Weblogs: Web Accessibility

Reasons to block SiteMorse?

Friday, June 02, 2006

A commentator by the name of "SiteMorse" has chipped in on Tracy Godding's Priority 4 blog entry criticising SiteMorse with the following comment:

... as we clearly state in every report that we are involved in;

'The range of tests [Web Accessibility Initiative WAI] that can be completed automatically are limited, 100% compliance with the automated tests does not mean 100% compliance with the requirements.'

Could we suggest that the wording on [sic] contained in your release is reviewed and corrected based on fact, intentional misrepresentation for purposes of direct discreditation is an offence.

Facts over fiction

If the comment is genuinely from SiteMorse, perhaps they could clean up their own act up first. Particularly on their oft-pronounced statement: 100% compliance with the automated tests does not mean 100% compliance with the requirements. Hardly the modicum of clarity.

Enough telling us what automated compliance does not mean, instead why not clearly state a better approximation of the percentage of correlation (for example, 1%?). The spin is devoid of facts and substance. It's deceptive and only serves to highlight the lack of credibility of SiteMorse and its services. How about the straightforward: accessibility can only be comprehensively measured via manual testing?

Being objective and factually accurate certainly will help bolster SiteMorse's credibility, unless the actual percentage is derisory. Facts over fiction - that would be a refreshingly honest approach. When SiteMorse relies on the "does not mean 100% compliance with the requirements", it fails the "facts over fiction" mantra.

Unsolicited bulk email?

The comment goes on to claim:

For your information we are also releasing the FTSE250 rankings with another partner in two weeks and the next report with Mediasurface is in about 6 weeks - and to support what we say, every CEO will receive a detailed site report - so have your excuses at the ready, facts tend to win over fiction and moans!

Every CEO? Forgive my scepticism, but SiteMorse intends to run an automated tool against the websites of 250 companies without their consent, ignoring robots.txt on the way, and then intends to spew their league table cum sales pitch to every CEO of those 250 companies? If the report is delivered by email, again the question needs to be asked - do SiteMorse have all 250 CEO's consent?

Be warned.

Denial of Service Attack

The SiteMorse tool is a badly behaved bot. It ignores robots.txt (A decade-old web standard), and it does not follow the rules of a well behaved bot (no more than one request a minute).

The SiteMorse bot was hurled at my own website last year - without my permission, and without even requesting robots.txt. The bot proceeded to bombard my site up to thirteen times a second for a period of fifteen minutes.

This was done in an effort to discredit me on accessify forum, since not long after the hit-and-run attack on my website, a poster using the name "SiteMorse Access" misinterpreted the SiteMorse report in a failed effort to criticise my personal website and me.

Mark Pilgrim nailed the bad bot behaviour issue over three years ago:

If I showed you a program that downloaded your home page (or any random page) and then followed all the links on that page, and downloaded all of those pages and all of the images on all of those pages, and then I told you that there was a simple standard way to control such programs but that this particular program didn't support that standard, you'd scream bloody murder.

SiteMorse response to criticism

SiteMorse's response to criticism is particularly noteworthy. There's an obvious preference to avoid the meat of the discussion and concentrate on a tiny minutia as if that were the overriding concern. Their comment on Tracy's blog is truely indicative:

Yet the SiteMorse commentor focuses on the poetically-licensed "100% compliance" statement. That's a strange sense of priority, requoting a strangely unobjective factually-devoid statement in order to promote the mantra of fact over fiction.

Blocking the SiteMorse bot

Perhaps it is time to actively block SiteMorse from our websites. And keep doing so until it shows respect for the resources of others. The mere presence of a website on the World Wide Web is not a sign of consent to be hammered mercilessly by the SiteMorse bot. Our legitimate visitors are far more important.

The SiteMorse bot operates from the IP address, and uses an agent string containing the characters b2w.

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