Jan 13, 2011

Dear Garden Rant: Please Go Away

First, let me congratulate you on discovering how the Demand Studios network of websites are cluttering Google’s search results with garbage masquerading as garden content. Garden blogger who pay attention to their site stats or monitor the ranking of their websites and garden blogs have known about this. Welcome to 2009.

Quickly, for those unfamiliar, Demand Media owns several article mills like eHow and Garden Guides, where people who are paid little money “write” articles about gardening. Since these are freelance “writers” trying to make a buck, the information is usually not first-hand. Most of the time these articles are just simplified versions of popular garden blog posts. Go and do a Google search for the title of a popular post on your blog and you may find an article eerily similar to yours.  Garden blog posts of the how-to variety are especially popular.

Garden bloggers

Sometimes you may get credit in the form of a mention but no link to the article they obviously are regurgitating. Many of my most popular posts on the MrBrownThumb garden blog have been regurgitated by the "writers" who work for Demand Media.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah. Garden Rant it’s time for you to hang up the mouse and spend more time with your gardens. Maybe take a trip or write a book. It’s been a long time since you’ve “uprooted the gardening world.” Like with all successful ventures, you’re coasting on prestige and a fan base who won’t tell you when you’re wrong. The blog has become a repository for half-baked guest posts and press releases. What little original content you manage to produce is usually so ridiculous that I can’t help but feel sorry for you. Allow me to provide examples: When you said the actress in the video for the Yeo Valley commercial and said the actress looked "like a model, not someone you can imagine getting dirty, like the outdoorsy-looking men."  Really? A blog written by women went there? A woman actually said another woman was too attractive to be a farmer? Do you see what’s wrong with your line of thinking?

While I agree with yesterday’s rant against eHow on many levels, I couldn’t help chuckling at reading an attack on a content mill next to the quote that likens you to the Huffington Post. "Gardenrant is the Huffington Post of garden news!" reads the quote in your sidebar.  A perfect example of how out of touch you’ve become. You’re being likened to another type of article mill, granted one with celebrities, but an article mill nonetheless. A feed scraper, a monument to Arianna’s ego and the home of vaccine deniers-that’s totally something you’re proud of!

In the rant against eHow you lumped in the writers for About.com and they descended on your comments to present their qualifications and point out how poorly researched your rant was. A day later and you have yet to respond to the comments, issue a retraction or an apology. I’m not surprised, usually when you post something so ignorant of the facts, the reaction is to hunker down and pretend like you can’t see them. That is, until the outrage becomes so loud, like with the ugly gardens rant last year, that you can’t pretend like you don’t hear the chants. And only then do you go around commenting on blogs telling people to calm down because you’re only expressing an opinion. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion, as long as it’s Garden Rant’s. Amirite?

Then there’s the comment section of your blog, have you seen that mess lately? It shows that you don’t care about the blog or your readers that you allow obvious spam to remain alongside thoughtful comments.  Do you allow people to dump garbage in your gardens, when you see litter in your perennial beds do you allow it to accumulate? Then why would you do that in the comments section of your blog?

As a garden blog evangelist I hate to tell a garden blog to go away. Maybe the four of you should just step back and take different positions within the blog. It’s obvious that the blog now only exists to prop up your other projects and get paying jobs elsewhere. Bring on four new women to write Garden Rant. Ones whose real jobs and careers don’t rely on currying favor with garden marketers, publishers and authors. Ones whose opinions aren’t fertilized by sycophants. Maybe then Garden Rant will go back to "uprooting the gardening world."

(Note: Part of the conversation going on in the comments over there is about curating information. For a couple of years I've been curating websites to include into my Google custom search engines about gardening and now one about gardening with seeds. I saw this trend early on and because Google's results are now cluttered with crappy articles because of websites like eHow and Garden Guides I only use these to search for information. The articles, posts and webpages are from reliable writers, institutions and garden blogs. Give them a try or make suggestions.)

ETA: Day two and there's been no retraction, correction or apology. Not even an acknowledgment that in lumping the writers of About.com with the others they made a mistake. I know the writers aren't on vacation because I've seen them online.


  1. Wowzers! I love about gardening and Mr Brown Thumb! I cant believe people steal other ppls work and not give them credit! Give credit where credit is due! Who's to say what one can look like when growing food! Maybe she is so attractive and healthy looking from all those veggies she grows 8-) The gardenrant peeps dont seem so um cool to be polite!

  2. Wowsa! You have become a very strong 'voice' MrBT, stirring up the waves of cyberspace.

    I always learn something from you, especially in the tech realm, though gardens is what we're all about.

    I have my own 'Garden Guides' tale: For years they were lifting entire paragraphs from my books to use as entries on their site for garden visits. It took some time to get all my hard-won, personally-researched text deleted. Are they the site you mention as being part of Demand Media?

    I'd be infuriated if I were you to see your work regurgitated!

    I'll leave off commenting on Garden Rant, as I haven't been on the site in a long time.

