I became convinced today that our biggest problems are monocultures. What's bad for lawns and farms is also bad for classrooms, churches, industries, governments, political parties, banks, credit card companies and every other organization that lives by controlling and isolating its members. In other words, silos.
Today there's been some interesting back and forth between Steve Gillmor (to whose gang I belong) and myself on the subject of what Steve calls the "page view model" vs. the "attention model". I've been representing the former and Steve the latter.
Background is provided by Dave Winer, who writes, Links are now devalued. Page-rank is under attack and the attackers are winning. It won't be long before Google itself is infested. Tim Bray is right, below, it's time for Google to get on top of this. They're both the victimizer and the victim. The spammers found a huge hole in Page-rank. You could drive a truck through it. I was the early warning system on this, the canary in the coal mine. They don't like to listen to me, maybe they'll accept Verisign's help. (Context: Dave just sold Weblogs.com, the ping site on which all RSS search engines rely, to Verisign.)
I believe links are devalued because Google has become a monoculture, both as a search engine and as an advertising system. Blog spammers, or sploggers, are taking advantage of that monoculture in the same way boll weevils take advantage of a cotton field.
I know a fair amount of what the RSS engines are doing about blog spam, or splogs. And I salute Mark Cuban for being the first search engine honcho (he's an investor in IceRocket) to call major attention to the problem, and for coining the term "splog".
But I don't see much sign that Google is doing more than putting a little notification flag on blogspot blogs, to allow readers to notify google that the blog in question is possibly a fake one. No doubt they are dealing with the problem, though. So is Yahoo, from what I'm told (and see in results). But we need to hear more (perhaps from Google's AdSense blog?).
But is any of it enough? I don't think so. The bigger question is, Can anything be enough to thwart a blight in a monocultural environment?
The real answer to the link devaluation problem has to come from outside Google. We need polyculture: for search, for advertising, for everything. In its absence, we get some fine but isolating services. And blights that take advantage of that isolation.