This article was published on March 30, 2009

Companies turn Evil: How major publisher Sys-Con ruins their reputation in one fell swoop.

Companies turn Evil: How major publisher Sys-Con ruins their reputation in one fell swoop.
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Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos Former CEO of The Next Web. A fan of startups, entrepreneurship, getting things done faster, penning the occasional blog post, taking photos, designing, listening to good music and making lurrrve.

picture-354Sys-con are a US based publisher of technical magazines and web content and now one of the largest technical event organisers in the US. Over the years, their company have gradually earned themselves a dark and shady reputation, mainly due to negative dealings with content authors. Most recently however, upon launch of a new site, their reputation has taken a much sharper turn for the worse…

Syc-con’s New Site

Prominent designer/developer Aral Balkan recently discovered the bulk of their recent shady activity via a Google alert. Originally Turkish but based in London, Balkan was notified of a series of posts from a site quoting his name as the author, the site was Balkan had never heard of the site but after checking the link, he discovered he was named – alongside 6000 other prominent figures – as an ‘author’ for the site apparently posting “original content”.

What is

Well, Ulitzer is Sys-con’s latest attempt at conquering the online publishing arena, and according to a press release:

“Ulitzer is 1 million original stories, contributed by more than 6,000 authors”… “Ulitzer is designed to replace Wikipedia with Its three dimensional live content offerings and dynamic topic structure. “

the release continues…

“Facebook established itself as the new and improved tool for Myspace users and Ulitzer will establish itself as the new, much improved, dynamic, and  three dimensional version of Wikipedia with live content”…”Ulitzer is an original and unique tool for readers who seek quality content on any subject, and written by the leading authorities in their fields. “

Each author is given their own subdomain; Tara Hunt at Heinemeier Hansson apparently writes for them at It wasn’t long before all these pages proved to be shams, with the majority of the individuals concerned completely unaware their names and content were being used.

Ugly already? It’s about to get MUCH uglier.

Balkan, like many web workers would have done, wrote a post explaining and condemning the entire publication. Soon after, he discovered a new post via Google on with the title “Turkish Web Designers Who Live in London: Aral Balkan” (now removed), clicking through however he saw the actual post title was in fact written in Turkish saying “Londra’da Yasayan Turk Ibneleri: Aral Balkan” which translates into “Turkish Fags Who Live in London: Aral Balkan”.


What’s more, on the article they posted a screenshot of Balkan’s blog with a caption (which they have now deleted) that says (I’ve circled it in the image below):

“The website of Aral Balkan says he is a performer and a Renaissance Geek, in Turkish this translates into “hotorof orospu cocugu””

The translation for the Turkish bit is “homosexual son of a bitch”.


And here’s where it gets really twisted…

In an shocking turn, the company – written by their marketing manager Engin Sezici – in a post titled “Turkish Web Designer Declares Death on Twitter” publishes news that Balkan is:

“organizing an underground group to kill or bodily harm the company representatives [Sys-con company representatives] according to his Twitter logs.”


“Others who acted after Aral Balkan’s Twitter instructions left harrassing comments on the Company’s website over the weekend, which were all turned over to the authorities, including FBI’s cyber crimes unit based in Washington D.C.”

What to make of all this?

There’s been plenty of discussion about the republishing of content on the web, and it’s fair to say that it’s clearly wrong for any corporate entity to use content without permission under copyright, but then to also republish the content under a more restrictive license than the original is laughable.

The fiasco  takes a much darker turn for the worse however, when Sys-Con reacts with almost mob mentality to what one displeased author has said. The entire story, revels in shadiness but it is one author Keith Peters (who has also been handed his own subdomain) who sums it up perfectly:

“In this economy, businesses need to provide real value to have any chance of survival at all. Leeching off of, stealing from, and then attacking the very members of the community it is supposed to be supporting is not just slimy, it’s a recipe for suicide. RIP Sys-con.”

I highly recommend you read some of the comments over at Aral Balkan’s blog for a good overview of people’s past and present stories.

Hat Tip to @enticemedia for alerting me to the story.

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