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    Google Search Snafu Can Have Huge Impact on Niche Blogs

    by Mark Glaser
    January 10, 2007

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    Dear Google,
    What happened? Where’s the love? You used to bring me flowers, you used to sing me love songs. You used to bring me traffic, at any rate…
    Google, baby. Let me back in. Me and my pretty dumb things are shivering out here in the digital ether with no one but Ask.com and Yahoo to keep us warm. We need you honey. We miss you and the 500+ visitors a day you used to send to us. We’re lonely. Please, Google. Don’t be evil.
    kissykiss,
    chelsea girl

    The public love letter from Chelsea Girl, who writes the erotic Pretty Dumb Things blog, was apropos just after Christmas when a Google bug made a handful of influential sex blogs “disappear” from Google search results. If you searched for “pretty dumb things,” you wouldn’t see Chelsea Girl’s blog on the first page of results. If you searched for “tiny nibbles,” you wouldn’t find the blog of the same name by SFGate columnist and sexuality author Violet Blue. If you searched for “Comstock Films,” you couldn’t find the arty adult film studio by that name. Instead, you would find less relevant sites.

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    So what if a few sex blogs drop down in Google search results? The problem is that with so much power concentrated in one company, Google, one small mishap has the potential to punish small independent blogs or web businesses that depend on Google-generated traffic. In late 2003, Google performed what was called the Florida Update on its search index, which caused small businesses such as FindGreatLawyers.com and Unforgettable Honeymoons to lose their ranking on relevant Google search terms. (Read about those case studies and more in this great story on SearchEngineWatch.)

    In this recent case, Tony Comstock of Comstock Films noticed that his site’s Google-referred traffic had dropped precipitously after Christmas, and told blogger/author Violet Blue. She then notified Xeni Jardin at culture blog BoingBoing, who then wrote a high-profile post on the subject. Soon, Google’s head of web spam, Matt Cutts was in contact with Comstock and the blogs were largely restored to their previous place in Google searches.

    Cutts later explained what happened to me in an email exchange:

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    This is relatively rare. In this case, a bug (plus an unfortunate side-effect that caused our internal tests to miss the problem) caused a very small number of sites (less than ten sites that we know of) to rank lower for about four days. We believe this situation is fully corrected and the very small number of impacted sites have been returned to their proper ranking. We’ve fixed the particular set of circumstances that led to this situation, and we’ve put changes in place to prevent it from happening again. We’ve also added more tests to our internal processes to spot similar problems to this in the future.

    Google does adjust its algorithms to try to improve search quality, and that can cause changes in rankings for sites. Before new changes are deployed, they have to pass a number of tests. We can also look at factors such as the amount of “churn” [change in search results] caused by a particular change. In this case, the small number of sites affected meant that we didn’t detect the situation before it went live. As a fallback, we also monitor feedback from various online sources: blogs, forums, emails, etc. In a very short time, we noticed a couple blog posts, checked out their reports, and discovered the issue. After that, we were able to fix the issues involved quite quickly.

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    Danny Sullivan

    But was this really a rare case for Google? Search expert Danny Sullivan, editor in chief for Search Engine Land, told me Google often tweaks the way it indexes sites to weed out spam blogs or “splogs” that simply pump up key words and links to try to game the system so their blog is featured higher up in search results.

    “In this case, it seems like Google might have been tweaking porn filters somewhat,” Sullivan said via email. “But you get spam in other areas, and sometimes tweaks seem to hit other industries. One hiccup can absolutely sink some businesses. And the lesson to take away from that is that businesses should not be basing themselves on getting free traffic from Google. Many sites learned this the hard way back during a major algorithm change in late 2003 known as the Florida Update. But then again, plenty of small businesses have continued to thrive and survive since then on Google.”

    The Difficulties of Gauging ‘Good Porn’

    One problem in the sex blog snafu is the nature of the blogs’ subject matter and the exploitation of sex searches online. Blogs like Tiny Nibbles and Pretty Dumb Things and ErosBlog try to give insight into human sexuality in a more artful way than the average glossy porn magazine. But so many unsavory characters are trawling the web trying to divert the huge amount of sex searches to their own businesses — even if the business has nothing to do with sex.

