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Critical IP Sucks
February 11, 2002 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Google bombing at it's finest. Matt's Critical IP Sucks page has officially overtaken search result numero uno, directly preceeding the official Critical IP site.
posted by tomorama to General Weblog-Related at 11:28 AM (73 comments total)

Yeah. Slander is a wonderful thing. Getting your army of lapdogs to participate is even better. Three cheers for Matt.
posted by crunchland at 11:44 AM on February 11, 2002


If it's not false, it's not slander.
posted by tomorama at 11:52 AM on February 11, 2002


Gee, thanks crunchland. I'm not going to be able to get that image of Matt Haughey and an army of lapdogs out of my head for the rest of the day.
posted by kindall at 11:59 AM on February 11, 2002


Personal weblogs are certainly not the place for expressing one's opinions.
posted by Skot at 12:06 PM on February 11, 2002


Matt expressing his personal opinion is fine.

Matt enlisting the aid of a swarm of mindless drones to shove that opinion to the top of the Google chart, tainting that business because they offend him bothers me.

The fact that it actually worked is all the more disturbing.

I just hope Matt never expresses a negative opinion about Pencams, is all.
posted by crunchland at 12:17 PM on February 11, 2002


well, I admit I was pissed and probably stepped across some safe boundaries by telling people to spread the word. The fact that it worked, and so quickly also suprises me. I feel sort of bad that it worked for all of two seconds, because here are the facts:

- they called me even though my whois info lists "personal" as the company name and my apartment number looks nothing like a business address.

- They openly ignored this disclaimer when they fetched the record:

"This information is provided for the sole purpose of assisting you in obtaining information about domain name registration records. Any use of this data for any other purpose, including, but not limited to, allowing or making possible dissemination or collection of this data in part or in its entirety for any purpose, such as the transmission of unsolicited advertising and solicitations, is expressly forbidden without the prior written permission of Dotster, Inc."

They ignored that and instead used the information to advertise to me. That same number has been used by The New York Times and CNN to contact me, and I wouldn't want to change my phone number to 555-1212 on my domains just to keep these unscrupulous businesses out.

Now, the google bombing aspect was a friday afternoon goof. Hey, instead of ranting to no one that will read it, why not tweak with his company that ignored basic business practices on the web and exact some revenge? The post might have been something linked to by several weblogs, but I knew if I specifically asked people to do it, the google thing would work. I had no idea it would be so fast though.

Anyway, I'm fully aware of how startingly powerful this is and it scared me shitless on Sunday night when I noticed the #1 slot. The company screwed up, I complained, people listened, and now people know about the company. I don't see how any of it is slander, since my displeasure with them is based on facts and they are illegally using the directory. If they want to sue for slander, so be it, but they're sure to lose, and I think I could get the EFF to back me with little effort.

I used the means available to get the word out, and the squeaky wheel was heard. I am aware of how powerful it is now, and I won't ever do it again unless some company really pisses me off.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:53 PM on February 11, 2002


Google is just a program. It doesn't guarantee objectivity or positive results and its easy to fool. Sure beats registering a *sucks.com domain and then getting sued.

posted by skallas at 12:59 PM on February 11, 2002


I know I'm just a mindless drone waiting for my next orders from Matt, but I fail to see why I shouldn't have spread the word about an obnoxious telemarketer.

If it's OK to recommend a company -- you're pimping quite nicely for the Pencam, Crunchland -- it should also be OK to slam one, as long as you're being honest.

I added the Critical IP link to one of my sites because I'm sick of assholes using the WHOIS database for junk mail, junk e-mail, and telemarketing. Critical IP deserves a little bad press for engaging in this practice.
posted by rcade at 1:13 PM on February 11, 2002


rcade, crunchlad is the creator of pencam, in case you didn't know.

I hear what's Dave's saying. if I told everyone to boycott a site and tell their friends, it could possibly harm them unfairly. But I'm not attacking people based on my whims, this company admitted to me how they got my number and that they were violating the Dotster terms of service while doing it, and the deserve what they get out of it.

