Numly Numbers


Usually, I stay out of discussions of what is best to use for any given computer or web technology need. I don’t consider myself a technology expert and usually just figure out what works best for me and leave it at that. Once in a while though, I will pass on information about a company or product I use that I think goes above and beyond in terms of functionality or service. I have written in the past about GSAK for geocaching, and have posted a link in this site’s sidebar to Jonathan Bailey’s Plagiarism Today web site. This time, I write about Numly Numbers. As with the others, I have no personal relationship to or financial interest in the Numly Corporation having just recently subscribed to their service. So far, I just like the product and the responsiveness of their president, Chris Matthieu.

Numly describes their company as a copyright and license management corporation, providing electronic serial numbers for all things digital. Although many different types of items can use a Numly Number, the service for bloggers and other authors mainly provides a means to prove ownership and time of publication of written material. I use WordPress and have installed the wp-numly plugin that automatically assigns an electronic serial number ID to a post when I publish. It couldn’t be easier, and I am more comfortable knowing I have the records if I ever have to prove anything I’ve written has been plagiarized.

Unfortunately all of us who publish on the web, no matter how small our sites or semantically challenged our writing, are vulnerable to having our content stolen. Many of us are fairly flexible about how our writing is republished, quoted or otherwise used. Even though some sites, like this one, publish a page specifically detailing attribution and copyright requirements, concerns are mainly for the “inappropriate” reuse of content. In my case, if the reuse of my content is by a human or company with a legitimate web site and purpose, I am most likely OK with it. “Fair Use”, good attribution, and asking permission with an email in uncertain cases, go a long way toward avoiding disagreements when content is reused.

In the end, I’m not sure anything, even methods and tools like those provided by Numly and Plagiarism Today, can prevent malicious content theft. But… with Numly in place and a resource like Plagiarism today, I hope we will all have the confidence to aggressively go after any sites that, for example, scrape our feeds.

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Will Sig
1 Jennifer

hi Will

I’ve just been looking into Numly, with a soon-to-be-started WordPress blog in mind, and happened upon your article.

I’m wondering how the Numly/Wordpress setup handles the situation where you come back to a post after posting it, to change a word or update something. I’m guessing that if you update, you’ll end up with 2 Numly Numbers for the same article, one timestamped later than the other. Or does it just do it the once, so that the update isn’t included in the Numly’d version? Or what?

Comments on this welcome, esp whether in practice you’ve found any problem with it.




2 Will

Yes Jennifer, you are correct. The WordPress plugin works great, but every time you edit the post you get a new Numly number. I think this is the way it is intended to work as technically you have changed the content, but I work around it as follows because I don’t really consider a minor edit a new post. If I change a whole sentence or add something, I will let the new number generate as it is more of a change.

When I am going to edit a post that already has a Numly number, before the edit, I go to the WP plugin page and turn off the plugin. Then I edit, save the changes and turn the plugin back on so the Numly numbers display. Remember that every time you turn off the plugin, when you turn it back on you need to go to the plugins option page and enter your name in the two fields there. A bit of a pain, but not too much trouble.

A slightly bigger issue for me is this. When the Numly number is generated, it is during the publication of the post, before the permalink has been assigned. So on the “manage” page of the Numly site, the address for the post is different from the permalink. I discovered this when I noticed that all my posts were being indexed twice, one time correctly and one time with a url that I had specifically excluded from indexing with my robots txt file. Google was finding this excluded url on the Numly site. None of this is a bug or anything with the plugin or the Numly site. This seems to be the way it has to work. So, I fix it like this:

After the post is published with the Numly number, I copy the good url for the post and go to the “manage” page on my Numly account and replace the incorrect url. Easy to do, but not always easy to remember to do! 🙂



3 Jennifer

Thanks, that’s really useful.

I found their site a bit skinny on the details, although the principle of what they’re doing was clear enough. I emailed them recently to say I’d like to see some more step-by-step how-tos and screenshots for the main services.

E.g. there was a reference to searching by digital fingerprinting, and I have no sense yet of how that’s meant to work and what its limitations are. Does it need the whole file, or could someone pick a para from a “scraped” blog and use it to identify the original writer? And I wonder if your practice of doing a slight tweak without re-registering would mean you’ve broken the fingerprint-searching for that document…? though perhaps in that context you’d never need it (?) This is the kind of detail which I want to see described. (In fact I think I will email them again and point them at this thread!)

Usually if I’m thinking of using some new software, I go and trawl around the user forums, to get a sense of the issues and limitations as well as how other people are using it. But I haven’t found a public user forum for the Numly service (don’t know if it’s maybe something you only see when you sign up – do you know?).

Thing is for me, I don’t think the free version would be much use to me because of the 5000 character limit. I could live with the 3-registrations-a-month for a while, but I expect my “best” posts will mostly be longer than that limit. (I’ve already written a draft “first post” and it is longer.) I may yet “jump” anyway and sign up for the paid service, basically for lack of rivals, but I intuitively seem to want it to be less of a leap in the dark 🙂

(re lack of rivals: I am aware of Registered Commons, and I might well register with both in parallel, but RC is quite new too and I’m iffy about their 7-year limit on keeping the hash codes. Also their wiki has been spammed and I emailed them to say so and no-one’s done anything about it, which does not speak of the kind of meticulousness I would like to see for such an important app…)

anyway, those are my thoughts for today 🙂


4 Chris Matthieu

Hi Will,
I would like to first thank you for your support of Numly Numbers. We believe that this is the beginning of an ESBN movement where every digital asset can be uniquely numbered as well as every copy of that digital asset such as PDF books printed/downloaded on demand. With’s solutions being in the dark ages and costing $45/submission, we believe that Numly is a viable alternative to new media copyrighting.

