How Being a Spam Cop Would Melt Your Mind

Sep 3rd

Imagine if virtually everything you chose to trust eventually betrayed you. You try to create shifting rules and push your worldview to try to make it manageable, but even in your attempts to do so people call out the self serving nature of your suggestions. Every day thousands of people share free information about how to take advantage of you, and in return you wade through garbage and do everything you can to suppress it, but work for a company with policies that encourage information pollution. Even when you try to stop something, your company will still spread that message to anyone willing to look for it for a dollar or two a click, and affiliates quickly race to fill in the hole your hand edit created. You can't suppress them. You hand edited one company, but is it fair to leave their largest competitor? Will someone call you out on that today? Will it matter when they do?

As it gets less manageable your rule sets are disengaged with reality, and if you look close enough at just about anything you find what you would (or at least could) call spam. Everyone is a cheat. Or is that only in my mind?

Should you hand edit this result? Will anyone care if you do or do not? What does the legal team look like at the company behind this website? How large is their ad budget? How bad is this exploit? Should you write an algorithm that will close off this hole? If you do, what other holes does that open up?

How much longer can we trust links until we move on to usage data? Can we ever really trust usage data? Do our policies actually promote creating and sharing good content? How can we improve them without hurting our revenue numbers? Now the web is filling up with stupid garbage reminiscent of Idiocracy. How much of that am I responsible for? Would the web be cleaner if I just quit my job and let free market forces do as they may?

Running Threadwatch for a little over a year took me from being a fairly positive person to being cynical about everything. Could you imagine how bad it would be if your job was to fight spam day in and day out, especially if your employer sponsored the creation of most of it? Some days at SEO conferences Matt Cutts appears as a star, but could you imagine how demoralizing that job would be to do, looking at the worst parts of the web every day? No matter what you do tomorrow there is more spam waiting just for you.

Published: September 3, 2007

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