There’s a really interesting piece in the New York times about black-hat SEO, The Dirty Little Secrets of Search. Normally I’d just tweet a link, but it has this wonderful paragraph that totally captures the sad part of the Internet, the way I see it. I read it three times in a row, nodding all the while.

...the landscape of the Internet ... starts to seem like a city with a few familiar, well-kept buildings, surrounded by millions of hovels kept upright for no purpose other than the ads that are painted on their walls.

I think anyone who has any reasonably-popular online property feels the truth of that statement in their gut.

And the whole piece is worth reading, by the way.



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From: You know who (Feb 12 2011, at 11:44)

so true, indicative of human nature albeit nothing new, I know a BlackHat SEO who has been awarded by luminaries for his ability, in the army, shit floats

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From: dr2chase (Feb 12 2011, at 13:45)

Since the hovels seem to survive on copied content, what stops people from auto-filing DMCA takedowns, and/or confiscating their domains (whatever it is that was done the alleged P2P promoters). Copyright is copyright, I've got a blog, and some of it has been copied (specifically, instructions for setting a wrist watch).

Google could make that easier, they probably even have all the evidence on their servers.

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From: Michael Norrish (Feb 12 2011, at 17:42)

It's not even as if the hovels have the ads painted on their outsides. They're predicated on people being foolish enough to step inside them to see the ads on the inside!

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From: Maintainer (Feb 13 2011, at 01:33)

@ dr2chase

So true. I knew I had a problem when I discovered my splattered across spam-sites. I spent much of the weekend fighting off scrappers and spiders; I'm trying to build a moat to keep them out.

Vast stretches of the net is a desolate wasteland. The good news is I've always wanted to live long enough to see the apocalypse—this might be as close as I come.

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From: Andre Peeters (Feb 13 2011, at 02:11)

That's why people invented glasses to block out the hovels. (aka ad-block software). It makes the world/internet more beautifull (readable). Me, I just ignore the ad's totally, in websites, magazine's, ...

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From: len (Feb 14 2011, at 07:15)

Yep. As predicted, it turned into Blade Runner, a technology ghetto where a few dollars buys "the finest kind".

T-Bone Burnett said that comparing the music industry, the old school was/is restricted, an access based system but that tended to ensure quality over quantity. Can't say I disagree. OTOH, watching the Grammies last night, I was impressed with the short burst Norah Jones trio, Barbra as always, and Lady Antebellum. Dylan and the gaggle of pounders was dreadful. Not being a fan of the fashionista acts (gaga, paltrow, etc), I turned those off and went back to learning a Curtis Mayfield classic for a gig later this week. The ratio of good to crap was not healthy.

In other words, the technology can clean up the messiness but infers no paticular quality where none existed to begin with. IMO, that's what the web does: adds volume but without the filtering of experience over talent, it tends toward a ghetto. The masses, as it turns out, really aren't a good judge over that for which they have no training. Yet another Internet Myth crashes and fizzles like cheap fireworks.

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From: Mike (Feb 14 2011, at 21:02)

So the JC Penney site is a "hovel"? It's a pretty usable and well designed site, and pretty handy for us expats, cheaper than Lands End, for instance.

I think the comments somehow have gotten off track form the topic of the New York Times article. The article is not about trash websites, its about how even good websites are resorting to black hat. It's a "Don't bring a knife to a gunfight" issue. It's about the fact that being #1 in Google gets you 45 percent of the clicks, and being #2 gets you 17 percent. Interesting topic, but not a topic about "hovels."

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From: len (Feb 17 2011, at 05:31)

On the other hand, tricking search engines is now part of the web marketing strategy and bemoaning that is like complaining about the weather. It's the environment.

There are no good excuses for poorly executed web sites using inappropriate technology. I am mildly surprised in the job hunt by sites that use MS docs as data entry forms which are clumsy and require one to submit a resume with the same information.

Better sites parse the resume, extract that into forms, then ask for verification. It's a fast easy task. Apparently internal policies requiring print copies are more important than ease of entry for the minority that use doc forms and that leaves a bad impression in an industry where web tech is assumed and one knows producing a print from a well executed form is no challenge.

Are they are serious about the job and how well their customers are served by their products? As an applicant I ask myself if I want to endure the experience of working for a company that spends top dollar on graphics but treats data entry as a second class design task.

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From: Nikki Sterno (Feb 18 2011, at 07:00)

All this proves is that Google's ranking algorithm is pretty sucky and anyone with even a finger in SEO could have told you that years ago. Google puts too much weight on inbound links. It's hurting everyone except the full time windbags on the net who blog about nada.

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From: len (Feb 23 2011, at 17:33)

It isn't sucky precisely. Inbound linking is easily gamed which is another way of saying "marketed". If you believe in the notion of the wisdom of crowds, you may be comfortable with this idea and Jersey Shore. Otherwise you deal with concepts such authority and the problems of political entities that can effectively drown out the right idea or facts because they aren't testable or tested.

See Piltdown Man.

In one point of view, it is the inevitable effect of free will and freedom when web surfing. Or as the web inventor said, "a social problem, not a technical problem".

It is simpler to just hook the microphones to the amplifiers and hit the on button with the volume fully cranked. It is unprofessional. In the simple case, it hurts the ears in the same room. In the complex case, it ruins the day in every adjacent room to the extent of the power of the amplifier. In the case that is the web, that is a world-spanning edifice.

"as the twig is bent....

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