I know this isn’t the new. Since the dawn of the internet, people have been using the tubes to pipe stolen stuff. Music, software, whatever… I never bought the arguments for ripping off music in particular, because as a guy who made some music in the olden days, I think it’s contradictory to love something (a song, an album) and at the same time not feel like it’s worth enough to warrant paying for. I generally found the justification for such behavior to be nothing more than excuse-making.

Recently, a lot of my work has been getting ripped off. I run LaneSplittingIsLegal.com, where I work on awareness and education around lane splitting in California. It’s a part-time project on top of my day job but I do a lot of work covering legislation and other developments and it’s gained a fair amount of prominence over the past 10 months: I’ve been on TV, articles from the site occasionally get syndicated at RideApart, and my lane splitting advocacy work led to me writing for CityBike magazine. As the site has become a significant resource, folks have started ripping off the content somewhat regularly. Individuals and other organizations take the graphics and use them without permission, or steal whole articles. When I confront them, they often say things like “Oh, I thought it was ok since I linked back to you” or “Well, the design doesn’t say copyright on it.” The thing is, I’m happy to contribute articles to other organizations (and have done so) but I get frustrated when my work is just taken without asking. I also carefully manage the “brand” of the site—there are some groups I just don’t want associated with the project because I think they’ll damage its credibility.

A little over a week ago, an especially surprising example of my stuff getting stolen came to light. One of the motorbike pages I follow on Facebook shared a post by Roadrunner Magazine, a pretty high-profile motorcycle magazine “dedicated to serving active motorcycle enthusiasts by providing them with a comprehensive resource of national and international tour.” The main image in the post looked awful familiar—it was a photo I took of my R1200R on the backside of Tioga Pass, taken from this road report I wrote a couple years ago after breaking that bike in on a four-day run around California. No credit, no link back, nothing—and on further inspection, they had actually taken two of my photos. Even more ridiculous was that the author of the piece, Jim Parks, has “photojournalist” in the title on his bio page. Anyone with photo-anything in their title should know better than to rip off images for an article on a major publications website, especially if you’re going to feature the piece on the home page.

Here are a couple screenshots of the piece on the Roadrunner site and their Facebook page:

Roadrunner Magazine stole my pictures!

Here’s one of the photos Roadrunner stole from me on their home page.

Roadrunner Magazine stole my pictures!

And here are both of the photos Roadrunner stole from me being used to promote the story on Facebook.

Now let’s be clear—I’m not a professional photographer, and if Roadrunner had asked to use the pic (which comes up in in the first few results of a Google image search for “Tioga Pass motorcycle”) I’d have been glad to give them permission. But just as it frustrates me when someone rips off content from the lane splitting site, it pissed me off that they didn’t ask. So I sent them an email, commented on the post on Facebook and on their site. Here’s what I said:

Hello Roadrunner and Jim Parks. Regarding your recent bucket list feature on Tioga Pass—you’re using images apparently “borrowed” from my road report on my blog, here: http://surjgish.com/2011/motorbikes/ride-report-4-days-across-california-on-my-new-r1200r/

As a legitimate publication, you guys should really have a better understanding of copyright, and know that images you find in a Google image search aren’t just yours for the taking. I’m astounded that Jim Parks, whose title includes “photojournalist” would just rip off photos from a fellow rider rather than using his own, or another staff photographer’s work. Not cool—perhaps you should re-write your mission statement to something like “RoadRUNNER magazine is dedicated to ripping off active motorcycle enthusiasts…”

You must think the pic I shot of my Beemer on Tioga Pass is pretty sweet since you’re using it on your home page, the article, and here on Facebook. I’m assuming you’ll be contacting me ask where to send the check for usage of my images and to discuss a proper license agreement, and I’m also assuming you just slipped up in not asking for permission in working that all out before you published. Since you obviously have an advertising-based revenue model, I’ll be happy to discuss taking a cut of the advertising revenue from the pages you used my images on for some period, that I’m sure we can agree on.

