple Google search for "Venipedia" today shows our Venipedia at the top of the list.  How could they have not known?



I don't know what to make of it...
It seems quite likely that they probably tried to get the venipedia.org domain and disregarded the fact that it has existed since 2008.  It is hard to imagine that in their "due diligence" the creators of this clone did not realize that Venipedia already existed. Given the planned content of the "rival", it seems very suspicious that a for-profit company would create a site using an established name, without some ulterior motive.
Given that our site has been up for 5 years, one would think that it would be contrary to good business practices to use a pre-existing name, with all of the confusion that might ensue (see for example this news item that uses our logo with the news about their site).  Unless, of course, this was done on purpose to leverage the open-content wiki that we are sharing with the world through Venipedia.org.
The irony of it all is that Bazzmann showcases an ethical code prominently on their home page... I guess they consider using an established name space "ethical"...  Amazing!
We will see who has the last word on this.
The good news is that I will be in Venice this weekend and I will be able to investigate what is going on.  The other great thing is that Kyle Miller, the original admin of Venipedia, will also be in Venice when the students arrive.  And each and every team this year will be contributing to our Venipedia wiki until Dec. 15.  We even have a team specifically dedicated to Venipedia this term and we already had another dedicated Venipedia team in 2010.  Most importantly, we now have the City Knowledge technology that allows us to automatically generate individual Venipedia pages from data, with bi-directional updates occurring instantly, as we just demonstrated at the City of Boston and at MIT.
I will be giving two lectures in the UK next week at Oxford University and University College London on the technology behind our newer version of Venipedia.
In the end, what Mr. Trevisan and his colleagues are doing would have been perfectly fine, except for the choice of the name of the initiative, which smacks of outrageous plagiarism.  Ayn Rand would classify this as a perfect example of what "second-handers" are capable of doing.
If you are a reader of this Blog and/or a supporter of Venipedia.org, please do your best to disseminate the facts contained in this blog.  Leave comments on the bottom and let your opinions speak for themselves!
I greatly appreciate your support at this challenging time.
We will keep you posted on the developments.
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