    “There are so many people chasing the same dollars with search spam, blog spam, and the signal-to-noise ratio in the commercial Internet is so high [on sexual topics],” Comstock told me. “You type in open-minded sincere search strings about sex into Google and you get mostly garbage. Not just garbage because it’s not your taste in sex, I mean useless like a thousand windows pop up and it tries to install malware [a computer virus] on your computer.”

    Comstock writes his own blog on the adult films he produces, and lately has been trying to optimize the blog for Google searches. He’s also been discussing the difficulties he’s had buying Google AdWords ads with the key word “romantica.” Google rejected his ad because it pointed to an adult site (his blog) but used a key word that wasn’t adult in nature (“romantica”), according to Google. These types of semantic arguments steam Comstock and make it difficult for Google to classify — by algorithm — which sites are for mature audiences, which ones are more arty and which ones are just spam.

    Comstock told me that Google search results bring him a steady amount of traffic, and that he depends on that traffic in case of a media review. For example, after the British Metro newspaper mentioned Comstock, he got a flood of people Googling him because the paper didn’t run a web address for his site. If Google dropped his site from searches for “comstock films” then his business would be hit hard.

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    Violet Blue

    Author/blogger Violet Blue told me she thinks Google needs to have human liaisons to industries to minimize these types of glitches. I asked her if it was frustrating for a small business to lose its traffic from Google overnight.

    “It’s more than frustrating for small businesses — it’s a death sentence,” she said. “Google has too much power…It’s something that we might not have ever seen in history. It’s not just small businesses but for someone like me as a blogger, I might be naive, but I have this principle of believing in self-publishing on the web. I count on a democratic dissemination of information rather than from the channels we’ve always been getting it from…When Google breaks, suddenly that’s gone and I don’t have that principle to rely on. We won’t have that diversity of voices if we can’t find anyone.”

    Google Improves Feedback Loop

    In this case, however, Google did act when it found out about the bug, and rectified the problem within a few days. Google’s Cutts was visible in comments he posted on sex blogs and in his highly public email conversation with Comstock — that Comstock posted in full on his blog.

    Here’s part of what Cutts wrote to Comstock:

    I worked on Google’s SafeSearch filter years ago, so I know that distinguishing between the “good porn” sites compared to the “regular porn” sites is a hard problem. I used to be able to reel off names like Jane’s Guide, Persian Kitty, The Hun, Greenguy, Luke Ford, etc. These days I haven’t worked on porn-related stuff in years, so I’m less familiar with the space compared to how I used to be.

    In fact, I’d be curious to hear your take on what several of the highest-quality porn-related sites would be these days. I’m familiar with stuff like fleshbot.com or nerve.com, but less so with sites like tinynibbles.com or erosblog.com…I’d be curious to hear what some of the leading lights are in the porn industry these days, and I’d be able to point a few people at it to make sure that we work on distinguishing higher-quality sites from run-of-the-mill sites.

    I asked Cutts if the company would consider using experts in certain industries who could help them suss out what the bad and good sites are, and help decide which sites should be penalized and which ones not.

    “Google is open to using feedback from experts or other signals to improve our quality,” he said. “In this particular case, we worked with some of the sites involved to get their feedback about other high-quality sites in this industry. We’ve already incorporated that feedback to improve our search quality and testing as a result…Search engines get hundreds of millions of queries a day, and no search engine will be perfect for every query. But we try very hard, and that includes listening to feedback from users, webmasters, and the blogosphere. Based on the feedback we get, we try to improve our relevance for future searches.”

    Sullivan noted that Google has improved its listening skills when it comes to indexing problems for sites, and has even set up an online repository for webmasters worried about search problems.