The funny thing is, if you’d asked, I would have been happy to let you use the photos. Now I just have a bad taste in my mouth. Have you guys even ridden Tioga? If so, I’d expect you’d have your own photos. By the way, for real riding, Sonora, Monitor and Ebbetts passes are much better. I’ve got pictures of those too, if you need ’em. ;)

Very disappointed,
Surj Gish

The part about them sending a check is obviously tongue-in-cheek, but I did want to make the point that they make money (ad revenue, affiliate links, etc) off “their” content, which was in this case, partly my content.. I didn’t hear anything back for a couple days—it was the weekend and apparently (along with copyright) Roadrunner doesn’t understand social media is an always-on thing. On Monday, I got a message on Facebook from Roadrunner:

Hi Surj,
I just saw your comment and message this morning from a blog we posted over the weekend. We took the blog down this morning while waiting for a response from Jim.
Florian Neuhauser

Taking the post down stinks of Roadrunner covering their collective ass in public rather than actual regretting their mistake, especially given the lack of apology. But I was interested hearing an actual response from Jim. Instead, I got an email from Christa Neuhauser, Publisher & Editor-in-Chief later that day:

Hello Surj,

thank you very much for writing and catching the mishap. I agree, we have to respect the copy right. Not sure how that could slip our attention. We took down the text and photos of the Tioga Road from our website.

Feel free to submit your suggestion for a bucket list road. We like to hear from our readers and are happy to share preferred roads.

Ride Safe,
Christa Neuhauser

Wow—still no apology, and a super-pathetic excuse: “we don’t know how this happened.” Seriously—a mishap? You don’t know how this could have happened? Here are two scenarios:

  1. Jim hasn’t ever ridden Tioga Pass—so even though he’s a “photojournalist” he didn’t have any photos of the topic at hand. He did an image search for photos of bikes on Tioga Pass, snagged a few of them, and took some publicly available resources about Tioga to create his “article.”
  2. Jim didn’t actually write the article, but rather some intern. The intern wasn’t given any guidelines, and basically did the steps detailed in step 1 above. Someone at Roadrunner gave it a cursory glance, didn’t bother to ask where the image came from, and published it.

Which one was it? I don’t know, and Roadrunner—and Jim Parks—aren’t saying. I responded to Neuhauser’s email, saying I was disappointed she couldn’t even apologize, and that “mishap” was inaccurate. Didn’t hear back—not really surprising given their weaksaucy responses.

So, to summarize, fellow motorcyclists at Roadrunner Magazine stole a couple of my pics and couldn’t even be bothered to apologize when caught and publicly called out. Awesome camaraderie amongst riders, guys. Oh wait, I mean embarrassingly bad behavior from a pretty good-sized publisher who should know better.

I love LinkedIn’s email marketing – they do such cool stuff.

I got a kick out of this email from them yesterday. Apparently some folks are looking at my profile. Of course, 1% of 200 million members is still a pretty damn big group – so not real exclusive. But still a very cool engagement tactic. Two thumbs up from this guy who happens to have two thumbs to give.

LinkedIn 1 Percenter Email Marketing

Leave A Comment, Written on February 13th, 2013 , Email Marketing Tags: , , ,

I’m a big motorcycle nut – perhaps you’ve noticed. I commute on my trusty R1200R, so I ride every day, rain or shine and  I do a lot of lane splitting in heavy traffic.

Lane splitting has always been legal in California, but recently the CHP announced their official lane splitting guidelines. Because a lot of motorists don’t know that lane splitting is legal, a lot of folks thought it’d be good to get some additional PR mojo around the guidelines. So I created LaneSplittingIsLegal.com.

The idea is that the URL is simple and thus gets the message across on its own. Its also pretty memorable so folks who want more info can easily go the site and learn more. There are really two audiences for the site – drivers and riders. I plan to refine the navigation and info architecture to lend itself to more sensible paths for these two audiences, but the first version of the site launched last Monday night. It’s already getting linked to from various motorcycle forums, and I’m going to do a run of stickers to hand out at moto events an shops. There are a few stickers up on the LaneSplittingIsLegal CafePress store now, and I’ll be adding shirts and whatnot too.

The folks on BARF seem pretty jazzed about it – hopefully that’s a good sign that riders will be into sharing the URL. I created a Facebook page as well, for people who prefer to keep up with stuff on Facebook rather than through old school methods like websites and RSS.

