By Eric Emin Wood
On Friday, Dec. 16, Ryerson students received a message from Computing and Communications Services (CCS) in their inboxes: “The following website: www.myryerson.ca IS NOT an official Ryerson website.Although the main page contains many categories that are familiar to the Ryerson community, it is NOT affiliated with Ryerson.We are currently investigating the source.”
Almost a month later, the website is still online, so the Eyeopener decided to do its own investigation. Thanks to the magic of the Internet, we discovered the web site was registered to one Shaun Pilfold, administrator of “Pilfold Ventures Inc.,” which is based in Kelowna, B.C. “(The site) doesn’t profess to be affiliated with Ryerson,” Pilfold says. “The web site wouldn’t say that it is affiliated with Ryerson.
Obviously looking at the page, you wouldn’t think so. These are educated people, right?” Maybe so, but the page did have pictures of fresh-faced students and several suspicious-looking links: underneath “top categories” were headings such as “Blackboard Ryerson” “RAMSS” and “Courses,” though clicking on any of the links wouldn’t bring you any closer to accessing school services (clicking on “Ramss” brings up, among other things, a third-party site on eBay).
The site, Pilfold says, is what’s called a “park page,” a set of paid links grouped together under a generic web address, such as women.ca (another one of Pilfold’s ventures). Clicking on one of its categories brings up a number of links, which, if clicked on, make the park page money.
Pilfold, who never attended Ryerson, didn’t say why myryerson.ca would be considered a generic web address and said the domain names were registered by a separate “paperclip company.” He also said this paperclip company is still experimenting with the look – myryerson.ca is supposed to, and often now does, utilize a picture-free brown-and-grey stripe design that no student would confuse as a Ryerson site.
Categories such as RAMSS, he says, weren’t designed to be there and likely showed up because they were typed into the web site’s searchengine. “The public decides what’s on there,” says Pilfold, “I don’t. So if there’s a lot of evil people there, you’ll probably see a lot of adult links there. Obviously, Ryerson has a good quality of students because it’s all generic. You’ve got continuing education, nursing, university, Blackboard Ryerson.”
Upon having Blackboard explained to him, he promised to remove some of the more glaring links: anything related to Blackboard, Blackboard Ryerson or RAMSS. “They obviously don’t want confusion,” he says of the CCS letter. “I’m certainly not trying to mislead anyone or anything. Give it a couple days, check back with it, and I will take the links off.” The Eyeopener checked back. He removed the references to Blackboard, but links to “My Ryerson accounts” remain.
Pilfold says he’s had to deal with complaints about his sites before, and approaches them on a case-by-case basis. “If Ryerson ultimately, at the end of the day, came to me and said, ‘we feel you’re infringing on blah-blah this,’ I’d have to take a hard look at it,” he says. “And if I felt they made a lot of sense, I’d probably turn the name over to them, to be honest with you. It’s just good business.” Ryerson spokesman Bruce Piercey said other large organizations face similar difficulties with their websites.
“It’s not something we prefer but it goes with life on the web,” he said.