    “Google has made huge leaps in supporting site owners, especially small site owners, over the past year,” he said. “The entire Google Webmaster Central service was created and offers tools that no other major search engine offers. There’s more Google can and should do, but I think it’s easy to forget how much they’ve done. On Christmas Day, you had at least two Googlers working to answer questions in public forums they monitor.”

    Google is obviously trying harder to listen to the concerns of bloggers, publishers and shop owners online. But mistakes and glitches happen, and the company still holds vast sway over the way people find information and products online. So bloggers or site publishers will do well to track their Google-referred traffic and work as a community to publicize glitches and keep Google staffers in the loop.

    What do you think? Does Google wield too much power in how people find things online? What solutions do you think would help the company combat spam but keep legitimate sites where they deserve to be in search results? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    UPDATE: A number of people have asked why there aren’t links to the sex blogs mentioned in this post. If Google had been blocking the blogs, then there would have been links included. But because anyone can easily find the
    blogs through a search on Google, PBS.org felt it was not necessary to include the links here and risk offending some readers who might not expect to find links to explicit sites on PBS.org.

    Currently, there are no hard-and-fast rules for the content we link to at MediaShift, and it’s a delicate balance of being open and also being aware of the adult nature of content we sometimes link to.

    I ask that you as MediaShift readers please leave comments below explaining what you think the link policy should be here and elsewhere on mainstream
    media sites and blogs. Should we link to explicit material and how should that be handled? Should we include a warning before the links? Which links are OK
    and which are not? Your thoughts would be appreciated and I hope to return to this issue in a more in-depth way on the blog. PBS editors, who are involved in this issue, tell me they are very much open to your suggestions.

    Tagged: google weblog
    • Thank you so much for writing this post, and thank you for quoting me. Most importantly, thank you for bringing me back to Google. Intimate sites like mine depend on Google for our traffic, and we appreciate your taking the time to address this issue.

      kissykiss,
      chelsea girl

    • Links to Boing, Matt Cutts, SearchEngineland, and the Chronicle, but no to links to Tiny Nibbles, Pretty Dumb Things or Comstock Films? Please tell that was an oversight and not because PBS wouldn’t let you link to the sites/pages that were cited in the article!

      Of course it’s just this sort of thing that makes people like Violet, Chelsea, or me suspect suspect an erotophobic, anti-sex bias when something like the Google snafu takes place, because so very often, that’s just what it is.

      Fortunately in Google’s case, it was not. How about you, PBS?

    • I’m glad to see this getting mainstream media attention though I’m a bit troubled that you post a clip from Chelsea Girl’s blog and then DO NOT LINK TO HER, when you’re talking about censorship

      But still; it’s important to ask the question.

    • I think Google does more webmaster-related outreach and communication than any other search engine, but I also think that there’s more that we could do on that front, and we’ll keep working to be even better.

    • Frankly, I was quite surprised by the level of interest that Google had in this, or at least by Matt Cutts’ level of interest. Buying sex-related adwords are pennies on the dollar compared to what my friends spend on CPC for words related to what they sell, and I really don’t see where the benefit to Google is in devoting resources to producing Relevent search returns in a world where so many people are working so hard to game the system.

      The problem is that Googles the only game in town, at least for us Searches from other machines are about 2% of our total search-related traffic, and if page count is an indication, our visitors from other search engines aren’t finding Comstock Films as Relevent as our Google visitors do. (Our Google driven visitors look at 50% more pages per visitor.)

      That’s not Google’s fault, but it does mean that whether they like it or not, Google is calling the shots; and most business, even business that aren’t evil, like calling the shots. (I had expressed this thought in a much earthier way in my phone chat with Mark, but not too suprisingly, it didn’t make it into the piece.)

      As long as what’s good for Google is good for Comstock Films, we’ll be fine. We’ll find a way to work with however they’re fine tuning things.

      But what happens if Google loses its nerve about ensuring that sexual ideas and information index properly in their system. What if Google’s board decides that Matt’s interest in our problem isn’t good PR for the company and isn’t good for Google’s share price? Not so far fetched when you see how PBS recoils from what we do, is it?

