Are splogs a form of bird flu, or just a PITA?
David Sifry of Technorati just posted the first statistics I've seen on the subject of "splogs", or spam blogs. (Disclosure: I'm on the Technorati advisrory board. More bio poop here.) These are fake blogs created programmatically rather than by human beings. They are also intended (surely, if not obviously) to "game" Google's PageRank, and to siphon money from Google's AdSense clickstreams.
According to David and Technorati, splogs are 4.6% of the blogosphere. Don Park says "my splog experience is definitely not jiving with his numbers".
Mine isn't either, but then both Don and I (like many bloggers) rely on "ego-surfing" to see how people respond to what we write. Both of us are well-known bloggers. Sploggers are probably biassed to harvesting what bloggers like us write, and what others write about what we write. The harvestings get published on splogs and get (if they succeed) Google juice and AdSense dollars out of it.
Also, annoyances are a lot more obvious than their absence, tending to enlarge our perception of them. In any case, I think a one-in-twenty splog rate among blogs is still waaay too high more than high enough to trash the experience. As Don also says,
I can't help wondering how Technorati determines whether a blog is fake or not because it takes more than a glance for me to tell whether a blog is fake or not. I can't tell who wrote the posts. Anybody can loot posts from elsewhere as a whole or partially and post it to their own blog. I think link statistics is not conclusive enough either.
What I am trying to say is this: don't throw numbers at me; give me the experience I used to have before all the spam blogs and aggregators started appearing.
Here's the perception: the syndisphere is becoming just as polluted as email, and for the same reason There's money in gaming the system.
I think there's another reason, which is the monocultural nature of both PageRank and AdSense. Here we are all victims of Google's singular success.
There are times I look at splogs as a kind of bird flu: an epidemic we're just beginning to see which, at the very least, is devaluing links. I don't agree with Steve Gillmor that links are dead, but maybe Steve is right to declare them terminal. That is, if the bird flu theory holds.
There are other times I look at splogs as nothing much more than a PITA: a pain in the ass, like email spam. The email experience sucks because of spammers, but I still use email. It's getting as easy for me to spot a splog as it is to spot an email spam. Yes, I fail the Turing test every once in awhile, but not so it shows up in my posts anywhere. If the PITA theory holds, we'll have splogs for the duration, and it's up to blog search services to compete by effectiveness at excluding splogs from search results, among other remediations.
Either way, we need to talk about the subject. If the bird flu theory holds, it's bad news (perhaps very bad) for a lot of companies not least of all Google, much of whose income derives from AdSense. To its credit, Google has responded to complaints about the problem (here's a list of deleted subdomains, for example, on a public site). But more needs to be done, and not just by Google.
So I'm putting up this as a "forum" post. IT Garage is about DIY. That's the focus I'd like to take here. That suggests we talk not just about "what vendors can do for us", but "what we can do for ourselves and to help vendors in the process".