If I really wanted to screw with the world, I'd do a few more experiments and have enough data to make a foolproof way to googlebomb anyone you want. But I'm not going to do that, this isn't something I want to promote, it's only something I'll utilize in extreme cases.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 1:17 PM on February 11, 2002


Matt, you must only use your powers for good, not for evil.

Grasshopper.

posted by ebarker at 1:32 PM on February 11, 2002


I know, and it's an excellent site. You shouldn't feel guilty because some people listen to you on the Web, Matt. It's no more questionable than people buying a Pencam because Dave shows off how to use one and says a few nice things about the company.
posted by rcade at 1:37 PM on February 11, 2002


Matt -- Why not just change your phone number in internic? Mine's been 555 555 5555 since 1997, when I got my first prank call from someone who got my number through whois. It's not like Netsol needs it for anything, right?

I'm not saying that Critical IP didn't do anything wrong, of course. It's just that, so long as your number is in a public database, it's gonna get used for things you may not like (phone spam, crank calls, whatever).

Remove the number and you remove the problem.
posted by fraying at 1:52 PM on February 11, 2002


Almost forgot: As for Google-bombing, please. Matt didn't force anybody to post anything, and implying that people are "mindless drones" just because they agreed and linked to his rant is pretty insulting. And Google? Google just reflects the current state of the web. If critical IP was a great company, a post saying something nice about them would come up in Google, too. The fact that Matt's post comes up first just shows what a great search engine Google is. How they index and correlate the web so fast is stunning....
posted by fraying at 2:03 PM on February 11, 2002


The fact that Matt's post comes up first...

<facetious>...shows that weblogs are killing Google. Given the PageRank algorithm, blogs linking to each other is the equivalent of a bunch of friends joining eBay together to boost each others' positive feedback numbers.</facetious>
posted by lbergstr at 2:22 PM on February 11, 2002


I mentioned it above derek, but big news companies have used that phone number for good reasons (though I would have preferred if they emailed me, but what are you going to do, they're old media), and I'd hate to lock out any legitamate use of that phone number (friends have used it to contact me when they lost my number) just because of the lame companies.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 2:33 PM on February 11, 2002


This is a thread that deserves to be on MeFi, not MeTa. lbergstr has a valid point. When Google was set up, blogging didn't exist in the samne way that it does now. Some quirk of Google's algorithm does give blogs more power than they really deserve. It would be interesting to think more deeply about the implications of this. Remember, there's a lawsuit started this week about search engines who accepted money for placement. Now we find we have that power by ourselves!

Having said that, Matt only expressed his own experience with this company. Anybody who types 'Critical IP' into Google will find Matt's page #1. They still have to click on that link, read what's there and choose how much credence to give that page. It's not like a URL has been hijacked or anything.
posted by salmacis at 2:44 PM on February 11, 2002


"Given the PageRank algorithm, blogs linking to each other is the equivalent of a bunch of friends joining eBay together to boost each others' positive feedback numbers"


That is probably not true. Traffick quotes the Google founders (from the research paper that they originally wrote in Stanford) as saying "The PageRank given to Page A by a Page B pointing to it is decreased with each link to anywhere that exists on Page B. That means a page's PageRank is essentially a measure of its vote; it can split that vote between one link or two links or many more, but its overall voting power will always be the same.". This I interpret as meaning that every weblog has essentially one vote (well, each archive page will probably have one vote each too). That to my mind is not such a bad thing. If 20,000 people are linking to Matt's page and Google's pageranking reflects that, its not such a bad thing is it?
posted by justlooking at 3:15 PM on February 11, 2002


woof.
posted by jpoulos at 3:42 PM on February 11, 2002


I was just thinking the power this could wield if someone wanted to have a high ranking result for something like "Web Hosting". Instead of text ad... thinking text ad of the month.
posted by geoff. at 4:16 PM on February 11, 2002


A clarification (probably unnecessary) about my previous post: The number (20,000) and the reference to Matt's page were simply figurative examples I threw up off the top of my head - not to be taken literally. I obviously don't know how many people link to Matt's page.
posted by justlooking at 4:17 PM on February 11, 2002


But, Kaushik, not every vote is equally powerful. Those 20,000 (or whatever) bloggers linking to Matt have their PageRanks boosted by the links that bloggers trade amongst themselves so incestuously, so they carry more weight than they otherwise would.