      If that day comes, and there’s no viable alternative to Google, it will hurt us. In large measure, our work has been made possible by the explosion in the free exchange of ideas that the internet has made possible. But that explosion has necessesitated the development of a robust and capable search to help people sift through all those ideas, all that information, to find what is Relevent to them.

      If the day comes when, for whatever reason, Google decides (as PBS seems to have done today) that our ideas and information are not worthy of inclusion in this new digitial culture, it will make what is already the very difficult undertaking of dealing with sexuality in a truly adult way that much more difficult.

    • There is another dimension to this whole drama and that is lack of competition in the search marketplace. In my opinion there are only two search engines, apart from Google (other so called search engines are insignificant). The others, Yahoo and Live, are so bad that most people have no choice but to search at Google, and most publishers welcome free traffic from Google. At our company with upwards of a million visitors, north of 80% come from Google.

      So it is not as if Google is some kind of devil that has grabbed too much power by devious means; it’s just that competitors have failed in providing an alternative.

      I can understand Google’s challenges in combating spam in search engines (everyone knows that no one has been able to fight spam in emails) and I do not think that they will become perfect at it, but the company could definitely use more human decision-makers rather than relying on algorithms all the time. There are instances where computers are really dumb.

    • “There are instances where computers are really dumb.”

      Human beings can be pretty stupid too:

      “Art vs. Porn, Part 274”

      http://www.comstockfilms.com/blog/tony/2007/01/09/art-vs-porn-part-274/

    • Russ Cole

      This looks like an entrepreneurial opportunity for a more adult-centric alternative to Google.

      How about “Ogle?”

    • It’s really good that Google sometimes pays attention to affected sites, but what about those who can’t draw Google’s attention in times of troubles? They are basically smoked.

      I hope, the situation will be much more stable when Google’s monopoly will be broken and the web-search market will be more or less equally divided among the big G, Yahoo, Live and Ask.com. Till then, it will be a mess.

    • Excellent piece.

      Now, please, add the links to the bloggers you quoted! Let your readers visit their sites easily and read for themselves.

      Thank you!

    • Liese

      Could you please provide links for the mentioned authors?

      Thank you.

    • A

      Some people are out for traffic. The point of the matter is that the author of this post wrote at length about the issues, and he also wrote at length about the bloggers who’ve experienced the problems, mind you there are so many other people who aren’t mentioned who experienced the same problem and they haven’t kicked up a stink about it (unlike some). The final point that was made is that Google rectified the issue, so I’m guessing that people can GOOGLE the blogs/blog owners and locate them, but it’s always about having a tantrum if some people aren’t getting traffic.

      Yes, I can include my url to my blog for more traffic, like those listed above me, but I choose not too. I don’t wish to associate with traffic whores.

    • A

      In addition to the above, one of the commenters was upset at not being linked in the article, but there’s also the legality of publicly listing a url in a general media site and directing traffic to adult sites, such as pornography sites, hence porn film sites, and having underaged people access it which is against the law.

      Tony Comstock of course doesn’t consider this aspect, as don’t some of his fellow bloggers. It’s all about the traffic they’ll receive from this article that matters.

      Mark, great post to explain some of the weird online phenomena via Google. If I were you, however I would not have mentioned the other blogs namely because they’ll create a fuss that’ll never end. Big bunch of babies they are.

    • I think a perfect solution for anyone who wants to link to a sometimes-explicit blog is to tell readers that some parts of the blog may be not safe for work.

      A simple NSFW right before the link would suffice.

      Thanks, Mark, for listening.

    • “PBS.org felt it was not necessary to include the links here and risk offending some readers who might not expect to find links to explicit sites on PBS.org.”

      Really? I found this on the PBS.org website:

      “Warning! American Porn” Contains explicit sexual images, explicit descriptions of sexual act, strong language, and suggestive violence.

      “View here in full this 53 minute FRONTLINE program divided into consecutive segments. You’ll need Windows Media or RealPlayer to watch.

