One of the last articles I was ever asked to write — and definitely the last I wrote for a print publication or on Director — was for the MX Developers Journal. The incomparable James Newton was working as an “unofficial/unpaid editor” on Director-related material approached me about writing something for them, and I just happened to have finished a fairly simple kiosk — but one with live video feeds — for the Oregon Zoo that I thought was a project that could be digested in a few thousand words.

By the summer of 2004, the days of getting paid to write material on Director were already long ago and gone, despite the MX Developers Journal‘s glossy paper and four-color printing, so apart from the few copies of the magazine that I received (only after whining to the in-house editorial contact at Sys-Con the publisher, which in itself completed a circle with my first experience in magazine publishing, 30 years ago next month). I never expected any payment for the article.

Then again, I never expected anything like this, either. WHile MXDJ died long ago, Sys-Con has continued publishing online journals and sponsoring seminars. Apparently, the company launched a site called Ulitzer.com a couple of years ago, and some of the authors like Aral Balkan — a London Flash developer of some note — are just hearing about it for the first time

Apparently, some 6,000 authors who have written content for Sys-Con publications in the past are now having their work reprinted (unpaid) at Ulitzer, at subdomains personalized with their names. Moreover, no attempt appears to have been made to contact the authors to notify them that this was going to happen. Balkan was told — when he questioned being identified as a “Ulitzer author” that he could modify his biography and even apply for Google AdSense dollars generated by his pages on the site to be sent to him, but unless an author had been notified that the site existed and that this was a possibility, then presumably Sys-Con would have gone on collecting all monies from SAP, Microsoft, Symantec, and the other companies that placed ads on the site.

After complaining about Sys-Con’s practices (and getting his articles and name pulled from the Ulitzer site, for which he gave them credit, Balkan then found that Sys-Con had written calling him a homosexual and comparing him to the attempted assassin of Pope John Paul. It’s truly an incredible story that’s nowhere near over yet I feel, but Sys-Con’s actions reminded me an awful lot of someone I’d encountered before.

And just look at my personalized site on Ulitzer! Apparently I’m such an insignificant cog in their rip-off machine that they can’t be bothered to spell my last name right (see the subdomain name under the Ulitzer logo).