Think about it another way: there may be other online communities just as large, in terms of people, as the blogging community, but if they don't link to each other as much, their voices won't carry as well as ours on the web.

But like I said, I'm being facetious. I haven't thought about this issue enough to say that Matt's power is somehow unfair.
posted by lbergstr at 4:26 PM on February 11, 2002


If google didn't want to use blogs then why would they tweak their system to visit them more frequently? Why shouldn't 'the people' (bloggers) have a say in what's relelvent? After all there are more of us then C|Net or AOL. As noted above, powers used for good can also be used for evil.
posted by nedrichards at 4:27 PM on February 11, 2002


Ibergstr: I have not thought deeply about this either. But you sound right. Also the whole area is quite fuzzy, not much information appears to be available.

The way I was thinking was: these high page rank weblogs are also passing out a higher number links to other weblogs and other types of external links. So the power of a single link from one single weblog (even if it has a higher pagerank) is probably a lot less than a single link coming from a page which has a lot less linking going out of it. But pagerank values and how they differ from site to site dont appear to be quantified in any public domain website. There is probably no way one can compare the pagerank of a blogspot weblog with that of an AOL page in a statistically valid way.

We should also remember that pagerank is only one of the factors that google uses when deciding how a site ranks on its search. It may not even be the most important factor. However, as the "> document abstracted on traffic claimed, pagerank is probably the factor most difficult to manipulate.

What is also impressive about Matt's critical path story is not just the importance of a single weblog or weblogs in general with respect to other categories of websites (that in itself is probably a good thing, considering the way corporate sites artificially inflate their site's visibility on search engines), it is the sheer momentum. Within a turnaround time of - what? - 48 hours - a community managed to outplace a legitimate business out of its place on google. I suspect so long as this level of cohesiveness and pack mentality exists, even without google's page ranking quirks, some people would still be able to make that kind of impact.

If you think about it, the same thing happens in old media too. Let one broadcast channel pick up a story .....the rest of the media will chase it like a pack of wolves. That is how the whole presidential election related complications/fiasco (whichever way you look at it) arose.






posted by justlooking at 5:47 PM on February 11, 2002


This is the pagerank document that I tried to link to in the previous post.
posted by justlooking at 5:51 PM on February 11, 2002


these high page rank weblogs are also passing out a higher number [of] links

Oh...good point, Kaushik. Hadn't thought of that.
posted by lbergstr at 6:48 PM on February 11, 2002


The important lesson here for companies doing business on the Internet is not "Don't piss Matt Haughey off." No, that's much too narrow. The lesson is, "Don't piss anyone off," because you never know which of your victims might have the ability to put you back in your place.

Occasionally, businesses need to be reminded who is actually in control of the marketplace. I see it as a public service.
posted by kindall at 7:12 PM on February 11, 2002


Power to the people right on!

Or something like that.

Bow-wow.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:26 PM on February 11, 2002


Lousy lapchickens.
posted by Optamystic at 8:52 PM on February 11, 2002


swarm of mindless drones

bzzzzzt!

Sorry, couldn't resist. It seems to me that google have it exactly right. I value the opinion of 20,000 webloggers more than the opinion of one corporate entity. If you don't like it, there's always altavista ...
posted by walrus at 6:25 AM on February 12, 2002


It saddens me that Altavista is being allowed to whither away. It still does one thing that Google does not, exact phrase matching. You can specify word order at Google, but not the exact placement of those words.
posted by NortonDC at 6:57 AM on February 12, 2002


I think I'm still bothered that most bloggers put the link in without really thinking about the ramifications. I don't think many people even cared one way or the other whether it was slanderous or not. It's not like they got contacted by Critical IP. They just took Matt's word as gospel. Matt could have made it all up.

But in the end, Matt couldn't have gotten all those people to cooperate if A) he weren't an apparently trustworthy and stand-up guy who wouldn't slander someone, and B) telemarketers, like used car salesmen and lawyers, weren't as villified as they are.

