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Oracle Professionals upset with questionable SQL Server User Group
Updated March 25, 2011

This is a warning to anyone who comes across any web site that asks you to pay a fee to read Oracle information.  This week I was doing a Google search and I noted an unfamiliar web site (SSWUG) in the results.  When I clicked on the second Google link I was taken to a web page that shocked me.

This page, from the SQL Server Worldwide Users Group (www.sswug.org) suggested that Oracle's technologist (Tom Kyte) was now working for SSWUG! (emphasis added)

 

On Fetching, Storing, and Indexing

Available for Members.   See Related Articles
 
  Article Abstract:

(Tom Kyte) Our technologist fetches sequentially, stores inline, and indexes globally.

We've got a problem concerning an ORA-01002 error in a PL/SQL block. We learned that this error sometimes happens under special circumstances when updating selected data, such as when using a SELECT for an UPDATE. But this is not the case here. The strange thing is that we're getting this error only when reading data from a cursor, without any updates on the cursor data.
 

  Read this article...

Key (Please note):
(R) - registration may be required for access at the target site
($) - target site may require paid membership for access to this or other content

Is this Oracle employee working as "Our technologist" for SSWUG?  The page says the article is "Available for Members", but I clicked anyway and I was taken to a payment page and asked me to pay at least $9.50 if I wanted to see this article (which can be read for free in Oracle Magazine):

Monthly $9.50/Month
Quarterly $19.50/Qtr.  (32% discount)
Annual $69.50/yr. (39% discount - only $5.79 / month)
Includes SSWUG Members-Only Shirt*

Now I ask you, is this deceptive?

Wow, only $9.50 and I could read a genuine article by Tom Kyte.  Hmmm. maybe I should pay the $69.50 and get the t-shirt too? . . .

As it turns out, there is no article on this web site.  If had I paid the $9.50 fee I would have been taken to the "real" article on Oracle Technical Network (OTN) where I could have read it for free.

The web site owner is Stephen Wynkoop, holder of the "prestigious " Microsoft MVP award.  According to the Microsoft MVP web site, Mr. Wynkoop seems to be a perfect fit to be awarded a Microsoft MVP:

These customers are the authors, . . . who carry with them the voice, strength, and value of the Microsoft customer.

It is not clear if SSWUG is a not-for-profit organization, but we could find no bylaws or elected officials on the web site.  Billed as "the largest group of database professionals", the SQL Server Worldwide Users Group is unlike any other database user group that I have ever seen.  The SSWUG group web site shows no committees, special interest groups, member meetings or conferences.  In fact, the only thing that appears to make the 200,000+ members a "database user group" is the fact that they have all paid money to the web site. 

Wynkoop has evidently made a killing from his SQL Server Worldwide Users Group (www.sswug.org) web site, and the site header boasts that it has over 200,000 members, four times the size of the International Oracle Users Group (IOUG). 

Is this illegal?

There is no questions that these actions are immoral and unethical, but are they illegal?  Lutz Hartmann writes this question about SSWUG's unsavory practices:

"Is it legal anyway, to just copy my article? Can I screw them?"

I've got a call in to my attorney to investigate the legality of "link selling" but I've got a sneaking suspicion that this practice falls within the realm of U.S. consumer fraud laws.  There are strict state and federal statutes against unfair or fraudulent business practices, as well as truth in advertising laws that are designed to protect innocent consumers.

I'm no lawyer, but in some countries, this type of deception and consumer fraud carries both civil and criminal penalties, and you may have remedies in the courts.  If you live in such a country and have had your copyrighted content promoted on SSWUG without your knowledge of consent, you can reach SSWUG here:

Stephen Wynkoop, Owner
The SQL Server Worldwide User's Group (SSWUG.ORG)
Bits on the Wire, Inc.
8987 E. Tanque Verde #309-269
Tucson Arizona 85749

(520) 760-2400
swynk@bitsonthewire.com
 

With 200,000 member and membership fees ranging from $9.50 to $69.50, Mr. Wynkoop has become a millionaire several times over, partially by selling links to content that he has appropriated from other Oracle professionals.