      “Due to heavy demand, video may not always be available due to server capacity. Please try back later if you’re having problems.”

      http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/porn/view/

      I’ve seen the PBS porn doco. I don’t think you’ll find anthing on Pretty Dumb Things, Tiny Nibbles, or Comstock Films that is as unwholesome as what’s graphically depicted, and apparently in “high demand” on PBS.org

    • Hi PBS,

      There are two ways to look at this issue.

      1. Include the links, because when you are citing content, regardless of how controversial, people have a right to travel to the original source.

      2. Include the links, and have fulminating, sycophantic congresspeople scream at you in the next hearing, which results in this one marginally objective outlet lose money and/or not cover these types of issues.

      Considering and following (2) hasn’t worked, because the enemies of sexual content, free speech, and Public Television and Radio are as strident, vigorous, and violent in their attacks as ever. More than ever, it’s time to stand up to the bullies.

      It’s time to stop running.

    • ePlato

      I am not surprised that is has become a real issue. Some of us have been warning about this for a couple of years. Google’s share of the search industry is just too high. The Internet would benefit with more players in the industry. Google is using its growing strength to keep competitors out. Prohibiting publishers from displaying similar ads and disclosing revenue details are just 2 expamples.

      Google has also been good at suppressing criticism. They even have that Google Guy on webmasterworld attacking the credibility of webmasters who were critical.

    • The problem is one of knowing exactly what you will be linking to, a direct link to a specific post is one thing, but content on blogs changes rapidly and with sidebar images, rotating ads, and other material, it is difficult or impossible to know what might be seen when the link is followed. In my opinion this creates a legal quandry for any mainstream site, especially one operated by a private or public business.

      A possible solution that might work is to establish a standard intermediate page that includes a legal disclaimer stating the position of PBS regarding possible material and a place for the viewer to declare they are of legal age and consent, before the link can be followed. I have seen this treatment in other areas of the internet before, and while somewhat clunky, it might alleviate the legal concerns of an institution such as PBS.

      FRONTLINE (unless I am mistaken) was a program produced by PBS and as such, you could take ownership of the content. As other blogs are not hosted by, or reviewed by the PBS editorial staff, you cannot be expected to be held responsible for their potential content. In my opinion that seems to be a huge difference from a legal perspective.

      Given the current environment, especially in regards to media companies, the FCC and other regulatory agencies, and the courts attitude toward sexual content, I can’t imagine any other course of action than the one taken.

      I continue to find that unfortunate and sad, but it is the reality we live in.

    • My site also got same problem just before or on the day christmas and it is not fully recovered yet. I am praying day and night to god to give some strength to Google so that he will return my fellow visitors back to my site. Mr Google don’t just dump me this high and dry, i will get lost from surface of this planet forever.

    • Among the sites that do or have linked to the Comstock Films website are: time.com, womenshealth.com, mensfitness.com, bnews.com.au, bentmagazine.com.au, dnamagazine.com.au, sfist.com, esquire.com, and many others.

      None of these publications are “adult magazines”, yet they felt no reason to “protect” their readers from potential offense when running editorial concerning our company or our films. They didn’t ask their readers to go googling. They used the web as it was designed, and linked to our site in the passage(s) in which our company was mentioned.

      Do I want the traffic? Of course I do. I’m in business, and just like any other company part of my business is promoting what we do, and just like any other business, my interactions with the media are a part of our promotion strategy.

      The question remains, why in this instance did PBS choose to ignore customary link usage and etiquette when other ligitimate media outlets have had the faith that their readers can choose whether or not to click on a link to our site, and then having arrived at our site, decide whether or not the content we offer is to their taste.

      In light of the predicate of this article, and other content available on other parts of the PBS site, the claim of concern over the “risk offending some readers” looks dubious.

      If I sound angry and hurt, it’s because I am.

      I am no less sincere about the work I do that any other artist, whatever their subject matter may be. I am no less dependent on this work for my livihood than any of the writers or editors or techicians who work on the PBS website.

