Okay, I’ve caught up on all but five feeds now. 90 posts on Search Engine Land in a week? Danny and friends, you’re killing me here. Two of my favorite posts that I’ve seen so far show that Google is listening to feedback:
– Jeremy Zawodny complained that his Gmail spam filter wasn’t working well. Somebody from Gmail’s anti-spam team touched base with Jeremy to ask for some examples, and the performance is better now. It’s very cool that a Gmail person is on the lookout for reports of problems.
– A post from the Google Reader team made my whole day. It’s by Nick Baum, someone that I’ve enjoyed working with, and it starts out
One of the most useful aspects of feed readers is how easy they make it to keep track of industry news. Which in my case means using Google Reader to read about… Google Reader. For example, I subscribe to the Google Blogsearch for “Google Reader” (which has a feed) so I know whenever someone writes about our product.
That’s something that all teams at Google should be doing for their products. I can attest that the Google Reader team watches for feedback in the blogosphere and uses that to help decide what to do next. I believe that listening to outside feedback is part of the reason why that team is rocking out so hard lately.
Here are some of the other things that caught my eye:
– Greg Linden decided to put Findory on auto-pilot and spend more time on his health and family. I understand the decision, but I’m still sorry that Greg is pulling back. I hope he continues to blog. Not only is he a healthy voice for personalization (which I consider to be one of the biggest trends in the future of search), but his blog points out cool things like the $1M Netflix challenge to improve their personalization. Ironically, the week before I went on vacation, someone was showing me a cool feature and I told them it would be really neat to contact Findory and see if Greg was interested in trying it out.
– Wikipedia is adding nofollow to its external links. Brion Vibber announced this on a mailing list, and there’s some discussion at the bottom of this this section. The nice thing is that Brion’s email mentions “Better heuristic and manual flagging tools for URLs would of course be super,” which means that Wikipedia is open to ways that allow more trustworthy links to be “follow”-able. But for the present, I think it’s the right call: the incentive to create spammy links on Wikipedia has been massively reduced. As one SEO person commented on a forum, “Yeah, that sucks. All those hours spent spamming wikipedia, gone to waste…” Over time, I believe Wikipedia will probably find ways to remove nofollow from links that are more trusted. If you’re interested in helping with that, see Brion’s email for how to get involved. I don’t expect this change to affect Google’s rankings very much, but it’s good to see the Wikipedia folks paying close attention to link spam (and open to refining their trust for external links).
– John Battelle pointed out that Peter Horan joined IAC as CEO of Media and Advertising. Jim Lanzone, the CEO of Ask, will report to Horan.
– People noticed that Google is showing related searches more often at the bottom of some search result pages.
– A Wired article second guesses some Yahoo decisions and execution. Among other things, it asserts that Yahoo! could have bought Google for $3 billion in 2002, and critiques the development of Panama. I personally thought that the article came off as too negative. “Why didn’t Company X buy Google back when they had the chance?” is a charge that you could level at several large companies besides Yahoo. And as someone who was in Google’s ads engineering group for a year when it was all of five people, I can tell you that writing a state-of-the-art ads serving system is hard. That’s especially true when Yahoo’s page views is measured in the billions. Ah, Valleywag finds a nice juxtaposition. Also read Yahoo’s full response to the Wired story here.
– Yet another “pay-for-blogging” (PFB) business launched, this time by Text Link Brokers. It should be clear from Google’s stance on paid text links, but if you are blogging and being paid by services like Pay Per Post, ReviewMe, or SponsoredReviews, links in those paid-for posts should be made in a way that doesn’t affect search engines. The rel=”nofollow” attribute is one way, but there are numerous other ways to do paid links that won’t affect search engines, e.g. doing an internal redirect through a url that is forbidden from crawling by robots.txt.
– Hitwise offered a market share comparison between Bloglines, Google Reader, Rojo, and other feed readers that claimed Bloglines was about 10x more popular than Google Reader. My hunch is that both AJAX and frames may be muddying the water here; I’ve mentioned that AJAX can heavily skew pageview metrics before. If the Google Reader team gets a chance to add subscriber numbers to the Feedfetcher user-agent (which may not be a trivial undertaking, since they probably share code with other groups at Google that fetch using the same bot mechanism), that would allow an apples-to-apples comparison.
– Google closed a small security hole that Tony Ruscoe found. After reading Tony’s post-mortem post, it sounds like it was closer to a proof-of-concept than a serious threat and the security team responded and fixed the problem quickly, which is good.
– Someone defaced 3-4 SEO blogs using a security hole in WordPress. My blog was on the “want to crack” list, and my logs data shows four attempts to crack my site using the “POST /blog/wp-trackback.php?tb_id=1” technique of this script. Just to be clear, in the same way that trying to infect users with viruses/trojans is considered webspam, cracking sites is a violation of our webmaster quality guidelines. This incident provides a good reminder for everyone to upgrade their WordPress, especially since:
– In bigger WordPress news, version 2.1 just came out. Here’s 10 things you might want to know about the new version. The high-order bit for me is that WordPress 2.1 introduces an autosave functionality. You can read the official 2.1 release post by Matt Mullenweg, who recently turned twenty-three.
I’m sure there will be other things I missed, but those were the most interesting to me as I was catching up.