And I guess I didn't realize that Google placement degrades over time, as Matt points out on his blog. And maybe it wouldn't happen again, or as fast, if he tried it again, due to the of the "boy who cried wolf" aspects.

I do wonder why the domain contact information is published in the first place. I suspect the warning about not using the information for unsolicited sales is more of a way to indemnify the registrar more than anything else. Publishing the information and not allowing it's unlimited use is sort of like having the phonebook say "the data herein is for informational use only. Do not call anyone listed."

As for Critical IP's tactics ... well, as a small dotcom businessman myself, I can understand using every available means at my disposal to drum up business, and keep the bubble from bursting, even if it means possibly disregarding that disclaimer. Business is business, and those guys need to put food on their table, too. Why not use an obviously targetted database of people who have a chance of being interested in your services?
posted by crunchland at 7:14 AM on February 12, 2002


crunchland - I don't think many people even cared one way or the other whether it was slanderous or not.

Did it occur to that webmasters and webloggers are the people most likely to have shared Matt's experience with Critical IP? Or have you branched out into mindreading?
posted by NortonDC at 7:49 AM on February 12, 2002


It saddens me that Altavista is being allowed to whither away.

Sorry for picking on them. I think that (like other search engines which I can't be bothered to list) they're withering away precisely because they weighted paid placements as being more important than actual information. The mindless drones are the market. The market chooses. All is fair in love and capitalism, n'est ce pas?

crunchland, as a small dotcom businessman yourself, this is precisely what you need to understand. Pissing off your customers would not be in your best business interests. If Critical IP suffer over this, that will be the reason why, and nothing else. We all jump on the bandwagon because this is precisely the kind of tactic we despise. For instance, I linked this today, from a weblog I'd never read before. Have you ever thought that vilification might be deserved? I can't think of anything more obnoxious for a company to do than to ring my doorbell, phone me or send me email, to hock some product which I have absolutely no interest in.
posted by walrus at 7:52 AM on February 12, 2002


(ps Norton, did you mean "whither" instead of "wither"? I love little subtleties which I don't spot first time)
posted by walrus at 7:55 AM on February 12, 2002


walrus - Indeed, I did mean "wither." I have a strong aural bias in my language use. Homonym errors frequently bedevil my writing.
posted by NortonDC at 8:06 AM on February 12, 2002


In context, it was perfect. More of a homonym angel.
posted by walrus at 8:09 AM on February 12, 2002


NortonDC: Are you sure Google doesn't do exact phrase matching?
posted by rcade at 8:13 AM on February 12, 2002


MetaFilter ate my quote marks. If you search Google for "exact phrase matching", it seems to work like the same feature in Altavista.
posted by rcade at 8:14 AM on February 12, 2002


Search on

"exact phrase matching"

or

exact.phrase.matching

The second return on each should fail on true exact phrase matching.
posted by NortonDC at 8:22 AM on February 12, 2002


Because of the comma after the word phrase? I always figured exact phrase matching was only about word order, not word order and punctuation.
posted by rcade at 9:15 AM on February 12, 2002


Do a Google search on

"call wild"

That meaningful and syntactically valid two-word phrase appears nowhere in the top ranked result.
posted by NortonDC at 9:39 AM on February 12, 2002


Here's a slightly less hostile, but arguably more satisfying approach to unsolicited phone calls.
posted by walrus at 9:42 AM on February 12, 2002


I do wonder why the domain contact information is published in the first place.

It has historically been published so you can contact the domain owners if you were interested in buying the domain, tracking down the owner for some reason (writing an article about them, asking them where something on the site went), and the phone number exists as simply a means of contact. It isn't a directory of people expecting to get barraged with advertising. It hasn't become that until a few big companies (starting with Verizon I think) started doing it.

I can understand using every available means at my disposal to drum up business, and keep the bubble from bursting, even if it means possibly disregarding that disclaimer.

If they are going to violate the terms of use on the directory, they should be punished (locked out of viewing forever) for it. Do small business men disregard product licenses and pirate software, because paying for corporate copies of win98 would keep food off their tables?
posted by mathowie (staff) at 10:00 AM on February 12, 2002


Perhaps google is creating on the internet the perfect implementation of the definition of democracy, something that is missing from pretty much every current governmental system in the world. What the people say, goes.
posted by tomorama at 10:05 AM on February 12, 2002


Did it occur to that webmasters and webloggers are the people most likely to have shared Matt's experience with Critical IP? Or have you branched out into mindreading?