Anyway, it’s a cool little project for me. If you’re a rider – or care about making California roads a happier, safer place for all – share the site. It’s LaneSplittingIsLegal.com. Thanks!

I’ve been letting this li’l blog languish for some time – too busy doing, not much time for documenting. Anyway, excuses aside…

I’d been wanting to head up to ride the legendary Highway 36 and a few months back my pops happened to mention that he’d heard of a mythical road up in Northern California that was “over 100 miles, curves all the way to the coast.” Highway 36. Surprisingly, he said he wanted to ride it with me – surprising because he rides a big cruiser and likes to well, just cruise. So I hatched a plan to get my brother Justin to ride down from Oregon and meet us at one end of 36 so the three of us could ride it together over Labor Day weekend.

Long story short – Justin was on his way to meet us in Eureka when his bike died in Crescent City. My dad and I rode up there to see if we could help him out. The bike refused to return to life, so the next morning my dad and I rode back down to Fortuna headed up over 36 while Justin waited for his tolerant and understanding wife Ruth to come get him.

36 is a truly great road – 140 miles of up and down twisties between Fortuna and Red Bluff. There are tons of awesome roads in CA but the cool thing about 36 is that you’re basically out in the middle of nowhere for 140 miles – you don’t really see too many folks. And the terrain changes a lot. Make sure you fill your tank and bring water – it was cold when we started out in Fortuna but got up to 100 degrees for the last third of the ride as we closed in on Red Bluff.

All in, we did about about 940 miles in just under 38 hours – check out the tracking for the two days riding below. Not exactly Iron Butt mileage, but not too shabby. Next up – can I do this run in one day? Up the coast from SF to Skaggs and then Fortuna, across 36 to Red Bluff and back down 5 to home?

There’s an annual ride up Mount Tamalpais on Easter morning. The idea is to get to the top before sunrise to catch the view as the sun comes up. It’s a pretty big deal – I’m not sure exactly how many bikes there was, but it was a LOT.

I actually managed to drag myself out of bed at 4 AM to make it to the meetup point by 5:20 AM. I’m glad I did. It was cold, but lots of fun. I’m not much of a group rider, but the few I’ve gone on – like the Halloween Friday night ride in SF – have been great.

I took a lot of photos. Miraculously, a few came out ok.

And I’m not talking about soup.

Seriously, if you’re not well-informed on this issue, go here or here or here. Or just search on the Google, which is currently sporting a blacked out logo in protest.

All that aside, as is often the case, there’s some fun coming out of this. I saw lots of awesome anti-SOPA stuff today, and here are a couple.

First, a super video from LaughPong, riffing on Don McLean’s The Day the Music Died. Check out The Day the LOLcats Died:

The Oatmeal, who is pretty much the King of Awesome, whipped up an amazing animated GIF, and asked that we all pirate the shit out of it. So I did exactly that, and I’m totally not gonna credit The Oatmeal at all. Piracy ARRRGG!

SOPA is stupid.

Now that we’ve had a laugh and learned a bit, go make some noise about this.

I love California for many reasons but speaking as a motorcyclist/biker/hooligan/whatever y’all call me, California is damn hard to beat. Here’s why:

  1. Lane splitting. If you don’t know what this means, get a motorcycle and come to California – you’re basically immune to traffic. Commuting by moto is the only way to go! A couple of years ago, when I started working at ReputationDefender (now Reputation.com) I was commuting from Sacramento to Redwood City each day. It was about 2 hours each way by bike – by car it was often over 3 hours each way. Moving to San Francisco solved that particularly problem, but I would have burned out real fast sitting in the car for that long. Commuting by bike is fun!
  2. The “riding season” never ends. Yeah, it got down to 34 degrees when I rode Mount Hamilton a couple of weeks ago, but take a look at these photos and you’ll understand what I mean. It’s December (almost Christmas!) and it’s sunny, and there are tons of bikes in the city.
Motorbikes parked in San Francisco in December
Motorbikes parked in San Francisco in December
So what are you waiting for? Get on your bad motorscooter and ride!

Cow on the road on Del Puerto Canyon Road.It was supposed to rain this afternoon, but I wanted to ride the Mount Hamilton>Del Puerto Canyon>Mines loop I rode last Sunday. I also just installed some Barkbuster S1 handguards and wanted to see how they worked at keeping my hands warm.

