WordCamp Atlanta falls prey to domain poaching

16 Comments

Update: Thanks to the enterprising efforts of commentor Donnacha we have been in contact with Ryan Ward, the domain’s new owner. He says that he means to do no harm with the domain and that he is interested in using it to help promote WordCamp Atlanta. We’ve put him in touch with its organizers and hope it will all be resolved soon.

Update 2: Ryan has directed the domain back to the WordCamp Atlanta’s official site. Kudos to him for doing the right thing!

It looks like there’s trouble for the organizers of WordCamp Atlanta. Apparently the domain atlantawordcamp.com was redirected to the website of an (allegedly) unscrupulous realtor sometime last week. The folks behind WordCamp Atlanta are understandably upset, as apparently this was done without their knowledge or consent.

But it happens to the best of us—though it looks like this incident didn’t have quite the same happy ending. The site can still be reached though the official WordCamp.org domain; all the more reason for camps to stick with official URLs.

To end things on a happier note, tickets for WordCamp Atlanta went on sale last week. As a native of Atlanta, I’m excited! This is going to be my first WordCamp, and I’ve had the opportunity to get to know a few of the folks putting it on so I know it will be great. Anybody else planning on attending?

16 thoughts on “WordCamp Atlanta falls prey to domain poaching

    • Can you elaborate on what you mean here?

      BTW, there’s a history that wasn’t reported here having to do with the way the original WordCamp Atlanta organizers handled things related to the local community (but I won’t elaborate publicly more than that.) Then after them running one event they lost interest and they let the domain expire (I assume) without telling anyone on the current organizing committee.

      But then again, karma is a bitch.

  1. Honestly, that domain is of pretty much zero value, this article will give them more traffic than the domain ever could on its own.

    If it mattered, a $1,500 UDRP would almost certainly award the domain to the WordPress Foundation but I have no doubt that this domain will be dropped in a year or two anyway when the owner, probably a very young WordPress enthusiast, gets a little older and a little classier.

    The vast majority of media claims about domain “poaching” or “squatting” are bullshit. Fun little story, though.

    • It has more to do with decency then whether is benefits him or not, especially because it won’t benefit him much. Clearly as Judi tweeted he is an example of the type of person that gives realtors a bad name as a class of people.

  2. Daniel, Yes this was really unfortunate and Mr. Ward in in violation of the WordPress Trademark and is being informed by WordPress that he cannot use that domain. This past year, the WordPress Foundation has formulated some requirements of having a WordCamp conference. No longer can just anyone decide to have a WordCamp. The WordCamps are not to be moneymakers but instead be offshoots of local WordPress Meetups and be designed in a way to offer WordPress Training at a very affordable price.
    Before it was every WordCamp for itself with no regulation about how much you could charge or who kept the profits> Back then each WordCamp had its own domain.

    Russell Fair and I as administrators of the local WordPress Users and Developers Meetups, were asked to coordinate WordCampAtlanta under the new foundation guidelines. We have our site, http:2012.atlanta.wordcamp.org built on the WordCamp.org platform.

    The other domain had expired and Ryan Holmes picked it up to hijack ranking. We hope he will be forced to take the site down soon.

    Thanks for bringing this up. The good news is despite the hijacking of the original domain, we have sold over half the tickets in just a week.

    We are looking forward to a Great WordCamp here in Atlanta Feb. 3-4.

  3. Daniel,

    Nice writeup but I really wish you had called Ryan Ward out in the title so that people who google him might find this. That said, I’ll do my part to call him out:

    Ryan Ward of atlantagashortsales.com: what a jerk you are, and I hope that people google you when trying to decide if they should work with you, find this article and decide to find a realtor who is ethical instead.

    P.S. One of the current WordCamp Atlanta organizers told me he contacted Ryan Ward and asked him to please release the domain and the organizer told me that Ryan told him, effectively, to pound sand.

    • Hi Mike.

      Do you know how that organizer contacted him? If by email, could you post a copy of the text here?

      The reason I ask is that I was about to post, in response to your response to my previous comment, that you should try writing to Ryan, to thank him for catching the domain for you when it expired, and ask him to transfer it to you in exchange for an official thank you in the list of supporters?

      You could gain a lot by not reflexively demonizing him and building him up into something that he is probably not. Looking at his sites, he is not actually a realtor, he’s just a web designer who uses WordPress, realty is one of the niches in which a fairly simple WordPress site can make affiliate commissions.

      If you are going to launch this crusade to blacken his name, that’s a lot of negativity to take on. Surely, before you commit to that, it would make sense to reach out to him yourself – if he tells you to go pound sand, fine, sock it to him, but don’t just accept someone else’s report as gospel truth. It is not beyond the bounds of credibility that, actually, no-one bothered to contact him or, if they did, they did it in an aggressive manner. Sorry to be cynical, but people acting in a voluntary capacity often neglect the tasks assigned to them.

