To the Ghosts, Haunt Elsewhere

This Blog and My Coding Image Is Not For Sale

Once or twice a month, I receive a request from someone wanting to pay me to put their content on my site; To invisibly guest blog if you will. Everytime I decline. Maybe I need to write a publishing policy? And will continue to decline.

This is my personal site. I write to explore and share ideas. And I want everyone that comes to this site to know that these are my words.

The Cold Call

The people that reach out to me, usually come with three common points:

  1. It’s high quality
  2. It’s on topic
  3. Give us a way to publish it on your site

Let’s dive into this a bit. They might say:

Just give us author rights in your CMS 📖 .

I suppose I’ve never really pushed back to request an example post or explain the situation. I wonder how they’d feel about sending me their content and let me be the one to load it into my site. I am, after all, rather picky about the semantics and use of Javascript. Maybe next time I get an angler, I’ll tug a bit on the line.

If you read my blog, you’d know that I don’t use a CMS in the conventional sense. I write posts on my laptop, run a build process to make static HTML 📖 pages, and push them up to a server. In other words, I’m not giving you remote access to my laptop.

And I don’t want to give you rights to push directly to my server. Maybe I could make them a collaborator in my git project? Would they send a patch? Sounds like joyless work.

Another thing they might say:

This be high quality content of topic of site.

Online, I withhold any judgment on other people’s grammar and spelling. If I’m unclear on what is said, I’ll ask. But usually its clear enough to proceed.

However, for someone wanting to publish posts on my site, you better believe I’m bringing the editor’s red ink pen to all interactions. Because this is my site.

Their vague assertions of quality and on-germane of the posts do not instill confidence.

Second, these claims of high quality often come surrounded by grammatical or spelling issues; Like the one I included in the faux quote.

I also wonder what kind of analytics and tracking they’re assuming I’ll accept and incorporate? I jettisoned Google Analytics. I host my own images. And I’m rather sparse in my use and tolerance of Javascript.

The Hard Pass

, however, I received something even more pernicious. Someone reached out to me, asking to be my ghost-coder.

It goes like this:

  1. I setup an account on Upwork. I do not endorse that link, and have added the rel="noopener noreferrer nofollow" attribute to the link.
  2. Based on my public Github profile, Upwork matches me with clients with projects.
  3. My ghost coder works on the project.
  4. I get paid
  5. I pay the ghost-coder.

On the surface, this could be passive income stream. In fact, the would be ghost-coder told me so. Much like the “guest blogging” offers. All the business gurus say that you should be building passive income streams.

Maybe even kind of appealing? No. It’s not, that’s a rare bit of sarcasm from me.

Let’s bring some arm-chair logic to this offer.

First, I’m offering my software reputation as collateral for this exchange. That’s no small thing.

If this falls apart, I damage potential options in the future.

Second, let’s say I get some work for a project. And my ghost-coder vanishes; I’m on the hook to do the work. Which moves this income stream out of passive and right into mandatory active.

Or worse, what if the work delivered by the ghost-coder does not meet the project’s contractual arrangement? Now I have to rework someone’s code. That sounds even worse. Most coders feel that fixing someone code (or your code from years ago) is some of the least desirable work.

Now, let’s assume this is all on the up and up; At least between me and my ghost-coder.

I don’t know Upwork’s contracts, but I’d imagine most projects that hire me want my active involvement. Maybe I can subcontract, or maybe not.

Regardless, with the proposed arrangement, I need to take an active role in delegation of tasks and managing the their completion. I also need to establish a contract with my ghost-coder.

This is sounding less and less passive.

I’ve been a manager before and that’s no small amount of work. This ghost-coder’s compensation proposal is that I take a cut of the pay.

However, this arrangement still compels me to:

  • Create a contract
  • Conduct an interview (technical)
  • Request work samples
  • Perform code reviews
  • Communicate with clients
  • Communicate with ghost-coder, and likely m
  • Manage expectations in all directions.

And what if my ghost-coder has hired their own ghost-coder? And so forth.

I don’t want a portion of a developers gig money to be their manager.

The Breakdown

The ghost-coding is a grift. Maybe I’m not the target, but it’s grifting someone involved in the ecosystem.

In their pitch they tell me that I’ll control the money. That’s a red flag. They are demonstrating that they trust me while mapping to the employee/employer relationship. Employee does the work, employer gets the money, and pays the employee as per their employment agreement.

Again, I’ll control the money only after I sign a contract with Upwork and the client. And perhaps only after the ghost-coder delivers the code. Up until that point, I escrow the time I would need to personally complete the project and entering into a binding contract.

There’s the issue that my coding style, much like my writing, likely uniquely identifies my work. I suspect that this would be ghost-coder would have a different signature. Which is to say, without my active and extensive intervention, it will become clear — to machine learning or digital forensics — that I used a ghost-coder.


But Wait, There’s More.

Because the initial email left a few things vague, I wanted a bit more information.

In writing this post, I mentally merged their two emails to build the full context. However, for the next part, I’m only referencing the second email.

The would-be ghost-coder responded with a lengthy email that included the following:

The only preparation to start would be a remote access to your laptop and your upwork account. (and few more steps to establish working environment, which does not require money)

Oh hell no!

If this were a legit approach they wouldn’t need access to someone’s Upwork account nor to their machine.


Each of these solicitations come with the lure of passive income; Just provide your “work history” and “image” as collateral.

I see that as a certain path to poisoning my love of blogging and coding. Shifting from craft and art into a managereal hustle.

Now, is it time to write a policy?