Turns out it was a really good thing I had installed those handguards – my bike’s thermometer was reading 34 degrees on the front side of Hamilton and my sandwich-grabbers were chilly. I know that’s not cold for you “Yeah, I ride my GSA in the snow, so what?” kind of guys – but that’s pretty cold for us California folks. The good news is between my heated grips and the handguards, I did ok. I did spend a few minutes warming up with a skinny mocha (gotta fit into my leathers!) in Patterson before heading back over Del Puerto Canyon to Mines road.

Unfortunately, I’m not super-happy about the pair of Held Warm ‘n’ Dry gloves I picked up a couple months ago. I had high hopes – the Warm ‘n’ Dries have great reviews and supposedly work well with heated grips. Plus, I love my Held Steve IIs, just as I loved the pair of Steves I wore out before this pair. But W&Ds don’t transmit heat from the grips very well, and they’re so stiff that I feel very disconnected from the controls. Not good. So, I’m on the hunt for a new pair of winter gloves. Maybe the SF D-store has something for me.

So in summary… I endured near-freezing temps in unsatisfactory gloves, I lost count of the cows in the road, and the rear was end stepping out more than a cheatin’ wife in a country song on the sketchy roads… but I had a hell of a time. And I made it home before it started raining.

And here’s the trip on Spotwalla, as tracked by my Spot Satellite Messenger.

Google Maps route over here, if you’re looking to do this loop yourself.

Treasure Island view of San Francisco + BMW R1200R.I headed last Sunday out for a quick loop over Mount Hamilton, across Del Puerto Canyon Road to Patterson, then back over to Mines and back to San Francisco. Check out my route and for extra points, the Yelp reviews for Del Puerto Canyon Road – “Why is there an option to review a friggen road?” Good question, but it turns out there are reviews for Mines Road (“Yes it is a HELL OF A RIDE!”), Mount Hamilton (“Amazing views. A drive not for the faint of heart.”), and of course – The Junction (“Awesome, motorcycle haunt in the middle of no where. 10 stars for the  food.”).

It was a beautiful day for a ride – temps stayed between the high forties and low sixties, and the roads were reasonably clean and dry for the most part. Surprisingly, I only saw a few other riders – including a slow-moving noob on a little dual-purpose bike. High five for your gumption, noobie!

It was nice and clear, so I stopped off on Treasure Island to snap some photos of the city. Here’s hoping the weather holds so I can get in another ride this weekend. If not, I can also tinker with my bike – have some new bits from Touratech and TwistedThrottle to bolt up.

Angelica and I went out to The Mission last night for the Dia de los Muertos celebration. We didn’t make it last year, but compared to 2009 it seemed like the procession was smaller, but there were still about a bajillion people out in various states of costume and makeup – some of it very impressive and well-done.

Day of the Dead isn’t just about goth kids having an excuse to wear makeup (like they need one) or the Burning Man crowd building stuff for the procession – although there’s usually plenty of both. It’s a very significant cultural/spiritual event with real meaning for the organizers and participants. (I know, way to go Captain Understatement!) The altars in the park were amazing as always and aside from the Steve Jobs and Dio altars, they all appeared to be very personal and emotional affairs. One woman had built an altar for her husband (I think) and was there telling folks about how awesome he was in an almost joyful way – very touching and cool.

I’m not very good at taking photos at night, but here are a few that turned out. Maybe my resolution for 2012 should be learn to take photos for realsies.

I decided to try taking videos with my point ‘n’ shoot camera*, and they actually turned out kinda cool so I posted them on the You Tubes. Here’s one of huge glowing jellyfish dancing down the street.


And one of some super cool dancing and drumming. The jellyfish show up in this one too – they’re hard to miss.


*In case you’re wondering, my camera is a Panasonic Lumix – the discontinued DMC-FS15. I’ve been super happy with it – it was cheap, takes good photos in my spite of my total lack of technique (almost all the photos here were taken with it, including the page backgrounds) and the battery lasts forever.

© 2013 Surj's House of Awesome

Surj's House of Awesome

Surj Gish – eCommerce & Online Marketing Expert / Gearhead / Musician