      Most people are pretty reasonable and you have the moral high-ground here: you’re a volunteer for a non-profit event that benefits everyone who uses WordPress, you might be surprised to discover that Ryan responds positively to a polite approach.

      I am absolutely certain, 100%, that no experienced domainer would waste his time with this domain, what you have here is a dabbler.

      • Hi Donnacha,

        I appreciate your perspective.

        But I don’t believe I need to second guess the current WordCamp Atlanta organizers, I know them pretty well and they are above-board so I don’t see why I’d have to question what they said. I also tweeted Ryan and he did not even acknowledge. So I’ll give him the mea-culpa if he follows up and he let’s the Atlanta WordCamp people take over the domain and I’ll ask WPCandy to modify my comment. Otherwise I stand by my actions because, without calling people out, there’s no reason that those who are less than ethical will ever change their behavior.

        You must admit, redirecting the domain to a short sale real estate site is pretty sleazy to begin with, it does more harm to Atlanta WordCamp than any value he can recoup, especially if he is a WordPress user since he should know better.

        You know what they say:

        “Character is what you do when you think that nobody is watching.”

        • Second guess everyone, people fudge the truth all the time.

          Ryan has had the domain for less than a month, there is an extremely high chance that he simply has his hosting account set up to point all unconfigured domains to that site. 99% of newly-registered domains point somewhere illogical for the first few months, everyone is too busy. Jumping to the worst possible conclusion is of no benefit to you and making it personal like this will only force him into intransigence.

          You already own the domain wordcampatlanta.com – you, personally, own it, not the committee, which could be perceived in a negative way but, obviously, you simply haven’t got around to transferring it because, like everyone else, you have been too busy 🙂

          Ryan’s domain, which no-one will link to organically apart from all this publicity you are giving it, will never be able to compete with the real site for search engine ranking. The domain is a waste of $8 per year for him but, the way that the domain registration system is set up, first-come-first-served, it IS his property, you guys messed up by allowing it to drop, so, accept the hit and offer him something more useful in exchange, such as an official “thank you” link.

          Seriously, try writing a short email, give him a way to save face – it is not impossible that he did not mean to act in a sleazy way, at least give him a chance to show that, but don’t wait for him to respond to insults, you write a polite email to him and, if he does not respond positively, move on, don’t waste anymore time on this unless he actually sets up a site pretending to be the official site. But he won’t.

          • We’ll just have to respectfully disagree as you have your approach and I have mine.

            And yes, I do own the domain wordcampatlanta.com and no it has nothing to do with me being “too busy.” I registered the domain several years ago with plans to host the original WordCamp Atlanta, I held an organizing meeting at Ignition Alley coworking space where I was a partner at the time, and then next thing I knew two other local people registered atlantawordcamp.com and started organizing a competing WordCamp and unlike me they did not invite participation by the local WordPress meetup group organizers. I decided life was too short to get into a local community tussle over it and just let them run with it.

            Once it was clear they were going to host an actual WordCamp I redirected wordcampatlanta.com to atlantawordcamp.com and left the redirect in place because that was the right thing to do for the broader community. When the new organizers took over I offered them to take over the registration of the wordcampatlanta.com domain whenever they wanted it but since they were busy organizing and probably didn’t want to pay the registration fee out-of-pocket I decided I would just continue paying the registration to make sure nobody squatted on it. As you can tell, it currently points to http://2012.atlanta.wordcamp.org/ as it has ever since we discovered that atlantawordcamp.com was now redirecting to Ryan’s site.

            Now you know the background but the more important thing is that wordcampatlanta.com that I still have registered redirects to
            http://2012.atlanta.wordcamp.org/ at my expense and that completely differs from what Ryan is doing. And I’m a bit offended that you are trying to imply there is a similarity between mine and his actions.

            When you say “You guys messed up” it wasn’t me, as I explained above, and I’m not on the organizing committee now because I have my hands full with other things this year (and after organizing events for 3+ years via meetup and an independent WordPress conference, I’m burned out on organizing events.) Basically there is history here that a dweller of Scotland knows nothing about. Speaking of wasting time on this, I’m surprised that this issue is worth so much of your time given how little it affects you or your local community.

            Cutting to the chase, I just thought the whole domain squatting was smelly and I was very annoyed by it.

  4. Hey, Mike, I think you’ve completely misread the situation.

    Comments posted publicly here on WPCandy are read by a lot of people, so, the discussion is geared towards anyone, anywhere in the world, who might have a similar problem and, yes, the issue of domain ownership is a huge problem – knowing how to handle this situation tactfully will probably be useful, at some point, to everyone who reads this site.

    You had a problem, I have dealt with the same problem hundreds of times before, I thought it was worth expending five minutes to share what I learned, not just with you but everyone who reads this site. You may not appreciate my advice but anyone else who reads this discussion and, later, adopts my approach will save themselves a lot of frustration and will probably manage to get the domain in question. All they will miss out on is the delicious taste of righteous anger that you are currently enjoying.

