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Manipulation and Profit Margins

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Central hubs on the web fight off manipulation to keep their status and profit margins in tact. A side effect of this war on control over information access is the butchering of the English language.

Digg is Illegal?

Digg’s CEO Jay Adelson said:

I’m sure there could be blackmailers out there. We absolutely know that every single day, people try to game our system. Users are involved in illegal or inappropriate activities all the time. They try to set up fake accounts to promote a story. The thing is, we make changes to our algorithm on a regular basis. We plan for that.

Notice how he put illegal and inappropriate right next to each other, as to equate them. This comes from the same company that published this:

We had to decide whether to remove stories containing a single code based on a cease and desist declaration. We had to make a call, and in our desire to avoid a scenario where Digg would be interrupted or shut down, we decided to comply and remove the stories with the code.

But now, after seeing hundreds of stories and reading thousands of comments, you’ve made it clear. You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company. We hear you, and effective immediately we won’t delete stories or comments containing the code and will deal with whatever the consequences might be.

If we lose, then what the hell, at least we died trying.

Sure you can buy votes on Digg, and they arbitrarily ban websites. But does controlling a bunch of worthless traffic give them the right to butcher language to push their business objectives?

Google is Illicit?

Michael Gray’s continued debate about the war on links spurred on additional conversation.

Why is the Yahoo! Directory Considered a Legitimate Link Buy?

In addition to what Jim said, I also believe the following play a role:

  • They predate Google.
  • Google needs some sort of baseline.
  • The directory business model is horrifically inefficient and poses no risk to Google’s market dominence. (Yahoo! demoted it in favor of Yahoo! Answers. Even the Google Directory, a DMOZ clone, has a higher PageRank than the Yahoo! Directory does.)
  • Few other sites are comparable to the Yahoo! Directory (especially after the Google directory purge of 2007), so it is not a technique that can’t be easily and profitably be replicated like paying for reviews.

The truth is independent link sellers often exercise more control than directory editors do.

The entire Business.com directory of over 65,000 categories is managed by 6 editors (source). How could they possibly review stuff as well as you or I do? They can’t. But if we all do our business in a direct to direct exchange fashion the central networks and search engines do not get a cut of the action.

Why Google is Different than Digg

Unlike Digg users looking to waste time, searchers have real targeted intent and real value. In response to Michael Gray’s post Danny Sullivan said:

But if he wants to stand up to Google, take the lead and block him from crawling his site — and encourage others to do the same. … No one has a right to Google traffic. Follow the rules, as stupid as they are, if you want it. If don’t like the rules, sure, complain about them — but don’t argue they’re robbing you of anything that is supposedly "yours."

But unplugging from Google is not as simple as blocking them in robots.txt. They can still pay others to steal your work and wrap it in their ads.

They change the guidelines on an as needed basis (use nofollow or else), apply them unevenly (why is TLA penalized when TextLinkBrokers still ranks?), and if they don’t like you they can penalize other businesses associated with you.

Michael pointed out that the Google’s Webmaster Guidelines butcher the word illicit. In response Danny wrote:

Michael, illicit as used on the Google Webmaster Guildelines page is defined by however Google wants to define it — in that case, doing stuff against the guidelines.

When the networks screw people over it is the fault of "users" or "the algorithm," but when the central networks do not like what we do we are "criminals performing illicit acts."

You know what is illicit? Adultery. And Google ads recommend it.

Recently Google has been more than fair to me, but if they want to use the language they are using to try to control others, they need to clean up their ad network. Just because an ad has a high CPC and gets a high CTR does not mean that it is not immoral or illegal. Plenty of people commit crime.

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