      That PBS can’t do me the simple courtesy of linking to my work when they make what I do the subject of their reporting, the grist for their livihood isn’t just humiliating, it’s dehumanizing. It’s a slap in the face, and PBS should be ashamed.

    • Re links: I can understand the concern about offending readers, but it seems like a moot point – you allow links to adult pages via your comments which is on the same page as the article itself.

      On a personal note, my blog and site also plunged through the floor of the Google rankings over Christmas and I’ve been working hard to restore it. If nothing else, I’ve found a few SEO resources I didn’t know about and I now know who Matt Cutts is.

      I’m trying to look on the bright side.

    • Gee, and here I thought the issue at hand was PBS and blog etiquette? Someone needs to review what “etiquette” means don’t they?

      I’m done. I’ll leave the bickering and the name calling to others more willing to participate and demean themselves in a public forum.

    • Padoodles

      I have to say that I’m thrilled to see this topic discussed in the many ways it is right now. I’m glad these blogs/ businesses are getting some recognition. I’m a regular reader at most of these places and value they right to not only read but to publish this sort of work. I happen to believe that should someone be quoted a link or referance to their work must be sited. Should there be a warning? There should be in place whatever is necessary to give these authors credit. They have all linked themselves here and I’m sure others have linked themselves on previous articles, with no warnings at all. That said, company policy is hard to change, and I’m glad this made it out in the first place and that Google and PBS didn’t block them out for too long. With the power Google has there is so much responsibility.

    • Eric

      You know, if I were to wonder whether this was just a minor glitch being over-hyped as Google Screwing With Searches by people who want attention and thus traffic to their sites, would that be countered or supported by incessant begging for “teh linkz”?

    • O

      This was an important and thoughtful piece about an important issue. I am troubled though by PBS’s decision not to include links to the blogs quoted. This disturbs me as a blogger and as an academic.

      This column starts with an extensive quote–not a mention, but a quote–from something written by Chelsea Girl. In any other medium such a usage requires full attribution of the source. These are just the rules for good scholarship and for intellectual property.
      Would we quote Catullus 1 and not attribute it, because we’re afraid that someone will then read 15 and be shocked? Would we write something that quotes Joyce, and not give the reference, because we’re afraid there is other content there that “may” offend someone?

      The justification given is wholly inadequate: But because anyone can easily find the blogs through a search on Google, PBS.org felt it was not necessary to include the links here and risk offending some readers who might not expect to find links to explicit sites on PBS.org.

      The context of the piece alone makes it quite clear what the content of these blogs is, before anyone might click on a link. Moreover, the piece quoted from Chelsea Girl has no offensive content in it. Finally, the nature of the web is such that far less than 6 degrees of seperation occur between any single site and another where there is bound to be some content that will offend someone.

      I think this was the wrong decision to make, and I think (or at least hope) that this decision is an artefact of old media colliding with new. The goal that must come first, as always, involves giving proper credit to our sources and to the work of others.

      I would urge PBS to consider these issues. They are relevant not simply because of this post. These are issues that will continue to arise, and that must be addressed. The rules for proper attribution should not change simply because of the nature of the medium.

      This is arising for PBS now, because the blogs in question have “adult content”. But this is an issue that will and does arise in the context of political blogging as well, where any given post linked to may well have offensive material in the comments section. PBS needs to think more deeply about these issues.

      Cheers,
      O

    • O

      I ask that you as MediaShift readers please leave comments below explaining what you think the link policy should be here and elsewhere on mainstream
      media sites and blogs. Should we link to explicit material and how should that be handled? Should we include a warning before the links? Which links are OK
      and which are not?

      My position is this: Link everything. Everything should be linked, in exactly the same way that in a print edition everything should always be properly cited. To do anything less is to fail to meet the demands of scholarship. To do anything less is to patronise the reader and to restrict the free flow of information. Any links with “questionable” content can be prefaced with a warning, either before the actual link or before the piece that contains them–though in most cases, the warning will be unnecessary, as the content of the piece itself will make clear what the link contains.