Hi Jennifer,
I believe that our site and descriptions do not do our services justice. We have a brief online slide show of our service process located here but I will try to answer a few of your questions below:

Our digital fingerprinting service is really cool but it only works with digital assets that are uploaded to us rather than simply posted on the web through the WP-plugin. An example would be a Word document or a photo or a song (MP3). When these files are uploaded to us, we store the file’s digital fingerprint in our archive. Future references of that file can be binarily compared to Numly registrations to date and we can even identify the original copyright holder of the work. We have some photographers that use our redirecting service where we count their views and collect information about their viewers by placing their photo behind a numly number and accessing it such as (or what ever the numly number may be.

In regards to scraping, the sploggers usually leave the number number in the content which makes it even easier to go after copyright violators.

I hope that this helps clarify a few of your questions regarding our service. Please email me directly if you have additional questions at chris at!


5 Will

Realize that there are two components here. The Numly service and the WP Numly plugin. They are done by two independent people. In short, I would wholeheartedly endorse both the Numly service and the WP plugin. My workarounds are mainly to get the plugin to do what I want. One thing I have not figured out is that the plugin does not request a Numly ID when you set a post to publish in the future. In those cases, after I get to my site I edit the post and save it to force a Numly generation. These are very small issues for a free plugin that does work as well as it does.

The separate Numly service and web site seems to work exactly as intended.

The author of the Numly service is very responsive and supportive of Numly. The author of the plugin is probably too busy to do much more with it as it is probably not a money maker for him. The plugin works fine as it is and like most plugins was most likely written as much just to help the WP community rather than with the idea that it would make it’s author any real money.

I use another plugin, (link below), to digitally finger print my rss feeds. I have not used anything associated with Numly to search. I view Numly more as a rock solid record of when I write an article so that I can prove a time line if it is ever necessary.

Digital FingerPrint –


6 Will

I just found Chris’s comment waiting for moderation because of the 3 links. Sorry! I use that limiter of more than one link since many spammers fill their posts with links. So posts with more than one link go into the moderation que which, if I am on the ball, I approve right away. People can still link as much as they want, it just takes a bit longer for the post to show up.

But…. as I said above, you can see that Chris is very supportive and responsive of his service. Seems to be a real nice guy also, so how can you go wrong! 🙂



7 Jennifer

Thanks Chris and thanks again Will!

Neither of you has pointed me at a Numly user forum so should I assume there isn’t one at present? – please correct me if I’m wrong.

@ Chris –
I believe that our site and descriptions do not do our services justice

I believe you 🙂

In a way that’s partly what I was saying, I think. There’s more to say about the product, and I’ve read numerous books about advertising which say things like “long copy sells” 🙂 That little slide show is great, very clear and easy to use, but it’s aimed at a particular stage of interest – there will always be some people who will have an interest in the technicalities & practicalities as well.

I realise you have to make strategic choices about what to spend your time & resources on, and technical writing & good how-tos can be time-consuming stuff. I can understand if it was something to get to at a later phase. But I feel sure that if-&-when you get to aim some energy at that area, it’d be a good investment.

my 2p 🙂


8 Will

You are welcome, Jennifer. As you see, Chris is supportive and responsive to questions about his service.

If you have any more questions about using Numly on WordPress and the WP plugin feel free to ask them here. I like to stay on top of what others are thinking and doing with WP plugins I use.



9 Anthony Lawrence

I just started familiarizing myself with WP plugins – literally just hours ago. Will Taft sent me the code he had been using and I did some mucking with it and made it partially work – I’m not happy with that so will keep working on it but I did notice your remark about it generating multiple esn’s – it doesn’t do that, or at least I don’t see that happening and the code definitely checks to see if it has the key already.

It would happen if the page ID changed.. that would be harder to avoid.

Right now Will and I are trying to figure out if we agree where the problem is.. 🙂


10 Chris Matthieu

Thanks to Scott Grayban, the Numly Number Wordpress plugin is now working again! You can automatically submit your WordPress blog posts to Numly in exchange for a barcoded Numly Number that gets added to your page.

Here’s the link to the new plugin –


11 Rowan

I know this is an old post (Dec 2010) but I just tried to ask the Numly folks some questions now (May 2012) and the only means to communicate with them (web form) is broken. Their site is so minimalistic it makes me wonder how much effort they’re really putting into it. Even more important: Has anyone used a Numly number to successfully defend ownership of a creative work?


12 Tony Lawrence

I took them off my site some time back..


13 Rowan


Some possible reasons:
1. No support or inadequate support
2. False or unverifiable claims
3. Poor value for the money
4. Seems to be abandoned
5. Better alternative(s)


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