August 27, 2007

"When Bad News Follows You" - NY Times and Google's power

"When Bad News Follows You" is today's must-pundit article for SEO (Search Engine Optimization), about the power of top Google results to affect people's lives, even if it's misinformation (h/t RoughType).

Rather than rehash what everyone else is saying, I'll try to provide some value-adds:

I like Oliver Widder's cartoon:

Welcome to our SEO seminar - "The Truth Is On The First Page"

I normally don't like to talk about Bennett Haselton's writings due to conflict of interest issues, but this seems far enough away from any potential contention so I'll note his amusing site detailing his dispute over a New York Times article about him:

The New York Times Web site has been hosting an article since May 2000 claiming that I was fired from Microsoft in January of that year. I complained several times that this was wrong -- I wasn't fired, I quit in good standing (and, for the record, voluntarily, not some "quit now or you'll be fired" deal) -- and I showed the NYT editors a copy of my personnel file from Microsoft which has "Term. type: Voluntary" and "Term reason: Resignation" printed on it, but the paper has still not corrected the article. ...

... I also told them that recently one of my employers found the article by Googling my name and thought I had lied about my employment history, and I only dodged that bullet because my employer looked up my Microsoft reference and determined that I was telling the truth.

And sadly, I've seen many marketers pushing the response "Start a blog!". I have the impulse to tell(off) these hucksters, that ordinary people do not want to get on the blog-evangelism gatekeeper-begging attention-mongering digital-sharecropping rat-race. They have lives instead, and want to live them without (free) laboring endlessly to be manipulated and sold for the benefit of pyramid-schemers. But my saying that wouldn't be heard, so it wouldn't do any good :-(.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in google | on August 27, 2007 11:58 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Well, the funny thing is that the fellow, in the story, Allen Kraus, has a web page. It's just that no one links to it. Well, not until I wrote that piece.

Posted by: Jon Garfunkel at August 28, 2007 03:26 AM

Well, I heard you :) And in honor of this post I'm filling out this comment with the "URL" field set to :-)

I agree search engines should be more meritocratic and less reliant on the excuse that "if you don't like what people are saying, get a Web page" (which sounds like libertarians saying "If you don't like what Microsoft does, write your own operating system", and they're not kidding, they're being serious). Nobody seems to know exactly how to do this, but I don't think that means it can't be done.

Posted by: Bennett Haselton at August 28, 2007 02:57 PM

p.s. I feel compelled to point out, I wasn't even ego-surfing. I actually do check in here every couple of days!

Posted by: Bennett Haselton at August 28, 2007 02:59 PM

Jon: More links now.

Bennett: You and what Slashdot audience? :-(
[n.b. this is playing off the common expression "You and what army?"]

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at August 29, 2007 03:54 AM

The moral used to be: never argue with a man with a barrel full on ink. Now it's never argue with a man with a barrel full of links.

Posted by: Chris Edwards at August 29, 2007 08:06 AM