      The Southern Poverty Law Center for example contains links to many sites with hateful content. They include the links nonetheless as part of their mission, which (on the web) is primarily that of providing information.

      I feel very strongly that this needs to be the policy of every mainstream media outlet, regardless of the subject matter.

    • O

      This was an important and thoughtful piece about an important issue. I
      am troubled though by PBS’s decision not to include links to the blogs
      quoted. This disturbs me as a blogger and as an academic.

      This column starts with an extensive quote–not a mention, but a
      quote–from something written by Chelsea Girl. In any other medium
      such a usage requires full attribution of the source. These are just
      the rules for good scholarship and for intellectual property.
      Would we quote Catullus 1 and not attribute it, because we’re afraid
      that someone will then read 15 and be shocked? Would we write
      something that quotes Joyce, and not give the reference, because we’re
      afraid there is other content there that “may” offend someone?

      The justification given is wholly inadequate: But because anyone can
      easily find the blogs through a search on Google, PBS.org felt it was
      not necessary to include the links here and risk offending some
      readers who might not expect to find links to explicit sites on
      PBS.org.

      The context of the piece alone makes it quite clear what the content
      of these blogs is, before anyone might click on a link. Moreover, the
      piece quoted from Chelsea Girl has no offensive content in it.
      Finally, the nature of the web is such that far less than 6 degrees of
      seperation occur between any single site and another where there is
      bound to be some content that will offend someone.

      I think this was the wrong decision to make, and I think (or at least
      hope) that this decision is an artefact of old media colliding with
      new. The goal that must come first, as always, involves giving proper
      credit to our sources and to the work of others.

      I would urge PBS to consider these issues. They are relevant not
      simply because of this post. These are issues that will continue to
      arise, and that must be addressed. The rules for proper attribution
      should not change simply because of the nature of the medium.

      This is arising for PBS now, because the blogs in question have “adult
      content”. But this is an issue that will and does arise in the context
      of political blogging as well, where any given post linked to may well
      have offensive material in the comments section. PBS needs to think
      more deeply about these issues.

      Cheers,

      O

    • My blog was completely removed from the Google search engine on November 3, 2006. I have no idea why; I have almost no sexual content on it that would cause offense, and I am certainly not a spam stop. I have tried everything in Google’s webmaster tools to no result.

      After two months of this and going from 200 page views in SiteMeter to about 20 a day, I simply stopped blogging until Google clears this up. I run a quality blog and it takes a huge investment of my time.

      It is frustrating because there is no one at Google to contact. There are no email addresses on their public site, and simply a main phone number. If I can reach this Matt Cutts guy at Google I will try to appeal to him.

    • I think it’s still the prerogative for the site to decide which external sites it wants to link to. In this case it just happened that PBS has some inconsistency in the way it is linking to other sites. Could be a site policy, author’s decision or purely an oversight.

      Having an article feature someone does not necessarily mean the page should contain a link to the site. If the article is interesting, people should be Googling the topic item. But if the article contains certain reference that is found in the site, a link may be necessary (and if quoting a paragraph isn’t enough).

      There was some bias and inconsistency in the way the page performed it’s linking. Every site must be linked; each site won’t be mentioned if it were insignificant anyway.

    • Mark: sex blogs are not the only websites hit by Google’s algorithm tweaking (or whatever else they were doing). DXing.info, a very popular website among radio hobbyists, and a good, information-rich site, that doesn’t do anything even remotely associated with spamming, or with excessive optimization, has been for years in the top three search results on Google when searching “DXing”. It had a PageRank of 6, which was the highest in the world for DXing sites. Now, suddenly, it has vanished (in November) from the Google database and doesn’t show up in the search results anymore. I’m not talking about being demoted to a lower rank, like it happened for the sex blogs (or to many sites during the “Florida Update” in 2003): DXing.info has just disappeared from Google. Gone. Searching for “dxing.info” brings up many pages that link to it, but not the site itself. Which has caused it to lose over one-third of its audience in a few weeks. The editor tried to contact Google, but got no answer. I wrote a post telling the whole story here:
      http://www.lunchoverip.com/2007/01/google_killed_t.html

    • Regarding what to link to, I find that it is always a very bad idea when an internet publisher tries to thinkfor the reader in stead of letting the reader judge for himself.