    But I appreciate and congratulate you for curating custom search engines to clear out the detritus to give people a search that yields useful and effective information.
    Alice Joyce
    aka Alice's Garden Travel Buzz

  3. Hi MBT,

    Interesting you should take on Garden Rant. I have them on my blog list but soon got turned off on what they rant about. As you pointed out, much of their ranting is not effectively researched and there is little or no feedback when you do offer info on one of their subjects.


  4. @Jenn's Cooking Garden, I don't think that it's a matter of them being too cool to be polite. Although, my personal interaction with two of the writers there, left a lot to be desired. I think it's mostly that they're "too big" to actually care any more. Like with brands, celebrities and politicians who are all ears when they start out, eventually become insulated to reality. That's what we're witnessing here. They had a bunch of writers they unfairly tarnished at sweatshop writers and a day later haven't bothered to even address those comments.

    @Bay Area, That must've been infuriating for you. Glad you got it all worked out and had your content taken off of the site. Thanks for commenting.

    @Gatsby Gardens, Well... I have nothing to lose by "taking them on." Honestly, at one time I was a fan of the blog, but have seen the quality of it plumit in the past couple of years. It's too bad because it could be a great blog and a good resource in general garden world information.

  5. Remind me never to get on your badside! ;) I can't disagree with anything you've said. I think I read them for a short time in the beginning of my garden blogging but quickly grew tired of rant and rage against what...gardening? Too much rantin' going on everywhere else I don't want to here about it in my garden blog readings.

  6. You already know I agree with all of this. The main thing that just annoys the hell out of me about Garden Rant is that if you read their B.S. manifesto and their press blurbs, they're presented as this revolutionary group of gardeners. In fact, I have never seen a group of bloggers so completely in love with the status quo. You shouldn't garden unless you have good (meaning their) design sense, and you shouldn't grow vegetables unless you do it right, and heaven forbid if you don't have the right effing garden ornaments!! What they're basically saying, with almost every post, is "No, you morons shouldn't even try gardening. Leave it to those of us who can do it right."

    They have a small group of sycophants and industry shills who love them. I don't think they have anything useful to say to everyday gardeners. And if you're a new gardener -- forget it. That's the last place I'd go for help or inspiration.

  7. @Dave, I think you experienced the same thing that many other garden bloggers do IRT Garden Rant. It's a good blog in the beginning when you don't know any better. I'll try to keep the ranting here to a minimum. ;0)

    @Colleen, I've noticed that too. Maybe some people have a different idea about what's revolutionary, but that revolutionary looks like bougie to me. Every time someone emails, Tweets or Facebook messages me something from Garden Rant, it's always a rant that would turn off the casual person from wanting to garden. The rant that the one blogger posted when her husband wanted to start a vegetable garden? Completely ridiculous, patronizing and emasculating. The commentariat's comments in reply to that post made me feel sorry for her husband. For being garden communicators they sure do a good job of convincing people NOT to garden.

  8. MBT, I have new respect for you. The empresses have no clothes. I feel liberated enough to use the term, "plant materials" again in public.

  9. MBT, I meant they don't seem too cool! I was being polite! I went to their site, Blah blah blah !

  10. Oh, I forgot about that husband one -- that one was terrible! Really -- way to discourage people from trying to garden.

  11. "It’s obvious that the blog now only exists to prop up your other projects and get paying jobs elsewhere."

    It's that line that really struck me. Sadly, I think this type of writing is becoming more pervasive in garden blogging. I've been following different conversations on garden writing around the web and so much of it seems geared towards ways to make money, or increase followers and Google rankings. So little of it seems to be geared towards improving blog content or writing skills. I remember when writers worked hard to write good content, not merely content that was profitable.

  12. @Fred, LOL. Thanks.

    @Jenn's Oh, ok. Thanks for clearing that up.

    @Kat, I think it just may be the circle of garden bloggers we're interacting with. I'm almost positive that the average garden blogger doesn't care about all that. What we're dealing with here is a hybrid of garden blogger/writer and those aspiring to be writers. At it's purest form a garden blog is a garden journal and I think most people who write a garden blog don't care about all this other stuff that interests us so much.

  13. well I am new to both of your blogs...but I will say that I was turned off when I read their post today. I also will say that I have come to enjoy reading your posts...because not only do you offer substance...but Man...YOU HAVE MOXY! You always defend what you write!
    I have learned something this week...something that I had always known, but never experienced first hand...gardening is not always the gentle sport I have romanticized it as being. For me it is my safe place...and it calms me...but wow...the garden world is cut throat and mean! There are garden cliques...and there are the elite that think they are untouchable...
    I am none of the above...I am just an everyday gardener....who just want to garden, blog and write about what I enjoy! I feel bad for any beginner gardener that reads posts like that one...it would turn me right off!
    Thank you!

  14. Very interesting post. I am fairly new to the garden blogging world. I think I should start reading all of those blogs to see what this is about

  15. @Tootsie, There's a lot of truth in what you say, but the majority of garden bloggers are not like that. What you're experiencing, like I said to Kat above, is a very small segment of the gardening (blogging?)community.

    @Fer, Welcome to garden blogging!