But did they share Matt's experience? Has even one other person here come forward that received an unsolicited telemarketing call from Critical IP? How many people that posted that link had direct experience with Critical IP?

Or did everyone just do it because they hate telemarketers and like Matt? I don't think it takes a mind reader to see that it is more likely that people posted the link out of respect for Matt than they did because of any direct experience with Critical IP.

I'm ambivalent. On the one hand, I hate telemarketers as much as the next guy and applaud efforts to irritate them as much as they irritate me. On the other, this kind of viral vigilantism is a little creepy, sets a dangerous precedent, and could be abused. It's one thing to complain about a company in your weblog, but quite another to convince other people who haven't had any direct experience with said company to spread your complaints far and wide.

With great power comes great responsibility, as they say in the Spider-man comics.
posted by MegoSteve at 10:10 AM on February 12, 2002


I posted it because I know matt and I trust him to tell the truth. in my experience, he always has. and because, in my opinion, anyone using whois information to make money is a slimeball. I feel just fine about the link. people can click through, read matt's post, and decide for themselves whether or not critical IP sucks.

fwiw, I got an email today from someone who said that they had also been contacted by critical IP.
posted by rebeccablood at 10:22 AM on February 12, 2002


I've been contacted by Critical IP, though via e-mail rather than telephone.

Let's not ignore the fact that VeriSign (and Network Solutions before them) have been selling customer data to advertisers for years. They claim they're not selling customer e-mail addresses, and that their selling of information in no way violates their privacy policy, but every time I get an e-mail to dan@FOREWORD, addressed to my full name (as listed in the WHOIS database), I am almost assured that my information was taken and/or purchased directly from the people with whom I registered said domain.

As many have said before me, it's illegal, and a company whose primary advertising depends on illegal business operations reaps what they sow.
posted by Danelope at 10:52 AM on February 12, 2002


dan, in fairness, there are places that spider the Web for email addresses and contact information.

I don't doubt that verizon sells customer data, but there are other companies that are unscrupulously getting that information, too.
posted by rebeccablood at 10:58 AM on February 12, 2002


Megastove kinda articulated what I have been thinking. I had no reservations about the specific instance of Matt's publicization of the Critical Path incident. Telemarketers have been abusing the system for a very long time and if this incident taught even one of them a lesson, that's great. My limited exposure to metafilter has also given me the impression that Matt is fair. I would also assume that many who posted that link did it because they shared Matt's feelings strongly and/or have a lot of respect for Matt. Neither do I have any problem (as I made clear in my previous post) about the way Google treats the whole thing.

However, I have reservations about the larger issue of potential abuse. I do think that many people simply tend to follow the herd. I find it slightly difficult to believe that all who linked to Matt's page are as convinced of the point that Matt made as Rebeccablood is. Just look at Blogdex and daypop. Consider how stuff just comes up thru the collective consciousness of the weblogging community with incredible speed. I think a previous poster expressed my reservations well when s/he said "this kind of viral vigilantism is a little creepy, sets a dangerous precedent, and could be abused".
posted by justlooking at 11:05 AM on February 12, 2002


Thanks, Megosteve, for articulating what I've been struggling to say, without the judgemental namecalling I mistakenly resorted to...
posted by crunchland at 11:33 AM on February 12, 2002


But did they share Matt's experience? Has even one other person here come forward that received an unsolicited telemarketing call from Critical IP? How many people that posted that link had direct experience with Critical IP?

When a guy emailed me his resume out of the blue, and I emailed him back asking what's up and heard nothing. I didn't publish it. Then I found out who the guy was. Bernie Shifman spammed me too, but I never posted about it. When this Critical IP person enthusiastically called me and left a message, I called back to hear an advertisement. Telemarketers typically don't leave messages for me, so I was doubly pissed.