      Just post the links if they’re relevant, and please don’t post those silly warnings – readers will know from the context what it’s about. Doing aything else is equal to assuming that your readers are stupid, and hende it’s equal to offending your readers.

      Now, ask yourself dear editors – is offending your readers a good policy?

    • fidelityelectronics

      Fidelity Electronics is a mobile phones wholesaler/Exporter/Distributor we deal in all brands and models of mobile phones such as Nokia,Motorola,Samsung,Sony Ericsson,Sagem, Nextel,Sidekick II,Sprint,Ipods,television,xbox 360,dvd, Laptops, Mp3 players and many more at very cheap prices. kindly get back if you are interested , you can reach us through our email address: [email protected]
      Nokia N95……$500
      Nokia8800…..$300
      Nokia N93……$250
      Nokia N71……$240
      Nokia N70…….$200
      Nintendo Wii….$400
      XBOX 360…….$250
      PS3………………$700
      PSP………………$110
      sony laptop……$600
      Toshiba 50inch plasma Tv…….$1,120
      69,great hampton street,
      birmingham,
      B18 EW6,
      Uk

    • fidelityelectronics

      Fidelity Electronics is a mobile phones wholesaler/Exporter/Distributor we deal in all brands and models of mobile phones such as Nokia,Motorola,Samsung,Sony Ericsson,Sagem, Nextel,Sidekick II,Sprint,Ipods,television,xbox 360,dvd, Laptops, Mp3 players and many more at very cheap prices. kindly get back if you are interested , you can reach us through our email address: [email protected]
      Nokia N95……$500
      Nokia8800…..$300
      Nokia N93……$250
      Nokia N71……$240
      Nokia N70…….$200
      Nintendo Wii….$400
      XBOX 360…….$250
      PS3………………$700
      PSP………………$110
      sony laptop……$600
      Toshiba 50inch plasma Tv…….$1,120
      69,great hampton street,
      birmingham,
      B18 EW6,
      Uk

    • Good day,

      I maintain and update the computer for a religious society in Jamaica WI that serves the poor and the needy with Christ has their guide. They are called the Missionaries of the Poor and have missions worldwide in India,Haiti, the Phillipines asnd Africa. The past few weeks have been a nightmare using goole searches. Everyone uses google.., even clerics and recent searches by a few brothers for data using google have led them to some strange devious sites that have links to porn sites. On mistakingly typing http://www.jamaica.gleaner.com a priest was directed to http://www.newsdaily.com that had a link to a porn site. The site poped up quite a few times thereafter and really embarassed the young cleric. Please could you advise how I could program his broweser or how to contact goole about this and have them filter this site. THE CLERIC DID NOT SEE ANY JAMAICAN NEWS AT THAT SITE!

      RGDS GK

    • Addenda\Correction to my posting:

      Google directs your search on typing http://www.jamaica.gleaner.com to http://www.mynewslink.com. This site has a porn link. Google why is this?

    • Colleen Cole

      Per the posting above, a website in Canada, called FrugalShopper.ca has also been hijacked and is being directed toward mynewslink.com.

      Strangely enough, the vast majority of the users of the FrugalShopper.ca are women – most unlikely targets for porn….

      I am curious to know if this is linked in anyway to the hijacking of the SuperBowl website yesterday?

    • Alec Ricardo stephen Kerr

      I have investigated the site that Gilart Kerr referred to and found that there was some spyware redirecting him to that porn site. Web browsers, users, website maintenance personnel must ensure that there sites are free from such hijacks by proper monitoring and report checking. It can prove really embarrassing when redirected to a lewd site.

    • Great read and very useful info..Agree with the NSFW disclaimer..

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