  16. Anonymous1/14/2011

    My main rant against the Rant and other multi-writer blogs is that I feel outnumbered. Quality blogging takes time and energy (the pay's crap as well) and it would be so much easier if I had three other witty gardeners to help.
    It's kind of like an independent plant nursery fighting to survive against the big box stores.
    I've noticed this same tag team approach to garden book writing happening. Surely it saves the publishers some green. But with the job of marketing themselves set squarely on the writer nowadays, it seems the new reality, and just one more burden upon the writers.

    I'll keep plugging along solo, knowing that I may not have the Rant's enormous numbers, but true loyal readers. They know my voice.

  17. @TheGardenBuzz, Reach out to some bloggers and see if they'd like to join you on your blog. BTW, I think you have one of the nicest templates of all the garden blogs I've seen.

  18. @Tootsie, I've been thinking about your comment all day and I want to make something very clear: While there is some ruthlessness associated with garden blogging/writing for the most part people are good. I've made a few friends through this medium who I deeply cherish. So don't let the competitiveness keep you away from participating in this, because ultimately you'll meet one or two people who will have an impact on your life.

  19. Wow Mr BT, I was waddling along not realizing all this kind of layer exisited. I dont know much about the content you speak of etc so cant comment on it. My blog is just a haphazard jumble of whenever I can get to it posts about whatever is pertinent on the day I can get to it :) . However I have to say to you well done on your blog and for speaking your mind and opening up this topic and I found your post via Treys post here whare he makes some great logic on same matter. When I combine both I now understand so much more to be aware of. Whatever about gardeners getting info you two are a mine of info for more than just the novice. Here is Treys link http://thegoldengecko.com/blog/?p=980

  20. it seems as thought ranting and gardening is an oxymoron. (maybe that's what they are after, that "maverick" label that draws a lot of attention.) seems to me that gardening, of all things, should be inclusive and encouraging. is garden rant the fox news of the landscaping world? just turn the channel!

  21. I'm 100% behind you here. When I first started blogging, I noticed all kinds of cliques (much like Tootsie mentioned), and I think some people just say things because people will listen.

    It's such a shame that people resort to flipping articles as a means of making money. If you're really that hard off, you'd making more working a minimum wage 9-5. Don't call yourself a writer though.

    The problem is that too many people are after numbers. I'm so sick of people retweeting the same old boring list posts just for an extra follower or two to show their "friends". Most of the people doing this don't even make any money from it, they just pretend to.

    It's great that some people (yes, you) have managed to make it and still stay level-headed. Thanks for fighting for us little guys.

  22. Anonymous1/16/2011

    A little afraid to draw attention to myself but making the plunge: I am new to garden blogging and have been very successful so far, but I was very discouraged when I discovered the garden rant on yard art and the comments it generated (it was recently re-posted as tops for 2010). I have to say the whole thing made me feel physically sick with the elitist and judgmental language and attitude it portrayed, and it took me several days to recover. But then I realized that the professional horticultural world as a whole, which I have been a very active part of for almost 20 years, contains these same types of attitudes and people. Why should garden blogging be any different (although I wish it were)? The difference is that garden blogging has brought home gardeners and professional horticulturalists into the same world, and all the good and bad is visible to everyone. On the bright side, it is very difficult for horticultural "elites" to blog without revealing their feeling of their own superiority so it's easy to change the channel. In real time, they hide more easily.

  23. @MyPlant, Thanks for letting me know about Trey's post. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    @Laguna Dirt, That's a good question. I think maybe they are the Fox News of the gardening world. But what about when you're at the doctor's office and you can't change the channel? ;0)

    @Josh, I think I agree with you about the numbers game. I definitely have found myself caring about number rathern than connections. I'd have to disagree with you lumping me in with those who manage to "make it." Thanks for the comment and sorry you had such trouble posting it.

    @Carolyn, Thanks for posting and being so open with your story. Don't let the elitist attitudes affect you that bad. It's ok to let it get to you for a little while, but don't take several days to get over it. Brush it off and go onto the next amazing plant, of which I see a lot on your blog.

  24. Anonymous1/16/2011

    I didn't mean to offend by saying that you've made it; I just meant that I'd say you've become a highly-respected writer within the community.

  25. Bravo Brown Thumb--- the post by Garden Rant is typical of their typical attack without the facts form of "journalism". Elitist attitude will get you no where in an industry and culture full of nice people. I hope a nice guy like Alan Armitage will see the light and move away from his connection to the negative energy that they seem to thrive on. Some people are just miserable trouble makers! They probably operate like this in every aspect of their lives. Sad really...

  26. I admit I never read Garden Rant. I only found out about it when several people pointed out to me that one of their authors had lifted a photo from my blog and used it without my permission or knowledge. She also implied I was not cool enough to hang out with the person I had met in said photo. That right there told me volumes and I have no time for that attitude. I value integrity--make fun of me all you want, but don't steal my photos!

  27. @Ask Garden, You didn't offend me, I was being self-deprecating. :0)

    @Jim, Wow, that's really brave of you! I've heard from a lot of owners and people in the garden biz who feel the same way, but "fear" saying what you just said so publicly.

    @Monica, I remember when Susan Harris stole your picture from your website and used it to make her point. It came across as really elitist, but I don't expect much more.