Suppose you have a friend Isaac. Isaac makes the statement: “No one will ever be able to beat me at Dance Dance Revolution, no matter how hard they try.” What would it take to prove that statement false? It would take a counterexample. If you see anyone beat Isaac at Dance Dance Revolution, you know the statement is false. Isaac may protest: “Look at my DDR high scores!” or “Here’s video of me beating 10 people in a row in Dance Dance Revolution.” That doesn’t matter; a single counterexample proves Isaac’s assertion is false.
Why am I mentioning this? This is all obvious, right? Well, go read this (really really long) article that claims Google is doing something evil by buying ads on Google. The article is 1500+ words (!), so I’ll boil it down to one claim. The claim is that “if you are trying to advertise a product that is competitive to Google, then you’ll never be able to receive the Top Ad Position, no matter how much money you bid and spend.” I know what you’re thinking–you’re angry. Damn that evil Google for repressing its own advertisers! In fact, that exact soundbite helped the article receive more than 450 diggs.
There’s just one problem with that claim: it’s not true. At all. Here, first go read the official post on this on the AdWords blog. The fellow that did this post, Blake, is one of the finest Googlers I know. I’ve worked with off and on with him for years, and he genuinely cares about communicating with advertisers. If Blake has any flaw, it’s that he’s too polite. So I’ll give the slightly-less-polite response.
I don’t know how long it took Isaac to write that 1506-word blog post, but it just took a few minutes for Google Blogoscoped to debunk it with counterexamples like this one:
See, another advertiser ranks above Google for the search [desktop]. This counterexample query and multiple others were mentioned by Ionut Alex. Chitu, who runs a great blog called Google Operating System. By the way, Ionut Alex. Chitu, you need to bring this uneducated Kentuckian up to speed on how to abbreviate your name so that I feel comfortable citing you more often.
Doing a few queries finds several counterexamples, so this bold claim is clearly false. Go back and read the polite post by Blake if you want more info. Case closed, right? Nope. Isaac (the author of the original article) shows up to respond on the Google Blogoscoped forum. Here’s how the conversation went, pulling out the interesting bits:
Philipp Lenssen: And Isaac, while your screenshots may illustrate why you reached the wrong conclusion, you should also be able to admit that you were wrong… PROVIDED Ionut’s screenshots are real. Anything else is like saying “because this dice rolled a 4 twice in a row, it can only roll 4s”.
Isaac Garcia: whatever makes you happy
Philipp Lenssen: …. Isaac, wonder if you’ll update your post with a correction (e.g. using <del>…</del>), not to make any of us happy, but for the sake of serving your readers the truth (as far as known & possible).
Isaac Garcia: While it may appear that international results may vary and differ (probably related to whether or not Google offers certain proucts in localized languages) I’m satisfied with the materials that I’ve provided that inspired me to write what I wrote last night.
Kevin: You’re satisfied with sensationalist inaccuracies?
/lk: Isaac, Even though what you wrote is wrong?
The discussion is a hoot if you want to read it for yourself.
By the way, I’m playing around with the idea of doing a “day of debunking.” Let me know if that sounds like fun. Should I do straight debunking, or try to mix it up? I could shoot for the shortest possible debunking. Or I could debunk entirely in haiku. What do you think?