Also note that the SSWUG.ORG web site accepts Google Adwords advertising, and some victims have suggested that reporting this practice to Google (motto: "Do No Evil") might get this questionable site removed from the Google index.  It's just like a "link farm" where someone uses Google to collect data, and then charges Google to run ads on the pages!  This site notes a possible way to fight SSWUG:

"Visiting your scraper’s site could help you gain a few points in the fight. Have you ever clicked the Ads by Google link on AdSense ads? This opens up a page where you can subscribe to both AdWords and AdSense. However, if you look at the bottom of the page you will notice a link that says Send Google your thoughts on the site or the ads you just saw. The beauty of this link is that it knows where you are coming from -your scraper- and it fires up a questionnaire regarding the relevance of your scraper’s ads. Now is the time to throw a left jab:"

Personally, I was taken-aback to find that Mr. Wynkoop was attempting to profit by selling links to articles, for several reasons:

  • The term "User Group" on the web site is misleading, since most legitimate database user groups are not-for-profit organizations.  Calling this a .org is also deceptive, since SSWUG is not a users group in any real sense, no committees, no conferences, no elected officials.
     

  • The content looks like an original articles with no disclosure about the legitimate owner of the content.
     

  • It is never mentioned that the "article" is nothing more than a hyperlink.  There is no value-added content whatsoever, no commentary, nothing but the fee.

Oracle security guru Pete Finnigan was also unhappy with the practice:

I also emailed him to express my concerns that his site makes it look
like I wrote papers for him. I also asked him to remove my name from his site or make the links to my papers open for all to read and to also
credit the original source of the papers.

Noted O'Reilly Oracle author Jonathan Gennick also expressed displeasure:

I don't like it.  Selling links to free content rubs me the wrong way.

Mike Ault, had even stronger words:

I'm a believer in helping the Oracle community and I'm disheartened that someone would profit from my generosity.

Like any story, we have an opposing view, and the "president" of the SSWUG justifies his profit-taking for his database User group.

SSWUG appears to collect its user group membership from their victims, and it is not a "real" users group in the sense that they have committees, meetings and elections.

SSWUG:  "I am not a Crook":

In his defense, Mr. Wynkoop "took strong exception" to my suggestions of impropriety.  He noted that he is doing nothing unethical or illegal, and suggested that his members love their site.  I got the impression that Wynkoop wanted me to thank him for giving the Oracle community this wonderful web site.  He noted:

"We have members that pay dues and pay us to find the best content on the web, summarize it and make it searchable. When we do this, it promotes your site and work - we send people to your site to read the article(s). This should result in some good traffic for you.

It's also something members rave about - a single starting point to finding the articles they need.

I take strong exception to your summary and sweeping accusations of our site.  We have very significant readership that appreciates providing a vertical starting point for the DBA.  We do much more than "just" provide the search and summary services, as I outlined in my earlier mail.  I have done nothing wrong whatsoever, and our summarizing of articles is both done by 100's of sites and proven in the courts.

We are equivalent to a news clipping service.  We point our subscribers to good content, we find it for them and make them aware of it. 

Could they find it elsewhere?  Sure.  Do they appreciate our finding it for them and pointing them to it?  Yes. 
 
We have prevented NO access to your content.  It's not like people couldn't find this on Google, instead they opt to find out from our service.  There's nothing wrong with that; we're simply doing the search/summarize/organize/notify function for them."

As someone whose living depends on my rights to my writing , I find it disconcerting that anyone would make millions of dollars using these types of deceptive and unsavory business practices. 

**********************************************  

Felony Arrests Coming for “linking” Web Sites  

Criminal Copyright violation  arrests are now coming for those annoying web sites that steal content and re-publish it for a fee.

Check out the channelsurfing.net page after being seized by the Feds ...

 The site has been seized by the Federal Government because it is a “Hoover”, a site that steals and reproduces the copyrighted content of other web sites:

"This domain has been seized by ICE - Homeland Security Investigations, Special Agent in Charge, New York Office."

"It is unlawful to reproduce copyrighted material, such as movies, music, software or games, without authorization... First-time offenders convicted of a criminal felony copyright law will face up to five years in federal prison, restitution, forfeiture and fine."

Read the story here about how creating sites that resell hyperlinks to copyrighted content is a crime.


 

 
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