    These are website comments, not some form of parliament, people share their opinions and knowledge but no-one is saying that anyone must do anything. If you disagree with my approach, fine, but to feel personally offended is plain crazy.

    In calling out Ryan Ward, you are acting not as an individual but on behalf of the group of people organizing your local WordCamp. So, when I suggest that it would be wise to stoically accept that “you guys messed up” in allowing the domain to expire I was, of course, not talking about you, personally, but the group as a whole, regardless of who was involved at the time and who is involved now.

    As for this not affecting me or my local community, WTF? This issue affects pretty much anyone who makes websites. Are you suggesting that, instead of considering ourselves part of a worldwide community of WordPress users, we should only concern ourselves with local issues? You do understand, don’t you, that WordPress would not even exist without people all over the world coming together to solve a common problem?

    I think what is happening here is that you had hoped to use WPCandy to launch a reputational fusilade and bury some Google landmines for a man that you have never met and have not attempted, yourself, to contact. You even expressed disappointment that Daniel, the writer of the piece, did not join you in your crusade of publicly naming and shaming Ryan.

    Now you are angry with me because I dared to suggest that he might not be the ruthless “domain squatter” you suggest or that, at least, you can’t know that until you try the reasonable approach first.

    Don’t you see how crazy it is for you to be offended that I used your ownership of WordPressAltanta.com as an example of how apparent “domain squatting” can have an innocent explanation? I was not suggesting any sleazy intention on your part, it is YOU who are jumping to that conclusion about Ryan and AtlantaWordPress.com – how do you know, with absolute certainty, that he didn’t, just like you, offer it to the new organisers “whenever they wanted it but they were busy organizing and probably didn’t want to pay the registration fee out-of-pocket“?

    Again, this is just a comment in a public discussion, I am not criticizing you and it is awesome that you have contributed so much of your time to organizing WordPress events but, you know, you’d probably feel less burned out if you didn’t treat everything as a battle.

    • Well, that was my point, I didn’t understand why it was necessary, for the sake of a domain, for Mike Schinkel to ruin another man’s reputation, without even bothering to check the facts – Mike talks about me “wasting time” but it is criminal that he was willing to launch his vicious attack, here and on Twitter, without even bothering to do what I did: pick up the phone and spend 5 minutes to discover that Ryan is actually a good guy.

      In the end, what counts is that the domain will now be put to proper use and a good person, who wants to get involved, can be welcomed into the Atlanta WordPress community.

      Life is too short but, hey, I’m a fast typist and all of us should be willing, when we see bare-faced hypocrisy, to step up and “waste” our time by challenging it. In this case, it was prime hokum for the private owner of WordCampAtlanta.com to attack someone else for owning AtlantaWordCamp.com, I am glad that I was able to expose Mike Schinkel’s hypocrisy and get the story updated.

      • Criminal? Please stop with the melodrama. Who appointed you to be the Internet’s police?

        And hypocrisy? Spare me the “holier-than-though” attitude; first you imply I did something wrong by owning the WordCampAtlanta.com domain and then you claimed you were not really implying I did anything wrong and now you explicitly claim I did something wrong; which is it?!? I registered that domain in Oct 2008 before there was any WordCamp in Atlanta and before there was a WordPress Foundation or any central organization of WordCamps with the intention of holding a WordCamp. I have never used the domain for any purpose other than to point to a website about a real WordCamp in Atlanta and certainly not a real estate site. I have an email thread dated April 2011 where I had someone who does freelancing for me and also is on the current WordCamp organizing committee make the offer of the domain and as previously stated the domain has pointed to http://2012.atlanta.wordcamp.org/ ever since we discussed this issue. I’ve done nothing wrong here and all the evidence backs that up so please don’t claim me to be a hypocrite.

        And yes, now that it’s become clear to him that there was fallout from him hijacking the domain for US$600 at a domain auction (I learned of this since my last comment) of course he’ll “make nice.” and let you be the hero. (Who buys a domain on a domain auction for US$600 without knowing exactly what they are doing with the domain? This was not a web neophyte.) Without Judi’s tweet and this article having caused him an issue with his employer (evidently), he’d certainly still be intrasigent. Which is a very different story from before when he told the organizer that, sorry but he paid US$600 and he was keeping the domain and was going to continue to point to his real estate site. Note: at this time, the domain still points to the real estate site; we’ll see if anything changes.

        I will make one mea culpa, I mischaracterized him saying “pound sand.” Evidently he was nice to the organizer when he called (who I’ve not named because he asked me not to since these comments began) but he still told the organizer that he paid for the domain and thus he was keeping it. So, he was pleasant in how he handled the hijacking of the domain; but he still willingingly and knowingly hijacked the domain.

        In summary, I believe that if he does release the domain or at least point it to the conference it will be because of the tweets and this post+comments and not in spite of them. Finally, that not-named organizer said he wished that this post and all the comments hadn’t happened because he doesn’t want to see a controversy stir up about WordCamp Atlanta, so to him I apologize and won’t be making any more of this issue. I hope you can do the same.

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