I felt posting it was a good thing, in case someone searched google for the company that spammed them, they could find information about it. I have also in the past gotten those weird things in the mail that look like magazine clippings with a post-it, handwritten that says "check this out" with no return address. I had wondered who was doing that for years, and it turns out someone online tracked down the messages to a Washington DC company that has been busted for fraud several times for doing what they continue to do. I wanted to provide that same service, so if someone searches for it, they could see how Critical IP found their phone number.

However, I have reservations about the larger issue of potential abuse.

I've mentioned multiple times here and on my site that the whole process scared the pants off me because it actually worked. Does everyone realize I have reservations about some of it? (not for posting about it, but for specifically asking people to help google-bomb it. I don't like the involved company, but that is certainly ripe for abuse).

I know it's gnarly stuff. I'm not going to spell out how to do it, specifically because I think it would be abused.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 11:55 AM on February 12, 2002


rebeccablood: ...there are other companies that are unscrupulously getting that information, too.

Agreed, but the practice is illegal regardless of which method was used to obtain a data. I highly doubt that many of the myriad methods for obtaining personal data via the Web are legal, and if someone takes a tackhammer to their reputational skulls, I heartily support them.

That said, I understand your reservations, Matt, because it would take all of 20 minutes to write a script to exploit the system en masse. On a personal level, I still worry that the dotcomments people are going to come after me -- even though my similarly-named project is now defunct -- because I inadvertantly Googlebombed them.
posted by Danelope at 12:21 PM on February 12, 2002


The official Critical IP site has slipped down to #4, with 2 more "Critical IP Sucks" blogs before it.
posted by signal at 12:29 PM on February 12, 2002


Interesting...good to know one can get good search engine placement without paying for it...incidently anybody with good tips along that line, please email me. I need ideas for that for my job, and no dinero to grease any search engine palms....and of course i have the type of job where i "learn by doing'.....I get to call myself the "internet coordinator" now. Picked the title myself. Boss approved it.
posted by bunnyfire at 4:13 PM on February 12, 2002


bunny with all due respect, it can be argued that I subverted google for a good reason. Aside from a one-off thing like I did (which I don't want to encourage anyone doing again), I sincerely hope companies don't try similar exploits, just to get their company higher on specific searches.

Subverting google makes the index (by far the most useful) less useful for those browsing real information. The best information should be mined by sincere people making qualified recommendations, not by spamming search engines or creating a hundred fake sites pointing to your company. If a company sells glowing widgets, and is surprised to find they don't come up as #1 for glowing widgets at google, they should continue crafting the finest glowing widgets possible and eventually they'll win the space. Grabbing quick bucks by forcing themselves to #1 for glowing widgets via nefarious means is not the way to help those in search of the best glowing widgets to be had on the web.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 4:22 PM on February 12, 2002


I don't sell glowing widgets. we do real estate...position is everything, and i am just looking for fair honest means..and the waters are filled with real estate sharks. I don't want dishonest means...but we can't do payola, and all I am asking is honest ways to look as good as possible.

Fair enough?
posted by bunnyfire at 4:38 PM on February 12, 2002


[I]t can be argued that I subverted google for a good reason.

Subverting google makes the index (by far the most useful) less useful for those browsing real information.


Matt, surely you see the relativistic morass steadily opening up here. Bunnyfire could easily reply that she has a good reason and only wants to make real information available to searchers.

Who decides?
posted by Mid at 5:04 PM on February 12, 2002


Put out quality product, bunnyfire, and people will notice. Mathowie has been doing the same on his weblog for some time now.

Who decides?

The public at large.
posted by j.edwards at 5:05 PM on February 12, 2002


Yeah right. Drowning in payola sites, and I keep reading about all the gimmicks people use (which i won't) to get good placement.

I would settle to find out how to shoot down payola on search engines, honestly.
posted by bunnyfire at 5:11 PM on February 12, 2002


I would settle to find out how to shoot down payola on search engines, honestly.

Use google. If you really need placement, take out a text advertisement on google. Fake-googlebombing will cause people to distrust you.
posted by j.edwards at 5:17 PM on February 12, 2002


It can be argued that I subverted google for a good reason

My emphasis. I arguably did something that wasn't as evil as spamming up a company higher in the ranks. Arguably.

Subverting google makes the index (by far the most useful) less useful for those browsing real information

I wanted someone searching for critical ip to see that the company participates in some not-so-nice business practices like violating a public directory's terms of service. That would again be arguably real information that someone thinking of hiring them would consider when making their decision.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 6:11 PM on February 12, 2002


Arguing against Matt here is kind of like promoting atheism in the Vatican.

Matt wrote: Subverting google makes the index (by far the most useful) less useful for those browsing real information.

I agree completely, which is why some of us are a bit alarmed when one guy decides he's going to make a concerted effort to subvert its results, no matter how valid or important he feels the information is. It's a bit silly that you keep pointing out how arguably important the information is, because the obvious flip side is that it's arguably unimportant. Who decides?

(And let me shoot down the notion that it's the public that decides... the public didn't decide to rank Matt's Critical IP Sucks page higher than Critical IP's own site. A very, very tiny portion of the public did.)

As much as I agree with you about telemarketers and other corporate sleaze... was getting your information out more important than having a Google that works the way it's intended?

The real problem, as I see it anyway, is that you've unintentionally opened a pretty ugly can of worms. You've successfully demonstrated that any single company or person who puts in some effort can manipulate Google to their own ends. It's kind of like the discovery of meta keyword spamming, and not that far removed from spamming in general. Your method is probably a lot more effort than it's worth, but you can bet it's going to happen until Google does something about that particular exploit.

This is why a few of us killjoys aren't exactly jumping up and down at this fine accomplishment.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:57 PM on February 12, 2002


Who decides?

It's pretty obvious ... Matt does. ;)
posted by crunchland at 8:03 PM on February 12, 2002


You've successfully demonstrated that any single company or person who puts in some effort can manipulate Google to their own ends.

how could a company do that? if a company approached me and asked me to link their site so that they would be high in google, I'd say no. people did what they did because they trust matt and agreed with him.
posted by rebeccablood at 8:31 PM on February 12, 2002


was getting your information out more important than having a Google that works the way it's intended?

How do you know how google was intended to work? Perhaps it's meant to find all relevant information, and if a number of people have relevant information, and got it from a source who has been reliable in the past, maybe it should be ranked ahead? No one would have put this on their weblog if it came from some unknown source, or from someone who lied. Overall the weblog community has pretty good judgement.

You've successfully demonstrated that any single company or person who puts in some effort can manipulate Google to their own ends.

Well, any person who has the trust of a giant online community.
posted by j.edwards at 8:42 PM on February 12, 2002


I agree completely, which is why some of us are a bit alarmed when one guy decides he's going to make a concerted effort to subvert its results, no matter how valid or important he feels the information is.

I'm right there with you, alarmed that it worked. How many times do I have to say that it scared the pants off me? We're not arguing here, because I think we're on the same page. It frightens me as well, but then I feel slightly justified and you may not.

As much as I agree with you about telemarketers and other corporate sleaze... was getting your information out more important than having a Google that works the way it's intended?

I never thought it would supplant the company, I was shooting for showing up somewhere on the first page, if that high.

And for the record, I didn't open this can of worms Adam Mathes did. I just used the same technique in this case.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 8:59 PM on February 12, 2002


how could a company do that?

Eliminate the middle man. Couldn't a company set up a web server, register bunches of domains and make up some pages on those domains that link back to the site they want to bump? I'm not a tech, but if someone were to write a script that updated the pages frequently enough (effectively creating a virtual community of roboblogs), would that be enough to fool whatever system Google uses to rank results?

Like I said, a lot of work, and it might cost more in time and effort than just paying for ads on Google, but not impossible. Sounds a lot like science fiction.
posted by MegoSteve at 9:24 PM on February 12, 2002


Actually to set your mind at ease, these search engine companies have safeguards in place to prevent these sorts of things from happening...and if they do happen they bounce you from their listings.

Relax, and if you don't believe me, do some surfing on the real estate side of the internet street.
posted by bunnyfire at 9:29 PM on February 12, 2002


mego:

Couldn't a company set up a web server, register bunches of domains and make up some pages on those domains that link back to the site they want to bump? I'm not a tech, but if someone were to write a script that updated the pages frequently enough (effectively creating a virtual community of roboblogs), would that be enough to fool whatever system Google uses to rank results?

for the moment. google can always alter its algorithm used to determine search rank. while the potential for corporate misuse is not impossible, i think that there's great potential for social activism in this and that's what people are really afraid of. get a webring together, coordinate the sites, and you've got a voice. it introduces a level of responsibility that businesses may not have had to deal with in the past.

of course, as i said before, things change. google may develop a smarter algorithm and lessen or eliminate this effect altogether. (they may be pressured into doing so, in fact.)
posted by moz at 10:03 PM on February 12, 2002


All links are not created equal. If you created one hundred new domains and linked them all to your site, it wouldn't make a dent in Google, because no one out there links to your new domains.

The only reason this experiment worked is because Matt's suggestion was adopted by a lot of Web publishers whose popular sites have a bunch of links pointing to them.

Anyone who is still troubled by this should try to Google bomb something. It's not as easy as Matt and us mindless drones made it look.
posted by rcade at 10:35 PM on February 12, 2002


Thank you, rcade. All this talk of "subverting Google" is making my head hurt. Nothing got subverted here. Google is just working! It works because, in this case, enough trusted sites linked to the same thing, so that thing rose in the rankings for a search on that thing. Hooray!

But let's not get carried away in our own self-importance here. Someone searching for hosting is going to search for "web hosting" not "critical ip" (or whatever it is they do - I can't tell from the marketing drivel on the site). Anyone searching for "Critical IP" is looking for info on that company - and that's what they're gonna find.

So. Really, Matt, you can put your pants back on now. There's no reason they should be scared off. And you should feel no guilt for what's transpired here.
posted by fraying at 12:13 AM on February 13, 2002


I just noticed this very thread is #9 on google now for that same search. Odd.
posted by mathowie (staff) at 12:17 AM on February 13, 2002


(Oh, expletive deleted! I just typed out this whole damn thing and then IE crashed on me before I could hit post! ARRGH! Anyone know any Mac programs that hold onto the last few minutes' worth of keystrokes so that you can recover them from crashes? Anyway...)

There are now three sites ranked higher on Google than Critical IP's home page.

It isn't a directory of people expecting to get barraged with advertising. It hasn't become that until a few big companies (starting with Verizon I think) started doing it.

Sadly, it's not at all a recent concept. Back in the Paleolithic era, when you didn't have to pay a dime to register a domain, I registered aaron.org. But back then (we're talking 1992/93 era here), there was practically nowhere you could go to run a web site at all, much less run one with your own domain name. So I just sat on it, hoping that someday something would come along that would allow me to make use of it. Anyway, back then you had to put something in the "Organization:" field, because the concept of an individual owning a domain name was still largely abhorrent (anyone here remember the AUP?). So I signed up as the owner of the Aaron's AlReady Online Network. It took a while, but eventually I started getting occasional junk mail addressed to me at that organization. Practically all of it was from the same company; every few months they'd send me a flier plugging their junk. I can't even what it was, computer parts or something along those geek lines. I vaguely remember a discussion about this on Usenet at the time (there were certainly no tech news web sites at all back then); apparantly they'd bought, or improperly obtained, a CD-ROM containing every single entry in the entire Network Solutions database, and just made up umpteen thousand address labels and sent their junk mail to everybody that had ever registered a domain. Nobody really got too upset though, since it was postal junk mail instead of (not yet invented) spam, and it was obvious that they were the only company on the planet stupid enough to think that it was a reliable or cost-effective way of advertising to potential customers.
but people were more bemused than anything else.

(Later on, my ISP got bought out in one of the very first mergers, and my email address changed as a result. I forgot to change my registration, so I never got my renewal notices. By the time I realized what had happened, some church had grabbed aaron.org. It was such a stupid, STUPID move on my part, that really bugs me to this day. It's triply annoying because they don't even use the domain anymore; they just use it as a redirect to a completely different domain. ARGH!)
posted by aaron at 12:31 AM on February 13, 2002


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